Akemi's Anime World

Geneon Entertainment Anime Company

A bit of info about Geneon Entertainment.

Company Overview

Pioneer--the Japanese electronics conglomerate--spun off an entertainment division, Pioneer LDC, in 1981. Pioneer LDC, among other media areas, was an animation producer. They also had a US branch, Pioneer Entertainment USA, which, starting in 1993, released their (and eventually other companies') anime in the US market. The entertainment division was eventually sold to Dentsu in 2003, at which point it was rebranded Geneon (pronounced Jen-eon, as in "generate eon"), though little else about either the Japanese parent or US distributor changed--they remained a large, successful anime distributor with a nearly unblemished quality record.

It was a sad surprise when Geneon USA closed down abruptly at the end of 2007 after a weird series of events; Geneon USA first announced that they'd signed a deal to have ADV distribute anime that Geneon would license and translate, then shortly after announced that it had fallen through and that the US distribution branch was shutting down completely.

Somewhat afterward, Funimation took over distribution of a number of Geneon titles (others were bought up by other US distributors), and the boxes still bear the company's logo. The Japanese parent company did not shut down, though it did merge with Universal Pictures Japan in 2009. The newly renamed Geneon Universal Entertainment Japan continues to produce anime, among various other entertainment ventures.

Pioneer/Geneon, though the company only exists as a sort of ghost now, was a central fixture in the US anime market for a decade and a half, and will be remembered for its top-quality and fan-targeted releases. Old-time anime fans like me also had a hard time with the name change, having come to know Pioneer as a mark of quality (and it didn't help that Geneon looks a lot like Genom, the evil megacorp of Bubblegum Crisis fame).

Their Catalog

Geneon's huge catalog included a wide variety of TV and OAV material (plus a few movies) with a little of everything, though there was a tendency toward fan-centric shows. Some, though by no means all, of the shows were created by Pioneer's Japanese animation division and AIC, a studio they often worked with. To name just a few big-name titles, there was the original Tenchi Muyo OAVs, movies, and first two TV series (many of which were also produced by Pioneer LDC originally), the lengthy Lupin III TV series, the seminal AKIRA (which they picked up after Streamline folded), and Trigun.

When the company shut down, some licences were bought by ADV/Section23, a few of their best comedies (Daphne in the Brilliant Blue and Dokkoida?!, in particular) were picked up by Sentai Filmworks, and Funimation took over distribution of many others, so much of their catalog really never went out of print in effect.

The remaining Geneon-branded, Funimation-distributed titles in production cover a cross-section of relatively otaku-centric TV shows, mostly in the schoolkid comedy/drama/action vein.

What Their Releases Are Like

Pioneer USA, true to their home electronics parent company's heritage, produced quality anime releases from the very beginning. This perhaps isn't surprising given that Pioneer was among the creators of the LaserDisc format, but even in the heyday of VHS the company focused more on LaserDisc releases (bilingual or subtitled only, even in the era of dubs) than tapes--in some cases LD sets were price-competitive with the VHS version. Their dubs weren't always of the best quality, but were at least among the better ones of the era.

Pioneer was also, unsurprisingly, one of the first on the DVD scene, with their Armitage III: Poly Matrix DVD narrowly losing to USM's Battle Arena Toshinden for the title of first US-release anime DVD. It was also one of the only English-only releases the company ever put out (it's not fair to call it a dub, since the film's audio only existed as an English track, and the disc in fact had bilingual menus and a Japanese subtitle track, to make the point--one of the few titles to do such until Honneamise's international Blu-ray releases). Pioneer also handled the DVD production for VIZ, before the company eventually started doing its own DVDs.

As an aside, Pioneer did something unique with their earliest DVD releases: The discs came in a CD-style jewelcase that slid into the bottom of a DVD-case-sized cardboard cover. This in theory allowed the DVD to sit on the shelf with other titles and not stand out, but if you preferred more efficient use of shelf space you could toss the cardboard cover and just stick with the CD jewlcase. It obviously didn't take off, and all but those first few DVDs were in more traditional cases--excepting some very attractive, uniquely-packaged box sets through the years.

About the only complaint one could have with their releases was that they were on the expensive side--4 or 8-disc TV series were the norm, with box sets not coming until quite a bit later, if they ever happened at all. The name change to Geneon didn't have any effect on the quality of their DVDs, and the company was also relatively quick to experiment with online distribution. Sadly they had closed shop before Blu-ray hit the scene, or one expects they'd have been an early and vigorous adopter. Of course, you can find the Geneon logo on some Funimation DVDs, so in a way they're still around.

Note, also, that a lot of the re-releases by other companies of old Geneon titles are pretty much the same as the Geneon original, so their handiwork is commonplace.


Pioneer Animation Titles

Pioneer was the original name of Geneon, before the animation division was sold to Dentsu.

Other Releases

The company was also involved in some way with releasing these anime, though they're not the primary company.