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With anime and popularity of cinematic adaptations on the rise, Ghost In The Shell, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Attack On Titan being evidence of this, it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear of major investments being made into anime properties. Sony Pictures has taken the next step into expanding their empire even further, by acquiring the anime distributor, Funimation.
Funimation is an anime distributor with rights to a massive catalog of fan-favorite titles. The most recognizable among the huge list are Dragon Ball Z and Attack On Titan, but the list goes on and on. If you were to ask an anime fan to list all the series currently available on FunimationNow, you'd probably get a list a mile long. That immense catalog is now in Sony's hands.
Nevertheless, the acquisition of Funimation means that Sony now has a stake in the anime market, which is a thriving international industry. Sony hasn't had a problem reaching fans overseas with animation in the past, but this acquisition is going to increase the studio's footprint overall.
That said, it'll be interesting to see what Sony intends to do with Funimation. The company's CEO, Gen Fukunaga, who will remain on in a small capacity, had this to say about the partnership:
"With Funimation’s long-established leadership position in anime and Sony’s direct access to the creative pipeline in Japan, it will be a great partnership to take Funimation to the next level.”
We don't know if this means Sony has plans to further develop the properties under the Funimation banner, or if the studio merely intends to promote anime content more heavily. Either way, Sony having more oversight of two fan-favorite properties is going to have everyone calling for a live-action adaptation be made of Attack on Titan and Dragon Ball Z.
Which Anime Series Will Sony Expand On First?
A Japanese live action Attack on Titan movie is nearing release, but that doesn't mean a U.S.-based film couldn't be made ass well. With the surging popularity of Attack on Titan as incentive to push a live-action movie into development, Sony would be foolish not to take advantage of this opportunity. The same can be said about Dragon Ball Z.
Dragon Ball might not have the biggest fan following, but it's definitely in the top ten anime properties. It has enjoyed a recent interest bump, too, as Dragon Ball Super has become a hit with both long-time and casual fans. While Super continues to gain momentum, Sony Pictures would be smart to utilize the current fervor for Dragon Ball, either to green light a live-action movie, or encourage Toriyama and the people responsible for Dragon Ball to continue doling out episodes of Dragon Ball Super.
Hopefully, Sony sees the benefit in producing a live-action adaptation, despite the horrific Dragon Ball: Evolution from 2009, which featured Justin Chatwin as Goku. Or the studio could work off the increased success of the anime and its widely recognized voice actors, by having them return for another Dragon Ball animated movie. In that scenario, Sony would have a much easier task.
Rather than attempting to please everyone with a live action movie, Sony and Funimation can pivot off of Dragon Ball Super's current popularity. A new animated Dragon Ball movie would cement Sony as the new distributor of anime, giving fans confidence in the studio's capability to deliver quality anime.
Could More Live-Action Adaptations Be In The Cards?
Apart from the anime series listed above, Funimation's immense catalog has tons of properties that Sony could decide to develop further. The studio doesn't necessarily have to utilize known brands like Dragon Ball and Attack on Titan to make themselves known as new major distributors either. They could decide to push for some of the more underrated anime, like Cowboy Beboy into development.
There were rumors of a Cowboy Bebop movie being worked on, with Keanu Reeves as the lead for some time, but nothing ever came of it. However, with Cowboy Bebop being one of the anime under Funimation's banner, the series could feasibly become one of the properties Sony intends to invest heavily in, if not just for the incentive of building another movie around Keanu Reeves. Hopefully, that movie does come to be, because as an avid fan of both Cowboy Bebop and Keanu Reeves, that's one movie I'd definitely pay to see.