Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Random Topic: 'Non-Aniplex of America' Distributors Losing Rights to Aniplex Titles

This past January has been rather chaotic for a lot of anime fans. While I've seen more titles being acquired by Anime Limited and new line-ups revealed for major US distributors, something else also cropped up that is making everyone get frustrated. For this post I figured I'll write about the reports that Funimation is losing rights to Aniplex titles, as well as other potential titles that could go.

UPDATE: I've tweaked the details a bit as of 14th May 2018.

First things first, Aniplex is a Japanese company that have helped produce a number of anime over the past couple of decades. They have worked with a bunch of studios including A-1 Pictures, Shaft and Ufotable on huge titles like Fate/Zero, Monogatari and Sword Art Online. Since the early 2010s Aniplex started to distribute anime to North America under the name Aniplex of America and from there onwards they managed to continue selling their products to the consumes, despite having ridiculous prices and a lot of hate from the fanbase.

However before Aniplex of America was a thing, the company also sub-licensed their titles to a bunch of other distributors like Funimation and Sentai Filmworks. The most notable titles include Fullmetal Alchemist and Persona 4 the Animation. Now it's 2016, Aniplex doesn't allow anyone to handle their titles unless it was for a special occasion (like Funimation being able to acquire Black Butler: Book of Circus and Book of Murder due to their success with the previous seasons), and just recently - they aren't allowing distributors renew the licenses to a bunch of titles.

The first title to expire was the DVD version of Darker Than Black Season 1. This was when Funimation announced a Blu-ray Premium Edition that was only available for 5000 units, released in May 2015. The set wasn't the best looking but the quality of the discs were good enough. At this point of writing there's still copies left of the Premium Edition and I'm not surprised - people were waiting for a standard cheaper release and they won't be getting that. And the main reason for this is because the license to Darker Than Black Season 1 expired in January 2016. The license for Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor will still be around for now.

The second title to expire was the DVD version for Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa. This was more of a silent one as the film got a re-release for Blu-ray only around the same time in July 2015. Then a couple months later the original series was getting a re-release on Blu-ray, unlike Darker Than Black however a standard cheaper release is also available in addition to a limited and rather nice collector's edition.

After a brief moment of peace for the rest of 2015, the start of 2016 caused a panic.

Darker Than Black Season 1 Blu-ray was the first from Funimation to announce the rights had expired and then immediately afterwards, another Aniplex title was confirmed to expire.

Baccano! was confirmed to expire on February 8th 2016. The DVD release was released under the Anime Classics and has been loved by many fans across the English territories, especially for its excellent English dub. Funimation never had the Blu-ray rights, with Aniplex of America instead distributing the set as a limited edition followed by a standard edition but they announced back in July 2013 that they would no longer distribute the title. In 2015 Anime Limited stepped in and finally managed to release the series on Blu-ray for the United Kingdom. The Japanese Blu-ray Disc Box is still around and provides an English dub and subtitles.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse - Funimation announced that the rights to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as well as the Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa Blu-ray would expire on March 31st 2016. At this point, we are pretty much panicking. None of us had expected Funimation to lose the rights to one of the most important anime shows of all time, especially when it has helped a bunch of newcomers get into anime. There's still time to acquire Brotherhood but it's best to sort it out sooner than later. I can confirm that the UK release of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was licensed straight from Aniplex themselves (rather than sub-licensed from Funimation like Baccano! and Darker Than Black was) so that area should last a fair bit longer.

Now many have been asking the most important question - what's going to expire next?

Well thanks to the dates given by Netflix and Hulu we pretty much have a general idea on when the other titles will expire. The good news is that most of them won't go away for another year or two. In addition shows that Aniplex were involved with but were not part of the distribution like Big Windup! and Soul Eater will not be affected by this problem.

July 31st 2016 - Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)
October 14th 2016 - Birdy the Mighty: Decode
February 2nd 2017 - Sekirei
May 29th 2017 - Black Butler
June 30th 2018 - Black Butler II
June 30th 2018 - Shiki
October 12th 2020 - Guilty Crown
June 30th 2022 - Black Butler: Book of Circus

NIS America:
December 31st 2016 - Wagnaria!!2

Sentai Filmworks:
August 2nd 2017 - Angel Beats!
August 12th 2017 - Night Raid 1931
June 1st 2018 - Mardock Scramble: The First Compression
June 2nd 2018 - Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion
July 2nd 2018 - No. 6
October 2nd 2018 - Persona 4 the Animation
November 2nd 2018 - A-Channel
December 1st 2018 - Inu x Boku Secret Service
December 31st 2018 - Mardock Scramble: The Third Exhaust
March 12th 2019 - Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc
April 1st 2019 - Tsuritama

I'll update this post if there's anything new to report, but for now we just have to take a deep breath and save our money on these shows. I don't expect Aniplex of America to handle these shows well if they do decide to acquire the rights.

UPDATE #1 (14th May):
It's been well over two years since this blogpost was made and there has been some updates to the mix. Rightstuf managed to maintain the license for Sound of the Sky and even released it on Blu-ray so it should be around for a little while longer. Meanwhile Funimation have lost the rights to the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise (minus Sacred Star of Milos), the first season of Black Butler, Birdy the Mighty: Decode and Sekirei. Their next estimated title to lose is Black Butler II and Shiki for the end of June 2018.

Sentai Filmworks have currently lost the rights to Angel Beats! and it seems they may still have Night Raid 1931 for a fair while longer. Some of their older titles like Guin Saga are also still around.


With Baccano! gone, are there any other versions available that I can pickup?
There are currently two versions available that you can buy on Blu-ray. There's the Japanese Blu-ray Disc Box which is what Aniplex used for their domestic release (basically they're the same discs), this release includes the English dub and English subtitles. Price wise it's currently around 19,907 Yen (around £116 and $166) on Amazon Japan brand new. It's region free.

The other version is the recent UK Blu-ray release from Anime Limited. The UK distributor picked up the license straight from Aniplex so they were able to release nearly the exact same version as the US/JP release (the difference is with the extra features in the UK release). The set was given a Collector's Edition release which is now out of print, however a standard edition Blu-ray is available on Amazon UK. This is locked to Region B only.

If the original Fullmetal Alchemist series goes OOP, are there also any other versions out there?
You're just in luck. Anime Limited announced and released the entirety of the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist series on Blu-ray, using Funimation's masters. This license also came straight from Aniplex. The license doesn't include the other Fullmetal Alchemist content like the Premium OVA Collection and the Conqueror of Shamballa. You can find Parts 1 & 2 on Amazon UK. This is locked to Region B only.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

About this blog

My photo
Member of the Anime UK News forum, and also once part of the Sheffield Hallam Visual Arts society throughout 2013-2017. Been collecting anime since 2012 and supported the anime distributors ever since. Also been hanging around on the Blu-ray forum and Fandom Post forums.

Blog Archive