Future for anime turns to Blu-Ray
FOR THOSE of you rich enough to follow the next-generation video war, you probably know by now that there really is no next-generation video war anymore.
With Toshiba throwing in the towel on HD-DVD after Blockbuster Video, Best Buy and Wal-Mart all abandoned the format, it appears that Blu-Ray is the high-definition video format of choice. This no doubt will please everyone who bought PlayStation 3 video game consoles, which come with Blu-Ray players built in, and frustrate anyone who bought the HD-DVD player add-on for the Xbox 360.
Anime fans already have a few options available on Blu-Ray. Bandai Visual USA has embraced the format, with three current releases -- "Jin-Roh," "SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers" and "Wings of Honneamise" -- and the upcoming five-episode "Yukikaze" collection available. A fifth series, "Freedom," has and will continue to be released on HD-DVD despite the format's apparent demise, according to the company.
But the company has branded itself as a bit of an iconoclast in the U.S. anime industry for its high-priced regular DVD releases, and the Blu-Ray releases are no different. Retail prices range from $64.99 for the 40-minute "SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers" to $149.99 for "Yukikaze."
Sure, discounts abound online, but still ... $64.99 for 40 minutes? Not only does that thing have be the best anime ever, it also would have to be so bleedingly hi-definition that a character pops out of my TV set at the end to hand me some cake, ice cream and a party hat for watching it.
Funimation has taken its time with Blu-Ray thus far, with all three of its releases being from the "Dragon Ball Z" franchise. All are more in line with average Blu-Ray pricing, coming in around $35 before discounts. The "Broly Double Pack," with a movie double-feature of "Broly -- The Legendary Super Saiyan" and "Broly -- Second Coming," is available now, and a double-feature of "Dead Zone" and "The World's Strongest" is due in May. A double-feature of "The History of Trunks" and "Bardock -- The Father of Goku," recently was announced, with no firm release date as of yet.
And then there's the wild card in this equation: ADV Films, which has had a rather wobbly public image as of late. While the company shut down some divisions and shuffled around releases on its Web site to the point that no one knows quite what to expect anymore, a report surfaced on IcV2.com that the company had committed to the format. The report went on to say that ADV is focusing on bringing out some of its newest titles on the format, although no specifics were given.
Finally, since all of the major film studios have now committed to Blu-Ray, expect to see more anime films released in the format. Sony Pictures already has "Tekkonkinkreet," "Paprika" and "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" available, and "Appleseed: Ex Machina" will be available from Warner Bros. next month.
Cel Shaded, a look at the world of Japanese anime and manga, appears every Monday. Reach Jason S. Yadao