Within the past couple of weeks, Funimation has announced the expiration of several big name titles including: Darker than Black, Baccano and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. All are Aniplex titles, leading to speculation that they are going through the process of reacquiring their entire catalog of shows for some purpose yet to be announced.
Among the top theories is one thought that Aniplex could possibly start a streaming service of their own. While not entirely likely, their catalog does boast a large number of popular titles from Sword Art Online to the Monogatari Series and Madoka Magica, and the aforementioned FMA: Brotherhood, so with a large number of people wanting to watch those shows legally, they could certainly find success in that market.
The most popular theory, however, is that Aniplex simply wants to distribute their own products without having to go through a middle-man like Funimation. The business models between Funimation and Aniplex are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to packaging and selling anime. Funimation likes to sell shows by complete seasons, even offering S.A.V.E. versions of shows whenever applicable, while Aniplex often follows a model where they package 6-8 episodes with some art cards, CDs, a program booklet, and other occasional little items for a higher price.
Many complain about Aniplex’s way of doing things due to the high cost of their shows, but they are able to get away with it simply because, for them, it works. Aniplex has done a superb job of finding and acquiring shows that maintain a high popularity among the fan base. People are willing to pay a premium for shows that they love and Aniplex has worked that market better than anyone. The Limited Editions of the first season of Sword Art Online are sold out and now cost an arm and a leg in the third party market; Bakemonogatari and Nekomonogatari Black recently sold out as well, but they decided to reprint a few more copies, theoretically to help drive sales of the rest of the series. Simply put, their stuff sells.
I personally own many of their titles; I have all of the Sword Art Online Limited Edition Box Sets, as well as Bakemonogatari, Durarara, the Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works LEs, and I have preordered both Your Lie in April sets set to come out later this year. They’ve done it again this season with Erased, one of the most talked about anime in a while, and I already dread what the cost will be come the time they release it on home video. Yet, while we can complain all we want about those prices, they somehow still have us breaking out our checkbooks and forking over the cash.
Whatever Aniplex decides to do in the future, whether that be starting their own streaming service or simply selling their own products, I will certainly be following along closely as they have many products that I both fortunately and unfortunately want to watch and own.