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AV MOD MATERIAL: Anime Fans, Your Blu-ray Collection is in Peril!

First it was FUNimation's Blu-ray releases. Now, PERSONA 4 is being blocked when it comes to the U.S. Blu-ray. It's English Only!

Persona 4: Collection 1 BD US (Sep 2012)
Persona 4: Collection 1 BD US (Sep 2012)

Back when I was reviewing PERSONA 4 THE ANIMATION with Nick (Babylonian) during The Anime Network's streaming all last Fall through the following Spring. Something I was always looking forward to was watching this anime when it came out on Blu-ray. While some took issues with animation shortcuts of the TV airing. Much of that was being improved for the DVD/BD releases in Japan. This was, hands down, my most anticipated Blu-ray release of 2012, and I'm not a big Blu-ray collector. I normally only buy them when it's something I'm passionate about. Well, it seems as if that's not going to happen they way I had hoped.

Looks like Chie and Yukiko already pre-ordered
Looks like Chie and Yukiko already pre-ordered

Much in the same way FUNimation Entertainment was blocked this summer by Kadokawa from releasing Blu-rays for the foreseeable future, which included PANTY & STOCKING. Tuesday, Sentai Filmworks, the U.S. distributor, announced that the Japanese license holders for PERSONA 4 THE ANIMATION were no longer permitting Sentai to release the series on Blu-ray if it contained the Japanese audio track. This announcement comes only one month before the initial September 18th release date for the first half of the anime collection.

This all stems from the fear the original license holders have about people in Japan importing the U.S. Blu-ray at an incredibly steep price cut. To put this into perspective. In Japan, P4A will be a 10 Volume set (three episodes per volume), and each separate Blu-ray averages out to ¥7,980 ($102 USD). The original retail price for the part one collection, which contains episodes 1-12, on Blu-ray in the U.S. was to be $69.98 USD.

Aww, Kanji was looking forward to the swimsuit scene in HD
Aww, Kanji was looking forward to the swimsuit scene in HD

Sentai's response to this mandate was to still release the Blu-ray but with only the English audio dub. This will also result in a price cut of $10.00 to $59.98 USD. Keep this in mind if you've already put your pre-orders in, and don't trust any online retailers that try and tell you their Blu-ray has both(Amazon.com hasn't been updated). Mind you, they are still releasing the standard DVDs with both English and Japanese voice work, Japanese episode commentaries, but no alteration in price. You're basically paying the exact same cost on Blu-ray for a better picture and nothing else. I would like to point out to readers that the Sentai Filmworks release of HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD on Blu-ray had no option to turn off the subtitles on the Japanese audio track once turned on.

It just feels as if we're being punished for the actions of a few in Japan who are gaming the system. I want to reiterate that companies such as FUNimation and Sentai Filmworks have no control over this issue. I'd hate to see them taking the heat for this change. I'm positive that they would love to provide their consumers with all the options, but their hands are tied in this matter. Hell hath no fury like an otaku scorned, but my hope is that anyone who feels the need to contact these companies to voice their concerns are respectful of their position.

I'm burning with passion on this issue
I'm burning with passion on this issue
The Godhand has come down on the American Blu-ray fans
The Godhand has come down on the American Blu-ray fans

We also need to start questioning what this will mean for the future of all anime Blu-rays in America and outside of Japan if this trend continues to spread. I bought the first two EVANGELION Rebuild movies on Blu-ray, and they're the gems of my collection. I wanted to support the company releasing the series, and see these films in the quality they were meant for. EVANGELION 1.11 was the first movie I watched on high-def after I got a HDI cable. Every now and again, I love to put that in and watch the scene of Shinji taking that final shot at Ramiel. In the coming future when EVANGELION 3.33 is released, will I even have the Blu-ray option to complete the collection? Will it be two, five, or ten years till the Japanese block on these Blu-rays is lifted?

Despite being a huge fan of PERSONA 4, I'm not sure I even want to buy this series at all if I can't get it in the best possible quality with all the options. It's not that I don't have faith in the P4A English cast. Far from it. It's just that Sentai's scripting and direction has not been all that impressive. With HOTD, they changed the meaning of entire scenes, character personalities, and went so far as to renamed the dog. What are your thoughts? Did you already pre-order P4A on Blu-ray? Does anyone else worry that Blu-rays being blocked could start to hurt the industry just as more people are getting in?

Source: ANN

-Kristoffer Remmell ( FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.- Follow for news updates: @FoxxFireArt

Dream moderator on Aug. 3, 2012 at 11:07 a.m.

