How Watching Anime Hurts Gay People

Gen Fukunaga, the King Kai of Anime (courtesy of thedaoofdragonball.com)

Gen Fukunaga, the King Kai of Anime (courtesy of thedaoofdragonball.com)

The Rise of Gen Fukunaga

Back in the early 1990s, anime was rarer in America than gold. Akira had made a certain cultural splash and Hiyao Miyazaki had a deal with Disney, but there was almost no anime on television. No internet distribution. No DVDs for sale in Walmart. No issues of Otaku USA at the Barnes and Noble. Even French Art Films had more cultural presence, more popularity, more ease of access than anime.

Then came Gen Fukunaga.

Growing up in the least kawaii place of all – West Lafayette, Indiana – the Japanese-American Fukunaga began his career as an engineer. He worked for IBM in Florida. He designed ATM machines in California. His uncle, meanwhile, was a producer for the popular Japanese cartoon Dragon Ball Z, which had been a major success in Japan for years. Although there was no real interest in bringing it to America, Fukunaga asked his uncle for the chance to try, and his uncle told him that, if he could raise the start-up costs, the uncle would make sure that Toei Animation gave Fukunaga the rights to distribute the show in North America. Convincing a friend’s family to sell their feed mill business and invest the proceeds in his Anime distribution scheme, Fukunaga founded what would become the greatest anime licenser the world has ever known: Funimation.

Funimation’s role in the initial success of anime in America is crucial. Without Dragon Ball Z, it’s hard to imagine Toonami striking it big, and without Toonami there would be no great anime boom of the late 90s, early 2000s; no transformation of Japanese cartoons from the most niche of niche markets into a multi-billion dollar transcontinental business. But as with any boom business, Funimation quickly had a lot of competition. Over the next decade, dozens of companies would bring hundreds of animes to America. Manga Entertainment, Viz Media, Bandai, 4Kids Entertainment, Madman, and Geneon would all get in on the action, many selling far more DVDs, toys, and broadcasting rights than Funimation could ever dream of selling. But for all his competitors’ pomp and circumstance and exorbitant expenditures on licensing fees, they could never match Fukunaga for his business sense.

Gen standing with his horde of Dragonball-themed merchandise. (Courtesy of dragonballtoys.com)

Gen standing with the Dragonball-themed merchandise that provided much of Funimation’s early income. (Courtesy of dragonballtoys.com)

His Complete Conquest of Anime

In 2005, during the height of the Anime boom, Fukunaga and his business partners (you know, the feed mill people) sold Funimation to a Texas media conglomerate for $100 million. Fukunaga remained in charge of the company, but he didn’t own it anymore. People talk about George Soros or Warren Buffett pulling off the most prescient financial deal of the 2000s, but those people are wrong. If those people knew anything about anime, they would know that Gen Fukunaga was the true oracle.

What the 2008 financial crisis did to the world economy, it did five times over to the anime industry – already undercut by streaming services, bit torrent, and the growing disinterest of children in toys that don’t involve screens. Between 2008 and 2012, almost every major anime licenser either went bankrupt or (if they were part of a larger, generally Japanese conglomerate) abandoned the industry. ADV was liquidated. Geneon withdrew from North America. Bandai Entertainment shutdown. Media Blasters was dissolved. Synch-Point went out of business. Things were so bad, that when in 2012 the company Sentai Filmworks was formed, its founder specifically stated that its goal, as a company, was to try and keep the anime industry alive in America.

Funimation, however, survived. It took a beating, of course. Its business model was gutted. But where everyone else saw catastrophe, Fukunaga saw opportunity. In 2011, at the depths of the Great Anime Depression, Fukunaga (along with a few investors) bought back Funimation from the Texas conglomerate for $25 million, one quarter of the selling price. Then, when everyone else was desperate to get rid of their anime licenses, he started buying animes.

