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Old 2013-09-06, 18:13   Link #1
roninmedia
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Buying Blu-Ray Anime - Making Sure It's Worth It

As I suspect I am similar to many of the users on this website, I watch my anime through the dedicated efforts of fansubbers available with English subtitles or due to cost. I don't really have an excuse with cost anymore since I am a working professional.

So I am going to start to support my favorite creators with purchases, namely Blu-Rays.
However, I do have some questions mostly in regards to picture quality and fidelity before I start making purchases.

1) What point in time did most animation studios go from producing SD anime to HD anime? I want to get a clear idea of which series's blu-ray releases would be upscales or presented in that native forms.

2) For animation I know was definitely produced in the era of SD quality, is there an easy way to tell from product description if it was a true remaster when they actually took the time and effort to make it worth the transition to Blu-Ray? (Examples would be Akira and Studio Ghibli)

3) Is there a quality difference between Japanese and U.S. Blu-Ray releases? For example, in December, Sakurasou No Pet Kanojo is available on release on Amazon in the US with subtitles.

Pet Girl of Sakurasou 1 [Blu-ray]
Amazon: $60
Runtime: 300 Minutes

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo Vol.1
Import: 8190 Yen
Runtime: 75 Minutes

$60 for 12 Episodes vs ~$85 for 3 Episodes

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I think my first couple purchases would be some Makoto Shinkai works, Studio Ghibli and few other movies
5 Centimeters Per Second, Beyond the Clouds, Akira, Nausicaa, Laputa, Summer Wars
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Last edited by roninmedia; 2013-09-07 at 19:42.
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Old 2013-09-06, 18:36   Link #2
ultimatemegax
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roninmedia View Post
As I suspect I am similar to many of the users on this website, I watch my anime through the dedicated efforts of fansubbers available with English subtitles or due to cost. I don't really have an excuse with cost anymore since I am a working professional.

So I am going to start to support my favorite creators with purchases, namely Blu-Rays.
However, I do have some questions mostly in regards to picture quality and fidelity before I start making purchases.

1) What point in time did most animation studios go from producing SD anime to HD anime? I want to get a clear idea of which series's blu-ray releases would be upscales or presented in that native forms.

2) For animation I know was definitely produced in the era of SD quality, is there an easy way to tell from product description if it was a true remaster when they actually took the time and effort to make it worth the transition to Blu-Ray? (Examples would be Akira and Studio Ghibli)

3) Is there a quality difference between Japanese and U.S. Blu-Ray releases? For example, in December, Sakurasou No Pet Kanojo is available on release on Amazon in the US with subtitles.

Pet Girl of Sakurasou 1 [Blu-ray]
Amazon: $60
Runtime: 300 Minutes

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo Vol.1
Import: 8190 Yen
Runtime: 75 Minutes

$60 for 12 Episodes vs ~$85 for 3 Episodes
Glad to see another person join the ranks of the purchasing. I'll do my best to answer your questions.

1. Studios began switching to HD production around 2007-2008 with 2009 being the first big year that shows were initially released on blu-rays. You can find some HD shows in 2007-2008 (especially around Fall 2008), but a lot will still be upscaled.

2. Not from the NA side of things. NA licensors tend to be incorrect regarding production of shows from the late 2000s in regards to HD production. Very few series are remastered onto BD; most are simply upscaled with varying degrees of quality. The exceptions would be huge titles like the ones you've mentioned. At this point, it's safer to assume something's an upscale unless otherwise pointed out.

3. There's always going to be a loss in quality when you take episodes with a constant 20-30 MBps bitrate and make it highly variable and squeeze episodes onto discs (more specifically, 9-10 on one BD50 and 2-4 on one BD25). Sentai's (Sentai Filmworks, the licensor of the show you provided an example of) also had some problems lately with not re-interlacing 1080i content and leaving their customers to discover that there's video issues. However, you get what you pay for. Pay cheap and get a cheap product. Pay much more for the JP version, and you get good audio/video/physical extras, but rarely any Eng subs.

If you need any more clarification, please point out what I didn't make clear.
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Old 2013-09-06, 18:52   Link #3
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(ultimatemegax already said many similar things, but since I was writing it I might as well post it anyway...)

Likely the easiest hint about whether a show was produced in HD would be to see if was released as singles on Blu-Ray in Japan. That's not an absolute rule, but there aren't many examples of clearly-SD shows that were released upscaled as singles. Boxsets not included, of course. As a general point of reference, somewhere around 2008-2009 is about when most shows started making the jump to BD singles and "HD" animation.

And I should also say that the definition of "HD" is pretty vague. In the early days, there were a good amount of shows that were rendered in "more than SD, but less than HD". These days, most shows are at least 720p, and a few shows are starting recently to go up to 1080p. Nevertheless, most Blu-Rays are mastered in 1080p or 1080i with pull-down, so there's often still a degree of upscaling going on (even if it's not from SD).


