Manga Entertainment is an influential, yet controversial, anime distribution/production company. Despite its name, the company distributes anime rather than manga. The company was originally founded in the United Kingdom in 1987 before expanding into the North American market in 1994, after the purchase of the American licensor L.A. Hero, which subsequently became Manga Video USA.
Manga, like many other companies at the time, chose to concentrate on dubbed versions of its licenses instead of subtitling. However, instead of bowdlerizing for mass appeal, Manga embraced the racier and gory aspects of anime. Their dubs gained a reputation to match, thanks to several infamously gratuitous examples of Cluster F Bombs being dropped (in order to get an "18" adults-only rating). They weren't above the occasional Macekre, either.
Despite this (or perhaps because of it), Manga Entertainment did well, and was flush with investor cash, which was used to co-produce ambitious projects like the original Ghost in the Shell movie. Confusing matters, Manga UK traditionally advertised its anime releases as "manga videos", and the term apparently took hold for a while.
Manga UK also licenses titles from international companies to release them in the UK market. For example, Manga UK has a licensing agreement with Viz Media that allows them to distribute popular titles such as Bleach, Naruto and Death Note. Manga UK is also the current British distributor for Funimation titles. Many of their earlier releases were licensed from Streamline Pictures (e.g. AKIRA and the animated Fist of the North Star movie).
The company had a close relationship with the US-based Bandai Entertainment, with whom they've collaborated numerous times, most notably on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, where it's difficult to tell which company actually holds the license (Manga does, but sublicensed all production to Bandai). The company also had a presence on American cable television, with the former Ani-Monday block on Syfy consisting of both recent and old Manga Entertainment titles. Manga Entertainment technically had a presence on American television years before that: Manga Entertainment's titles were the majority (though not all) of the anime shown on Starz Encore Action's Animidnight block for years; the Encore channels are owned by Starz, which was owned by the same company that owned Manga Entertainment at the time and said company would later sign a distribution deal with Syfy when Ani-Monday started, which is why Manga Entertainment had such a strong presence on both Animidnight and Ani-Mondays, and both blocks shared much of the same programming. For a long time, in the early 2000s, Animidnight was the only place one could consistently catch uncensored anime on American television, and much of it was Manga Entertainment titles, whose 18+ dubs fit well with adult oriented network.
Manga Entertainment started out as a unit of music executive Chris Blackwell's Island World, which was purchased by PolyGram in December 1994. Following a dispute with PolyGram over attempted Executive Meddling on Robert Altman's The Gingerbread Man, based on a screenplay by John Grisham, Blackwell left PolyGram in 1997 and took a lot of his Island World assets, including Manga Entertainment, with him, incorporating them into his Palm Pictures venture; PolyGram would continue to distribute until it went bankrupt and was folded into Universal in 1998. Since 2005, the UK division operated independently from the North American division, both of which were owned by Anchor Bay, a subdivision of Starz Media. Manga USA ceased licensing new products after REDLINE in 2011.
In 2015, both Manga UK and Anchor Bay UK were bought from Starz by managing director Colin Lomax. Manga UK currently shares a working relationship with fledgling company Animatsu Entertainment, with the latter company handling production and international rights. Anchor Bay UK became Platform Entertainment and now has exclusive rights to the Manga branding and catalog in the UK and Ireland. Manga UK would later be acquired by Sony via Funimation in 2019. In 2021, Funimation would mostly retire the Manga UK brand, releasing future titles under the Funimation name alone note .
As of 2022, the Manga UK is now operating as the UK division of Crunchyroll.
In 2016, Lionsgate acquired Starz and its properties, and merged both Anchor Bay Entertainment and Manga USA into their home entertainment division. Since the acquisition, Manga USA's website announced plans for a relaunch, which as of 2021 has yet to happen.
