Gundam Seed Destiny, a big hit in 2006 that hopes to be a bigger hit in 2007

When people talked about anime distributors a few years back, Beez Entertainment were rarely the subject of conversation.  Despite a strong catalogue that boasted the likes of Escaflowne and Gundam Wing, their releases could be erratic and glitch-prone and they had no English website or presence at conventions.  However, all this has changed now.  Nowadays their releases are frequent and high quality, their catalogue boasts such great new titles as Gundam Seed, Wolf's Rain and My Hime, they have a UK website and they are convention regulars.

2006 has seen them increase their presence in the UK like never before.  '2006 has been very much a growth year for us' says Beez Entertainment's Andrew Partridge 'we’ve gone from being what feels like the new kids on the block to a better established name with strong titles varying in style and genre.  So overall it’s gone very well!'.  Growth is certainly the word too, Beez released no less than nine new series this year, plus six stand alone features alongside the final volumes from several ongoing series and a few box sets of older titles.

Beer - the best way to cope with being dragged halfway across the galaxy in Crest of the Stars...

The quality of their releases in 2006 is unquestionably high, popular series like Witch Hunter Robin and Gundam Seed finished this year and they were joined by a host of new titles, including Gundam Seed Destiny, Crest of the Stars and Eureka Seven.  The glitches and irregularity that plagued some of their past release is gone, in fact not only do Beez strive to bring European release dates into line with those in the US, but they offer better value for money by releasing series over fewer volumes than their American counterparts.  In recent years the UK has really reaped the benefits of this, and no more so than in 2006.  The releases this year have been in some different

genres, but sci-fi and action have been particularly well represented.  This is something you would expect from a company that is the home of the biggest mecha franchise of them all - Gundam - but if you think this means they have no variety then you couldn't be more wrong.

The space battles of Gundam Seed Destiny have rubbed shoulders with the futuristic racing of IGPX, the fantasy of Fantastic Children has shared the bill with the cute robot animals of Panda Z.  We've had intergalactic binmen in Planetes, existential quests in Wolf's Rain and super-powered schoolgirls in My-Hime.  It's eclectic that's for sure, but what has been Andrew's highlights of 2006?  'Without a doubt personally it would have to be having the pleasure of seeing Wolf’s Rain continue airing on Rapture TV as well as titles like Eureka Seven launch in the UK, a truly inspirational and plain different take on the mecha genre!'

We can see why too.  Titles like Eureka Seven subvert existing genres and styles and it's been Beez's ability to balance these titles with the big name franchises everyone knows that has played a part in their success in 2006.  Beez have put out some great value box sets and awesome special editions too (their Patlabor the Movie Limited Collectors Edition set springs instantly to mind), and this has really made fans sit up and take notice.  The limited Patlabor set was one of the most essential releases of the year, and their active participation in events like the MCM London Expo has seen them engage a fan audience that used to see them as an inscrutable French

Patlabor - we're more impressed by the boxset than they seem to be...

company.  Beez have impressed everyone with their fan-friendly box sets and the swiftness of their series releases, for example the final volume of Gundam Seed - volume 10 - hit the shelves in March just 9 months after volume 1 came out!  For most other companies a series of Gundam Seed's length would have taken around two years to release, but not for Beez.

They have worked hard this year to bring a great selection of decent titles and have really connected with fans like never before.  Their releases have been strong throughout the year, and they have varied their catalogue with big name titles and more challenging, unusual ones.  Hopefully this will continue into 2007, but at the moment Beez are keeping their cards close to their chest...