Be careful when buying 'Ponyo' DVDs


POSTED: Tuesday, August 11, 2009

“;Ponyo,”; the latest film from Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli to be translated into English, arrives in theaters on Friday.

It's arguably the most high-profile anime to be released theatrically since Ghibli's “;Howl's Moving Castle”; in June 2005, which means it's certain to garner its fair share of attention from movie-goers who aren't necessarily anime fans.

So while there's this broader spotlight on anime, I'd like to get on my soapbox and offer one piece of advice: No matter how much you love the movie, do not run out and buy the DVD now ... at least, not yet, anyway.

There's only one legitimate “;Ponyo”; DVD with English subtitles, and that release costs around $51 on average at current yen-to-dollar exchange rates.

Also, you'll need a DVD player that plays Region 2 (Japan-exclusive) DVDs, something that you can't readily buy at a branch of any national electronics retailer.

Yes, there are outlets locally and online where you could buy “;Ponyo”; for roughly the same price as a standard DVD, around $20. Don't. I had a chance during my vacation last week to watch a copy that a colleague forwarded to me, and the quality was abysmal, with sound and visuals that seemed like they were secretly filmed in a theater somewhere and subtitles written by someone with a barely functional grasp of the English language.

The cheaper DVDs being sold now have all the hallmarks of being bootleg copies from Taiwan and Hong Kong. A good guide for distinguishing authentic anime DVDs from bootlegs is available at www.hsblinks.com/lf, but as a quick primer, if the DVD case has clunky English descriptions or out-of-focus artwork, is region-coded for “;all codes”; or “;all regions,”; and/or has some combination of Chinese and English subtitles available as DVD menu options, chances are high that you have a bootleg copy.

As for when official U.S. DVDs (also known as Region 1 DVDs) will be available, suffice it to say it will be a while. Some reports online are pointing to a listing in Diamond Comics' Previews catalog pegging DVD and Blu-ray releases around the end of October, but I'd wait until more listings pop up at Amazon, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Suncoast/FYE and other DVD retailers before nailing down an exact date.

The moral of the story: Enjoy the movie in theaters this weekend (and during what will hopefully be a lengthy theatrical run). But be patient, boycott bootleggers and support only official DVD releases with your dollars.

Meeting roll call

» Aiea Library Anime Club: 3 p.m. Saturday at the library, 99-143 Moanalua Road. This month, librarian Diane Masaki will be screening the first volume of “;Beck.”; For more information or to RSVP, e-mail Masaki at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


For more anime and manga news and commentary, check out “;Otaku Ohana”; at blogs.starbulletin.com/otakuohana. Follow Jason S. Yadao on Twitter at twitter.com/jsyadao or e-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).