Shout! Factory, GKIDS to Release ‘On-Gaku’ in March On Disc, Digital

GKIDS and Shout! Factory have announced a March 9 home release date for On-Gaku: Our Sound, an anime film animated and directed by Japanese filmmaker Kenji Iwaisawa.

The film will be available on Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and digital platforms.

Based on the comics by Hiroyuki Ohashi, the film follows the story of a feared trio of high school delinquents who, having no skills, money, or even a full set of drums, decide they are destined for musical glory. They embark on the quest to impress their only friend Aya, avoid a rival gang, and — most importantly — jam out.

Featuring a lead performance by Japanese alt-rock legend Shintaro Sakamato, On-Gaku: Our Sound was an official selection at the 2020 Annecy Film Festival, and winner of the Nelvana Grand Prize at the 2019 Ottawa International Animation Festival.

In addition to a feature-length “making of” documentary, bonus features (exclusive to the Blu-ray and DVD release) include a live musical performance, “On-Gaku” (demo); “Our Movie: Behind the Scenes”; a rock festival pencil test; three short films by Kenji Iwaisawa, Mountain, Mourning Ice Pop, Nicky, and Taro Wanted to be Water; a gallery of storyboards; and trailers.

AT&T Sells Crunchyroll to Sony’s Funimation

AT&T has agreed to sell its Crunchyroll anime streaming service to Funimation Global Group for $1.175 billion.

Funimation is a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment’s (Japan) subsidiary, Aniplex Inc.

Crunchyroll is an anime direct-to-consumer service within AT&T’s WarnerMedia segment with more than 3 million SVOD subscribers. It serves 90 million registered users across more than 200 countries and territories offering AVOD, mobile games, manga, events merchandise and distribution.

The combination of Crunchyroll and Funimation provides the opportunity to broaden distribution for their content partners and expand fan-centric offerings for consumers, according to the AT&T-Sony joint release.

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“The Crunchyroll team has done an extraordinary job of not only growing the Crunchyroll brand but also building a passionate community of anime fans. Crunchyroll’s success is a direct result of the company’s culture and commitment to their fans,” Tony Goncalves, chief revenue officer of WarnerMedia, said in a statement. “By combining with Funimation, they will continue to nurture a global community and bring more anime to more people. I’m incredibly proud of the Crunchyroll team and what they have been able to accomplish in the digital media space in such a short period of time. They’ve created an end-to-end global ecosystem for this incredible art form.”

“We are proud to bring Crunchyroll into the Sony family,” Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a statement. “Through Funimation and our terrific partners at Aniplex and Sony Music Entertainment Japan, we have a deep understanding of this global artform and are well-positioned to deliver outstanding content to audiences around the world. Together with Crunchyroll, we will create the best possible experience for fans and greater opportunity for creators, producers and publishers in Japan and elsewhere. Funimation has been doing this for over 25 years and we look forward to continuing to leverage the power of creativity and technology to succeed in this rapidly growing segment of entertainment.”

“We are excited to embark on this new journey. Crunchyroll has built a world-class brand with a passionate fan-base of over 3 million subscribers, 50 million social followers and 90 million registered users. These amazing fans have helped to propel anime into a global phenomenon,” Joanne Waage, GM of Crunchyroll, said in a statement. “Combining the strength of the Crunchyroll brand and the expertise of our global team with Funimation is an exciting prospect and a win for the incredible art form of anime.”

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

‘The Stand’ Top New, ‘Attack on Titan’ Top Returning Shows on TV Time Anticipated Series Charts for December

CBS All Access’s “The Stand” was the most anticipated new show, while “Attack on Titan” was the top anticipated returning show on the TV Time charts for December.

“The Stand,” a limited series based on the Stephen King novel, is a nine-episode production starring Whoopi Goldberg and Alexander Skarsgard. The series chronicles King’s apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil. The fate of mankind rests on the shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail (Goldberg) and a handful of survivors. Their worst nightmares are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg (Skarsgard), the Dark Man.

The fourth and final season of anime series “Attack on Titan” is streaming on various services around the world beginning Dec. 7. The series based on the manga is set in a world where humanity lives within cities surrounded by enormous walls that protect them from gigantic man-eating humanoids referred to as Titans.

Taking the silver on the anticipated new series chart was Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” hitting screens on Christmas. The romance series is produced by Shonda Rhimes and is based on Julia Quinn’s bestsellers about eight close-knit siblings of the Bridgerton family looking for love and happiness in London high society.

