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Report: Funimation Involvement in Anime Production Committees Sparks Outcry, Why Are They Not Trusted?

Funimation

Funimation have kicked up outrage when discussing their involvement with anime production committees in Japan. With some fearing the “westernization” of anime, we looked into it further.

On March 12th, Funimation released a blogpost entitled What Does It Mean To Be on an Anime Production Committee?” Therein, they discussed anime production committees, and the role they play in the development of an anime.

In summation, Funimation describes how the committee helps finance the creation of a show, so that all groups involved can make profit. This also helps make losses more manageable (spread among the group).

As such, it is used for riskier ventures (at the cost of sharing profits with others), while shows that are “safer” to produce involve less groups, or even a sole company.

The nature of the companies involved have each company or group specializing in a different part of production. Funimation also implies some of these companies can also promote their own interests.

“A company that specializes in printing magazines, comics and novels wouldn’t know the first step in producing music for a show. Having a music production company on the committee allows a print publishing company to focus solely on what they can do while allowing the others to play to their specialty. The music company can then say, “We have this new artist we want to promote, so let’s use them as a vocalist in the show!” or have them as a main character. That benefits both companies at the same time.”

Funimation then explained they were involved with the production committee for three shows during the Winter 2020 season- Hatena Illusion, ID: INVADED, and Plunderer. They were also involved with the production committees for 2019’s Fruit BasketFire Force, and Dimension W.

Due to the “strong relationships” they had built with Japanese companies via licencing, Funimation state they were “invited” to participate in committees and to aid in funding productions. This in turn grants Funimation part ownership of those titles, and prevents them from losing licences for the show.

In exchange, Funimation “is trusted by the rest of the committee to use their international expertise to better market the show to foreign viewers and provide more detailed input to the other Japanese companies regarding what fans abroad would like to see. It’s a win-win.”

Funimation concludes, further explaining what opportunities they have gained via their involvement, but also how anime is “no longer focused solely on the Japanese market,” and it being the future.

“For fans, this kind of access means the ability for international partners to collaborate with creators on things like key visuals, PVs and exclusive behind-the-scenes content. For example, co-productions between Funimation and KADOKAWA have led to new key visuals for titles like ID: INVADED and Plunderer. This access can also sometimes allow for faster subtitling and dubbing production, leading to an increase in the number of ‘day and date’ simulcasts/SimulDubs which air within 24 hours of Japan’s initial TV broadcast.

Anime is no longer focused solely on the Japanese market. Japanese companies are looking to foreign fans’ interest in titles more than ever before to increase the financial return on their investment as well as allow them to reinvest that money into new productions of ever higher animation quality. This means that subscriptions to Funimation and purchases of home video releases, digital downloads, and merchandise supervised by Funimation will help creators in Japan more directly than having a finished title licensed as-is would.

And while it’s only been a handful of titles in the past, there’s a future where Funimation and companies like it are on the production committee for more and more shows. The more involved they get in helping these shows resonate around the world, the stronger these relationships grow, and the more people get to experience the brilliance of anime. That’s a future we’re here for!”

Funimation’s blogpost seemed to upset many anime fans on social media [1, 2, 3, and more]. Their concerns require some backstory.

Around the time of GamerGate (a “consumer revolt” against anti-consumer practices within the games industry), one of the major concerns seemed to be around games that focused on left-leaning political beliefs were being forced onto players (by journalists giving them undeserved praise due to supporting their own beliefs, or in exchange for money or gifts).

This created a bigger focus on how Japanese games were translated and “localized.” The matter has continued to this day, with companies being held under greater scrutiny for unnecessary changes made in attempts to censor a game.

These are usually focused around sexual content, drastically changing the game’s tone, or even making the game content identical to the Chinese version (usually the most heavily censored). [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and more]

Even Sony’s new policy of censoring games on the PlayStation 4 to “meet global standards” seemed to only be focused on sexual content in Japanese games with anime styled characters.

It is worth mentioning that Sony would come to own Funimation in 2017, after acquiring a majority stake in shares.

Combined with some groups seemingly orchestrating campaigns to have a game censored (or otherwise generate bad PR), some came to believe there was a concentrated effort by politically hard-left motivated groups and individuals to drastically change Japanese media.

Their theory proposes western media had been drastically changed over many years in a “culture war”, dumbing down, and attempting to push hard-left political beliefs.

In turn, they felt Japanese media was almost an inversion of this- creating almost any kind of content with only the financial success of a show to determine what was “appropriate.”

The theory further proposes western groups intentionally misleading Japanese businesses (making them feel certain content was undesirable by the majority of fans, or would not sell well without changes), in order to create a product that does not conflict with the current atmosphere of western media.

These beliefs were only further fueled by the reaction some gave the GamerGate movement. Due to the belief some held that GamerGate was a group dedicated to harassing women in the game’s industry, and demanding hard-right political content in games, some of its members were harassed or threatened [1, 2, 3, 4].

In 2015 (and around the time of GamerGate’s height), Funimation’s English dub of Prison School changed a line to insult another character as “one of those dumbass GamerGate creepshows.” 

While the original line was deriding, it had nothing to do with the GamerGate movement. However, this drew the attention of many in the movement, who began demanding more accurate dubs, subtitles, and no censorship of content.

2017 also saw questionable changes to Funimation’s English dubs of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and My First Girlfriend Is a Gal. 2019 also saw unfavorable changes to Interview With Monster Girls, and YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World. You can find out more information on all those changes here.

