Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The End of an Era - Bandai Finally Calls it Quits

The folks at Bandai apparently have made their 2012 new years resolution never to publish anymore Anime. I think they waited to make this announcement until today thinking we'd all probably be too hung over to notice.

Hot off the wire:

Bandai Entertainment, the subsidiary of Namco Bandai Holdings (USA) that handles anime and manga in North America, will stop offering new DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and manga releases next month. It will continue to distribute in its existing catalog lineup, but it will no longer produce and distribute new releases as of this February.

Instead, Bandai Entertainment will focus on licensing rights to other companies, particularly in digital distribution, broadcast, and merchandising. The company will be restructured as a result, and most of its contractors and three of its five fulltime staff members will be laid off.

The following releases have been cancelled:

Anime DVD/Blu-ray Disc

Turn A Gundam


Code Geass: Renya (Code Geass: Shikkoku no Renya)
Gurren Lagann volume 7
Kannagi volumes 4-6
Lucky Star Boo Boo Kagaboo (spinoff by Eretto)
Mobile Suit Gundam 00I
Tales of the Abyss: Jade's Secret Memories volumes 1 and 2

Releases in Bandai Entertainment's current catalog will still be available after February, and Bandai Entertainment plans to produce new stock on these existing releases, if needed, until their respective licenses expire.

Bandai Entertainment closed its own online store in December, but other retailers can still order and carry Bandai Entertainment's current releases as before.

Star Driver, Tales of the Abyss, The Girl Who Leapt Through Space and Mobile Suit Gundam (the new release of 0079 with Japanese audio) will all be completed thanks to the timing of the closures. I was just saying in the last newsletter that the best we could probably hope for in 2012 was for Bandai to continue to hang on long enough to get the second season of K-On out. Oh well, so much for that. Hopefully Sentai or Funi will end up with it eventually. Gundam Unicorn won't be completed either. This also means that Turn A Gundam, My Ordinary Life (Nichijo) and Gosick, will not be released.

All I can say is that it's no surprise, and it's been a long time coming. ~sigh~

UPDATE: Ken Iyadomi's sobering explaination here.


MARl0 said...

Sigh, as you said, this is absolutely no surprise at all. They've been a sinking ship for years, and I'm frankly surprised that they hung on this long.

But man am I ever going to be disappointed if we never get to see K-On season 2 and the movie. I pray someone else picks them up somehow.

Ben said...

Believe it or not, Bang Zoom's CEO Eric Sherman saw this coming:


Fast-forward to the 51:27 mark, and you'll hear him say that Bandai producers told him that "they have everything riding on Haruhi and one other title", and if those don't succeed... that's it. Bear in mind this podcast was posted way back on May 6th, 2010.

Yeah, I could go on about how I'm going to miss the company responsible for bringing me into the anime fold... but now I tend to look at companies and ask, "What have you done for me lately?". There are only so many times you can re-release the same titles over and over again before people start clamoring for new content. Yeah, Bandai isn't officially "dead", but no new content is what eventually did Central Park Media in (not to mention no must-have A-list titles from 2005-on). As of now, I'm going to assume Bandai's on hospice care and will officially pass on after its' licenses to all Sunrise titles (namely Cowboy Bebop and Escaflowne) expire.

Yes, Bandai-Namco Holding's Strategic Business Unit is the one that ultimately dropped the axe, but rumor has it that one of the people in charge of the SBU is Tatsunori Konno. That's right- the same guy who was president of Bandai Visual USA and brought with it an entire business cycle's worth of misunderstandings, poor assumptions and equally-lousy business decisions. Again, it's just a rumor, but a viciously ironic one if true.

Personally, I felt Bandai started to lose me as a customer on that one fateful Saturday at Otakon 2009, when they announced that Kannagi and Hayate The Combat Butler would be sub-only. They also said they would only use dubs for shows that would be broadcast on TV (number of new shows without Haruhi, Kurokami and/or Gundam in their title to receive a dub between 2009 and now: 1). Couple with it the increasingly-cheap packaging they used for DVD sets, the fact that there would be no DVD collections for Zegapain nor Hayate, no affordable re-releases for Gunbuster nor Freedom, and no dubs for any future releases save for K-On, and it should be fairly obvious why they got not one red cent from me (save for a few cheap out-of-print titles). They said that Blu-Ray was going to be their main focus going into 2012, but aside from Gundam Unicorn (which wasn't even released by Bandai but Bandai Visual Japan), K-On and the Haruhi and Tekken movies, how many other titles received a Blu-Ray release post-Kurokami? (Zero.)

