Otakon 2010: The World of Sailor Moon

At “The World of Sailor Moon” panel, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Sailor Moon, the two hot topics were the possibility of Sailor Moon being licensed by FUNimation, and the mystery of just what “Star Gentle Uterus” really refers to. I think we can all agree that there will never be a satisfactory answer to the latter, so let’s spend a moment looking at the former.

Ironically, the two panels overlapped, so some time at the Sailor Moon panel was spent wondering what was going on in the other room. “Actually, the FUNimation panel is going on right now as we speak, and we hope that FUNimation secures the rights to Sailor Moon, and finally gives us legit copies of Sailor Stars,” said panel leader Yosenex, editor of Genvid, a.k.a. The Sailormoon Soapbox. However, Yosenex was clear that his hopes were based upon speculation, and FUNimation did not in fact announce the licensing of Sailor Moon at their panel this year. They did, however, announce that they had licensed Shukufuku no Campanella, which has nothing really to do with Sailor Moon but does have pretty colors. If you’re curious, Japanator has the scoop on all of the decidedly non-Sailor Moon titles that FUNimation just announced.

Yosenex went on to share some of the more recent news concerning the international revival of the property in honor of the 20-year anniversary, including the Japanese boxset releases, and the numerous re-airings and re-licenses going on, particularly in Italy. He also shared an interesting rumor; the prospect of an Italian Nintendo DS Game forthcoming. “If that happens, I will go to PlayAsia or whatever [and order it], and I will learn Italian,” said Yosenex.

I have no idea as to the source of this rumor, so I can’t speculate as to how true it is, however it boggles the mind- an original Italian Sailor Moon video game? Am I going to have to change my plans from perpetually failing to learn Japanese to perpetually failing to learn Italian? I’m sure many of us are in the same boat here.

The Moonies in the audience chimed in with their opinions on many topics, including reasons for the superior quality of the manga’s storyline (“Because Tuxedo Mask has real powers,” and “Because the Inner Senshi were still useful after S,” proving to be popular reasons for manga superiority with the attendees), and the general unpopularity of SuperS compared to the other seasons. The panelists agreed that SuperS is more enjoyable on the second watch, but I disagree; I think it depends on how old you are. I liked it on my first watch, but I think that’s because I saw the later seasons relatively recently, and was already old enough to understand some of what I felt Ikuhara was trying to do with that season, but I digress.

In addition to a brief presentation about the history of Sailor Moon (which was all the basics that anyone reading this already knows, but was certainly appropriate for the occasion), the panel featured many clips, including fan trailers for Sailor Stars and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Japanese commercials for various Sailor Moon products, a montage of the early openings from different countries, and the very beginning of the humorous Sailor Moon Abridged redubbing project. Yosenex recommended Sailor Moon Abridged for anyone tired of waiting for news of more Sailor Moon in some form.

The panel also featured several contests, like the Attack Pose contest, where attendees had to do their very best version of Sailor Star Fighter’s” Star Serious Laser” and Super Sailor Moon’s “Moon Gorgeous Meditation”; a Sailor Uranus cosplayer threw in a “World Shaking” for good measure. The final contest required contestants to come up to the front and shout out Sailor Moon’s introduction speech, which only a few contestants could pull off from start to finish. I don’t know guys, could you do that? Because I’d like to make a snide comment about fans messing up Usagi’s speech, only after 200 episodes, 3 movies and multiple re-watches, I can’t do that speech off the top of my head. Maybe I just get too distracted by all the pretty colors?

The other dedicated Sailor Moon panel at Otakon this year is devoted to, err, hentai. I don’t watch hentai and don’t feel entirely comfortable with the whole concept, but I feel like I must go for the sake of journalism. Wish me luck, guys!

Anime North 2010 – FUNimation Industry Panel

This panel was led by Lance Heiskell, marketing director at FUNimation who has been with the company since 2002.

Upcoming shows:

Eden of the East, from the creators of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Lance described it as being like Jason Bourne the anime. Release date: September 2010 on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Hetalia: Axis Powers, which has the tagline of “world war fabulous.” The music from the trailer has been developed into a full song that will be available when the DVD is released. Release date: September 14, 2010.

Casshern SINS will be released on August 15th, 2010. Preview episodes are available on FUNimation‘s YouTube channel. Episode one is here (subtitled).

My Bride is a Mermaid will be available on July 20th. Lance described it as a gangster comedy featuring a boy and a girl with a heart of gold.

