The FUNimation Alchemist Debacle

One of the downsides to Otaku culture is that not everything is peaches and daisies. This is true not only for the fandom and entertainment, but also the business practices; for example, FUNimation Entertainment, while mostly awesome, has had a bad habit of shafting non-Elite subscribers lately when it comes to seasonal releases, while Sentai Filmworks is notorious for poor sound compression and rushed ADR work under Stephen Foster. Bandai Entertainment’s outdated consumer policies were a contributing factor in its demise, while Central Park Media shot itself in the foot by sticking largely to hentai releases. However, the award for “Argh, not this crap again!” goes to Aniplex of America, a distribution company notorious for unreasonable price inflation.

It also leads to a frustration that's popped up recently. For those who still don’t know, i.e. all three of you, Fullmetal Alchemist is my favourite Shonen show. Despite being based on a then-unfinished Manga by Hiromu Arakawa, this 51-episode series has set the bar in ways I’ve yet to see from any other anime, (save Wolf’s Rain.) And it also came out 12 years ago. So it’s no surprise that I purchased both Viridian Collection boxsets on Amazon when given the chance, as there was no way I was passing up on such an opportunity.

Unfortunately, there was a downside to this purchase. For whatever reason, be it shipping or manufacturing, the final disc in the second boxset was badly scratched. It didn't manifest itself until the second-last episode began skipping and lagging frequently, leaving me frustrated and forced to finish the show on FUNimation's website with their cruddy video player. Despite complaining to Amazon customer service and receiving a partial refund, (it’d been a while since I’d bought it, so I didn’t feel a replacement was justified,) DVD repair doctors are obsolete these days because of digital downloading and streaming. Ergo, fixing the disc proved futile.

Fast-forward to three weeks ago, when FUNimation announced a Blu-Ray re-release of the show for North American audiences. When I heard this news, I was ecstatic: finally, a way to own Fullmetal Alchemist without putting up with a scratched disc? And on Blu-Ray, a format that I only give a damn about because, unlike DVDs, it doesn’t scratch easily? Screw the price tag, I’m buying it as soon as I-
“Market price = $330USD.”



Sorry, I couldn’t resist. (Courtesy of repotinter.)

In fairness, that’s the Collector’s Edition. This doesn’t list the standard release, which is a lot cheaper, or even the RightStuf discount. But that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous, especially when you consider what the Collector’s Edition includes:
Includes: Eps 1-51
Format: Blu-ray
Language: English, Japanese
Subtitles: English
Closed Captioning: No
Rating: TV-PG
Aspect Ratio: 16x9
Main Feature Video: 1080p High Definition 4x3 (SD Remaster)
Main Feature Audio: Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1,Dolby TrueHD: Japanese 2.0
Special Feature Audio: Dolby TrueHD: English 2.0,Dolby TrueHD: Japanese 2.0
Main Feature Runtime: 1275
Special Feature Runtime: 75
Region: A
Number of Blu-ray Discs: 6
Studio: FUNimation
UPC: 704400081262

Episode Commentaries
The Transmutation of a Phenomenon: An Inside Look
Japanese Commercial
L’Arc~en~Ciel ''Ready Steady Go'' Video
Ura Hagane: Comedic Previews
Textless Songs
Call me ignorant, but does this really warrant a $330 price tag? I know die-hard apologists and enthusiasts will say “Yes”, but think it over for a minute: this is a show that’s been out for over a decade. It’s in high demand and high stock. There are many ways to watch it legally, including Netflix and FUNimation’s own website. You’ve probably already seen it, if not multiple times. Considering all that, and that digital downloading is new “in” right now, if FUNimation wants to be competitive they need to up their ante and make a solid case for that $330 price tag; in fact, why don’t I give a few suggestions? Here goes:

Language tracks-don’t only include Japanese and English. Throw in a third language, maybe Spanish or French. Those are big languages in North America, so you’d attract more purchasers.

Subtitles-see above.

Closed captioning-include this. It’d require more effort, but it’d reach the hearing impaired. I’d suggest adding described video too, but that’s hard to do well.

Aspect ratio-include theatrical and standard options. Don’t limit yourself to 16x9.

Visual standards-I appreciate that you upscaled, but what if the buyer doesn’t have HDMI output? Again, options.

Special features-include more. You’re working with a 50GB per disc limit, get creative.

Number of discs-up it to 7 or 8, the last two for special features.

Episode commentaries-dual language options, or closed captions. This is an expensive purchase, make it worth the buyer’s time.

“The Transmutation of a Phenomenon: An Inside Look”-if this isn’t documentary-length, don’t waste my time.

Japanese commercial-you’d better include several of these, otherwise-once again-don’t waste my time.

L’Arc~en~Ciel ''Ready Steady Go'' Video-something I can probably download illegally online for free if I wanted to. Either include videos for all four openings and endings, or don’t include any.

U.S. trailer-only one? This isn’t a cheap box set, you’ll have to do better!

Trailers-of what? Be more specific.

I’d also include promotional cards and posters in the box set. Not elaborate ones, but at least not cheaply made. Remember, if I wanted a crappy card on cheap paper, I’d go to a third-rate printing store and pay 2 bucks for something ripped off Google in less than a minute. Do all this, and I can see justification for a $330 boxset, perhaps even pricier.

“But wait,” you say, “those sorts of features are time-consuming and expensive!” Guess what? Fullmetal Alchemist ended 11 years ago. It’s been in the conscious eye for longer in Manga form. It’s been out on Blu-Ray in Japan for over a year. Even Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s been on Blu-Ray for a while! There’s been more than enough time to add these features. Also, this is a profit-printing IP, so it’s not like FUNimation can’t afford to add everything with a $330 asking price.

I know it won’t happen, however; after all, there’s a regular release that’s more affordable. And judging by their past history, it's much more reasonable in relation to Aniplex, which this reeks so highly of. Still, it’s ironic and disheartening to see FUNimation charge an arm and a leg for a show where a character actually loses an arm and a leg. Especially if the item in question, as good as it is, isn’t worth half that.

So yeah, I’ll be avoiding this particular box set until it’s worth its asking price…which won’t be for a long while. But it’s not like the show isn’t already available legally to watch if I want, so I’m not losing out. It’s really FUNimation that’s losing out, although, judging by the die-hards in the anime fandom, I doubt it won’t still sell enough copies for this to happen again with another show. My only hope is that it’s not a show I can’t find elsewhere, or heads will roll big time!


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