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Monday, January 17, 2011

"Half-Way There": A Look at Enoki Films USA's Catalog Part 2

The first time we took a look at Enoki Films' catalog we took a look at the titles within the company's "Action Adventure" section. In this part we'll be taking a look at the company's "Anime Action" section. Before we take a look at titles within this section that are potentially worth looking at, let's go over that infamous deal between Enoki Films USA and Media Blasters that I alluded to a few times in Part 1.

Yeah, it's a repeat...  So sue me.

Back in the early 2000s Media Blasters licensed four shows from Enoki: Knight Hunters/Weiss Kreuz, Gokudo, Zenki, and Fortune Quest L. Apparently MB said that they would only release all of Zenki if the first collection of 13 episodes, which is what CPM released back on VHS, sold well enough. Well Zenki got fully released and I guess Gokudo did well enough, because in 2002 MB licensed and released a large batch of titles from Enoki: Babel II: Beyond Infinity, Genma Wars, Gun Frontier, and Cosmo Warrior Zero. MB also licensed some shows but never released them: Wild 7 Another, Demon Lord Dante (this would later see release via Geneon), Barom One, and Mars (I'm going to guess this would have been Shin Seiki Den Mars, the most recent anime adaptation of Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Mars manga). While that first batch sold well this second batch was infamous for not only selling poorly but also being filled with less-than-stellar licenses, and Babel II and Genma Wars are generally considered straight-up crap. It was such a bad deal that Media Blasters never released all of their licenses, the ones I mentioned before, and Fortune Quest only got one DVD released. John Sirabella himself has recalled that deal as being very sour and not one he would want to go through again. And if you looks at Enoki's catalog, you'll see that the second batch of titles came entirely from the "Anime Action" section... So, yeah, this section of the catalog is pretty infamous, but there's still some titles in here worth taking a look at:

Majuu Sensen: The Apocalypse (13 episodes)
Go Nagai is legendary for his giant robots like Mazinger Z, Grendizer, and Getter Robo, but he's also known for his titles about the end of the world, like Devilman. But one can't forget Nagai's friend and co-creator of Getter Robo, the late, great Ken Ishikawa. Though Nagai is credited for Getter, it was Ishikawa who wrote the story for all of the manga series and he also was important to the anime adaptations of it. But Ishikawa also had his take on the apocalypse, called Majuu Sensen, roughly translated as Demon Beast War, which debuted as a manga back in 1975. It told the story of Shinichi Kuruma, who had the ability of three beasts inside of him, the lion, the bear, and the falcon, and how he was involved in the end of the world. In 1990 it was adapted as a three-episode OVA, and in 2003 it was remade as a 13-episode TV series, and it's this 2003 adaptation that Enoki licensed. All I can really say about this show is that if you are familiar with Getter Robo Armageddon and/or New Getter Robo, then you'll be able to understand how Majuu Sensen: The Apocalypse works. It has an interesting, if blasphemous, story to it, the characters are worth paying attention to, and the ending is weird and confusing as hell, though in this show's case it still makes more sense than either of those two Getter Robo anime. It's an interesting change of pace from Nagai's end of the world stories, and it does show that Ishikawa did have his own style in the end.

Shin Seiki Den Mars (13 episodes)
The late Mitsuteru Yokoyama was, and still is, a legend of manga. He was the grandfather of the giant robot/mecha genre with Tetsujin 28, a.k.a Gigantor, his title Mahoutsukai Sally was more than likely a precursor of the magical girl genre, and magnum opus was his 60-volume manga adaptation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, which actually told more of the story than the original book did! Also, his titles Babel II, Giant Robo, and Mars were inspiration for future generations. Mars in particular has had three anime adaptations. The first and most well-known was Rokushin Gattai God Mars, which was only an adaptation in basic story idea alone (a hero who actually was an alien who ended up fighting against his own kind to protect Earth with a giant robot that, if the hero died, would blow up and destroy the Earth) and is the best example of why toy makers aren't assigned mech design duties (i.e. the mech designs aside from the God Mars itself suck); look forward to its voiced and fully animated return to the Super Robot Wars series in the upcoming Z2:; Hakai-hen. In 1994 there was a two-episode OVA, simply titled Mars that is pretty obscure, and in 2002 came Shin Seiki Den Mars, roughly translated as God Century Legend Mars. While it is more accurate to the original manga it still apparently differs in some ways, and though it isn't a stellar mech anime that absolutely must be watched I still found it to be worth a watch. If you're a fan of Yasuhiro Imagawa's Giant Robo OVA then you'll really enjoy seeing the mechs in Mars, which made cameos in the opening sequence.

Cinderella Boy (13 episodes)
In 2003 there was a 13-episode anime adaptation of a 1980 manga done by Monkey Punch, of Lupin the 3rd fame. The basic idea was that a man and woman who co-run a detective agency are one night cursed and share a body, one at a time. Every time midnight occurs they switch places, i.e. the man is replaced with the woman and vice-versa and they have no idea what the other person did during the day. I haven't seen it, but Monkey Punch generally is known for delivering good comedy, and the basic idea of this show definitely sounds like it should be good fun to watch.

[4/2018 UPDATE: Eventually, Discotek has slowly moved into releasing Enoki titles that never received any sort of official English in the past, streaming or physical. With Lupin the 3rd being the company's de facto main franchise, then, it's no surprise that Discotek has finally given Cinderella Boy it's first ever home video release in North America.]

Koi Koi Seven (13 episodes)
Even though this show has never been licensed, you can actually legally watch it with English subtitles on a variety of video streaming websites, much like Izumo: Takeki Tsurugi no Senki (why can't this be the case for all of Enoki's catalog?). Koi Koi Seven is from 2005 and is pretty much a harem-esque anime with the over-the-top ridiculous factor shooting through the roof, through the stratosphere, and through the solar system (I think it actually just shot through the Milky Way!). I've only seen the first two episodes, and it's the kind of show that you probably shouldn't like but can't help but smile at while watching it. Some probably won't be able to get over the insanity this show has, but those who can might find it to be, at the very least, an "interesting" watch.

[7/2016 UPDATE: Continuing its working relationship with Enoki Films, Discotek Media will be giving Koi Koi Seven it's first ever North American home video release this September.]
That's pretty much going to be it for the "Anime Action" section. There are others that could be mentioned but they'll can be potential license rescues, Gun Frontier and Cosmo Warrior Zero, and it's not like they're hard to find or expensive to buy; unlike Gokudo and Zenki these second batch titles are easy to find and buy since they didn't sell well the first time around. And there's a couple of other titles, like Submarine Super 99 or Kagihime Monogatari - Eikyuu Alice Rondo, but I'm not familiar enough with those to really give a judgement or even a basic feeling about them.

On the last part of "Half-Way There" we'll look at the Sci-fi & Manga section of Enoki's catalog, which means one thing: Mech Anime!!!!

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