Diversification and Bandwagoning

It seems that after my last post, followed by a busy week, was met again with busy weeks following it. The news; however, has been fairly sparse but deep in detail regardless.

As I mentioned last, I ordered my copy of Top 'o nerae! GunBuster 『トップをねらえ!GunBuster』 produced by Bandai Visual USA from Right Stuff. I did that on either the 3rd-5th of March. Orders for GunBuster must have went well, it took nearly three weeks for my copy to ship, which is the slowest I've had from them. I'm not complaining, I got the box set and had to force myself not to watch it as I had other work that needed attention. I did end up watching it the next day and it was glorious.

The story actually splits in two parts from here. The first part is about Bandai Visual in the news recently concerning many of their releases, which from my last post garnered much praise. In fact, they're going out on a limb in the current North American market with classic, and even more niche, titles like GunBuster, Mobile Police Patlabor 『機動警察パトレバー』, and soon Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise 『王立宇宙軍オネアミセの翼』should be commended and supported. Thy're even releasing more modern titles to rope in contemporary fandom such as Top 'o nerae! 2 DieBuster 『トップをねらえ!2 DieBuster』, Wings of Rean 『リーンの翼』, and a simultaneous Japanese and American release for the OAV Freedom. So, a robust and diverse catalog - where can the problems be? Dubbing and Pricing.

I'm personally not much of a dub fan. If I've heard the dub, I think I can accurately evaluate them and usually comparing directly to the original is the last step I take. When it comes to the Dub-Sub Debate (which is much more a business decision now than a fandom issue), I look at it this way: I like cheeseburgers. When I go with friends, many times I end up getting and enjoying a nice cheeseburger. Sure, on occasion I feel like a pasta dish (and by no means is my pallette limited), but nine times out of ten, I'll prefer something like a cheeseburger. Subs are my cheeseburger. It's what I look for first, it's satisfying to me, and nine times out of ten, what I prefer. However, dubs are still viable for getting a large number of people to buy an anime DVD; Sub-Only just hasn't sold well and is usually reserved for titles which may not find much of an audience. Bandai Visual USA has decided that Sub-Only wasn't just the case for a couple of releases - it's now standard operating procedure [animeondvd.com].

What can they do after alienating a good portion of the market? Let's reach pricing similar to Japan! I was forgiving for GunBuster being two episodes a disc and retailing at $60.00 for the box. I wanted quality (and I got it, but more to come on that later) and it was about the top of my price ran about this level, given the extra booklet, which I'm still not through reading. I also felt that this was a very niche release that only a really small segment was going to jump on (I might have been wrong). However, looking at this release for Freedom and other news circling about, other titles like DieBuster and Rean will not be boxed and individual MSRP is near $40.00 per disc. Sure, we'll probably see about a third or fourth of it knocked off from e-tailers, but will American fans pay near $30.00 per disc not meeting our version of standards? I hear complaints all too often that "anime is expensive", which isn't entirely false; hobbies by definition are supposed to be money pits. But in return, we're used to dual audio tracks, special extras, and episode counts between two and four times (pending on the series) the size per disc than the Japanese counterparts for MSRP of $30. What's more outrageous is that on this podcast from Anime World Order, they discuss Royal Space Force hitting MSRP at $80.00 with no idea what will constitute extras.

So now it seems like I'm going to jump on the bandwagon of bashing Bandai Visual (and BVUSA). Bandwagoning this isn't. I support the Industry, especially when they do a good job. But when they do dumb shit like this, then it's time to chastise them. Bandai Visual may get away with highway robbery prices in Japan, thanks to the Keiretsu System [wikipedia.org], but this won't fly with American consumers at all. If BVUSA wants to stay in business, then either bring your product within what we consider standards and at market price or retain your release structure and drop your prices accordingly. If you're going to offer us what we percieve as half a product, drop your prices to what half of our standards are. As I see it, BVUSA's charging prices to help the protectionism of the Japanese DVD industry. We've heard this argument in the past with Bandai Entertainment and its English-Only Mobile Suit Gundam 『機動戦士ガンダム』 TV DVDs. Producers in Japan want to be guarded from having to compete with American products that have a better price-point. Welcome to the global economy, Bandai Visual and I guess Japan as a whole.

And, speaking of odd ways of doing business, confirmation of a legal dispute between Libre Publishing in Japan and Central Park Media's Be Beautiful line has been confirmed by ANN via MangaNews. As much as we know from the story is that CPM bought a bunch of licenses from a company named Biblos, which publishes yaoi manga in Japan. Biblos went out of business and was selling its properties as a part of bankruptcy, which Libre bought and re-negotiated author-publisher contracts to many titles, a lot of which CPM licensed in the US. Libre posted this warning on the Internet, pleading with fans in Japanese and English to boycott CPM for distributing "illegal" and "unauthorized" translations. CPM is keeping quiet about this, which may be the best thing. However, without seeing the documentation and contracts that CPM had signed with Biblos and what the terms of sale were when Biblos sold titles to Libre, anything from here is speculation and the truth can lie in several directions. Hopefully, they, or even an arbirator can, be brought in and between the two parties sort it all out themselves, rather than have to crawl through American or Japanese court systems with legal counsel.

