FUNimation Entertainment and the Japanese consortium of producer Toei Animation Co., Ltd., publisher Shueisha, Inc. and broadcaster Fuji Television Network, Inc. have entered into an agreement giving the American anime leader exclusive rights to the U.S. and Canadian online simulcast of the studios’ signature animated series “One Piece”.
Starting Saturday, May 30th at 9:00 p.m. CDT, just one hour after airing in Japan, FUNimation and the consortium will stream the first, free, professionally-produced, accurately English-subtitled “One Piece” series episode beginning with episode 403 via the official One Piece website www.onepieceofficial.com followed soon thereafter by FUNimation partner sites.
Each new episode of the current season will be rolled out weekly as “One Piece” continues its Japanese television run.
In addition, beginning Thursday, May 14th FUNimation will stream episodes from the Sabaody Archipelago Saga story arc starting with episode 391. FUNimation will also offer both its produced uncut, English-tracked and English-subtitled adaptations of the hugely successful series beginning with the first episode.
This decision was made by the production consortium for the North American, English-language One Piece DVDs, which is comprised of Toei Animation Co. Ltd, Shueisha, and Fuji Television Network, Inc., with the goal of maximizing the business potential of package media and merchandising in North America, among other things, in consideration of the growing online viewer market in the United States in recent years.
“With digital technology drastically changing the media environment surrounding broadcasts, we’ve gained the understanding and cooperation of Shueisha, the publisher of the original manga, and Fuji Television, which broadcasts the show in Japan, the primary target audience. With help from FUNimation, our One Piece partner in North America, we’ve managed to make a One Piece simulcast a reality. With this simulcast, we’ll be able to deliver a version of One Piece with much “fresher”ãexcitement and greatness than ever before to even more viewers in the United States than ever before. It’s incredibly exciting.” Said Kanji Kazahaya, director of Toei Animation Co., Ltd.
”This simulcast is a turning point for FUNimation, our One Piece partners and the U.S. anime industry,” said Gen Fukunaga, president and CEO of FUNimation Entertainment. “Thanks to our close partnership with Toei, Shueisha and Fuji Television, together we have effectively closed the longstanding gap between the Japanese broadcast and U.S. distribution of a series. As One Piece continues to be one of the top rated anime still in production, we can assure U.S. fans that new episodes of One Piece will not only make the voyage overseas, but will do it virtually instantaneously.”
ABOUT ONE PIECE
“One Piece” is a story of a time when pirates ruled the seas. With several bands of pirates battling over the great hidden treasure called “One Piece” which was left by the legendary pirate king, Gold Roger. One day, Monkey D. Luffy - a young boy who admired pirates - mistakenly ate Cursed Fruit turning himself into a rubber man. Ten years later Luffy set out to sea to become King of the Pirates and launch his own quest to discover “One Piece.”
After Eiichiro Oda’s original manga debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1997, this monstrous hit has gone on to surpass 50 volumes and has consistently remained a best-seller; the latest volume, Volume 53, sold 2.6 million copies in its first printing. In 1999, Toei Animation created a popular animated version of One Piece for television which currently airs on Fuji TV affiliates.
In North America, the original manga appears in the monthly SHONEN JUMP magazine (www.shonenjump.com) sold by VIZ Media, LLC, which also sells the individual volumes. In addition to this anime simulcast, plans are underway for the latest chapters of the Japanese manga, which are ahead of the anime story, to appear in SHONEN JUMP starting in the fall of 2009. FUNimation, a Toei animation licenseãholder, will be streaming the animated version in North America.