Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions: An Overview of the English Blu-ray and DVD Products

June 28, 2017 at 12:00 am | Posted in English dubbed, Japanese, Konami, The Dark Side of Dimensions, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 18 Comments
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Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions Blu-ray and DVD cover mock-ups from Anchor Bay Entertainment

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions has arrived on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay
Entertainment! The United States and Canada are the last of the major English-speaking markets to receive this movie on home video. Yu-Gi-Oh! fans in the United Kingdom received their own copy from Manga Entertainment UK on May 29, while Australia and New Zealand received it shortly after that on June 7 from Madman Entertainment.

Surprisingly, each of the companies offers different content and extras with their home video releases. Some of them even contain unwanted content, like cropped videos, incorrect aspect ratios, and dubtitles. Argh! Which version should the discerning Yu-Gi-Oh! fan buy?

This post offers an overview and comparison of the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions Blu-ray and DVD products from Anchor Bay, Manga UK, and Madman. It also takes a brief look at the BD and DVD products from Marvelous in Japan. Screenshots captured from all of the discussed products are at the end of this post.

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions from Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay’s region A Blu-ray and region 1 DVD (pictured above) include both the English and Japanese audio tracks of the movie. Both languages have a 5.1 surround sound mix. The English version of the movie includes subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) that can be toggled on and off. The Japanese version includes subtitles that are automatically turned on, though they fortunately aren’t burned into the video (“hard subbed”). More on these subtitles in a moment.

Anchor Bay’s BD and DVD have the distinction of being the only releases that contain two video tracks. One is the English-language video with translated cards, signs, and credits. The other is the original Japanese-language video with Japanese credits. However, the song “To Believe In Something,” which plays during the credits in Marvelous’ BD and DVD, does not play here during the Japanese credits. Instead, viewers hear a longer version of “Yu-Gi-Oh! Theme: The Dark Side of Dimensions” as the credits roll. (This was also the case when Eleven Arts screened the Japanese version of the movie in theaters. Looks like music licensing issues rear their ugly heads yet again.)

Furthermore, only Anchor Bay’s BD and DVD have the English dub that includes the winners of 4K Media’s voice-over contest. The English dub released in other territories have the winners’ lines read by the movie’s other cast members.

Anchor Bay’s releases include four special features. In “Favorite Moments with the Cast,” the voice actors of the main characters reminisce about performing in the original anime. “Q&A with Dan Green” and “Q&A with Eric Stuart” feature the two leading men chatting about their history and memories with the show and what they think of the characters they play. And last but not least, “Show Us Your Cards!” immortalizes the biggest Yu-Gi-Oh! fans and their favorite cards on a massive wall of selfies.

Anchor Bay’s products suffer from two glaring problems. The first is its subtitle track for the Japanese version of the movie. These subtitles aren’t actually a translation of the Japanese dialogue. Instead, the lines are taken directly from the English SDH — in other words, they are dubtitles. Sadly, this is not the first time that an Anchor Bay anime has been plagued by dubtitles. Most recently, the company’s Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex BD released earlier this year suffered from dubtitles and bizarre audio errors. The company further drew the ire of anime fans when it tried to brush this problem under the rug.

The second problem is the aspect ratio of the picture. As seen in the screenshots below, DSoD is presented here in 1.78:1, which completely fills the screen of a standard widescreen display. However, the correct aspect ratio is supposed to be 1.85:1 letterboxed. In order to maintain the 1.78:1 ratio, some of the left and right sides of the picture have been cropped out. Anchor Bay is the only distributor of this movie to hack up the video in this way.

I’ve reached out to Anchor Bay about these issues and will post an update if I receive a response. Update (July 11): Anchor Bay has responded and outlined a replacement program for its products.

Anchor Bay’s Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions BD and DVD sell for a suggested retail price of $24.99 and $19.98 respectively. Each includes a Gold Rare Obelisk the Tormentor card, while supplies last.

