So, Bandai is dead.
(Note: This post was composed when the Bandai news had just come down the pike – so its admittedly not being posted in as timely a fashion as I would’ve preferred, but I’ve had bad internet access of late, so, as a wise football man once said, it is what it is.)
Or will be. Which is a damn shame, because they have a pretty good catalogue, including a number of real gems. My first anime DVDs were actually from Bandai… although, well, can’t really claim that Haunted Junction is a gem.
First off, I recommend taking a gander at Mike Toole’s column regarding the Bandai shuttering. He covers a number of their titles, although perhaps of most interest is the portion he spends talking about titles that will likely be rescued by other companies. I was amused by his final bit, in which he talks about Saber Marionette J, and his bafflement at why all of it was released in America, as he can’t recall it being a big title. However, what he doesn’t mention is that, not only was all of Saber Marionette (J, J Again, the loathsome J to X, and R) released in this country, all of Saber Marionette J (to include J to X) was released as a limited edition, signed boxset for roughly $600 back in the day. Really! And there were 5,000 of these made! Needless to say, these didn’t exactly, ah, fly off the shelves.
Actually, in my mind, Bandai is fairly synonymous with over-priced souped-up editions of shows that just cannot manage to move those kinds of units in the American market. Even the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had its limited editions languishing years after in the RightStuf bargain bin, and that damn thing was the hottest thing of the moment when it aired… at least amongst hardcore fans. Ditto for Lucky Star, although the logic of releasing a show with such limited appeal in premium-style limited editions was even further beyond me in that case.
You know, I was going to write about this in a different post (one that was actually spurred by a Mike Toole column!), but I might as well bring it up here. Bandai was also the baby daddy of the horribly misguided, two episodes for $50 approach used with Galaxy Angel Rune roughly seven years back. Admittedly, this was the parent company’s fault, as they started up a separate division called Bandai Visual USA and tried to sell anime at Japanese prices to Americans. I don’t recall all the titles they released that way, but Galaxy Angel Rune sticks out since it was a total stinker. Two episodes for $50! Bandai Visual USA also released Wings of Honnemaise on HD-DVD for $79.99. Haha, HD-DVD! The price was a jaw-dropper for American fans.
A few years later, Bandai Visual USA relented somewhat. Shigofumi’s first volume contained two episodes for $39.99, and True Tears Volume One had one episode for $29.99. True bargains indeed. I was shocked when I went back to check the active dates for BV USA, because I cannot for the life of me understand how it managed to hold on for three years. That their catalogue consisted primarily of no-market titles such as Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time and Demon Prince Enma only makes it all the more astonishing.
So, what should you snap up from Bandai’s catalogue before you can say gone, baby, gone?
Well, The Big O’s a pretty obvious one. If you have no prior experience with it, the description of it as Batman crossed with giant robots is pretty apt, although it is one hell of a head-banger, and to describe it as Batman + robots is to simplify it by quite a bit. This is one of the shows Chiaki J. Konaka, of Serial Experiments Lain fame, worked on, which should be enough to convince you to give it a go. And if you’ve ever heard an anime fan make a joke about tomatoes, and was completely confused, well, this is where it all started.
Outlaw Star is worth picking up if you like space adventure shows… or just if you’re sick of whiny teenaged male protagonists in your anime. Outlaw Star is about a man named Gene Starwind, who is a walking hunk of testosterone who is afraid of outer space. He becomes involved with a space pirate named Hilda, and ultimately ends up with a mysterious spaceship with an even more mysterious navigational system, which lands him in hot water with some real nasty sorts of folks. Cue adventure. If the whole “afraid of outer space” thing made you think that Gene’s another milquetoast type, not to worry – his fear is worked in as a flaw, and his womanizing ways combined with that end up feeling like a lot of bravado on his part. Anyway, basically, if you like 90s space adventures, Outlaw Star’s a good bet.
Mobile Fighter G Gundam is my favorite Gundam series. G Gundam is basically the Gundam series your unintentionally racist uncle would’ve made were he a toy company executive. “Unintentionally racist”? Yes, because his heart’s in the right place – he’s just pretty ignorant, so he’ll spout things like, “But African-Americans love fried chicken and watermelons!” as everyone else cringes. In G Gundam, Domon Kasshu participates in the Gundam Fight, a massive tournament in which Gundam pilots fight each other for sport in order to keep war from happening. One of his opponents is the Tequila Gundam, one of his Gundam’s attacks is Shining Burning Finger, and he ends up piloting the God Gundam. There is also a horse that has a Gundam, and a man known as Master Asia who defeats mobile suits with rhythmic gymnastics when he isn’t actually piloting a Gundam. People have made dioramas of one of its most dramatic scenes. I’m not sure what else I need to tell you to make you realize that you should pick this show up. Hmm… oh, yeah – the American is named Chibodee Crockett. And I’m considering going as Domon Kasshu to Anime Boston next year. Hop to it.
All I’ll say about Mai-Otome is what another blogger said about it once – “All my favorite characters are older, cooler, and gayer.” Go, go, go! And just skip that Mai-HiME crap.
Anime fan, have you ever wanted a really cool show about planes? Have you watched really cool shows about planes, but thought, “Well, it was pretty good, but if it’d had a man-plane-man love triangle, it would’ve been great.”? Lucky for you, Yukikaze exists! I haven’t actually watched it myself, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity for mentioning the man-on-plane loving (ok, that’s a slight exaggeration) is Yukikaze.
Anyway, Bandai is dead. I’m pissed that they never released Turn A Gundam on DVD, and am also pissed since they never did with NANA either. “But, Day,” You sniff, “DVDs are a dead-end, you should stop being such a Luddite and stream stuff!” Oh yeah? Well, when the apocalypse comes and you’re crying because you can’t stream anything, I’ll still have my DVDs AND a generator! HA! I WIN!
P.S. – Media Blasters still lives.
If your definition of apocalypse includes the owner of your favorite anime going out of business and not licensing the streaming rights to anybody, then that could well happen in November, beating out the Maya by a month.
What!!?? BANDAI is GONE!?!? News to me! BAD NEWS! Bah!
Oh man, I’ll really want to get my hands on Big O – that was one of my favorite shows as a preteen and I thoroughly enjoyed it when it aired on Adult Swim back in the day. But for the most part, it’s going to be sad to see BANDAI go; they had some great, great stuff.