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Anime Battle of the Distributors


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[FONT=Trebuchet MS][b]What are your views on the different English-language anime distributors out there?[/b]

The [b]Big Three[/b] that I'm aware of are ADV, MVM and FUNimation. By no means definitive; there are smaller companies, and often smaller outfits retain their morals better. Any come to mind?

I've never bought a FUNi-licensed DVD. So I can't comment on them. But I can do a quick compare-and-contrast of ADV and MVM.

In my opinion, ADV have declined in quality since I began buying anime. My [i]Martian Successor Nadesico[/i] DVDs are nice, my [i]Full Metal Panic![/i] collection less so. Back in the day when I was collecting [i]Nadesico,[/i] six DVDs would net you the anime-standard 26-episode series. The first four discs of [i]Nadesico[/i] each contain four episodes, the last two have a juicy five each. For some series, they put five on the first two discs, instead of the last, to draw you in.

Not a very long time later, when [i]Full Metal Panic![/i] became my next target (does it show I'm a mecha fan...?) I discovered, horrified, four discs in, that this series would be released on [i]seven[/i] discs: five four-ep offerings, two [i]three[/i]-ep. Consider that most feature films retail at around the £15 mark, and are usually 90 to 120 minutes long. Disregard the opening and closing sequences and three anime episodes come to about sixty minutes. Anime DVDs retail at £20 a pop. Three eps a disc means you pay a [b]large[/b] premium.

ADV extras are pretty standard. Textless opening and closing animations, three or four trailers and (if you're lucky) character profiles. My [i]Nadesico[/i] DVDs have these profiles; my [i]FMP![/i] discs do not. More evidence of a quality decline?

My experience of MVM comes from [i]Fullmetal Alchemist,[/i] which I've avoided buying on principle (for reasons I'll detail in a sec) and [i]Samurai 7,[/i] the first disc of which I bought and watched this week.

[i]Fullmetal Alchemist[/i] is a double-length (52-ep) series. Consider [i]GetBackers,[/i] an abnormal 48-ep series. ADV released [i]GetBackers[/i] on ten discs of four or five episodes each. Reasonable, yes! MVM are releasing the four-episode longer [i]FMA[/i] on no less than [i]fifteen[/i] discs. The series is fifty-two episodes and still they insist on releasing discs containing only three episodes. Nicht so gut, in my opinion, and this is why I'm holding off buying this, my favourite series possibly of all time, until a better-value box set option becomes available.

But having railed like this, I've been very satisfied with [i]Samurai 7[/i]. The disc doesn't have any more than the usual knobs and whistles (textless OP/ED, trailers, character profiles) but the dub and sub are both top-notch, more than I can say for a fair few of ADV's offerings.

I could go into a more detailed comparison of the two companies' subs and dubs, but this post is long enough already; if some discussion gets going I'll post that stuff later on. If we can get a definitive 'pros and cons' of all the current distributors out there, I may even write it up into a theOtaku article. Could be useful for first-time buyers, no?[/FONT]
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[COLOR=RoyalBlue]In all honesty I think ADV is rather a mixed format. They seem to have a little of all kinds in terms of episodes, extras and pricing.

When I got Pretear a few years ago for about $25-30 dollars you got three episodes a handful of extras like clean opening and closing character sketches and previews, though I don?t really consider previews an extra. It was a good thing Pretear was only 13 episodes or I probably would have never bothered to collect it.

Then I picked up DNAngel, which is by ADV for the same price range. This time you got four episodes and much better extras. The nice clean opening and closing along with voice actor commentary, insight into the music and music video collection made the DVD?s a pretty good buy since the extras were very enjoyable to browse through. They also came with nice reversible DVD covers. Though now I understand you can get it in a slim set so I don?t know if you still get everything you got the first time around.

Recently I picked up the slim case set of Rune Soldier. Also by ADV. You got all 24 episodes for $35 dollars, but other than previews there are no extras on the DVD?s unless one of them happens to hide a clean opening and closing section somewhere. It does have previews, but like I said before, I don?t really consider that an extra. The price was attractive, but the lack of extra features was rather disappointing.

All three of the series I just mentioned came with the Basic English and Japanese with subtitles option.

