|And it's a three-peat! What can I say... Enoki Films USA's site died moths after these posts went up.|
Well, here we are. This is the third and last part of my look at the titles in Enoki Films USA's catalog that should really be given a look at. We end off this look with the Sci-fi & Manga category, which I think is actually the smallest category within Enoki's catalog. So let's not waste time and let's go straight in:
8 Man is an older property, having debuted on TV back in 1963 after the manga already had finished its run in Shonen Magazine. In 1965 it was brought over to North America under the name Tobor the Eighth Man and is, in a sense, the Japanese equivalent to Robocop, though it predates that movie series by a good 20 years or so. But the similarity is there in that they both are about a man who was turned into a cyborg cop. In 1993 a sequel OVA was made called 8 Man After, which is about a brand new 8 Man, but this new hero is a much more willing to be violent than the original was. Streamline licensed the OVA and produced an English dub, and in 2001 Image Entertainment released the OVA on DVD as the "Perfect Collection"... A Perfect Collection that didn't have the original Japanese version in it at all. It's usually interesting to see a new version of an older property, and since the anime adaptation of the recent 8 Man Infinity manga is still in development hell a re-release of 8 Man After that actually has both the English dub and the original Japanese version would be cool to see.
[3/2015 UPDATE: Well, it took about five years since I first did this post (& the dissolution of Enoki USA), but Enoki Films looks to be working with a new anime company of choice, Discotek Media! Later this year, Discotek will be giving 8 Man After a new DVD release, done in the original OVA format instead of Streamline's movie edit, but while also being a dual-audio release, like I had hoped for.]
In the early 1980s mech animes were either all about taking place in space or about a war between humans (or a war between humans and aliens). While Acrobunch didn't change any of that in the long run, the idea behind it was certainly different and is still fairly original to this day. The people behind the show were heavily influenced by the high-adventure movie craze Hollywood was having after the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. The simplest way to describe Acrobunch would be to take Indiana Jones, give him five kids ranging in age from teens to young adults, send them on a world-spanning adventure for treasure, and give them all vehicles that can then combine into a giant super robot. Oh, and replace the Nazis with an evil group called the Goblin Clan. If that doesn't sound awesome then I don't know what does! Fans of the Super Robot Wars video game series might recognize Acrobunch as being one of the shows that's exclusive to the SRW Compact 3 game for the Wonderswan Color/SwanCrystal. Though it's barely used in the game, the Acrobunch itself is a cool mech to have and I would love to see this show with English subtitles.
The J9 Series was a trilogy of mech animes that ran from 1981 to 1984 and differed from the usual mech animes of the time in that they had a truly original style to them. It's rumored that Monkey Punch was involved in these shows, but the simple truth is that character designer, the late Kazuo Komatsubara, was only heavily inspired by Monkey Punch, but there's no denying that the characters in this series definitely look like they could be from Lupin the 3rd. Braiger is the first show in the series and is about J9, a mercenary group that's willing to do any job as long as it's for the right price. Going solely off of the show's appearances in Super Robot Wars (Alpha Gaiden, GC/XO, and Neo) you can tell that this show would be great fun to watch solely because J9 itself is just an enjoyable group to watch and listen to. They may be a mercenary group that has no use for mercy, but they are a quartet of personalities that you just can't help but watch. Also, Braiger's opening theme is one of the most addicting songs ever in the history of anime openings; from the narrator's description of how J9 operates to the song itself you can't help but always listen to it. Two episodes have been fansubbed a while ago, but I would immediately pre-order a release of this show if it ever appeared on Right Stuf's website.
Baxinger is the second title in the J9 Series, and while it's the least appealing of the series to me personally I'll still include it and I admit that I would still buy this show if it was ever released. While Braiger was an original story, Baxinger's story of a group called J9-II is based on the legend of the 47 Ronin, which is a popular folktale in Japan. Apparently the show also has a surprising ending to it, but I don't know anything else aside from that. As for me, the simple fact that the voices of the J9 crew return to voice four of the five members of J9-II would be enough to make me watch it if it was available with English subtitles. Also, Baxinger does have a really cool insert song in the form of "LETSU", so that helps too.
Ginga Shippuu Sasuraiger (43 episodes)
Sasuraiger is the last title in the J9 Series... Yeah, Enoki has all three titles, and it's a damn shame that such an interesting series of mech anime are so close to being licensed or at least available in some form over here in North America but are stuck in this limbo. Anyway, out of the three titles in this trilogy Sasuraiger probably has the most interesting story and is probably why it's the longest show of them all. A gambler named I.C. Blues makes a bet against a crime syndicate called "Bloody God" that it is possible to navigate the entire 50-planet solar system in just 80 days. To help him out in winning this bet Blues recruits JJ9 (pronounced "Double-J9"), a trio who operate a space train called the J9-III that can also transform into the giant robot called Sasuraiger. Yeah, Sasuraiger is a space mech anime adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days... Much like Acrobunch, if that doesn't sound cool as hell then what does? Plus, once again, the same people who voiced the J9 crew and voiced four of the members of J9-II return to voice Blues and the members of JJ9. Combine that with another catchy opening theme, a badass inset theme called "Try, Try, Try", and the aforementioned idea behind the story and Sasuraiger sound like a real winner to me.
In this category also are titles like the Ozanari Dungeon OVA, Srungle (a.k.a. the show that Saban lumped together up with GoShogun to create 80s cartoon Macron 1), and the early 90s Babel II OVA, but the ones I gave focus to are the ones that catch my interest the most. The Sci-fi & Manga category of Enoki Films USA's catalog is definitely the place to go to for fans of mech anime.
And with that comes the end of this look at the titles in Enoki Films USA's catalog that should definitely be given a look at by anime licensors over here in North America. Of course, I'm a really small-name blog so what I say carries no weight in the overall scheme of things, but that comes with the territory when you focus on obscure anime & manga. Still, it's a true shame that Enoki has these titles but aren't doing anything with them solely because that's how they work. Enoki doesn't do any sort of DVD releases on their own, nor do they even seem to do online streaming outside of Izumo and Koi Koi Seven. Considering the catalog they have I am amazed that they don't even try to get these shows on sites like The Anime Network, FUNimation, Anime News Network, or even CrunchyRoll. Considering how online streaming is about getting anime out there to the fans, even if they don't necessarily get DVD releases, it's appalling that the people at Enoki just seemingly sit in their office twiddling their thumbs, hoping that the advertising of their catalog at places like distributor conventions is going to be enough to get companies to say "Yes, we'll license those shows." This is especially true for the older titles in their catalog. While something like recent-license Giant Killing might still have a chance at getting licensed for DVD release, what chance does something like the J9 Series have? Yes, Enoki does handle distribution for other countries like Mexico and those in South America, but it's interesting how ignored the company generally is in the country that they are based out of. Apparently there's an indication that the companies over here tend to avoid talking to Enoki unless absolutely necessary, so it could also be partially Enoki's own fault to a point.
I'll say this, though: If I was to ever start my own anime licensing company I would start off by licensing some of the shows that Enoki Films USA has and releasing them on DVD at reasonable price points. The company has a nice catalog of seemingly quality titles and while most of them may not be ready for an English dub from a economical point of view, that shouldn't stop them from being given a chance over here. Of course, that's only if Enoki would be willing to play ball with that kind of negotiation and release strategy as well as if there's anyone out there that would be willing to pay money for these shows at that unknown time in the future. Ah, the sorrow of seeing shows be so close to getting released over here yet in reality don't...