Interview: Brian Ige [VP of Animation, VIZ Media]

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by Joe Locastro | contributor

Neon Alley LogoVideo game consoles are expanding their services constantly, covering more and more of the media delivery market. Numerous video and music streaming services and social media apps are already on the home console platforms, and VIZ Media has just thrown their hat into the ring with Neon Alley on the Playstation 3.

A downloadable app (the app itself is free from the Playstation Store), Neon Alley is a constant stream of the newest, most popular dubbed anime and live action Asian cinema content. With a set schedule and showtimes, it’s a lot like a cable network specializing in otaku interests.

We got a chance to ask Brian Ige, the Vice President of Animation at Viz, a few questions about Neon Alley.

Inside AX: What inspired Neon Alley’s name and design? What about “The Raven” logo?

Brian Ige: We wanted a name that would really describe the fun and excitement of anime, while also providing a hint of dark and mysterious, and Neon Alley fit the bill. We also really liked the idea of having a guide to the unknown, and in mythology, the raven has been a popular icon symbolizing just that!

IAX: What drives the content on Neon Alley — fan demand, cost, something else?

BI: Our goal for Neon Alley is to acquire the best uncut & dubbed content available, not just from our own anime library, but from other content partners as well!

Right now, we’re featuring exclusive premieres of TIGER & BUNNY, BLUE EXORCIST, INUYASHA: THE FINAL ACT and NURA: RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN alongside other anime favorites ONE PIECE, NARUTO SHIPPUDEN and more. We’ll be debuting the first BERSERK movie soon, and we’ve been airing martial arts features from Taiseng as well!

[Editor’s note: This interview took place before the Berserk premiere last Sunday. This Sunday, Neon Alley will be premiering Naruto Shippuden The Movie: The Will of Fire!]

We’re always listening to feedback from our fans on what they want to see aired. By focusing on the PS3, we’re also able to get feedback [about] what fans are watching. Between the two, we can adjust our programming to make sure it’s aligned with what everyone is interested in!

IAX: For the “Berserk” fan in me, in honor of the English dub of the movie being showcased on Neon Alley: What is your opinion of the new Berserk movies?  What makes Berserk special?

BI: The BERSERK movies are a fresh retelling of the manga fans have come to know & love! New viewers will immediately be drawn into the dark medieval story, and current fans will be captivated by all the little details that gets inserted into the movies!

The animation is also spectacular, with a seamless melding of the latest traditional and CGI techniques. The Studio 4ºC team really invested a lot of time & study into making sure all the action sequences and background details are portrayed accurately, and as a result, you really feel immersed and part of the movie.

IAX: Was there a reason Sony and the Playstation marketplace were ideal first partners for the Neon Alley application?

BI: PlayStation has been a great partner for us since we entered the Download-to-Own business, and they’ve been excited and supportive of Neon Alley!

IAX: Will you eventually offer video on demand, or adding any other major features to Neon Alley?

BI: We’re in the process of exploring adding other features, and potential on-demand options! Stay tuned for more news!

IAX: Is there a reason you focus on English dubbed versus subtitled anime?

BI: There’s already a number of outlets for fans to watch subtitled anime on-demand – our own free, for example – but unfortunately not as many opportunities for dubbed content. Opportunities to highlight dubbed anime have been also been shrinking on broadcast TV and cable outlets.

We’ve also found that there are different audiences for dubbed vs subtitled content. Dubbed content tends to draw a wider audience, and can be enjoyed by both core anime fans as well as casual fans.

IAX: Apart from anime, what other content does Neon Alley offer?

BI: Aside from our anime & animation partners FUNimation, Aniplex and NTV, we’ve also partnered with Taiseng, and will be airing martial arts and anime-inspired feature films from their vast catalog. Anime News Network is also providing news tidbits from around the world on our interstitials.

IAX: What shows are currently offered in HD?

BI: Of the TV series currently on Neon Alley, TIGER & BUNNY, INUYASHA: THE FINAL ACT, NURA: RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN, and BLUE EXORCIST are available in HD. Some of our anime feature films will also be available in HD, including the BERSERK trilogy and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN movies.

IAX: What would you say is the number one obstacle in establishing a new outlet for anime in America?

BI: Getting the word out to anime and casual fans of the genre has been the most difficult challenge for Neon Alley, since it is a new “brand” and such a unique service.

IAX: What effect do you hope Neon Alley will have on the anime industry?

BI: Neon Alley aims to be the 24/7 channel you turn on whenever you want to watch your favorite series, explore cutting-edge new series, and discover other content targeted towards anime fans!


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