Now as for FUNimation, well though they have done a good job on some of their disks, others have features that really annoy me.

The best I?ve gotten from them so far was Fruits Basket. I paid $30 for six episodes per disk and they were all loaded with tons of great extras. They came with both the English and Japanese with subtitles. I understand you can get Fruits Basket as a set now but I don?t know if they kept the extra?s in them or not.

Another series I?ve been collecting from FUNimation is Case Closed. Other than the first disk, which had four, all of them have had three episodes on them. They run around $22 dollars each and in addition to having both the English and Japanese with subtitles. Which is very important for this show as all the English names were changed. The also had a few extras in addition to the standard previews. The biggest turn off is they have opening previews of other series that you cannot skip. You have to wait a minute or two for a stupid trailer on other shows to finish. That?s a feature that often has me wanting to return the disk and demand my money back.

Now FUNimation is re-releasing Case Closed and though you get six episodes for $30 dollars, with both English and Japanese with subtitles. Other than previews, they?ve cut out the extras that came with the DVD?s the first time around. I have yet to purchase these so hopefully they dropped the idiotic trailers in the beginning that you can?t skip.

That about sums it up for the moment. I would agree that ADV has declined in quality, but as for the others, I'm not sure, I would need more comparisons to be sure.

I have others from different studio?s but I?d have to pull them out as I don?t remember what they came with. [/COLOR]
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[FONT=Trebuchet MS][quote name='Maryohki][FONT=Verdana']Uh, please excuse my idiocy, but what is MVM? And I thought FUNimation had FMA?[/FONT][/quote]MVM Films are another anime DVD distribution company like ADV and FUNi. You can find their (unutterably fugly) website [url=http://www.mvm-films.com][u]here[/u][/url].

They definitely handle [i]Fullmetal Alchemist[/i] here in the UK (it's in the catalogue on their unutterably fugly website), though obviously I can't speak for the US. I'm pretty sure FUNi's logo is on the DVD cases somewhere as well, so I suspect either MVM is a subsidiary, or they bought the British distribution rights off FUNi. I'm pretty sure the dub/sub/extras/etc are the same as the US release.[quote name='SunfallE][FONT=Verdana][COLOR=RoyalBlue]The best I?ve gotten from them so far was Fruits Basket.[/COLOR'][/FONT][/quote]I remember seeing some [i]Fruits Basket[/i] at an anime all-nighter and not being at all impressed by the English dub. It just didn't have as much [b]pep[/b] as the original Japanese audio. The mark of a terrible dub (in my opinion) is when the characters end up speaking slightly ... slower ... than is normal, because the Japanese lines take longer to say than their translation. But they sound like excellent value for money, at six eps per disc. I don't think I've ever seen more than five on a UK release.

Of course I missed Manga Entertainment out of my Distribution Holy Trinity, as well. More on them in the morning, when my brain resumes normal service.[/FONT]
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You think 4 episodes are bad? Try Gantz which had 2 a piece and then was upped to 3 and cost double. That was a rip off. The trick is to wait awhile look at the original Saiyuki it spaned 12 DVDs. But is now 6 and has 8-10 episodes per volume. Scryed was also reduced to 3 DVDs with 8-10 episodes as well. Great animes like Bebop and Texhnolyze are 6 volumes and span the whole series. Which is quite reasonable. Then theres FMA which spans 13 volumes. Thats alot of DVDs and money. If they added more episodes to a volume you would save a ton of money. The trick is to wait it out. Then the good deals pop in.
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[quote name='Raiyuu][FONT=Trebuchet MS]MVM Films are another anime DVD distribution company like ADV and FUNi. You can find their (unutterably fugly) website [url=http://www.mvm-films.com][u]here[/u][/url'].[/FONT][/quote]

I think it's a UK based company, because I've never heard of them, and Vampire Princess Miyu is done here by Animeigo, and some of the other things were done by other companies. I do believe that heals my confusion. :catgirl:
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Yeah, I think we need to be careful about distinguishing between regions. For example, Madman practically has a monopoly on the anime market in Australia, but I don't think they release DVDs in the US or the UK.

