What was Funimation’s first serious attempt at anime (it wasn’t Dragon Ball Z)

What was Funimation’s first serious attempt at anime (it wasn’t Dragon Ball Z)

While Dragon Ball Z may have put Funimation on the map, their first serious foray into anime would come with this science fiction series.

The year is 2000. The new millennium has officially begun. Y2K has come and gone with minimal problems. Funimation is riding high on its success Dragon Ball Z on Toonami. The small Texas-based manufacturing company had been struggling for years at this point to become profitable, and now they were basking in their success. However, their CEO Gen Fukunaga is not impressed. Although he is happy that his hard work is finally paying off, he knows that the company is on the verge of becoming a one-hit wonder. Plans to reduplicate Dragon Ball is underway and the studio will soon start work on Dragon Ball GT once Dragon Ball Z comes to an end.


But so what? What is Funimation’s way forward? Fukunaga decides that Funimation needs to expand and become a serious anime company. He comes up with a plan: the company can continue to acquire shows that would be good for TV, while releasing titles directly to home media. In short, Gen Fukunaga wanted to take Funimation and transform it from being the ‘DBZ company’ into one of the biggest anime companies in America. And he had his sights set on two titles.

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Yu Yu Hakusho is a likely television sequel to Dragon Ball Z

Yusuke Urameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho

While Funimation made its plans to acquire more anime known in late 2000, fans had to wait months to find out what they were going to release. They would soon discover that Funimation would continue their relationship with Cartoon Network when they announced that they had acquired the rights to Yu Yu Hakusho. The show was a match series in the same vein as Dragon Ball Z, but with a supernatural twist. It was a logical next step for the company to continue its dominance on television.

The series was also announced to be coming to Cartoon Network’s upcoming adult programming block Adult Swim. This would be a block where animation and anime could air with fewer edits than they had to on Toonami, and Yu Yu Hakusho was a prime program to help kick off the block and transition Toonami viewers to the more mature programming. While the announcement made sense, Funimation had another announcement in a few days to prove that they weren’t going to keep dubbing the same old content types.

The DVD market requires something more prestigious

Blue sex

While Yu Yu Hakusho made sense to acquire, it also painted Funimation as a studio that would only acquire anime that had franchise potential (and could air on Cartoon Network). This is why the second acquisition surprised many observers: Blue sex. According to IMBD:

Yuji Kaido was diagnosed with a serious illness, and since there was no cure for the unknown disease, he was frozen. Twenty years later, he wakes up to see the Earth as it has never been before – humanity is almost extinct due to the alien insects called Blue. However, humanity is still alive, a select few humans have retreated to the space station called Second Earth. Yuji is taken back to the other earth, where he finds out that there are people who have also been frozen and now they will be used as a force to fight the blue one.

This was an acquisition, unlike anything anime fans expected from the largely family-friendly company. This was a science fiction series. It was dark. It was R-rated. The chances of this being sold to a TV network were slim. This was uncharted territory for Funimation, who had to rely on strong word of mouth if this was to sell on DVD. What this signaled to the anime world is that Funimation was going to take anime as an art form very seriously forward. They were to license serious adult food in addition to TV-friendly programmes.

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They were going to make higher quality dubs that could be taken more seriously. They were going to take the small dubbing crew they had put together Dragon Ball Z and use it to expand their dubbing footprint. With these two acquisitions, Funimation made their future clear: they wanted to acquire TV-friendly anime as well as art house fare for anime fans who wanted to pay for higher quality content on the VHS and DVD market.

Funimation today

Although it may be a stretch to say so Yu Yu Hakusho or Blue sex alone made Funimation the ultimate powerhouse they became, it should be noted that Gen Fukunaga’s vision of being a distributor of blockbuster hits and art house favorites proved to be a fruitful plan.

Years later, the company would announce The Funimation channellaunch Funimation now, and eventually being bought by Sony and merged with Crunchyroll. Like Crunchyroll, they are now the largest anime distributor in North America, as well as one of the largest producers of anime production financing as well. And to think these are the two titles that set the company up for their eventual success.

Note: Blue sex is sold out and currently not available on any streaming services.

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