As far as telling the good HD remasters from the cheap upscales... I'd guess that the easiest way would be to look for reviews online. I know a good amount of people who review Blu-Rays for picture quality, both for "import" and "domestic" releases. But I'd also say this... if you don't already have the DVDs in your colletion, then it'd be pretty unusual that even an average upscale would be worse than the DVDs. That isn't to say it hasn't happened, of course, particularly if you're comparing Western boxsets with Japanese DVDs or something.


As for picture quality: there usually is a difference. Whether there's a big enough difference to justify the price difference is debatable. My experience is that most of the people who import anime Blu-Rays from Japan aren't necessarily doing it "to watch" anyway, but more to collect, so things like the packaging, extras, and prestige elements of the Limited Edition can make a difference. Depending on the publisher, some North American releases can tend to feel a bit "bare bones" and "cheap", and for some collectors having something "worth collecting" is more important than the asking price. But again, that's a pretty specific mentality that doesn't necessarily apply if your goal is to watch the show again.


I will say this, if you're thinking of going to down the real "collector's route", it can easily become the route of wilful-indulgence and budgetary-insanity. It's extremely easy to go in over your head, particularly if you're making a reasonable income and managing/limiting your other expenses. It takes absolutely no effort to fill whatever margin of savings you have, and if you're not careful, to go into debt. So... I guess I'd just say to watch out. Collecting can be extremely addictive. But, of course, it's also fun and gratifying -- it wouldn't be addictive otherwise.
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Old 2013-09-06, 19:56   Link #4
DorkingtonPugsly
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It's so much cheaper to just wait a bit and get the english releases, but I just like the Japanese single volumes and covers and what not. And there's no guarantee that a series will get an english release. That would be the only downside. I just like getting them quicker too, have no patience. And I have no use for subs so... that's a thing.
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Old 2013-09-06, 21:42   Link #5
SeijiSensei
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That "more than SD" period relentless talked about seemed to happen just about when I started watching anime seriously, around 2006. Shows started appearing in the widescreen aspect ratio, though without the additional resolution of "real" HD. It coincides with the shift by fansubbers to H.264 encodings in the Matroska container that so bedevilled those of us whose computers weren't up to the task. Good examples from the period are shows like Seirei no Moribito and Claymore. I'm pretty sure 2007's Dennou Coil was shot in 720p, though that's probably an exception that represented Madhouse's dedication to its director, Iso Matsuo, and the material itself.

You might want to check out the discussions at the anime section on Mania and The Fandom Post. They attract a lot of collectors and often focus on production quality. That's especially true if you are considering buying shows from that 2006-2008 era on Blu-ray. Most of those are upscales. You'll also see older shows like Chobits released on Blu-ray whose originals were shot in the 640x480 format and originally released for traditional NTSC televisions.
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Old 2013-09-06, 22:51   Link #6
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That reminds me of (many) conversations I had with a friend of mine.
He's one of those "the 961th frame on this episode is blurry compared to the original release! I'm not getting this one, gonna spend 10x more and get the Japanese release!" while I'm more of "eh, looks better than DVD, that's good enough an upscale for me!"

It's obviously a case-by-case scenario, and I think I've seen several sites and threads making side by side comparisons for various versions of different anime. If it's a release that's already out, a little research before buying is probably advised.
Me, I just buy whatever anime I want at the time without thinking too much, usually my wallet is more precious than the minor differences between BD releases for me to bother.
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Old 2013-09-07, 00:21   Link #7
bhl88
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I tend to buy those with English subs (the Japanese import).

I still tend not to recognize difference between local and imported Blu-Ray and trust the packaging. Most localsI can trust with quality would be Aniplex, Bandai and NISA.
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Old 2013-09-07, 00:43   Link #8
SeijiSensei
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aohige View Post
It's obviously a case-by-case scenario, and I think I've seen several sites and threads making side by side comparisons for various versions of different anime. If it's a release that's already out, a little research before buying is probably advised.
As an example, Media Blasters release of Moribito on BD got panned by many observers, though apparently the JP release is better.
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Old 2013-09-07, 03:35   Link #9
aohige
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
As an example, Media Blasters release of Moribito on BD got panned by many observers, though apparently the JP release is better.
Vast, vast, vast vaaaaaassstt majority of "OMG look at this pic, see how terrible it is?" on BD forums have me scratching my head and going I... I don't see anything wrong.

Pixelated artifacts only bothers me when it's covering half the screen like with non-variable bitrate streaming, but when it's like tiny artifacts on side of some line that's only noticeable by pausing frame by frame will never bug me.

I think their inputs are awesome for educated buying, and naturally their standards are waaaaay higher than my tolerance. It just doesn't really mean much to me personally.

