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Bandai's 2004 Plans Include Solo Distribution

2 Nov, 2003 By: Edwin De La Cruz

As one of the leading suppliers of anime product in the United States, Bandai Entertainment is working on making 2004 a banner year in the company's history. But with recent reports indicating that as of January 1, 2004, the Cypress, Calif.-based publisher will go solo on the distribution route and split from longtime distribution partner Pioneer (now Geneon) Entertainment, the stakes are much higher, as anime suppliers struggle in a fight for shelf space.

Pioneer had been distributing Bandai's 250-plus titles, but will now concentrate on its own titles starting in January. It was merely one year ago that Pioneer was distributing both Viz and Bandai titles as well as its own, but as the anime market has continued to grow, both Viz and Bandai executives decided it makes more sense to handle distribution separately. Bandai will oversee direct sales to major retailers and distributors. At press time, no sales staff had been appointed.

Bandai's marketing manager, Jerry Chu, said the amicable split between the two anime giants is a good thing.

“It'll give us a chance to really focus and concentrate on developing brands such as ‘SD Gundam Force' and ‘Yukikaze,’ said Chu.

“SD Gundam Force” is a series aimed at young children that is picking up steam on Cartoon Network's daily Toonami lineup.

“Yukikaze” is directed at more mature viewers and fits with Bandai's vision for first-quarter 2004. “Yukikaze” is expected to shine a spotlight on Bandai because the high-profile series was created to commemorate the anniversaries of the digital animation studio Gonzo and Bandai's Japanese distribution arm, Emotion.

Second- and third-quarter offerings will include the critically acclaimed Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex and episodes of the “Wolf's Rain” TV series, as well as “Gundam Seed,” which will spearhead a relaunch of the “Gundam” franchise. The titles will be strategically timed to coincide with the summer anime convention season, which often draws up to 16,000 consumers.

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