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions from Manga Entertainment UK

Manga UK’s region B Blu-ray and region 2 DVD (pictured below) also include both the English and Japanese audio of the movie. Both languages have a 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix. However, only the English-language video with translated cards and signs is present; the Japanese-language video is not. But since there are no cuts to the movie, both the English and Japanese audio align with the visuals without any problems.

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions Blu-ray and DVD cover mock-ups from Manga UK

Manga UK includes one set of subtitles with its videos: an accurate translation of the Japanese dialogue. These subtitles are, as far as I can tell, the same subtitles that appeared in Eleven Arts’ theatrical screenings.

Manga UK’s DVD is the only one out of all the DVDs discussed here that uses the PAL encoding system. Madman Entertainment’s DVD does not, even though Oceania has traditionally used this format. Playing at 25 frames per second instead of 23.97, videos converted into PAL characteristically have slightly higher-pitched audio and poorer video quality.

Oddly enough, while Manga UK’s videos do utilize letterboxing to maintain a wider picture than Anchor Bay’s videos, they are not quite at the 1.85:1 ratio; they are more like 1.89:1 or so. What’s the reasoning behind this?

Manga UK’s releases do not include any video extras. Both the BD and DVD include a Gold Rare Obelisk card, while supplies last.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Movie Pack Blu-ray and DVD cover mock-ups from Manga UK

DSoD is also being offered in Manga UK’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Movie Pack (pictured above), a two-disc set that includes this movie and Bonds Beyond Time. The Movie Pack is available in both BD and DVD formats. The BBT discs are identical to the ones Manga UK sold in 2011, so there’s probably no reason to buy this pack if you already own BBT. These products do not include any cards.

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions from Madman Entertainment

Madman’s region 4 DVD (pictured below left) contains only the English version of the movie. The audio is available in a 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix. The company did not put out a Blu-ray counterpart. On the plus side, the picture on the DVD is properly letterboxed, and the DVD contains two theatrical trailers as extras.

Cover mock-ups of Madman's Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions DVD and the JB Hi-Fi exclusive version

Australian and New Zealand retailer JB Hi-Fi sells an exclusive version of DSoD on DVD (pictured above right), which includes a unique slipcase and a Gold Rare Obelisk card. (Special thanks to Armaan Swaich for the tip!) Regular versions of the DVD don’t include a slipcase or card. Aside from these two extras, JB Hi-Fi’s product is otherwise the same as the regular DVD.

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions from Marvelous

Marvelous, a Tokyo-based developer and producer of games, software, and audio-visual content — and the producer of all Yu-Gi-Oh! home videos in Japan — released DSoD on region A Blu-ray and region 2 DVD.

Marvelous’ BD is considered a premium product and contains a 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix, as well as a DTS Headphone:X mix. It also includes a commentary track featuring the voice actors for Yugi, Kaiba, Jonouchi, and Mokuba. The BD is available in a standard edition and a limited edition with additional goods.

Both the BD and DVD have optional Japanese subtitles and include three trailers as extras. The DVD lacks the DTS Headphone:X track and commentary track.

Marvelous’ BD is the only BD out of this bunch whose picture correctly has a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Its DVD, on the other hand, is a hot mess. Not only is the picture’s aspect ratio wrong (it’s something around 1.83:1), the letterboxing is completely uneven. The bottom matte is significantly thicker than the top one. Furthermore, the video suffers from the same sort of artifacting that has been present in all of the Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! DVDs ever since 5D’s.

Video Screenshot Comparison

So ultimately, which release looks the best? As usual, I’ll let the screenshots do the talking.

All links open in a new window. Warning: Uncropped, full-size PNG images!

