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Sakura-Con 2011
Funimation Industry Panel

by Carlo Santos,
The acquisition of hit shonen TV series Fairy Tail was the highlight of an otherwise subdued Funimation panel at Sakura-Con 2011.

Due to technical difficulties with the projection screen, company representatives Joshua Morris and Joel Rodriguez began by taking questions from the audience. Regarding Funimation's current business status, the company is no longer for sale and has been purchased back from Navarre. Also, in response to a question about job openings, Rodriguez said that "we're always hiring" and that applicants (preferably in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area) can look for Funimation listings on major job-hunting websites.

Several audience members also asked about the current Blu-ray situation, which was met with positive responses. Morris said that as long as a market exists—as it does for Blu-ray and DVD—there will continue to be releases in those formats. DVD/Blu-ray combo packs are also becoming available with titles like Ga-Rei: Zero and Eden of the East. Attendees also asked about the possibility of Blu-ray releases for series like Rosario+Vampire and Last Exile, but as of now there are no plans.

Questions about other series, however, were typically met with "no comment" responses or vague news. Case Closed is "on permanent hiatus," and the best one can expect from Hellsing Ultimate is a future release "sometime later this year."

Representatives also fielded some tougher questions about the company's editing; the "butchered" status of Dragon Ball Z DVDs was explained by the need to edit it for TV broadcast. However, the release of uncut editions is helping to fix that, and other controversial titles like the Evangelion movies will not be cut unless there is a need to make it palatable for TV. On another subject, the lack of original Japanese credits sequences on most discs is due to originals received from Japan that contain only the textless openings and endings. The company must then fill in those sequences with credits in romanized Japanese and English.

After continued difficulty with the projector, Morris and Rodriguez chose to read from their slideshow instead of displaying it. They hinted at a "special simulcast" that would be happening at the same time as Anime Boston's Funimation panel on Saturday, April 23rd. In addition, viewers are encouraged to visit the new beta.funimation.com website to view streaming videos (which are now also available to Canadian users) and participate in activities like weekly prize draws and charity auctions for Japan earthquake relief.

New announcements and acquisitions include adventure series Fairy Tail, the English dub of which will be directed by Tyler Walker (Baccano!, Hero Tales). Fairy Tail protagonist Natsu will be voiced by Todd Haberkorn. Live-action movie Treasure Hunters starring Jay Chou has also been acquired. Lastly, Season 3 of comedy series Shin-chan is now available for pre-order (and has been on Amazon.com for a while already).

After the announcements, the panel was opened up to the audience once more, but many series-specific questions were met with "no comment" or "no updates." There are, however, still plans to release Spice and Wolf Season 2 later this year, and the previously announced Mass Effect and Dragon Age anime projects will have all creative decisions go through EA/BioWare to maintain continuity. There are also plans to dub the Trigun: Badlands Rumble movie in the future, with Funimation looking to reunite all the members of the original cast.

Other questions addressed Funimation's current business strategies. The company continues to be on the lookout for license rescues from defunct companies, as well as acquiring series that have so far only been simulcast on the web (Panty and Stocking and Fairy Tail being recent examples). There could also be theatrical runs for future major movie releases similar to Evangelion, but Funimation's focus continues to be on license acquisitions rather than putting on theatrical showings.

The company is also continuing to take steps in stopping piracy of currently running series. Morris stressed the importance of watching anime through legal streaming sites rather than using downloads or fansubs that "pad the pirates' pockets." But even as the entertainment industry continues to move toward digital-only releases, the market for disc-based media remains Funimation's focus.

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