Gen Fukunage, his wife, and assorted other associates (courtesy of movieimages.com)

Gen Fukunage, his wife, and assorted other associates (courtesy of movieimages.com)

In the wake of the Great Anime Depression, Funimation took control of hundreds and hundreds of animes. If you think of any anime that you loved growing up, that you love now, that made you care that anime existed, that if somebody asked you why Anime was “good” you would show them, then it’s probably controlled by Funimation. They control Tenchi Muyo, Trigun, One Piece, .hack, Corpse Princess: Shikibana Hime, Fist of the North Star, Evangelion, Bubblegum Crisis, Digimon, Disgaea, Hellsing, Hetalia, the new Ghost in the Shell, Gantz, Galaxy Express 999, Fooly Cooly, Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture, Yu Yu Hakusho, Eureka 7, The Slayers, Samurai Champloo, Ergo Proxy, Gungrave, Space Dandy, Full Metal Alchemist, Sasami Magical Girls Club, Initial D, and Cowboy Bebop. They didn’t translate most of those shows. They didn’t do the dubs. They didn’t take out full page spreads for them in Newtype. But they own them now. As much as one company can own an entire cultural product, Funimation owns anime.

This means that whenever you buy an anime DVD or video file from the iTunes store, whenever you watch an anime streaming on Netflix or Hulu, whenever you waste away your entire day on CrunchyRoll, you’re dumping little droplets of money into Funimation’s coffers. You’re supporting them as a business. You’re supporting the personal wealth of Gen Fukunaga just like using Windows supports Bill Gates or buying Brawny Paper towels supports the Koch Brothers.

I bring this up because Funimation isn’t Gen Fukunaga’s only business interest. It’s just his least objectionable one.

Fukunaga’s Unsavory Business Partner

In 2012, he used some of his anime money to found a movie company called EchoLight Studios. EchoLight was not Fukunaga’s first venture into the movie business (he and his wife had produced the 1999 straight-to-DVD Chuck E. Cheese spin-off, Chuck E. Cheese in the Galaxy 5000) but it was his first serious attempt at becoming a force in the movie industry. Not the Hollywood movie industry, though—the Christian movie industry. EchoLight makes movies explicitly designed to present stories of Christian faith and values to a family-friendly audience.

In and of itself, that isn’t really troubling. Who cares what Fukunaga’s personal beliefs are so long as he still delivers to us our blatant Anime soft-core pornography?

But in 2014, Fukunaga hired a new CEO to lead EchoLight in its dream of creating making a more suitably Christian version of The Lords of Dogtown: former Pennsylvania Senator and Presidential candidate, Rick Santorum.

rick_santorum

Remember when we all hated this guy?

That’s right, the man who says that homosexual sex is comparable to bestiality, who actively opposes the legalization of gay-marriage, who once publically argued that gay-marriage should be illegal because it “hurts the economy,” the man whose name Dan Savage transformed into a synonym for the residual goop leftover after sodomy. He is Fukunaga’s employee and business partner. Your anime money goes to paying Rick Santorum, a man who hates gay people, to make movies that support “Christian values.”

Surely this isn’t acceptable. Wanting to forbid the right of people to marry who they love because of their gender is no less a bigoted abomination than opposing it because of their race. Last year, when it was discovered that the CEO of Mozilla had donated money to a campaign to illegalize gay marriage in California, the whole of the internet boycotted Firefox until he resigned.

This Santorum-Fukunaga situation is the same. It’s even worse. All the CEO of Mozilla ever did to forward his personal beliefs was give a campaign donation; Rick Santorum has fought against gay rights across the nation, ran for the President on an openly anti-gay rights platform, and voted against gay rights in the United States Senate and House of Representatives for more than a decade and a half.

How is watching anime, the vast majority of which is controlled by Fukunaga’s Funimation, any different than providing direct financial support to our nation’s most prominent enemy of the LGBTQ community? Fellow anime nerds, are we not by watching anime tacitly condoning the hatred and societal exclusion of the gay, the queer, and the transgendered?

The time has come for a boycott of all anime and anime related products. Not just those licensed by Funimation, but all anime, even those licensed by its competitors, even those stolen in flagrant violation of copyright law. So deeply is anime in America intertwined with Fukunaga that it cannot be separated out—all American anime consumption is tainted with the stain of homophobia the same way that the works of Roman Polanski or Woody Allen are tainted with the sexual abuse of children. As much as we may love anime, how can we allow even the casual appearance of supporting the oppression of the LGBTQ community in this county? Or is our anime more important to us than social justice?

  • Alex Westphal

    That’s a stretch to make such a claim in the title, based on what causation is offered. It would make sense for Fukunuga to hire a crazy conservative fundamentalist to produce content for other fundamentalists… But he wouldn’t be involved with anime directly, because he would see it as evil, and against the Bible.