 

[1]
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions screenshot 1 thumbnail - Kaiba Corporation space station

[2]
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions screenshot 2 thumbnail - Yugi Muto

[3]
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions screenshot 3 thumbnail - Seto Kaiba

[4]
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions screenshot 4 thumbnail - Aigami's cube

[5]
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions screenshot 5 thumbnail - Joey Wheeler

[6]
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions screenshot 6 thumbnail - ATK

[7]
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions screenshot 7 thumbnail - Dark Horizon

[A] Anchor Bay BD (Eng)

A1

A2

A3

A4

A5

A6

A7

[B] Anchor Bay BD (Jpn)

B1

B2

B3

B4

B5

B6

B7

[c] Manga UK BD

C1

C2

C3

C4

C5

C6

C7

[D] Marvelous BD

D1

D2

D3

D4

D5

D6

D7

[E] Anchor Bay DVD (Eng)

E1

E2

E3

E4

E5

E6

E7

[F] Anchor Bay DVD (Jpn)

F1

F2

F3

F4

F5

F6

F7

[G] Manga UK DVD

G1

G2

G3

G4

G5

G6

G7

[H] Madman DVD

H1

H2

H3

H4

H5

H6

H7

[I] Marvelous DVD

I1

I2

I3

I4

I5

I6

I7

For whatever reason, out of the three Blu-ray products discussed here, only Marvelous’ release has a picture that shows the correct 1.85:1 letterboxing. Likewise, out of the four DVD products, only Madman’s picture has this correct aspect ratio.

Other video product overviews:
Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V Season 1 Vol. 1 DVD & Blu-ray
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Season 1 DVD Box Set
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Season 1 DVD Box Set
Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL Season 1, Volume 1 DVD
Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time DVD and Blu-ray
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Official First Season DVD box set

Manga UK Recalls Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Season 1 DVD

November 23, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Posted in English dubbed, GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! | Leave a comment
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Manga Entertainment UK's Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Season 1 DVD box set is being recalled

Attention buyers of Manga Entertainment UK’s November 21 release of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Season 1 on DVD: the publisher is issuing a recall of this product due to a manufacturing problem. Disc 2 in Volume 1 of the box set includes episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s instead of GX. You can return the product to your place of purchase for a full refund. A corrected printing will be available “in a few weeks’ time,” says Manga UK.

Netflix Adds Classic Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime

October 31, 2014 at 5:46 pm | Posted in Duel Monsters, English dubbed, Konami, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 2 Comments
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Pegasus viewing updates of the Duelist Kingdom tournament in episode 8

It’s been a long time coming, but the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime has at last found its way onto the holy grail of video streaming platforms: Netflix! 4K Media (Konami) announced earlier today that English-dubbed episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! are coming to Netflix, beginning with season 1 tomorrow, November 1. The videos will be accessible not only to fans residing in the United States, but also to those in Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. International fans will have even more streaming options to look forward to on YUGIOH.com in the coming months, 4K Media noted.

Yu-Gi-Oh! streams have come a long, long way since the early 2000s when they were only available on 4Kids Entertainment’s websites. In the U.S. alone, various Yu-Gi-Oh! videos can today be found on a slew of online platforms, including Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, iTunes, Nicktoons, the PlayStation Store, Vudu, Xbox Video, and more. Adding the coveted Netflix deal to the list is quite a feather in 4K Media’s cap.

4K Media’s announcement also highlights Manga UK’s DVD release of Yu-Gi-Oh! season 1 across the pond on November 17. Manga UK formally announced the release just prior to the MCM London Comic Con last weekend, though eagle-eyed fans may have spotted it when it was first added to Manga UK’s store earlier this month.

Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time DVD and Blu-ray: An Overview

July 15, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Posted in Bonds Beyond Time, English dubbed, Japanese, Konami, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 6 Comments
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Cinedigm's Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time Blu-ray menu

Out today is the long-awaited release of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time movie in the United States on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms. The film, a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, made its theatrical debut on 300 screens across the U.S. in early 2011 but is only now getting a home video release. The title is licensed by 4K Media (Konami) and distributed by Cinedigm as part of its Flatiron Film Company label and includes both the English-dubbed and original Japanese subtitled versions of the film.

This post will provide an overview of the contents of Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time DVD and Blu-ray releases. Comparisons of Cinedigm’s products to Manga Entertainment’s Region 2 UK releases and to the original Region 2 Japanese releases from King Records/Marvelous Entertainment (“MMV” for short from here on) will also be included.

