Friday, March 16, 2012

Viz Media's Great Degrade


What can I say about Viz media? I can definitely say that they are slowly devolving into a complete disappointment to me as both an anime fan and an anime collector. At this point, I can’t tell whether or not I dislike Viz as much or more than I dislike Media Blasters for their crappy releases and complete disregard for the Bakuman fans that they have so nicely dumped on (another rant for another day).

Alright, so what has Viz done recently to piss this guy off, you might ask yourself. The answer is pretty simple, but first I’ll share my overall viewpoint on Viz.


The first and final Monster DVD
Viz is the US licensor of two of the largest and most popular Shonen series ever, Naruto and Bleach. They’re names that can even make a non-fan cringe, because of the run-ins that they’ve likely had with the respective fandoms. Sure, Viz has some other titles, but aside from those two and the occasional other series (Death Note), Viz hardly puts out an anime that they are dedicated to. Monster fans could definitely attest to that, since they are still clamoring for some sort of conclusive DVD release.
           
Despite all of this, despite the fact that Naruto and Bleach are practically the only two series that Viz remains dedicated to, despite the fact that these two series are popular enough to survive on domestic TV for such a long time, Viz has demonstrated that they no longer care about the quality of their releases. While Funimation (the only other company with massive money-making shonen series) returns to the days of limited edition artboxes, Viz is doing the exact opposite.

What I’m referring to is Viz’s slew of inconsistent releases. Following what is almost an industry standard, Viz’s releases of Naruto and Bleach took the “singles” route. Now if you wanted a bit more value for your money, or at least a more consolidated release, you waited for the next iteration of the show. Boxed sets in this case were cardboard digipacks that had had quite a few more episodes than the single-disc sets, and you could usually pick them up for a bit less money.  All was good for the fans; If you wanted your episodes faster, you could get the minimalist singles, or else you could wait for the higher quality boxed sets.

The first of the 3 sets released as "Seasons"
Unfortunately, Viz scuttled both types of sets, in favor of their current release model. In Bleach’s case, complete arc-encompassing “Seasons” turned into similar “Boxed Sets”, which were abandoned for a sort of middle road between the Boxed Set and Single-disc releases, crappy “DVD sets”.

If you can, next time you go to Best Buy, look at the Naruto and Bleach sets and you’ll see a nice little trend; every few sets, the quality of the release goes down. In Bleach’s case, the sets start off as full-blown Season Sets with posters, and end as single DVD case releases sans slipcovers. Look at the episode count, which starts off at around 20-22, and dwindles down to a measly 11. That in itself isn’t too bad, until you take a look at the price. Wow, the 20 episode boxed set has the exact same MSRP as the crappy set with half as many episodes, and not a single slipcover so that it can PRETEND to be a boxed set.

With a massive show like Bleach, these kinds of cutbacks are unacceptable. It’s as though Viz has entrapped consumers that invested in the larger sets, and has been decreasing the number of episodes in each set in order to prolong and increase the sales of the show. I could possibly understand such a situation if the broadcast was neck-and-neck with the DVD releases, but in Bleach’s case the broadcast has a solid 50+ episodes on any DVD release. This is throttling for the sake of throttling, nothing more.

The newest of the 7 sets released as "DVD Set" 
The thought that I might be giving Viz an unfair shake here has definitely crossed my mind. I’ve tried to step back and give the situation a fair assessment; It has been about 5 years since the release of the Naruto boxed sets, and changes are likely to develop over time. What is frustrating (and difficult to forgive) is the rapid devolution that took place between the 2009 release of the Bleach Season Sets, and the release of Bleach “Boxed Set” 12 just a few days ago. The same $50 that bought you 5 discs of Bleach in a book-styled digipack case and a double sided poster will now net you one sleeve-less dvd case crammed with 3 discs and silent menus.  3 years is actually a pretty short span of time for the fan that is used to waiting that long just for their favorite license to make it to US shores.

I’m not a fan that thinks that they are entitled to free episodes, and I have no qualms with supporting any and every release that interests me, but I also don’t like feeling that I’m getting ripped off. Viz, if you are going to pull quality and quantity from your releases until I’m paying the same $50 for 7 episodes out of a cardboard bag with “Bleach” sloppily written on it, then don’t be surprised when I drop your ass just like you dropped the Monster DVDs; Without a second thought.


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