Last Saturday at the London MCM Expo, the big names from the UK anime industry gave an insight into what’s happening in the UK market. The panel saw the head of Manga Entertainment UK (Jerome Mazandarani), head of MVM Entertainment (Tony Allen), along with a representative from Kaze UK (Andrew Partridge) and the UK Anime News Network (Chris MacDonald). The floor was open so attendees of the London MCM Expo although due to the detail of the answers given, not many questions could be asked.
A main topic of the panel was the effect of the horrific Tsunami that hit Japan in March and the impact it had on anime. Jerome from Manga UK explained that the disaster hit a week before Tokyo International Anime Fair, although he hinted that the event was ‘already troubled’, with some publishers boycotting the event. Andrew from Kaze, who flew out a week later despite the natural disaster, stated that it didn’t really effect the industry too much, but did create a ‘slow-down’ in the amount of anime material that was made and produced. There was the potential of anime being pushed back several weeks causing slight havoc with shows not due to finish before the end of the strict broadcast season in Japan. Thankfully, due to some hardworking people within the industry, not much fell into disarray.
Andrew went onto talk about the production of anime. Episodes were still made on tapes and as Andrew explained ‘it’s like a massive video tape on HD cam, and the two factories that replicate those are based in Japan… one of which is now rubble somewhere and the other one is out of commission just now – meaning there’re no HD cam tapes’. However, the industry in Japan is now taking some ‘interesting transitions towards new media’ and digital ways of working. They hinted a faster turnover for anime to be released in the UK, now that everything is becoming digital.
One other main theme from the panel was each of the panellists recommending the new website Anime on Demand. It is said to be ‘the iPlayer of anime’, and is a product of both UK Anime News Network and Kaze. They stressed that the website is there for UK anime fans to watch streamed anime legally, and the more popular the website gets, the more shows they will be able to licence in the UK. You get to watch content as it comes out in Japan, and before signing up, you get four free episodes. If you do decide to join the site, you pay a reasonable season price and get full access to the site as well as HD functions. Popular in both Japan and America, the anime Tiger and Bunny is currently debuting in the UK on Anime on Demand.
All four of the panellists made clear that they would look at the popularity of each anime shown on the website to see whether it should be distributed in the UK and how they would do it – such as just one big box set, or smaller ones. The most popular potentially being released on Blu-Ray as well as DVD. Someone from the audience pointed out that the legal streaming website Crunchyroll already do what Anime on Demand plan, but members on the panel answered that they will look into every anime that’s posted on there, where as the anime shown Crunchyroll may never be released in the UK, despite how popular it is. This is because it is primarily an American website and you can’t guarantee how much of the money you pay to Crunchyroll actually goes back to the makers in Japan.
MVM’s Tony Allen made certain that they ‘haven’t disappeared from anime’. In the past year he admitted that they have been licensing more and more Asian films to release on DVD, which has become a huge success with most supermarkets stocking MVM’s Asian film releases to great sales. He said they are ‘not saying goodbye to anime at all’ and are still willing to produce anime, but won’t specialise it, like they have done previously.
After Manga UK’s success of the Yu-Gi-Oh! film being shown in numerous Picture House cinemas across the country, Jerome confirmed that they are working with the independent cinema chain again, this time showing special screenings of the anime classic Akira from the 2nd to the 17th July with 20% of the ticket sales will be going to The Japan Society, in aid of the disaster.
The panellists didn’t spend much time announcing the anime they plan to release this year as nearly all of their DVD’s are already available to pre-order on Amazon. Although after last year’s Anime Industry Panel where the popular anime K-On!’s release date was pushed back; Manga UK did confirm that K-On! will definitely be released on DVD this year as will Black Butler. There was also a hint of a complete Blu-Ray box set of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, after Manga UK discontinued distribution of the anime on Blu-Ray after just two volumes, out of the planned five.
Overall the panel was once again a crowd favourite, that left fans with a positive insight in to the UK anime market and firm reassurances of a bright future, despite the recent events in Japan.