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AnimEigo Celebrates 15 Years


While other U.S. anime companies have come and gone, AnimEigo, Inc. (Japanese for “Animation in English”) marks its 15th year in business as the oldest surviving anime company in the U.S. The Wilmington, NC-based production and distribution facility has established a unique niche for itself – licensing only Japanese animation and live-action Samurai cinema that are already proven hits in Japan – “classic” in the true sense of the word. A majority of their catalog is a Who's Who of work by the best directors, the most admired creators and the most sought-after actors and voice actors. AnimEigo shows such as Otaku no Video, SDF Macross, and Urusei Yatsura are considered essential to any anime fan's collection.

Founder and CEO Robert Woodhead says the company was started as a lark when a friend asked if he could subtitle Japanese films for his fan friends. As a well-known computer game programmer, Woodhead had no trouble writing sophisticated subtitling software (a descendant of which is still in use at the company). He may not have realized it at the time, but he was creating AnimEigo's second niche, one as the company with the best translations, the clearest subtitling system for simultaneous speakers, and the most humorous and informative liner notes. While in Japan, he began securing licenses to hit shows and the company continues to reap the rewards of his good taste. Or… perverse good luck, no one is sure.

The company is peculiarly suited to the Internet environment, says Natsumi Ueki, AnimEigo's C.O.O./President and Woodhead's wife. It markets directly to its fan base of loyal customers via its website, www.AnimEigo.com. But fans want their favorite shows in stores and available through online retailers, too. “We've been listening to our customers and they've sent us some pretty strongly worded emails,” laughs Ueki.

So in July 2003, AnimEigo signed a distribution agreement with Koch Entertainment to market its titles throughout the U.S. and Canada. “KOCH has the channels to give us a strong presence in stores such as BestBuy, Wal•Mart, Tower Records, and Amazon.com. We're already excited about the results and our 15th Anniversary Year in 2004 will see this effort start to bear real fruit,” Ueki said.

2004 will also see the company complete its catalog in DVD format, giving priority at the same time to titles never released before, such as the extremely popular Samurai series Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman and Lone Wolf & Cub. ”It's going to be a busy year!” Woodhead and Ueki both agree.
AnimEigo was established in 1989 as one of the first distributors of classic Japanese animation and live-action Samurai films in North America and other parts of the world.

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