NYCC: Bandai Entertainment Status Report

Topic started by gia on Feb. 10, 2009. Last post by Niko 6 years, 1 month ago.
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
So during the convention I did my best to arrange a number of short interviews with companies present at the event to do sort of a quick “status report” and talk about some of the recent events.

Here's the first of those interviews: Bandai Entertainment's Marketing Director, Robert Napton, who talks at great length about Bandai Entertainment's history at conventions (I remember Akon 2008, man-- I was pretty dead on my feet then too).

Anime Vice: Bandai's presence at NYCC was pretty small this year: panels for individual shows as well as an overall panel, but no booth. Will Bandai be cutting back at most/all cons this year?

Robert Napton: I love NYCC, I’ve attended every year from the beginning and I think Lance, Peter and the folks at REED put on a fantastic show. We’ve never exhibited at NYCC in a big way, maybe we did one small booth once, same for CCI in San Diego, we stopped exhibiting in the 90s and have never come back. We typically don’t spend exhibit dollars at comic book conventions, we do that more at anime shows, so it’s not abnormal for us to have not had a booth at NYCC.

Lucky Star T-shirt
Lucky Star T-shirt
When I first got to Bandai in 2004, my predecessor Jerry Chu was doing a number of cons. After he left the company, BEI reduced to only a few cons a year, in 2005-2006 we did maybe a couple of cons a year, AX being the obvious one for us because it’s local as we are based in Los Angeles. In 2007, manga was folded into Marketing and I was given the initiative by management to go back out on the con circuit in a much bigger way. In 07 we hit Anime Central, Anime Boston, Sakura Con, Fanime, AKon, all the big regional shows-- many for the first time ever, many for the first time in years. It was a successful, so we decided to go even bigger in 2008, we did something like 13 shows last year, not quite one month, because the shows are so clustered together, in July, I didn’t have a free weekend for example, due to the number of shows – I think you saw me at Akon and I was pretty burnt out -- and for the first time in 2008, we brought the big BEI booth, which had only been seen at Anime Expo, to Otakon and New York Anime Festival. It was quite a task and we had to drag in most of our staff into coming on the road to help staff up. We made a lot of noise literally if you visited our booth in 2007, 2008, we a lot of screaming and giveaways and signings and DVD sales. Looking at 2009, even before the economic collapse, I was pushing internally to scale back for 2009 and doing mostly panels, and not exhibiting in the force we did in 2007 and 2008. You know if you bang the drum loudly ever year, it starts to lose its impact it just becomes white noise year after year. I felt we had done a lot of good reaching out in 07 and 08, so I wanted to reduce for 2009, and as circumstances would have it, with the economy, etc, I think it’s safe to say most companies are cutting back, so my own sense of what we should be doing coincided with the economic turmoil to answer the question directly, yes, you won’t see at as many shows this year as we did in 2007, 2008. But we have great relationships with most of the cons, especially Reed as I mentioned and the guys at Otakon. Otakon was a special show for us in 08. We had a great time. I’ll never forget the Surprise panel, where we asked everyone to put on the Lucky Star shirt, and hundred plus, including you, were wearing the same Lucky Star shirt, it was surreal seeing from the stage looking into the crowd, but it was a blast. It was the highpoint of doing cons in the last 2 years.

AV: On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is "going the way of the dodo" and 10 is "printing money on command," where would you put the anime industry right now? How do you think Bandai Entertainment is doing relative to that?

RN: It’s hard to quantify right now, we're in such an unusual time – if you believe the pundits, we are getting a taste of the depression that was experienced in the 30s, so that’s just thrown everything off. I think anime has always been a 5, with exceptional mass titles like the Pokemon’s of the world, really getting crazy turns with the public and achieving mass market status, but that’s been rare. Most anime is still very niche – it’s not really mass, but it certainly has more mass awareness and acceptance than it did 20 years ago when I first got into this business. Downloading which none of the downloaders likes to hear, has hurt anime’s growth. It doesn’t help. When we sell a DVD or a Blu-ray, a big chunk of the sale goes back to royalties to Japan and to the studios and creators. When it’s downloaded from free money is being taken out of the pockets of the creators in Japan-- creators downloaders profess to love. It’s ultimately a hypocritical practice.

AV: Do you think you reach a different audience at New York Comic Con compared to an anime-specific convention, or do you think you still mostly see the same set of fans?

RN: No, it’s fairly different. At an anime show, there’s a lot more anime cosplay, almost 70% of the crowd is in costume – it’s a younger crowd at an anime show for sure. Comic cons tend to skew older – guys my age who have been reading comics since the 70s and 80s -- less cosplay, more comic and media fans, anime is more in the minority at a comic show. So it’s very different, but I love comic book conventions. I got into anime profressionally in 1988 at a company called Books Nippan – I was there for six years, worked for L.A. Hero, then I left to be a comic book writer, so I have both comics and anime in my blood. It’s quite fun when they come together – as they do when I work on manga. I love sequential art – I’m glad manga has made sequential art accessible in a way that it has never been before in the U.S.. I think its good there are kids in book stores sitting there reading manga – kids who would never foot inside a direct sales comic shop either due to inaccessibility or some bias about comic book stores. Sequential art has found a new voice in the U.S. thanks to manga and I think it makes American comic books more approachable then they have ever been before. Young Girls read manga for example--whereas American comics have largely been the turf of young boys, so we see a whole new audience embracing sequential art and storytelling. It’s been great to see the blending of comics and manga.

