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.

Fan Reaction

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!

Conclusion

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.

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~ by kiddtic on January 3, 2012.

26 Responses to “Our Dear Bandai, We Told You So”

  1. I’m a bit annoyed that Gosick is now stuck in limbo, but if you can’t keep up with the times, then you’re destined to fail. At least with the downfall of older companies like ADV and Bandai Entertainment, it makes way for newer companies like Crunchyroll and NIS America.

    • I dont know if Crunchyroll would like to enter the physical anime distribution world. It would be awesome if they did though because they know what the fans want.

      NIS America are an awesome distributor the only problem is that they have stopped dubbing their anime, sure this is a small price to pay but there are some fans out there that prefer to watch their anime dubbed.

      • Actually NIS America never stopped dubbing their anime as they never actually dubbed them in English to begin with. I usually prefer English dubbed anime as it gives me more time to appreciate designs (Rather than look at subtitles), but their releases are often ones that are good and at the very least would not take funds out of their dub budget for games….

        Least for Gosick et al us Aussies still have Madman Entertainment to do a distribution.

    • Gosick got picked up by Madman Entertainment early in 2011. I guess you could expect a release in 2012. So there is somewhere you can get it.

  2. The comment about them being tied to their Japanese bosses makes a lot of sense. I always wondered why they stuck with singles and didn’t move to online streaming, while boxsets and free streams have done pretty well on this side of the Pacific. Oh well. At least they clarified that the titles they still have the license for won’t be going OOP anytime soon.

  3. I’d be a lot more sympathetic to the Bandai situation if they had better business practices. They were stuck in the past with their DVD release methodology, as well as failing to embrace digital distribution (Like everyone else did), and failing to even release in a timely fashion.

    Gundam in the US will take a hit, but it’s nobody’s fault but Bandai’s. While I respect voice actors and what they do, blaming piracy right off the bat is incredibly misinformed, as I seriously doubt Bandai titles are pirated any more often than titles held by other companies.I’m sure the other titles Bandai was planning on releasing will be picked up by other companies in time.

  4. If this can ease your pain, K-On has just been licensed in France too. Talk about being late.

    Well, while this ultimately doesn’t concern me, I wanted to assure you that I share your pain.

    And since I was at it wanted to rant a bit some more about companies and their business decisions. You know, Durarara!!, that’s quite a big thing in the anime fandom, and also something that could be appreciated by people not in the fandom, a company licensed it for “simulcast” that was at least 2 weeks late, then promised a DVD release that happened one year after, without dubs and without extras, just the same subs they’ve been putting all over the internet.
    Even with all the love I have for the series, I don’t really feel like buying.

    • Why wouldnt they add the English track if its already been made? I need to find out more about the European anime industry I will probably be interviewing you some time.

      • Probably because of legal problems I suppose.
        The company that has licensed Durarara!! is also one of the oldest, they have popular licenses like FMA but somehow, looking at it from afar, I think they’re not doing well at all financially.

        But sure! Interview me all you want! I can’t promise I’ll be able to answer all your questions about all countries but I’ll do my best!

      • One aspect of the European anime indistry is there’s a lot more that can be done via screening on TV over there. Kurenai was licensed in France – one of only two places outside of Japan the picked it up. Monster had considerable success in Europe from being screened in several countries there, according to European friends of mine. There’s more of a TV aspect to that market compared to some others – that I can tell you. French animation has traditionally been more abstract/arthouse, so they are open to those more obscure, refined shows like Kurenai.

        • I can only talk for France but we’ve been used to always have our anime for free on TV, that’s a big problem for sale, but it’s also a blessing for companies to market their stuff.
          One of them, even has a dedicated channel, of course you have to pay, and you have to pay for the others anime channels too but if you want to see anime on TV it’s possible, and there’re really a lot of stuff.
          And then you have the free channels, one of them has an anime slot in the end of the afternoon, so far I’ve only seen Bleach, One Piece and … Black Butler in it, but it exists. Along with “kid” stuff in the mornings.

