Sentai Filmworks, one of North America’s premier anime distributors, is set to expand, after receiving an investment of $30 million. The cash injection comes from Cool Japan Fund, a public-private initiative set up to promote Japanese culture overseas.

The fund has put the money toward shares in Sentai Holdings, LLC, the parent company of Sentai Filmworks and its subsidiaries. The group licenses anime titles for theatrical distribution and home release, subscription-based streaming (HIDIVE), cable tv SVOD (Anime Network), merchandising, and more. It is also home to Sentai Studios, which oversees localization, subtitling, and dubbing. Sentai sub-licenses films and series to other companies outside North America.

The Houston, Texas-based firm has picked up more than 700 titles since its founding in 2008. Its catalogue includes plenty of classics and commercial hits, including Ninja Scroll, Made in Abyss, Food Wars!, Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies, and K-On! (pictured above) by Kyoto Animation, the studio that was devastated by a recent arson attack. In the wake of the incident, Sentai set up a Gofundme fundraiser for the company, which raised $2.37 million before closing this week.

“We are extremely proud of the work we’ve done at Sentai to bring great anime storytelling, experiences, characters, and collectibles to fans around the world for more than a decade,” said John Ledford, CEO of Sentai Filmworks. “The investment by Cool Japan Fund allows us to further our potential by expanding and deepening our long-running support of the Japanese anime industry.”

Cool Japan Fund was set up in 2013 in order to capitalize on the country’s considerable soft power. It has already supported ventures selling Japanese food and clothing abroad. The rationale behind its investment in Sentai was set out in a press statement:

Given the anime industry’s limited opportunities for domestic expansion, the current growth in the overseas content streaming market has become of increased importance. Through this investment, the Cool Japan Fund aims to provide support at the copyright level. In turn, this effort will increase the overall presence of Japanese anime in the North American market and help expand the scope of associated/exported merchandising. This will be done by Cool Japan Fund’s two-pronged approach to not only sell streaming platform rights via niche-market copyright acquisition, but also to bolster the marketplace by fostering relationships with and making important investments in overseas partners.

In recent years, the fund, which mostly comes from Japanese taxpayers’ pockets, has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement. According to Nikkei Asian Review, the majority of its projects have failed to meet earnings or other targets.

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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