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NYCC2009: Bandai Entertainment Panel Report

Robert Place Napton hosted the Bandai Entertainment panel at the 2009 New York Comic Con, running through trailers and release schedules for several upcoming titles.

Code Geass has been one of Bandai’s biggest successes recently, with DVD volumes 5 and 6 of the series released last week. Napton said that he felt that in 10 years, it would be spoken of in the same terms as Cowboy Bebop is spoken of now. There are rumors of a third season in the works in Japan, but Napton had nothing further to report on those rumors or those of a feature film in the works.

The biggest news Napton had to report related to on-line distrubtion of Bandai titles, as he announced that Code Geass would begin streaming on Bandai’s YouTube channel, with episodes 1-5 now available and subsequent episodes to be uploaded in 5-episode blocks and all 50 episodes available on YouTube eventually. More anime titles will be offered online in the future, with Code Geass and Gundam 00 confirmed at this time. All the titles will be released in English dubbed versions. Napton also added that Joost was being considered as a second online distribution partner. Interested fans can register at the Bandai Entertainment page on YouTube to get e-mail updates for new episodes or new titles. Napton also asked the audience which Bandai titles they wanted to see online, in what languages, and how often the panel attendees visited YouTube or Joost. Titles tossed out included Scrap Princess, G-Gundam, Hayate, and Sola, with subtitles generally preferred among the audience at the panel. Napton also promised more announcements about on-line distribution were coming soon. When asked about the often poor video quality of on-line video, Napton said that he didn’t know the exact technical details, but the version he saw looked really good.

The third and final Gurren Lagann DVD is coming in March in a standard edition and a limited-edition that will contain the DVD and the first volume of the manga. The first volume of the manga series will also be released to bookstores in March, with volume 2 following in June or July. The manga series will include new scenes and additional material.

Gundam 00 continues to air on the SciFi Channel’s Ani-Mondays block. DVDs will follow in May or June, but there is no specific release date for those yet. Napton also announced that Bandai will finally be releasing a Gundam manga, with Gundam 00 manga volumes coming out starting in Augut 2009. Bandai has also acquired the Gundam 00-F spinoff and several Gundam light novels.

Lucky Star Vol. 6 will be the last volume released, and is coming in March. However, the manga adaptation will be coming in May. There are already 8 volumes in Japan, and Bandai will be trying to bring all of them to the United States.

The series Ghost Slayers Ayashi from Studio Bones (Cowboy Bebop and Wolf’s Rain) was the subject of “a bit of scheduling movement,” but the first volume of the supernatural samurai action show should be out in February in a standard edition DVD ($39.98) and a limited edition ($64.98), which will come with a collector’s box, a manga volume, and a 64-page guidebook. However, the first two Ghost Slayers Ayashi manga are out now.

Bandai’s first Blu-ray disc release, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, is available now. Their second release is the highly-anticipated release of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, which will be arriving at retailers on February 24 with a suggested retail price of $49.98, and is Bandai’s first simultaneous release in both Japan and the United States. While the trailer screened was for the standard-definition version, the entire movie has been remastered for high definition and Napton said that the audio “is unlike any he’s ever heard before.” The first 10,000 units will come with a 20 page booklet of interviews and articles about the movie. Napton said all available discs have been shipped to retailers, who are already demanding reorders. Because of the production time required, there will be a significant lapse between the 1st and 2nd pressing of the disc, “on the order of a couple of months,” so if you’re interested, get your pre-orders in now. We’ve seen the Blu-ray at Toon Zone News and can confirm that the movie looks and sounds absolutely stunning in high-def; keep an eye on the News for our review of the disc soon. In response to an audience question, Napton said that they were in negotiations with Kadokawa Pictures to release The Girl Who Leapt Through Time on Blu-ray, but had no news to report other than that.

Bandai recently held their first nationwide event with Fathom that brought Sword of the Stranger to more than 360 screens for an evening, and Napton reported that the event went very well, packing the theater at Union Square in New York City. The DVD and Blu-ray will be released this summer, with both coming in standard and limited-edition sets, with the limited editions including an original soundtrack CD. Napton also pointed out that Sword of the Stranger was in contentoin for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, and that it went further than anybody thought it would, but that that “we lost our spot to Kung Fu Panda.”

The DVD releases of Hayate Combat Butler will be coming later this year, with an expected start date of July. The 52-episode series will probably get a subtitled release only, and Napton doesn’t think it would be positioned for broadcast on any TV networks at this time. The confusingly titled .hack//G.U. Trilogy — a single movie based on .hack//GU trilogy of games — will be coming to DVD in July. July will also see the releases of complete series sets of Sola and True Tears in the Anime Legends line.

Moving to manga releases, Napton reported that Code Geass manga was represented by 3 different manga titles and the light novel series, with volumes 1 and 2 of the main manga series out now as well as volume 0 of the light novel series. All of them work independently of the main narrative of the anime, and the light novels and several of the manga spinoffs will tell the main story from the perspectives of different characters. Napton hopes to continue the novel line with the R2 series currently out in Japan, and is hoping to have an announcement for that some time in the future.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
adaptation will be released some time in April 2009. This is not the original novel, but a single volume manga adaptation of the anime film, which was itself “sort of a sequel” to the original novel. The Eureka Seven individual manga volumes will be going out of print soon, with a re-release coming later this year in 2 omnibus-style volumes. Witchblade Takeru volumes 1 and 2 are also on sale now, tying in with the Witchblade anime series.

The panel shifted to Q&A, with the highlights listed below:

  • Kurokami was announced in December, and will be the first simultaneous release in the US and Japan not counting SD Gundam, with episodes debuting in Japan and the US within hours of each other. Napton admitted that the short window to do a dub has been a quite a challenge.
  • Napton couldn’t do much other than submit a request to the bosses and Sunrise for a modern version of G-Gundam, since they don’t control the rights and can’t greenlight new series.
  • The tougher economy has affected operations at Bandai, and they are making adjustments like releasing series in larger chunks rather than the quickly-vanishing single-volume releases.
  • The Lucky Star Vol. 6 Limited Edition DVD is still “indefinitely delayed,” but a future release date for the limited edition was not something to wait for. Napton described the situation as an unfortunate reality of the market.

Return to Toon Zone News’ New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage Round-up

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article referred to the “Juiced” video service rather than “Joost.”

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