The World of Licensing Restrictions: How to Handicap a Non-Japanese Anime Video Release

Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time is the first official Yu-Gi-Oh! video product released in the United States to include both an English and Japanese version since FUNimation’s short-lived uncut DVDs of the Classic Yu-Gi-Oh! series from 2004-2005. Fans in the United Kingdom also received a bilingual release in July 2011 from Manga UK. A Yu-Gi-Oh! title that includes the original subbed Japanese version?! Yes, it’s true! But there must be a catch, right?

Both Cinedigm and Manga UK’s Japanese versions of the film include subtitles that are permanently fixed; on both of their DVDs and BDs, the subtitles are burned into the video (i.e. they are “hard subs”). While some viewers may see this as an annoyance, this is the price that licensees often have to pay if they want to release some anime titles outside of Japan at all.

The issue of forced subtitles and other crippling restrictions that afflict such anime releases has been discussed extensively by anime fans and pundits as well as industry insiders. Numerous episodes of the Manga UK podcast have touched upon the problems and their causes.

“Reverse importation, as far as some Japanese licensing companies see it, is a big problem on Blu-ray,” said Jerome Mazandarani, the Director of Marketing and Acquisitions at Manga UK, in episode 18 of the company’s podcast. “Blu-ray is where they derive most of their finished packaged goods’ value now in Japan, and they are very, very concerned about it.”

The price of anime outside of Japan is considerably lower than that within Japan, Mazandarani explained. And if large Japanese production companies are very worried about an American or UK edition BD getting imported back into Japan, they have the leverage to curb the perceived threat. For instance, they can mandate that licensees burn the subtitles into the video of the Japanese-language versions of their titles. They can also disallow licensees from releasing a title for a certain amount of time after a DVD and BD are released in Japan, or disallow them from releasing a title in a certain way (e.g. no complete box sets).

In the same vein, the audio tracks of Cinedigm and Manga UK’s Japanese versions are inferior to the audio tracks on King Records/Marvelous Entertainment’s releases. While MMV’s DVD and BD contain both a 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio track, Cinedigm and Manga UK’s contain only a 2.0 audio track with the Japanese version. The table below summarizes the audio streams found on the six releases.

 

DVD

Blu-ray

Cinedigm

 

 

English

Dolby Digital 5.1

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Japanese

Dolby Digital 2.0

DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Manga UK

 

 

English

Dolby Digital 5.1

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Japanese

Dolby Digital 2.0

LPCM 2.0

King Records/MMV

 

 

Japanese

Dolby Digital 5.1
& 2.0

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
& LPCM 2.0

These types of restrictions are not by any means unique to Yu-Gi-Oh! titles, nor are they unique to English-speaking territories. Forced subtitles have even reared their ugly heads in France, a country whose anime industry is even bigger than that of the United States, explained Mazandarani in the fifth Manga UK podcast. Ultimately, Japanese companies simply don’t want to give Japanese fans any incentives to import less expensive releases from overseas, so some anime titles — and Blu-rays in particular — released outside of Japan will continue to be marred by these restrictions and deficiencies. It’s an unfortunate issue that the anime industries in Japan and throughout the world need to find a way to deal with.

The Lack of 3D: Falling Flat

Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time is a historic film in Japan. While 3D movies that use computer-generated graphics are commonplace, Bonds Beyond Time marks the first time anywhere in the world that a traditional, hand-drawn 2D animated feature had been converted into 3D for the big screen. MMV’s DVD and Blu-ray releases preserved this viewing experience for the Japanese home video market, delivering the film in both 3D and 2D formats.

When it first arrived in American movie theaters, Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time was titled Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D Bonds Beyond Time. 4Kids Entertainment embraced the film’s 3D elements and even hired Cinedigm to render in 3D a special 10-minute back story of Yugi, Jaden, and Yusei using scenes from their respective anime series.

Sadly, none of the hard work that went into creating the 3D theatrical experience was retained for Cinedigm’s DVD or BD; its releases contain only the 2D version of the film. What happened? Manga UK’s BD included the 3D version of the film, so why doesn’t Cinedigm’s?

Whether one believes that 3D adds an exciting and worthwhile layer to the cinematic experience or is just another gimmick for money-grubbing producers, it’s regrettable to see the hard work of others disregarded for the American home video market, and even more so when the 3D materials had already been provided for another English-speaking territory’s release.

