July 04, 2008

Anime Expo rocks the industry

This seems to be the weekend for announcements, big and small, mainly because Anime Expo is going on. (Somewhere; damned if I know where though. Somewhere with lots of smog.)

Nozomi is RightStuf's release house. They just announced Gakuen Alice, a series that sounds intriguing to me. The character art isn't really what I'd want, but the story could be interesting -- as long as it doesn't turn into another excuse for an angsty high school romance swamp. (Or middle school, or grade school, or however old they are.)

It means "Alice Academy". An "Alice" is a person with an unusual power, and our heroine turns out to be an Alice. Further, her power is a very strange one, which could conceivably represent a considerable threat to the powers that be. I have serious doubts, but it's possible it could be good. Anyway, it's coming out all at once, in a sub-only boxed set.

Oh, they also announced Maria-sama ga miteru. Blech.

Long time readers will know that I strongly applauded Media Blasters' early experiments with sub-only releases. It would seem that the other companies have taken notice, because we're seeing more of that kind of thing. I think it's a good trend. I certainly wouldn't want to see the end of dubbing for R1, and that won't happen anyway. But there are a lot of obscure titles which couldn't be released profitably in R1 with dubs, but which might be profitable if they're sub-only. Drastically lower production costs for sub-only releases mean that the title could break even on a lot lower volume.

It's also interesting that we're getting more and more announcements for titles which will be released all at once, instead of being trickled out. I also think that is a positive trend.

Funimation had its one-two roundhouse punches for the industry in the last couple of days. First, there was the announcement that Funi had picked up a bunch of the licenses that Geneon used to own.

Then they announced that they've picked up about 30 licenses that used to belong to ADV, including several titles that ADV was in process of releasing. That leaves ADV looking a hell of a lot like walking dead. The company may not vanish for a while yet, but they can't survive for long by only re-releasing thinpaks of older licenses.

I think ADV had to have known about this for a while. The reason I think so is that I simply cannot see Funimation being willing to put in the work to redub titles like UFO Princess Valkyrie which have been on the market for a couple of years. So I think Funimation has to have been talking to ADV about what it would take to license ADV's dubs and subtitles.

Or maybe Funi will release them sub-only. That would be interesting, wouldn't it?

Anyway, for us it's good news. That's more than 50 titles which aren't going to go permanently out of print.

ADV did its deer-in-the-headlights act, and I pity Matt (the representative from ADV) for the day he had. It can't have been fun.

Meanwhile, Bandai Visual (Evil Bandai) may have gone to the great retail store in the sky, but Bandai Entertainment (Good Bandai) is still kicking.

What I'm looking forward to is any announcements from Media Blasters, who at this point are the second most healthy R1 company. (I want to hear about licenses for Dai Mahou Touge and Magipoka. Come on, guys, don't let me down!)

Probably going to be more announcements before Anime Expo is over, but I think two things are clear already:

1. In six months the R1 market will be unrecognizable.
2. But it will still exist, and that's a big relief.

We're seeing shakeout, but I don't think we're seeing a complete implosion of the industry.

With Navarre's money and the Dragonball cash cow, Funimation seems poised to become the dominant release company in R1. When ADV's cable channel dies, that will leave Funimation's channel the only one standing. And with Geneon and Bandai Visual both history, and ADV pretty much walking dead, there's good reason to believe that the Japanese companies will be more realistic in negotiations with the R1 companies that remain. I think ADV was bidding the industry up, to the detriment of all. That won't be happening any longer.

Funimation's dominant position in the market will give them the ability to wring concessions from the Japanese, because I doubt that Funi and Bandai and Nozomi and Viz will be willing to engage in cut-throat bidding against each other any longer. (Media Blasters, meanwhile, occupies its own market segment and faces little competition there.) This is all to the good for us as fans.

Shakeout is scary to watch, but it often leaves a market stronger in the long run. I'm beginning to feel that this is what we're seeing in this one.

UPDATE: Ubu Roi has his own take on some of this stuff.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 03:22 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
Post contains 835 words, total size 6 kb.

1 Gakuen Alice is a quirky little series that I like a lot, though I haven't finished watching it yet.  As a reasonably priced thinpak, I'd say it's worth a shot.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 04, 2008 06:18 PM (PiXy!)

2

It's a really interesting concept, at least the basic hook. There are several reasons I'm worried about it. First, the character designs seem a bit cutesy.

