In recent years, the concept of a premium edition for anime releases is all but absurd. We’ve seen sturdy chipboard boxes and packed in goodies slowly diminish. Instead, thinpacks and thin cardboard boxes are becoming the norm since they are more economical, more practical, and easier to stock in the diminishing brick and mortar spaces across America. With sales on a slow downward trend, and the situation seeming increasingly dire, many feared that the premium package, like many other things fans took for granted, would cease to exist.

Leave it to Japan to prove everybody wrong. NIS America, the US arm of the niche RPG company that cut its teeth in the west with games like Atelier Iris, Ar Tonelico, and Disgaea announced this February that they would throw their hat into the market. Many weren’t sure about how the company would fare in the market. After all – previous attempts from a Japanese company to enter the market ended fairly disastrously. Prices were high, or shoddy translations led to hilariously disastrous results in the final products in these cases.

Fears were quickly lain to rest once the announcements started rolling in, and product started hitting shelves. NIS managed to hit the ground running, and combine the extras fans adore with a price that wasn’t insultingly high. Full-color, hardcover artbooks, sturdy boxes, and gaggles of extras on disc bring back memories of a time when companies weren’t forced to tighten their belts.

Anime Dream recently formed a relationship with the kind folks at NIS, who sent us a few screeners for review. However, it would simply be unfair to ignore the hard work and excellent quality of these releases, so I put the old Olympus to work, and took a few glamour shots.

The five NISA sets come in the same base format: two thinpacked discs and a large book in a chipboard sleeve. The official product images don’t give a good idea of the size, however, so I made a few informal comparisons. The first shot with a 9″ UFO catcher doll, the second with a standard DVD case. The NISA releases dwarf both easily. The combined weight of each is fairly hefty, clocking in at about 10-12 ounces, total weight.

Urd plush: Approximately 9 inches

These sets dwarf the typical DVD release.

The books are far from the typical sheet of liner notes, and feel more like supplemental fan guides. They’re sturdy, glossy, and positively packed with artwork, supplemental features like cast interviews, and other random goodies. For example, in Persona, a series of 4-panel comics fill a number of pages, and Pandora Hearts features several full-page spreads that would be more at home in a typical art-book.

NIS America is filling a huge void that’s been begging to be tended to for a while now. While the company saw a few setbacks early on, it’s clear that they hit the ground running, otherwise. After actually seeing these releases first-hand, I can’t help but be excited about what the company has in store for its upcoming releases. NISA is trying to bring back the idea that we can have nice things. Now, we can only hope that the approach resonates with fans an increasingly fussy legion of fans.