Anime Expo 2008

by Mikhail Koulikov,

It was in January 2005 that Japan's Bandai Visual, the corporate parent of the anime licensin and distribution company Bandai Entertainment, launched Bandai Visual USA, which would be a unique anime distributor oriented towards collector's-quality rabid-collector prices. For close to two and a half years, BVUSA brought out DVD and HD-DVD versions of anime films and series like Gunbuster and the Patlabor movies, but ultimately, its market model was not able to sustain itself. Earlier in the year, it was announced that Bandai Visual USA would be liquidated and its assets transferred to Bandai Entertainment. At a Frday noon-time Anime Expo panel, Bandai's Ken Iyadomi and Robert Napton, along with Loy Fruel, talked about how this process will actually run its couse.

What was previously Bandai Visual USA will henceforth be known as Honneamise, a label within the larger Bandai line. It will retain a focus on high-end releases brought out simultaneously in Japan, U.S., and other territories worldwide. Some of Honneamise's releases will have both English-language and Japanese-language voice tracks, while others will be subtitled only. Any English dubs will be handled by established American studios, but the discs themselves will be created in Japan. The biggest point of contention that fans had with Bandai Visua USA's releases had to do with the prices at which they sold. This has been taken into account, and while Honneamise discs will be more expensive than standard American anime volumes, they will not be as pricy as the same volumes released in Japan.

The first anime to receive the Honneamise treatment will be Freedom, six single-episode volumes of which are currently available on the now-defunct HD-DVD format. In November, the entire series, including the as-yet-unreleased seventh episode will be brought out in a box set containing four Blu-Ray discs. In Japan, the box will be priced at 20,000 yen (US$187). The North American release is set to retail for US$139.98. Several months later, Freedom will also come to regular DVD, as two volumes and a box set. These will not be under the Honneamise label, and the pricing is expected to be in line with the standard cost of American anime DVDs.

At this point, Bandai has not explored any ways of offering discounts on either of these to fans who aleady purchased Freedom on HD-DVD. As the release date draws closer, though, some sort of discount plan may be implemented.

The second Blu-Ray anime to be released under the Honneamise label will be the compilation Gunbuster vs Diebuster Aim for the Top! The GATTAI!! Movie, which abstracts Gainax's six-episode Gunbuster OVA series into a 95-minute theatrical film and does the same for its Gunbuster 2 sequel, though several scenes of the newer series arre done with new animation. The release date for this is November 25, and the two movies will be available in one box priced at US99.98 (compared to a Japanese price of 14,000 yen or US$131), or individually for $49.98 (7,000 yen/$65 in Japan).

At this early point, Honneamise is planning to sell at least 5,000 copies of both the Freedom and Gunbuster vs. Diebuster, although of course, hopes are to move many more. Plans for the other titles Bandai Visual USA either released or acquired but did not bring out are still in the air. On the other hand, the consolidation between the companies did not lead to any staff changes; BVUSA's employees were simply absorbed into Bandai Entertainment. And since it is a label that plans to focus on the higher end of the market, there are no plans for Honneamise-labeled digital or UMD releases. Finally, one feature of Bandai Visual USA that is being retained is the retail website. The name and address will be kept, and Bandai's own will be merged into it.

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