          Beside, you won’t believe it, but, they also licensed Shi Ki (I was super shocked) and even more shocking, Aoi Bungaku. (I honestly still can’t believe it)

          And true enough, a lot of “anime”, old and new, have been a collaboration between a French and Japanese team, like Ulysse 31 or Oban Star Racers.

  5. Even though Anime is currently not “Mainstream” there is so MUCH more market available for growth. Currently, besides the Bandai obvious marketing failures, Anime still markets itself far too clickish. Yes, you service the established base (which Bandai failed to do) but you can also grow your market (which most all distributors are failing to do).

    ~trip

    • Do you hav any ideas/examples on how this can be accomplished?

      • I honestly thing one of the biggest failings of the industry globally outside of Japan is it’s like walking into a minefield with a dowsing stick and a box of mechanical bunnies when you first try to find your way in the medium. It’s hard to find out what’s out there when you don’t know the system or how to find out about what was made each year, who licensed them, what’s unlicensed, etc. I was lucky enough to encounter seasoned fans in my early days of anime. I;d have been lost without them. I think there needs to be something in place that newer fans can go to, find out what’s in each genre/timepoint and go from there. A fandom that’s more inside looking out and requiring people from within to feel obligated to tell others on small scales is not one that will prosper.

  6. I definitely agree with your reasoning that single volume releases definitely didn’t work in their favour. I would have bough K-ON if I didn’t have to spend so much money for so little. Not to mention, fans now know just to wait a little while and Bandai will eventually release the whole series on one dvd box at a much cheaper price.

    I agree that for the companies that are still releasing in this format, they need to make a change. Either way, I’m going to miss Bandai too. They had a lot of good titles that were very rewatchable series.

    • Even with their boxsets, they took way too long to release those. Ah, Bandai you made such silly mistakes.

      • It’s a system that works in Japan because in Japan, buying a show is more about bragging rights and the narcissistic side of being a fan. It’s ego-stroking. You don’t really need to buy it when they’re all available on TV. The status of paying inflated prices – which are required to cover the budget costs – and that they were in a select crowd to do so means a lot to them. Manga be fairly cheap there, merchandise affordable. Anime? That’s for the hardcore. And it will always be a hindering factor for its image. But for an industry in the top few revenue gainers in Japan, it’s one that needs to be acknowledged and funded.

        As for the US/Aus system, the price/amount on each volume issue was a hinderance not so long ago. It changed – for which we are grateful. I remember the days you payed the price for a volume of Azumanga Daioh that you pay for a full set of a 1 cour title. We are fortunate we have those prices. However, there is a different set of issues for our markets. Lack of advertising/knowledge. Merchandise taking over more of what consumer spends rather than just anime. Living costs and GFC fallout. Different tastes/targets within our markets. Time taken for licensing and release (but that one rests a lot on the Japanese side as well when they charge large licensing fees for the bigger titles, which our licensers just won’t go for initially because there is no guarantee that a profit can be reaped when getting 5k sales has proven to be a real trial for the industry in our areas.

        I’d been waiting for Bandai to sick ever since the TTGL release fiasco. This was a mere formality.

  7. […] Anime Blog: Our Dear Bandai, We Told You So Advertisement LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  8. […] of it I got the opportunity to see how much the anime fandom actually cares about the industry despite our constant […]

  9. I have been thinking of several things. Allow streaming medias to anime, via subtitles, with reasonable sub licensing, licensing, and existing dubbed anime or re-dubbed anime. Is a viable option. But I also think that digital downloads is also the way of the future.

    Also digital downloads with affordable fee, non-DRM variety, of which people of which a person can burn to DVDs as option. I have been thinking of another thing, of which one person can download for another person who has a slow connection or on limited internet allowance, but the person would pay extra fee of 0.99 to USD and CAD. Paying it forward and being recompensated by the person in question.

    A recap to digital downloads. it could be done directly to some site. I like create backup of my media just in case when my something goes hinky, or that I don’t want to lose my digital library. Or if I have a need to migrate to another machine such as a desktop and a laptop. My philosophy is to buy legally, without being screwed or stealing from another.

    Times are changing. Even old gods dance to a new tune.

    and then dvd and blu ray release afterward if possible via through third party.

Well said but my Opinion Is...

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