So recently it's been announced that anime production company Aniplex will be directly releasing their own product in the US as of July. Now normally one would think that this was a good thing as another distributor can only mean more content. However it seems to me as if Aniplex is doing everything in their power to fail in the US market making many of the mistakes Bandai Visual did a few years ago. It makes me wonder if those at the top of the totem pole in Japan even have a understanding about how the US market works.
First and foremost a little background info. Aniplex announced it would be getting into the US market with the help of Bandai Entertainment whose site they will use to distribute their product. They will be starting with the Gurren Lagann Movies Childhood's End and The Lights in the Sky are Stars. In and of itself not bad news. The bad news comes when it's revealed that no English dub will be included and that they never intend to add one regardless of how well the movies sell. This is disheartening to many a fan as the Gurren Lagann TV series did in fact air on US television and was universally praised for it's top notch dub. Not only that but it seems this is the plan for all future Aniplex releases. They seem to be dead set on never releasing dubs with any of the shows, movies or OVA's they release.
There is however a single exception to this rule. If the Show, Movie or OVA in question is intended to get a US television run then a Dub will be considered. However looking at the catalog of shows that Aniplex is likely to release in the coming months(they mentioned 5 properties to be released before march 2010 however no names were given) it's unlikely anything they have will be suitable for US television. Despite the massive popularity of a show like Bakemonogatari it's not exactly a good fit for US television due to the lack of mass market appeal. The 6 Kara No Kyokai: The Garden of Sinners movies are far to violent and graphic to ever be considered being aired on television and a theatrical release is highly unlikely seeing as animated films aimed at more mature audiences seem to fail here. So what exactly does this all mean? Put simply unless Aniplex drastically changes it's strategy in the near future we will never be seeing a dub for any of their properties.
This however is not the only issue. A larger issue in fact is the fact that Aniplex will be selling their products exclusively through Bandai's online web store. That means you cannot buy through Right Stuf, Amazon or Best Buy. Not only that but Bandai charges a premium for shipping options that are often a third of the price elsewhere. Even reaching double digits for the slowest form of shipping via USPS. The problem here is that the Bandai store is a largely unused and even worse unknown store. Most fans shop via Amazon and Right Stuf. Very few are even aware of the existence of the Bandai store. So when you factor in the fact that this is the ONLY place you can purchase Aniplex products it's easy to imagine a large number of fans being completely Oblivious to what is being sold there regardless of if they wanted to buy it via Bandai or not.
Worse still is the pricing Aniplex has on the two Gurren Lagann movies. around 25 to 3o dollars for a standard edition and 45 to 50 for a special edition. Shades of Bandai Visuals insanely over priced products seems to be evident here. While the prices are not quite as high as Bandai Visual prices were there is one thing would be consumers must keep in mind. The two Gurren Lagann movies are just that movies. If Aniplex is willing to charge this much for films what would their asking price be for TV series with 5-10 times the content? Even worse what would those series cost on Blu-ray? It's easy to see the prices quickly growing out of control. At that point consumers would be paying a premium for contact that didn't match that label. I.E paying 2-3 times as much for Funimation DVD's and Blu-rays that have dubs as well as subs. This isn't likely to go over well with fans.
With this strategy I don't see Aniplex lasting very long. The question is will they realize they are failing and change things up or will they simply fade away like Bandai Visual did? I for one would love to see them stick around because as I stated earlier more companies in the US market means more content. Something I would LOVE to see. However only time will tell if Aniplex will be around long enough to see that happen.