By Tyler Lubben / October 24th, 2013
Author’s note: This is part of a series where oprainfall will briefly cover publishers that specialize in bringing Japanese titles Westward. Fans of Japanese gaming and anime should pay close attention to each of these publishers. The best way to support them is by purchasing the titles they localize. So without further ado, we present this month’s publisher:
After looking at one of the biggest manga publishers last month, we now shift gears a bit to take a look at one of the biggest distributors of anime. One thing I’m coming to learn in doing these Publisher Spotlights is that there seems to be a fair bit of overlap between companies when it comes to the distribution of manga and anime. When it comes to manga, stories can be exciting and emotional, but sometimes, anime can simply tell those stories and convey those emotions in ways just not possible in the static images of the source material. That’s where Aniplex comes in.
Founded in 1995, Aniplex initially ran under the banner of Sony Music Entertainment Japan, assisting with Sony’s early 1990s anime productions, like Roujin Z and Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. Originally named Sony Pictures Entertainment Music Publishing Inc., it was reborn as Sony Pictures Entertainment Visual Works Inc. in 1997, renamed Sony Music Entertainment Visual Works Inc. in 2001, and finally became Aniplex Inc., the wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment Japan that we know today, in 2004. Aniplex has had a hand in many of the most popular anime productions out there, be it the production’s animation, music or what have you. These include series like Baccano!, Gurren Lagann, Naruto, R.O.D -The TV- and Rurouni Kenshin.
Aniplex not only produces anime, but also just about all the merchandise for the series under their banner, including toys, food and any other little odds and ends that may bear the company’s mark. Additionally, as a subsidiary of Sony, Aniplex is also responsible for producing and distributing the soundtracks for Sony Computer Entertainment’s video game titles.
In 2005, Aniplex founded a United States subsidiary, Aniplex of America, thereby cutting out the middleman and the need to rely on other companies to produce dubs and perform other localization duties for the anime series they helped produce. More interesting, however, was the founding of the company’s own animation studio, A-1 Pictures. In the eight years since its creation, A-1 has produced and adapted several popular anime OVAs and series, many of which we have covered. These include Persona: Trinity Soul, Blue Exorcist, Sword Art Online, Valkyria Chronicles, Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, its sequel, Magi: The Kingdom of Magic, and Welcome to the Space Show.
I guess the elephant in the room here is that Aniplex has, at times, been accused of gouging prices for the DVD sets and other works they sell. While other companies can usually point to the costs of acquiring licenses and other such reasons for high prices, this may not be as effective in Aniplex’s case, as they themselves often already hold the rights to those various works. This is especially true of the works A-1 themselves create, as cutting out the middleman in the realm of distribution means that the prices they set are their decision alone. Even so, offsetting the costs of creating the animated works fans love can be a major factor in what prices come to, and it’s up to those very fans whether the shows they love are worth the sometimes hefty price tag.
With such a finger on the pulse of the anime and anime merchandise market, Aniplex is a major player in the Japanese pop culture scene in both Japan and the U.S. While we can thank them for contributing to many of the classic anime series we’ve come to enjoy, it’s certainly exciting to see the company producing its own series through A-1 Pictures. If the company keeps producing such high-quality shows as Sword Art Online and the Magi series, you can bet we’re going to see Aniplex hanging around for a long, long time.
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