(I'm a US-dweller, so everything I have to say relates to the US branches of the companies in question. For instance, Manga Ent. seems to have a smaller presence in the US than in the UK.)

Anyway, the US Big Four are ADV, Bandai, FUNimation and Geneon. Some would argue that it ought to be a Big Five, with Media Blasters rounding out the list. I really like Funi & Geneon and am basically content with ADV & Bandai. One thing that has earned Funi tremendous points in my book is their recent practice of duplicating R2 releases. In a way it's spoiled me, because I've started to expect them to bring us R2 extras.

The limited edition version of Funi's Samurai 7 release is a good example of this--the storyboard books are a real treat for some fans, even if they may seem frivolous to others. I find it hard to believe that any other company would have brought them over. It makes me really eager to see how they handle future series like Tsukuyomi ~ Moon Phase and Basilisk. Their treatment of DBZ and Case Closed is much more questionable, but they've changed their ways as far as Case Closed is concerned, and there have been indications that they'll start taking a different approach to DBZ as well. Admittedly, I find it hard to care about the fate Dragonball-related stuff, but I'm trying to be fair. :animeswea

Geneon's releases tend to be bare-bones in terms of on-disc extras, but their packaging is almost always gorgeous, and they tend to lavish even minor series with inserts, reversible covers, etc. I have to give them kudos for taking a chance on brilliant but controversial/obscure anime like Koi Kaze.

I like ADV well enough, although lately they haven't licensed anything I'm even mildly interested in. Once I'm done with Princess Tutu and Kaleido Star: New Wings, I'll just be getting thinpaks from them. Speaking of which, I'm glad that they've changed their thinpak policy to create longer delays between the final single & the cheap set. That's an acceptable trade-off.

When I think about it... of the bigger players (barring obvious examples like 4Kids and whatever), the only company that I really don't care for is Viz. Fifteen discs of FMA is one thing, but they're putting out fifty+ discs of Inuyasha! They don't include song subs despite the fact that every single other company does, and all that aside, they just don't come off as being particularly communicative or fan-friendly.

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[SIZE=1]I don't buy much anime on DVD mainly because of how ruddy expensive it is, as you kindly pointed out. I have two Gundam Wing DVDs and the movie, each of which cost in the region of £16-20. Now that series is ten DVDs long and I think each disc has four episodes? I can't remember. Anyway, they're pretty decent and I believe are done by a company called...'Beez'? That's the only name I see on the box, anyway =/ I'm in the UK and bought these in a local anime store, though I don't think I've seen that name on anything else before.

My Slayers boxset I bought on eBay which, if I remember correctly, was a pretty good price. It has zero extras on it but each DVD has about ten episodes, I'm guessing it's because it's a boxset. But the dub and sub are really good, the dub is so good in fact that I prefer watching it in English. It's the same with Hellsing, which I was equally impressed with. (Done by ADV)

I bought a Saiyuki RELOAD boxset a couple of years ago which was...eye-stabbingly bad. I can't even [I]see[/I] a name on the box to tell me which company did it but...aarg. I'm pretty sure the sub was done by a person that doesn't grasp the English language nor how to use a keyboard. I only watched the whole thing because I had a [I]primal need[/I] to see the damn series. The fact that it was poorly animated and subbed has now put me off it entirely, but that is besides the point.

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of Naruto on DVD, though I have no idea who's got the license for it. I'm so clued up. That's sure to put a dent in my funds but...it's Naruto. So I don't care. <3~

I'm glad you pointed out the extense of FMA, Raiyuu, because I was planning on buying it. I can feel my piggy-bank's pain already.[/SIZE]
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Geneon - These guys almost always have less episodes on their disks, and that's annoying, and the ones I've bought (Haibane Renmei, Lain, Trigun, Hellsing) had little to no extras. On the upside, they have reat prices on the Signature Series sets, and they have some really great series.

Bandai - As far as the actual DVDs go these guys do a pretty good job, usually including at least minimal extras and they have a lot of cool shows. Mostly I like them cuz they tend to have more episodes on each disk, for instance they condensed .hack//LOTT to 3 disks and their 26 episode series are always 6 disk collections.

