Monday, April 30, 2012

Comic Con 2012 Exclusive News

BotCon was held in Dallas this weekend. At the convention Hasbro announced some cool stuff, like a new Masterpiece Optimus Prime with a trailer, which helps take a bit of the burn off Wheeljack winning the Hall of Fame fan's poll. (Seriously, I would have bet money on anyone but Wheeljack. And yes I know I shouldn't be so invested in such a meaningless poll.)

Hasbro also announced the Transformers Comic-Con exclusives. They're releasing Bruticus from the upcoming Fall of Cybertron video game. Later this year the individual Combaticons that make up the components of Bruticus will be available single carded in decoes that more closely resemble their classic counterparts. If you want them in the decoes based on the game, then you'll have to get the Comic-Con exclusives. The other exclusive is Terrorcon Cliffjumper from Transformers Prime. The zombified version of Cliffjumper was part of the "first edition" Transformers Prime figures that didn't get an acceptable level of distribution. Now he's coming to Comic-Con in a package shaped like his own head.

Mattel also announced a bunch of Comic-Con exclusives. Their Masters of the Universe exclusive is Vykron who ties into the series' thirtieth anniversary. It's based on the three prototype sculpts originally developed to decide the direction of the line. Vkyron comes with interchangeable pieces to dress him up in barbarian, space, and military garb. You can learn more about him here.

The DC exclusives are pretty varied. There's an eight inch statue of Neil Gaiman's Death, which has caused some consternation amongst people who are only into articulated figures. I have had some experience with Death's fanbase which is both numerous and sort of exists outside of the typical superhero fandom. I totally understand why Mattel would want to target this audience a few of which are probably already going to be at their booth buying the Monster High exclusive.

The other DC exclusives are Polly Pocket dolls as Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. This is the third Polly Pocket exclusive set in a row, but unlike the others these look a little pre-posed. There's a Tiny Titans set that I'm totally fighting the urge to buy. There will be a The Dark Knight Rises exclusive that has yet to be revealed. A six inch scale Tumbler perhaps? I'd be happy if they re-released the Target exclusive Bat-Pod from 2008. Lastly is the Dana Barrett as Zuul from Ghostbusters who I believe was first announced at last year's Comic-Con.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Discotek, DragonBall & Gendo's Beard

  • In the last month Discotek has announced the Captain Harlock TV series, Lovely Complex, Galaxy Express 999: Eternal Fantasy, and four Saint Seiya movies. There is no other anime company that gets me as excited as I do with their license announcements. In a world where the anime industry is focusing on streaming current series online, I think Discotek is pretty clever to release some classic titles that have fans who are maybe a little older, have some disposable income and haven't given up on physical media. Even their non-anime releases are impressive. They're bringing over GameCenter CX, a Japanese live action series about classic video games. I've seen an episode and it's pretty great stuff.

  • Funimation seems to have finally sorted out their issues with the former Geneon titles. They've solicited releases of Ai Yori Aoshi and Armitage the III. Those are both re-releases. Hopefully we'll be hearing about some unreleased stuff like the rest of Black Lagoon and Hellsing: Ultimate soon.

  • Somehow DragonBall Z has never been released on DVD in the U.K. That changes in July when Manga U.K will begin releasing the series. Kanzenshuu has an interview with Jerome Mazandarani, the head of marketing and acquisitions for Manga U.K., on their podcast. I found it really fascinating even though I live in the U.S. and has had access to DBZ for years. Check it out.

  • According to Anime News Network, Schick is doing a tie-in with Evangelion. I really hope Shinji's peach fuzz gets addressed.

  • We're less than two weeks away from the release of The Avengers and I don't think Hasbro has officially announced their 6 inch action figure line. Well they're out in the Philippines. Apparently they'll be Walmart exclusives here, which is sucks but isn't surprising. They look great but there's no Black Widow, Iron Man is just a repaint of a previous figure and Thor's figure is based on his solo movie. There's no member of Loki's army either but they are coming in the 3.75 inch line. Hasbro is also releasing Miles Morales as Ultimate Spider-Man in both scales. The 3.75 inch Miles is a variant in the Marvel Universe line. We don't know how the six inch one is being released but he comes with the same type of base as the 6 inch Avengers. Maybe it's part of a yet to be seen 6 inch Amazing Spider-Man line?