    That leaves a pretty big gap in the reasoning that stands as the foundation of this article. Thumbs down, Bryant Davis – trying hard to come up with correlative evidence that is borderline absurdity doesn’t exactly make you a hard-hitting journalist.

    • Bryant Davis

      I don’t feel like it’s a stretch at all. If Fukunaga, the guy who owns Funimation, is offering financial aid and abutment to THE key opponent of LGBTQ rights in this country, the most vocal, the most hated, how is supporting Funimation and Fukunaga any different than support Chick-Fil-A or Mozilla when they hired that anti-gay CEO?

      When Chick-Fil-A’s owner was handing money over to anti-gay political groups, the internet screamed in terror and demanded a complete boycott–a boycott that still continues socially. A friend of mine the other day was just telling me how terrible it is to eat at Chick-Fil-A because of their politics.

      The logic that was employed in both those cases, in boycotting Mozilla and boycotting Chick-Fil-A is the exact same. That you cannot support that which supports with MONEY the forces of homophobia. By hiring Rick Santorum, there is no question that Fukunaga sympathizes with that movement. By paying him there is no question he is helping that movement.

      As far as hating anime, Santorum clearly mustn’t hate anime for anime pays his wages.

      • Alex Westphal

        Santorum doesn’t oversee the anime, though, and I’m sure he doesn’t get paid if the projects he oversees plunge his portion of the company into insolvency, which they haven’t. Look man, your reasoning is deeply flawed, and you should be able to see the gaping holes in your logic. Do you feel threatened by Santorum and the conservative media? They are sinking money into an anti-gay agenda that, quite simply, isn’t working. They are losing ground almost every single day.

        Gen Fukunaga is essentially making money off these idiots and their doomed crusade. If anything, Fukunaga is helping the the LGBT community, because he’s giving the opposition a way to burn their resources away with very little to show for it, except some idealogical cartoons that smart parents won’t let their kids watch.

        Basically, calling for an anime boycott is absurd, and won’t serve anyone or anything… except for your massive ego, of course.

        • Dillon Ryan

          i am gay but i would never want to boycott something i love.

          • Dillon Ryan

            also this the same studio that made revolutionary girl utena? where the two female protagonist are lover’s? (watch the movie) i see way to many flaw’s in this and i as a member of the LGBTQ refuse to back this without further analyses.

          • Gabriel Wainio-Théberge

            Funimation isn’t a studio, it’s a licenser.

            The article’s “it’s anti-gay to like anime” stance is a snarky exaggeration of which there’s getting to be an entire genre esp. recently since people have started getting butthurt about Miyazaki’s comments on the state of the industry. (Note: this article is by the same guy who wrote “13 Reasons Why Obama Should Illegalize Christmas”) The idea that maybe Funimation could use a boycott around now, however, seems fairly reasonable.

            >mfw I pirate everything already

  • Xyle

    How would Funimation even know what were boycotting against if that’s all were doing tf…

    • Bryant Davis

      We’ll make a hahstag. #BoycottAnime or maybe #LiberateAnime.

      • Dillon Ryan

        lets go with liberateanime. i don’t want to boycott something i love despite someone hating my life style .

  • Gilles Poitras

    The article has simple errors. Many of the titles listed as being controlled by Funimation are handled by other companies and were never part of the Funimation video catalog.

    The demand for a boycott of all anime is childish at best. Would you stop eating all meat because an ass at Chick-Fil-A has made anti-gay statements.

    One acquaintance in the entertainment industry hear that Fukunaga cut ties with Echolight after Santorum signed on. This would amke sense as Santorum took over Fukunaga’s position in the company. I have not been able to verify this so you may wish to look further into it.

    • Bryant Davis

      Which animes are we mistaken about? I made that list by looking at products listed specifically on Funimation’s website. As the essay notes, a lot of animes–particularly successful ones–that weren’t originally brought to North America by Funimation have since fallen into their hands.

      I can’t find anything to corroborate your suggestion Fukunaga cut ties with Echolight. And, frankly, the idea is pretty ridiculous. Fukunaga founded Echolight and was its key financial backer and even allowed the company to share office space with Funimation. The idea that Echolight would hire a CEO in flagrant violation of his will is pretty preposterous.

      • Gilles Poitras

        Fist of the North Star is Eastern Star, Bubblegum Crisis has been distributed by AnimEigo since the late 1980s, Ghost in the Shell is mainly Manga Entertainment tho’ Fiunimation is distributing the new Ghost in the Shell Arise series, the Galaxy Express 999 movies are Eastern Star and TV is S’More Entertainment.

