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.
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.
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.
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?