Anime Boston 2013 Sentai Filmworks Panel
by Michael Toole,
Sentai Filmworks' Anime Boston panel opened to a lively crowd in the cavernous Hall D. Soon, company representative David Williams arrived onstage to go over upcoming titles, share some new title announcements, take questions and answers from fans, and pass out free Sentai DVDs and blu-rays in exchange for answering trivia questions.
First up was a recap of upcoming titles. June will see the arrival of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and Mysterious Girlfriend X on both blu-ray and DVD, Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee season 2 part 2, Kill Me Baby, and Tari Tari on DVD.
In July, Sentai will release Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere season 2 on blu-ray and DVD, a complete DVD collection of Special A featuring an all-new English dub, season 2 part 1 of Phi Brain on BD/DVD, and the long-awaited DVD and blu-ray release of Another. In August, Sentai's headlining release will be Makoto Shinkai's Garden of Words on DVD and bluray, plus complete collection releases for Shining Hearts and Medaka Box on blu-ray and DVD. September will include some exciting just-announced releases, such as Soubi Yamamoto's new short film This Boy Caught a Merman on blu-ray and DVD, the complete Golgo 13 TV collection on DVD and newly-released blu-ray, and a new complete release of Nyan Koi. September's freshest news? All of season 1 of Satelight's red-hot AKB0048 on DVD and blu-ray!
October provided the panel's red meat: new announcements! Along with series 3 of Hakuoki: Shinsengumi on DVD and blu-ray, there's Phi-Brain season 2 part 2 on DVD/BD. Mr Williams announced a DVD complete series license rescue of Godannar, plus a new release-- the combination rescue/brand-new Di Gi Charat OVA, TV series, and Winter Garden TV series. Kokoro Connect on DVD and blu-ray is coming in October, plus the big fish: a brand-new complete release of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Tatsunoko's seminal superhero adventure. This expansive set will include the entire series on DVD or blu-ray, plus the 1994 OVA remake. Recognizing that some fans bought the original ADV Films release of Gatchaman TV, Sentai will also release Gatchaman '94 separately.
Mr Williams then opened up the floor to some lively Q&A.
Q: There are a lot of old Bandai Entertainment shows back on the market, aren't there? Will you be getting any?
A: At this time, I've got no titles to confirm or deny. We are interested in Bandai Entertainment's old titles, though.
Q: Sentai started off as a very small company, but seem to be releasing a high volume of anime now. How's the company doing?
A: We're doing good! We are still a small company, but we are growing and adding capacity. But we don't want to grow too fast. There are lessons we've learned over the years, and we're trying to play it safe.
Q: I'm a big Makoto Shinkai fan. I think the animation for the Garden of Words trailer is almost scarily lifelike! Has he got a new project yet?
A: No information on Mr Shinkai's next project. We're very excited about Garden of Words, though!
Q: You brought back Gatchaman! That's great! Could you also bring back Nadia of the Mysterious Seas?
A: I want to see that myself! We're definitely thinking about it.
Q: I'm so happy you got the license to Di Gi Charat! I'm also a big fan of Uta no Prince-sama. When will it be coming out? And will there be a blu-ray?
A: We don't have a time and date for Prince yet-- and we'll see on the blu-ray.
Q: We've seen some interesting Kickstarter projects lately, including the success of the Time of Eve movie international release. Would Sentai Filmworks consider using Kickstarter to fund an upcoming release?
A: Kickstarter is an interesting situation. I think it works great for creative projects, but it's a lot harder to deal with in terms of anime, an existing product that already has multiple layers of rights and distribution. So we've got no plans to use Kickstarter in the immediate future.
Q: But it's worked with Time of Eve, right?
A: It's a great model... in the right circumstances. If we can find a way to work Kickstarter into our release plans, we'd be happy to try it!
Q: I've got a question about streaming. What does Sentai think about the growth of legal anime streaming?
A: It's a good thing! We think it's great for fans to sample and discover new shows. Personally, there are lots of shows that I want to watch, but not necessarily collect. Streaming provides the opportunity to try out new shows, and dig through existing releases to find the good stuff, and figure out what shows to really fall in love with own. DVD is still king, but streaming is growing. It's a great addition to our strategy.
Q: So many early Sentai releases were DVD only with subtitles, but later got upgrades in the form of new dubs and blu-ray releases. Nowadays, it seems like more shows are blu-ray right out of the gate. Will you keep getting heavier into blu-ray, or are you going to stay conservative on BDs?
A: We don't have a cutoff or a specific target number of units before we decide to do a blu-ray release. Part of the reason we didn't do a lot of blu-rays early on is because we didn't have the resources for it. Blu-ray is very expensive to produce and manufacture, so we've had to be selective about it. Blu-ray releases need to do well enough to justify the cost of a dub, too. We're getting more successful shows, and blu-ray itself is growing significantly. That's great! It means our cost will go down. But blu-ray still isn't selling as much as DVD... yet.
Q: A lot of fans use streaming services now, but we still want to see anime on TV! Does Sentai have plans to get anime on Toonami?
