Is Funimation Less Fun in the UK?

Posted by Michael Pinto on Nov 6, 2009 in Animation |

Funimation in the UK

I just finished reading a very scathing review of what Funimation is or rather what it isn’t doing for UK fans. The blog in question is Tiamat’s Manga Reviews and the first thing I can tell is the blogger in question loves anime — however as someone who also understands the pro side of the world I thought I’d address a few things that otaku may not always understand. So here’s my point-by-point insights on Tiamat’s critique:

Low Quality Anime DubsLow Quality Dubs: “I started to lose respect for Funimation some months ago when I saw their hatchet job of Heroic Age and Claymore.”

I think this can be a fair critique, however something to keep in mind is that the quality of dubs isn’t just talent — it’s the money to do the dubs: The money to get good translators, writers and voice actors. Sadly my guess is that while the demand for anime DVDs has dropped that the costs of licensing anime haven’t. So this means that there are less people buying the stuff but it still costs as much to import. Well that means that you have to cut corners, and that’s the dubbing issue. If a show is going to make it to a cable network there might be the revenues, but if it isn’t you’re spending a great deal of money for a risky return.

Funimation Tied Our Hands Up...Funimation Blocked the UK from their Website: “When contacted Funi claimed they were doing an overhaul of the site, so as to remove the series that weren’t licensed for the UK from the site.”

If you recall Funimation had their server hacked not too long ago — the result is that the Japanese are taking a close look at what Funimation is doing and there’s no room for error. Also Funimation isn’t a software company, these are old school video guys who are trying to replicate YouTube overnight without the venture capital. Just for the record has some major investment behind them and can afford to not make money. And again if Funimation needs to cut corners sadly they’re licensing by country not by language — and this might be the case only with online video. In fact I’d bet that the online video costs extra in addition to the standard DVD rights. But frankly it’s a two way street: There’s video on the BBC website that I can’t watch as an American.

An Anime Pirate!Funimation Blocked Fansubs: “After several months a group of friends decided to sub the Japanese version.”

Just because Funimation owns the rights it doesn’t mean that they’re obligated to do anything with them. However they may be obligated to protect those rights for the Japanese. Now should you be upset if they have the rights and don’t do anything? Yes! But that doesn’t give you in return the right to do something about it — unless you want to license said show from the Japanese.

Dorky know it all programmers...Funimation Can Put the Shows on the Web With Ease: “However one of the guys in the group shot that full of holes, since he’s a professional web developer, and the site could have been done in a week at the most.”

If web developers worked for free that might be true! However as someone who has done software project management I can tell you that developers charge pretty good money and can be the worst estimators of time. Add to that that Funimation isn’t a software company. And right now the world is filled with old school media companies trying to figure out the net and failing. It’s not just tech smarts by the way, but also how to make money on the net as well.

A Nasty Sales Rep!The Funimation Guy Was a Jerk to Me! “However when I was able to nab a Funi rep at a recent UK event he was rather abusive, and rather pointedly told me that the site would most likely not be back online till march or April next year, and that Funi don’t consider UK fans as a priority concern since the market here is so small.”

The Funimation folks I’ve met have been pretty professional to me, but my guess (and it’s only a guess) is that that rep must have gotten a ton of grief from other fans who had the same issues as you do. That rep was honest to say that the market is too small, but sometimes you get a ton of grief for honesty. Unless the rep is the CEO he or she doesn’t get any say in how that goes down.

Thinking about the issue...However what you’ve stated begs the question: What can I do as a UK fan to get more anime over here?

I won’t pretend that there is a silver bullet answer, but here are some ideas:

a. Pick the one or two shows that you know Funimation has the UK rights to and that you think are the best — and then start an email campaign to Funimation. Maybe you can’t get everything, but maybe you can get something.

b. If there are UK companies that do streaming media, maybe start to contact them and let them know there is a market and encourage them to make a deal with Funimation.

c. Wait: Sadly my own feeling is that anime shows that are good, but not big enough for cable TV may be subtitled by the Japanese themselves and streamed from Japan for an international market. The bad side is that Japanese companies are very old fashioned, but the good side is this is starting to take place in Japan itself right now.

d. Start a company! What fans today forget is that the first wave of anime companies were for the most part started by fans, and even if they were started by pros those professionals were fans at heart. If the UK is a small market it may not cost that much to acquire streaming rights — of course you won’t get the latest and greatest, but if there’s a market and a model you can build up to that. That or a find a startup that’s interested in the market.

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