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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Twelve Older Anime that Deserve License Rescues Part 1

The term "license rescue" seemed to first appear a few years back when a number of companies were licensing anime that had previously been given a release in North America. Since then any time a previously-licensed anime is given new life by a different company the term is used and overall it seems to have become part of the vernacular of the industry here. The company whose line-up has seen the most license rescues, by far, is Geneon. A good number of their licenses are now in the hands of companies like FUNimation Entertainment and Sentai Filmworks. But when you consider how long the anime industry that we know it as has been around, since roughly 1991, you realize that there are a lot of anime that could really use a license rescue. Yeah, this results in a lot of them being older than your usual anime licenses, but I've always felt that age should never be used as a negative. Still, I think it's worth bringing up some titles, from a variety of years, that I think deserve one more shot over here.

I've already reviewed B't X on this blog, so it's no surprise that this title is here. Though I would easily recommend Saint Seiya and Ring ni Kakero 1 before I get to this title, B't X is still a very solid mech-esque anime. I had already talked about Illumitoon's license and subsequent botch of a release style, and how The Anime Network gave it somewhat of a second wind by airing whatever Illumitoon had dubbed, but I think it's still worth mentioning here. The only question is whether or not Illumitoon Entertainment is still around; their website still works, but there's absolutely nothing coming out of them. They're worse than Urban Vision, who at least uses Twitter.

[8/2016 UPDATE: In what is easily the most unexpected update I would have ever expected, Anime Midstream (the company that had released all of Matchless Raijin-Oh on DVD) announced at AnimeFest that it will be giving B't X the complete DVD release it never got, complete with a brand new English dub!]

Tekkaman Blade has had a good past couple of years. Media Blasters released not only the original Japanese version of the show in really nicely-done boxsets, as well as an odd-looking curved-cased complete boxset, but they also released the international English dub of the show, called Teknoman, which is apparently a big hit for them, though I'm sure it's hard to say no to getting 43 episodes for $20 MSRP. And then early last year was the fighting game Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, which featured Tekkaman Blade as a playable character.

All that's left then when it comes to this series is to have the sequel OVA, Tekkaman Blade II, be re-released. Urban Vision relased this OVA back on VHS in the late-90s and then released a dual-audio DVD in 2001. It's really odd that Urban Vision released this OVA, as the original Blade would not see a release over here for another six years, and the edited Teknoman wasn't exactly a popular show when it aired here. Still, it's an odd hole that I'd love to see filled in now. I had asked John Sirabella, the head of Media Blasters, if they'll ever released Blade II a few years back, and he didn't seem to give a solid answer. Maybe he just doesn't like Blade II?  That's understandable, but it's not like UV's DVD is easy to get anymore; in fact, since Tatsunoko vs. Capcom's release the DVD's second-hand price has skyrocketed to almost $50 used. Part of a reason for a license rescue is to make a title more easily accessible to people, and here's a good example of one that could definitely use it.

[08/2012 ADDENDUM: Discotek has license rescued this title, so buy it when it comes out!]

Dancougar: Super Bestial Machine God, a.k.a. Chouju Kishin Dancouga in Japan, is a mech anime that some might not even know was licensed at one point. North American anime industry innovator Central Park Media, who unfortunately isn't around anymore, released the 38-episode TV series as well as the Requiem for Victims OVA across eight VHS tapes in North America from 1996 to 1998 under its Software Sculptors brand. The show itself is a really interesting beast (no pun intended) where the mechs are obviously super robots but are treated like they are real robots. But this is really a great show: The characters are interesting, the fights are fun to watch, and it does pace itself nicely in that every form of the mechs are utilized well... Hell, you don't even see the Dancougar itself until episode 16, but that's okay as the individual mechs that form it were shown to be important in their own ways and you get the feeling that when the main characters finally get to form the Dancougar it's not only because it's needed but you also feel that the pilots are ready for it. Overall it's just a very nicely done mech anime, and it's numerous inclusions in the Super Robot Wars video game series (including its upcoming appearance in this April's SRW Z2: Hakai-hen) just shows that it is a beloved series in Japan.

While CPM's release does cover the TV series and the first OVA, which finishes up the TV series' storyline, it's not exactly a perfect release, but that's partially due to the constraints of a VHS tape. CPM was squeezing five episodes into each tape, with the last tape having four episodes, so while each episode had an opening theme, only the last episode of the first seven tapes had an ending theme and next episode preview. That would be understandable, but for some reason CPM completely screwed up the openings and endings used: Instead of using the appropriate opening for each episode, and ending for each fifth episode, the tapes instead gave every episode the second opening and each fifth episode the second ending. OK, one tape had the first opening and first ending, but that wasn't until about half-way through and even then the next tape switched back to the other themes. Also, Requiem for Victims was originally a 90-minute OVA that acted not only as a proper ending but was also a recap of the TV series. When it was included on the last tape, CPM cut out everything but the new footage, making the OVA about as long as a normal episode. Also, for some reason, CPM decided that after "Dear Dancer", the ending theme for RfV, played they would still show off the second ending theme. Overall CPM's release is solid, but still has its problems, partially because of the format it was released on and partially because of CPM's mistakes. As for the other two OVAs the show got, the only release God Bless Dancougar had outside of Japan was in the U.K. from Western Connections (though the country never got the TV series itself), and Blazing Epilogue has never seen a release outside of Japan.

