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New York Comic Con
Funimation Entertainment

by Mikhail Koulikov,

FUNimation Entertainment's New York Comic Con panel was run, in front of a standing-room-only crowd, by Senior Events Manager Adam Sheehan. Following the somewhat subdued tone that other panels throughout the weekend had taken, he started off by talking about “anime and the economy” – but quicky made it clear that Funimation's opinion of the current situation is essentially optimistic. It is true that the company recently had to lay off several staff, but overall, they retain control of more than a third of the market for anime in North America. Moreover, almost every month, compared to last year, both sales and the number of titles shipped have increased. In addition, this year, there will be an increase of approximately 17% in the number of brand-new DVDs (rather than re-packagings or releases of titles that had previously been available from another company) that Funimation is looking to put out into the market.

Digital distribution options and opportunities are expanding as well, both via third-party providers, and through Funimation's own website. The goal of all of these is to reach a state where American viewers are able to get access to translated anime the same day it airs or is released in Japan. One step towards accomplishing this goal that Funimation has now taken is making it a rule to specifically try to acquire digital distribution rights when negotiating new licenses.

The last several months have seen Funimation be extremely active in acquiring new series, both those that have never appeared in English before and others that are already somewhat familiar to fans. Current and new series that they are working on include Baccano!, Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry, the Afro Samurai: Resurrection movie (available in both standard DVD and Blu-Ray, with the Blu-Ray version either uncut or as a director's cut), Season 8 of Dragon Ball Z and the seventh through eleventh DBZ movies. Movies 7 and 9 are bundled together, and so are 8, 10 and 11, and there will also be both regular DVD and Blu-Ray versions.

For most of their series, Funimation is moving away from single-DVD releases, and embracing half-season sets. Crayon Shin-chan's Season 2, Part 1 will be officially released on Tuesday, Part 1 of the first season of Kenichi, the Mightiest Disciple, on March 10, and the first DVD of D.Gray-man on March 31. Shigurui: Death Frenzy is also on track for March 10, with all 12 episodes in a single set, and here too, there will be both a regular DVD and a Blu-Ray version to choose from..

Regarding Funimation's growing stable of anime series that have already been released in the U.S. by other companies, Love Hina will see a full-series release later this month, followed by Vandread in April. And Fruits Basket, Shuffle!, and Speed Grapher, although all three are series that were Funimation licenses from the start, are also to get the same treatment. In particular, Fruits Basket, which has already been released as a box set and then a thin pack, will now be available for purchase as a budget-priced Viridian Collection. And with the box set of Fullmetal Alchemist's Season 1 already out, the second season will follow in March as well. Finally, Samurai 7, which was produced in high definition to begin with, is getting the Blu-Ray treatment for its full box set on February 24.

After going through this list of releases, Sheehan simply did not have time to announce any new acquisitions. As the panel drew to a close, however, he was able to shed some more light on Funimation's recent acquisition of the Fullmetal Alchemist: Premium Collection OAV. The major difficulty with bringing this out will be figuring out exactly how to price a DVD with a total run time of only 24 minutes. Whatever the difficulty, though, Funimation has every intention of making this available on a DVD, which will include all of the content and bonuses from the Japanese release. At this point, the late summer is the best estimate that Sheehan was able to make regarding when it would actually become available.

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