At about 6:00PM eastern time, press releases began to hit the inboxes of bloggers and journalists everywhere. At a glance, it looked like any other NISA product announcement: the format, the capitalized title, and the date gave off the impression that would be just another product release. Those paying attention, though, were sure to do a double take.
The subject line proudly proclaimed “NIS America – CARDCAPTOR SAKURA Complete Series out August 5th!”
That’s right, NIS America licensed Cardcaptor Sakura. The CLAMP classic will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD on August 5. Fans will be given the option to splurge and get an attractive Blu-Ray collection for $249.99, or split their purchase across three DVD boxes, priced at $59.99 each.
Apparently, Sakura, like Shannon Doherty, doesn’t come cheap or she doesn’t come at all. Joking aside, there is a lot of legitimate excitement over the announcement. Cardcaptor Sakura was, quite possibly, the most requested Geneon license that was still in limbo at this point. Fans have been asking for its re-acquisition since Geneon Entertainment closed its doors in 2007, though the outlook seemed to grow dimmer with each passing year. The existing Pioneer/Geneon releases ballooned in value, with specific volumes fetching anywhere between $3 and $53 for a used copy. Sealed editions would easily reach lofty price points, as they blew past $100 and even $200 on digital storefronts.
Even Nelvana’s poorly-received Cardcaptors adaptation would eventually go on to command $50 a disc, much to the chagrin of anime fans everywhere.
So, to see the series back on the market is a cause for celebration. The fact that it’s being offered with a reasonably priced edition is a major plus. It’s actually interesting to see NIS America rushing to get the standard edition out to retailers so quickly. Typically, the company gives their premium editions roughly a year on the market prior to the shift to a standard edition for the laggard customers. This allows the company to attract two distinct markets without fear of really cannibalizing the sales of their premium edition. Looking more closely, though, it’s easy to see that the decision to hit the market with a dual-release was possibly the most sensible move the company could make.
At the moment, the Cardcaptor Sakura announcement is utterly dominating conversations on anime sites, forums, and social media. Just putting out a $250 Blu-Ray would have certainly garnered a number of sales, though doing so would put the company at risk of appearing “out of touch,” and open them up to criticisms that are often levied at Aniplex of America’s extravagant releases. The Standard Edition, which was split into three sets, allows users to split their purchases into more manageable amounts, which has a major impact in the general perception of a product on the market. At the same time, the very availability of the Standard Edition from the outset allows for NIS America to fully embrace the hype of the reveal and capture both the top and bottom market segments.
What will be particularly interesting to see, though, is how the title actually performs once it’s on store shelves. Historically, Magical Girl shows have not been the biggest sellers in the west. Shows like Saint Tail sold so poorly that their latter volumes were either cancelled, or the format was changed to get them out to market as quickly as possible. Even Cardcaptor Sakura, while initially strong, had seen its sales peter out by the time the final volume hit store shelves. There have been exceptions, especially with the advent of shows like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which became a favorite and a sales darling for Aniplex. So, to count Sakura out at this point is simply unfair.
Still, it’s easy to forget that Cardcaptor Sakura first aired in Japan in 1998. The show is approaching its twentieth anniversary, which means that there are entire generations of fans who have not seen the show, nor do they care. Yes, it’s a fantastic show. Yes, it’s a CLAMP legend. But still, it’s an old show at this point, which has always been a bit of a black mark for those that are less invested in the hobby.
If the show can reach outside of the strict box of older fans and genre followers, then I have little doubt that it will become a hit for NIS America. It’s aged gracefully, and the characters are still charming and incredibly fun, so there is a lot to like, even among those who tend to shy away from anything older than the turn of the decade. If it’s unable to reach this market in a major way, though, it will be interesting to see how Cardcaptor Sakura fares with the existing market, and whether it will be able to create a decent profit for NIS America.