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Geneon Entertainment--or as it's now known, Geneon Universal--is one of the world's major anime producers and distributors. The birth, death and rebirth of their North American division illustrates the current instability and unpredictability of the American anime industry.

The story began in 1993, when Japanese technology giant Pioneer Electronics decided to start an entertainment division in both Japan and America. While Pioneer Entertainment distributed tapes and Laserdiscs in a variety of genres, from music to documentaries, the company became best known as an anime producer and distributor. The company also became a major DVD supplier when the format became available. Titles first released during the Pioneer years included Tenchi Muyo!, Serial Experiments Lain, Last Exile and Trigun.

In 2003, Pioneer decided to sell off its entertainment division. The buyer was another Japanese corporate giant--Dentsu, an advertising firm. They renamed the company Geneon, which is a portmanteau of the English words generate and eon. (There was a transitional period, during which new releases carried both the Pioneer and Geneon logos on the packaging.) The new name was meant to signify innovation and longevity, which became bitterly ironic in light of what happened next.

Geneon USA began running into financial problems, despite being a popular and respected name among anime fans. Possible reasons for this included the increasing popularity of fansubs, Geneon's support of the doomed Mini DVD format, and the company's tendency to license arty Mind Screw series with limited commercial appeal (such as Paranoia Agent, Texhnolyze, and Ergo Proxy) alongside more mainstream titles such as Hellsing, Samurai Champloo, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, and Black Lagoon. Whatever the explanation, by 2007, Geneon was in trouble. After an attempted alliance with ADV Films (who were having problems of their own) quickly fell apart, Geneon USA announced that by the end of 2007 it would no longer manufacture or distribute DVDs. Not only did this leave several of its announced but uncompleted titles in limbo, it led many fans to assume that Geneon USA was completely out of business, when it actually still existed as a licensing firm. Still. American and Canadian anime fans spent the better part of a year wondering when--and if--the Geneon catalogue would find a new home.

The story has a happy ending. In 2008, Geneon licensed several of its titles (including most of the incomplete ones) to FUNimation, who rereleased them. Select properties were picked up by other labels. (Moribito Guardian of the Spirit went to Media Blasters/Anime Works; Akira went to Bandai Entertainment/Honneamise; Sentai Filmworks, the successor to ADV Films, wound up rescuing several licenses in 2009 and 2010; El Hazard the Magnificent World was reissued by Nozomi Entertainment; Discotek announced Panda Go Panda in late 2011.)

Geneon's Japanese corporate parent continues to be one of that country's major entertainment producers and distributors; their properties include not only anime but several mainstream films from around the world, including America. In November 2008, Geneon Japan merged with Universal Pictures. The company is now known as Geneon Universal.[1]

Anime News Network has done an excellent podcast in which former Geneon USA executive Chad Kime talks about the reasons for Geneon America's decline; these include anime series that failed (Heat Guy J cost as much as Fullmetal Alchemist but sold a fraction), budgeting for titles they did not own, and licensing titles because the previous titles didn't make money.


Anime licensed by Geneon include:


* Originally released by Pioneer.

** Rereleased by FUNimation.

*** Both of the above.

+ Rereleased by Sentai Filmworks.

Notes

  1. According to FUNimation, who managed to license several more of Geneon's titles in 2010, the merger process is still going on and they are unable to work on many of Geneon's titles like A Certain Magical Index, Shakugan no Shana, and Black Lagoon until the merger is finished, which explains the delay of the said titles.
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