Now... the early days of DVD when we had obvious "nth gen VHS copy just digitized" being sold? Those were really inexcusable.
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Old 2013-09-07, 05:30   Link #10
KanbeKotori
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Well I always buy BDs for anime that I feel it's worth to re-watch so I get the originals(aka Japanese version) since I have no need for subs(I can understand the language).

However if you need the subs, it'll be a much more complex issue if you want to re-watch it like me. Usually the Japanese version have better quality but they are always pretty expensive so if you understand the language and really want to support them and have no problems with it financially, it'll be best to buy the Japanese version.

So far most of my BDs are bought from Japan's Amazon. I don't really know what's the difference between that and the English release so I can't tell you much.
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Old 2013-09-07, 10:07   Link #11
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I don't need the subs either, I buy the NA release for the price.
Only thing that bugs me is the occasional replacing of text on some OP/ED.
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Old 2013-09-07, 11:24   Link #12
SeijiSensei
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aohige View Post
Vast, vast, vast vaaaaaassstt majority of "OMG look at this pic, see how terrible it is?" on BD forums have me scratching my head and going I... I don't see anything wrong.
I generally agree with your assessment. I can sometimes see minor differences if I look at the images closely, but since i watch nearly all my anime on an HDTV from across the living room, I doubt I would notice any of them in practice. I was just directing the OP to places where his question might be answered.
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Old 2013-09-07, 11:31   Link #13
KanbeKotori
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aohige View Post
I don't need the subs either, I buy the NA release for the price.
Only thing that bugs me is the occasional replacing of text on some OP/ED.
Well idk. Maybe TS needs subs? I wouldn't know.

Anyway I feel that buying the original is better than anything. It feels like you're supporting the company directly.

Example is I'm heading to Japan in October to be one of the first to grab Hanasaku Iroha BDs(since they will release it during Bonbori Matsuri).

The Japanese version don't really have any problems so far for those that I've bought. Pricey but worth it to me if you wanna re-watch it. Otherwise any version will do if you wanna put it on display.
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Old 2013-09-07, 15:17   Link #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
I generally agree with your assessment. I can sometimes see minor differences if I look at the images closely, but since i watch nearly all my anime on an HDTV from across the living room, I doubt I would notice any of them in practice. I was just directing the OP to places where his question might be answered.
I think part of it is going to depend on whether the compression artifacts are more or less noticeable in motion. I've seen it go both ways.

While I don't have a lot of experience with R1 bluray yet, I can often notice compression on an HDTV on HD streams but not to the point where it distracts me. Unless it involves bad deinterlacing or blocking artifacts in dark scenes.

(You know what I remember having some pretty bad blocking in dark scenes, even given the standards of the time? The fansub releases of Moribito I watched back when it was airing in 2007. Seeing the show get brought up in the context of compression artifacts feels oddly deja vu and makes me wonder if there's something about the show itself and/or the masters that makes encoding software choke.)
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Old 2013-09-07, 15:29   Link #15
roninmedia
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At the moment, I do require my anime to have the English subtitles. I do plan on getting my education on when it comes to learning Japanese but I have been sidetracked by undergraduate studies and completing my doctorate which I finished up in 2012. I can afford the Japanese imports at the moment, but the language barrier is still there.

I don't think I will go overboard on the collecting aspect. A lot of the nicer packaging and box art and extras that may come with more expensive versions of any media never really intrigued me. Like the pre-order extras or collector's editions of video games.

Just watch, I start building up my Blu-Ray collection and 4k TVs take off and the bigger, better format slams head-on.
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Old 2013-09-07, 19:29   Link #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roninmedia View Post
At the moment, I do require my anime to have the English subtitles. I do plan on getting my education on when it comes to learning Japanese but I have been sidetracked by undergraduate studies and completing my doctorate which I finished up in 2012. I can afford the Japanese imports at the moment, but the language barrier is still there.

I don't think I will go overboard on the collecting aspect. A lot of the nicer packaging and box art and extras that may come with more expensive versions of any media never really intrigued me. Like the pre-order extras or collector's editions of video games.

Just watch, I start building up my Blu-Ray collection and 4k TVs take off and the bigger, better format slams head-on.
Do you think that packaging is another bonus as well in Blu-Rays [aka you want to look at it in your free time]?
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Old 2013-09-13, 18:22   Link #17
isamu99
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Can someone name all the Japanese BD releases that have English subs?
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Old 2013-09-13, 19:00   Link #18
GDB
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Quote:
Originally Posted by isamu99 View Post
Can someone name all the Japanese BD releases that have English subs?
This might be of use: http://www.mania.com/aodvb/showthread.php?t=108814
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Old 2013-09-14, 10:41   Link #19
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thx buddy^
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