Breaking News: Kodansha Makes A Name For Itself and Geneon is Rescued!

Last week, there were a couple big, breaking, developments in the anime world involving two companies involved with Sailor Moon, Kodansha and Geneon. Kodansha is a manga giant in Japan, and was the publisher of the Sailor Moon manga in both its novels and in their magazine, Nakayoshi (which is almost like Shojo Beat, filled with manga for girls). Geneon was responsible for bringing the movies, S and SuperS seasons to North America. Unfortunately, Geneon shut down North American operations abruptly last winter, leaving many series in limbo. Of course, Sailor Moon has been long gone for a few years now, so it had no releases implicated when this happened.

Kodansha to Directly Publish and Sell Manga in September

Kodansha, has had a few forays in publishing outside of Japan. They have published some reference books, dictionaries, and books about Japanese culture and language translated into English. The books were translated and published in Japan, and then exported around the world. Many years ago, they also tried to publish bilingual manga, which seemed like a good idea – speech bubbles contained both Japanese and English. However, they were very expensive, and they stopped publishing these when Tokyopop licensed the English rights to many of them. Last week, the company took another major foray, and announced that they were going to publish and directly sell manga beginning this September. Traditionally, Kodansha licensed some of their titles to Tokyopop and Del Rey, and to a smaller extent Viz. Kodansha has been watching the Manga market in the United States and has noticed it is on the rise, and that there is some competition between the manga companies with their books and magazines. We have a slight feeling Tokypop’s recent meltdown (**) had a role in accelerating their business strategy. Currently, their holding company Kodansha USA holds ¥210 million (around 2 million USD). They will be based out of New York and Yoshinobu Noma, a senior VP with the company will serve as President of Kodansha USA. We are assuming that the format will be English only. There is no word as of this writing what titles will be included, but Del Rey has confirmed none of their Kodansha licenses have been pulled.

If/when the issues between Naoko Takeuchi’s Princess Naoko Planning and other companies involved with Sailor Moon ever get reconciled, it is likely that Kodansha would probably handle everything with the manga themselves. It is hard to say whether this will be a good decision or not, many fans did not agree with some of the translation from the first time that the manga hit North American shelves. Again, Sailor Moon fans will have to wait and see until the first few titles are published from Kodansha, and how good the quality may be.

Funimation Rescues Some Geneon Titles

The last we heard from Geneon, was that they were pulling out of the anime industry in terms of distribution and releases, and were going to focus more on managing their properties. There is some truth to that, lately we have been noticing a few Geneon movies airing here and there on Teletoon. On the flip side, it looks like Anime Current on G4 has stopped. The block has been replaced with Reviews On The Run (a terrible video game review show which plays too many times on the network in a day). In February, the company donated $138,000 worth of toys, CDs, and DVDs (we assume all overstocks) to the Kids Wish Network. It’s nice that the company was still able to give back despite the circumstances.

When the company announced it’s shutdown, Funimation was very vocal about acquiring certain titles and licenses from them. However, they made the mistake of mentioning Sailor Moon, whose license has been out of international hands for many years now. Funimation announced last week that they had signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Geneon, leaving Funimation with the exclusive rights for marketing, manufacturing, sales and distribution of several Geneon titles. So far, the list includes:

Black Lagoon
Black Lagoon Second Barrage
Elemental Gelade
Ergo Proxy
Fate/stay night
Hellsing Ultimate
Kyo kara Maoh! Season 2
Lyrical Nanoha
Ninja Vixens
Paradise Kiss
Rozen Maiden
Rozen Maiden – Träumend
Shonen Onmyouji
The Familiar of Zero
The Law of Ueki
The Story of Saiunkoku
When They Cry

One of our very devoted readers and biggest fans was very crushed when she could not find any more volumes of Saiunkoku, and has been hanging off the edge of a cliff since the release of Volume 2. When she heard this news, she jumped for joy and gave us this exclusive comment, “That’s Great!” We still want to know what has happened to the classic gems that Geneon held such as Akira, Appleseed, Lain, Fushigi Yugi, and many more. Some store owners we spoke to were a little disappointed that Bandai didn’t get the rights, for they prefer their pricing structures over Funimation’s (and we agree). Funimation plans to begin these releases sometime in late summer, though it is unknown if they will continue where Geneon left off, or start these series over.