Updated 4/23: Well it looks like my hunch was right; the six inch Ultimate Spidey figure is will be part of a *sigh* Walmart exclusive assortment. I bet it will be like Walmart's lines for Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger last year and be a mix of comic and movie based figures. So it's the first sign six inch Amazing Spider-Man Spidey and Lizard figures could be in the works.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Funimation's Packaging In Action

In my last write-up I dealt with how much the Blu-ray market has exploded, but it's still somewhat small. This can be seen in the way retail stores stock it. Whereas DVDs are categorized by multiple genres, Blu-ray discs get separated into very few. At Best Buy Blu-ray is separated into sections for Family, TV, 3D and everything else. That everything else includes Anime.

Funimation, the biggest U.S. anime distributor, wants anime fans to be able to find their titles in the anime DVD section. They began releasing Blu-ray & DVD combo packs in DVD sized packaging. Now that didn't bother me but plenty of other Blu-ray collectors complained. So Funi's new solution is that Limited Edition sets will be the same style of chipboard box but now they're Blu-ray sized. They come with a cardboard spacer to give it the dimensions of a DVD case, but once you open it up you can throw the spacer away and you're left with a Blu-ray cases in a Blu-ray sized box. The non-Limited Editions will also come in Blu-ray cases but in a DVD sized slipcover with a bit of cardboard inside to make the smaller case fit into the larger slipcover. You can see see both types of packaging demonstrated here, which I recommend because I'm not sure how well I can describe them.

I think I'm pretty accepting as far as collectors go but I find the "Blu-ray case in DVD slipcover" to be a pretty weird reaction to what's already a non-problem. I own one in the form of .hack//Quantum and the slipcover arrived quite beat up which I think is an inevitable outcome of having empty space within flimsy cardboard. But that's what we're going to have to live with if it means the product is stocked where Funimation wants it to, right?

At Best Buy I spotted .hack//Quantum not in the anime section, but with the Blu-ray discs. This was despite coming in a slipcover that's clearly taller than anything else on the shelf. The slipcovers BTW were in pretty rough shape. Maybe Best Buy just doesn't care about slipcovers. There's still a Blu-ray case in there and maybe that's why they stock it in the Blu-ray department?

Here's a volume of Fairy Tail. It's bad enough it's in the Blu-ray section but it's not even in the proper alphabetical place in the Blu-ray section. This is an older release so it's not in a Blu-ray case but in a DVD case in a DVD slipcover. That still didn't help it get placed in the anime section.

Here's To (which is really difficult to research online with that title). It's another Blu-ray & DVD combo pack packaged in a DVD case. Best Buy does not display it in the anime section, but with the other Blu-ray discs. I guess the Blu-ray format takes precedence and Best Buy will stock Blu-ray discs in the Blu-ray section regardless of the size of the packaging or any other formats it's bundled with?

Nope. This same Best Buy had this Darker Than Black set not in the anime or the Blu-ray sections, but in the documentary section. I don't think this was a case of a customer dumping something off on the closest shelf. There were three copies of Darker than Black in the documentary section and they were still there when I returned to the same store. Some stocker placed them there on purpose.

Maybe the more egregious problem are the stupid actions of Best Buy employees, but clearly Funimation's packaging decisions are not accomplishing what they're setting out to do. I don't know what more they can do except eliminating the Blu-ray logo and all mention of the format from everything they sell. I think the simpler decision would be to trust the consumer to find the product they want and sell it in the style of packaging that conforms with what the rest of the industry is doing and what's already in people's collections. Stop punishing fans for the retailers' screw-ups.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Anticipated Blu-ray Discs 3

I have no idea what to write for these entries any more. At some point in the last two years the studios stopped dragging their feet in bringing out catalog titles. It will never be like the heyday of DVD but I think they've been a respectable amount of titles coming down the pipeline.

In the last year Star Wars, Citizen Kane, Tron, Dumbo, Jurassic Park, The Rocketeer, Jackie Brown, Airplane! and The Blues Brothers have all been released on Blu-ray disc. That's a good amount of titles from my previous Most Anticipated lists. So what's left? Jaws is coming later this year. Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair has been hinted at forever but we still haven't seen it.