  • juice

    anime is right gays should be gassed

  • The article is wrong about the Mozilla boycott. The boycott occurred AFTER Eich resigned. It was a response by traditional marriage supporters to Mozilla forcing Eich to resign because of his views. Forcing people to resign because they hold an opinion you disagree with is fascist. Most people understand that, hence the boycott. So, go ahead with your little anime boycott. I trust it will help Rick Santorum just like Savage’s campaign propelled him from 3% in the polls to second place for the GOP nomination.

    • Bryant Davis

      Couple things here. 1) Are you actually claiming there wasn’t a boycott that led up to Eich’s resignation? Or at you just engaging in some sort of rhetorical flyn-flam?

      2) Dan Savage’s attack on Santorum happened in 2003. That’s 8 years before he started running for president. Correlating that attack with Santorum’s modest success (he was a very distant second and has little hope of securing the nomination in 2016) seems pretty far fetched. Would you also correlate it with Santorum’s crushing defeat in his 2006 senatorial election where he lost by the greatest margin of any incumbent US senator in nearly 30 years?

  • mikey

    Considering it’s a cornerstone for making a lot of new friends.. i mean come on, which one of you queens did not like Sailor Moon and now Crystal, lol… I would tread lightly seeing as your sweeping up a lot of aspiring LGBT manga and anime artists and current Japanese/Asian ones in the acts of a CEO of a liscencing company.

  • Tyler Kami Richardson

    Wow screw all the hard working artist.cause one asshole. Nooo .i Am not gay but I support gay rights.and love anime.boycott get out of here

  • ClockFink .

    I guess I can see Davis’s point, but 1) it’s not very compelling, 2) not very practical, and 3) doesn’t argue it well.

    On the first, the idea as I grasp it is Funimation is the most ubiquitous distributor of anime (though still less than 24%… in America. So it’s less than a quarter of less than half the market), Gen Fukunaga owns Funimation, and Gen owns another film company which he basically let fall into the hands of Rick Santorum, and Rick Santorum has it out for the LGBT movement. So thus supporting anime is anti-LGBT because you’re fiscally supporting a company run by a guy who is anti-LGBT.

    Well, right off the bat, that’s 5 degrees of separtation at the most reserved of counts… Either Davis doesn’t understand how bussiness works, or I don’t, because “Company makes money, money goes to other company owned by CEO” is not a forgone conclusion as I understand it. Actually, it’s likely to be utterly false, and if there’s any truth to it at all, it’s not exactly a direct ratio, we’re talking small fractions here. Theoretically a person owning multiple companies can take profits from one to invest in another, it doesn’t mean that they will, or will do so in anything outside tiny percents. Typically the idea is a company builds itself… you spend to expand an operation where the potential is seen to exist, thus a company investing in itself is the safer and more common model…

    What Davis is speculating would be the equivalent of dumping money into a pet project when there’s no reason to think it’d make money back in the same quotient… if this blip of a company had the potential to rake in the big bucks with more funding, you’d think it’d be pulling enough profits to be growing on it’s own… I’m guessing company that makes weird Christian direct to DVD movies probably has a comfortable balance of budget to profit it isn’t looking to upset… Flooding the market with more titles or ramping up production values is increasing overhead with no reason to think you’d see a similar return… I’m guessing a bussiness like that is pretty comfortable where it’s at.

    Which I’d point out, it’s probably all dollars and sense. I mean, as pointed out, what are we suggesting? Funimation has a Christian, anti-gay agenda? Jesus, does this person watch Funimation titles? I mean, there was the softcore porn jab, so I’d guess “yeah”, but strange logic gap if so. I’m guessing Gen couldn’t give two shits about the company’s mission statement, it’s likely all about investment and return, not agenda.

    Likewise, Santorum probably just wants to get paid, and I’m not a fan of the man, but hey, people are meant to work for a living even if they don’t financially have to. Also, the fact Santorum’s in charge and it’s a Christian film company doesn’t mean that the products they put out are pushing an anti LGBT agenda.

    So it’s about… what? Nobody is allowed to get anywhere near putting down money that can ever get close to touching the man’s pockets because HE’S not on good terms with the movement/he might donate to some anti-LGBT cause… Uh… Chik-Fil-A or something might be one thing where we have a direct paperwork link, but that’s a lot of speculation. Like I said with the Orson Scott Card backlash, I admit it’s a bit dicey of an issue, but if you can’t support any company supporting people who don’t support things you support… go live in the woods, cause you can’t participate in our economy.