Shows Currently available:

Strike Witches is available now on DVD. It’s an action series featuring girls in hot pants.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood part one is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. FUNimation is currently pitching this series to Canadian television networks, but it hasn’t been picked up yet.

Full Metal Panic, which was acquired from ADV, is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. The Blu-Ray has an extra interview with the creator and director, this same extra was on the Japanese Blu-Ray release. Episodes of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu are also now available for viewing online.

Shows now available that weren’t previewed included Initial D, Kenichi, Soul Eater, and X (the TV series, which was rescued from Geneon).

Lance gave fans a brief overview of the process for a company such as FUNimation acquiring anime. First, they can only contact the few Japanese companies that can sell international rights. They get pitched shows from Japan and, if they like them, they submit a bid. If the bid is accepted, they receive materials and can go into production.

Canadian fans will be interested to hear that FUNimation is actively pitching lots of shows to Canadian television networks, including Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Soul Eater. So far, they haven’t received any bites from networks, so fans are encouraged to contact television stations to express their interest in seeing particular series on their favourite stations. FUNimation is also working on expanding the availability of the FUNimation channel into Canada.

When asked about dubbing, Lance said that over 50% of buyers watch the dub the majority of the time, and about 26% watch subtitles the majority. This means that there is some obvious crossover, with buyers who watch both. Thus, FUNimation prefers to sell hybrid releases, to please as many fans as possible. Currently, FUNimation‘s primary focus is on DVD and Blu-Ray releases, but they also have video available for Canadian fans on iTunes Canada and will soon have videos available via Xbox Live in Canada.

There are currently no details available for Evangelion 2.0. It is still only in Japan at this time and not available for licensing yet.

When asked about music and soundtracks from anime, Lance mentioned that they are harder to bring over and put on CDs because of legalities and more parties needing to be involved. However, FUNimation does try to offer songs as extras and some music is available digitally via iTunes and other online services.

Near the end of the panel, Lance remarked that FUNimation is like the Rescue Rangers, because they keep rescuing series when licensing rights have expired. When someone in the audience asked if he’s Chip or Dale, Lance joked that he’s so busy he’s just nuts!

Stay tuned for more Anime North convention coverage! There’s lots more to come!

BREAKING NEWS: Sailor Moon Not Acquired by FUNImation (Yet).

Hey Moonies! So, today FUNImation unloaded the last of its acquisitions for early 2010, and Sailor Moon was not on the list. Fans who want to check out what was acquired, can click the following: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5. We knew that the show wasn’t going to be a part of this list in late December, but out of fairness to FUNImation we couldn’t say anything until after they had the chance to make their announcements. We learned this from a very reliable source (who was not involved in any way with FUNImation). We can’t name our source for privacy reasons (so please, don’t ask us). We have every reason to believe that FUNImation is not going to give up on this series, and will continue to try to get the rights. There was some positive news coming out of another series which FUNImation announced earlier this week – FLCL. FUNImation has decided to keep the old dub, and they are releasing the series on Blu-Ray. Japan doesn’t even have this series on Blu-Ray yet (as far as we can tell)! However, FLCL is NOT a Toei property, and everything is dependent on how Toei would want to handle how the series is released in North America.

It is unfortunate that Sailor Moon was not included, but we’re going to wait until the end of February at the latest to decide where the campaign will go to bring the series back. We are waiting until then because the end of February marks close to four months that they have had the results of the surveys of Operation Moonrise, and we have a feeling that FUNImation will try again between now and then. We have a few ideas for upcoming campaigns, but right now it’s a wait-and-see what happens situation. Fans, please don’t get disheartened with this – there will be more announcements from FUNImation later on (so don’t assume this is all that they have for the entire year)! Please continue to send your letters to Toei – right now this is the best thing we can suggest for any fan to do (as FUNImation is well aware of how much everyone wants this series). We also suggest putting an emphasis on the last season, Sailor Stars. Tell them how much you really want to see how the story ends in English (on a legitimate release)! Fans can click here for more details, and find the address and other additional details posted on our forums. It’s a New Year Moonies, and we have to keep up our fighting spirit!

People in France Miss Sailor Moon, Too.

We came across this article from a couple weeks ago posted on Manga News. A major manga publisher in France, Glénat, takes the time each month to answer questions from fans on their forums. This month’s question set featured an interesting one about Sailor Moon and Ranma 1/2 from one of their fans. We are posting a translation, mais pour les fans qui comprennent le francais, vous peuvent lire l’article ici.