AV: Bandai recently laid off a number of employees, most of whom reportedly remained on as contract employees. Will fans see any change in Bandai's release pace or anything along those lines as a result?

Gundam 00 the Manga
Gundam 00 the Manga

RN: We are working hard to keep the schedule the same. We never like delaying things, who would? It’s frustrating for the consumer, but I promise you, it’s even more frustrating for

Ghost Slayers Ayashi
Ghost Slayers Ayashi
the companies. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. Ghost Slayers was delayed because of a technical flaw in a master that was discovered late in the process and it had to be replaced from Japan and things like that can take weeks and weeks…and things shift. But we never want that to happen, and we’ll continue to fight the good fight to ensure it doesn’t.

AV: In the last year or two Bandai has licensed more and more manga versions of its anime titles-- Code Geass, Lucky Star, Gurren Lagann, now Gundam 00 as well. Might we see Bandai go back and pick up some of the other spinoffs, such as Code Geass' "Knight" and "Queen" anthology series, or Gurren Lagann's "School Version"?

RN: We're looking at ‘Knight’ and ‘Queen’ – there’s an abundance of Geass manga we’ve already scheduled for U.S. release, so we’ll have to see how the other spin off manga like “Suzaku of the Counterattack” and “Nightmare of Nunnally” perform – we’ve tried to stagger them in a way that makes sense for the retailers and fans in the U.S. so they aren’t having to choose between what to buy -- obviously the market in Japan is different and can bear a great deal more in terms of multiple releases of the same brand at the same time. The U.S. market is different. The same goes for GURREN – you could release multiple series and volumes and it could be effective in the U.S. or you could cannibalize your own sales, so one has to be careful and not flood the market with more than it can bear. The Naruto’s of the world, multiple volumes released at once that can be sustained is a rarity, it’s not the norm in the U.S. manga market.

Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
I hope Nightmare of Nunnally and Suzaku of the Counterattack do well so that they can bring over Knight and Queen. Come on, who DOESN'T want a canon-ish story featuring Lelouch in grandiose drag? <3
Post by Kyjin (12 posts) See mini bio Level 5
The best is still Rolo crossdressing as Nunnally so that his Nii-san will love him better. :D  I'd love to see Queen and Knight in the US; I own almost all of Knight, but it'd be nice to pick up Queen cheaply, or be able to share with my friends the books since they can't read Japanese.
Post by Chibi_Kaji (89 posts) See mini bio Level 2
I'm familiar with Nightmare of Nunnally and Suzaku of the Counterattac, but what is this  Code Geass' "Knight" and "Queen" things about?

Also, I'd love to see that
Gurren Lagann School manga come over here. The few chapters I have read are pretty good.
Post by gia (3,032 posts) See mini bio Level 13
Chibi_Kaji: Knight and Queen are two series of anthologies featuring Code Geass one-shot stories by different mangaka...the "Knight" stories are geared towards female readers, and "Queen" towards male.

Honestly, if it were up to me? I'd suggest to Bandai to try skipping over the direct manga adaptations of their anime series and just grab the spinoffs. I was really struck by the news that the Haruhi-chan spinoff comic strip was doing so much better than the regular manga adaptation, but when I thought about it...unless the manga version is really significantly different (and better) than the anime adaptation, are people really likely to stay fans all the way through to buying the entirety of both?

Like, I love Gurren Lagann-- but I'm more interested in buying the Gakuen-hen (school edition) spinoff manga than the direct adaptation, personally. People are constantly seeking new content.
Post by Chibi_Kaji (89 posts) See mini bio Level 2
I agree, I'd love to see more of the spinoffs instead of the direct adaptations. I'm more interested in the idea of taking something familiar like characters from Gurren Lagann and throwing them into a completey environment.
Post by RedRoses (1,437 posts) See mini bio Level 14
I'll have to agree about the adaptation of the anime versus the spinoff manga. I mean, yeah I love the anime series but I don't need to double dip by buying the adapted manga and dvd for the anime... I won't be doing that. Now if there are spinoffs, sign me up and here's my soul to pay for them. I latch on to series like that and will buy almost any spinoff because of my collecting habit.
Post by Niko (865 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Wow. That man says a lot to each question.

I liked his point about scaling back in '09. It is hard to keep going full steam all the time. Plus, going a bit slower lets whenever they to hit the con circuit again as strong as '08 make an even bigger impact.

And I agree about skipping direct adaptations in favor of spin offs. Don't need the same thing on DVD and print.
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