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Best Anime BD/DVD Re-Releases of 2011

By December 26, 2011

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Our penultimate retrospective for 2011 is now here: the best anime BD/DVD reissues and re-releases of 2011. Here we take the time to look for shows that fell out of print, disappeared from sight and traded hands at ridiculous prices -- but which have since been rescued by the intrepid folks at various video companies.

Anime titles are peculiarly susceptible to going in and out of print, far more so than conventional movies and TV shows issued by big Hollywood studios. Those titles are, for the most part, issued directly by the studios that own them, and so they lapse out of print a fair amount less often. This isn't to say they never do -- only that there are fewer obstacles to them being reissued. Doubly so now that many older catalog titles are showing up as print-on-demand or streaming offerings.

With anime, the situation's tougher. Most of the anime distributors outside of Japan are simply licensors of the material. They pay the original rights-holders in Japan for the right to distribute the title in question within a given territory for a certain period of time. When that license expires, the distributor either has to pony up for a new license, or let the license lapse. There are no guarantees that a given title will remain in print for any length of time, which is why some rare out-of-print anime titles change hands for absurd prices -- $100, $200, even higher.

A few solutions present themselves. The first is to have the Japanese licensors open their own distribution companies overseas -- something Aniplex has been experimenting with via the Aniplex USA label, and something which Bandai has itself done for years now. But in the former case, not every Aniplex title is distributed under that rubric; many are licensed out to distributors who can give the titles in question broader exposure or broadcast rights. (Example: Fullmetal Alchemist.) And in the latter, not every Bandai title remains consistently in print anyway, and those that have lapsed haven't yet shown up on, say, their YouTube channel or other instant-access venues.

One question I'm asked often as a corollary to all this: Will more reissues turn up on streaming, video-on-demand or even DVD-on-demand services in 2012? That's the direction the economics is tilting in. It's unquestionably cheaper to put a show up for streaming than it is to stamp it out on physical media -- but the bigger question is, which method gets you a return on your investment? Streaming is, sadly, still economically shaky: you need to have at least thirty thousand or so views of a show from beginning to end before the cost of licensing a show for streaming breaks even. DVDs and BDs are a bigger upfront investment, but there's more of a guarantee that you'll make your money back thanks to the existing infrastructure of DVD and BD sales. That and you can't package a stream up in a fancy collector's edition box -- something which still has a solid draw with fans.

Check out our list of the best DVD/BD reissues for 2011, and be sure to chime in below with suggestions of your own.

Image: FLCL. Image courtesy Pricegrabber.

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