Normally I listen to your podcast on Mondays, on my way to work and coming home from work. However, when the description of this week's podcast came up on my RSS feed, I had to listen tonight (Sunday night).
Here are some running thoughts:
-- You still haven't gotten the Avenue Q soundtrack?
-- Julian's sounding sort of different this week (he sounds a little like Jeff), but at least he doesn't sound like he's underwater like a few weeks ago.
-- Oh - for those going to Katsucon this coming weekend, we're showing the Bardock and Trunks TV specials on Saturday morning starting at 7am, followed by the Doomrider Project around 8:45am-ish. Check it out if you're up early or still up on Saturday morning.
-- You might be exaggerating with "things going batshit out of control" but the anime industry stateside is indeed suffering.
I can point you to other podcasts like The Big Bald Broadcast and Anime Today which has also had interviews and discussions about the anime industry. For reference, check: Big Bald Broadcast Episode 77, and Anime Today Episodes 56-59. Especially with Anime Today - they've had interviews with Wendy Shimamura from VIZ, Chris Beveridge of animeondvd.com, Zac Bertschy of animenewsnetwork.com, and Gen Fukunaga of FUNimation.
-- Actually, Manga Entertainment was acquired by Starz Media a few years ago, and some of its titles have appeared on some Starz networks.
-- You brought up how FUNi was this really evil company back in 1999 with the edited DBZ episodes and all that. But they were on TV -- and they wanted this to be on TV no matter what they had to do to it, as long as the licensor (Toei) approved. FUNi did what they needed to do to get exposure to the masses, and it became a juggernaut.
-- Anime doesn't do as well as the comedies on [adult swim]; they do okay on weeknights, but Saturdays have been low viewership since Fullmetal Alchemist and Ghost in the Shell stopped airing new episodes. Toonami was rockin' back in the day, but now it's down to a measly 2 hours on Saturday nights with a really sad mascot. At least it's all Shounen Jump brand anime (Naruto, One Piece, DBZ)...
-- Williams Street -- the programmers behind Toonami and [adult swim] don't hate anime as much as their programming schedule would have you to believe. They loved FLCL and Fullmetal Alchemist, not to mention of course Cowboy Bebop, which had a long and illustrious run on [as].
-- Back to Dragonball, you have to admire the things FUNimation did for the show to get it on TV. And of course it led to lots of other things. I'm sure anime fans were shaking heads and wondering what in the world is up with FUNi when they announced they licensed Fruits Basket. Don't get me wrong, Fruits Basket is an AWESOME show, but back then, lots of people were very skeptical about FUNi - up until Fruits Basket, all FUNi had were shounen anime shows. Eventually Fruits Basket did very well for FUNi. What also helped was cross-promotion with TokyoPop. FUNi offered the first two episodes of Fruits Basket with a volume of the Tokyopop manga, and that got people to go buy the DVD. One feeds off of the other. To a degree it also works with Dragonball; the TV show gets people to buy the DVDs, which may get people to buy the manga, the video game, the tee-shirt, what have you. Cross-promotion works.
-- FUNi seems very adept at "re-inventing" their releases, and it isn't just with Dragonball. They've re-released a lot of older titles under their "Viridian Collection" at a nice lower price for the singles or a nice low-priced box set of the series (or partial seasons of series like with Fullmetal Alchemist).
-- FUNi did a major transformation, as you well noted. I'm pretty sure that their company has a lot of business savvy. They have done a lot of things right in the spirit of entrepreneurship.
-- Kodocha wasn't as successful as it could have been here because not enough people bought the DVDs when they came out. Case Closed wasn't as successful as it could have been because it couldn't get a decent timeslot due to the subject matter in the episodes. However, Case Closed has a nice following here in the states thanks to the TV showings; last year we showed "The Time Bomb Skyscraper" at Katsucon and it had the highest turnout of anything we showed in that video room. Case Closed is a very solid show for those that like crime dramas/mysteries. It just didn't get a good timeslot when it was on TV. I distinctly remember setting my TiVo to record Case Closed at 5:00am when it aired that early on [adult swim].
-- A lot of other issues have been covered elsewhere: season sets vs. singles, extras, combating piracy. As far as the argument that bootlegging/pirating/illegal BitTorrenting of anime is hurting the business, to a degree I do think that's true. There are some people who just won't pay for *any* anime, regardless of whether it's licensed or flawless. To this day there are sites that allow people to download MKV files of the DBZ Season Boxsets with two clicks of a mouse! Some sites even have the VOB files and such ready for download! I won't mention names, but if you search well enough, you'll find these renegade sites. And even if some of those sites shut down, others will show up within days.
FUNimation has been aggressive lately in shutting down BitTorrents of anime series they have licensed (and in some cases, some that they haven't licensed - see RomeoXJuliet). I would hope that FUNi can help shut down illegal downloading of stuff that's readily available and affordable in the States - ESPECIALLY the Dragon Ball series.
-- The bottom line - if it weren't for Dragon Ball, we wouldn't have the other stuff that FUNimation has today. Who knows, if they pick up some of the Geneon titles, perhaps a Fighting Spirit boxset could be in the near future!