Otakon 2007
Bandai Visual USA (Updated)

by Mikhail Koulikov,

Panelist: Tatsunori Konno, Chief Executive Officer, Bandai Visual USA

Full Panel
Tatsunori Konno, the public face of Bandai Visual at most of this year's conventions throughout the US, opened the company's Otakon session by again referring to his presentation at SakuraCon, which was unexpectedly recorded. Since then, he has learned to make sure that any information he reveals at panels is in fact cleared to be available to the public.

He devoted the first part of the panel to talking about the history and corporate structure of Bandai Visual and its relationship to Sunrise in Japan and Bandai Entertainment in the US. He again emphasized Bandai Visual's goal of pursuing a "Japanese authentic" experience in its releases, which would extend to quality, packaging, and simultaneous day-and-date releases. All of Bandai Visual's US releases are supervised closely by the original producers of the respective Japanese titles. BV has been criticized for only including subtitles on their releases. He did comment that in the future, as BVUSA is more established in the US market, it will consider beginning to produce English-language versions. Similarly, the high price of Bandai Visual's releases is influenced by their relatively low production runs. Once Bandai Visual is able to actually produce more copies, price drops will take place.

Konno's next points introduced panel attendees to Bandai Visual's current and ongoing releases, such as the Patlabor movies, Gunbuster, Wings of Rean, and Galaxy Angel Rune. BV has also readily embraced high-definition video technology, and the second HD-DVD volume of Freedom will be coming out on September 25. The final volume of the series is slated for a December release. Wings of Honneamise, confirmed for a September 25 release both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray editions will be another simultaneous release with Japan. Both of the versions will also include a standard DVD version. At this point, Bandai Visual is committed to pursuing both high-definition formats. The two Patlabor movies will first receive HD-DVD releases, while Jin-Roh will initially be coming out on Blu-ray.

At this time, there are no plans for high-definition releases of Bandai Visual's recent licenses like Gunbuster vs. Diebuster, Mobile Suit Gundam: MS IGLOO and the Super Robot Wars OVA and TV series.

After showing attendees trailers for these, as well as the upcoming third volume of Freedom and a clip from MS IGLOO that highlighted some of the show's use of full 3D CG to flesh out the Gundam universe. To close the panel, Konno highlighted Bandai Visual's new English-language online shop, www.dot-anime.us, and finally, opened the floor to questions.

Where dubs exist for Bandai Visual's upcoming titles like Jin-Roh and the Patlabor movies, they will be reused for the high-definition releases. Bandai Visual has no plans to release the original Ghost in the Shell movie, since Manga Entertainment still holds the rights to that film. Several fans raised questions about Bandai Visual's high prices, especially in comparison to the dropping prices on multi-disk thinpacks of anime series. Another question had to deal with the kinds of extras Bandai Visual would be including on its higher-priced releases, especially of Galaxy Angel Rune. Konno responded to it by saying that it will strive to match the kinds of extras available on Japanese DVDs, but could not provide any specifics. Finally, At this time, Bandai Visual also has no plans to bring any of its series or films to television. He concluded the Q&A section of the panel by asking attendees whether they were more interested in anime titles themselves, or in the extras. Most of the audience members voiced their preference for the actual titles.

As the panel came to a close, Konno stated that since the market for anime in the US represents only 1.5% of the total DVD market, Bandai Visual cannot compete effectively with general-audience distributors. Therefore, it will concentrate its efforts specifically on the anime collector market. In Japan, collectors comprise a majority of all anime fans, whereas in the US, he argues, most fans are not actually interested in owning and collecting anime DVDs, but rather, are more interested in the social aspects of anime fandom.

Errata: Bandai Visual states that the final volume of Freedom is not slated for a December release. Anime News Network regrets the error.

This report has been verified with a studio representative.

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