by Michael Toole,
Funimation's industry panel kicked off at 11am in Sakuracon's packed panel 3 room.
Presenting was company rep Sarah “Sully” Sullivan. She got things going by handing out some passes for Funimation's private invite-only Psycho-Pass event this evening, the Psycho-Party. The audience struggled with some trivia questions about old cyberpunk literature, but soon the tickets were handed out and the announcements began.
First up was Toonami news – the programming block on Cartoon Network has recently added Soul Eater to the set of Funimation shows on Toonami, which also includes Tenchi GXP and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Tenchi GXP will be ending soon, so fans can expect another Funimation show to join the block later in the season
Ms Sullivan then covered over simulcasts, starting by proclaiming, “We have One Piece, 'cause it never ends!” as well as Toriko. Hetalia: The Beautiful World recently ended, but is still available on Hulu. Season 2 of Haganai recently wrapped; season 1 will be out on home video later this year. Also recently concluding were [email protected], Robotics;Notes, Psyho-Pass, Senran Kagura, and Minami-ke.
Next up was Funimation's EVS, their elite video subscription service, an offering similar to Netflix Instant that allows subscribers access to more than 6,000 episodes—a majority of Funimation's library—for $7.95 per month. Fans can connect to the EVS via their mobile devices and tablets, in addition to products like Roku and a forthcoming app for Samsung smart TVs. In addition to the monthly EVS subscription, Funimation offers a $9.99 app for mobile devices that has a bit of exclusive content. There are a ton of ways to watch Funimation shows online – pay services like iTunes, XBox Live, PSN, and Netflix, as well as free airings on Hulu and YouTube. Finally, Funimation's still got their cable channel, so if fans want it, they need to ask for it.
Funimation's got plenty of presence on social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube, so check ‘em out there. Sullivan pointed out that they do some exclusive announcements on their Facebook page, and are planning something special once they reach one million “likes” (they're about 50,000 off the mark).
Sullivan then ran a sequence of trailers for recent and current shows, starting with Black Lagoon. The OVA sequel, Roberta's Blood Trail, will feature the original dub cast, and comes out this summer. The premiere of the dubbed version will be at Anime Central in May. Sullivan also touted Is This a Zombie?, Steins;Gate, Baka & Test season 2, and the blu-ray release of Panty and Stocking. Trailers continued with Blood-C, which allowed Sullivan to point out that the Blood-C: The Last Dark movie would be coming out in winter of this year. The trailer viewings wrapped with Toriko: 3rd Course, Heaven's Lost Property, Shakugan no Shana, and A Certain Scientific Railgun.
Next up was upcoming releases, starting with Lupin the 3rd: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. There's no firm release date yet, but they're aiming for July; most of the original Funimation cast will be returning and the series should be up for preorder on Amazon and Right Stuf. Sankarea, which Funimation are billing as a “zombie rom-com”, will hit later in the year, as will The Future Diary; cast announcements for that series will be dropping soon. Fairy Tail season 2 will be releaed in July, with the Fairy Tail movie following in the winter. One Piece Season 5 (episodes 264-336) is also in the pipeline, as is the STRONG WORLD film.
Smith closed the news portion of the panel with a special announcement – Psycho-Pass is being dubbed. It will come out in spring of 2014, in a blu-ray/DVD combo pack. More information on casting and production will be coming out throughout the year.
Wrapping up the panel was a surprisingly interesting Q&A session.
Q: Have you guys looked at live-action tokusatsu like GARO?
A: We did a lot of live-action, but we're focusing more on animation at the moment. But we've got some live-action stuff in the pipe that we can't talk about yet.
Q: Do you have any new simulcast announcements?
A: Not yet, but please keep an eye on the website. We'll have some soon!
Q: Do you have plans to release season 2 of Magical Index?
A: We're stil negotiating for it. Hopefully we'll have news soon.
Q: What about Oh! My Goddess season 3?
A: Oh! My Goddess is on hiatus due to contractual issues. We don't have any other information about it right now.
Q: Any word on Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods?
A: Wow, everyone is asking this question! All DBZ movies must first be offered to Fox, and the option for release hasn't picked up yet. It's way too early to talk release plans, but personally I think it'll probably be 2014 before we see it on these shores.
Q: Have you got blu-ray versions of Last Exile and Beck?
A: Neither Last Exile or Beck is on blu-ray in the US.
Q: What about Evangelion movie 3?
A: I believe that is being released on BD/DVD in Japan next month. Just like DBZ, it hasn't been optioned for licensing yet. I really like Evangelion, so I hope there's news soon!
Q: How many of Funimation's shows are on the subscription service, and not on other services like Netflix or Hulu?
A: There's a bunch. Also, Netflix expires shows suddenly sometimes—that won't happen on our Funi EVS. Nearly the entire library is on it!
Q: Some Funimation.com content isn't available in Canada. How come?
A: Yeah, it's a licensing issue. I feel bad about this, but stuff gets caught in “contract hell.” There are still some shows we don't have digital rights to in Canada. We're working on it, so please stay tuned for more details.
Q: When are you gonna release Lost Girl season 4?
A: The production announcement for season 3 just hit, so it's early. We don't produce it ourselves, we're just the distributor. Check with Prodigy Entertainment for information on that.
Q: Why is Heaven's Lost Property season 2 only on DVD?
A: Again, contractual issues. Sometimes we can't get the rights to both formats at the same time, but we released it on DVD because we knew fans were waiting for it. We do try to ensure that all of our shows are BD/DVD.
Q: Any hope for Lupin besides new series, like the annual TV movies?
A: No information at this time, sorry.
Q: How do we know when Funimation stuff goes out of print?
A: We try not to let our stuff expire, but it does happen from time to time. Sometimes the Japanese licensor chooses not to re-sign with us. But that's going to vary from show to show.
Q: My OCD needs to know: why do you put some BD releases in DVD cases?
A: We're trying not to do that anymore! We're trying to release everything in BD on the BD size, but it depends other factors: design issues, retailer requests. But we're moving to BD cases for everything, so expect way fewer DVD keepcases.
Q: With Bandai shutting down recently, will Funi get their catalog titles?
A: I mentioned Contract Hell earlier. When companies go out of business, there are always situations where previously announced titles sink. Technically Bandai Entertainment still exists in the world of legalese. We're sad about what's happened to our friends and partners at Bandai, but have no information about their holdings right now. Currently, we don't have anything of theirs.
Q: Will there be any more Panty and Stocking?
A: I'd love to see more, but there are no plans for more in Japan.
Q: Will there be a Shiki complete box set?
A: I haven't heard any murmurings about this around the office, but we might do in the future. No release date for it at this moment.
With that, Ms Sullivan closed the panel and thanked the attendees for coming.
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