Friday, April 20, 2007

I'm the best non-licensor in America AGAIN!

5 episodes per DVD-R (minimum!). A single "fat" keepcase to house a whole series. No English dub unless one was already created prior back in the day. $10 per disc, plus an extra $3 for the first volume.

LICENSED MEDIA SOLD ON DVD-R.

I swear to God, I'm not making this shiz up: ImaginAsian Entertainment is going to start releasing legit DVD-R discs of Orguss TV, Cat's Eye and Nobody's Boy Remi, all various high quality anime TV series from the mid 1980's and earlier.

It sounds like a bootleg release, but no, Jonathan Sevakis, formerly of Central Park Media (before their somewhat epic lay-off of everyone but the president of the company and his wife basically retreated, not licensing anything new and selling off some of their more notable licenses like Slayers) has sworn to start a new DVD label in the US, catering specifically to hardcore fans willing to buy DVD-R versions at a discounted price. Directly from his website. That's right, these discs won't be found at Rightstuf or DVD Planet, Best Buy or Borders, Best Buy or Wal*Mart: Sevakis has completely cut out the middle man. He's doing the authoring and encoding personally, and for all I know every single DVD will be burned, thermal printed, and sticky-taped inside of a plastic CD envelope personally. His prices are insane, his practice are unorthodox (to be fair, these DVD-R will include region coding and CSS anti-piracy protection), and, perhaps most importantly...

Sevakis is a fucking GENIUS. That, in many ways... does what I've done for years.

Bwa-hahahahahaha!

Seriously though. There's a lot of things to look at in this crazy world of anime distribution - legit, and otherwise. First and foremost is the fact that, despite a visible presence in pop culture and a loud and voracious fan base... anime doesn't make any money. Seriously, most anime DVD's (unless it's a tie-in to something that's regularly played on basic cable or connected to a popular videogame) struggle to sell 3,000-4,000 copies a piece, and the English dub - often considered the nessicary evil needed to get those 3k-4k to pony up the goods - can take away the profit from 2,000 of those sales right there (with $10,000-$15,000 being the low end of English dub production per-episode) . And that's before authoring, encoding, packaging, replication, distributor cut... when you factor in that they have to license the fucking episodes for $20,000-$50,000 a piece up front and that they wholesale the discs for $10-$15 each, it's kind of a miracle that there's any profit what-so-ever in releasing anime in the United States.

Mind, I'm talking about new shows. Moderately popular shows. I'm not talking about cult phenomenons here that have a massive built-in audience (ie: not Haruhi or Dragonball Z), I'm talking about middle-of-the-road kind of titles... something like Tsubasa, Noein, Kamichu!, shows that aren't bad or anything, they just aren't going to break the bank. Ever. In a million years. Hell, even titles with an established name in America don't guarantee a profit: Media Blasters said not so long ago that they refused to license the second season of the Oh! My Goddess TV series, because they don't think they'll ever break even on the first season (and thus ADV picked it up. Why? 'Cause they're... insane?).

Now... what about old anime? Now I don't mean Tetsujin 28-gou and Mach Go Go Go old... I just mean, say, 1975-1997. Generally speaking, anime that's a decade old or more just doesn't sell well. It isn't new and it shows. Most anime fans - by which I mean the people who walk in to a store, see a box staring them in the face, think "that could be fun" and buy it, sight unseen, without having read the press releases or watched the fansubs - just want to watch something... cool. Something fresh. Something dark and violent, or at least sassy and cute. Old anime looks... old. It looks dates, predictable, trite even, to these people. Regardless of how amazing the story telling or traditional hand-crafted art therein may be, the overwhelming majority of people would pass on... well, fuck. Even shows I considered masterpieces a few short years ago, stuff like Berserk, Evangelion and Devilman Lady, have all been usurped by stuff like Scrapped .HACK, RahXephon and Trinity Blood (not that I'd recommend ANY of these over the 3 I mentioned prior, but the point stands). I'm starting to ramble, so I'll sum up the concept and get back to the head of the matter: lower quality but more contemporary anime sells better than higher quality but dated-looking anime.

