Friday, January 13, 2012

More troubles for 2012: Media Blasters downsizing, and Funimation VS Sentai/ADV

This is not a good start for 2012.  Two bad news for the industry in a row for this week.

First off, Media Blasters has decided to cut its staff down from 16 to 6.  That's a pretty sharp decline, but in all fairness, the company DID start out with six employees, and even though business for them has been slow, they are not closing down any time soon.  So while this may seem unfortunate, it may not be all bad. If anything, hopefully MB will make careful decisions as to survive this year.  With the recent news that they're acquired Fushigi Yugi, it's at least a sign that they're still chugging on.  Now if only they can get around to that Lodoss War remaster....

For the second bit of news, two Anime companies are headed for a showdown in court.  In the left corner, we have FuniMation, currently the hottest anime company around.  In the right corner, we have the company that used to be known as ADV, now restructured as Sentai Filmworks.  Even under its new name, the company is still licensing quite a lot of titles for Anime (check out their release schedules), but unfortunately, they are now faced with a problem.  The case:  Funimation is suing ADV/Sentai for $8 million.  Here is the whole story as quoted from Anime News Network:

On November 4, 2011, FUNimation Entertainment filed a lawsuit in the district court of Harris County, Texas against John Ledford, as well as companies A.D. VisionAEsir Holdings, Sxion 23 (A.K.A. Section23 Films), Valkyrie Media Partners, Seraphim Studios, Sentai Filmworks, Sentai Holdings, and Unio Mystica Holdings (A.K.A. Switchblade Pictures) for breach of contract and other claims. Ledford is the CEO and co-founder of A.D. Vision. In the lawsuit, Funimationclaims that the defendants owe Funimation "an amount to be proven at trial but currently estimated" to be approximately US$8 million plus interest, costs, and attorneys' fees.
Funimation's lawsuit alleges that it became a creditor of A.D. Vision (ADV) in regard to a debt ADV owed ARM Corporation, which was a third party licensing entity jointly owned by Sojitz Corporation and several other companies. The lawsuit notes that ADV had purchased anime licenses from ARM after May 2006, and in January 2008 ARM "declared ADV to be in default of the parties' agreements." ADV lost the rights to more than 30 anime properties, and in July 2008,Funimation and ARM announced that they had reached a distribution agreement for those properties.
In the lawsuit, Funimation claims that ARM also gave Funimation the right to enforce ARM's agreement with ADV, specifically in regard to the debt that ADVowed ARM — making Funimation a creditor. The suit alleges that ADV never paid this debt, and instead sold its assets for below market price to several companies owned by former ADV executives and shut down.
The suit goes on to claim that ADV's transfer of assets "was made with the intent to defer, hinder or defraud the creditors of ADV," including Funimation, and that the new companies "succeeded ADV's contractual liability" in regard to the outstanding debt.
Funimation is also requesting that the court declare ADV's transfer of assets "as null, voided and without effect," restoring those assets to the parent company.Funimation is also requesting a jury trial.
On December 23, Sentai Filmworks, Seraphim Studios, Sentai Holdings, Valkyrie Media Partners, Unio Mysteica Holdings, AEsir Holdings, and Section23 Filmsfiled a counterclaim disputing these charges. The companies claim, among other things, that they do not have a contract with Funimation and are not liable to the company. They claim that the companies did not exist when Funimation acquired the rights from ARM to enforce ADV's contract with ARM. In addition, the companies claim that Funimation's lawsuit was filed after the two-year statute of limitations, and that Funimation was not involved with the original contract and cannot claim any direct damages.
The companies are asking that the court declare that Funimation's contract "is not a valid agreement binding on the Defendants," that the companies owe "no duties or performance of any obligations" to Funimation, and that Funimation pay for the companies' attorney's fees, costs, and expenses.
The first pre-trial meeting is currently scheduled for October 5, 2012.
Section23 Films provided ANN with the following statement:
Funimation's lawsuit is completely without merit or basis and we look forward to proving it when we have our day in court.
When asked to comment, Funimation told ANN that its official statement is addressed in the lawsuit.
So there you have it.  How 2012 started off with three shocking industry "development" stories in a row is totally shocking.  Is there no way to recover?  Are we doomed to a future where the only way Anime can be viewed is through fan-subbed videos with no companies to pick them up and no talented voice actors translating these titles into a language we can understand?  I dread the idea totally.

If it turns out that all Anime companies in America cease to exist, then I can only wish, giving the ever-expanding fanbase of Anime, that others can be built so as to compete in an environment as unstable as ours.  We NEED dubs in order to make Anime titles more accessible to America.  Without companies, we don't get them.  But I refuse to believe in a future like that.  I will continue to fight for the industry and support the dubs in any way I can, and if any new "upstart" company can step up to rebuild this once thriving industry, by all means, go ahead.  To quote Enjorlas from Les Miserables:  "Let others rise to take our place until the Earth IS FREE!!!!!"  Better make that "Anime".

1 comment:

  1. Funimation is my favorite anime company.
    I really hope it doesn't lose.
    Just love their anime dubs.

    Great post. Everyone should really be aware of this and more in the industry. Hopefully it stays stable.