    And if we want to view that as “It’s a question of how direct/much fiscal support we’re talking”, well, I think it’s obvious when it comes to watching Bleach paying Rick Santorum, the directness/quantity is “pretty damn low”. And really, he’s a rich business person with political ties, he’ll get money from somewhere people (you draw a lifetime pension from office, actually, so we ALL pay in a bit towards Rick Santorum if you pay taxes).

    Likewise, I really have to stress I fundamentally disagree with the idea “Watching anime = supporting Funimation”. Like by popularizing the greater genre… maybe? But honestly, we’re a demo notorious for piracy, we don’t “support” much of anything, last I checked the industry actually isn’t very profitable and a lot of companies finish in the red, so even that connection is tenuous at best. If it was “Boycott Funimation”, maybe I’d take that semi-seriously, but seriously, less than a quarter of OUR market, let alone Japan+Global+the USA.

    And really, I mean… go f*ck with Tyson Chicken or Exxon or something… they’re rated as ACTIVELY discrimnatory and funding of openly anti-LGBT movements AND generate personel and practice complaints in other areas.

    I mean, I don’t like saying “I’d boycott anime, but I like too much”, but seriously… if you want to me to give up probably a hobby occupying maybe a solid 1/4 of my free time, you’ll need to be better than “One of many companies is owned by a guy who owns another company which is run by a guy who might hate gay people”, or you’re asking me to swear off something pretty close to my heart for a cause with a high chance of not actually having relevance beyond “imagined relevance”.

    And of course, a major thing I’d point out though… this isn’t really a well written argument. It reads like a middle school writing assignment…. Most if it sounds either dryly copied out of wikipedia style articles or manic hate-speech depending on if we’re discussing facts or opinions. I know I fall into it sometimes too, but rants filled with insults, name-calling, and-wow, did he just reference Dan Savage? I hope that wasn’t meant to be “as a positive” (from the perspective of a lot of the community, Dan ain’t a fan of the “B” or “T” in “LGBT”, and his ideas about the “G” are often pretty questionable too, if you’ve never listened to him). But I digress- that sort of stuff isn’t really conducive to a rational plea for moral action. You don’t hear Ghandi, or Lincoln, or MLK talk like that, you associate that sort of thing with Nazi’s talking about the Jews or (since I hate Argument Ad Nazi) the Salem Witch Trials or Spanish Inquisition or other crusades that cried “Righteousness” but were more about “Eff those guys we don’t like”. Now I’m not going to make a hard statement extrapolating intent from that, but Davis should probably contemplate that it isn’t very conducive to being taken seriously…

    I mean this argument is pretty shoddy in a lot of regards, so I don’t think it has enough underlying merit to polish to make it compelling… but if anybody is serious in motivating this sort of thing, well… the pitch needs to be WAY better than this was.

  • Wayne Ellsworth

    @The Union Forever This is utter bullshit. Some of the most prominent anime in history came LONG before DBZ or Funimation…Notable Speed Racer which was released in the USA in the late 60’s by Trans-Lux and Vampire Hunter D which first released in the usa in 1985 by CBS Sony Group Inc….Oh and lets not forget Voltron from the 80’s (84 I think, though i cant remember the studio to release it) and countless others. And granted its a nintendo thing, but 80% of video games from SNES and earlier are BASED ON ANIME WORK!!! Chrono Trigger for example (Fuck you i know its from 1995 as far as the USA release) had almost ALL of it’s art done by Akira Toriyama (The Dragon Ball series Creator) and lets not forget countless other games that are PRE-funimation. Also, Let’s set the record straight, just because they hired someone who is anti gay, does not mean that the company uses its money to fund hate groups or anything similar, nor does it mean that the company hates gays. In fact, I’ll bet there is more than one employee with The Union Forever who hates homosexual people. Does that mean your company funds hate groups or that the company itself hates homosexuals? Piss off with your sponsored troll posts.

  • Cobra_x30

    Gay marriage is a done deal. This article is stupid to the point of absurdity. I will continue to give my money to Funimation every month… and I will give my money to Echolight too if they make something worth watching.

    Gay people can go enjoy their marriages and not be butt hurt by this. It’s over. Get a life!