Q: I would love to know if the end of the marketing of Sailor Moon is also in Japan. Is it possible to know the reasons that motivated such a decision from Naoko Takeuchi? I also see that Sailor V is in still in your catalog as well (Note: it is listed as being out of print). Is this normal? Besides that, will the licence for Ranma 1/2 expire in France?

A: We do not know the particular terms of the contract between the author and her Japanese editor. The author alone decided to manage the rights of her work abroad, she has been controlling them since the contracts arrived to the end of their renewal. We don’t know the reasons that motivated her choice, we can only suppose that the most logical reason was an economic one, this is the first consequence of this act. The license of Ranma 1/2 is not foreseen to expire, which concerns another author, that did not decide to recover her rights.

We have also more or less learned that FUNImation is in the same boat with the rights to the anime. We are halting our Japanese letter writing phase plans as now we are hoping to find better contacts in Japan in light of all of this news. Fans are not advised at this time to contact Nakayoshi or Kodansha, as the manga has been out of print for two years now, and neither has published any new work from her since. Pretty much the only marketing of Sailor Moon that we have seen since is on Sailor Moon Channel.

To answer the fan’s question about Naoko’s appearance at Otakon in 2010 – we can’t say for sure right now. However, given that she only rarely comes out of hiding (her appearance at Bandai Hobby Center being her first in years), as of now it isn’t looking terribly likely. We also don’t know what is up with her husband, Yoshihiro Togashi as he disappears in and out of the manga industry for indeterminate periods of time. Perhaps if he returns to a more regular schedule this could hint for a possible return for Naoko to manga but for now it’s looking that 99% she will not be there.

We are filing this under Operation Moonrise so that fans can see what other companies are saying about the rights!

Toei Fails To Shop Around Sailor Moon

We mulled over this for over a week over whether we should bring this to light or not, but we decided we should. Mainly because, it has a lot of relevance to our current campaign and the situation with Sailor Moon. Earlier this month, the Licensing International Expo took place in Las Vegas. This expo is a huge industry show where companies from all around the world set up booths/pavilions with their works that are ready to be licensed. Just to give you an idea of the companies who appear at this show, we’ll drop a few names: Marvel, Cartoon Network, Disney, Mattel, Nickelodeon, Cookie Jar Entertainment, Sanrio, Viz Media, and Toei. Before we go any further, we’ll have to add a small caveat. Should you go wandering around the site to look at individual exhibitors, DO NOT CONTACT ANY OF THEM. These are mainly for serious buyers and licensors only. We have provided safer addresses in our forums should you want to write any of them. It’s important to note that Bandai and FUNImation did not have a presence here this year. We took a peek at Toei’s page, and we learned that they did not shop around Sailor Moon for a potential license (but they did shop around some other old anime). The titles that they put up this year were:

Marie and Gali: This is a new anime that began airing in March in Japan. M&G’s episodes are not full length per se, but 5-minute shorts that aired on NHK. It’s about a GothLoli named Marika who hates science, but somehow ends up in a strange town where she meets some of history’s most famous scientists. We haven’t seen this one, and as of this writing it is not licensed in North America. The official website is here.

Asataro, The Onion Samurai: This looks like a silly series about a band of feudal superheroes that are vegetables. Kinda reminds us of Slayers meets Coconut Fred’s Fruit Salad Island. His famed weapon is his onion juice, he has a sidekick who has a garlic head, and another who is a cucumber. The bad guys are potatoes. This is not licensed in North America either! We found a video clip, here! Official website is here!

GeGeGe no Kitaro: An old series from the late 60s which has been revamped several times since, the latest being in 2005. Back in the 60s and 70s it was directed by one of our favorite Studio Ghibli directors, Isao Takahata. The plot is still the same – a young boy strives to help find a way for Yokai (spirits) to live in the same realm as humans, and also helps out humans who get in trouble with evil Yokai. Video clip here, Official Site here. This is not licensed in North America yet!

My 3 Daughters: This is one based on a mother’s blog in Japan about how she raised her three daughters. This is a slice-of-life comedy that was big in Japan, but unfortunately not licensed here yet. This began in April of this year! Official site is here!

Digimon Data Squad:Already licensed, this is the 5th Digimon series. Need we really say any more about this show about digital monsters that fight against others? We don’t think this series has much to worry about since there’s an abundance of video games, toys, and other merchandise, and it’s still relatively popular with the younger set. It’s on the Disney Channel too, so it’s still doing relatively well. Official site is here!