**We have neglected to talk about Tokyopop’s current restructuring, however we have spoken to a few comic book store owners. It is their unanimous opinion that the company licensed “too much too fast” and invested a little too much in independent artists which didn’t sell as much as they had hoped. While some of the owners we spoke to encourage independent artists, some of the titles that Tokyopop published barely sold at all. One of them showed us an entire section in which he said over 3 shipments, he only sold two books. In one’s opinion, it’s not entirely the fault of declining manga sales, but more dependant on what titles were licensed and how they were marketed. This is not a problem with Viz, as they are “cleaning hous” in comparison to Tokyopop.

Where is Optimum Productions?

And Does Funimation Want In?

We’ve known about this for a few weeks now. Firmin Productions might be the new home of Nicole Thuault, responsible for the production of the English version of Sailor Moon. What’s really surprising is that while none of us has ever seen Firmin credited on any Sailor Moon, they are indeed taking credit for it as a company. Sailor Moon is also listed under Optimum Productions’ credits. Optimum Productions’ website is still up and operational, however our attempts to email them to clear up this matter were futile as we never heard back from them to see if Nicole was still with the company or not. Nicole Thuault is still listed as being VP Production at Optimum. It also appears (very bizarrely) that Firmin is in the building next door to Optimum in Mississauga, Ontario when comparing their addresses. Neither website looks like they have been updated in ages, and a search for either of these companies on industry websites came up dry. It’s also a little bit shady that Firmin lists a cell phone number rather than a business line. We also couldn’t find anything about Firmin’s Les Exploits de Thu Thu/The Adventures of Thu Thu. If any of our readers know what has happened to Optimum Productions or Firmin Productions, do not hesitate to contact us!

Some of you may be wondering why we are bringing this to your attention. Last week, ANN posted a link to Navarre’s Fiscal Year Second-Quarter Results Conference Call. Fans may recall that Funimation is one of Navarre’s companies. We will now quote Navarre CEO Kerry Deacon.

“On September 21st, one of Funimation’s competitors Geneon announced it was closing it’s retail sales operations and advised all retail partners that it had until November 30th to return all goods. It is too early to tell what impact this decision will have on Funimation, but generally we believe it could be positive to our position in the market place, both from a sales and a content acquisition basis. Geneon represented some very strong content such as Sailor Moon, Van Hellsing, and Black Lagoon, whose future quite frankly is unknown at this point as to what next steps may be around those – surrounding that IP.”

So, Funimation is interested – but they are only the latest addition to such a growing lineup for the rights to Sailor Moon. We all know there has been a lot of industry talk lately , especially with rumors of Toei wanting to bring their popular AnimeBB service to North America, and Tokyopop still maintaining an interest in the manga. Now that Funimation has come out and said that they are interested in acquiring former Geneon titles like Sailor moon, it seems that there is a pot being stirred in North America. But the missing ingredient is Sailor Moon and it’s all dependent on whether or not Naoko Takeuchi wants to let the property come back to the world. We found it sort of odd that while Sailor Moon hasn’t been a part of Geneon’s catalogue for a very long time, that it is still associated with that company. If Funimation would have really payed attention they might have realized that Sailor Moon isn’t licensed to anyone at the moment and it is “up for grabs” so to speak. Or better yet not mentioned it as all since Naoko has frozen the rights for the series everywhere except for Japan.

The other question we ask is that if there is a chance that Sailor Stars or any of the “lost”/missing episodes or specials would be dubbed, would it be best to have Optimum Productions back in charge of it? On the Pro side: Most of the cast would be likely to return and another production company may not honor the legacy they have created. Sailor Moon helped to put these talented voices on the map , and helped to establish Canada as a major force in cartoon dubbing. It would be sad to see them go. A modern example of this would be the Care Bears – the new CBS Saturday Morning cartoon is being handled by a different company and none of the talent from the original series and the movies are included. Save for Scott McNeil’s performance as Grumpy Bear, the new cast lacks the charming appeal of the old one.

But on the Con side, Nicole Thuault and the rest of the production team made some of the most controversial edits to the series without really explaining why (later we’ll be featuring a story on another member of the creative team who made some bizarre decisions). They went so far as to say that these edits were the result of the CRTC’s decisions, however we found the opposite as we were digging into the trenches of the internet trying to find out what had happened to Optimum Productions. For those of us who really want to know what role the CRTC played in terms of censorship of Sailor Moon S couple Haruka and Michiru/Amara and Michelle, you should give this article a read. Moreover, we have learned that Optimum Productions did in fact work their “magic” on another Asian animated production. Korea’s Hammerboy was released in 2005, with Optimum in charge of the English language dub (and Firmin also takes credit) . We’ve read mixed reviews, either viewers really enjoyed or despised the English cast, and some viewers didn’t agree with the censorship of a few scenes. None of us has seen it yet, but we would love to hear from those of you who have.