Packaging, Extras, and Artwork

Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time DVD and BD come packaged in ordinary plastic keep cases. The case housing the BD is about 25 percent thinner than a standard case.

Extras are something that Cinedigm’s Yu-Gi-Oh! releases have been lacking, and sadly, its Bonds Beyond Time DVD and BD fail to buck the trend. Cinedigm’s bonuses include a “Feature Flashback,” which is just the 10-minute back story exclusive to the English-language version of the movie, and the English-subtitled Japanese version of the movie, which I would hardly consider an extra. (The Japanese licensors probably consider it one heck of a generous extra though, given the dearth of Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! media available in the West!)

Manga UK’s DVD and BD fared slightly better in the extras department, having included a Super Rare version of the Malefic Red-Eyes B. Dragon TCG card with their initial print run. In addition to listing the Feature Flashback and subbed version of the movie as extras, Manga UK also included the original 30-second theatrical trailer.

Neither Cinedigm nor Manga UK’s products hold a candle to MMV’s DVD and BD, which were predictably packed with collectibles while being sold at predictably exorbitant collector’s prices. In addition to including the standard disc and case, MMV’s initial print runs also included an Ultra Rare version of the Malefic Red-Eyes B. Dragon OCG card, a booklet filled with line sketches and illustrations of the movie’s characters and monsters, and a slipcover that features original artwork of the main characters.

All of the home videos releases of Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time around the world use the same image of Jaden, Yugi, and Yusei striking a pose while crossing their Duel Monsters cards dramatically like swords. Cinedigm’s are no different, though the characters aren’t posed in front of the familiar green wall of hieroglyphs seen on the original English-language movie poster and on other home video covers, including Manga UK’s. Instead, the main characters are standing amidst a backdrop of outer space (or is it the Malefic World?) while being surrounded by a bright ring.

The only home video release that uses different artwork is of course the Japanese release from MMV, whose limited-edition slipcover shows the main characters standing unflappably straight while their monsters leap into action in the background. This exclusive artwork has not been included with any other territory’s video release.

Product Summaries

Title: Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time
Street Date: July 15, 2014
Distributor: Cinedigm Entertainment
Label: Flatiron Film Company
Licensed by: 4K Media (Konami)

DVD
Region: 1
MSRP: $14.93
Disc count: One double-layer DVD disc
Language: English & Japanese with English subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (16:9)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) & 2.0 (Japanese)
Closed Captions: Yes

Blu-ray
Region: A
MSRP: $19.97
Disc count: One single-layer BD disc
Language: English & Japanese with English subtitles
Video: 1920×1080 (16:9) at 23.976 fps
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English) & 2.0 (Japanese)
Closed Captions: Yes

Also available as part of Cinedigm’s ‘Yu-Gi-Oh The Complete Set‘ DVD Megaset box and on various digital platforms for rental and download.

Related posts:
Cinedigm’s ‘Yu-Gi-Oh! The Official First Season’ Box Set: An Overview

Related categories:
Bonds Beyond Time

Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time to Get U.S. DVD, Blu-ray on July 15 from Cinedigm

March 14, 2014 at 9:25 pm | Posted in Bonds Beyond Time, English dubbed, Japanese, Konami, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 15 Comments
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Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time Blu-ray cover mock-up from Cinedigm

Today, 4K Media (Konami) formally announced that Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in the U.S.! The long-awaited home video release will include both the English-dubbed and original Japanese-subbed versions of the memorable 10th anniversary movie, as well as the 10-minute introductory flashback exclusive to the English version. The DVD and BD will be released by Cinedigm on July 15 and will retail for $9.95 and $14.95 respectively.

Up until now, the English-language version of Bonds Beyond Time was only available in the United Kingdom from Manga UK, who released the film on DVD and Blu-ray in mid-2011 in both English and Japanese. The similarities between Manga UK’s products and Cinedigm’s upcoming releases end there, however.

