Bandai has announced its withdrawal from the US anime publishing business, a move greeted by the usual litany of piracy accusations from angry Japanese otaku with a less than favourable view of their overseas brethren.
The company’s US subsidiary was established in 1998 as Bandai Entertainment, distributing various anime and manga titles in North America. Another subsidiary, Bandai Visual USA, was established in 2005 but was folded into Bandai Entertainment in 2008.
Bandai Entertainment will cease all anime and manga releases by February, and will instead focus solely on licensing the rights to publishers rather than publishing and distributing titles itself. Its online store has already been shut down.
Since Bandai was formerly translating and distributing many titles it did not actually originally publish in Japan, this presumably means it will now only be licensing titles from its own stables (most notably Gundam, via Sunrise) to US publishers.
It has also been noted that some of the group’s Japanese anime releases, such as Gundam Unicorn, have been published as multilingual discs, obviating the need for an overseas distributor and potentially allowing them to be sold directly to an international audience.
Games and other properties are handled by a complex network of international subsidiaries, and are likely to be entirely unaffected by Bandai Entertainment’s withdrawal from the US anime business.
Despite publishing English versions of such hits as Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell, Haruhi, the company has somehow failed to make vast amounts of money. Predictably, the spread of the Internet has been implicated.
Online explanations for their abject failure seem to concentrate on the ever-popular “all foreigners are thieves” explanation, along with Bandai simply being incompetent – although many have been pondering the rather problematic quandary of how to sell anime at low prices overseas without letting sneaky English-reading Japanese get their hands on it as well:
“Cool, but not in that sense.”
“So the Yanks got tired of Japanime?”
“Just how much were they selling them for?”
“Weren’t they selling them at rip-off prices?”
“They were trying to sell them at prices similar to the Japanese ones. This is the result.”
“It’s obvious you’ll fail if you sell BDs at ¥7,000 overseas.”
“Who’d buy at that price? Not me.”
“I’ve bought a few of their US DVDs. They certainly weren’t as expensive as the Japanese releases. However, by American standards they were still expensive.”
“Bandai as a whole has not been producing many hits lately. They are too dependent on Gundam.”
“They are making some CG anime of Tekken… seems a total waste of money.”
“They say the tastes of US fans have changed, but really they are the same. The problem is all the anime made in Japan is now for the creepy otaku demographic and doesn’t interest them.”
“They just illegally upload as much as they want and have no intention of paying a dime for anime. It’s incredibly cheap compared to Japan, yet still they pirate. Rather than sell titles cheaply on Amazon.com and have Japanese buy them there, they might well make more by withdrawing.”
“With the BD releases of Akira and Freedom, they were simultaneous in the US and Japan, but the price in the US was far cheaper.
Obviously all the Japanese ordered from Amazon.com and sales were great, but it turned out most were just Japanese buying it overseas. So they revised the pricing on Gundam UC so it’s just as expensive everywhere.”
“With all the Japanese using those sites to order, they either have to sell at prices too high for foreigners or withdraw.”
“This is a conundrum. You can’t sell overseas at those prices, but at lower prices the Japanese start buying them instead. How will the Japanese contents business cope in the age of the Internet?”
“I felt no satisfaction buying those overseas editions. They are fine just to watch, but they have no specials or anything, you can’t collect them.
And how come the original was in stereo but the US versions end up in 5.1?”
“The biggest problem is illegal downloads. Self-proclaimed right-wing patriots are always whining about how horrible China is to Japan, but really Americans are just as horrible to us.”
“What they were actually selling:
5 Centimeters Per Second
Ghost Slayers Ayashi
The Girl Who Leapt Through Space
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Hayate the Combat Butler
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Mobile Suit Gundam
Mobile Suit Gundam 00
Mobile Suit Gundam UC
Tekken: Blood Vengeance
Was it really that hard to sell all these popular titles in the US?
If you look at Amazon.com’s anime best seller ranking, they are all anime which didn’t really take off in Japan. Interesting.”
“They won’t buy even at those low prices!”
“The market was small to begin with. You cannot just increase sales by reducing the price like that, there simply isn’t a large audience to begin with.”
“Isn’t it just because only a few ever got shown on TV? If the only way they see the first episodes is by having to go to the trouble of downloading it, your audience is not going to increase.”
“All this despite increasing numbers attending their events…”
“Yankee otaku don’t care about video or audio quality so they just watch on YouTube.”
“It’s just because overseas a culture of piracy has taken root.”
“There is no way this is solely the fault of illegal downloads.”
“Bandai has already failed to expand into Europe and America numerous times. I guess they’ll just have to keep trying.”
“What do you expect from a company which didn’t even bother including the Japanese language audio track on its Kurokami BD release? All the NA fans think they are total retards.”
“That is just moronic. Even the most basic market research will reveal that the majority of the fans there don’t care about dubs and listen in Japanese with subtitles. It’s obvious Bandai is not cut out for this kind of business.”