Another major concern was over how much money spent on western streaming websites was sent to the original creators of the show. When CrunchyRoll revealed their own animated series in production in 2018- High Spice Guardian– many were concerned that a western-style show was funded by money that should have gone to developers of the anime they watched.

CrunchyRoll announced in February 2020 that High Spice Guardian was part of eight Crunchyroll Originals– shows produced or co-produced by them. This appears to be via the aforementioned production committees Funimation discussed in their blog.

In November 2019, Anime director and character designer Terumi Nishii has stated in an interview that despite claims by some western companies giving large investment or support to the anime industry, that the animators themselves had not noticed any major changes.

In summation, Funimation’s blog post has resulted in many being concerned Japanese anime will “go woke,” and result censorship of ideas and concepts not seen in western media at their conception in Japan.

On Takahashi (CEO of Irodori Comics, who translate independent manga) also indirectly discussed the issue earlier in March 2020 [1, 2]. When discussing how some fans would rather pirate than support those companies.

While he had nothing kind to say about English streaming companies such as CrunchyRoll (citing poor rates), he explained attempts to boycot or pirate would only harm the studios themselves, as the streamer offers to pay less and less to the studio and freelance translators, as demand goes down.

As such, he rejected piracy as a method to object to how shows are localized, as well as offering incite to how the industry’s environment is prone to those with a supposed “liberal agenda” getting involved in translation and localization.

“We all care about the creators and the translators etc. But opting for piracy instead of the legal channels hurts those two groups before you can even “stick it to the man”. While I’m on this topic, let me touch upon the whole “translator’s have a liberal agenda” thing.

There have, in the past, been translators who have been open on certain word choice decisions and certain forms of “censorship”. But there are also a lot of RIDICULOUS rules set in place by the COMPANY. (E.g. don’t use the SFX “gah” since it might sounds like “God”)

Sometimes there are bizarre choices. Personally, the ‘Oh Come My Way’ being used instead of ‘Okama’ was something I couldn’t wrap my head around. But at the same time, as a Japanese person, I wouldn’t want the slur ‘Okama’ to be something foreigners start throwing around.

And it’s only natural that a lot of translators working in JP>ENG Otaku content translation to be ‘left-leaning’ politically. The very fact that people are learning a second language means that they have to be open and to accept foreign cultures etc to some degree.

[…] So yes, realistically, JP>EN translators are college educated. And with a lot of the prestigious in-house translation gigs being offered in Japan, a lot of them live in Japan, where, as the minority, they tend to embrace the multiculturalism.

Women in Otaku content translation are also treated like shit at times. A lot of the “Dude Bro” game translators gatekeep the shit out of gaming, and women are shoehorned into doing visual novels or Boy’s Love work for bottom of the barrel rates.

So I’m not surprised when they’re passionate about feminism and equal representation. Japan does a horrible job for equality.”

On further stated that these translators tended to be young due to how little is paid (mid 20s to early 30s). “So they are young and also very political. Trump, Obama etc were probably their first election. And they’ve been keeping up with all the news since. And so, maybe some of that charged political mindset (The “SJW Agenda” if you may) could seep into their translation.”

On recommends that unless consumers are a paying customer in the first place, they will not accept any criticism- even those who buy merchandise or DVDs. Instead, he proposes supporting streaming websites, and then organizing boycotts should their work be unsatisfactory.

“One of the problems with ‘buying merch/DVDs instead of using CR etc’ is that your ‘foreign voice’ isn’t counted. You’re just a (helpful) transaction on the balance sheet.

And this actually screws with the overall data. Because it doesn’t accurately represent the total market of ‘foreign fans’. And when JP Anime studios and committees look at CR subscriber numbers they’re given a false understanding of the scale and size of the market.

If the numbers are small, they might consider not licensing out the ‘obscure stuff’, and instead just ‘play it safe’ with the 10th season of BORUTO or something. (The things you guys gatekeep as ‘normie stuff’ a ‘real anime fan’ won’t watch /s)

[…] If the millions that are going to Anime committees aren’t going to the studios and animators, that’s the Japanese side being scum and beyond the control of CR etc. If you really want to help the studio too, get a CR sub AND buy DVDs.

And once you guys are paid subscribers, then you can go to town on CR and Funi etc. Organize a mass-boycott, lodge a formal complaint etc. When you pay, you have a voice. And CR can’t just hide boycotted numbers. I’m pretty sure all figures are given to the JP side too.

So if the JP side suddenly sees hundreds/thousands of people unsubscribe, they’re gonna start asking questions and CR will have to come clean. That’s how you demand changes against a company. Hit them in the numbers that matter. If you don’t have a sub, you don’t matter.

Start treating these distributors like you would politicians. Make them serve you with your votes. Take your money (vote) to a competitor if they don’t. Organize mass boycotts to let them know.”

However, the rough consensus among those complaining about Funimation’s involvement with production seem to be that organizations such as Funimation or Crunchyroll would lie about any such negative reaction (even if it meant violating the terms of a contract), or dismissing it as a hate campaign organized by a far smaller group.

Ironically, many from the GamerGate movement proposed that those complaining about the content in video games had no intention of buying them, and then masqueraded as fans to make their voices heard.

Finally, the concept of supporting such groups (even in the short term) with the intention of orchestrating a mass boycott later would seem to be unpalatable to them.

If the actions of all involved is true, it seems the studios are at the whim of being produced by committee, and fans having no way to aid them unless they support the very people they loathe.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

Image: Funimation [1, 2],

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Ryan Pearson

About

Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.