Second, I'm just not sure there's 26 episodes of story there, which means...

Third, I'm afraid that to spread the story they've probably tossed in a healthy dollop of romangst, which I do not want.

Also, the manga on which it is based is ongoing, which is always a danger sign.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 04, 2008 06:25 PM (+rSRq)

3
There are several reasons I'm worried about it. First, the character designs seem a bit cutesy.
They are cutesy, that's true.  Wait until you get to the teddy bear and the giant chick...
Third, I'm afraid that to spread the story they've probably tossed in a healthy dollop of romangst, which I do not want.
Not so much.   These are grade-schoolers, not high-schoolers.  There are some high-school age characters, but Mikan and Hotaru, the two central characters, are ten.
Also, the manga on which it is based is ongoing, which is always a danger sign.
True that.  And as I haven't seen the ending yet, I can't give you any reassurances or otherwise.

You can grab a clip of the opening credits from my archive here to see if the character designs and animation are to your taste.  I'd say that what you see there is pretty representative of the show.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 04, 2008 06:40 PM (PiXy!)

4 That's not bad at all. The animation seems reasonably decent, and the characters don't repel me like I thought they might.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 04, 2008 06:54 PM (+rSRq)

5

Sadly, I have doubts on whether the shake-up in Region 1 is going to make the Japanese more realistic.  Everything I read indicates that the realities of North American DVD releases are almost always barely, if at all, understood by the Japanese companies.

As for FUNimation's clout with Japanese companies, we will get boxset releases of a lot of lesser known series.  But for major titles that get a lot of attention, I doubt FUNimation is going to convince the Japanese not to insist on a single volume release schedule.

C.T.

Posted by: cxt217 at July 04, 2008 10:04 PM (XHSdp)

6

Having two major customers in this region shut down has to have gotten their attention.

And as to changing release schedules, we already are seeing that. Gakuen Alice will be a full boxed set on its initial release, for instance. Others like that have already been announced.

Ironically, it's going to be more of a buyers market in R1 from now on. We don't get the majority of titles here, and we don't absolutely have to get the star titles if the licensors have their heads wedged. ADV seems to have been willing to pledge their first-born to get hot titles, but I don't think the remaining companies will do so.

Also, they're a wasting asset for the Japanese companies. The longer they wait to license them here, the less valuable they are. If they ask for too much this year, all the R1 companies can say, OK, talk to you about it again in 18 months.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 04, 2008 10:21 PM (+rSRq)

7 Here's another example: Funimation will be shipping Ouran High School Host Club as two 13-ep boxed sets. And though I doubt I'll be getting it, there's no doubt that's a top bracket title.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 04, 2008 10:24 PM (+rSRq)

8

Or the Japanese companies could say, come back to us in 18 months.  They make anime first and foremost for Japan, and given that the animes are usually made by groups of companies (Which was noted at an industry panel at this Anime Expo as one of the reasons anime take time to come over to the US.), often times you need to get agreement for a license from companies that feel little urgency to sell.

Beside, in R1 anime, a company is not dead until the autopsy has been performed, and the burial has been carried out.  Geneon never died - they just shut down their distribution/marketing and decided to contract it out and note that FUNimation only got about 22 or so titles to distribute on behalf of Geneon (Which is what Geneon use to do for Bandai and Viz.).  ADV is still not dead.  Heck, CPM is still not dead despite giving a great performance of it. 

As for anything from Nozomi, they specialize in niche stuff, where they generally have to release it in boxset subs if they are to be released at all.

Re:FUNimation.  They may have a lot of clout now, but there is still limits to what they do.  If Claymore came out this year in a box, I will withdraw my statement.  But until further notice, whether FUNimation is going to be able to release boxsets of series, especially at lower price points then the sum of single releases, will depend on case by case basis of whether the Japanese will allow it.  The more likely the Japanese think it will sell well in the US, the more likely they will say 'no' to FUNimation's release proposal.

C.T.

Posted by: cxt217 at July 05, 2008 07:46 AM (8ReaL)

9 My experience is that some Japanese companies cannot be bought a clue, no matter how patiently and carefully you lay it out to them.  My practise was simply to dump those and take more business to the others.  I assume this is what the R1 licensors will be doing.

Posted by: Toren at July 05, 2008 01:36 PM (uZJex)

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