PANTY & STOCKING (With Garterbelt) was one of the most surprising and legitimately funny shows on Japanese TV I can remember appearing in the last few years. It took the aesthetic, timing and general raison d'etre of flat, ugly Cartoon Network shows and combined them with fetishized nose-picking,giant turd monsters and an episode that finally realized Johnen Vasquez' dream of an entire episode in which the camera never once leaves the show's protagonists, who are sitting on their asses and doing nothing of consequence in their boring old living room. In short, the show was proof positive that Gainax still has something to give the world, and even if the blocky, flat art style makes your guts bunch up into your throat, you're doing yourself quite a disservice by not giving it a try.
FUNimation was all over that like fatties on free cake, and announced from the start that it would be a DVD+Blu-ray combo set, like... pretty much everything they've released in the last two or three years. They said that this was true as of three weeks ago, as well, but a troubling new turn of events has changed the likelyhood of that still being the case. Assuming the show gets released by the end of Summer, which FUNi had also said was their current plan.
Remember Sora no Otoshimono, the show about a pervy kid who gets a discarded cyborg angel with magical powers, and is mostly notable for the episode in which all panties come to life and fly away like flocks of birds? Anyway, the first series (released as "Heaven's Lost Property" in the English speaking world) was a typical FUNimation DVD + Blu-ray 'Combo' set, available with a shiny chipboard Artbox for the first press, and then in a regular ol' keepcase for the second pressing. The show's sequel/second season, Sora no Otoshimono Forte, was announced as a DVD + BD set... but the final release is DVD only. This is evidently a new policy from Kadokawa - one that hasn't been "officially" announced, just mentioned in passing after hours at conventions - in which no US release can include a Blu-ray if it's released during the same calendar year as the last volume of the Japanese BD sets. The rumblings suggest a 12 month grace period between the final Japanese Blu-ray single and the American box set, unless the American release is also released in hideously overpriced single discs... which, for those keeping score, American consumers, and yes, even the crazy anime people, gave up on the absolute second they were offered the "Complete Series" option.
Granted, Justin Sevakis' recent three-part article The Economy of Anime has pointed out, the money actually pulled in by the Japanese end on these bargain-priced North American box sets is a literal fraction of the money made by thise obscenely-expensive Japanese releases, and with Blu-ray having decided that Japan and the United States are officially in the same region, it's made the number crunchers at Kadokawa even more paranoid than usual that the Japanese fans will simply wait a few months for the US "Import" and spend a pittance to get, essentially, the same content.
Yes, that's right: The DVD-only box is still, fucking, BLUE.
I swear, they do stuff like this just to piss me off...
Kadokawa can officially choke on a dick over this policy, but they aren't alone; despite FUNimation having previously negotiated with Toei for the "HD Rights" for One Piece S4, the plans have since been changed to be a DVD only release. Even at the full $70 MSRP (which, let's face it, neither you nor I have ever once paid) these US "complete" box sets typically sell for about 1/6th the retail price Japanese consumers pay for their half-dozen or so individual volumes, and as sales for home media continue to dwindle world wide as consumers march towards a combination of streaming and apathy and pirates decide that Very Good HD downloads are "good enough" when faced with the option of selling a kidney just to afford a second season of Strike Witches - and yes, that's over $450 the less-expensive re-release of 5 hours of content - it seems that at least some of Japan's most powerful licensors might finally be putting the breaks on what it considers an already next to worthless profit margin... keeping the North American market in check at least until they're sure they've squeezed their home audience for every last yen.
Still, for a show like this that aired in 1080i and already has gorgeous Japanese 1080p Blu-ray release - the last of which comes out next month? Bitch, you must be trippin'. I'd rather spend $50 on a figure or an artbook than a DVD. It's not about the money, either - it's about the fact that I want to buy titles in the best quality possible, and buying a DVD when I can download a high quality Blu-ray rip is literally a waste to me.
Sorry FUNimation. I know this wasn't your bright idea, but going forward for you it's Blu-ray or the highway... maybe if Kadokawa sees the numbers on their DVD only sets drop hard and fast, they'll reconsider. Home media is a market we're already watching slowly march to its death, but the market for Blu-ray has steadily increased as the market for DVD has only gotten smaller, so this is like taking the very market's cane away and then giving it a good swift kick in the pills for good measure. When those two shifting paradigms finally meet in the middle, the notion of mass-market releases will essentially be over... but hey, don't worry too much about it. We'll all be there sooner than I think any of us realize.