Author: Gabriel Persechino-Forest Published: December 29th, 2017
Whether we like it or not, FUNimation is now owned by Sony. Now the question remains: What can we expect next? Funimation has assured us that everything will stay the same but that is not actually within their control any longer. So far, not much has changed and it could be permanent as well, but history thought us that things can also drastically change overnight. It can happen tomorrow or it can happen a year from now or even longer perhaps; but all it takes is one person in a position of power on the issue who decides to “get creative” with Sony’s assets, one bad financial report from FUNi or even one business man at Sony with a dream of a united Aniplex and Funimation and everything FUNi built could go down the drain, for better or worse.
So what if Sony decides to change things then? Well, there are many business models available at Sony’s disposition and which one they chose is dependent on how much they learned from their own and other companies’ past mistakes; it will also determine how successful they are going to be in the end. Let’s take a look at the possibilities shall we:
Plan 1: Change nothing. If Sony decides not to change a thing, they are inheriting a company that is already working and has its foot in the industry. It is, therefore, a safe bet and the safest possible course for them. According to all official statements thus far, they intend to do this but things can change beyond the immediate future so let’s hold off on celebrating for now.
Plan 2: Seize the opportunity. Sony could make changes and consolidate in such a way as to make its “Limited/collector’s label” handled by Aniplex; making high priced versions of FUNi’s series while using FUNi as their consumer-friendly branch; still releasing DVD/BDs of those same series at the same prices FUNi has for a long time now. They could also allow FUNi to release and re-release Aniplex shows at cheaper prices through FUNi while still having the collector’s sets at Aniplex. They can use this opportunity to get through their backlog (Blood+) and release such old titles through FUNi as well.
They could keep their partnership with Crunchyroll and keep a steady flow of licenses at cheaper (Presumably these companies have been splitting costs now that they have a partnership) while still negotiating to get subtitles of these series on their playstation platform at the same time. If they keep dub production up and continue with the simuldub initiative, they can also have that on their playstation platform while keeping the online service open. Physical releases are also important and they can use this opportunity to get Sony series at cheaper while focusing their cash on acquiring non-Sony properties to make sure Amazon doesn’t beat them to the punch. Since they have their own distribution network, they could end the Universal deal (Not renew it) after it comes to its conclusion.
This is the best possible outcome for fans, for the community and for Sony (This allows them to maximize efficiency and profits and keeps their fanbase happy) therefore we can fairly assume it’ll never happen. Corporations simply don’t work that way and, in the corporate world, any plan that involves someone else than them also making a profit is a definite no go.
Plan 3: Keep simuldubs and home video outputs alive, install the service on the Playstation, cut ties with Crunchyroll and make FUNi go back to subtitling and keep Aniplex and FUNi completely separate. Much more likely to happen and actually damaging for them: By cutting ties with Crunchy they’ll lose a steady stream of cheaper licenses from other companies in the business and will have a competitor that will have to start making its own dubs and home video releases (As they were about to do before the partnership took hold) and keeping Aniplex at a distance will continue to keep some of their biggest titles niche while failing to provide the super collector’s treatment to others that will remain at FUNi’s. It’s a bad idea and a step backward; seems right for how corporations do things though but thankfully seems to have been averted for the foreseeable future.
Plan 4: Cut ties with Crunchyroll, creating a competitor in the process and damaging dub capabilities for both companies for the immediate future. Cut simuldubbing because it’s “too risky”. Cut the amount of new licenses and limit them to “Sony series”. Increase prices dramatically and only sell cheap DVDs that are still overpriced through FUNi while only allowing BD releases at insane prices through Aniplex. Spit on the fanbase and destroy customer relations. Edit dubs to be more “western friendly” by making FUNimation their “mainstream brand” of anime with an eye on TV broadcasts. Cut the amount of dubs produced. Increase subscription fees online. Limit or eliminate ecchi/fanservice series from their lineup…
This is a stupid plan that would destroy the company, end Sony’s aspirations in the market, hand over the North American industry to Amazon and set back anime in the West at least two years. Which means there’s a really real risk they’ll actually do it. We are talking about a corporate giant here. Corporate giants are known not for their quality of service, but for their draconian practices and ability to stay afloat by outbidding competition. While they promised otherwise (Super corporations promise a lot of things all the time), company leadership, and therefore strategies, can change as can the mood of the corporate heads if FUNi doesn’t meet whatever arbitrary guidelines and quotas they’ll establish.
Long story short we have a cozy immediate future as far as things are concerned but in the long run changes are inevitable and we should be on the lookout and prepare ourselves. Just like when FUNi tried to censor Dance in the Vampire Bund or included political slants in their dubs (Prison School incident), we will need to stay vigilante. Anime fans have historically been protective of their hobby and efficient at keeping it intact and prosperous and we need to ensure we keep up our efforts now more than ever before. Fan backlash, boycotts, feedback, only rants, shifts from legal streams and then back again, high physical media and merchandise sales, an involved fanbase… all of these may not seem like much but they are the reason our hobby has managed to get this far without being “mainstreamed”. It would be a shame for a company as well established in this industry as Funimation to fall into mediocrity and obscurity but it is the only possible outcome if the company chooses a “mainstream” approach to a niche hobby which is why fans must continue to remain involved with Funimation, as we have in the past, so they know the fanbase is still there.
If you wish to see FUNimation’s address of the issue, it can be accessed here.
Sources: Image: Funimation Logo