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Coming in at No. 2 on the returning shows chart was the adult animation series “Big Mouth,” season four of which debuted Dec. 4. The series follows a group of kids facing the horrors and delights of puberty.

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Most Anticipated New Shows for December:

  1. “The Stand” (CBS All Access) — Dec. 17
  2. “Bridgerton” (Netflix) — Dec. 25
  3. “Your Honor” (Showtime) — Dec. 6
  4. “The Wilds” (Amazon Prime Video) — Dec. 11
  5. “Tiny Pretty Things” (Netflix) — Dec. 14

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for December:

  1. “Attack on Titan” — Dec. 7
  2. “Big Mouth” (Netflix) — Dec. 4
  3. “Shameless” (Showtime) — Dec. 6
  4. “Home for Christmas” (Netflix) — Dec. 18
  5. “The Expanse” (Amazon Prime Video) — Dec. 16

Sony Eyeing AT&T’s Crunchyroll Anime SVOD Service in $957 Million Deal

Sony Corp. is reportedly finalizing a $957 million acquisition of AT&T’s Crunchyroll anime subscription streaming VOD service and IP content. AT&T is looking to sell non-core assets since it acquired Time Warner, including Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, accumulating more than $180 billion in debt in the process.

The deal’s status was first reported by Nikkei Asian Review, which cited sources familiar with the situation. AT&T, which gained Crunchyroll in its 2018 acquisition of Otter Media from The Chernin Group, had been asking $1.5 billion for the anime platform.

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Sony, which acquired Funimation and its one million subs in 2017, is looking to solidify control of the anime market. The Crunchyroll deal would bring in-house streaming, 1,000 anime titles, and an existing subscriber base of 70 million free ad-supported viewers and three million paid users globally.

Talent Talk: ‘Digimon’ Actor Drew Inspiration From ‘Harry Potter’

The popular “Digimon” anime franchise reaches a final chapter of sorts in Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, a new movie that wraps up 20 years of storylines from various series over the years.

Actor Joshua Seth, who voices Tai Kamiya on the English-language versions of the Japanese cartoon, thanks the fans for keeping the show alive for more than two decades.

Joshua Seth

“It’s the fans that stayed engaged, mostly through the Internet, and by watching it on streaming platforms like Hulu, and without their support the producers would never have invested time money or resources to creating new ‘Digimon,’” Seth said. “It’s been such a treat to have been able to play a character for such a long period of time, especially one that has depth and growth and changes over time like Tai.”

Created for a virtual pet game in the mid-1990s, Digimon is short for digital monsters, creatures from a parallel “Digital World” created by Earth’s communication networks.

The concept spawned the anime series “Digimon Adventure,” which debuted in 1999 and was licensed by Saban Entertainment to air in America on Fox Kids Network, where it became one of the channel’s most popular shows.

Produced by Toei Animation, the show focused on a group of children called DigiDestined chosen to protect the Digital World. Each child is paired with their own Digimon and given a device to evolve the creatures into stronger forms. Seth’s character of Tai was partnered with a Digimon named Agumon.

“I think the message of Digimon initially connected because it was ahead of its time,” Seth said. “If you think about season one, episode one of the ‘Digimon’ series, Tai’s sitting in a tree and his friends are all playing at summer camp when these digital devices dropped out of a cloud. And from then on it was a battle to find the balance between the Digital World and the real world. I mean that’s what ‘Digimon’ is really about, and that’s the battle that we’ve all been fighting ever since. But 20 years ago that was a concept that was really ahead of its time, and so I think the message of it resonated with people initially. And then they started to get hooked into the relationships of the characters.”

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Seth, a voiceover veteran of several English-language versions of Japanese productions such as “Honeybee Hutch,” “Mobile Suit Gundam” and “Cowboy Bebop,” recalls not knowing much about the property when he first auditioned for the part of Tai.

“I really did not know anything about it. It was just another audition, and I probably had several auditions that day, just like every day at that time,” Seth said. “I remember going in and being surprised to see some people in the booth who I knew from working on other projects at Saban. So I immediately felt at ease because I worked with these people before and they knew who I was and what I was capable of.”

Seth had provided the voice of robot Alpha 5 at one point on Saban’s “Power Rangers.” But he drew inspiration for Tai’s voice from another source.

