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London MCM Expo Convention Report
London MCM Expo Convention - Anime Panel Report

by Andrew Osmond,

Click here for the Main Convention report

The Anime Industry panel at the London Expo on Saturday May 28 featured Jerome Mazandarani (Manga Entertainment), Tony Allen (MVM), and Andrew Partridge (Kazé UK), also joined by Christopher Macdonald, CEO of this very website. Unfortunately, the discussion was hampered by atrocious acoustics, and the fact that a wrestling match was taking place elsewhere - and ahem, by one or two people who preferred to chat amongst themselves or on mobiles when other people were trying to follow the talk on stage. Still, mobiles have their uses – a couple of questions were fired from twittering members of the audience, without the need for a microphone. The future is here!

As already reported on ANN, there were several new and nearly-new licenses confirmed. Kaze will release Tiger and Bunny on DVD, following the show's UK debut on Anime on Demand; Manga was bringing out the film King of Thorn, which has had several one-off cinema screenings; and Manga was also giving a wider release to the SF OVA miniseries Freedom, which Beez briefly put out as a Blu-Ray exclusive in 2008. Both Blu-Ray (single-disc) and DVD (two-disc) editions of Freedom are due on October 10, the same date as Strike Witches Season 1 (a two-disc DVD). Manga is also talking with Funimation to bring out Strike Witches Season 2 next year

King of Thorn will be following around October 17 on both Blu-Ray and DVD. October 24 will see a new Manga title, Dance in the Vampire Bund, while Phantom – Requiem for the Phantom should be in the mix somewhere. On the Kaze side, Partridge confirmed the Noitamima series Kuragehime (Princess Jellyfish) to an “Ooh” from the audience, while MVM had secured Ikki Tousen: Dragon Destiny. Mazandarani also reminded us of some August titles: Highschool of the Dead on the 29th, and Black Butler and Sekirei (“the breast anime ever!”) on the 15th.

The rest of the discussion was overshadowed by the tragedy in Japan this March. Mazandarani noted how the charity response in Britain had involved some surrealistically random elements, ranging from a yesteryear British pop star (singer Adam Ant, who headlined April's We Love Japan concert) to the post-apocalyptic Akira (20% of takings from its upcoming cinema screenings in July will go to the relief effort). The talk moved on to the quake's industrial impact, and how the destruction or shutdown of the Japanese factories producing HD tapes may force the anime industry to embrace integrated digital distribution, as opposed to shipping tapes across the Pacific.

The format of anime in the UK came up, with MVM's Tony Allen arguing that single anime DVDs were “dead in the water.” DVD box-sets, he said, were the way forward – provided, that is, that fans would pay more for a hit of thirteen or twenty-six episodes at a time. In May, MVM had debuted the twenty-five episodes of Tower of Druaga in a single, six-disc set, which Allen says was performing exceptionally well. One twittering audience member suggested Manga should take heed, given its announcement that K-ON! will debut in four volumes from August 29 (a box-set will follow next year, with the possibility of a Blu-Ray). “Someone tell that to Bandai!” Mazandarani shot back, saying his hands were tied.

On current British sales, Mazandarani noted that Naruto and Bleach were still high sellers in the UK, as was the puzzle game-based Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva. Allen said that Samurai Champloo, first released on UK DVD back in 2005, was still an evergreen high seller for MVM. This caused Macdonald to note that the series was an interesting case of the US and UK markets diverging – Samurai Champloo had only had decent, but not stellar sales in the States.

Mazandarani was asked by one audience member about the truncated Blu-Ray release of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which stopped with the second season box-set last December. He emphasised he couldn't promise anything, but said he was still trying to figure out how to get the rest of the series out on Blu-Ray in the face of expenses (“A five-figure sum”). Of possible future titles, one twitterer brought up the subject of Gainax's Panty and Stocking; Mazandarani confirmed he loved the show, and hoped to negotiate with Kadakowa, which still holds the UK rights.

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