Yu-Gi-Oh! fans who have 3D capable video equipment and who are looking to relive the thrilling theatrical 3D experience that they enjoyed on the big screen will unfortunately not have their needs met with Cinedigm’s BD release. While Manga UK’s BD included both 2D and 3D versions of the film, Cinedigm’s will sadly only include the 2D version.

And while the first press of Manga UK’s DVDs and BDs included a Malefic Red-Eyes B. Dragon promo card for the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG, Cinedigm’s releases will not.

Make no mistake about it — a U.S. home video release of Bonds Beyond Time is long overdue and it is fantastic to see that 4K Media hasn’t forgotten about it. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that the American release is lacking features that the UK release included. American fans who have already picked up Manga UK’s releases and who value these components might want to think twice before parting with them in favor of Cinedigm’s releases.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time was screened in 300 theaters across the United States on February 26 and 27 and March 5 and 6, 2011 by Cinedigm.

The Long Road to Home Video

Former Yu-Gi-Oh! license holder 4Kids Entertainment originally intended to release Bonds Beyond Time on home video in the U.S. back in July 2011 via A&E Home Video (whose titles were handled by Cinedigm at the time). However, the lawsuit and bankruptcy protection proceedings between 4Kids and the Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors in early 2011 completely stifled this and other potential licensing deals from coming to pass.

Yu-Gi-Oh! fans in the UK were more fortunate. 4Kids Entertainment International, the overseas licensing arm of 4Kids based in London, was not embroiled in the U.S. lawsuit and was able to secure a distribution deal for the United Kingdom with the UK division of Manga Entertainment. The home video release was originally scheduled for May 30, 2011.

A brief scare caused the release to be pushed back about two months, leaving Manga UK and fans to wonder whether the effects of the lawsuit had rippled across the pond and were impeding the ability of 4Kids’ London-based subsidiary to conduct routine business.

Eventually, 4Kids and Manga UK pulled through, successfully releasing Bonds Beyond Time on DVD and BD on July 25, 2011. The DVD went on to become Manga UK’s second best-selling title of 2011.

Additional reading:
The Home Videos That Never Were: DVD and Blu-ray Releases of Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time

4Kids Entertainment and The Deals That Never Were

October 5, 2012 at 7:59 am | Posted in 4Kids, Bonds Beyond Time, Other Stuff | 2 Comments
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Seto Kaiba contemplating the future of his company in episode 159

On April 6, 2011, 4Kids Entertainment filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to stop Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors TV Tokyo and NAS/ADK from seizing the rights to the coveted Yu-Gi-Oh! property after they had terminated their dealings with 4Kids. Since then, a lot of good things have happened to 4Kids, including a victory over the licensors in a lawsuit to retain the Yu-Gi-Oh! rights, an $8 million settlement paid to 4Kids, and 4Kids’ subsequent sale of the Yu-Gi-Oh! property for $15 million.

Given the company’s lack of accomplishments in the ever-weakening children’s licensing and advertising markets in recent years, it’s an odd notion that the turmoil from being driven into bankruptcy and the resulting court proceedings have put 4Kids in a position of success that it hasn’t seen for years on end. Not only is 4Kids free from its toxic relationships and able to pay off its creditors in full, but the company is also left with plenty of cash to maintain a healthy equity balance. But what did 4Kids lose in order to attain this position?

When 4Kids and the licensors first announced their intentions to settle, I invited you to consider how the parties may have arrived at the $8 million settlement figure that 4Kids received. Today, October 5, 2012, is a turning point in 4Kids’ history. Almost exactly 18 months to the day it filed for bankruptcy protection, 4Kids will be submitting its Chapter 11 disclosure statement, the first step to exiting bankruptcy. The company will reveal its current financial situation and discuss its intentions to reorganize. As we enter this pivotal day — one forever to be inscribed in the annals of children’s licensing, marketing, and programming — let’s revisit my thought experiment in more detail.

