A terse e-mail landed in the boxes of many manga and anime bloggers yesterday from Robert Napton, the marketing director of Bandai Entertainment. Briefly, it said that Bandai will stop releasing new manga and anime as of next month. "The company will continue to sell catalog titles and shift its operation to licensing which will include digital distribution, broadcast and merchandising," the press release continued.
Bandai has distributed some pretty well known anime, including Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass, Eureka Seven, and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Most of their manga are anime tie-ins, and they include Lucky Star, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens. The good news is that titles that are currently in print will continue to be available for some time, until their licenses expire, and the company will print new books and discs if needed; the bad news is that no new titles are on the way, and several that were previously announced have been cancelled. Here's the cancellation list:
- Turn-A Gundam
- Kannagi, vols. 4-6
- Code Geass: Renya
- Gurren Lagann, vol. 7
- Gundam 001
- Lucky Star Boo Boo Kagaboo
- Code Geass R2 Novels
- Tales of the Abyss: Jade, vols. 1 and 2
The rights to these series will revert to the licensors, which means it is possible that some other publisher or distributor will pick them up. The final releases of Star Driver, Tales of the Abyss, The Girl Who Leapt Through Space, and Mobile Suit Gundam will just make the cut, so fans of those series will achieve closure. The Bandai Entertainment Store has closed down, but they still have an Amazon storefront that's open for business.
In an interview with Anime News Network, Bandai Entertainment President and CEO Ken Iyadomi said that the decision to shift tactics was made back in October, and not by him but by the Strategic Business Unit of Bandai Entertainment's Japanese parent company, Namco Bandai. Iyadomi lays the blame squarely on the parent company, blaming them for keeping prices higher than U.S. customers would tolerate:
"The pricing range for our products kept dropping in Western countries, and people tended only to buy sets with very reasonable prices, which we understand is what fans want, but it lead us to a different strategy than what Japanese licensors wanted," he remarked. "So we always had a problem [with licensors wanting something different than what consumers wanted]."
Of course, no one can know for sure—the anime market in the U.S. has been slumping for years, but with the number of streaming and bootleg alternatives available, high prices don't seem to be the answer to any company's woes.
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