“It’s like somebody taped an episode of The Big Bang Theory over a copy of Donnie Darko.” Originally from Anime Vice, that’s a real line that Funimation put on the Steins;Gate DVDs/blu-rays when they were released. Since then, the line has been relentlessly mocked by Steins;Gate fans, and in a way it’s become symbolic of the rocky relationship between Steins;Gate and Funimation. I’m telling you this because yet again, Funimation is having Steins;Gate-related issues.
To be more specific, they’re having issues with Steins;GateCrash–North America’s would-be “biggest Steins;Gate festival ever” at Anime Expo next month. I say would-be because, of course, with only a month left until the event, both fans and Funimation seem fuzzy on the details. Basically, a lack of clear communication on Funimation’s part has effectively screwed some fans out of being at the event–some of whom had already purchased their tickets.
Here’s what’s happened up until this point:
May 10, 2019: A Twitter account with about 4.3k followers, @WTK, tweets that “Steins;Gate 0 Part 1 LE + Part 2 + Anime Expo Concert/Event VIP Priority Ticket + Autograph” and “Steins;Gate Crash Anime Expo Concert/Event Priority Ticket” are available for preorder on Funimation’s website. Funimation says nothing about this. The bundle with the VIP tickets was quickly listed as “Sold Out” but standalone tickets (Priority level, not Priority + VIP) for Steins;GateCrash were sold during this time. We have no idea how many of the VIP bundles were sold before they were listed as “Sold Out.” To reiterate, this happened without a word from Funimation and before the event was announced.
May 16: Funimation makes the first official announcement of Steins;GateCrash via a tweet. It reads, “Get ready for North America’s biggest Steins;Gate festival ever, coming to @AnimeExpo this July! Celebrate Steins;Gate 0 at this special event plus concert, complete with special guests! ? Find out more: https://funi.to/30pljj6 ”
Following the link would lead you to a blog entry that effectively acts as a press release (dated May 17) with further information. For now, all you need to know is that this post mentions “a live concert by special guest Japanese artist Kanako Ito”, “Priority entry to the event is $30, but fans who purchase a Steins;Gate 0 Blu-ray release get in for just $8 on top of their Blu-ray purchase, AND get an additional special autograph session with Kanako Ito herself (by purchasing a special Steins;Gate 0 Part 1 Limited Edition + Part 2 + ticket bundle). Following the concert portion and Q&A, the rest of the party is free for attendees with an AX badge.”, and “The event’s lounge area will include a cash bar with Steins;Gate 0 themed drinks, photo ops, and more.”
Let’s talk about the tickets: two ticket levels were listed as available for purchase: Priority ($30) and Priority + VIP ($120). Both levels offered you priority entry into the concert and a merchandise pack, the VIP would also include limited edition blu-rays of both parts of Steins;Gate 0 and an autograph session with Kanako Ito. The wording here is a bit confusing, as it’s not made clear whether or not they meant for buyers to outright buy the VIP package which would come with the blu-rays and autograph session pass, or if you were supposed to buy the blu-ray pack and then you’d be granted the rest of the VIP package for an additional $8 (presumably to cover “shipping” costs–”shipping” is in quotation marks because if the VIP tickets were going to be given the same way the Priority tickets have been, they’re just emailing codes).
With only one known exception, nobody was able to purchase a VIP ticket without being met with an error screen (and even then, the exception still didn’t receive their VIP ticket). Fans attempting to contact Funimation about the matter are met with either silence or no relevant information.
May 23: Funimation makes a tweet saying that for people hoping to get a VIP ticket, “the ticketing for the tier has been fixed.” Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. Attempting to buy a VIP ticket would result in getting told that you were using a broken link.
June 5: After neglecting to say anything about the event for almost two weeks, Funimation finally confirms two things: tickets for the event are completely sold out, and that the event is 21+ only due to the rules of the venue (Lounge 21). No where in the purchasing process did it mention this—it was only (passively) mentioned once in the press release (“The event’s lounge area will include a cash bar with Steins;Gate 0 themed drinks, photo ops, and more”). In other words, there are underage fans who had already purchased their tickets. It’s currently unclear what will happen to them and their tickets.
Speaking of the Lounge 21, some fans took notice that neither Funimation nor Kanako Ito are listed on its current Anime Expo schedule (though everything else seems to be–it’s pictured below. Note that Steins;GateCrash is supposed to be happening on July 6). No official commentary on this has been made yet.
EDIT: 6/7/19: Typo in the day of the event
So in summary:
Right now, it looks like the only people who have any chance of getting one of these mythical VIP tickets are the people who bought the Steins;Gate 0 bundle where they were included—you know, the bundle that sold out before the actual event was announced; the bundle that Funimation never posted about. They seemed to sell out very quickly despite the lack of an official post, yet nobody seems to have spoken up about them yet. This makes me inclined to believe that either they were always listed as “Sold Out” or Funimation had extremely few to sell. So then why did Funimation even mention that VIP tickets were an option if they’d already sold out before the event announcement? It just doesn’t add up, and to me looks like a strong sign of there being a few major internal miscommunications at Funimation behind this.
After almost three weeks of basically ghosting concerned fans, Funimation said that all the tickets were sold out and left it at that—but not before also confirming that the event was 21+ only, something that was never mentioned or verified when tickets were being sold (it was only vaguely mentioned in the press release). Whether or not anything will be done about underage fans who already bought tickets is not yet known.
And finally, speaking of the unknown, neither Funimation nor Kanako Ito are currently on Anime Expo’s lineup for the event venue, Lounge21. Whether or not this was intentional or an oversight is not yet known.
The bottom line is that Funimation has been running this event exceptionally poorly. Both in and outside of Funimation, there’s been remarkably little communication about this event. Even during the rare times Funimation would communicate about it, it’s been unclear at best and misleading—downright false—at worst. There are fans unable to attend this event because they were holding out for the issues surrounding the VIP tickets to get fixed—issues that it’s possible even Funimation wasn’t fully aware of. There are also fans unable to attend because Funimation didn’t make it clear until after tickets were sold out that this event is 21+ only. If this sounds frustrating and unprofessional, it’s because it is.
There’s still about a month before the event, so lucky for them, Funimation does still have time to put things back in order (or at least offer an apology), and for the sake of the fans and attendees I certainly hope they do. Regardless, hopeful party goers should be keeping a close eye on their email and Funimation’s Twitter account in the coming days. Although I can’t say whether it will be good news or bad news, the clock is ticking and Funimation will have to provide news about what’s going on with Steins;GateCrash at some point or another.