During a Twitter conversation last night, the subject of Funimation’s release of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt came up after preliminary listings for the show may have confirmed that the release would exclude a Blu-Ray version and only be released on DVD, despite the company confirming that the show would indeed be released on Blu-Ray the weekend before during its convention appearances at Anime Boston and Sakura-Con respectively. The discussion then circled around to Kadokawa’s apparent new rules on international Blu-Ray releases.
Back in February, Funimation Entertainment had finally confirmed that the second season of Sora no Otoshimono in Forte would be released on DVD/Blu-Ray as a combo pack in March after months of delays, only to be forced to announce to retailers that the release would not be released as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo as originally solicited, but would only be released on DVD, with no real explanation on why the Blu-Ray version was excluded only after being solicited to retailers 2 weeks before.
The sudden exclusion of the Blu-Ray version after being announced as such for months came as a surprise to fans of the show and led many to cancel pre-orders due to the lack of a Blu-Ray version. While many were quick to point the finger at Funimation for screwing up the solicitations, the real blame should be placed at the feet of the master licensor of the show in Kadokawa Pictures, which controls international licensing for many of Funimation’s most popular shows.
Recently, in statements made by Manga Entertainment UK via Twitter, it was revealed that Kadokawa had issued new mandates on home video releases to its international licensing partners that allude to the requirement that no Blu-Ray releases by international licensors would be allowed this calendar year and to adjust release formats accordingly.
Specific reasons were not given as to why the rule was put into place by the company, but recent activity by Funimation involving home video announcements may have confirmed the veracity of the statements, as The Future Diary was only confirmed for a DVD release later this year while no mention was made of a Blu-Ray version. Kadokawa Pictures controls international licensing rights for the show as Kadokawa Shoten also publishes the manga.
While Funimation also announced Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo release during Anime Boston, the earliest listings for the show are beginning to confirm that Kadokawa is indeed forcing international licensors to drop Blu-Ray releases from release plans and announcements.
Why Kadokawa is doing this now, when some of the most popular shows controlled by the conglomerate will see release on home video this year is unknown, but if I were to make an educated guess, the idea of reverse importation may be too great for the conglomerate to ignore and it appears perfectly willing to lose money on international licenses in order to protect its shrinking home market.
Unfortunately for Kadokawa Pictures, the home video market for anime in the US is moving swiftly away from DVD and rushing towards Blu-Ray as the preferred release method for newer shows, with many making purchasing decisions based on whether the series will have a Blu-Ray version available. For Kadokawa to make such mandates to its international licensor partners is not only short-sighted, but it only hurts those that want to support their favorite shows and the companies that work to license them.
If I had the ear of the executives at Kadokawa Pictures, I would strongly suggest they reconsider their stance on international Blu-Ray releases outside Japan, otherwise they face the wrath of a fanbase that is perfectly willing to spend their money elsewhere, or worse, not give them any more money at all and even resort to piracy, which only hurts everyone in the end. I really would like to be proven wrong and see Panty & Stocking get a Blu-Ray release when it gets released later this Summer, but based on the previous release in Sora no Otoshimono Forte, that looks less and less likely and places other Kadokawa Pictures controlled titles in doubt for their own Blu-Ray releases.