Sunday, 3 April 2016

Random Topic: Funimation Now UK - The News So Far

Back in January I blogged about how Funimation was finally coming to the UK with their new redesigned streaming service. At the time they had a release date set for February, everything was going to be good. Except it ended up getting constantly delayed.

The launch is 'near' so for this post I wanted to go through what exactly has happened (from an anime fan perspective) over the past few months since this point.

What happened during the month of January 2016

On 7th January, FunimationNow was introduced. They showed off their new logos as well as a announcement website detailing what the new version of their service was going to be about. During the list myself and a few others noticed that the UK launch was being planned. This was good news since Funimation hold the UK rights to a bunch of titles. About a few hours later the website, which had the only source of news that the UK was going to have the service, was geolocked to US & Canada - which was rather daft. Thankfully someone print-screened the page so we had evidence. My guess at the time was that they were working on creating a UK announcement on a different site or to a local news site.

This happened a few weeks later on 28th January where Funimation finally revealed a UK based website detailing when it's going to happen and what it's going to contain. The details were similar to the original announcement page where the mobile devices will be available first and the console apps will arrive later (the US is getting it in May which is where I'm expecting the UK version to show up as well). The plus side is that we received confirmation for 8 titles that will be made available; Assassination Classroom, Attack on Titan, Fairy Tail, Noragami as well as the Spring 2016 titles Dimension W, Divine Gate, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, and Snow White with the Red Hair. The site also provided a release date for February 2016 in addition to asking us to sign up for a newsletter.

From this point on I was fine with the announcement site, it basically got the main simple points out of the way like what content the site will provide and examples of the shows they had to offer. The downside was that price point as well as an exact release date was not revealed.

What happened during the month of February 2016

During the first half of February we heard nothing about the launch of Funimation Now with the exception that it wouldn't be in the first half of the month. Voice actress Monica Rial commented on the UK launch on 8th February during the London Anime & Gaming Con where she said it would arrive in May instead (like the US). When I heard this I think she probably missed the notice (I mean, why tell the UK it would be in May when the site says otherwise?). Anywho the site did go up and down for a fair bit probably to fix maintenance issues and while we were still waiting, we were able to receive some notes from the Funimation US forums. The main admin handling the Funimation Now thread revealed that the UK forum will be separate from the US forums due to technical reasons. At the same time they had no news for Ireland, which is worrying as UK & Ireland are generally tagged together when it comes to the rights.

Thankfully that was nothing - on 22nd February Funimation finally stepped in to contact the UK fans by creating social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter respectively). They clarified that the launch date was delayed to March 2016 in order to ensure everything is set in stone. On the same day Ireland was confirmed so the Irish fans don't have to worry. Ireland also gotten their own website a few weeks later using a different domain (.ie) rather than sharing the same one (.uk). On their social feeds they revealed High School DxD was part of the line-up, which is neat and also makes sense as they hold the UK rights. The next day they reconfirmed Psycho Pass but confused folks about whether they had Season 2 available or not - which was a load of nonsense because Funimation holds the UK rights to the entire franchise (that's Season 1, Season 2, Extended Edition and the Movie to be exact). Their Facebook feed was also modified so that UK owners will be directed to the UK page instead of the US one (you can still have access to it by getting the right url which will then give you a note saying it was redirected so you find the US page).

At this point on for each day they ended up unveiling one or two new titles per day. A new video was uploaded on 29th February to the announcement site revealing Ghost in the Shell ARISE, Ouran High School Host Club (which was unveiled a few days prior) and Senran Kagura for the line-up while clarifying on their feeds that some titles wouldn't be made available. These titles include Dragon Ball, One Piece and Terror in Resonance. Dragon Ball and One Piece made perfect sense due to Funimation acquiring their rights from Toei America. Toei Europe are the ones who are not bothering with any major European country from what I hear. Terror in Resonance was actually caused by Anime Limited acquiring the license straight from Japan first before Funimation had the chance to do so themselves. In theory if Anime Limited didn't license the series, Funimation would have had UK & Ireland rights like many of the other Fuji Creative Corporation titles such as Assassination Classroom, Gonna Be the Twin-Tail!!, Psycho Pass and Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace.

What happened during the month of March 2016

Well.. March started strongly in terms of social media and then plummeted. Let's start with the good news.

The prices were officially revealed and it was quite a surprise. The UK will have to pay £3.99 a month for the subtitle only content in HD No Ads, and £6.99 a month for both subtitle only and English dub content in HD No Ads. This is just the right value to pay for especially as the UK currency rate is pretty terrible against the dollar at this point. Ireland gets similar treatment with €4.99 and €7.99 respectively. Alongside the prices were more titles confirmed for the line-up.