Sad, ain't it? While a newer middle-of-the-road show might be lucky to sell 5,000 copies, "old" anime is lucky to sell 1,000. Maybe even half that. It's deplorable, but retail's a bitch.

The issue here becomes the fact that Sevakis is bucking... roughly every industry trend out there. No standard keepcase packaging with each disc - after the first volume, each DVD is shipped in a plastic envelope, no insert, nothing. No English dub, which Bandai Visual ALSO does... but they charge you $50 for 4 episodes of a crappy TV show, or $40 for a pair of OVA's. Or $40 for one high definition OVA. They can suck it. Now, Orguss TV will get an English dub for episodes 01-17 out of 36, but that's only because US Renditions dubbed it eons ago and... well, the dub exists, why not include it for kicks? So, no package, and no English dub. 'Kay.

Let's talk about the DVD-R aspect for a second. What a lot of people fail to understand is 500 units of an "old" anime is something of a miracle to start with. Moreover, 500 units of a subtitled-only old anime without nostalgia attached to it from Saturday morning broadcasts in the 80's from when it was dubbed and edited into a different show is a dream you'll never see. Well, DVD replicators won't even bother pressing less than 500 copies of a DVD... so DVD-R is, assuming Sevakis can't move more than 500 copies, literally the only option.

"But DVD-R's fail!" some idiots cry out. Not if they were authored properly, not if the dye used in the media was decent, and... well, DVD isn't yet a decade old, and plenty of people have complained of unplayable "DVD rot" riddled discs already (probably due to the evil that is Scanavo cases*). In short, DVD-R is no better or worse than pressed DVD's (if you know what you're doing), and if you have a DVD player so old that it can't play DVD-R... dude. Buy a goddamn $70 Wal-Mart DVD player. You cheap bastard.

*Scanavo - noted by the company name embossed in the case itself - are the guys who make those cases you have to push AND pinch at the same time to get to dislodge from the DVD hub. They have what people call the "death grip" on DVD's, and if you're a bastard to your collection, they WILL crack the inside of the discs. Ironically, I've never killed a DVD on a Scanavo case, though I've gotten PLENTY of cracked DVD's from generic hubs used on Kitty Media DVD's... and my copy of SAW in that cool limited Super Jewel Case literally exploded the second time I removed it from the case. What the fuck?

The most shocking aspect of all this is - doubtless - the fact that I've been doing the same thing for years now. I always do my damndest to find the best video and audio materials available, sometimes delaying a DVD-R release for months (...or years) in the name of perfection. I release DVD-R's of titles that are good. Understand that I focus on controversial animated "adult" cinema for the most part, but if I genuinely hate something I'm not going to bother selling it. I'll consider it, even threaten to... but I won't. If the name Kentai Films is on a DVD, it's because I genuinely felt the series/movie/whatever was awesome enough (for whatever reason) to deserve my own tiny personal touch in getting it released. Sevakis is doing the same thing, focusing on shows he knows wouldn't turn a profit of any sort in the standard R1 market. Much like me, he's doing everything personally... directly.

Sadly, his prowess as a DVD guru from CPM means my slightly annotated resume of playing with DVDMaestro and TMPGEnc for several years probably fell on deaf ears. He doesn't need any help, and he certainly doesn't need to be paying anyone but himself... I can certainly respect that. Also, did I mention he actually pays TMS for the shows he releases on DVD-R, this his stuff actually supports the R1 market while I'm more a filthy bootlegging monster who eats babies and rapes old women whilst not paying licensors for shit? Yeah, that's probably worth bringing up. Just for comparison's sake.

