Aniplex of America was established in North America in 2005, and since, it has caused a debate among fans as to business practices in the west. In a period from around 2000 to 2005, anime was normally sold on DVDs containing approximately three episodes for the price of USD $30. However, little by little, companies such as FUNimation and Sentai Filmworks began selling DVD sets containing thirteen episodes–a full one-season show–for around USD $40. This has since become the standard for anime fans and is why, when Aniplex of America announced that its shows would be available for higher prices, arguments within the community arose.
To give a comparison, Sentai Filmworks’ first Blu-ray for the original Persona 4 anime contained twelve episodes and originally retailed for USD $59.98 with no bonuses included. Aniplex of America’s first volume of Persona4 the Golden ANIMATION contains six episodes, a soundtrack CD, a 24-page booklet, and a postcard set for the price of USD $79.98. While some fans appreciate the packaging similar to the Japanese release, others seeking to complete their collection think less fondly of this choice.
During Anime Expo 2016 in Los Angeles, we got the chance to sit down with president of Aniplex of America Hideki “Henry” Goto, as well as director of business development John Inada. Goto had some interesting things to say about the pricing of Aniplex of America products.
“Actually, our Blu-rays… share the same authoring as Aniplex Japan. We don’t put many episodes–six episodes or thirteen episodes–per disc because I don’t want to sacrifice any video quality. I think our philosophy is different. I want to release the Blu-rays for the collectors.”
Then, what about the normal viewer?
“We are pretty open to licensing our content to streaming companies like Daisuki and Crunchyroll, so [the shows] can be watched pretty inexpensively,” he told me, “People can enjoy our content any time they like. It’s not like the old days when you [could only watch shows] on TV once a year.”
Because of these prices for home video releases, however, the reports that Aniplex-issued anime licenses are expiring have more than a few anime fans worried. When I asked Goto about whether those titles will be re-released under the Aniplex of America brand or if they will remain in purgatory, he replied that he wants to examine the business opportunities for as many titles as possible, but since those series have been already released on home video, they will have to be cautious about how they approach them. He was not against relicensing those series for streaming, however.
Another thing that has fans a bit in a buzz are which titles Aniplex of America decides dub into English. Titles like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Kill la Kill, and Sword Art Online have been given the dub treatment, and the upcoming English release of God Eater will have the same luxury as well. On the other hand, fan favorites like Nisekoi and the Persona 3 films remain subtitles-only. The latter title especially brings up debates amongst fans, as the original Persona 4 anime was released with a dub by Sentai Filmworks, and the video game the anime is based off of is dub-only.
With such popularity in both the gamer and anime fan communities, why not give the title a dub? Well, apparently, the decision not to dub the film series was made after much consideration. Despite not having an English dub, Goto told me that the film is actually quite popular in North America. The lack of dub hasn’t negatively affected other popular anime either.
“Another title–the Monogatari series–is really popular. That’s a subtitled release,” Goto added, “Do [fans] want the dubbed version? Or do they want to enjoy the original voices? We consider [what to dub] title by title.”
So many Japanese companies in the past have attempted to challenge the North American market directly and the majority have failed. When I asked how the company was doing, however, the Aniplex of America team didn’t seem very worried, telling me that their home video sales last year were their record best. And with their upcoming AkibaFest event in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district this October and shared sponsorship with Space Craft for a Sword Art Online concert in Hollywood, it seems like Aniplex of America is here to stay.