Friday, July 4, 2008

FUNimation Entertainment Acquires Former Geneon USA Anime Titles

Hellsing Ultimate is one of the biggest Geneon titles that didn't see a complete release in the US.

The frailty of the anime industry in both North America and Japan was shown when the US branch of Geneon Entertainment ceased production and shut down in late 2007. Formerly known as Pioneer Entertainment, the company was known in the US for releasing such popular titles like Tenchi Muyo, Sailor Moon, Hellsing, Trigun, and much more. ADV Films was involved in initial agreements to release and distribute Geneon titles before the company’s folding, but talks fell through and led to Geneon’s downfall. With the state of so many past and recurring titles in limbo, speculation was rampant on if any would be licensed to other companies. As the ripple effect of Geneon’s closing is being felt through the entire industry, FUNimation has officially announced a deal to manufacture, sell, and distribute select titles listed below.

Black Lagoon & Black Lagoon Second Barrage
Elemental Gelade
Ergo Proxy
The Familiar of Zero (Zero no Tsukaima)
Fate/Stay Night
Hellsing Ultimate
Kyo Kara Maoh Season 2
The Law of Ueki
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
Ninja Vixens (live action)
Paradise Kiss
Rozen Maiden & Rozen Maiden Träumend
Shakugan no Shana
Shonen Onmyouji
The Story of Saiunkoku
When They Cry (Higurashi)

The relationship between American and Japanese anime companies are closely intertwined, and Geneon USA’s shut down was only the beginning of the problems. ADV Films has been known as a strong company, with subsidiaries like the Anime Network, NewType USA turned PiQ magazine, and ADV Manga. In the past few months, a series of problems have been noticeable from ADV, with the Anime Network discontinuing linear 24/7 broadcast in favor of Video On Demand, the newly formed PiQ magazine discontinued after only four issues, and ADV Manga currently in a state of limbo with current titles suspended and a handful of titles dropped and picked up by other companies. Manga publisher Tokyopop has also seen a series of shuffles, with a massive company restructuring effecting jobs and both American and Japanese comic releases. This led to layoffs of 39 positions, scaling back of publication output to about 20-22 volumes per month, and an overall declining market share. While
FUNimation has been leading the pack with hardly any issues and the recent acquirement of Geneon titles, their 24-hour anime network, FUNimation Channel was also recently cancelled without a reason given. While various reasons can be attributed to the declining state of the anime industry, the “rescue” of this anime titles is a good sign and a chance for consumers to show their support.

When They Cry's colorful characters are only a veil over its much darker tones.

Perhaps one of the most anticipated titles in the list is the re-release of the vampire-centric OVA, Hellsing Ultimate. A closer adaptation of the manga than the previously released TV series, Geneon production halted before the fourth and final volume could see release. The list is mostly composed of halted current releases rather than their large catalog of legacy titles, which is a smart move on FUNimation’s part. As many fans were disheartened to stop halfway through a series, picking these up before their older titles will allow for a bigger rejuvenation. When They Cry is another series I’m glad to see rescued, which highlights a dark murder mystery amidst a cast of colorful characters. Another popular series that is getting revived is Black Lagoon. Focusing heavily on the action, it follows a team of mercenaries known as Lagoon Company. While some titles on the list aren’t too big of a surprise, many are. Lesser-known niche titles that many didn’t count on surviving are receiving a second chance. With the overall positive reaction the news is receiving around the communities, hopefully the momentum will show through in sales and support as well.

With the declining economy and the side effects of anime downloading and piracy, the future of the industry is still largely unknown. But if companies like FUNimation can put resources behind resuscitating former Geneon titles, then perhaps it’s not all doom and gloom after all. The first wave of titles will be hitting store shelves as early as the end of the summer, so keep your eye out for release dates. If any titles strike your fancy, now is a good time to support FUNimation and Geneon for bringing back these titles.

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