Image Ent. Announces DVD Venture with Bandai Visual USA

The competitive anime home entertainment field in the U.S. welcomes a new player as Image Ent. and Bandai Visual USA announced the launch of their joint venture yesterday. The two companies have signed a North American distribution deal to release Japanese animated titles, beginning with the first two Patlabor movies, directed by Mamoru Oshii, the acclaimed helmer of Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Based in Torrance, Calif., Bandai Visual USA (the newly established arm of Japanese animation producer and distributor Bandai Visual Co.) will oversee the production, creative design and manufacturing of the programming released, while Chatsworth-based Image will handle all North American sales, marketing and distribution duties. The films will be released under the new label Honneamise, named after Bandai’s first animated feature produced in 1987.

The 1989 feature, Patlabor The Movie, centers on the adventures of the heroic Special Vehicles Division 2, a mecha police force that investigates suspicious forces, government cover-ups and citywide destruction around Tokyo Bay. A newly re-mastered DVD version and a limited collector’s edition box of the first film will be released on April 25, 2006, followed by two different editions of Patlabor 2 the Movie in the summer of ’06.

Die-hard fans will be happy to know that the collector’s editions will include exclusive package illustrations by Yutaka Izubuchi, remastered 5.1 channel audio, new English-dubbed audio tracks, a making-of documentary, Japanese trailers, TV blurbs and the complete 300-page original storyboard drawn by Oshii with English translation, as well as a separate collection of interviews, articles, artworks and drawings.

‘Getting to know the people at Image, we are struck by how the two companies followed similar paths over the past 20 years,’ says Akio Maeda, CEO of Bandai Visual USA. ‘We feel there is a true kinship in our corporate cultures and we are looking forward to building a strong, long-term relationship with them.’

David Borshell, COO of Image Ent. echoes Maeda’s thoughts. ‘Bandai Visual is the recognized worldwide leader in the development and production of Japanese animation. This agreement further expands Image’s diverse library of exclusive content and immediately gives us credibility at retail as a supplier of Japanese anime programming.’

For more info about the two companies, visit www.image-entertainment.com and http://bandaivisual.co.jp/e/.