The Bandai Situation – Assessing the Damage and Causes

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As many of you should know by now, Bandai Entertainment of North America have dissolved their Anime and Manga division effective February 2012. An order handed down directly from the Bandai bigwigs in Japan.

Many people have been left completely puzzled by this and what it means for the industry as a whole. I will be assessing the damage and causes, as well as divulging information on who will be affected by what we shall come to know as; The Bandai Situation.

What’s the damage?

Unfortunately many of the Bandai Entertainment licensed series have suffered fatal damage, with a couple of releases cancelled indefinitely. Other series will be held onto until their licenses expire.

Completely dropped series include; Turn A Gundam, GOSICK, Nichijou and several manga series under the Bandai label. Bandai will be trying to pawn their licenses off to other companies but of course there are no guarantees they will be picked up.

This brings me to the global damage caused by this, Australian’s will be heavily affected when it comes to the Gundam franchise, which is one of Madman’s biggest selling series. While they may still retain the licenses for their currently held Gundam series such as Gundam Wing, Gundam 00 etc.  it is currently unknown whether Bandai Entertainment of North America’s license expiration correlates to Madman’s license expiration.

This means that there is a potential that once Bandai of America lose their license for their series, that Madman or even UK distributor Manga UK may lose their licensing privileges to the English dubs of these series. Which could prove to be a massive hit to these distributors who rely on Bandai series for a large portion of revenue.

Not only does the damage affect the American anime industry but it spreads to both the United Kingdom and Australia. That is three industries at a loss due to the closing of Bandai’s anime and manga division. While it always possible for them to release sub only releases pertaining whether or not they can acquire said licenses from the Japanese, a lot of these series are up in the air, throwing the entire Western anime industry into a spin.

What’s the cause?

It has been heavily reported that Bandai of Japan’s head honchos passed down the word to close the anime and manga division of their North American branch due to incredibly poor sales.  This is a completely true fact, but it’s only half the story.

Why were theses titles that by all rights should be big sellers (Gundam, K-ON!, etc.) not selling? Well it comes down to the simple fact that Bandai of Japan pushed the North American branch to up the prices on DVD and Blu-Ray releases so that they would match their Japanese counterparts.

Now that may sound reasonable at first but there is a lot more to take into account. First off is the fact that Bandai’s anime releases generally follow suit of the Japanese in featuring a very minuscule amount of episodes on disc (usually 2-3 episodes) whilst selling these titles for the same price as their competitors with much better value releases (Funimation releases for example often feature 13-23 episodes for half the price).

Bandai have been trying to sell over priced anime in an economy that is just now coming out of a recession. It is understandable that they think to increase the price on a product that is not selling, in order to make their money back, but that was ultimately the nail in their coffin.

The cause of all of this mess is simply the fact that out of touch Japanese bigwigs could not understand the state of the American economy. They could not interpret the lay of the land in the North American anime industry and in the end they are at fault for all this damage made to the industry.

What happens now?

It’s a sad day for the industry when a company falls in such a way, but there is brighter horizons waiting for us. With many of these titles licensed by Bandai being as popular as they are it can be assumed that another company could be interested in picking them up.

For now we can only keep our fingers crossed in hope that these shows end up in the hands of someone who knows how to handle them. Otherwise a lot of these brilliant anime will never break from the iron grip of their Japanese right holders and receive the global attention they really deserve.

Senior Editor & Anime Specialist

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