Our Dear Bandai, We Told You So
Image Courtesy of Jrnemanich
Probably the worst way to start the new year as an anime fan, the “death” of a major anime distributor. Im sure you have all heard the news but I will quickly recap for anyone that didn’t. Bandai USA announced that they will cease to distribute any new anime as of next month. The company will continue to license rights for digital distribution and possibly to other companies…maybe.
What Does This Mean?
Well in the short term it means any anime that Bandai USA had planned for future release will not see the light of day. Some of these titles include, Turn A Gundam, Nichijou and Gosick.
In the long term this means chances of seeing a re-release of older Bandai shows is also unlikely and most of their titles may run out of print in the future as well. Bandai are also the major licensor for most Gundam series, this side of the fandom may suffer as well.
Watching the fans reaction online was quite the spectacle. Unsurprisingly, most of them including some vocal Voice Actors blamed it on Piracy. Others lamented the loss of Bandais’ future releases and some discussed some of the changes they would have made to stay “alive”.
As expected, some of them made silly jokes too.
So what really caused the demise of Bandai?
Its no secret that Bandai had no idea how to market and sell their products for a Western audience, they continuously made mind boggling decisions and never changed with the times. Its almost as if they were copying the Japanese style of distribution as well. A recent interview on ANNCast with former Bandai employee Jerry Chu confirmed the fact that the company was being tied by its Japanese Bosses. This meant that even if Bandai USA had plans to alter some of its systems it would have most likely fallen on deaf ears.
Bandai had a habit of taking too long to put their titles on shelves, take K-on! for example. It took them 2 years to release that title long after the hype over it had declined. Bandai usually licensed titles with niche genres and the best way to get these fans to spend their money would be to release them as quickly as possible.
Bandai did not have the best digital distribution in the industry and they never embraced online streaming either. FUNimaton and Sentai have their own streaming sites and have proven that these are great avenues for advertisement. Bandai simply didn’t have this.
The worst thing Bandai did was not change their release system. They continuously released most of their titles in volumes which meant fans had to pay over $100 for most of their favourite shows. In an era when even VIZ changed their release system from 4 episodes per disc to 12, for the popular series and Media Blasters is selling their volumes at $40 per volume (with a maximum of 2 volumes per title). Bandai stuck to the past and made fans pay over $100 for 15 epsiodes of K-on!
I liked Bandai, I really did they gave me a lot of my favourite titles, they catered to that very fanatical fanbase in the fandom (moe fans and Mecha fans) I don’t think Piracy was the cause of their downfall infact I don’t think the fans are to blame at all. We bought all of their releases no matter how ridiculous they priced them and no matter how long they made us wait. The worst thing about all this is that I saw this coming and so did many others.
I hope other companies (ANIPLEX USA) learn from this, if you are going to charge ridiculous prices for your anime or make us wait long make it worthwhile, give us extras or release your anime with 2 volumes max.
I also think licensing companies need to get in touch with their fans at a more personal level. Ask us what we want and don’t want, find out how much we are willing to pay for what. Instead of using conventions as an opportunity to market your products how about getting to know us, your consumers. The people that starve themselves at College just so they can watch cartoons on their TV’s.
They also need to stop trying to market to the none existent “Mainstream” audience. The reason anime is so beloved is because it is so different, trying to market it as “mainstream” is foolhardy. Sell your products to US first and the fandom will grow naturally from there.
I heard some fans blame dubbing costs as an unnecessary expenditure, unfortunately more than 50% of the people that buy anime, watch them dubbed. Sub only releases is not the answer to this problem.
All things considered the worst thing about all of this is that people lost their jobs, my sincere condolences to them.