While I was at a panel at AnimeNEXT last Saturday, I received a series of press release emails from FUNimation on the latest license acquisitions they had just announced at a convention in Texas. Among them was the currently on-air anime series We Without Wings.
“Why?” I ask myself out loud after reading that.
“Huh?” asks my girlfriend sitting next to me. I show her the email on my iPhone. “Oh…. why would they license that?”
I look over the email a little more trying to figure it out. I pressed the reply button to send an email back to Jackie Smith, FUNi’s PR manager and my contact within the company.
I almost sent the email as just that, but I realized that she probably wouldn’t be able to give me a response to such a rude and condescending question. So I deleted the message and left it at that, but the question has still continued to ponder in my head ever since.
The reason for my bafflement is not just because I don’t like the series. FUNimation has licensed a ton of shows that I don’t particularly find all that enjoyable. But in those situations, I can usually find some logical reason why the series would appeal to an otaku audience different from myself. However, I just can’t find that logic with We Without Wings, especially while the series is still on air.
The oddness starts from the show itself. We Without Wings features a massive cast of characters and begins with multiple, seemingly unconnected story lines. It is a style reminiscent of Durarara and its spiritual predecessor Baccano. The idea is that while the series may start off confusing and incomprehensible, it will gradually make sense to the viewer as the many characters begin to cross paths with each other and their stories begin to come together.
So I watched the first episode of We Without Wings and quickly noticed that it shared the same structure as Durarara or Baccano. But unlike Durarara or Baccano, I did not enjoy it. The jokes fell flat, the characters were unoriginal, the individual stories were not interesting by themselves, and all of the fan service was heavily censored in order to sell DVDs.
But I still thought that somehow this would all pay off once the stories started coming together. So I kept watching it on Crunchyroll week after week, just hoping that things will start to click in the next episode. But that click never happened, and when the stories started to come together, it became obvious that this series was not going to get any better as a result of it. So I gave up and dropped the series about 8 or 9 episodes in.
And then a week later, FUNimation announces that they were bringing it to America. And it is not just a streaming video deal, they’re committing to a full Blu-ray and DVD release of the series.
Where’s the demand? What’s the market?
The timing of this acquisition is particularly strange. The series is not finished yet, there are still a few episodes left. Even with a lame beginning, if the series ends up with an amazing conclusion, then maybe it would find a dedicated audience looking to own the entire set on DVD. But that hasn’t happened yet. There isn’t that demand.
Are they planning to sell it on fan service alone? Well, even though we don’t know what the show is like uncensored, I don’t believe that it particularly focuses on fan service. The point of the series is the Durarara narrative, and it just occasionally throws in a bit of T&A in a blatant unsubtle way. There are plenty of fan service series out there that will appeal to that audience far better than this.
When it comes down to it, We Without Wings is just a crappy visual novel adaptation pretending to be smarter than it really is. We’ve seen enough of it to know that it is not the next Durarara, and history has proven that visual novel adaptations just do not sell well in America.
So why did FUNimation decide to license and release it here?
I just don’t know, peeps. I just don’t know.