Three former executives from FUNimation including Barry Watson, who presided over the production of the English language versions of DBZ, Full Metal Alchemist, and Yu Yu Hakusho, have founded the privately-held Fort Worth, Texas-based Illumitoon Entertainment Ltd.  Illumitoon's first DVD release, scheduled for January 2007, will be Beet the Vandel Buster (Japanese Title: Bouken Oh Beet), a 78-episode series produced by Toei Animation and based on a popular Shonen Jump manga by Riku Sanjo (story) and Koji Inada (art).


The Beet the Vandel Buster anime series first aired on Japanese TV in September of 2004 and ran for 52 episodes.  A second TV anime series, Beet the Vandel Buster: Excellion debuted in October of 2005 and is obviously included in the licensing deal announced by Illumitoon.  The action-packed story in the Beet anime takes place during the 'Century of Darkness' during which 'Vandels' (a combination of 'vampire' and 'devil') arrived and began to prey on humans.  Beet is nearly killed attempting to become a Vandel Buster, but the Zenon Warriors infuse their spirits into him, and after a period of training he is ready, willing and able to take on the powerful Vandels.


Viz Media has published nine volumes in the Beet the Vandel Buster manga series and has scheduled volume 10 for a November release.  In Japan the manga series, which debuted in 2004, has reached eleven volumes and is on-going. 


In its mission statement Illumitoon promises to 'incorporate the constraints of the U.S. marketplace in the planning and acquisition phase, thereby greatly increasing the placement possibilities and overall likelihood of success,' indicating clearly that the new company is looking for success in the mass-market and will likely eschew edgy material in favor of properties that won't require lots of cutting or adapting to air on U.S. television.  If Illumitoon can achieve its goal and get Beet the Vandel Buster on a prime broadcast or cable outlet, the property has a chance to make a major impression.  In addition to the manga from Viz, Bandai produced a plethora of Beet the Vandel Buster merchandise in Japan, and like Bandai's DBZ merchandise, these goods might well find their way here if the series takes off.


Illumitoon, which shares a 43,000 square foot, state-of-the-art production facility in downtown Fort Worth with CRM Productions, can boast of plenty of experience in working with the mass-market hit Dragon Ball Z at FUNimation, thanks to the combined savvy of its founding trio -- Illumitoon's CEO Barry Watson was V.P. of Production and of New Business at FUNimation, while COO Stephanie Giotes was FUNimation's General Counsel, and Executive V.P. Richard Ray was FUNimation's Home Video Director of Sales.