Saturday, January 23, 2010

When are all the Anime BD Releases Coming?

All things being equal, I'm finding myself wanting to buy most new DVD titles on BluRay these days as long as the price difference is not to much (say 10 or 15% tops). Most of my TV's are now 1080p, and those that are now all have BD players attached to them (including the one that my PS3 is the player for). This leaves me in a bit of a quandary regarding Anime titles, because so much material is not yet being made available on BD, and when it is, the price is usually quite high.

This, I think, is finally going to become a real problem for the R1 industry this year as fans start to want to migrate their new purchases, but the R1 companies face Japanese partners that are so paranoid about re-imports that they will not license HD content unless it's released at comparatively high prices over here, and even then only with a big time lag behind the Japanese BD release. Oricon reported this week that Japanese Anime sales where actually up in Japan by about 6% last quarter thanks to the demand there for BD releases, so that just gives the Japanese even less incentive to try to seek HD revenue over here in the US and Canada. Gonzalo Ferreyra of Viz was really pressed about BD releases in an interview this week, and stumbled around the questions as best as he could while trying to say things that would not piss off their Japanese licensing partners. Here's a portion of that interview:

One of the things that's happening in the DVD or home video business at large is the impact of Blu-ray. Where's Viz on releasing Blu-ray versions of its titles?

Ferreyra - "Again, we're in the early stages of examining it in terms of the U.S. market potential. As you know we're distributed by Warner Brothers. It has a very active and successful Blu-ray program. One of the challenges with Blu-ray is that it's region-free. We really need to do our homework in terms of coordinating releases with Japan, with the licensors to get this right. New conversations are happening."

So is this material not coming out on Blu-ray in Japan either?

Ferreyra - "I'm not sure. It probably is. The issue is simply that any strategy we proceed with on Blu-ray is more than ever tied back to what they are doing and their release strategy. Keep in mind that if we release a Blu-ray disc in the U.S. with with original Japanese with optional sub-titles, that is an attractive disc back in Japan. It opens you up to a gray market back in Japan that creates some problems. The pricing here is actually very competitive versus the Japan pricing. We have a lot to sort out."

Blu-ray's the growing part of the home video business, DVDs are shrinking. Aren't you leaving growth on the table by waiting so long?

Ferreyra - "Perhaps. I'm not saying we're not exploring it. The question is right now in the market it remains to be seen - it is a percentage of the business. It remains to be seen at what point it will dominate and move forward. Trust me. We're having lengthy conversations with Warner who obviously is providing their knowledge of the market and the potential for us to engage Japan with these discussions and make a compelling case for how to proceed."

Ferreyra concluded by admitting that it is unlikely that any Anime will be released on BluRay from Viz this year.

R1 studios are not going to be able to build a future on paid downloads or advertising revenue shares. That strategy caters mostly to the folks who are currently stealing Anime, and is DOA. From my point of view, I only care about the concerns of paying Anime fans. Torrent downloaders and bootleggers have no stake, and therefore no voice, in the Anime industry and their concerns should go entirely ignored by the industry except to the point of what might entice them to become paying customers again. It's getting harder to sell Anime SD DVD releases when high quality HD torrents ripped from Japanese BD releases are available for free everywhere you look. And it's not that BD really brings much to the table as far a regular Anime releases are concerned (well, except maybe this..), but more and more fans who buy DVD's are now wanting to standardize into the new format irregardless and pretty soon SD will be considered a 'downgrade'. My feeling is that BD is a pretty vital component to keeping the R1 Anime industry here viable (but I've also said the same thing about dubs) and if R1 Anime companies do not get their BD strategy together this year, it may be too late because many paying fans will have moved on.


Tratious said...

I think the only way Viz will be permitted to release BD anime is if ShoPro/Shueisha/Shogakukan want Viz to start pricing it like they do in Japan. I think they are probably gonna go the Bandai Visual route with their prices for domestic releases such as Akira,or FREEDOM where they sell it cheaper than the Japanese SRP but a little bit more than R1 pricing.

I already consider dvd's a downgrade that's why I haven't bought much of anything on dvd unless it's old Geneon dvd's that aren't in print anymore that I can find.
but atleast almost all anime companies I can think are going to start BD production for anime or have started ( For R1 atleast)
Media Blasters
Sony Pictures

BTW nice pic.

Robert said...

AnimeEigo (Not Yet)

Media Blasters (Coming but Not Yet)

Sony Pictures (Not Enough Titles to Count as an Anime studio)

FUNimation (Doing a few, but behind the Curve)

I think Funi is the only company that currently has a real BD strategy.

Unknown said...

I agree, Funi really is the only company with a strategy, unfortunately, a lot of their bluray releases are just in-house hd remasterings of shows not orinally produced in hd like Samurai Champloo. I don't have a problem with that, they're actually quite high in quality, but we'll just have to wait and see how the new titles like FMA:B will be handled.

omo said...

Just a nitpick--they are not inhouse remastering; they are straight upscales.

Remastering implies they went back to the original material and did some tinkering to improve how it looks. This was definitely not the case in any of Funimation's BDs.

HSaabedra said...

When it comes to anime, even though Funimation has a strategy in place for Blu-Ray releases, their execution has a lot to be desired before it could even be considered good in terms of release quality.

That being said, at least Funimation is making the investment into the format at a high level where other companies simply can't because of lack of resources and I have to give them credit for that.

As for Japan getting in the middle on pricing and content, the licensors are going to have to learn to live with international price competition or find another way besides straight DVD sales to subsidize production, unless they want constant Bandai-style backlash from fans for excluding content and features on the basis of pricing pressure.

Unknown said...

Personally, I don't really care if the R1 industry releases anime on BD. All of the shows I want are already getting released in Japan, often with English subtitles and dubs. For example, I recently picked up Pony Canyon's Kanon and have Clannad pre-ordered. I love being in the same region as Japan.^^

Anime that have been released on BD stateside are often upscales or poor quality anyway. FUNimation, for example, refuses to include lossless audio in their BD releases even though there is no reason not to. Why should I spend my money on an inferior product when there's a better one out there? If I'm going to re-buy anime, I'd rather get the best quality possible. Even if I have to pay top dollar (or yen, in this case).

Unknown said...

@ Omo

Actually, they aren't just upscales. Well true, they are upscales, but upscales would just look the same as if you put the dvds in a bluray player. Shows like Samurai Champloo and their other upscales were a part of the digital anmation age, in which the original source was rendered in SD, standard definition, by their Japanese creators, before HD was ever even thought of. In order to do a proper HD mastering, you have to apply the proper color correction, DNR, pixilation, and other issues not available from the original source. While new shows like FMA:B do have an HD source, Basilisk, Samurai Champloo, etc, only have their SD source. From a technical standpoint, the blurays of these upscales do indeed have blurry lines not present in actual HD sources, but the vibrant colors make them truly worth it. Though shows that are very toned down in color usually suffer from this process, because dvd can already display those darker colors, but it's when the brighter spectrum comes out that the remasterings are truly noticed.