“There was very little in the way of text to read,” Seth said. “But there was a picture of Tai in sort of his fighting stance, and so I put my body in that physical position just like I saw in the picture, and because I didn’t have very much to go on I used my own voice. But just pitched it up a little bit to make him sound younger. I did notice however that the character description of Tai sort of mirrored Harry Potter, and the ‘Harry Potter’ novels had just come out, I think maybe only the first book had come out at that point, and I had read it out loud because as a voice actor I like reading out loud. When I teach voice acting to people I recommend reading out loud to get comfortable with their own voice and stretch it and know what it’s capable of. I had been reading ‘Harry Potter’ out loud with an accent, and I just dropped the accent and made him Tai, in my voice, with Harry Potter’s backstory.”

The show’s success led to Digimon: The Movie in 2000. The storyline continued in the “Digimon Adventure tri.” six-part film series first released in 2015 that depicted the characters in high school.

“Ever since ‘tri,’ ‘Digimon’ has dealt with more-adult themes, and at first it was surprising,” Seth said. “But then I soon realized what the producers had in mind was to age the characters and the themes and the whole tone and feel of ‘Digimon’ to reflect the fact that the audience has grown up as well.”

Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna takes place five years after the events of “Digimon Adventure tri.” Nearing graduation, Tai and his friends learn that as they grow up, their bonds with their Digimon will eventually disappear.

“It just works because they have remained consistent over these past few movies with the idea that we’re no longer living in the world of Digimon as kids but as adults, and in fact that relates to the message of Kizuna, which is that we all have to grow up someday and nothing lasts forever. Change may be difficult but the best way to handle it is to accept it and not resist it, and that’s really what they’re giving us in that last movie.”

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Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, with both English- and Japanese-language tracks, is available now for digital sellthrough, and arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Oct. 6 from Shout! Factory. Extras include a retrospective featurette with Seth and Tom Fahn, who voices Agumon.

Seth said unlike many of the projects he works on, he became a big fan of “Digimon.”

“A lot of the shows that I voiced I never watched or a didn’t watch until a long time afterwards because I was too busy recording things and auditioning for things to go on watching them, but ‘Digimon’ was an exception because it was on the air every Saturday morning,” Seth said. “I would actually watch it in real time along with everybody else. And that was just thrilling, so yeah, I became a fan right away of ‘Digimon’ and remain so to this day, but now I do it through my kids because my kids are younger and they haven’t watched all of the Digimon catalog, but they’ve watched the first season, and they’ve watched the original movie, and a couple of the ‘tri’s I was able to watch with them in the movie theaters.

“I remember when my daughter first put it together she was about 5, and we’re in the movie theater and the movie’s playing, where I’m on screen at the beginning, that’s the moment where she put it together that it’s me doing the voice, and she stands up in the movie theater points to the screen and goes ‘Dada that’s you!’ She literally didn’t get it until then. But it’s been wonderful as a father to introduce my own kids to the ‘Digimon’ series and be a fan of it through their eyes and through their fandom. Tiger my son actually sleeps with an Agumon plushy every night.”

Seth said he also enjoys meeting other fans and seeing how the show has impacted their lives.

“I’ve gotten so many emails and just fans coming up to me at comic cons over the years and saying that Tai’s courage inspired them to be more courageous in difficult situations in their own lives,” Seth said. “I know for a fact that resonates with people.”

But his most memorable fan interaction was a bit more out of the ordinary.

“I was at a comic con in Australia a few years ago where a fan wanted me to sign her body so she could get a tattoo of my signature,” Seth said. “She actually did get the tattoo, even though I advised her strongly against it, so I was very careful to make the signature look good.”

As for his future with the franchise, Seth said that despite the sense of closure offered by the Kizuna, he would enjoy returning if a new iteration came along (a reboot of the original series has already begun airing in Japan and is available online).

“If the producers reach out for me to play Tai again I would gladly do so,” Seth said.

Netflix to Bow ‘Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness’ Anime Series Based on Games

Netflix in 2021 will release an original anime series, “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness,” based on the “Resident Evil” games.

The horror-action series, centered on the stories of the two popular characters, Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, will be produced and supervised by Capcom’s Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who is responsible for bringing out numerous titles in the “Resident Evil” series.

TMS Entertainment, which has birthed various anime series, will produce the series, while Quebico, led by Kei Miyamoto, the producer of Resident Evil: Vendetta, will be in charge of 3DCG animation production.

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With the first game released in 1996 on Sony PlayStation, the “Resident Evil” series is nearing its 25th anniversary.

Zack Snyder’s ‘Army of the Dead’ Will Also Get Prequel and Anime Series at Netflix

Zack Snyder’s new zombie action heist film Army of the Dead, scheduled to debut on Netflix in 2021, is spawning a film prequel and anime series at the SVOD service.

