Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bandai Gets Gurren Lagann / Others

New York Comic Con is going on this weekend, and Bandai has really come through on a few rather ground shaking announcements.

1) First, they have announced that they have licensed both Hiroyuki Imaishi and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. That's right, Gurren Lagann! Unlike ADV had originally announced, Bandai plans to release the series subtitled only (no Dub), and I would speculate that since they could not have acquired the license over a few weeks ago the sub-only release is an effort to get the title released as early as possible. The first DVD is due out in July, and had they dubbed it it might have needed to get pushed way back into the fall schedule.

There is also a lot of speculation around the web that ADV simply lost the R1 license and Bandai then jumped on it. This is certainly plausible, however, I would forward another theory. Perhaps ADV sold the license to Bandai in order to raise much needed capital. ADV was in quite a pinch financially back in February, and Gurren Lagann was arguably one of their most valuable unreleased properties. In business when you need to raise money fast in tough times, sometimes you have to sell off your highest quality assets because it's all your competitors will buy quickly and pay up for. I would also speculate that by selling the license to Bandai it would have kept it out of Funimations or Viz's hands. Funimation is the absolute dominant player in the market now and they have the big corporate backing of Navarre Corp., and Viz has been extremely successful with the titles that are popular across large demographic segments like Inu Yasha, Naruto, and lately Buso Renkin. Between the two of them they have, frankly, been eating ADV's lunch.

We in the biz (you know, out here in the ragged edge) have been speculating endlessly on how ADV came up with the Angel capital to survive the recent licensing fiasco, and who it came from. Perhaps we know a little more about that now.

2) Bandai will continue to bring the Gundam franchise to North American fans with the 25 episode Gundam 00.

3) Now check this out, Bandai Entertainment (NOT Bandai Visual) will be re-releasing the Ghost in the Shell: Innocence movie on BluRay! It will be their first BluRay release, and it won't be $150 like everything coming out of the 'other' Bandai. That's excellent news in itself, but even better is that they are going to dub it. Previously, only the European release had an English track, and there are many R1 dub fans that will be very pleased by this. Personally, I can't wait to see it in HD!

We'll get all these posted for pre-order as soon as we get the date and product info from Bandai.

Let the good news keep on rolling in! :-)

UPDATE: Just for clarification, Bandai plans to release the sub only Gurren Lagann release on three DVD's in July, August, and September. They are 'planning' a bilingual release for 2009, and the subtitled release is intended to get the title out this year since they will not be using ADV's original dub. I did not originally mention the bilingual release because in the Anime industry these days you can assume that all plans are soft until 30 minutes prior... :-)


Sam Pinansky said...

Interesting theory, but it there's a logical inconsistency with it:

If ADV needed to raise capital because they had to suddenly renegotiate all their recent licenses, wouldn't Gurren Lagann ALSO be one of the shows they needed to renegotiate? You can't sell something for capital in order to buy the thing you're trying to sell!

Also, I was under the impression that selling licenses like that was not normally possible with the type of licensing contracts, i.e. licenses aren't transferable. The only way that happens is when one company defaults on the license, and then the original rights holders sell it again.

The more likely scenario is that Gurren was sold to Bandai by ARM directly, perhaps as a stop-gap to keep the investment company solvant during the mortgage crisis... perhaps that's what caused the initial tention between ADV and Sojitz, and then ARM went bust and everything went up in the air.

I just find it hard to believe that ADV would ever consider selling Gurren Lagann after all the work they put into it. Furthermore, if it was sold willingly, wouldn't they give them the partially completed dub and ask to be contracted to complete it to recoup some of the costs? The only scenario that makes sense to me is the show being taken against ADV's will in some manner, either by ARM or by ARM's collapse.

Robert said...

My thought all along has been that the licensing problems stemmed from ADV running into a serious capital shortage toward the end of last year after the full extent of the Anime DVD market downturn came to fruition. This is why we now have PiQ instead of NewType USA, and why the Manga division is essentially vaporware.

We’ve been in a position to see first hand how the company has struggled just to keep their existing licenses pressed and in stock and the extent they have recently trimmed staff and business exposure in non-core areas. They have definitely been acting like a company working through some serious financial shortcomings, and that leads me to believe that part of their rescue package in February involved a lot of creative financing along with a major restructuring.

No one outside upper management at ADV is privy to how they structure their license agreements and knows what their counter party business arrangements are. Only a portion of their license arrangements were made through the ARM deal, and we do not know if Gurren Lagann was a part of this arrangement or was acquired separately through Gainax. Many of their other former Gainax licenses were not affected by the recent title blackout and remained on the market during January and February. The fact that they were able to resolve the issue with their basket of Arm licenses but still lost Gurren Lagann, and after they had already put so much money into production and advertising, supports this.

ADV has always struggled to finance their business operations. The Geneon deal failed in the 11th hour in part because ADV finally found out in late September 2007 just how much excess retailer inventory Geneon had placed into the market, and they did not feel they were financially capable of taking on the large amount of return stock liability they would have been required to accept under the deal with Dentsu.

You said you find it hard to believe that ADV would consider selling Gurren Lagann, but I would maintain that in that scenario they simply would have had no choice as it was one of the only major assets they would have to work with at the time to raise capital with quickly. It would have been a bitter pill that needed to be swallowed to save the rest of the body.

And I find it perfectly plausible that they could have sold the license as long as they had the agreement of their Japanese partners, and in fact, it could have been in everyone’s best interest at the time. I have seen this done many times before, just not by ADV, and not with a major property like this. Back in March Bear Sterns wished they had something they could sell quickly worth enough money to cover their capital losses, but they did not and went under within a few days.

Maybe I’m giving ADV the benefit of the doubt in that they are capable of sophisticated financial management. Perhaps the reality is that they simply bungled their management of these properties and their underlying business and lost the license. If that’s the case it would reflect even more poorly on their administration than my theory. The fact that they tied up so much of their future as a studio in a single business arrangement shows how far they were willing to go in order to make their business as profitable as possible, and the high level of risk they were willing to take on to compete in this difficult environment. But they have done it before (think Musicland….)

Sam Pinansky said...

In some respects, though, my scenario is actually the more optomistic for ADV's future. If what you say is true, then ADV might barely have enough cash on hand to continue operating right now and is walking a thin tightrope to complete bankruptcy. Outside of Devil May Cry and 5cm per second, there's literally nothing on their schedule that looks to make them much money... Their schedule seems to imply that they plan to flood the market with more box sets, but I just don't see that making them enough money to come back.

If what I suggested is true than they must have raised the needed capital to regain most of their licenses by finding some other outside investors, which would mean that at least for the time being they are still doing okay and might have the capital resources to license new things. Well, assuming that the Japanese companies are even negotiating with them still.

TheMultimediaWhore said...

YES! GitS!! =)