Akemi's Anime World

Bandai Anime Company

A bit of info about Bandai.

Company Overview

Though long known for their Gozilla (and Ultraman) tie-in toys and the oft-reviled Power Rangers series, Bandai's animation division, Emotion, has been around for a long time--they were responsible for the old Voltron series, for example, as well as a wide variety of high-quality productions. It was a bit of a surprise when they suddenly appeared on the US anime scene around the beginning of 2000, but in an impressive departure from their other North American ventures, from day one they have released quality stuff.

They have a small "art house" label, Honneamise, that leans toward classics and off the beaten path movies.

They also have their own online store, which occasionally advertises "only found here" specials.

They at one point had an online distribution branch, AnimeVillage.com, that sold paid on-demand streams and downloads.

Their Catalog

Bandai has pumped numerous series into both the edited-for-TV market (such as Gundam Wing) and not-so-edited-for-TV market (Code Geass, Ghost in the Shell: SAC, and Cowboy Bebop, for example). Their catalog leans heavily toward newer titles and TV series, but includes volumes of top-quality fare in a wide variety of genres: Everything from the highly commercial (the latest Gundam series) to more unusual series like Planetes.

It'd be hard to pick a centerpiece of their catalog with so many acclaimed and famous series, but the entirety of the massive Gundam franchise probably qualifies, as much for the generation-spanning length and its central position in anime history as the quality of any individual component.

What Their Releases Are Like

Bandai started with DVDs from the very beginning, simultaneous with VHS releases (when they even bothered with tapes), and their discs have always been of uniformly high-quality: Uncut, bilingual, and often with all the extras fans could want. They've released dual-language discs of even their most commercial titles, and from the beginning some of their direct-to-video titles didn't even have a dubbed version. When it comes to production values, their DVDs are top-notch--beautifully encoded.

Also from the beginning, their subtitles have been quite fan-friendly, with bits of Japanese filtering in and some properly explained puns. The dubs they do are among the (if not the definitive) best in the industry--well acted, well cast, and well written. In all, it's hard to go wrong with a Bandai DVD.

They've also had a solid online presence from the early days of streaming and video on demand, with their now-defunct AnimeVillage.com site, and continue to offer online streaming, for example through Hulu.

Their entry into Blu-ray came early, but in the US thus far has been... weak, to be generous. Insulting, to be blunt.

First was their art-house Honneamise, which takes advantage of North America and Japan sharing a Blu-ray region code by releasing functionally identical discs in both markets--you pick the language for the menus when the disc first loads. On one hand, the video and audio are usually very good, and the physical boxes are of the highest quality. On the flip side, they're usually hard to find at best, sometimes lack special features that even the DVD release has, and are extravagantly expensive--rather obviously priced for the ridiculously-inflated Japanese video market. The few who do buy them--for example, the long-awaited if somewhat disappointing namesake Wings of Honneamise release--are likely only the most extreme (and wealthy) fans.

Once their main label got into Blu-ray, things got both better and worse. Their relatively few releases are priced more reasonably and often include dubs, but there also aren't very many of them--mostly a selection of theatrical movies--and in the case of K-ON! season one, they're also in old-school, few-episode-per-disc format. More insultingly, the fact that the US and Japan share a region code pushed them in the opposite direction with at least one release, Kurokami: The US Blu-ray is dub only, while the DVD has a subtitled version, to prevent reverse-imports. They've also released, in at least one case (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn) an Amazon-exclusive Blu-ray disc.

On the other hand, since some of their early DVD releases were similarly expensive and stingy, there's at least some hope that future Blu-ray releases will loosen up, as their DVDs eventually did.


Honneamise Titles

Honneamise is a branch of Bandai that specializes in collector-targeted, small-market titles.