Funimation’s CEO Gen Fukunaga believes that releasing Neon Genesis Evangelion on Netflix will be a huge mistake. Fukunaga, a 20-year veteran of the industry, expressed fears that Netflix’s oversaturation of titles and content will lead to the death of the once iconic anime brand. He doesn’t want to see such an important piece of anime history lost in the unending shuffle of content - something he claims would never happen if the groundbreaking mecha had come to Funimation.
Netflix has been working overtime to gain an edge in anime streaming. With a host of original series like Violet Evergarden and the upcoming fighting anime Baki, the service has been actively going after Funimation’s market share. Armed with comically over-sized bags of cash, the company has been able to secure the rights to create a live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop and only recently announced plans to resurrect Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Speaking with Polygon, Fukunaga expressed his worries about the future of Evangelion saying, “Honestly, Netflix is willing to significantly overpay for something like [Evangelion] and outbid anybody by multiples, no matter what their ROI is. I’m 100-percent sure that [Funimation would] have done a much better job brand-managing it and turning it back into what it was.” Fukunaga points toward the potential fate of My Hero Academia, possibly the most popular anime of 2018, had Funimation not acquired the streaming rights to the series. “It would have just dropped on the platform with any number of titles and probably would have died as a brand.”
If Neon Genesis Evangelion were to release in such a fashion, only to be swallowed up by the perpetual content machine, it would be a genuine loss. The series represents a watershed moment for the entire medium, heralding the mainstreaming of deconstructionist storytelling. Evangalion stands as a pivotal work long rendered inaccessible via legal distribution channels due to licensing clashes between the production studio and distributors. Fukunaga's comments might seem like corporations taking potshots at one another, but Fukunaga might have a point. Netflix has a tendency, especially with anime, to drop series onto the platform with little fanfare. There are literally dozens of anime series exclusively produced by Netflix and many more for which the company has acquired the streaming distribution rights. If you aren’t actively looking for them, they can be easy to miss.
For many, the Netflix release of Evangelion and its associated films represents the first time they will be able to watch the series in its entirety without having to hope for VHS dubs or stumbling across the rare DVD release at a garage sale. Even without a highly hyped launch, making the anime available to subscribers will be miles better than allowing the property to stagnate.
It also remains to be seen what, exactly, Netflix has in store for Neon Genesis Evangelion. We know that the series will begin streaming in Spring of 2019 along with the films Evangelion: Death True² and The End of Evangelion. However, there have been rumblings of a possible English re-dub. If that’s the case, that opens the door for a lot of exciting possibilities. Will the next Netflix Original anime series be a full resurrection of the classic anime?