Part of being a collector is being able to own everything you can of what you collect. In the world of anime that means having the entirety of an anime production. Unfortunately, living in North America means that anime generally have to be licensed in order for them to be released over here. And with that comes the risk of not being able to own all of an anime. Personally, I'd rather have some part of that release than nothing, but no matter what unfinished releases happen... But that's not what I'm going to talk about here. Instead, I'm going to talk about something worse: Anime that got licensed but never actually saw release in North America. It isn't common, but this situation does happen, and it's easily the worst thing that can happen, as fans' hopes get brought up and then they get absolutely nothing. But, admittedly, I feel that part of this blog is to educate people or at least help them be familiar with things that they wouldn't otherwise know, and with that in mind I am going to list twelve (read: more than twelve) anime that were actually licensed for release in North America but never actually happened... Though they should have. Please note that partial licenses aren't being counted here (i.e. no Kodocha, Saint Seiya TV, Yawara!, etc.), since they actually got released in some way, nor am I counting anything very recent (like Nichijou, Turn-A Gundam, & Gosick) since time is still on their side. So let's get started:
Tales of Eternia the Animation [Licensed in 2002]
Namco Bandai's Tales Series is a well-beloved series of RPGs that are known for having generally very memorable stories and gameplay that is always fast-paced and fun. With such popularity anime adaptations are bound to happen, and fans know of them. But the very first one was a 2001, 13-episode TV series based on the third game in the series, Tales of Eternia (called Tales of Destiny II outside of Japan, but not to be confused with Tales of Destiny 2, the sequel to the original Tales of Destiny... Confused? Good.). Unlike most of the Tales animes, which are simply adaptations of their respective games, the Eternia anime was actually a side-story that was not in the game, much like how the Tales of Vesperia movie was a prequel to the game. Granted, the Eternia anime isn't anything special, though it still is enjoyable to an extent, but at Anime Expo 2002 Media Blasters announced that they had licensed the very first Tales anime ever produced. Unfortunately, the release never happened, with some guessing that there might have been issues regarding the use of the original title, since "Eternia" might be a trademarked name in North America due to the He-Man franchise. Yeah, it's kind of a silly reason to think of, but you never know... It might have been the reason. I mean, hey, would you have bought "Tales of Destiny II the Animation"?
Anything Super Techno Arts That Wasn't JoJo's Bizarre Adventure [Licensed in 2003 & 2005]
Super Techno Arts was an interesting little company, if you can actually call it a "company". STA was the North American division of of animation production studio A.P.P.P. Company, and was seemingly made up of only one person, professional translator Cindy H. Yamauchi. STA was also around seemingly to only release the two JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OVA series (the 1993-1994 OVA & its 2000-2002 prequel OVA). But, during the slow-as-molasses release of JoJo, STA also announced three other animes that "they" were going to release in North America: Robot Carnival (the anthology movie I've already covered in my second license rescue list), Sci-fi HARRY (a 2000-2001, 20-episode psychological horror TV series), and Shadow (a 2004 ninja-action/hentai OVA). Sci-fi HARRY was originally planned for release in 2003, while Shadow was announced and planned for release in 2005, but those plans never came to fruition; Robot Carnival was continually promised but never had a release date other than "it's coming after JoJo". Even after JoJo was fully released STA never got to these other titles, and in mid-2008 Super Techno Arts closed their doors. The JoJo OVA series can still be found online, and it's worth hunting down, but I would have loved to own Robot Carnival on DVD, not to mention own Sci-fi HARRY, which is downright freaky, scary, and absolutely uncomfortable in all the right ways. Ah, Super Techno Arts, at least I'm glad to be able to say that I have everything a company like this ever released, and that includes the JoJo OST that quietly came out.
Get Ride! AMDriver [Licensed in 2006]
I believe this is the third time I've brought up AM Driver in this blog, so I'll leave this one short. Just to recap, Illumitoon Entertainment debuted in 2006 and one of the licenses they announced was for the 2004-2005, 51-episode TV series Get Ride! AMDriver, or AM Driver for short. Unfortunately, Illumitoon's releases were so horribly handled that their distributor dropped them before AM Driver could even get one DVD out. In 2008 The Anime Network aired the English dubs Illumitoon produced for AM Driver & B't X, but those dubs only covered the first 14 episodes of each show, and in AM Driver's case the TAN airing was the only possible way anyone could watch the show legally in North America, not to mention it was the only way anyone could watch episode 14 with any sort of English translation, as bootleg subs exist for the first 13 episodes. Though the show was made to help market a toy line, the story was really starting to come into its own by the point where the bootleg subs and the English dub stop. Poor, poor AM Driver...
Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch [Licensed in 2004]
Now this is an interesting case of something being licensed but never being released. At AKon 2004 ADV Films announced that they licensed the 2003-2004, 52-episode TV series Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch (I don't believe the 39-episode "Pure" sequel series was licensed). As time went on, though, ADV never announced any DVD for Mermaid Melody, and after a while ADV quietly confirmed that the show was never going to be released. Later on, it would be revealed in forums that one of the clauses in the contract was that ADV had to get Mermaid Melody on TV in North America before a DVD release could happen; no TV airing, no DVD release. Naturally, a TV airing was never going to happen, but it was confirmed that ADV did in fact fully dub the series; Chris Ayers directed the dub and it featured the likes of Blake Shepard, Brittney Karbowski, & Monica Rial. In the passing years Del Ray actually started releasing the original Mermaid Melody manga the TV series was adapted from, which is kind of funny when you think about it. As it is now, Mermaid Melody could be an anime license with some potential to it, mainly because it features an ADV dub that has never been heard before. Hell, even ADV's dub of Gurren Lagann was shown off at cons before Bandai took the show away from them...
Bandai Entertainment's "Sunrise Classic Action" Label [Licensed in 2001]
The relationship between anime studio Sunrise and Bandai Entertainment was in no way hidden to anyone, and at Anime Expo 2001 Bandai was going to take full advantage of that by launching a new sub-only release label: Sunrise Classic Action. Think about it: It would have been the perfect place for shows like Metal Armor Dragonar, Space Runaway Ideon, & Lord of Lords Ryu Knight... And it was all going to start with Giant Gorg & Blue Comet SPT Layzner! What happened? Well, the word is that the masters Sunrise sent to Bandai were "damaged", supposedly they were tinted blue, and when Sunrise refused the send them better masters Bandai simply said "Fine then, we just won't release them". That was all the info we ever got about this situation until December 9, 2011, when Mike Toole revealed on ANNCast that the subtitling work for both shows were, in fact, completely finished. Dave Flemming handled Giant Gorg & Neil Nadelman handled Layzner, and Toole said that those two translators might still have the scripts they made for these unreleased licenses. Granted, it's still a risk and any potential licensors would still have to pay Flemming & Nadelman for their work, but just like Mermaid Melody there is some incentive there now.
[2/2017 ADDENDUM: Though SPT Layzner still remains without a proper release here in North America, Discotek Media has since given Giant Gorg the DVD release that Bandai never did... It only took another 15 years to do so.]
Minna Agechau [Licensed in 1991]
Wait, wait, wait... Did I just say that an anime that was licensed back in 1991 was never released in North America? Why yes I did! Not only was it licensed back in 1991, but this was actually the way Central Park Media got its start! The 1987 Minna Agechau OVA, based on the Hikaru Yuzuki manga of the same name, was CPM's very first license ever, and they even premiered at AnimeCon '91. Everything was all set, including a scheduled release date of October 23, 1991 (about two months after the AnimeCon premiere), so what happened?
Specifically, a pair of pink paper panties that CPM was going to include in every VHS release of Minna Agechau. The original Japanese licensor, Sony Music Entertainment Japan, was horrified at the thought of such a release and immediately retracted the license from CPM and bought back all of the copies. In the 20 years since this media uproar both ADV and FUNimation have given anime fans actual panties in some of their releases (Najica Blitz Tactics & SHUFFLE!, specifically and respectively), so this whole paper panty "scandal" seems absolutely ridiculous nowadays. CPM would get a release out the next month, November 7, 1991's subtitled release of Dominion Tank Police Volume 1, but it's funny to see that CPM was crazy even back when they debuted. John O'Donnell, I salute you!
And that ends Part 1 of this look at twelve anime licenses that were planned for release but never actually came out. Check back later this week for Part 2, where we look at another "six" entries that were licensed but never actually happened.