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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things!

A couple days ago, I posted a reaction post on Funimation's Dance of the Vampire Bund controversy. Now I am going to attempt a more analytical view of the events that transpired.

The whole event began with Funimation's announcement:
FUNimation Entertainment is known for releasing the titles we license in their original, uncut form, as their creators intended. However, after viewing the unedited as well as the Japanese broadcast edit of the series Dance in the Vampire Bund, we have determined the series contains controversial elements which, when taken out of context, could be objectionable to some audiences.

With this in mind and with approval of the licensor, we will edit select scenes from the series in streaming and home entertainment release. These are scenes which are inappropriate for U.S. viewing and are not essential to the storyline.

Dance in the Vampire Bund is a complex and dark drama cited by press and fans as one of the best anime series out of Japan this season. Its strong story is what brought the series to our attention and why we are bringing it to the U.S.
I don't know how much time Funimation's PR department spent on this announcement, but this is where the nasty starts. First of all, they start of with a lie. Sure they had a good track record with censorship for a good period of time, but Funimation has censored things in the past. Then they say that some people might not like the content in Dance of the Vampire Bund. Okay. Every anime has controversial elements that, when taken out of context, could be objectionable to some audiences. I am sorry, but this sentence will not give you pity and understanding for what you are about to say in the next paragraph. We don't really care that you got approval from the original creator. Many times, they agree to anything, but saying that everyone in the U.S. cannot handle some material in Vampire Bund is not only an insult to the show's fans, it's an insult to all your customers! Apparently everyone's too dumb and sensitive to handle Dance of the Vampire Bund in it's original form! Great! Thanks Funi, this will guarantee sympathy and agreement. Vampire Bund is definitely, a complex and dark drama, thanks for dumbing it down for us! Maybe I am reading too much into this. Maybe I am just getting old, jaded and bitter. But this PR is a kick to the groin.

But then what brought about this decision? People quickly pointed out the Handley Case for the main reason why Funimation stepped back and decided to censor their anime. To an extend those people may be right. Handley may have given American Otaku a bad rep and put Anime and Manga companies in the cross-hairs of legal enforcers. Whether that's true is pure speculation. However, there is definitely not a legal reason because of the Miller Test that was going to be used against Handley (except he pleaded guilty and so we didn't even see it used). Dance of the Vampire Bund would, without a doubt, pass the Miller Test and would be cleared of any obscenity charges. If this was a legal precaution taken by Funimation then they either didn't ask for legal advice, or were too dumb or lazy to deal with it.

Scott of Anime Almanac was quick to defend Funimation in his blog post. After all, the folks at Funimation are fans like us and work hard to get localized anime to the United States. You can't really bad mouth all of Funimation for this incident. Scott also attended a workshop at Katsucon on the various dilemmas an Anime company goes through. He describes a scenario where there is a massive fan outrage. The choice is whether to appease the fans or go ahead and release the product anyway. This a decision whether to support the fans or whether to support the company. As a person, I understand why a someone would pick a scenario that is theoretically better for the company (in the short run). And this is exactly what (someone at) Funimation did. BUT, the fans are your customers; the customers buy your products; sold products provide revenue. Stab your fans, your customers in the back, and they will never come back to buy your products. Lost sales = lost revenue. In the short run, this isn't a big deal. However, it will take years and years for these fans to reconsider and come back.

Analytical posts have delicious pie graphs like these. Data taken from
(Click on the Pie to enlarge)

What will Funimation do? They are yet to respond to the outrage. The best thing they can do right now is to provide some ointment on the wounds of the pissed off fans in a form of PR. But, I am afraid that they will simply stay quiet and hope everyone just forgets about this whole thing and laugh it off like it never happened. (This won't happen.) The worst thing that Funimation can do right now is to pull off other titles and censor them to conform to their new 'appropriateness' standards. Whatever Funimation will do, it is pretty clear as to what many of their customers will do. They will simply not buy the anime during DVD/BD release. Some will never touch a Funimation product again for some time. Unless of course, until Funimation once again places the fans, their customers first again.

A (probable) picture of their projected sales after the announcement.
(Click on the Pie to enlarge.)

On the bright side of things, The Dance of the Vampire Bund manga distributed by Seven Seas is probably doing very well due to the controversy. Ironically, many fans have said that the Anime diverges quite a lot from the Manga and is therefore inferior.

UPDATE: Funimation has responded to the outrage. More interestingly, their response fits my "this is the best thing that Funimation can do right now" scenario that I came up with.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Vampires and Warewolves Oh My

I've been brooding about this long enough to form a complete opinion worthy enough of a blog post. Unless you live in complete isolation, you may be already aware that Funimation have gotten the rights to Dance in the Vampire Bund. Shortly after their announcement, they disclosed that Vampire Bund's stream and the DVD will be edited for US release. ...insert internet shitstorm here.

Apparently, Vampire Bund contains some edgy controversial scenes that are inappropriate for US viewers...or at least what Funimation claims. So Funimation was faced with a business dilemma: A lose or lose situation where you have to pick which is the lesser loss of the two. No one really knows who made the final decision, whether it was someone at Funimation, or whether it was actually someone in the parent company, Navarre. My guess that it was the latter since this decision was very... out of touch with the fans.

Censorship in Anime is a very touchy issue especially since the DVD buying crowd absolutely abhors censorship. This DVD buying crowd has grown up with anime series that were cut up and censored by US companies so therefore any new censorship cuts real deep into the fan psyche. The result is obvious, everyone and their mom was angry about Funimation's decision. Not only did people declare that they won't be buying the dvd release, they shitlisted Funimation completely, boycotting all their releases. The logic behind this is simple, since the decision was made by the higher ups, the higher ups will only act when loss of profits becomes a big issue and so boycotting Funimation is the only thing a fan can do to force a reversal. Personally, I will continue to support Funimation through this turbulent time.

Many people have claimed that this decision was due to the Handley case. I can see why ...but really, the Handley case has very little to do with an anime that contains topless child-like vampires. Handley had hardcore pornographic comics; Vampire Bund does not have explicit sex nor does it have nudity beyond just topless girls. Big difference. So the controversy has nothing to do with the legality of the show itself, more like that these controversial scenes just might hurt Funimation's corporate image. Another supporting fact is that FUNi has already released a few shows that feature underaged nudity such as Dragonball, Rin, and even Strike Witches.

So what happens now? What will Funimation do? What will you do? FUNi has some options on their hands. My guess is that they will simply try to weather the storm and hope that people will simply forget this ever happened and buy the censored version of the DVD anyway. The fans on the other hand, are smarter than that. They might forget about it, but they will never buy an edited dvd out of instinct. And more importantly, more than 95% of them will NOT buy it. ...I certainly won't.

So what will people do instead; now that they learned of this new, sinful, controversial show? A small number of them, will purchase the R2 releases. However, many others will simply turn to fan-subs. Obviously, why spend money on an inferior product? Or so is the logic behind this action. Alternatively, people will simply purchase the manga and never touch the anime. The manga is now probably getting tons of sales right now. In b4 Seven Seas paid Funimation off to create a viral controversy.