As I said above, I what started out as news about GunBuster and it's DVD release. I plan on putting out a reveiw of it, but I want it to be more comprehensive than just a review of the DVD. I also mentioned in the previous post that there was some fanboy whining about some music being changed in GunBuster and that I was planning on getting an unaltered copy somehow. I actually found original prints of the OAV on LaserDisc on eBay fairly cheap. I bought them and they were shipped yesterday, so I should have them soon.

Back a couple of years ago, I was struggling with my fandom. I've probably mentioned this before and that's when I became an advocate of classic Japanese animation. One of the articles that helped me along was this editorial: Buying Anime on Laserdisc [j-fan.com]. When finding far too much crap coming out on R1 DVD and in fansub circles, finding a much more affordible outlet to get unaltered copies cheaply from Japan or just get old anime that will never see the light of day here in North America, sparked a new surge in fandom. Thankfully, the used-LD market in Japan was much, much larger, especially in anime circuits than it was in the US, probably all of North America. For the past couple of years, I'd browsed online auctions looking for LD players and discs, just to see what kind of trouble I would be getting myself into. I finally through Craig's List someone wanting to sell a player and a bunch of discs. A couple e-mails, and hour drive, and thirty minutes of breakdown and selecting LDs, I was driving home with a nice, used LD player.

Here's the machine set up for testing:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

From the top, with the Ranma 1/2 SUPER OAV I was testing with. It's an LD I bought nearly immediately after reading the J-Fan editorial.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And the title screen, thankfully proving my LD works!

And for you kids who've never seen an LD -

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So, I expect over the next few years and hopefully as long as I can remain an anime fan, my collection will be growing in a diversified fashion now including vintage, classic LaserDiscs as well.

But there is one more way I wanted to diversify myself. I've been going to Anime Weekend Atlanta for quite some time, but outside of comic book conventions when I was younger and an odd convention I do contract work for, I've not been to another, strictly anime, convention. Since I was out adventuring for my LD player on 17 March and I would be driving past the Georgia Institute of Technology anyway, I decided to stop by Momo Con. Being run at a Univeristy, I expected a much smaller, fan run feel to the convention. Smaller it was, and there were fans, I'm sure, but "run" is a very subjective term in this case. It seems like a con that was decentralized and just happened. Upon entry, which was free, everyone received a goody bag, which didn't contain a program (though I see now there are maps on the website). Nor were there maps posted indicating where events were. In fact, I found gaming rooms (to my chagrin), a dealer's room (which wasn't great in either selection or pricing), and lunch (because I was starving). Oh, and I was constantly surrounded by cosplayers. To me, not being able to find, well, anime related events at an anime con and constantly surrounded by cosplayers, I felt like this was more a cosplayer's convention in the vein of Akibiyori. I planned on staying for a couple of hours but I could barely manage an hour and a half.

The one good thing about Momo Con was running into an old college friend there and I spoke with him and his girlfriend about hitting up MTAC this (well, April) month. I'll need to call him again soon and see if they're still up for it and I need plan vacation.

On a final note, I hope to be able to do my encompassing GunBuster review next weekend some time. In the meantime, I'm still working on getting the full Akihabara Renditions website up and running, but it looks like it may not be until May. It kind of sucks because I need to get AWA press information submitted. Well, that's it for this edition of AkibaRen. I'll be back as soon as there is more news to report and comment on!

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At 10:39 PM, April 11, 2007 , Blogger HSaabedra said...

Congrats on the LD player. I own an ELITE series Pioneer with DVD playback and I have a few titles as well.

Now, as far as your observation goes on the state of BVUSA. I have to agree and disagree. I do agree that they are taking the stance of an oblivious publisher that does not realize what this market expects, and that according to the majority x amount above the standard price is considered too much.

However, when the majority of the current fandom is composed of junior high and high school age consumers, I think its time for companies to sit down and reevaluate their marketing strategies since these fans don't like the idea of paying so much (or at all in some cases) for anime.

The titles licensed by BVUSA are titles that older fans like myself and yourself would consider buying, (or have purchased in the case of Gunbuster) with a few exceptions.

What most people don't seem to realize is that if the titles don't sell well, the company still gets paid, although not as well as they would have if they just sold a few copies.

The complaint of expense is null since that is more of a relative problem and more a case of the majority not being conditioned to see such prices, with very few fans willing to pay for Japanese R2 NTSC DVD's. Your point about the keiretsu politics is valid, though in this case it may be a matter of pure ignorance on their part rather than the hand of the conglomerate.

I believe the current stable of major distributors and licensors has completely shot themselves in the foot by sticking to a low price point and depending on marketing and pack ins to sell a show.

I may be in a very small minority when I say I'm willing to shell out major money for high quality transfers and no extras. Pack ins and marketing help, but in the long run it's going to hurt companies because fans will come (and already expect) such things.

The biggest economics lesson I've learned is that there is no such thing as intrinsic value, and it amazes me how many fans believe that packing in miscellaneous crap equates to added value, not to mention the addition of DVD extras that detract from the quality of the video, and don't add anything of real value.

I'll end this by saying that the above was the best way I could interpret my perception of the whole situation and reiterate my position in the extreme minority when it comes to my spending habits and preferences on anime.


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