Master Hamsters: If Hamtaro was a superhero, this is what he would look like. These hamsters passed their Master Exam, which gave them special Master Badges to turn into Master Hamsters. They get special powers like super strength and the ability to speak and understand human language. Of course at the end of the day, they love their sunflower seeds! This looks like one for the kids! Video clip here, and official site here! No license yet.

Happy Lucky Bikkuriman: This is another franchise revival, but the original is not as old as Kitaro . This one first began in 1987, and is another superhero show. Bikkuriman and his friends help save the world from devils. This spawned from a simple sticker tag game that used to come with candy over 20 years ago. Video clip here,and official site is here!

Pretty Cure, Yes! Pretty Cure 5, and Fresh Pretty Cure . This is the current “big thing” in Japan with respect to Magical Girls! Already a hit in Canada, it’s a waiting game to see if this will show up on Cartoon Network in the fall or be released on DVD. The show has already been hailed as successful as Sailor Moon in Japan and we’re hoping it will achieve just as much international success! Official site is here!

Moguragumi:We spent an hour trying to figure out what the heck these little critters are. We have come to the conclusion that these are webisodes and cute characters that are available for licensing. We have no idea what these guys are about, and judging by the buzz on the internet, we think they are probably popular with the mobile market, but probably wouldn’t be a huge hit on this side of the pond. See for yourself at the official site here.

Dragon Ball Series We’re pretty sure you all know what this is about. We’re not going to say much about this except that we think it’s pretty much as popular as it can get (however, Toei must do a better job with the rumored upcoming sequel). The story of Goku and his evolution into the great hero of the Universe is a hit with almost every anime fan. Official site here!

One Piece: Already licensed and a hit. This is another hot one in Japan and in North America. This one is about the trials and tribulations of Monkey D. Luffy, a teenager who accidentally consumes a strange fruit, and he becomes super stretchy! He is on a quest to find the legendary one piece, the treasure left by the Pirate King. Official site here!

Fist of the North Star: Another old series that has had various resurrections over the years. This one is a martial-arts and assassins drama. But, this is pretty old, and we can’t say for sure how hugely popular this is. An older version was released on DVD in North America 5 years ago… Maybe Toei wants to redub this? Add the recent films to the North American market? Who knows…we do know the series is currently streaming with Toei’s ventures in the North American Market. Official site here!

Captain Harlock: This series is over 20 years old. It’s about a space pirate who saves the universe from its enemies. This, like FotNS is also streamed everywhere in North America. We also can’t say how popular this is (though we don’t think it is very popular). Official site is here!

Saint Seiya the Hades: Older Saint Seiya series are licensed by ADV (one of the only Toei titles that they have the rights to), but this one is up for grabs. We do know that Saint Seiya is popular with older, more hardcore, anime fans. This one is about orphans who unite to protect the Earth from the reincarnation of an evil Goddess. Official site is here!

Now , for our opinion. We don’t really see any new standouts. Of course, Dragon Ball will always be a hit with anime fans, Digimon with kids, and Pretty Cure if it is managed correctly. But as for the others, we can see them being popular with niche audiences, and not wide ones.

However, Toei not shopping around Sailor Moon could mean one of a few things. First, perhaps Toei and Funimation are once again just teasing fans with talk of Sailor Moon to lure their opinions about other series. Second, there could still be underlying issues with Toei and/or Princess Naoko Planning (Naoko’s own company). Genvid had an epic article some years ago of how the show was nowhere to be found in the character licensing directory. Or third, Toei doesn’t care about Sailor Moon, while Funimation does. Perhaps Funimation’s strategy is much like ours, trying to show fan pressure to Toei. Either way, since this new development, Operation Moonrise has become even more important now for fans to get their voices heard to Toei. In this economy, it would likely to be much cheaper to deal with something that is a proven hit rather than gamble with a new (or old) unknown series, so to speak. In any case, we are a little worried about the prospects of Sailor Moon and we cannot urge fans enough to get involved in our campaign. It isn’t right for Toei to continue to name drop Sailor Moon in most if not all of their press releases, and for Funimation to speak of some interest in the series after five years, and for them not to aggressively pursue a second chance for the series. We are sure many of our readers can agree.

In other, lighter news, Toei Animation Europe has gone mobile in France, delivering mobile contact through Zaoza’s downloading platform. Proposed content includes mini-videos, wallpapers and animated wallpapers.

On another note, Yoshihiro Togashi’s work was shopped around by Viz – Hunter x Hunter was one of the works they showed for licensing! Though we have to wonder how a company would be willing to deal with his sporadic hiatuses.