This morning's anime industry panel at the MCM London Expo has now finished, so here's all of the latest news we nabbed from the event!
Let's start out with new license acquisitions, and Beez Entertainment were first up with two new, noitaminA TV block themed licenses, in the form of Edo era samurai series House of Five Leaves and the wonderfully smart The Tatami Galaxy. The company also confirmed that they do have more new licenses on the way, but they can't accounce them at this point in time, so watch this space.
Beez also talked about the release of Gundam Unicorn's second volume, which is still due to hit the PlayStation Network in the UK on schedule. However, there's still no decisive plan for a UK Blu-Ray release amid questions of pricing and whether or not to BBFC certify the release, meaning it may have to be purchased through the Beez online store or Bandai's US web store. Beez are also discussing the possibility of a UK DVD release for this series, giving the potentially high Blu-Ray prices of future volumes.
Next up was Tony and MVM Entertainment, whose major new anime license announcement is GONZO's The Tower of Druaga, which will be released as a single collection. The company also confirmed that it has relicensed a lot of its older shows for an additional five year period to ensure they remain available in the UK, including Samurai Champloo and Trigun.
Finally, Jerome of Manga Entertainment's biggest news was perhaps the confirmation from yesterday that they have licensed The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya's second season, as well as The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya movie and four-panel manga based The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya. Manga noted that the second season of the anime and the film were tied together as a single license - they're likely to release that second series as a single collection in the spring with the movie to follow in the summer. They also announced that the Haruhi-chan short episodes will be subtitle only.
Other new high-profile acquisitions from Manga include the first season of slice of life show K-ON, which will be released as a single collection - Manga are also hopeful that they will be able to release this series on Blu-Ray. The company has also picked up Birdy: The Mighty Decode - there are likely to be more FUNimation-related license news soon, but they weren't able to get clearance to announce those titles at London Expo.
Manga also noted once again other forthcoming releases, such as Madhouse film Redline, TO, Vampire Knight, two seasons of Hetalia: Axis Powers and the second Naruto Shipuuden movie. Summer Wars is also still due to be released next year on DVD Blu-Ray, while a double-pack of this film and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time will also be arriving at the same time. Unfortunately, Manga also confirmed that the re-release of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time on Blu-Ray will be a "vanilla" one without any extras, at the request of the Japanese licensor due to fears of reverse importing into Japan despite the discs being region-locked for Europe.
In other news, Beez Entertainment spoke of how strongly their Anime Legends range is selling, with Wolf's Rain and others requiring additional print runs to meet demand. Sadly, this panel also brought the news that this will be Andrew Partridge's final London Expo as a Beez employee - as of Monday he will be leaving to pastures new in ther form of Kaze, meaning that he'll still be supporting the UK market albeit in a different role for a new company.
The good news coming from this is that Kaze sees the UK as a ripe market which they'll be working to do more within both online and offline, and in terms of both anime licenses and merchandising.
Manga Entertainment confirmed that their anime products are still selling well - Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva has been a huge success, hitting all major retail outlets and selling over 10,000 copies already in its first couple of weeks. The Naruto franchise is still going strong, with sales of the latest Shipuuden movie almost matching the kind of numbers they were seeing for initial releases of the series.
Manga were also quizzed on the posibility of bringing One Piece to the UK, upon which they commented that they are having constructive discussions with TOEI Europe about both this series and Dragon Ball, but they have nothing to announce at the moment. They also noted that both of these series are "huge commitments" for any company on account of the number of episodes involved.
On the subject of streaming anime, Andrew Partridge noted that he should have something to talk about at the next London Expo in regard to this under his new role within Kaze, while Manga Entertainment urged fans to check out FUNimation's YouTube portal for shows that are available in the UK, while pointing out that there's no revenue in them streaming series on their own site and that delays in signing contracts make streaming in a timely fashion nigh-on impossible. Andrew also mentioned that we're never likely to see UK-only simulcasting of anime, but that simulcasting shows across other territories and including the UK does have potential.
The viability of anime on Blu-Ray in the UK was also brought up, with Manga Entertainment again reaffirming that they need to sell at least 3,000 copies of any given show on Blu-Ray for it to be worthwhile, noting that movies and short TV anime series are the best "fit" for a Blu-Ray release. Beez backed this up, noting that Blu-Ray releases across multiple territories is far easier to organise than UK-only releases. MVM agreed that UK-only Blu-Ray releases of anime aren't possible at present, but noted that they are picking up HD material wherever they can to future-proof the company if and when Blu-Ray becomes something they can consider more readily.