The UK & Ireland will be able to watch D.Gray-man, Dagashi Kashi, Death Parade, Devil May Cry: The Animated Series, Fafner: Dead Aggressor, Heavy Object, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn, Prince of Stride: Alternative, Samurai Warriors, SHIMONETA: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn't Exist, Tenchi Muyo! GXP, Tenchi-Muyo Ryo-Ohki, Welcome to the NHK and Yuri Kuma Arashi in addition to Jing: King of Bandits: Seventh Heaven and Yu Yu Hakusho which at that time were not available on the US service for streaming (Yu Yu Hakusho is now slowly being added). Also confirmed was the first Spring 2016 title My Hero Academia which in Funimation's eyes will get a lot of views since it's currently a popular Shonen Jump title.

Now for the downside. Starting with some more titles not heading to the UK & Ireland service - Date A Live (both seasons), Texhnolyze and Toriko. Date A Live is primarily due to Kaze acquiring streaming rights to the series and as a result ended up on Animax UK. Texhnolyze is an NBC Universal Ent. Japan title and they generally only provide Funimation with US & Canada rights only so that made sense (in addition MVM used to distribute the series so the UK rights probably weren't available when Funimation rescued it from Geneon's demise). Toriko is a Toei title so the same reason mentioned above applies here also.

The second downside was the massive push for My Hero Academia. Now don't get me wrong it makes sense to do this because it's one of the most anticipated shows but all they ever did was promote the show to the extreme. They had a site dedicated to it with what I assume would be potential spoilers since they're going over a number of characters and their abilities (surely the viewer would be better off knowing these bits of info from the episodes than by hand since it gives them a nice surprise?). They even put the effort in creating voice-over trailers for each character. I think that's enough promotion thanks.

As the simulcasts were being revealed, Funimation literally had too many missed opportunities. A lot of the huge shows that you would expect Funimation to acquire actually ended up with Crunchyroll. Granted it's not a bad thing as Crunchyroll managed to acquire 'Worldwide outside Asia' rights to a number of titles I expected Funimation to grab - like Ace Attorney, Bungo Stray Dogs, Joker Game and Re: Zero. Another possible reason why Funimation didn't announce anything was due to the small amount of titles. There was a rumour that Amazon tried to acquire the rights to My Hero Academia. Amazon have been stepping up their game by entering the anime scene with exclusive rights to Noitamina titles like Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (WIT's newest show and one that could have gone into Funimation's hands). The rumour suggests that Funimation ended up spending too much on the license and as a result it forced them to reduce their licensing spree. If that was the case then I understand. Amazon (and Netflix) are big services so they'll do anything to try and get the license to a show they want.

The third annoyance was the lack of social media presence for a week exact - March 27th all the way to April 1st. This was a pain to have because the site still says it would launch in March 2016. I was under the impression it would arrive at the end of the month because it would make zero sense to promote My Hero Academia to its extreme and miss the simulcast. And guess what...

April 1st 2016 News Drop

They literally missed the simulcast launch for My Hero Academia.

Funimation went back to social media once again on the night of April 1st (in North America that would be just after lunch-time/dinner-time) to confirm the final supposed release date of the launch - 7th April 2016. Now here's the kicker, it's actually the Beta version of the website and not all of the titles will be available at launch, plus support for PayPal won't be available just yet. Titles from the Spring and Winter 2016 seasons will be available in addition to some older catalogue, plus everyone will have 30 days free access to all of the content in HD No Ads.

During the day Funimation also confirmed their Spring 2016 line-up. Alongside My Hero Academia is Endride, Aniplex of America's HaiFuri, Three Colours Three Leaves and the second half of Concrete Revolutio. In addition Winter 2016 titles; Assassination Classroom Season 2 and Rainbow Days will also be available. [EDIT: UPDATE! A few days after I posted this, Funimation unveiled their Spring 2016 line-up once again for the UK & Ireland and it's indeed confirmed that both Kumamiko - Girl Meets Bear and Shonen Maid will be available in the end. This leaves And you thought there is never a girl online? (Publisher: NBCUniversal Ent. Japan) as the sole remaining Spring 2016 title to not simulcast for the UK & Ireland. It's a loss but we at least got most of the shows available].

So.. I now have to wait another week to check out the Beta version of the UK launch. Great. While it's good to see that Funimation finally entering the UK market and giving us all of these titles that we had to miss out on but I just can't get over the way they treated the UK customers over the past months. I know Funimation isn't a huge company, no anime company is huge, but they should put more effort into the UK market like they do with the US. In fact there have been a number of reports where a lot of shows have been given poor translations and bad encoding. In fact one show was even given the wrong audio track (to better explain it - they basically had the audio from next week's episode on the current episode, how did that even happen?). I hope that once the Beta stuff and novice issues are out of the way the service will be much more improved. At least they're planning on giving PlayStation Vita and Wii U apps which is a nice touch.

Sorry for the long post, there was a quite a lot of talk about. I'll be back next week with another random topic covering my thoughts on the Beta version of the site as well as listing every show available for the UK & Ireland.

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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.

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