Yeah, I can see where this would suck for Blu-Ray buyers. The Japanese anime market has been used to their pricing models with steep prices and limited episode counts per volume release towards the diehard otaku fanbase for years and they don't look like they are gonna budge away from that model anytime soon.

Daniel_Newton moderator on Aug. 3, 2012 at 11:59 a.m.

If you ask me, it really depends on whether or not the Japanese license holders actually need the majority of the money they ask for or if they're just getting upset over a little loss of profit (or even just the potential for less profit). I've been told different things by different people. If this really is hurting the Japanese anime industry, then it's kind of the only logical thing to do from their perspective, which is just unfortunate for us. Unless they somehow have the power to put a stop to importing in the first place, they'll have to do something like this instead. It's just business and it sucks.

With HOTD, they changed the meaning of entire scenes, character personalities, and went so far as to renamed the dog.

When they change dialogue to the point that characters are portrayed differently and scenes play out differently, I understand why people get upset. It's funny, in Tom's Vice Pit video discussing subs vs. dubs (which he recorded not long ago) he explains how you can just watch the Japanese version if you aren't happy with the English, but that's exactly the problem here - with Persona 4 you no longer have that choice.

I guess ultimately if doing this kind of thing helps the Japanese anime market more than it damages the western anime market, then that's what they care about.

macgetmalledon Aug. 3, 2012 at 12:35 p.m.

This is the ultimate Catch 22. I have been waiting for the Persona 4 to come out on home video for a while. Because I look forward to the dub, but if this is what they have to do to release these things over here on blu-ray. If your an american anime fan, you are stuck in the middle. Either A - you buy this, support Sentai Filmworks so they can release more stuff in the US on blu-ray or B - buy the DVD, take the hit in the picture quality and get the full release. I keep thinking about canceling my pre-order and just pre-ordering the DVD.

sabin1001on Aug. 3, 2012 at 12:37 p.m.

Sentai wants $102 for three episodes of an anime. It's pretty clear to see who's at fault here.

Daniel_Newton moderator on Aug. 3, 2012 at 12:55 p.m.

@sabin1001 said:

Sentai wants $102 for three episodes of an anime. It's pretty clear to see who's at fault here.

Either that's a mistake or you might want to read the article again.

Sentai Filmworks is the US distributor asking for $70 for 12 episodes, it's the Japanese company asking for over $100 for 3 episodes. That's how anime prices have been in Japan for a long time.

Turambaron Aug. 3, 2012 at 1:25 p.m.

"It just feels as if we're being punished for the actions of a few in Japan who are gaming the system."


You might want to reread that line, think about what it's saying, and realize it's a pretty dumb comment.  If trying not to be royally screwed by over inflated pricing is "gaming the system", all systems deserve to be gamed.
FoxxFireArt moderator on Aug. 3, 2012 at 2:03 p.m.

@Daniel_Newton:

As I mentioned about HOTD. When Sentai released that on Blu-ray, you couldn't turn off the subtitles when you turned on the Japanese audio. Even if people in Japan were buying the US Blu-rays, they are getting these English letters plastered all over the place.

The only thing I can imagine is if these people ripping the English version and lacing over the Japanese dialog so they don't have the subtitles. It's just, who's crazy enough to go to that length? At that point, it's a piracy issue and not an import one. I just can't see how many would go through the trouble of importing from the US to the point it could hurt the profits in Japan. It feels more like an over reaction on their part.

I also worry that American distributors will be hesitant to even try to do home releases if all they are going to face is being blocked on Blu-ray sales. That's why I really want more people to see this and start asking these sorts of questions before it becomes a serious problem.

@macgetmalled:

With the way the DVDs compare to the Blu-ray. They now cost the exact same price. The Blu-ray is only giving you a better picture on a dub that you have no way of judging in quality before you buy and nothing else. For the same price on DVD, you get both audio tracks and Japanese commentaries.

macgetmalledon Aug. 3, 2012 at 2:50 p.m.

I actuallly dropped my pre-order on the blu-ray and pre-ordered the DVD. This is why streaming is going to take over though.

Daniel_Newton moderator on Aug. 3, 2012 at 3:19 p.m.

@FoxxFireArt: Yeah I'm kind of with you there, I can't imagine enough people are importing that it's hurting Japanese sales that much. I don't know for sure though.

@macgetmalled: That's actually a really good point. Streaming-only would technically solve the problem, we would get our high definition dubbed and subbed anime and the Japanese would have nothing to import. FUNimation offers premium streaming services, and I would imagine that means you can watch dubbed Panty & Stocking in HD, so maybe Sentai just needs to follow FUNi's example.