Readers, feel free to post below what you are making of all of this. We can keep reporting talk of companies interested in Sailor Moon, but we’re starting to get a little tired of everyone saying that they want it, and yet the series is still stuck in Japan.

Breaking (And Disturbing) News: What is Really Going On Behind the Doors of Dentsu?

More tragic news from Dentsu. We came across a very creepy story out of Japan last night, about a lawsuit that involves Geneon’s Parent Company, Dentsu, as well as an ousted former Creative Director of their US offices.

We’re going to warn you now not to click the link below to read the rest of this story if you are under the age of 18. The content of this lawsuit is very mature and x-rated.

It seems Dentsu likes to party – in a very perverse way. And they subject their employees to go along with them. Steven Biegel was the creative director of Dentsu’s USA branch for three years, in which he was responsible for developing television, radio, print and outdoor advertisements for many of the agency’s most important clients, including Canon. In 2004, he was sent to Prague for a commercial for Canon, where some of the Japanese executives told him to come out with them tonight, and didn’t say where they were going. The executives allegedly took him to a brothel. Eventually there were some other “celebrations” of this nature which Biegel refused to participate in , and he believes he was fired because of this. Fans wanting to read more of the gory and gross details of this lawsuit can go here to read some of the released court documents.

Again, we haven’t confirmed if this is really true or just a bitter executive’s attempt to sue a former employer. However, if this is true, and Geneon was still in the anime business, we know we would definitely think twice about picking up another one of their titles.

Quick Sailor Moon Industry Tidbits

☼ Geneon sent a letter to all the members of their fan club , Geneon Spot. A copy of the official statement is here at ANN. In it, Geneon thanked fans over the last 20 years for their support, and that they are internally looking at options to continue distribution of Geneon titles. The good news is that some titles will finish production, however it is unknown if they will ever be released. A shop owner we spoke to recently had noted to us that Geneon didn’t seem to have as many big titles as everyone else, but they did have a lot of hits for niche audiences. And it is those hits that are currently causing the freak-outs among Otaku, who are now going to great lengths to find them. We recommend checking out HMV stores if you are in Canada – we spotted a few Geneon titles going for the 2 for $20 or $30 deal in stores only. No word yet on what is going to happen to Geneon’s music division or their current television agreements.

☼ We have read several reports on the internet that there was no mention of the rumored Sailor Moon video game for the Nintendo Wii at the Tokyo Game Show by Namco. is still maintaining that the release will happen so we will wait and see. We are going to try to see if we can find out something that makes this rumor’s validity a little concrete very soon. Though this one has remained on our backburner for a while now, we have not forgotten about it. There was a theory that since Yoshihiro Togashi had not put out anything new in a long time that the rumor might have been true as fans thought it was likely for Naoko to return to work. But given the news of the return of Hunter X Hunter, that theory doesn’t look very likely to happen. However, given the recent success of Toei’s AniBB service in Japan and a recent poll from Toei wondering what series they might like to see in North America, perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel as Sailor Moon was the top wanted series by a longshot. Toei would still have to work out an agreement with Naoko Takeuchi/PNP for international rights to distribution.

Dentsu Posts Massive Losses on Account of Geneon

More tragic news from Dentsu, Geneon‘s parent company. In a recent press release posted on their site (appropriately titled Dentsu Posts Extraordinary Income and Extraordinary Losses, etc.)that due to the downsizing of Geneon, they are anticipating huge losses. They are estimating figures close to ¥4.7 Billion in consolidated losses and ¥5.1 Billion in non-consolidated losses when they post their financial results for the first half of their fiscal year ending on March 31st, 2008. For those who have no idea what the above means, consolidated losses are losses to Geneon and its parent, Dentsu, and non-consolidated losses probably in this case just means Geneon USA. ¥4.7 Billion is around $40 Million USD, and ¥5.1 comes out to $44 Million USD. Perhaps these are the numbers that scared ADV away from the proposed deal? Dentsu is also going to back out of a partnership with Tohokushinsha Film Corporation. The partnership was a joint sales business for broadcasting rights in Japan to foreign movies and television shows. Tohokushinsha is also a production company with titles such as Appleseed, and we remember Geneon did a huge amount of promotion for this movie at Anime Conventions all over North America. They were hailing it as the next big thing in anime movies , and gave out a lot of schwag for it. Something very bad must have happened between them as well. Dentsu is Japan’s leading advertising agency and also has a powerful presence all over the world, and it is not looking like this company is having a very good year with it’s entertainment ventures.