In terms of Disney animated films, we have Pocahontas, The Aristocats, both Rescuers movies and Cinderella coming this year. Aladdin has been added back into the Diamond Collection and is set to come out next year. Tarzan isn't part of Disney's North American current schedule but it's already available elsewhere in the world. Plus Disney recently announced a swath of new titles including Treasure Planet, Home on the Range, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Newsies and the big one for me, Dick Tracy.

We just got some huge news concerning the Studio Ghibli films. Granted we're still waiting on official details, but Castle in the Sky and Whisper of the Heart are coming out alongside The Secret World of Arietty. That just leaves My Neighbors the Yamadas as the only film available on Blu-ray in Japan but not in North America, but that won't be the case for long. Tales From Earthsea and Howl's Moving Castle will be out in Japan in June. We might have to wait until From Up on Poppy Hill is released before we see them here, since Disney only seems to release Ghibli titles when they can tie them into a new film. I do hope Japan gets around to releasing My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away so that they can eventually make their way over here. And Only Yesterday! That isn't even available on DVD here.

So what's left? There's Castle of Cagliostro and Suspiria. As good as Disney is becoming with catalog titles, there's still no sign of Super Mario Bros. Maybe they'll sub-license it to Mill Creek? Saban is finally releasing Power Rangers on DVD through Shout Factory, but it's up to Fox to release Mighty Morphin Power Rangers The Movie. I'd like to have both the original curt of Rumble in the Bronx and the edited English dubbed version, if that's at all possible. If MGM can release Troll 2 on Blu-ray I hope they can get to Hackers before long.

End of Evangelion has been out of print for years. With ADV's license for the TV series having ended, none of the original Evangelion anime will be readily available, perhaps by design. Gainax may just not want them competing with their new Rebuild of Evangelion films. It could be a long time before we see them again on any format, or maybe Funimation already has them in the works. Who knows?

Perfect Blue is still out of print on DVD in the U.S. It's available on Blu-ray in Japan but supposedly the quality leaves a lot to be desired. If it does find its way here I hope it receives a new transfer first. I'm also hoping for other Satoshi Kon movies on Blu, particularly Millennium Actress whose DVD edition is also out of print.

Last year I said I wouldn't hold my breath expecting Echo Bridge to release Pokemon movies on Blu-ray. Well I was wrong but I'm still glad I didn't hold my breath. Echo Bridge put out Pokemon Heroes and Destiny Deoxys as a double feature disc. Next month they'll be re-releasing those two movies along with Pokemon 4Ever and Jirachi Wish Maker in a four movie set. That's great unless you already bought that first release. Echo Bridge has a bad habit with the double dips. Those four are the only Pokemon movies that Echo Bridge have access to, so that's all we'll get until Viz, Universal or Warner decide to release their Pokemon movies on Blu. Yeah the Pokemon rights are screwy.

Trying to think of new titles I want has gotten really hard. There are a bunch of movies that I would have included except they already received Blu-ray releases in the last year, or at least have one coming out soon. These include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Gremlins 2, Battle Royale, Godzilla vs Megalon, Destroy All Monsters, City of God and Plan 9 From Outer Space.

What's left to ask for? Well how about Vertigo, The Abyss, Mallrats, Scanners, Night of the Living Dead, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm would be a big one. There are current animated series like Adventure Time and Thundercats that air in HD but are only released on DVD.

I'm really sorry Media Blasters ran into trouble with Toho because I loved their Destroy All Monsters release and I'd like to see more Godzilla movies and Kaiju in general from them. Someone needs to release Godzilla 1985 and Godzilla vs. Biollante.

The classic Universal Monsters are rumored to be coming out later this year and I really hope they do. I'll take as many as Universal is willing to release, though I hope they don't stop with the major ones. I particularly want all the Creature of the Black Lagoon with the first two in 3D.

Can I ask for re-releases? The Blu-ray discs of Akira and Jin-Roh are already out of print. I'd like a version of Mars Attacks with some extras. The Blu is as bare as the DVD was. I want a release of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with the extras available in other countries, or at least a version not packaged in a pizza box with the sequels.