Things to Come

Tenamonya Voyagers was pretty awful. It was a cynical, half-hearted space opera that nobody found particularly amusing, and which plainly bored its own animators so much that they simply ended it in the middle. However, it remains a landmark in anime history because when Bandai decided to release this obscure 1999 title in America, they did so solely on the new-fangled DVD format.

The US release of Tenamonya Voyagers was the first real sign that VHS was dead. It was a message to those people who hadn’t yet bought a DVD player that someday soon, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, they would need one if they wanted to see all the new anime, because their VHS was going out of date, and would no longer be supported by new ‘software’.

I mention this in order to point out that Bandai is a company that often thinks way ahead of the curve. And in case you haven’t already heard, Bandai is a company that will now be dropping DVD from its activities in America.

Old orders will be met. In the event that a million people suddenly want a copy of The Girl Who Leapt Through Space, they’ll run off some more. But Bandai America is giving up on DVD and leaving it to others to take the risk on licences, spend the money and get pirated.

You can forget Blu-ray, too. Bandai can’t be bothered with that either. Why should they, when a bright digital future awaits of direct downloads and streaming, hopefully legal?

If you were wondering what this means for you… right now, not a lot. You’ll still see Bandai shows released on DVD by other companies, like Manga Entertainment’s Ghost in the Shell sublicence. But be aware, Bandai America just essentially announced what many in the anime business have been thinking for five years: that the next format is no format, and the smart money is getting out of what the Japanese call ‘packaged goods’ – which is to say the actual, physical discs that anime currently comes on. Ten years from now, I suspect, there will still be DVDs in existence, but they will be much more bespoke, much rarer, and hence much more collectible.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #95, 2012.

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4 thoughts on “Things to Come

  1. so will be looking at ‘offical’ sites along the lines of crunchyroll, or how funimation streams their licensed shows on youtube?

  2. I think the trend is towards licence holders hosting their own materials. Licensing to a third party might make sense in the short-term, a bit like putting stuff on a TV channel, but modern technology makes it easier to vertically integrate.

  3. I was thinking more of an ‘official bandai anime website’, sort of like the bbc I-player, but more like how some (legal) streaming sites work – free with adverts, or pay a membership fee for better quality vids and no adverts.

  4. So the end of disc media is the end of collecting that media, but as less and less anime is actually worth collecting in the first place, I guess this is a natural progression. One that means the end on my involvement in this hobby as well sadly, but then being an old git I guess my time has come as well. but I see vinyl records are coming back in vogue again as people realise they are anologue creatures afterall and anologue give the best results, so maybe the humble lowly DVD/Blueray might do the same when the impatients of youth, turns into the longing of nostalgia. Thankfully optical storage is not susceptible to the Earth’s magnetic field so will not degenerate like rust on celluloid does.

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