Anime and manga publisher Bandai Entertainment will discontinue new products starting February, it was revealed at Anime Network News on January 3. Bandai Entertainment was founded in 1998 and is best known for publishing English language manga of Lucky Star and anime such as the mega-popular Cowboy Bebop. Based in Cypress, California, south of LA and just east of Long Beach, Bandai is a subsidiary of Namco Bandai Holdings, which formed in 2005 from the merger of Namco Ltd. and Bandai Co., Ltd.
Bandai won’t entirely shut down, but instead focus on sub-licensing the rights of properties to other companies. Their current catalog will still be available to purchase, but previously announced future releases, including the sci-fi manga Mobile Suit Gundam 00I, the comedy/magic series Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens and the slice-of-life comedy Nichijō, have been cancelled. Bandai closed their online store at the end of December but retailers can still order from the company. Three of their five full-time staff will be laid off. Their Facebook and Twitter accounts will also be shut down, according to a press release.
Bandai President and CEO Ken Iyadomi spoke with Anime Network News about the unfortunate announcement, revealing that the decision had actually been made in October by their parent Namco Bandai in Japan. While not much reason was given to him, the obvious conclusion is that the American anime market just isn’t what it used to be.
“The pricing range for our products kept dropping in Western countries, and people tended only to buy sets with very reasonable prices, which we understand is what fans want, but it lead us to a different strategy than what Japanese licensors wanted.”
As Bandai Director Robert Napton explained to ICv2, the manga division was simply caught up in Namco Bandai’s exit of the American anime market.
“Basically when the decision was made to end packaged media it was an all or nothing decision, so with anime goes manga for Bandai Entertainment.”
The implication seems to be from the two interviews above that significant losses on the anime side were too great for any profit from manga to overcome. What effect pirating had was not mentioned, although it’s difficult to know for sure how much money was left on the table because of free, unauthorized versions of their products getting downloading. On the anime side at least, it appears to have lowered price expectations for buyers.