“I’m incredibly excited for the opportunity to partner with Netflix again as we expand the Army of the Dead universe with both an international prequel, as well as exploring the visually dynamic world of animation,” Snyder said in a statement. “It’s been a great collaboration and we are thrilled that Netflix sees this as as big of an IP as we do.”

Army of the Dead follows a group of mercenaries into a zombie infested Las Vegas who try to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted. It stars Dave Bautista,  Ella Purnell, Ana De La Reguera, Theo Rossi, Huma Qureshi, Omari Hardwick, Tig Notaro, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Matthias Schweighöfer, Raúl Castillo, Nora Arnezeder and Samantha Win.

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The anime series, “Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas,” chronicles the origin story of Scott (Bautista) and his rescue crew during the initial fall of Vegas as they confront the mysterious source of the zombie outbreak. Snyder will direct two episodes of the anime series. In addition to Bautista, Ana de la Reguera, Tig Notaro, Omari Hardwick and Ella Purnell will reprise their roles in the anime series.

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Shay Hatten, one of the writers of the screenplay for Army of the Dead, will write the prequel as well as the anime series. The prequel will be directed by and star Grimme Award winner Schweighöfer and will follow his Army of the Dead character Ludwig Dieter.

“It has already been a great pleasure to be part of this wonderful ensemble around Zack Synder — a fascinating project. I am happy that it is now being developed on so many different levels,” Schweighöfer said in a statement.

Crunchyroll Bows New Membership Tiers

Anime streaming service Crunchyroll has introduced new membership tiers.

Updates to the Crunchyroll Android and iOS applications began rolling out Aug. 24 offering access to the new benefits. Not all users will have access right away, but the updated application should be fully available to global fans in early September.

The new tiers are:

  • “Free,” with ad-supported streaming access and new episodes available one week after premiere;
  • “Fan,” at $7.99 per month and including ad-free viewing, full access to Crunchyroll’s anime library of more than 1,000 titles and 30,000 episodes alongside immediate access to simulcast series day and date with their premiere in Japan, access to Crunchyroll’s library of digital manga, and access to one stream;
  • “Mega Fan,” available for $9.99 per month and including ad-free viewing, full access to Crunchyroll’s anime library alongside immediate access to simulcast series day and date with premiere in Japan, access to Crunchyroll’s library of digital manga, offline viewing, access to four concurrent streams, and $15 off a purchase of $100 every three months at the Crunchyroll Store; and
  • “Ultimate Fan,” at $14.99 per month and including ad-free viewing, full access to Crunchyroll’s anime library alongside immediate access to simulcast series day and date with premiere in Japan, access to Crunchyroll’s library of digital manga, offline viewing, access to six concurrent streams, $25 off a purchase of $100 every three months at the Crunchyroll Store, an annual Ultimate Fan member swag bag, and exclusive access to the purchase of Ultimate Fan merchandise.

 

Consumers without a current premium membership can learn more by going to crunchyroll.com/welcome. Premium members can learn more at crunchyroll.com/acct/membership.

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In addition to a large collection of anime, Crunchyroll connects the anime community through Crunchyroll News, shopping exclusives on the Crunchyroll Store, a variety of mobile games, and live and virtual events such as the upcoming Virtual Crunchyroll Expo.

Crunchyroll Crosses 3 Million Paid Subs

Anime streaming service Crunchyroll has crossed 3 million paid subscribers globally and more than 70 million registered users, according to the service.

With more than 1,000 titles and 30,000 episodes, Crunchyroll is available in more than 200 countries and territories with select series simulcast in eight languages day and date with the premiere in Japan, according to the service.

“Crunchyroll’s global growth has been incredible,” Joanne Waage, GM of Crunchyroll, said in a statement. “We launched in 2006 and it took us about 10 years to hit 1 million subscribers. It took us only two years after that to break 2 million, and even less than that to hit 3 million subscribers where we are today. But we don’t just measure success based on paying subscribers. We have an active and growing AVOD community of more 70 million registered users. Our goal has always been to grow the love of anime globally, and these numbers show our labor of love is paying off — and this is just the beginning.”

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Crunchyroll is part of Otter Media, a WarnerMedia company, that manages and invests in a portfolio of digital-first media brands. Late last year, Crunchyroll closed the majority acquisition of VIZ Media Europe Group, expanding its suite of consumer brands to include streaming services Anime Digital Network (in partnership with Citel, a subsidiary of Média-Participations) and Anime on Demand, DVD and manga publisher KAZÉ, and live action content distributor Eye See Movies.

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Other recent developments include:

  • Earlier this year, Crunchyroll announced its inaugural slate of Crunchyroll Originals, with 12 total series announced thus far. The first two originals were “Tower of God,” a Crunchyroll and Webtoon Production, and “The God of High School.”
  • Crunchyroll has launched more than 20 Crunchyroll Loves collections, the brand’s in-house streetwear line, featuring rapper, songwriter and singer Megan Thee Stallion; the iconic franchise Godzilla; and horror manga artist Junji Ito; as well as series “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing” and “DARLING in the FRANXX” among other franchises.
  • Crunchyroll has helped launch seven games to date, reaching more than a combined 500,000 monthly players, with more to come before the end of the year. The most recent game, “Mass for the Dead,” which was released at the end of April, is based on the anime series “Overlord.”
  • Earlier this year, Crunchyroll and HBO Max teamed up to bring fans more anime. Crunchyroll currently curates the Crunchyroll hub on HBO Max, bringing select fan-favorite titles to the platform each quarter. Crunchyroll has also announced several linear TV partnerships, including curating anime for the Toonami block on Adult Swim and for a special anime block for TNT Comedy in Germany. Crunchyroll EMEA also distributed the popular sports series “Captain Tsubasa” across eight countries on more than 40 linear TV channels.
  • Crunchyroll currently manages merchandising rights for more than 350 anime titles, working with more than 100 global licensees to provide anime fans with lifestyle, fashion, and home goods products from their favorite series.
  • In 2019, Crunchyroll participated in more than 190 events across 18 countries, reaching more than 22 million fans. This year, Crunchyroll has participated in 21 virtual events across Crunchyroll, Anime Digital Network, Anime on Demand, and KAZÉ. Crunchyroll also hosts the Anime Awards, the brand’s yearly celebration of the best in anime, reaching more than 11 million votes this year (up from 5 million the year before), with more than half coming from international fans. Crunchyroll also hosts an annual anime convention, Crunchyroll Expo, and will introduce a Virtual Crunchyroll Expo this labor day weekend.
  • Crunchyroll serves the global anime community, managing more than 350 social channels that cater to more than 40 million anime fans. This also includes the publication of Crunchyroll News, the owned and operated editorial arm of Crunchyroll read by more than 2.5 million fans per month.

 

“Crunchyroll is a pioneer in the direct-to-consumer space, who for the last 14 years, has shown the industry first-hand what it takes to build a successful DTC business with a die-hard, passionate fan base supporting it,” Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, said in a statement. “I am so proud of the entire Crunchyroll team for this incredible accomplishment and for their continued focus on harnessing the global anime community through authentic storytelling. It’s what makes Crunchyroll so much more than a DTC — it’s the preeminent Anime brand globally.”

Crunchyroll is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Paris, Lausanne, Chisinau and Berlin (AV Visionen).

Two Acclaimed Anime Films Get Steelbook Treatment in October from Shout! Factory

Studio Ghibli and GKIDS, with distribution by Shout! Factory, in October will re-release My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Princess Mononoke (1997), two Japanese animated films from Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki.

The films will be available Oct. 20 in a limited-edition Steelbook that includes a Blu-ray Disc and DVD combo pack, along with hours of bonus features and a booklet with art and statements from the filmmakers.

My Neighbor Totoro tells the story of a professor and his two young daughters, Satsuki and Mei, who move into a new home in the countryside, only to find life is not as simple there as it seems. They soon discover that the house and nearby woods are full of strange and delightful creatures, including a gigantic but gentle forest spirit called Totoro, who can only be seen by children.

Bonus features include feature-length storyboards, theatrical trailers, “Behind the Microphone”; textless opening and end credits; the featurettes “Creating My Neighbor Totoro,” “Creating the Characters,” “The Totoro Experience,” and “The Locations of My Neighbor Totoro”; a making-of featurette, “Producer’s Perspective: Creating Ghibli”; and an eight-page booklet with statements from the producer and director.

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Set in the late Muromachi period (1336-1573) in Japan, Princess Mononoke follows young warrior Ashitaka as he heads west in search of a cure for a deadly curse he’s been inflicted with. He stumbles into a bitter conflict between Lady Eboshi, the proud people of Iron Town, and the enigmatic Princess Mononoke, a young girl raised by wolves who will stop at nothing to prevent the humans from destroying her home and the forest spirits that live there.

Bonus features include feature-length storyboards, theatrical trailers, TV spots, a “Behind the Microphone” featurette; and an eight-page booklet with statements from the producer and director.