Now, let's take a look at what would've been (most of) their 2012 release slate. You've got Gosick, My Ordinary Life, Turn-A-Gundam, (possibly) Sacred Seven... but no K-On season 2? With a lineup like that, plus no A-list titles on the horizon, is it any wonder that someone at Bandai's mothership took a good look and decided to pull the plug? Sure, I could go on mention how this whole mess was brought about by Bandai betting too much on Lucky Star, betting the farm on Haruhi and K-On, getting sloppy with their Quality Control and scheduling... but I think I've said more than enough.

Ben said...

So, what does the future hold for Bandai's titles? It could be any of a number of things:

1) Funimation, Sentai Filmworks, Right Stuf and (maybe) Media Blasters (and possibly Discotek) will rescue a good portion of their catalog (fans of Geneshaft, Melty Lancer, Betterman, Brigadoon and Z-Mind will be left out in the cold).

2) Emboldened by Aniplex USA's success with their "limited-edition premium" releases, Bandai-Namco Holdings decides to do something similar, re-establishes the Bandai Visual USA moniker, and releases extremely-limited DVD and/or Blu-Ray sets at abnormally-massive prices (to American consumers; the PR staff will use the old "it's what the Japanese fans would pay for it" excuse to justify the high prices).

3) Yen Press or Seven Seas will rescue the Kannagi manga license (hey, the first volume did finish in the top 10 in terms of U.S. manga sales according to the New York Times); Lucky Star and other titles will not be so fortunate (did anyone really buy the Code Geass or Gurren Lagann manga spin-offs/adaptations?).

4) Bandai folds for a year... then comes back as Sunrise USA and starts distributing most of its old titles (like Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne and Gundam Wing) under their new name; new titles are brought out sub-only, then given a dub track one year later.

With all that said, I hope Japanese companies learn that North American anime companies should be run by North Americans, not Japanese businessmen with little-to-no idea how the American anime industry works. Heck, ADV Films survived by virtue of a tax loophole, changed their name and still beat Bandai in terms of total output. So, I'd say I'm sorry to see Ken Iyadomi going down with the ship (managing digital distribution and licensing with a skeleton crew will only get you so far), but something tells me he'll be back (either as CEO of the theoretical "Sunrise USA" or some other anime distributor; heck, if Hideki "Henry" Goto ran Pioneer/Geneon for years, then gets named President of Aniplex USA, whose to say Iyadomi won't be back on his own two feet before long?).

Until this mess gets sorted out, make mine Sentai! (At least for now.)

Ben said...

I also wanted to point out that Jerry Chu (former marketing manager for Bandai Entertainment) was on ANNCast nearly three weeks ago:


On it, he says that he's heard from others that Bandai's one of the few anime distributors to be operating in the black. Well, Mr. Chu, if by "in the black" you mean "in the dark", then you'd be correct. Also, the singles format isn't working as well as it used to be (half-sets work, singles don't). In all fairness to him, no one (save for Ken Iyadomi) was aware that Bandai Entertainment would be packing it in two weeks after his podcast.

So, now that Bandai's undergoing a slow spiral down into irrelevance, I wonder what Mr. Chu has to say about his former employer now. Your move, Jerry.

the voices within said...

Its a major fail...even tho it was just threads they were hanging on, but I am disappointed over Gosick and Nichijo....I was also looking forward to Code Geass:Renya. I really hope one of the ONLY few companies picks these up :( Seriously sad.

Starcade said...

Eric Sherman saw it coming because it was so obvious.

The problem is that Haruhi was already fansubbed to a zero, and K-On! (the "one other title") pretty much followed...

You can pretty much scratch Media Blasters off rescue lists -- they'll probably be needing rescue Real Soon Now too. (Just laid off a majority of it's workforce. As of right now, they do plan to continue.)