Ask John: Will America Continue to Get Bandai Anime?
With Bandai America no longer dubbing and distributing anime, who will take on the work? What if a new Gundam comes out, and Brad Swaile and other company would do great dubbing the show? I was looking forward for Turn A Gundam to come out, but since Bandai closed up shop, it may not ever be out dubbed over here in America. Also, what about video games made by Bandai/Namco?
Regrettably, to a certain degree, Americans may simply be out of luck. Over the past several years the majority of anime produced by Bandai Namco owned studio Sunrise has either been localized for American release by Bandai Entertainment – including Girl Who Leapt Through Space, Kurokami, Code Geass, Freedom, and My Otome – or it simply hasn’t reached America at all, including King of Thorn, Colorful, Idolmaster Xenoglossia, and Battle Spirits. However, a handful of recent anime produced by Bandai Namco, through Sunrise, have reached America through alternate distributors, including Viz distributing Inuyasha Kanketsuhen and Tiger & Bunny, FUNimation distributing Keroro Gunso, and Kodai Ouji Kyoryu King coming to America courtesy of 4Kids Entertainment. While the retreat of Bandai Entertainment from American licensing and distribution will certainly compromise the number of Bandai produced anime reaching America, other distributors have proven to step in where possible to acquire and distribute select titles.
The future availability of the Gundam franchise in America, though, looks quite grim. Considering that the Japanese Gundam Unicorn, AGE, and Seed Blu-rays include selectable English subtitles, Bandai Namco clearly seems to have determined that formally distributing Gundam anime in America is not financially worthwhile. So in order to accommodate the very small American hardcore market of Gundam consumers, Bandai Namco is simply making the Japanese Blu-rays slightly more accessible to American importers. Bandai has never allowed American home video distribution of any Gundam anime by non Bandai-owned distributor. That policy doesn’t appear susceptible to change in the foreseeable future. The American anime fan community had many years and plenty of warning to support the domestic anime distribution industry but largely chose to instead encourage unlicensed distribution and online streaming. In a case of reaping what we’ve sown, we can partially hold ourselves responsible for failing to encourage and support the continued DVD and Blu-ray release of Gundam and other Bandai-Namco produced anime in America.
Distributors like Bandai-Namco are not obligated to release their anime for American consumers. Americans don’t have a right to expect subtitled or dubbed releases of Gundam or any other anime. As many contemporary anime now reach America simultaneous with their Japanese release, we seem to have forgotten that anime is made primarily for Japanese viewers and consumers, and it’s only distributed in America as a supplemental market. Japanese studios and producers do not create anime expecting to recoup their production costs from the international market. America will only continue to get anime as long as we convince the Japanese production & distribution industry that America is a profitable, fertile market. Americans failed to convince Bandai-Namco to continue American distribution, thus we no longer get anime directly from Bandai-Namco. On the gaming front, at least, Bandai-Namco produced titles do still sell in America, so games continue to get localized and released.
Judging by available evidence, we had our chance to support Gundam anime in America, and not enough of us did. Bandai-Namco has proven amenable to allowing some of its anime titles to be acquired and distributed by domestic distributors, but the chances of seeing titles like Turn A Gundam, Gundam ZZ, and Gundam X on American DVD or Blu-ray now seem very remote. Evidently henceforward, Americans that want Gundam anime will have to import Japanese release.