Monday, January 2, 2012

Merry Effing New Year

From Anime News Network comes this cheerful bit of news:

Bandai Entertainment, the subsidiary of Namco Bandai Holdings (USA) that handles anime and manga in North America, will stop offering new DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and manga releases next month. It will continue to distribute in its existing catalog lineup, but it will no longer produce and distribute new releases as of this February. Instead, Bandai Entertainment will focus on licensing rights to other companies, particularly in digital distribution, broadcast, and merchandising. The company will be restructured as a result, and most of its contractors and three of its five fulltime staff members will be laid off.

When I learned about this, my heart sunk. My sympathies go out to the people who lost their jobs. I am and have been a big Bandai fan. They had a real knack for acquiring a lot of series I'm interested in. A part of that has to do with their marketing and getting their shows on TV where I was exposed to them. Other fans have criticized them for their issues, sometimes deservedly so, but I always liked Bandai more than the other R1 anime studios.

I never pieced them together, but there were so many warning signs. Of course Bandai shutting down its webstore was a big one, but it hadn't been open very long to begin with so I didn't think much of it. Their final batch of releases in February contains a lot of long overdue re-releases like the second Code Geass and two season sets of Gundam 00. I actually perceived it as Bandai trying to get better at re-issuing older material. I didn't realize it was a last gasp. They're even putting out Akira on DVD, on account of the Geneon version no longer being available. I figured that would be a nice steady money maker for the company, especially with the live action movie on the horizon. The Gundam Unicorn Blu-rays were going out of print but I chalked that up to some Bandai Visual weirdness. And I thought it was crazy that Funimation is releasing the new .hack// series but now it makes complete sense, as well as becoming a reassuring sign that former Bandai franchises will continue under different companies.

This situation is not like with Geneon where hundreds of titles went out of print overnight. Their current library will still be available, and they say they'll even produce new stock until the licenses expire. But those licenses won't last forever. There have been other companies that got by releasing little to no new product. Heck Manga Entertainment hardly releases anything new. Viz gets by these days on just three long-running series. Of course those companies are a part of a larger entity that supports them. Technically so is Bandai, but this move already shows Namco-Bandai is only willing to go so far for Bandai Entertainment.

Another aspect that bums me out is that their release of Turn A Gundam is canceled. Bandai announced the license at Comic-Con 2010 and last we heard it was supposed to come out last fall. We might have had the entire show already had they stuck to that plan. I've been looking forward to a R1 release of Turn A Gundam since I became an anime fan and it was the anime I was most looking forward to in 2012. Maybe it will come out under a different company. Non-Bandai distributed Gundam? What a bizarre prospect.

I hope these other companies take a look at some older Bandai titles as well. I've been dying for an Overman King Gainer re-release. That show has been completely unavailable since before I even learned of its awesome existence.

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