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London MCM Expo Convention - Anime Panel Report

by Matt Kamen,

London's semi-annual MCM Expo saw the assembled British anime industry gather to discuss new product licenses and the overall health of the scene.

Manga UK's Jerome Mazandarani announced the acquisition of the Tales of Vesperia movie on DVD and Blu-Ray, and confirmed Saturday's rumours that the company has licensed both Shiki and Strike Witches 2. The previously announced Samurai Girls has been delayed until January 2012, but will be released on both DVD and Blu-Ray. Noriyuki Abe's third Bleach movie, Bleach: Fade to Black has been similarly delayed due to issue with subtitle delivery but will see release in Q2 2012. The second Naruto Shippūden movie will also be released in both formats. Stand-alone movies Trigun: Badlands Rumble and Mardock Scramble are set to land in spring, the latter in early March, while Princess Jellyfish washes onto British shores in the summer. Mazandarani also dated Manga's release of the second live action Gantz movie, Perfect Answer, and Tekken: Blood Vengeance for 7th February 2012. Further license announcements are set for later this year, though Mazandarani was unable to comment further at present.

Andrew Partridge, representing Kazé UK and Anime on Demand, announced physical release rights for the currently-streaming UN-GO, Persona 4 and Mirai Nikki, with dates still a way from being set. British fans should expect to see Manga and Kaze working closer in the future, with Kaze's logo appearing on more Manga releases. Manga hope to work closely with Anime on Demand for streaming and discounts, and Anime on Demand is expecting to show off the design of their new interface online tomorrow. Kazé UK is also looking at sleeper hits from the spring anime season, citing Moshidora as being specifically discussed while acknowledging it would be very hard to market in the UK. Partridge indicated an announcement concerning Shinkai's Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below would be made later this month

Tony Allen of MVM confirmed a UK release of Welcome to the NHK for a 9th January release. MVM has regained the rights to popular series Fruits Basket and Kiddy Grade, both of which will see new boxed sets next year – 6th Feb and 5th March, respectively. The company is interested in the third season of Ikki Tousen, when an English dub is available. More live action Asian cinema is forthcoming, including Takeshi Miike's Crow Zero in April and Crow II in July.

Turning to the state of the industry, Kaze said brick and mortar sales for anime are dying, though there remains a niche, while MVM announced Amazon.co.uk had overtaken high street chain HMV as their biggest customer. Manga, however, felt that physical stores remained an important avenue for younger fans who lack their own credit cards. The option of selling in mass-market supermarkets was largely dismissed, with MVM's Allen revealing it means low profit margins and large inventory for the already-small anime industry.

The release of Akira has been the biggest recent sales success for not just Manga but the UK industry as a whole, with 12k Blu-ray copies sold in 2011 so far. While Akira's screening on the UK SyFy channel garnered a hefty 53,000 viewers at broadcast and another 30,000 through catch-up services, all agreed that bringing more anime to British TV screens was near impossible, with MVM revealing that UK TV companies' response to broadcasting anime was "worse than negative". Kaze will be pushing for some television exposure in 2012, largely through its French department, but said it was incredibly tough to do and there is no advertising money to be made.

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