Still, it wouldn't be the same for those who actually want a physical copy, but that's an argument that applies to all disc media anyway. It's also easy to get around website region locks, but that's been the case for a long time too.

They can't do much about people pirating or getting around online region locks, but this trend they're starting with Persona 4 doesn't appear to be flawed; if there's no Japanese audio on the disc, the Japanese people aren't going to import it.

Like I said, sucks for us, works for them.

macgetmalledon Aug. 3, 2012 at 4:22 p.m.

@Daniel_Newton

Actually Sentai does do online streaming through the Anime Network . It's extremely similar to Funimation way of doing it. Though they do not have as much content and there webpage leaves a bit to be desire. They do have a iPhone/iPad app thats pretty good, with airplay support, but not outside support. It's also a bit cheaper than FUNi at 7 bucks a month or 70 bucks a year.

Back to this subject. The issue will always be streaming is great, but most anime is on a 5-10 year contract, so after that the rights go away. So unless you bought it on DVD, it's either piracy or hoping someone else picks up the rights. I have a copy of Black Heaven in my room, released by Genenon, if I want to watch I can put it in any DVD player and watch it.

metalsnakezeroon Aug. 3, 2012 at 5:48 p.m.

It really sucks that I can't have both voice tracks on the Blu-ray release but in order for Sentai to get the most out of the P4 anime release they have to do it now since Arena and Golden are coming out this year. Besides, the Japanese track is already in the stream version and most of us had played the game in English so it may not be too big of a deal. Still you have to wonder if future releases of high profile anime will be release in English only.

Lurkeroon Aug. 3, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.

I wonder if reverse importing has actually hurt Japanese profits or if the companies are afraid that it will. I wonder how much easier it is to import from USA than to just buy in Japan. How much are Japanese consumers being ripped off?

It says something when foreign companies believe they will get more profit overcharging domestic customers than they would if they sold the same product to both markets.

sickVisionz moderator on Aug. 4, 2012 at 7:10 a.m.

@Lurkero: It annoys me when people use the tern "overcharging". Most anime isn't profitable and the fandom just isn't there to make US level pricing do anything more than plunge revenue even lower. The system is plagued with outsourcing, salaries are reported as being extremely low and studios have gone under, but people still talk as if anime companies are just rolling in barrels of money from overcharging Japanese fans.

They charge what it costs to stay alive in Japan. If anything, the problem is that anime in the US is ridiculously underpriced and undervalued. Obviously, I haven't checked every country in the world, but from browsing around Australian, US, French, Italian, Taiwanesse, Japanese, and Korean websites that sell anime, the US values it the least going off of what companies charge for it. It's annoying that the people who pay the least for anime and value it the least are the first to point the finger at a struggling industry and make claims of overcharging and that Japan should wake up and get more in line with how we do.

Ultimately, that's probably the reason why stuff like this even happens. We aren't the largest base for it and we value it the least, so why should a Japanese company care about what happens with a US release?

Back to the article, I think it's a little over the top to worry about your Blu-ray collection being in peril. All of the Kadokawa titles and this one were recently released in Japan. Some anime bombs in Japan and there simply isn't any reason to hold back rights for it and some anime have simply run their course in the Japanese BD market. The farther out a US release is from the Japanese one, the less likely this is to happen.

Lurkeroon Aug. 4, 2012 at 7:46 a.m.

@sickVisionz said:

@Lurkero: It annoys me when people use the tern "overcharging". Most anime isn't profitable and the fandom just isn't there to make US level pricing do anything more than plunge revenue even lower. The system is plagued with outsourcing, salaries are reported as being extremely low and studios have gone under, but people still talk as if anime companies are just rolling in barrels of money from overcharging Japanese fans....

That's interesting. I would assume that if the demand isn't there then supply would either slow down, innovate, or go after a broader market. Somehow, there still seems to be plenty of anime released every season and they mostly cater to the same consumers. Not the best strategy to bring in more revenue.

All I know is, if an industry is afraid of their consumers going so far as to import products from another country instead of going to the nearest store to purchase it, then they are probly overvaluing what the market is willing to pay for said product. It's also not Japan's fault that the US Dollar is steadily weakening in the global market, but that is something the anime industry has no control over.

I assume that, in Japan, anime is produced for TV and disc all within the country - which would make the product increasingly expensive without cheap labor. The last thing I remember reading about the cost of anime is this report: http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2011/10/30-1/how-much-does-one-episode-of-anime-cost-to-make

I don't know all the logistics of USA cartoon production companies, but I do know that it involves a lot of outsourcing the between frame production. The disc cases are most likely manufactured in Mexico or China.

sickVisionz moderator on Aug. 4, 2012 at 10:29 a.m.