Once more, ImaginAsian Entertainment and Honneamise/Bandai Visual USA have proven I'm waaaay ahead of the curve: using Japanese transfers, not bothering creating English dubs or fancy packaging, using DVD-R... I swear to god, if Media Blasters announces their next "oldschool" show is mastered from an LD box, I'll actually be at the top of this game.

Oh - also, Sevakis writes a column over at AnimeNewsNetwork.com, namely the "Buried Treasures" feature where he watches obscure 80's and 90's movies and OVA's and highlights only the good stuff. In short, he takes the guess work out of leafing through the bargain bin of old tapes in comic shops that are (I pray) still littered across the country. He's not retarded like Answerman, but he's also not an antisocial sponge of trivia like John over at AnimeNation.com, so he balances out pretty nicely. He even once noted "It's like watching Takashi Miike's "Audition", substituting pain with PETA." He earned my adoration right there, and it didn't even dawn on me until tonight that they were the same person.

Oh yeah. ANGEL COP is done. I haven't burned it yet to verify it working properly on a stand-alone DVD player yet, because my PC has major issues with its' heat sink* right now, and until I can afford to replace it in a couple weeks, excessive use (like burning and verifying a 2x DVD-RW for an hour, three times in a row) is something I'd rather avoid. I'm also considering putting a "this DVD was made by Kentai Films!" tag somewhere on the disc, but I dunno'... I put liner notes on disc 3. Y'all know it's me, and if you don't I'll be including a business card-type thing inside of the keepcase. So it feels more and more like an incredibly moot point to slap my name on every disc. I didn't "watermark" the credits with a soft subtitle, though maybe I should have... with all the work that went in to those goddamn squiggles of text, I'll be damned if I'm screwing with them again just to protect something that a bootlegger even less scrupulous than I am would just rip and not care about anyway.

*Heat sinks are evil. My wife even bought a non-stock sink when she built this bad-boy up for me. Unfortunately it's been getting loud, and very hot. Over 70 degrees C. Which for a Pentium 4 is... about 30 degrees more than it should be at any given time. It makes my PC slow and sluggish and groan if it has to do anything even somewhat complex, just like me before I've had at least 4 cups of coffee. It shouldn't damage anything permenantly... but the noise is very distracting/irritating, and with the upstairs end of my pad being so goddamn HOT for no logical reason this week, spending as little time as is humanly possible up here just seems like a pretty good idea.

In short: fuck you, AGL. You and your watermarked prints of secondgeneration VHS yaoi tapes. If you're going to transfer unimpressive masters 'cause it's all you can get, at least don't intentionally screw them up intentionally with a big fat "AGL" sitting right next to a stiff penis.

Also, for those still reading (have you no shame?), I'm hard at work/hardly working/why did I use this lame joke?- on the next project for my as always unnamed legit employer. This time it's a low-budget splatter film from Germany, the plot concerning a bunch of gangsters who unknowingly start the release of an evil chemical that turns people into snarling monsters who eat human flesh. Think DAWN OF THE DEAD but with pointy teeth, a goofy death metal soundtrack and shot on PAL video. Yeah. It's awesome in a cheap B-movie sort of way. I've got about a day's worth of work left and then one more day of fine-tuning the subtitles, making damn sure they pop up and disappear at intervals that'll make my boss proud to pay me. After that, it's another low-budget crapfest... this time about people who blow each other apart, but instead of dying they sew their pieces back together and continue to tear each other apart again. It's described as Germany's first "Party Splatter Movie", so what can I say, maybe it'll be fun for all the wrong reasons. More likely it'll just be cheap and awful. I'll just have to wait and see.

...oh yeah. Anime Boston starts tomorrow. I don't have any money, and even if I did (which I wouldn't) the maintenance dude is coming over for the nest 2 days to fill in the holes the arsehole who cleaned the water damage from my apartment left behind. He's doing it amazingly half-assed with some kind of chicken wire tape, but whatever, I don't have to pay any more for it. So, if I'm slightly bitter over the weekend, that could be a factor as to why.

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