So, I am a pretty small time anime collector. If you’ve read my OWLS post from May, you can see everything that I’ve collected over the years. Yeah, I haven’t sold a single thing from it yet. What I’ve noticed through some trends in where I’ve been getting my physical releases. I used to be a big Bandai and Funimation only person because they used to sell decent releases for slightly more decent prices. Lately, I’ve been leaning in the direction of Sentai Filmworks/Maiden Japan and Discotek. This isn’t just a question about what each company has, because I like a lot of Funimation’s catalog. They either sell their discs at too high of a price now days or they just screw up what they are releasing in general. Maybe I am being spoiled by the amount of love that Discotek has put into every single one of their releases, but I don’t think that’s completely the case here.
And no, this post isn’t supposed to be a huge dunk on Funimation as a whole. I honestly feel like they’ve done a lot of great things for the anime community. For one thing, they’ve made a lot of their releases more widely available then you would expect. No really. Their dub simulcast work model is ground breaking even if, according to what I’ve heard at a convention from a voice actor’s mouth, that it’s over working their personnel. The fact that they’ve stuck to it for so long is great. We can talk about how they are releasing their seasonal anime. Not all of it is on their lousy app. You can watch their seasonal stuff on Hulu and some of their simuldubs on Toonami. I’ve also heard that they have services in other english speaking countries. Correctly about that if I’m wrong, though. I could be way off base. So in general, Funimation is great at getting their seasonal anime out to different audiences in varied ways and that’s fantastic.
(I am not an expert at business strategies at all, so take what I’m about to say even less then a grain of salt. All I can see are some trends that I’ve noticed and analyze my perception of them. Once again, I can be completely off base so please call me out on it if what I’ve seen is completely wrong.)
I think Funimation’s business model of gaining a profit off of nice physical releases to simulcasting and simuldubbing anime hasn’t gone as planned. If you’ve looked at their simuldubbing schedule, they are simuldubbing almost their entire seasonal catalog. The fact are doing all of them in a somewhat timely manner consistently with a lot of dub actors in a very compressed time space must be taking a toll. Why? Because release a subtitled version takes so much less effort and money then scheduling and hiring dub actors for a lot of different roles, placing their voices into the anime in a timely manner, then keep going. In order to get a continued revenue for this venture and keep it’s audience invested, they’ve changed how they sell physical releases. Their focus is either going for very glossy limited editions with some standard releases on the side OR they sell lackluster releases for high prices. Possibly both of them. Here are some examples.
Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars release
I was lucky to preorder these releases when I did, because the price I got for it was way cheaper then every single price point I’ve saw since then. I was able to get both of them for about $50, which I thought was pretty expensive back then. Of course, I didn’t care at that point. I wanted to see it. Then wandering around the convention, I noticed that Banner of the Stars by itself went for $50 and Crest was about $40. Crest is only 13 episodes while Banner only had 24. What’s going on here. I wouldn’t be shocked if there was any effort into remastering this series and clean it up, but they didn’t. Also, the release itself was so minimal with a cheap menu and no special features in it at all. It felt like they wanted to just get the release out the door as soon as possible with no love or effort behind it. Gah, it’s so frustrating. Nobody is going to buy this release now because of this. It’s so bad that this series got released like this, because Crest and Banner is just so amazing. It didn’t deserve what happened to it.
Dragon Ball Z 30th Anniversary Edition Release
If there wasn’t a clear sign that something is wrong with Funimation, it’s how they are selling Dragon Ball Z to audiences again. No, I don’t mean the visual frame for frame break down about how Funimation ruined this release visually. I have no expertize and knowledge about the editing and clean up process of video, so that’s not what I am focusing on here. What I am going to focus on the announcement of minimal unit sales they needed to guarantee that the release is actually going to happen. This is Funimation we are talking about. In the United States, them and the Dragon Ball brand name are almost synomous with each other. Before Funimation changed it’s icon to the purple smiley face, it’s logo had Dragon Ball colors with an almost Dragon Ball font. The fact that Funimation had to even consider a unit limit because of this fact says something. There is a feeling wrongness here and it has to be a reason.
Dragon Ball Super: Broly and Anno Releated Movie Releases
These next couple of examples are more nit picky then the others, but I still think they are completely valid. From what I’ve seen on twitter from massive fans of the Dragon Ball Super: Broly release, they screwed up their release. Putting a green filter over the release doesn’t sound bad, but all the screen shots that I’ve seen completely ruined the amazing visuals from the film itself. It makes everything awkward and off putting. It’s such a questionable decision that just doesn’t make any sense. Makes me really nervous about all the decisions they are going to make from this point on.
Then Shin Godzilla and other Evangelion Film releases the traditional title cards at the beginning of each film. Once again this is a nitpick, but english subtitles along Japanese standard titles is a pretty standard practice for Japanese films finding their way to America. Funimation just trampling over that fact is yet another questionable decision that they’ve done recently. Especially since it ruins the context of a lot of the elements each film like the jokes in Shin Godzilla. Nitpicky yes, but it still diminishes some of the value of what they are doing.
Funimation General Releases
Ok, I could be shooting a lot of blanks for this point, so please point it out if I do, but it seems like they are doing everything they can to turn a profit with their releases. Now, that’s not an unusual thing because company centered around selling anime releases does that with anime these days. They also release high profile anime in separate parts these days. I’m just wondering when Funimation starting doing that for almost every series that has a decent following. Attack on Titan used to be a special case because of how explosive that show’s popularity was in 2013. There was a very limited release for both cours of season 1. It feels like Funimation is trying to replicate off the success of that. I guess they are able to get releases out faster because of the lesser amount of episodes, but people are still paying quite a lot for an entire series from this value. If it works and allows Funimation to make money, that makes complete sense. That’s their goal after all. It just shows that they don’t have the customer in mind as much as they used to.
I think the most offending thing was the digital release of their titles. I know that you can purchase some of their titles digitally through difference services, but I’m talking about the Funimation Digital Copy that comes with their discs. Having a digital copy come with the release itself is cool and makes a lot of since considering that most physical movie and television releases actually do that these days. It’s just the fact that this is connected directly to Funimation’s website. You know, the one that is horrible, slow, and has tons and tons of problems? Yeah, that one. Whether or not the system is going to work is completely up in the air. Especially when it comes to movies. There is just so many unknowns about that at the moment.
I guess I don’t know how exactly to end this post other then, it seems like something odd is going on with their business model. I didn’t even mention the Escaflowne kickstarter, which at least made some sense considering they didn’t know what kind of audience and interest would be attached to it. There is a lack of quality control and thought process or just a change of thought process behind each of their releases that their image of being fandom friendly like they were back in the day is put into question when it comes to physical releases. I still blame the Simuldub model for changing how they’ve changed their focus because they have had to do a lot of things to continue that extensive process as hard as they’ve been doing. That’s where their true customer service values have gone. A company can have multiple sides or be horrible on both of them.