Amecon is the biggest dedicated anime event in the UK, so it's not surprising that the big four UK anime distributors make a point of attending. Traditionally the big UK conventions are used by UK distributors to announce new licenses and talk to fans, and Amecon is no exception.
This year ADV Films, Beez Entertainment, Manga Entertainment and MVM were slated to host panels, and there was a joint 'state of the industry' panel featuring representatives from the companies as well. Panels at conventions usually take the form of a presentation by a company representative, often including sneak peeks at forthcoming releases and a question and answer session with the audience. The first scheduled panel this year was by Manga Entertainment, but after 20mins of staring at an empty stage we were told that it was cancelled. Apparently Manga's representative wasn't there, and so this left Beez to kick off the round of panels in the University's Queens Hall.
Beez started by rounding up the year so far, and officially
announcing their forthcoming box set releases. Look out for
IGPX box sets, a deluxe Gundam Wing set and a My Hime
set later this year. They also had a number of major
announcements to make, firstly to confirm that they had licensed the
hugely popular mecha action series Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
and the rather cool looking samurai action film Sword of a
Stranger. Beez's enthusiastic representative Andrew
Partridge spoke highly of both series and outlined the company's
impressive plans for the future. Beez are the European
subsidiary of Bandai Entertainment, which makes them the only
anime distributor in the UK that is actually part of a Japanese
company. This gives them a lot more of a stable base than
other distributors and also allows them to try things that their
Andrew announced that Beez would start releasing titles on Blu-Ray later this year - the first dedicated UK anime distributor to do so - and even more impressively these Blu-Ray titles will be released simultaneously worldwide. Titles on their way are Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo's sci-fi epic Freedom and Gunbuster vs. Daibuster, a crossover film from studio Gainax. Other possible Blu-Ray releases include Yukikaze, which is already available here on DVD, and the classic sci-fi Royal Space Force Honneamise. When Andrew quizzed the audience on these possibilities it was clear that the latter would be the most popular, especially as it has never
seen a UK DVD release. We caught up with Andrew later on to see if the Blu-Ray releases would also come to DVD, and he confirmed that this was the intention, depending on licenses.
The other big bit of news from Andrew was the forthcoming Bandai Channel online streaming service. The Bandai Channel is already active in Japan, and streams anime to users for a set fee per episode or film. Bandai now plans to bring the channel to Europe, although it is still in the testing phase and the precise fee or charging structure is yet to be decided. It is likely that various options will be available, and those being considered include a subscription service, download to rent, download to own and pay-per-view. Andrew commented hat it would probably work in a similar fashion to Channel 4's online service 4 On Demand (4oD). He is hoping he will have more details on this at the MCM London Expo in October.
There were a few other interesting tidbits scattered about as well: