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Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 9/1/2012 16:55
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    Happy New Year, My Arse!

    Where Bandai Goes, Beez Follows

    It's been a miserable New Year if you're an anime fan, and at this point there doesn't seem to be any light on the horizon. On the 2nd of January, the announcement came from across the pond, just in time for last week's Review Roundup, that Bandai Entertainment International was withdrawing from the North American market. Subsequent information indicated that this was a decision mandated by Bandai's Japanese parent company, Namco Bandai Holdings.

    The next day saw rumours start to surface about Bandai Entertainment European Zone, or as we in the UK know them, Beez Entertainment, with a report on a French forum stating that their French offices had closed for business at the start of December, and the company was to all intents and purposes, dead. Well, Tweets, forum and Facebook posts have subsequently been issued which go some way to clarifying the situation, although we still have to wait for an official statement regarding Beez' future.

    Reading between the lines, Beez Entertainment are in the same situation as Bandai Entertainment, probably for the same reasons, Namco Bandai's consolidation. Everything that is scheduled for the end of January will be released, including Code Geass R2 Anime Legends, and the final volume of The Girl Who Leapt Through Space. Beez' existing stock remains available, and existing licenses remain extant.

    What makes this tragic for UK customers is that Beez was one of the few companies innovating content for the UK, rather than just relying on what Bandai released. They released sub only discs of Durarara, Sound of the Sky, Tatami Galaxy, and House of the Five Leaves, the latter two which have yet to be released in the US. Doubly tragic is that in the riots of last year, most of Beez back catalogue stock went up in smoke, and although they had started to reprint selected titles, it's unclear just how far that process has gone. Unlike the demise of ADV, which even after all this time still has content available on shop e-shelves, those looking to fill the gaps in their Beez collections will have a hard time finding those elusive volumes. Without the backing from Namco Bandai, it's hard to see how Beez can recover from this situation. The best we can hope for is that the momentum of reprinting those lost titles continues, and some more stock makes it to the shelves before the plug is finally pulled.

    This just leaves three anime distributors active in the UK...

    Manga Entertainment's Blu-ray Ambitions in Tatters

    Friday was just a capper on a crappy week for UK anime fans, when Manga Entertainment announced that they were cancelling the Blu-ray boxset for K-On! Season 1, and then they cancelled the Blu-ray of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya movie. Jerome Mazandarani, Head of Marketing & Acquisitions at Manga posted this statement via Twitter yesterday outlining Manga's position.

    To be honest, I was expecting the K-On! cancellation, having read about the crippleware forced on Bandai Entertainment for the US Blu-rays. Zero extras and DVD quality sound do not an attractive Blu-ray make. The Haruhi announcement came like a kick to the gut though, especially given the fact that Manga have been hyping the release for over a year, despite it being constantly delayed, and only a mastering error at the last minute prevented its November release. Also, it's one of the highest profile titles around, and if you're not going to make money on a title of that stature...

    That's been Manga's problem with Blu-ray all around. With the rare exception, they have just failed to make money, although the constant litany of announcement, hyperbole, promotion, and cancellation has induced a wariness in UK viewers that makes many reluctant to take a chance. Low sales may have been a contributing factor, but Manga have also been the architects of their own downfall to some degree. They first cancelled the Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood Blu-rays two volumes in, realising that long series on Blu-ray are untenable in the UK market. They then tried something shorter, with Casshern Sins, and Xam'd Lost Memories. Both titles didn't get past the first volume on Blu-ray, from which Manga learned that multi-part series in high definition won't sell for them. It was single shots and movies only from that point on. Then their Christmas present for us was the cancellation of the single shot Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, and the movie sequel Gantz: Perfect Answer, after they released Gantz on Blu-ray. Now with the cancellation of K-On! and Haruhi, it seems that even movies and single shot series don't work for them. That leaves Manga Entertainment's Blu-ray experiment a non-starter. They just can't sell enough discs to break even on the production costs, as they are creating the discs for the UK alone.

    They're still giving it a go though, with Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society, Welcome to the Space Show, and Angel Beats pencilled in for Blu-ray in 2012.

    They also have their European partners, Viz/Kazé who have grand Blu-ray ambitions for this year, and by splitting their production across several European territories, have the economy of scale behind them to potentially turn a profit. Kazé have the three Mardock Scramble movies, the Bleach and potentially the Naruto Shippuden movies, Roujin Z, Black Lagoon, and the Trigun movie, all pencilled in for Blu-ray this year, they had a success straight out of the gate with the Professor Layton phenomenon, and they begin 2012 with a Blu-ray release of Samurai Girls. Unfortunately, they have to set a price that is consistent across Europe, which in the UK means Samurai Girls is £45 on Blu-ray, where Manga's equivalents last year were £35, and price is a significant factor in these straitened times.

    Funimation's Fairy Tale dual play releases are multi-region for BD and DVD, and are currently undercutting the pre-order prices for Manga's forthcoming DVD only release, beating it to market by four volumes as well. Around half of US Blu-ray anime is Region A/B, while that which isn't can usually be found on Australian Region B. The exchange rate with Australia isn't as favourable as it once was, but if it's the choice between Blu-ray or none at all... At the same time, some anime fans have just imported a Region A player and dealt with the situation that way.

    Speaking personally as an anime fan, Manga Entertainment may make all the Blu-ray plans and announcements that they want, hype all the releases, and whip up as much fervour as they can, but I won't get at all excited or enthusiastic until the retail release has happened. Besides, working out how much the Australian BD of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya costs to import is too depressing.

    Netflix Comes To The UK With Anime

    The US content streaming company is starting up in the UK and Ireland, with a month free introductory offer, followed by a £5.99 monthly subscription. Of particular interest to anime fans will be a hefty chunk of Manga Entertainment goodies to be viewed, plus Beyblade. Anime News Network has all the details.

    Why is this bad news?

    Well, of all the Internet capable HDTVs there are in the world, Netflix is at this time only compatible with Samsung. I don't own a Samsung.

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