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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Funimation, Gawker, and the Smearing of a Company

We all know the term "fan service."  In general entertainment, the term could apply to anything in a work that fans would recognize that would be considered a "reward" for being a fan of the work.  As an extreme example, Kevin Smith's film "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" is an exercise in fan service, a virtual "love letter" to the fans of Smith's films because of how many references to other works from the Askewniverse are made in the film.

Anime fans who use the term, however, are referring to shots in an animated work that either involve boobs or butts, or otherwise show off the "physique" of a female or male character.

Now, to be fair, almost every anime show has a little bit.  It's when it gets prevalent that sometimes it can go into "ecchi" territory. The most obvious examples are when they have the characters take a trip to the beach or the pool, giving them an excuse to feature the female characters in skimpy swimsuits.

But remembering that Japan is still very much a very patriarchal society, should an anime company be called a purveyor of "smut" by our standards?

In an effort to discredit a political "enemy," Gawker overstepped their bounds with a recent article regarding anime distributor FUNImation Entertainment, its founder and CEO Gen Fukunaga, and Christian film company EchoLight Studios, which is backed by former presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

The connection is that Fukunaga is also the founder of EchoLight Studios, which is not a huge secret.  What Gawker is trying to use as ammunition is the fact that FUNImation Entertainment has some "fan service" titles in their collection, making it sound like FUNImation distributes anime porn.

Now, Gawker makes it sound like FUNImation is the only company that diversifies its production companies to make or distribute different kinds of films or products.  Hollywood has been doing this for years -- a prime example of this is Disney, which has production companies dedicated to more adult fare versus the family-friendly Disney brand.  In the more independent market, Troma Entertainment produces and distributes mostly extreme B-movie grindhouse style films, but also has one company dedicated to distributing classic movies from the 1940s and 1950s.

Depending on their particular business model, every anime company has a collection of "fan service" titles among their catalogs.  Sentai Filmworks, for example, carries "Highschool of the Dead" among their titles, which mixes "fan service" with zombie stories. Aniplex of America distributes shows like "Oreimo" and "Kill la Kill." Arguably, FUNImation has more "fan service" titles, but they're also one of the biggest distributors of anime in the US.  It's not a major focus of their business -- out of over 200 titles in their catalog, only 60 titles are classified as "fan service," and out of those, probably 27 of those titles have a focus on  "fan service" material.

Although the show "Sekirei" was a top seller for them when it was released on DVD, most of their bread and butter is on the shounen/action titles such as the "Dragonball" series (which is how the company got its start), "One Piece," and "Fullmetal Alchemist."  The show predicted to make huge bank for the company once its released on DVD: the mega-hit from last fall "Attack on Titan," which is slated to get a second season.

Overall, Gawker is way off base on this one.  In their attempt to smear someone else, they ended up dragging in another company and making them out to be what they weren't. In the future, the writers at Gawker should do some more research before writing their pieces.

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