@Lurkero: It's a hit driven market where one big hit can pay for a bunch of failures. The # of series produced in a year has actually decreased from what it was at in the early-mid 2000s. Anime is sold overseas so they are looking at outside markets. Innovation... yeah, that doesn't happen and it doesn't really happen in most entertainment industries. When times are rough, you go for what you think will be certified hits. It's the reason why so many big budget films and games are sequels or remakes and why so much anime is based off of IP that already exists. Creating something new and innovative is a huge risk compared to taking something that's already popular and either making another one or bringing it to a new medium. Additionally, a lot of innovative stuff flops incredibly hard. For every Madoka there are about 10 Kaibas, House of Five Leaves, Tatami Galaxies, etc.

But we're talking about "overpricing". Shows have come out of for cheaper (most recently Bodacious Space Pirates) and they haven't sold noticeably better than other shows that season. Anime is a niche market everywhere and lowering the price just doesn't generate enough new sales to make up for the loss in revenue per unit outside of ultra global mega-hit titles like Dragon Ball. Anime is expensive, yes, but I don't agree with it being "overpriced". They charge what it cost to stay afloat.

sotyfan16on Aug. 5, 2012 at 4:15 a.m.

I don't care about this series so this change does not bother me. But if this starts affecting shows I like then I will have a problem (or will just have to settle with buying the DVD versions instead of BD).

But , you've been very hung up on HOTD since its release. Let it go. Yes, some things were changed that we are not happy about but sometimes that is what dubs give us. Do no beat down on Sentai for a single title. I think Sentai has been doing better dubs than FUNi recently.

FoxxFireArt moderator on Aug. 6, 2012 at 3:27 a.m.
@sickVisionz
I added the information about the pricing in Japan to give a perspective that is often left out of Western media on these issues. I wasn't trying to make it seem over priced, but that the Japanese companies do have a financial reasoning behind these actions. I also don't believe that the market in the US would bare such pricing.
 
I just also question how valid that concern actually is. How many people in Japan are going to such lengths, or is the company just trying to act preemptively? As I mention, HOTD's Japanese audio track didn't allow the user to turn off the subtitles. If someone in Japan was going to buy the series from the US. Their version would have large English lettering over every scene.  I remember one scene of HOTD where it put up a subtitle for a Stop sign in the street.
 
I say Blu-ray collections are in peril becasue this could wind up effecting more and more series. This came only a month before the release date, and the original listing for the PERSONA 4 Blu-ray had both tracks listed. As I mention, even Amazon.com hasn't changed the product details when I wrote that.
The further away you get from the initial release date the sales will generally drop, becasue interest is down. If these companies aren't allowed to sell Blu-rays till years down the line, they may start to sell so poorly that it wont be worth it to the US companies to even produce them altogether. 
 
I wouldn't be surprised if the issues with FUNimation this summer had to do with Kadokawa not permitting them to release them with the Japanese track, and FUNimation opted to just not sell the Blu-ray. If this is the case. I'm not sure Sentai made the best decision. If in a year they can release both tracks on Blu-ray. They would then have two Blu-rays on the market they have to produce. One with English only and another with both.
It probably would have been smarter to release the DVDs only, then a year or so down the line they could release the box set of both parts on Blu-ray with both audio tracks.

@sotyfan16
I'm not paid to review every series that they make. I can only go by the experiences I've had with Sentai Filmworks dubs, and that's HOTD. That had several examples of what a company should never do when dubbing, and they should have known better. If someone can do something once, they can do it again. 
 
if this was being dubbed by the Atlus Team, I would have no worries at all, but it's being done by Sentai. My issues aren't even with the cast. It's their script writers and ADR directors who think it's funny to drop Sarah Palin references.
sotyfan16on Aug. 6, 2012 at 3:41 a.m.

@FoxxFireArt:

The Palin drop was pretty bad. I agree more care should be taken, too. But from what I can tell, the other series I have from Sentai do a good job in their work (voicing, script, etc.).

I don't get paid to see their series, by the way. I've bought every series except for the ones from my family or the sets I picked out from my FUNimation visit. Sentai must not license many shows that you care to watch if all you have is HOTD.

zaldaron Aug. 9, 2012 at 11:20 a.m.

The people to be angry with are the people reverse importing just like all piracy blocks that people make the people to be mad at are the pirates.

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