The Broadcasts That Never Were: New Shows From Toei Animation, Dentsu, and Viz Media on Toonzai; Yu-Gi-Oh! on Nicktoons

In July 2010, 4Kids unveiled its plans for Toonzai, a complete rebranding of its Saturday morning programming block on The CW that would serve as a hub for children’s anime. The success of Toonzai would rely on 4Kids’ ability to pick up new shows for the block. As presented during the lawsuit, 4Kids was in discussions with three companies to license new anime: Toei Animation, Dentsu, and Viz Media. These plans ground to a halt due to the lawsuit and bankruptcy.

Toei, with whom 4Kids had had a long-running business relationship over the years, refused to license any more of its shows to 4Kids, a decision that 4Kids believed was induced by ADK. Dentsu declined to continue negotiations with 4Kids until after the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit had been resolved. Viz Media agreed to continue informational discussions with 4Kids, but would not be closing any potential deals. The future of Toonzai was bleak.

What anime series could have graced us with their presence on The CW? We may never know. Toonzai’s chances of picking up new shows had been devastated, and the block was relegated to a paltry handful of new content and a slew of reruns.

It wasn’t only the acquisition of new anime that suffered, however. Prior to the lawsuit, 4Kids had been in negotiations to sell TV broadcasting deals for the Yu-Gi-Oh! series to Nicktoons, as well as to several other overseas networks. These parties, too, backed out under the weight of the lawsuit.

The Home Videos That Never Were: DVD and Blu-ray Releases of Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time

In 2011, Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D: Bonds Beyond Time arrived in the United States. The movie saw a limited run in theaters, with digital film distributor Cinedigm holding screenings on February 26 and 27 and again on March 5 and 6. Fans might remember seeing some trailers for the movie posted on 4Kids.TV and 4KidsTV.com that mentioned a home video release. Whatever happened to that? Or was that a dream?

No, you aren’t imagining things. There was indeed a trailer for the movie featuring narrator Dan Green, who invited fans to “look for the home video release this fall,” and featuring a mock-up of a video cover with the text “Coming This Fall!” proudly displayed. And indeed, there were Internet retailers offering a Bonds Beyond Time DVD for pre-order, with a July 19, 2011 street date and A&E Home Video listed as the distributor.

Some Yu-Gi-Oh! fan sites were quick to declare that the highly anticipated video release of Bonds Beyond Time had come. I, on the other hand, was puzzled by the lack of press and held off on posting an announcement. In April 2011, fans who had pre-ordered the DVD suddenly saw their orders canceled; retailers removed all traces of the product from their virtual store shelves; the trailer disappeared from 4Kids’ websites, never to be seen again; and to this day, there has been no home video release of the movie in the United States. What happened?

Although some fans questioned the legitimacy of A&E Home Video’s involvement with the Bonds Beyond Time DVD, the lawsuit revealed that 4Kids had in fact been negotiating the licensing of certain Yu-Gi-Oh! home video rights with parent company A&E Television Networks since March 2011. The cancelation of the pre-orders in April was no coincidence, as A&E severed its discussions with 4Kids because of the lawsuit and bankruptcy.

Across the pond in the UK, British fans were still treated to both a theatrical and a DVD and Blu-ray release of the film. 4Kids Entertainment International, the London-based subsidiary of 4Kids, was not entwined in the bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. and was thus able to conduct business as usual, securing distribution rights for the movie with Manga UK. Bonds Beyond Time was screened on May 14 and 21, 2011. The DVD and BD, initially targeted for a May 30 street date, were released on July 25, 2011.

The UK’s theatrical screenings were made possible through a partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas and Everyman Cinemas. They were not successful. In episode 4 of Manga UK’s monthly podcast, Jerome Mazandarani, the Head of Marketing and Acquisitions at Manga UK, revealed that the occupancy rate for the 26 screens showing the movie was less than 10 percent. Comparable numbers are not available for the U.S. theatrical release, which saw a limited distribution on 300 screens (up from the originally planned 250), but it’s a safe bet that everyone who participated in this release lost money. The movie’s poor performance puts a damper on the possibility of a future DVD and BD release in the U.S.

On the other hand, the Bonds Beyond Time DVD was Manga UK’s #2 seller in 2011, second to the Akira BD’s nearly 12,000 units. Hmm, there may be hope yet for us Americans.