ADV - ADV is the epitome of a company taking advantage of you. They have almost no extras on their disks whatsoever. On the upside, they usually release 4 or 6 DVD collections, but with some shows like FMP, they do 8 which is supremely annoying. On another hand, they've got the Complete Collection doohikies where you can get a one-box disk collection of a series fairly cheap.

Anime Works (Media Blasters) - These guys are pretty cool, they've got Samurai Deeper Kyo, which doesn't have many extras but it's 6 disks >_> They also have Rurouni Kenshin, which has an amazing amount of increadible exras, and they have Berserk which has bloopers :animesmil
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[FONT=Trebuchet MS][quote name='Ezekiel][font=verdana][size=1]I bought a Saiyuki RELOAD boxset a couple of years ago which was...eye-stabbingly bad. //snip// The fact that it was poorly animated and subbed has now put me off it entirely, but that is besides the point.[/size'][/font][/quote]On the sub/dub front, the same goes for the first [i]Saiyuki[/i] series. Yet another victim of speaking-too-slowly disease.

Having said I was going to dissect some English dubs, I've now realised it's an area in which to tread carefully, as the dub isn't always the fault of the distributor. I know ADV have their own subbing team - Spike Spencer and Tiffany Grant in particular pop up in almost every ADV-released series. But MVM have released [i]FMA[/i] and [i]Trigun[/i] here in the UK with the same subs FUNi and Geneon gave them in the US, so I assume they don't have their own pet voice actors.

I will point out something odd I noticed on the [i]FMA[/i] subtitles. They seem to be designed as English hard-of-hearing subtitles, not translations for those watching the Japanese audio. They follow the English dub word-for-word (where in most cases the sub will be truer to the literal Japanese translation) and are timed to the English audio, so if you try to watch Japanese audio with English subs the timing goes all wonky.

It's weird, because I haven't had this problem with [i]Samurai 7;[/i] in fact the subs for that are excellent, even leaving in the Japanese honorifics all us die-hards feel are so important.

Right, Manga Entertainment, then. I find myself wishing they released more series; they only ever seem to distribute feature films. Looking over my shelf I can see my [i]Ghost in the Shell[/i] collector's edition, the [i]Akira[/i] double-disc box set and the three disc gatefold edition of the [i]Evangelion[/i] movies, all by Manga, all in pretty collector's cases. Oh, and [i]New Dominion Tank Police,[/i] so they do release series occasionally. Unlike ADV and MVM, Manga releases get included in HMV's '3 DVDs for £20' deal, which happens for about one week in every two months, so it's easy to pick them up for a reasonable price (at least in the UK); they also tend to feature in PLAY.com sales where other distributors don't. No idea why.

Being feature films, the extras are usually better than on series DVDs; you can generally expect fact-file type things (almost a whole disc of them in the [i]Eva[/i] box set), English cast/crew commentary tracks and often making-of documentaries or production reels. The scene-selection menu on [i]Akira[/i] is a bit iffy and hard to navigate. That's me scratching around for something to criticise. I think perhaps distributing fewer products allows Manga Ent to give the films and series they [b]do[/b] handle the attention they deserve, and therefore to give consumers the value for money [b]we[/b] deserve.[/FONT]
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Some FUNimation series have dubtitles along with real subtitles, although they stopped this practice lately, and as far as I know, you shouldn't find dubtitles on the latest discs of FMA. So selecting the right sub track takes a bit of precision, and you might have to do it manually.

Ezekiel, it sounds like your Saiyuki Reload set was a bootleg. :confused:

Tical, I'm not sure I agree with your characterization of one company or another as including very few extras. For example, while Geneon does tend to go light on the on-disc extras, their physical extras are often stunning. Their episode per disc ratio is about on par with that of other companies, actually (and for the record, Bandai is moving into a twenty-six episodes, seven discs pattern).

Also, FMP was released over 7 discs, not 8. I'm not sure whether you're judging the extras or lack thereof by ADV's thinpak sets, but it might be worth mentioning that their thinpaks are deliberately stripped of all extras except previews. Their single disc releases usually come with an ordinary array of extras (indeed, they seem to be piling on more lately, perhaps to give the singles added value when compared to the thinpaks).

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