Sunday, August 11, 2013

Otakon 2013 Madness: Bandai License Rescues and More!

Otakon 2013 has come and gone, but not without making a big splash in the current North American anime industry. There's one particularly large piece of news that affects two major U.S. licensors, plus plenty of smaller news of note.

So without further ado, let's jump in with the big one and get on with this show!

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Sunrise Licenses Out Former Bandai Entertainment Titles to FUNimation & Sentai Filmworks

Early in 2012, Bandai Entertainment stopped releasing anime titles in the U.S., and then some months afterwards closed their doors for good. As a result, all the titles they had previously held the license for have gone back to their original Japanese licensors. Knowing that there is still an audience for these titles, one of these licensors, Sunrise, has been in talks with Funimation and Sentai Filmworks to license out these titles again.

These talks have finalized, and now these two companies have announced a number of titles each that they plan to re-release in North America.

Before I go into which titles each company have licensed, keep in mind that this only concerns titles formerly released by Bandai Entertainment for whom Sunrise is the original licensor. In other words, don't expect anything like, say, Haruhi Suzumiya to come up here (that one's owned by Kadokawa, for the record). Also, as of the moment, none of the Gundam titles have been approved for re-licensing, so don't expect anything on that end, either. There are some huge titles among them, though, so here's a look at everything that's going to be re-released.

Sentai Filmworks
Brain Powered
Betterman
Z-MIND
Argento Soma
Zega Pain
The Girl Who Leapt Through Space
Infinite Ryvius
Kurokami: The Animation
Sacred Seven

Overman King Gainer
s-CRY-ed
The Big O (I & II)


This is definitely a pretty varied list. The Big O is definitely the biggest title here, having a very successful Toonami run; s-CRY-ed is another title that's appeared on Toonami. Another interesting title is Sacred Seven, as that title has yet to have a video release in North America, so Sentai will be releasing that one for the first time. Whether these will be released on Blu-ray or not has yet to be confirmed; likewise, whether a dub will be produced for The Girl Who Leapt Through Space (previously released by Bandai sub-only) or Sacred Seven has yet to be confirmed.

(Also, it's worth noting that, despite the similar names, The Girl Who Leapt Through Space has absolutely nothing to do with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.)

Funimation
Angel Links
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (including R2 and Akito the Exiled OVAs)
Crest of the Stars/Banner of the Stars (including II and the Passage of the Stars ~Birth~ special)
Tales of the Abyss
Witch Hunter Robin
Mai-HiME (known in the U.S. as My-HiME, but I refuse to use that title)
Mai-Otome (known in the U.S. as My-ZHime, but I refuse to use that title; includes O ~S.ifr~ and Zwei OVAs)
Outlaw Star
Escaflowne movie + The Visions of Escaflowne
Cowboy Bebop

Yes, that is a rather impressive list, and not just because Cowboy Bebop is on there. Though that one is the big one, and Funimation has confirmed that they do plan to release the series on Blu-ray sometime in 2014. Whether any of the other series will be released on Blu-ray has yet to be confirmed. Tales of the Abyss and Mai-Otome O ~S.ifr~ were released sub-only, but considering that Funimation dubs everything, chances are those will get dubbed. Finally, it's worth noting that Code Geass: Akito the Exiled has yet to be released in the U.S. (in fact, it's still being released in Japan), so that counts as a new license.

Anyways, this is all very big news, and perhaps you recognize some (or a lot) of these titles. Maybe you missed out on them the first time around; well, this is your chance to own them on DVD again. Many of these will likely also be available for streaming, too (Cowboy Bebop already has plans for streaming on Daisuki.net), if you'd rather go that route. Which ones are you excited to see back in the U.S.? (I'm personally a fan of the Crest of the Stars series as well as Mai-HiME.)

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Sentai Filmworks To Experiment With Sub-Only Blu-rays

In addition to all of their Bandai license rescues, Sentai Filmworks has also announced their plans for December. Unfortunately, they have decided that two of my favorite titles of late, Humanity Has Declined and The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, would not be profitable to dub, and so they, along with So, I Can't Play H! (which, though I don't care about at all, I'm most surprised at not getting a dub), will be released as sub-only.

However, there's a surprising silver lining in this cloud of bad news: these three titles will be the first titles that Sentai will try releasing on Blu-ray despite being sub-only. This is quite notable, as previously, Sentai has stated that they would not release anything on Blu-ray without a dub, since the production costs for Blu-rays are high enough that they only want to do it with good sellers, which is the same thing they consider for dubs. However, at fan request, they will try to find a middle ground with these sub-only Blu-rays.

This is great on one end as we will still be able to enjoy Humanity Has Declined and The Pet Girl of Sakurasou in full HD, which we wouldn't be able to under past policy. Furthermore, should this experiment be a success, it could lead to two big things: looking to the past, previous titles that were released on sub-only DVDs could possibly get Blu-ray re-releases, and looking to the future, other great titles that might not be profitable to be dubbed could still get Blu-ray releases.

For that reason, I highly encourage those with the funds to do so to buy Humanity Has Declined and The Pet Girl of Sakurasou this December (they will go on pre-order on RightStuf sometime towards the end of this month). Both are amazing shows and I highly recommend them, though that's not surprising if you've read my Hall of Fame induction for the former and my review for the latter.

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Viz Media to Release Ranma 1/2 on Blu-ray

Remember Ranma 1/2? That crazy martial arts comedy about a guy who changes into a girl when drenched in cold water and who ends up engaged to a man-hating violent girl? ...actually, I don't, because it was before my time as an anime fan. But whether you're an older fan for whom this show holds nostalgic value or a new fan wondering what the craze was about back then, there's some great news here from Viz: they will be re-releasing Ranma 1/2 in the US, and not only on DVD, but on Blu-ray! Now, you might be wondering what is the point of releasing something on Blu-ray that is from a time before when HD telecasting became a thing, but it's worth noting that the recent Blu-ray release of this series in Japan cleaned up a lot of the animation to give everything a much nicer look, so this is one older series that will be worth upgrading for.

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So, Otakon might not have had as much news quantity-wise as Anime Expo, but the news that did come out was undoubtedly just as big. Some other smaller news, such as Aniplex of America licensing next season's Kill la Kill (from the director of Gurren Lagann, which will appear on Neon Alley along with Ranma 1/2 this fall), have also come up. All in all, it was definitely quite a convention!

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