Kids on the Slope is the highly anticipated anime series from the creator and music director of Cowbow Bebop. It’s about a group of kids in 1966 Japan who form a Jazz band; so you can understand that music (and thus, audio) are very important to the show.
It’s disappointing, then, that the North American distributor for the series, Sentai Filmworks, has messed it up. According to reports (confirmed by the company itself), the Japanese track on the eleventh episode is missing its right audio track, so all the sound will come out of the left speaker. Furthermore, the company has no intention of fixing it.
We’ve heard that before. The same company screwed up their release of Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere with a horrible video glitch that ruined half an episode. Again, no fix. I know some people are thinking, wow, what a petty nitpicker; but really, this is basic quality control stuff that anyone who cares about their customers should be on top of.
This, of course, comes on the heels of other problems for Sentai Filmworks; like using low quality masters for their Blu Ray release of Penguindrum and Space Pirates, and locked subtitles on Kenshin and Inu X Boku. Those issues are often blamed on the Japanese licensors; but Sentai’s decision to not tell anyone ahead of time that Inu X Boku was hard-subbed was entirely their own.
In a previous life, Sentai Filmworks was ADV Films. That company didn’t care much for fans. They altered video, entirely re-wrote scripts, anything they could think of as they chased after a ‘mainstream’ audience that never showed up.
When Sentai emerged from ADV’s bankruptcy, I was skeptical. It was the same people behind the scenes, after all. But they won me over. It was like they had learned their lesson; that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (i.e. the anime fan that is offering you money now is worth more than the fantasy fans that will show up if you just change a show a little bit more). They cared about the shows, and the fans.
But then, a few months ago, they stopped caring.
They aren’t as bad as ADV, yet; but they’re in a downward spiral. I think they’ve just gotten complacent. Believing that anime fans are sheepish enough to continue buying anything they shovel out the door. And to some extent, they’re right. Why spend money on quality control when the fans will buy your stuff anyway?
Me? I have a lot of anime. I’ve been buying since the VHS days, and there’s no room in my collection for a broken disc. I hope Sentai wakes up; but I know that there’s little financial incentive from fandom to do so. The money they’ll lose from people like me is less than it would have cost to hire a competent quality checker.
To be a fan is to be abused. We bitch about Evil Dead being released for the 14th time, or George Lucas making yet another change to Star Wars, and then we go and buy the new one. Fandom would be much better off if we just learned to say no every now and then.