The FUNimation Alchemist Debacle Take III: Project Henry Goto

What in the ever-loving-


A while back, I wrote about Aniplex of America yanking the Fullmetal Alchemist IP. I, fortunately, managed to secure a BD copy of Fullmetal Alchemist before it went permanently out of print, but for the longest time it’s bothered me that something so inherently linked with FUNimation Entertainment has received such terrible treatment. It didn’t make sense: Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood were FUNimation’s biggest money-makers outside of Dragon Ball Z. They were the reason so many people became anime fans in the West. They were what came to mind immediately when you thought of great Shonen outside of The Big Three. Why yank what was making big bucks?

Apparently, Henry Goto, the president of Aniplex of America, has finally given us the answer. Recently, an article on Anime Herald cropped-up containing snippets of an interview between staff writer Seth Burn and Goto on the current state of Aniplex. The details are…interesting, but there’s one part that rubs me, as well as many other people, the wrong way: Aniplex of America’s pricing models. To quote Goto directly:
“I don’t want to devalue the content.”

He then informed Burn that if fans were so insistent on buying their products, they’ll pay the price. Which I guess is kinda true, seeing as many anime fans are collector junkies, but that doesn't excuse charging an arm and a leg for something as trivial as a TV show. Entertainment is meant to be consumed, yes, and good entertainment has no true price tag, but charging $12-14 for a single episode is pushing it. To put it in relative terms, Goto’s charging movie ticket prices for a 30-minute episode 12-26 times in a row. That’s not factoring in Shonen shows, which are double that at best.

I get it: Goto wants money. He feels that these shows are worth the asking price. He doesn’t want to suffer losses. He’s, essentially, being a businessman. On some level, I can respect that and sympathize.

That having been said, charging movie ticket prices for something that isn’t even a half-hour long is absurd. I’d argue that paying $12-14 for a movie ticket is absurd anyway, but movie theatres barely make money on the films they screen. I used to work at a theatre chain, and I remember how annoying it was to keep screenings available when a film wasn’t selling tickets. Employees have lives and families to feed, and given that theatre attendance has been dropping with PVR, instant-streaming and piracy, the mark-up has to come from somewhere. Also, a movie is an hour long in the best-case scenario, so at least you’re putting in a sizeable investment.

What Goto’s doing, however, is inflating the price of something for the sake of it. He’s pulling a Martin Shkreli, in other words. And yes, I know it’s not the same, Goto’s not overcharging for life-saving medications, but the concept of price gouging is similar. No show, not even a good one, is worth $12-14 per episode. You don’t buy shows in single episodes, you buy them in collections, half-seasons or full seasons.

But wait, it gets better! The interview goes on to bring up Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Yeah, that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. According to the article:
“President Goto made it clear that Aniplex has had a shift in philosophy, and wants to bring their properties back home under their roof. He considers Fullmetal Alchemist to be one of Aniplex of America’s greatest successes. The fact that people thought of it as a Funimation product concerned him. Aniplex of America’s brand is very important to him, and Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the most important shows in Aniplex’s library.”
*Cue nerd rage*

This is arrogance at its finest. For one, Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, while technically Aniplex IPs, aren’t solely Goto’s. Ignoring that Hiromu Arakawa wrote the Manga from which both shows are based, there’s the staff at Studio BONES to thank. You also have to acknowledge the seiyuus for lending their voices to the shows, as well as the directors and composers for giving them their aesthetics. That’s not even factoring in localization in the West by FUNimation, which adds further complications via the talent involved. And, of course, there are the fans who routinely watch and buy the content.

Saying the Fullmetal Alchemist IP is one of Aniplex of America’s biggest successes is, therefore, being dishonest, especially if you’re trying to take full credit. Because it’s not. It’s more the success of FUNimation Entertainment, and ignoring that means neglecting those that helped make it so. Goto’s claiming full-ownership of something that’s not his. He’s pulling a George Lucas and treating this like his Star Wars, holding it for ransom, shafting those who helped him along the way and forcing fans to acquiesce. He’s being a real jerk, basically.

It also begs the question of why Aniplex of America pulled the license from circulation, especially given its popularity. If he wanted to raise the prices of the boxsets, frustrating as that may be, I could understand. If he wanted to make the shows only available on Aniplex’s website, again, frustrating as that may be, I could understand. But yanking the properties altogether? I know it’s within his legal grounds, but it’s really stupid and nasty. Especially when it’s such a big cash cow.

I guess this wouldn’t be a problem if there was something the consumer could do about it. I don’t loathe capitalism like most out there, I think it’s more practical than pure socialism, but this is another reason why it’s problematic and obnoxious. Because you’re taking something people love, something you’ve been benefitting from, and blowing your nose on it to spite everyone. It’s greedy, it’s selfish and it makes people hate you. And it doesn’t win you any sympathy points either.

I’m not sure what to add to this piece, so I’ll end here. But I’m definitely disgusted, especially by Goto’s closing remark:
“If they like your show, they’ll watch it twenty-six times.”
A little something to remember the next time you hear Henry Goto’s name pop-up in the anime world, methinks.


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