Editorial: Kurokami on Blu-ray and Back Importing
Posted November 10, 2009on:
There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle on the Internet today after Bandai’s announcement of the Kurokami Blu-ray discs, which will have an English dub track and no Japanese language track. I figure it’s a good time to educate you folks on how good American releases are compared to the Japanese market, and why this had to happen.
First, I’d like to remind you that this isn’t the first time Bandai has done this. The original Mobile Suit Gundam releases were and still are English-language only, because at the time of the English release, the classic series had not yet been released on DVD in Japan. Americans got the discs all the way back in 2001, while Japanese fans – you know, the ones you think would be the ones who would buy more Gundam shows than Americans – didn’t get a digital release until December 2006, close to six years later.
Second, I’d like to point out the Japanese anime industry’s grotesque profit margins on DVDs and Blu-ray compared to what the US gets. Because of the limited market and the willingness of the otaku market to pay exorbitant costs, Japanese anime DVDs are spread out over many discs and priced at what many would consider insane points. As an example, the first Black Lagoon release in Japan contains two episodes and has an MSRP of about $64. Compare to FUNimation’s first season DVD box here in the US, which has a price tag $69.98 for 24 episodes. For five dollars more and a region lock, you can get twelve times as much content – more than that, if you count the extra language as content – at the same quality!
Is it any wonder that many patient Japanese fans imported the American release of Black Lagoon and bought new DVD players/adjusted their laptop drive’s region rather than pay Japanese prices? I’ve muled my share of DVDs across the Pacific for Japanese friends myself, and there are many more series affected by this price gap than just the one example.
The last thing to consider here is related to the last one: with Japan and the United States inhabiting the same Blu-ray region, so the same Blu-ray player will be able to play both releases of Kurokami without any hacks or mods. If Bandai released an American edition of Kurokami with the Japanese language track intact, the Japanese market would die a horrible death, which would be disastrous for the studios. Consider that the Kurokami Blu-ray in Japan is 9240 yen ($103) for three episodes – assuming about $1.50 production costs per disc, that’s a disgusting $100+ profit margin for each disc sold. The Japanese arm of Bandai Visual will do everything it can to preserve that.
So there’s the industry outlook as it stands on this kind of thing – whether or not this situation is right, or if it can even sustain itself for very long before the market eats itself, that’s another argument entirely…