A: We would love Sentai titles to be on Toonami. But there aren't any plans that I can discuss at the moment.
Q: You directed the dub for CLANNAD: After Story. Any thoughts on that show?
A: It made me wanna cry! I love the story, and I'm a sucker for that sort of material. When I direct ADR on shows and get the actors in the booth for thir line reads, I know they're getting it right when their delivery just gives me goosebumps. CLANNAD: After Story had lots of those moments!
Q: You got the rights to the final season of Familiar of Zero. But when will you release it? And will you release the earlier seasons?
A: That's a good question. We want to get Familiar of Zero: F Plus Final out there, but we're still working on acquiring the first 3 seasons, because we want to give those to fans too. Hopefully we'll have an announcement soon.
Q: I love an old ADV Films license that got dropped, Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch. Any interest in Sentai acquiring it?
A: Possibly. But if I haven't announced something, my answer is usually that we can neither confirm nor deny any plans. But the thing is, we look at everything. We look at new shows, shows still in production, catalog shows-- we consider it all for release.
Q: Thanks for getting the rights to Girls und Panzer, I love it! But during the overseas stream, the licensor cut out an image song in episode 8. Will you be including that? I'm not sure I want the show if there are cuts...
A: That's a good question, and right now, I don't have an answer for it. That is a music rights/clearance issue, hopefully it will be cleared for our release.
Q: I've got a question from Gabriel of Animaine! He's happy you got This Boy Caught a Merman. Will you take on a more proactive role on getting BL titles?
A: We try to be proactive in all areas! We pay attention to fans at cons, online-- if there's interest, we'll look at bringing it out. So don't hesitate to tell us what you want!
Q: Who's the ADR director for Another?
A: I'm not sure I can reveal that right now. The work is done, but you'll have to wait for an announcement!
Q: Please license the World God Only Knows and Dog Days! Are there streaming plans for Gatchaman?
A: I don't know what the plans for streaming Gatchaman are at the moment.
Q: If you look at everything, what do Japanese companies usually show you?
A: It really varies a lot from title to title. Sometimes the show's in pre-production, so we don't get an episode or even a trailer, just a flyer and some character design sheets, plus data on the creative staff. That may be all you have to work with! For other shows, maybe there's a short trailer, or an unfinished episode 1. We often look at shows early in the process.
Q: Do you have any details about your release of Humanity Has Declined?
A: Not yet. No details at the moment!
Q: Will Sentai launch a streaming channel on Roku?
A: I don't know of anything like that in the works. That kind of project would be handled by another company that we partner with-- but we do try to stream stuff everywhere we can. iTunes, Xbox, Sony, Amazon... we're always looking for more outlets!
Q: Will your Queen's Blade Rebellion release have the OVA "bridge" between the earlier series and it?
A: We've just got Rebellion, and I'm not positive on those OVAs. I think so, but I can't confirm it now. Sorry!
Q: When you release a blu-ray, there are questions of economy of scale plus what's in the catalog. How hard is it to get HD masters for older shows from Japan?
A: It depends on the title. I can say this: we won't do a blu-ray without an HD master. That's mandatory now, and I'm actually pushing Sentai to insist on 1080p masters. 1080i isn't quite enough for me! We don't like releasing upscales.
Q: So did you look at the Time of Eve Kickstarter? What did yout think of the film?
A: I can't confirm or deny our interest-- I can just say that we look at everything.
Q: Please consider releasing Pale Cocoon and Yasuhiro Yoshiura's other new film!
Q: What about Evangelion TV on blu-ray? And Elfen Lied?
A: We'd love to! But they're not making Evangelion available for license right now. ADV Films still technically owns Elfen Lied, so that's not ours!
Q: How do you choose which classic titles to release?
A: Classics do sell less, but we really like a lot of them. I think if a classic is given a chance, it can often succeed. But it must be a good license price, the costs have to make sense. At Sentai, we always want to have some old school titles!
Q: How does Sentai Filmworks employ people?
A: We make them do some work around the office, and then we give them a paycheck! We're a regular business. We do like to hire fans! But let me say this: do you want to make your fandom into your job? Think of the anime you hate the most-- worse than anything. Now imagine watching it. And watching it again. And again. Lunchtime, then watching it again. It can be very challenging to have anime as your job!
Q: I notice that your DVD releases are often Japanese-language only. How are your dubs assigned?
A: If we think the show will sell enough to support a blu-ray release and dub, we'll do it. If it's a small title, it will be DVD only. CLANNAD was a special case-- other markets outside of the US really wanted a dub, so we shared the costs for it, and it sold really well everywhere.
Q: What about the Another live-action film? Will you release that, too?
A: That's a complicated matter. Even though it has the same original creator, it's not really the same property. Getting the rights depends on a number of factors-- the production committees for the Another TV series and film might be completely different from each other, and we don't do a whole lot of live action. We will look at the film, though.
With that, Mr Williams closed the Q&A, handed out DVDs and blu-rays in exchange for correctly answering trivia questions, and thanked the fans for coming.
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