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Anime Boston 2007
Bandai Visual

by Bamboo Dong,

Bandai Visual – Honneamise label

Takenari Maeda – Vice-president of Bandai Visual USA

Hosting the Bandai Visual USA panel was vice-president Takenari Maeda, who transferred from to the US branch last July. Having worked with Bandai Visual Japan since 1994, he was able to give fans a look at how the company's business model has changed over the years. Bandai Visual is primarily a DVD distributor, but is also involved with the production of the majority of titles that they release.

Maeda spoke of his personal experiences, and said that it was exciting to be able to have firsthand experience working on a film from its first stages, and follow through to its final distribution. Because Bandai Visual is involved in all stages of production, the company makes it a priority to ensure that the final DVD product is faithful to the artists' original intentions. One reason that Bandai Visual USA was set up was to be able to directly convey what they put into each product to US fans and audiences.

The same staff in Japan that is working on all the next generation of Japanese DVD releases are also working on the US releases. According to Maeda, the company is making an effort to get a better knowledge and more experience of American releases; to help with this, they are trying to attend a lot of conventions and interact more with fans.

In the upcoming months, several titles will be released under Bandai Visual USA's “Honneamise” label. The first volume of Gunbuster 2 will be released on May 22, with volumes 2 and 3 being released in rapid succession in June. Each DVD will come with a 20-page color booklet.

The first volume of Demon Prince Enma will be released on May 22, with the 2nd being released on June 26. The series is comprised of a 4-episode story arc, with each episode clocking in at 45 minutes. Each disc will come with a 16-page color booklet.

Also being released in Wings of Rean, a spin-off of Aura Battler Dunbine that is also being created by Yoshiyuki Tomino. June 12 will see the release of the first volume, with the 2nd following on July 10, and the 3rd coming out on August 14. Each release will come packaged with a 32-page color booklet.

Of note is the upcoming release of Freedom, which will be the company's first HD DVD release, as well as the first HD DVD anime release in the US. The first volume will be released on June 29, and will be released in “twin” format. Unlike combo HD DVD releases which have an HD version on one side of the disc and the regular DVD version on the other, twin formats have both versions on the same side of the disc, allowing for there to still be disc art. The second and third volumes are tentatively scheduled for September and December, respectively. Freedom is already available on regular DVD in Japan; the HD version is being specially created for the North American market. According to Maeda, the series was specifically produced with an HD release in mind, and added that, “You should watch it on the biggest monitor you can find. The bigger the better.”

Bandai Visual is currently working on creating an HD release of Wings of Honneamise. It is still in the works and has no set release date yet.

Of some interest to readers, Maeda paused to conduct a quick survey to the fans in attendance. He asked how many people owned HD DVD players, how many owned Blu-Ray players, and how many were planning on purchasing either in the near future. He also asked whether people preferred watching anime dubbed or subtitles. Maeda also asked which extras fans liked with their releases: soundtrack CD, t-shirts, art boxes, illustration cards, making-of footage, or shot glasses/mugs.

In the question and answer section, when asked about why Bandai Visual USA was releasing titles as subtitled-only, Maeda mentioned that in a focus group survey, most had mentioned that they watched their anime subtitled. However, there will be dub tracks for some titles coming out in the future, although no further information was given.

Many concerns were raised about the pricing of future DVDs, especially the Gunbuster 2 releases, which carry an MSRP of $39.99. Maeda answered that the price points were based on several issues. There already exists a difference in anime disc pricing in Japan and the US. The strategy and decision of management is to eventually not have a region code separation, especially in regards to next generation discs. If discs are priced much higher in Japan than in the US, it will create importation issues.

This panel report has been verified by the panelist.

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