Toonzone @ MCM London Comic Con May 2014: Anime UK Industry Panel
A few hours after the Aniplex panel, the collective representatives of the UK anime industry took to the stage- Jeremy Graves of Manga Entertainment, Andrew Partridge of Anime Limited, Yosuke Kodaka of Aniplex US and Ross Liversidge of MVM.
MVM announced a slate of forthcoming titles- Garden of Sinners in October, Kokoro Connect, Blast of Tempest, Familiar of Zero season 3, more Patlabor on Blu-ray, Bunny Drop (likely aimed for 2015) and Watamote.
Anime Limited followed this by announcing plans for Psychic School Wars, working on an American dub for a home media release. Their second announcement was for the popular Full Metal Panic!, including Fumoffu and The Second Raid. The company is currently looking into what extra material they can secure
Manga announced release for The Princess and the Pilot, Hellsing Ultimate 9 and 10, the final Berserk: The Golden Age film and Naruto Shippuden Movie 5: Blood Prison.
With the announcements out of the way, the majority of the panel was then given over to audience questions.
Asked if Anime Limited’s upcoming release of Wings of Honneamise will contain the commentary track from an earlier release, Andrew answered that it was certainly possible but mainly hinged on both Bandai’s approval and if the audio tracks were still in Manga’s possession, stating that various audio resources had been lost along the way around the time it was bought out.
Regarding the chances of Free receiving a UK release, there is interest but currently an unidentified part is believed to be sitting on global rights for the title.
A timely question highlighted Viz’s recent announcement and plans for Sailor Moon past and present, asking if we could in turn be seeing these releases in the UK. Although all of the reps respected the popularity and heritage of the show, within the UK it simply isn’t the smash hit that it was in countries such as the US which left them wary about licensing it. Floating the idea of releasing the original series in half season sets they requested a show of hands to gauge interest, which received an equally lukewarm response. Despite this, they did reassure that there was a general interest in the title and with the evolving entertainment landscape it may become possible at some point in the future.
Regarding the chances of getting more anime on UK TV, the panel again discussed the changing of times as platforms such as Netflix and Sky + have greatly changed the way audiences watch shows and how titles can be made available. In terms of traditional television, the key issue is convincing networks that anime titles can profitable air time for them.
Asked about preferences for sub or dub and if a specific dub performance gets on their nerves, the panel generally agreed that preference often comes down to which language they hear first but sometimes they can accept both (the case with Jeremy for the Japanese and English casts of the Dragon Ball series) or find the dub cast sound better (Andrew’s opinion on Cowboy Bebop and Ross’ for Gungrave). Yosuke referenced back to his earlier solo panel, saying he was still surprised that UK fans might prefer a British dub to an American one, that he’d like to keep the option open for producing some but also hopes Aniplex releases allow fans to develop an appreciation for the acting talent within Japan.
Returning to the issue of Netflix, an audience member wished to know what would be required to get Aniplex titles that are on the US service onto the UK one. Yosuke explained that this varied; sometimes it has to be negotiated through the US licensor such as FUNimation or Sentai, but that titles arranged with Manga Entertainment and Anime Limited go through them to arrange streaming outlets.
A twofer asked about the chances of seeing a return of the first Fullmetal Alchemist and a UK license for Sgt. Frog. Andrew explained that with Sgt. Frog the two main factors are the sheer number of episodes and the premise, so it would require the right deal to come along for the title. For FMA, Jeremy responded that it is a title they see frequent interest for and that in fact they get a lot of interest for various older titles, such as A.D. Police and Cyber City Oedo, which haven’t made the transition from the VHS era of UK anime releases. Another informal round of hand votes were then held for both Cyber City Oedo and Fullmetal Alchemist (both for a general re-release of the show and for the notion of releasing it on Blu-ray).
A passionate fan asked about the possibility of obtaining the rights to finally release the Macross series in the UK. Andrew revealed that buzz suggests that deals are under way to achieve this, as the Japanese creators and license holders are understandably less than happy that a long chain of legal issues have prevented them from bringing such a popular title outside of Japan, with all of the representatives agreeing they’d love to do any of the series or movies and especially give them a Blu-ray release. The question itself expanded to ask if there were any titles the respective companies wish they had got instead of their ‘competitors’. Friendly competition exists and although they may personally have titles they wish their company could have got, they know that the important thing is that more titles get A UK release at all.
On seeing Garden of Sinners on Blu-ray in the UK, Yosuke clarified that they haven’t actually released the title on Blu-ray in America either. It will depend on if Japan accepts a plan for such a release, at which time the UK stands a chance of seeing it released on said format too.
Asked about the chances of seeing Discotek Media’s recent releases of Monster Rancher brought over, the response was similar to Sailor Moon- a sadly niche title with no current plans, but possibility remains for the future.
There is interest in releasing HD remasters of older titles, spurred by recent Japanese attempts for archival purposes, but it rests on what individual original rights holders want to do with their media library. As an example, Manga will be releasing a remastered version of the original Ghost in the Shell.
No update on further seasons of Bakuman, a series Manga Entertainment distributes on behalf of Kaze. Similarly, fellow Kaze title Black Lagoon has done well in the UK and Manga would be interested in being involved with distribution if further seasons were produced.
Asked about the chances of seeing Dragon Ball Kai or any of the movies, Jeremy responded that there are no current plans with their focus presently on the original Dragon Ball series. They’d love to release the movies in particular. Battle of Gods, the most recent special, is included in that as a general thought but they can’t promise anything as even FUNimation has yet to secure a license (NOTE- Since the time of the panel, FUNimation has since announced a release of Battle of Gods for America).
Asked about high school mystery series Hyouka, Andrew responded that a release for the title was likely but may not specifically come from his own company.
Ross was asked about the chances of MVM releasing Samurai Champloo. Due to the successful sales of Bakemonogatari on the format the company is definitely looking into updating more titles, including Bodacious Space Pirates.
A more jovial question asked for opinions on the controversial anime trend of fillers, original content produced by television adaptations to buy more time for the source work to produce more content. The panel generally regards them as a necessary evil, feeling that select fillers (such as the G8 arc in One Piece) can actually be pretty strong in their own right. Less praise was offered for the infamous run of filler which ended the first Naruto series.
Regarding niche titles and lack of dubs, situations can vary but essentially it boils down to assuming a title will be popular enough to sell without having access to a dub to place on the discs. This is of course less than ideal for the companies as sales figures show that titles with a dub sell better than those without.
The final question asked about the chances of seeing further Kyoto Animation titles, such as Tamako Market and Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions. Andrew commented it was likely, making an opening for Jeremy to offer a dramatic ‘Watch this space’, before clarifying that something was in the works. Andrew summed up that Kyoto titles are generally a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’.