Geneon Entertainment was one of the world's major anime producers and distributors. The birth and death of their North American division illustrates the current instability and unpredictability of the American anime industry.
They were founded 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
, 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
. They also did distribution for other companies early on, such as FUNimation
, Viz Media
, Toei USA, and Bandai Visual.
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 gen
erate 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
, the Dentu deal resulting in Pioneer Electronics getting much of their early profits, mismanagement, over-saturation of the market, the anime boom dying, and the decline of home media sales. 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.
In 2008, Geneon reached a deal with FUNimation
to distribute their incomplete titles like Higurashi: When They Cry
, Black Lagoon
, Rozen Maiden
, Shakugan no Shana
, The Familiar of Zero
, and others. Once that deal expired, all of Geneon's formerly licensed titles were all unlicensed and out-of-print, but many have since been rescued by other companies such as FUNimation
, Sentai Filmworks
, Media Blasters
, Discotek Media
, and Viz Media
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 NBCUniversal Entertainment Japan. That merger resulted in many former Geneon titles that FUNimation
had licensed being delayed.
In 2009, Anime News Network
did 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 once licensed by Pioneer/Geneon include:
* Currently unlicensed and out-of-print
Tropes associated with Geneon Entertainment:
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: Applies to the titles that have not yet been rescued, like Higurashi: When They Cry.
- Meaningful Name: Back when they were known as Pioneer and were one of the first companies to regularly distribute Anime in North America.
- Ironic Name: As stated above, Geneon is a portmanteau of the English words generate and eon meant to signify innovation and longevity. The North American branch would only last for 4 more years before they stopped distributing titles
- No Dub for You: Mostly averted with their anime catalog as the majority of their titles were dubbed even when the company was in financial trouble (though some shows got really cheap dubs). However, their live action catalog plays this trope straight.
- Vanilla Edition: Geneon was notorious for this before they went out of business. As a last ditch effort to just save what dwindling money was left, a lot of Geneon title DVD releases such as DearS, Ai Yori Aoshi and Karin were nothing more than the episodes, and maybe a textless opening and ending. Older series released back when they were still doing fine at least had some trailers, but still nothing much beyond that in terms of extras.
- What Could Have Been: Their attempted alliance with ADV Films.