Friday, January 13, 2012

And For More Sad News

The American anime industry seems to be getting itself in more trouble.  Since the last post, things just seem to snowball more and more.
New Strategy or on its way out?
First, Media Blasters is laying off 60% of their staff, and according to the latest ANNCast that 100% of their production team has been let go, meaning either that they aren't planning on staying around for too much longer, or that they are planning to outsource the production to another team which, unless there is some kind of digital strategy involved, or any strategy actually, will end up like Bandai.  I'm sorry for being such a downer, but this is reality, and you don't come to this blog to sugarcoat news.
This is five minutes of PAINT.NET.  Totally worth it.
Second, just when things couldn't get worse, two of the bigger North American distributors are coming after each other.  Funimation is suing Sentai/Section23/other random companies that used to be ADV.  According to Funimation, Neo-ADV as I like to call them, owe them around 8 million dollars back before the discombobulation of ADV.  It's a complicated legal matter, but I feel I should chime in my two cents. 

In my opinion, Neo-ADV dodged the law by exploiting a loophole, basically dodging creditors by breaking up into smaller companies.  Seriously, they are fooling no one (Section 23 is the actual law they exploited to get out of their mess).  While this has allowed them to stay in the American market and license some nice anime series, I think that some kind of justice deserves to be brought to them.  Now, I am not siding with Funimation nor am I against Neo-ADV, but I think that the companies that got the short end of the deal, Japanese anime companies, distributors, and the like, should get some sense of justice from this oversight. 

However, it doesn't matter whose side you are on.  In the end, this is not good for anyone, especially the fans.  Imagine if Funimation wins this (I give them better odds between the two).  This could be the final nail in the coffin that is Neo-ADV, or plain old ADV.  Then that will leave restructured Media Blasters, Funimation, and Viz, as well as higher end distributors NIS, Aniplex, and assorted others.  If it comes down to Viz vs Funimation, then again this means less titles to be released, more chances to the anime industry in America becoming a monopoly, and in the end, us getting fewer titles legally and Japan passing on opportunities of giving their titles a chance over here.

Perhaps Neo-ADV can split up again as another company...

In the end, this news isn't good for anyone.  Not for the people losing jobs, not for their families, not for the fans.  2012 has been one bad year thus far.  Let's hope for a better rest of the year.

Monday, January 2, 2012

FATALITY: Bandai Entertainment Gets Knocked Out

This really is sad news, but according to Anime News Network Bandai Entertainment plans on stopping distribution of DVDs, Blu-Rays, and Manga, plus it does not plan to grab any more licenses.  I feel mixed on this news.
More like, Ban-died.  Get it?
First, the jerk reaction.  THIS IS COSMIC JUSTICE FOR THE SCREW UP OF HAYATE THE COMBAT BUTLER!  I'm sorry, but the fact is that Bandai just never got the hang of doing non-single disc volume releases and right now is not a good time for a company to do that.  I am a budget anime collector and it just seems impractical for me to purchase a single disc for the same amount I could get a partial or whole series.  Then again, this could be applied to any R1 anime company that isn't Funimation or Section 23.  So the question is what is the difference between Bandai and say....Viz...or Media Blasters?

I really don't have an answer for that.  I am looking at the price of Bleach DVDs and they seem to be $50 for 10 episodes.  Squid Girl is 6 episodes for $25.  Madoka Magica is $40 for 4 episodes. *grumble* Hayate the Combat Butler is $40 for 7 episodes.  So pricing, while it is a gripe, probably isn't the problem.

Releases weren't too bad.  Par for the course, really.  Roughly released volumes every other month, just like everyone else.  True, sometimes titles may have been delayed, but we've all been there.  Media Blasters actually has a worse track record than Bandai, in my opinion.

The only real difference I can see is dubbing, but heaven forbid that I should even insinuate that this attributed to Bandai's problems. (hint hint: I think it didn't help things)
And yes, still so, so bitter about this.
So, what else could it be?  Perhaps the series they licensed just weren't popular enough.  Let's see: Haruhi, Lucky Star, tons of Gundam, K-ON, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Code Geass...I could go on and on.  So the hits are there.  Sure, there are some flops, but overall not a bad lineup.  People screamed for K-On, people praised Haruhi, people lusted for Gundam....actually, that sounds really really wrong. 

Honestly, you can't really pinpoint one exact problem that caused this to happen.  However, here is a short list, perhaps I can elaborate on it later, on what I think caused this:

1) Started subbing more series
2) Delayed series box sets way longer than they should
3) Pricing model was pretty bad
4) Virtually no digital presence (iTunes, Amazon, hulu, proprietary video site)
5) Slacking off on advertising
6) Japanese parent company can make Bandai seem redundant.
7) Few television deals
8) And I can't stress this enough.  PIRACY.

So one big problem was presence.  The more presence you have with an audience, the more they remember you.  Look at Funimation.  How many times have you seen banners for their series on any given website compared to Bandai?  A lot more.  More advertisements, more presence, give customers more reasons to not illegally watch series.  Funimation several times puts out an episode or two of a series online, for free, to show people a series.  This has caused me to buy series like Eden of the East and Baccano.  If you don't offer some form of streaming in this day and age, you are really shooting yourself in the foot.

Also, anyone who even casually pays attention to the American anime industry should have seen this coming long ago.  When Bandai started to push more subbed-only releases out the door, when Bang-Zoom employees started to work more with Funimation, when the Bandai online store closed its doors, when they screwed up Hayate, when fewer series was being licensed, when the Lucky Star OVA was subbed, when they decided to license Boo Boo Kaga Boo manga series...this wad inevitable.  Bandai was showing distress signs for years and now it has come to a head.

Now putting the analyst away in me, I will offer this.  This sucks.  There are no two ways about it.  Even though Bandai was my favorite punching bag, I have to admit that I am saddened by one less licensor out there.  Now it will be up to the other companies if we ever want to see more Gundam, or K-ON, (or Hayate to get a box set, HINT HINT).  Also, this is going to affect a lot of people and jobs.  I'm not just talking the people that work at Bandai Entertainment, but also for the companies that helped with distribution.  Bang Zoom was a major Bandai supporter so losing that anime chunk will mean less work for voice actors and producers.  Also, Bandai was involved with some manga series which...well, I personally won't miss, but I know others will.  Now we won't get the gag series of Lucky Star's Kagami turning into a chibi pig sort of a relief (seriously, aside from die-hard fans, who would buy that? I'm a pretty big Lucky Star fan and even I think that premise is too ridiculous to check out.)  Also Gosick which I looked at a few days ago and really wanted to see.  Now my only hope is someone rescuing it.

In the end, I will miss Bandai, and this sucks for people in the American anime industry and fans alike.  I also have to switch from picking on Bandai to picking on Media Blasters because...well, they aren't much better and if I were to put money on another American distributor biting the dust, it would be them, not that I wish that at all.

While you are just fading away and not outright leaving the industry, I still feel like I can end this post with a cliche trope:

R.I.P. Bandai