Anime releases in the West are contained. In the first seven years or so after production, a typical show will see a handful of DVD releases. The exact number depends on popularity. Then it quickly goes out of print with little to no chance of a revival. While this isn’t a problem, in terms of longevity, for newer anime that enjoy all the preservation opportunities the internet has to offer, many older shows and manga are on the verge of being lost. Even massively influential items, like the works of Go Nagai, have long been out of print, and there are not enough second hand copies to support the growing fandom in the West.
The reasons these works don’t often get re-released are understandable. Licensing deals can be complicated, and anime fans generally have much more interest in the latest simulcasts than in the old genre builders. But at a time when so many commentators and industry insiders are predicting the death of anime, fans should be most concerned about this art form’s past. After all, while anime’s future may be unsteady, we know anime’s history is dying. In order to protect that history, we need to let studios know we care about it.
Hey, I know you! I think I've been following you on Wordpress for a decent amount of time. Very informative post! I like your writing style. – Dominic Sceski6 years ago
I do wonder if the anime industry in the West could take a leaf out of Universal's book. They have a psuedo-POD service for DVDs where they allow people to order titles that are technically out of print but have them produced to order (I think it was the Universal Vault series). I discovered it when ordering Flight of Dragons for my partner. If anime-based companies offered a similar system, that would be a great way for them to continue to make use of old licenses. – mattdoylemedia6 years ago
What comes to mind is the End of Evangelion film. It's sad that there are all these great anime that new fans will never get to see. I heard that the Mobile Suit Gundam film trilogy is getting re-released in the US early next year, but there's no word of this happening in Australia where I am. I think US companies do try to re-release product when it is in demand or if they think it can be marketed successfully. Like you wrote LangsEnd, there are many reasons why it can't or doesn't happen. – Jordan6 years ago
I don't really think single disc releases are still a thing. I know half-seasons are occasionally, but single discs aren't economically viable. Anyways to address your questions, when it comes to licensing, re-licensing old stuff can be hard because, since most anime are made with a production committee of several companies, its hard to know who holds the rights. Even if Funimation, for example, could get their hands on it, odds are it wouldn't sell. Older anime doesn't sell because the portion of the anime market that cares is relatively small. Discotek only manages to do this by keeping their release numbers and number of copies down, making sure that each copy is sold. Even when releasing old stuff though, Discotek only makes sure bets. Castle of Cagliostro? Robot Carnival? Yeah those are going to sell. The 80s Devilman OVA? Probably not. A fundamental part of why the majority of anime fans don't care is because, on average, people are only into anime for 3-5 years, at least hard-core. While they're in it, they're too busy watching all the new stuff to go back. Especially these days when they're is so much stuff coming out. So yeah, that's what I "know" based on little industry things I've absorbed during research. – jwiderski6 years ago
Way sad. I mean... basically everything I used to watch is considered old now.... I def. need to start watching some newer stuff, but it makes me sad to think that youngins won't get to see the things I enjoyed... – Tatijana6 years ago
I would be so cool if companies could do re-mastered series/movies of old anime. There are a bunch that a lot of people will never hear of, either because they aren't talked about anywhere and they don't look as good as the newer stuff. With this the older anime will gain a wave of new fans experiencing their content for the first time. – LaRose6 years ago
It is disappointing when companies create new versions of old anime and it doesn't do any justice. Take Sailor Moon for example, that show was gold but it just disappeared after a while. Then it got revived, but just isn't the same as the 1990s version of the cartoon. Great post, Sailor Moon was childhood. – ladycsapp6 years ago