As of January 3rd, Bandai announced they are ceasing home distribution beyond the first week of February, and only two of the company’s last five employees have avoided being laid off.
Ken Iyadomi, who has been with Bandai from its inception in 1996, made the announcement this past Tuesday. The decision to shut down the company was made as far back as October, but is only now becoming public knowledge. Iyadomi wasn’t clued in on the finer details, but from the outside looking in, some obvious reasons surface: current trends pointed to a gradual shift away from physical DVDs and Blu-Rays, and the ones that were being purchased tended only to be box sets at reasonable prices. If one wasn’t purchasing physical media, fans were watching titles online via various streaming sites such as Nico Nico Douga, Funimation.com, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and Netflix, which are the big names in streaming anime right now. It was what the fans wanted, but caused inevitable friction between what the consumers wanted and what the licensors desired.
If your first exposure to anime came in the big boom period of the late 1990s, you were more than likely introduced to the magnificent genre of giant robots via Bandai’s efforts. You got to see firsthand the world of Mobile Suit Gundam, even if it was Gundam Wing. The timing of the near-shutdown coincides with the final releases of Star Driver, Tales of the Abyss, The Girl Who Leapt Through Space and the new release of Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 with Japanese audio; they will still produces those in their entirety. Nothing is going out of print; as long as they maintain the licenses, everything in the company’s catalog will be available until such time as the licensing expires. Just don’t expect to see anything else repackaged or any special rereleases.
Their manga titles, though, are getting hit far harder. Gurren Lagann, Code Geass: Renya of Darkness, Mobile Suit Gundam OOI, Tales of the Abyss: Jade in My Memories, and Kannagi are all getting cut short, their fates uncertain.
The company “Namco Bandai” will still exist under its current name, as only Bandai’s US anime distributors are leaving. Video games will be distributed as Namco Hometek, no longer Namco Bandai. Most likely future video game titles will have just the Namco logo displayed.
Bandai was responsible for bringing stateside, aside from the Gundam wonders, the worlds of Code Geass and Haruhi Suzumiya. They were also slated to bring Turn A Gundam, My Ordinary Life, and Gosick, across, but that will no longer happen, and their licensors will regain the rights to them.
As Bandai announced this, several reasons have popped up as to what may have caused this:
- Bandai’s making their US division push out more Gundam titles after the success of Gundam Wing.
- Bandai demanding that their US division bid on their own titles.
- Continous use of the old pricing scheme (1 OAV for $30, give or take a buck).
- Ignoring the trend and popularity of thin paks, box set releases, and streaming titles.
- Piracy and continuous fansubbing of their titles.
Bandai has pretty much joined the ranks of Central Park Media, and Geneon in the departure of distribution and production. FUNimation, Viz, Toei USA, Aniplex, Manga Entertainment, and Media Blasters are still around, but the loss of Bandai still hurts, especially for fans of not just Gundam, but the Humungous Mecha genre period, especially if you became a fan during the aforementioned boom. And if you were especially looking forward to some of Banai’s upcoming releases, Bandai’s closing must feel especially disheartening.
(After we posted this article, there was some last minute edits and changes that had to be made… Hey, noone’s perfect :p)