Distributors for the American unit over the years included:
- PolyGram Video on behalf of Palm Pictures (February 28, 1995-December 7, 1998)
- RYKO Distribution on behalf of Palm Pictures (December 7, 1998-April 24, 2002)
- Warner Home Video on behalf of Warner Music Entertainment (April 24, 2002-February 27, 2004)
- Warner Music Entertainment (February 27-May 13, 2004)
- Anchor Bay Entertainment (May 13 2004-September 2011)
The series Manga Entertainment has released include:
- AKIRA (their first UK release, Streamline dub and subtitled versions)
- Angel Cop
- Appleseed (1988 OVA with hilarious UK-produced dub)
- Battle Angel Alita
- Black Butler (both anime, UK distribution only; Funimation holds the license in North America)
- Black Lagoon
- Black Magic M-66
- Bleach (UK distribution only; Viz Media holds the license to the series and the films listed below in North America)
- Blood: The Last Vampire
- Bubblegum Crisis and its follow-up, Bubblegum Crash! (UK release, original series used AnimEigo dub, Crash! later redubbed by Manga)
- Dead Leaves (Funded and co-produced the film)
- Descendants of Darkness
- Digimon Adventure (UK distribution only; currently licensed by Discotek Media in North America)
- Dominion Tank Police (New Dominion Tank Police; they produced the English dub of the original)
- Dragon Ball (UK distribution only; Funimation holds the license in North America)
- Fairy Tail (anime, UK distribution only; UK license now held by Anime Limited. Funimation holds the license in North America)
- First Squad
- Fist of the North Star (the first 36 episodes of the TV series, which were dubbed with a new soundtrack by Reinforced Records, and the Streamline dub of the 1986 film)
- Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa (UK distribution only)
- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (Had their own bizarre '90s British rave music filled dub commissioned)
- Ghost in the Shell (Co-producers of the first movie; cooperated with Bandai Entertainment on Stand Alone Complex and (eventually) the second film)
- Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still (Picked up from U.S. Renditions and dubbed to completion on VHS. Media Blasters redubbed and re-released the series on DVD)
- Gunbuster (Picked up from U.S. Renditions, VHS only)
- Guyver (12-episode OVA)
- Highschool of the Dead (anime and OVA, UK distribution only; Sentai Filmworks holds the license in North America)
- K-On! (Anime series and the movie, UK distribution only; licensed by Sentai Filmworks in North America)
- Lensman movie (Streamline dub)
- Lupin III:
- The first movie, under the title of The Secret of Mamo (UK VHS, it got a Manga-produced dub that was extremely rare, but is now readily available in the US thanks to Discotek Media. They later did a UK DVD, but it had the Geneon dub instead)
- The second movie, The Castle of Cagliostro (originally a Streamline title, they did a VHS release for the UK with the Streamline dub, then it got a Manga US-produced dub, which may be the least profane pre-2001 dub they made. Doesn't mean it's safe for kids, though Discotek's release includes a "family friendly" version of the Manga dub)
- Lupin III Yearly Specials
- Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (UK distribution only)
- Macross II
- Macross Plus
- Mad Bull 34 (Now licensed by Discotek Media in the US)
- Mega Man Star Force (anime; UK distribution only)
- Neon Genesis Evangelion (Paid through the nose for the rights to films Death and Rebirth and End of Evangelion, which they currently no longer have)
- Ninja Scroll
- Noein (now licensed by FUNimation)
- Orguss 02
- Patlabor: The Movie
- Perfect Blue (Now distributed by GKIDS)
- Pokémon: The Series (most of the franchise save for most of the Miramax-distributed films; UK distribution only; Viz distributes in North America)
- Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva (UK distribution only; Viz Media holds the license in North America)
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica (UK distribution only; Aniplex USA holds the license in North America
- Read or Die (the original 3-episode OVA)
- REDLINE (notable as the US division's final license so far)
- Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnęamise (Re-released by Bandai Entertainment with the Manga dub)
- RWBY (UK home video distribution only)
- Street Fighter
- Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (now licensed by Discotek Media in the US)
- Street Fighter II V
- Street Fighter Alpha: The Animation
- Street Fighter Alpha: Generations (was actually produced specifically for the international market with no Japanese release until it got included in a Japanese release of The Legend of Chun-li)
- Sword Art Online (first anime only, UK distribution only; Aniplex USA holds the license in North America)
- Tactics (license-snipe from ADV Films; Manga's release retained ADV's dub)
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (Helped Bandai Entertainment negotiate the agreement to air the series on the Sci-Fi Channel)
- The Transformers: The Movie (UK distribution only; Shout! Factory published the 30th anniversary HD version and holds the North American distribution rights)
- Vampire Wars
- Violence Jack
- Welcome to The Space Show
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX (UK distribution only; released by New Video Group in North America)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds (UK distriution only; release by New Video Group in North America)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL (UK distribution only; released by New Video Group in North America)
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time (UK distribution only; released by New Video Group in North America)
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: The US division has allowed many licenses to lapse, and while some have been rescued by other companies, some have not, leaving the latter group in this realm.