The Acquisition That Never Was: A Merger with Classic Media

In 2009, 4Kids Entertainment hired Montgomery & Co., an investment bank specializing in mergers and acquisitions, to help it develop a financial strategy in light of the challenging economic climate and 4Kids’ continual loss of revenue. Strategic alliances, mergers, or even outright sales of the company or its assets were all possibilities. 4Kids’ search for investors and suitors continued as it entered Chapter 11, with the company retaining the services of BDO Capital Advisors in June 2011.

Although 4Kids had referenced a possibility of an acquisition early on in the bankruptcy, it wasn’t until the preliminary stages of the lawsuit in June 2011 that a name finally emerged: Classic Media. With an already vast library of over 400 titles, including Casper the Friendly Ghost, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and Voltron, Classic Media looked to further enhance its offerings by acquiring the rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise.

Classic Media had been in discussions with 4Kids about a possible merger since November 2010. Between January 2011 and March 2011, the pair set the stage for an all cash buyout of 4Kids at a “substantial premium” of its then market value. The merger was to alleviate some of the Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors’ concerns about 4Kids’ financial state. However, the same month Classic Media and 4Kids were set to sign a letter of intent to begin carrying out the merger, the licensors severed their ties with 4Kids, effectively killing the deal.

In November 2011, seven months into the bankruptcy, Classic Media returned to the negotiating table, again offering to buy 4Kids’ entire business. At the time, the lawsuit had still not been resolved and 4Kids was in need of cash, putting Classic Media in the driver’s seat and allowing it to offer a significantly discounted price. 4Kids, lacking a suitable alternative, proceeded to negotiate with Classic Media well into December 2011. Discussions between the pair advanced considerably, so much so that an asset purchase agreement, bidding procedures, and a sale motion had been prepared. Intrigued by the progress that had been made, I reached out to 4Kids for comment, who predictably was unable to offer any substantive comments.

On December 29, 2011, the court issued its ruling on the lawsuit. In light of the favorable decision, 4Kids ended its discussions with Classic Media, believing that it now had what it needed to leverage a better price elsewhere.

While it’s not clear exactly how much Classic Media offered 4Kids during its second crack at buying the company, 4Kids later noted that Saban’s $10 million offer for its Yu-Gi-Oh! property alone was “substantially greater” than Classic Media’s offer for its entire business.

4Kids did well to reject Classic Media’s second offer. But what about the original offer from March 2011? Where would Yu-Gi-Oh! be today if the parties had consummated the deal?

In July 2012, Classic Media was purchased by DreamWorks Animation for $155 million.

What’s Next For 4Kids?

Contrary to what you may have heard elsewhere, 4Kids isn’t dead, nor is it in dire straits. However, the “old” 4Kids that so many people are so familiar with, consisting of animation production and broadcast management teams, is no more, with Konami and Saban snatching up those businesses as part of the trio’s deal.

4Kids still exists as a licensing company, just as it once was before it made it big with Pokemon. It is still holding on to various properties (including animated children’s titles). And it is still headquartered in the same location in Manhattan. 4Kids’ settlement with Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! licensors TV Tokyo and NAS, along with its successful assets sale to Konami and Saban, have left the company with mountains of cash.

Since the end of July, 4Kids has been looking to settle the other legal proceedings it is involved in, including one with The Pokemon Company International over various alleged “deficiencies” in payments (which I briefly touched upon when the Yu-Gi-Oh! lawsuit first made news in March 2011). It had also been looking at liquidating its London-based subsidiary 4Kids Entertainment International, the plans for which were finalized on September 30, 2012. On the same day, Michael Goldstein, the Interim Chairman of 4Kids’ Board of Directors who assumed the position in May 2011, also retired.

What will happen next with 4Kids? Will the company exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and continue to trudge along, seeking out new properties to license in hopes of finding the next big hit? Will another company take a fancy to 4Kids and buy it out? Or will 4Kids use this opportunity to wind down and cash out while it is on top?

After 4Kids files its disclosure statement today, any parties with a vested interest in the fate of the company will have until October 25 to file an objection. A hearing to okay the disclosure statement is scheduled for October 30.

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