When the company was releasing Armored Trooper VOTOMS back in around 2005/2006, CPM did say that if sales for VOTOMS were good then they would release Dancougar on DVD. Well, VOTOMS was the last "new" release to come from CPM and they're now gone. And don't go asking Media Basters for this show, as John Sirabella was working for CPM when this show was being released; you can even find his name on the backs of the first four tapes! Unfortunately, Sirabella has openly stated that he absolutely hated working on Dancougar and would never license it, and the same is true for CPM's "accidental license" of Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos (though Sirabella admits that he loves that show's first opening theme). Will Dancougar ever see another release over here? Who knows, though that Blu-Ray release the show got in Japan probably looks amazing.

[4/2017 ADDENDUM: Discotek seemingly entered a licensing relationship Production Reed, formerly Ashi Productions, recently, & through that relationship it's been announced that, this Summer, Dancougar (now Dancouga) will be receiving a license rescue! So far it's only the TV series, but I'd imagine that the OVAs will come later.]

Hurriance Polymar was one of Tatsunoko's big hits during the 70s and has since become one of the company's most well-known series in Japan. Oddly enough, however, outside of cameos in other titles as well as his most recent appearance in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Polymar only received one other anime. In the 90s Tatsunoko decided to revive three of their old superheroes and give them new reboot OVAs; in 1994 Gatchaman and Casshern received OVAs and in 1996 came the two-episode Shin/New Hurricane Polymar OVA. Urban Vision released this OVA on VHS back in 1998, with one tape featuring subtitles and the other featuring an English dub. That's all the OVA ever got over here, and the subtitled VHS ended up commanding fairly high prices on the second-hand market, made all the worse since TvC's release (Amazon has it for at least $190!). The dubbed VHS is sold for much cheaper, but from what I've heard the dub has a habit of becoming very hammy and cheesy. This is not only another example of where a license rescue can help make a title much more easily accessible to buyers, but it's also an example where a DVD release can make both versions of a release available at once, removing the whole "which version should I buy?" question. In fact, there are a few Urban Vision titles that could use license rescues: Leiji Matsumoto's The Cockpit, Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals (a.k.a. Final Fantasy with panties...  Lots and lots of panties), the previously mentioned Gatchaman OVA, and even Strange Dawn.

[08/2012 ADDENDUM: Discotek license rescued this one too...  You know what to do.]

It was the first review I did on this blog, and I still find it hard to believe that a title that helped trail blaze the anime industry over here hasn't been given a proper release. Manga Entertainment's DVD release is everything that's wrong with an anime DVD release over here: Dub-only (and a bad dub at that), an entire episode is cut out, and for some reason they felt to turn it into a movie-length production. All I'll say is that if Gunbuster can be given a respectable release, then so should Dangaioh.

I remember walking into my local Best Buy in around 2004/2005 and seeing this very cover staring out from the shelves. It was crazy, it was wild, and it definitely got enough of my interest to shell out the $29.99 plus tax is was demanding from me. And I don't regret it, as the six-episode Bastard!! OVA was a really great adaptation of Kazushi Hagiwara's epic "Heavy Metal Fantasy" manga. Unfortunately, while Bastard!! was somewhat of a popular title back in the early 2000's (Pioneer/Geneon released this on DVD in 2001 and Viz would later re-print the first five volumes in the more traditional right-to-left fashion due to popularity), the series has since died over here and Viz seems to have dropped the manga entirely after Volume 19. Still, there isn't anything quite like Bastard!! and this early-90s OVA definitely needs a license rescue. The Japanese voice cast is great (Kazuki Yao is Dark Schneider!), and the dub featured on the DVD is also very well done ("You drew blood! Now come down here so I can kill you! On second thought, stay there; the hydra's better looking."). Bastard!! in general needs a second chance...
This ended up being longer than I had thought, so let's treat this as Part 1. In Part 2 we'll take a look at another six anime that deserve license rescues or re-releases in general. I'll also list off some honorable mentions, just to be fair to those who don't necessarily agree with my general tastes.


  1. Thanks for making this list!

    It was informative and nostalgic!

    Dangaioh: Oh wow! I had rented this back in 1995, when I had first got into anime. I always used to confuse Dangaioh with Iczer One!

    Bastard!!: I re-watched this about six months ago! It's still surprisingly good! It holds up better than a lot of the early 90's stuff!

  2. A very important title is missing here: Gall Force. Gall Force was an extremely popular title in the 90s, but has sadly fallen to obscurity, largely in part because of CPM's (forgive the word) "retarded" fixation on MD Geist and its complete and utter lack of proper management of its titles, which would have given CPM much more revenue otherwise.