The Unreleased Licenses from Media Blasters' Deal With Enoki Films USA [Licensed in 2002]
I had mentioned this in short back when I looked at licensing "middleman" Enoki Films USA's catalog, which is filled with interesting and eccentric titles, but now let's get into the nitty gritty of this whole fiasco. In mid-2001 Media Blasters licensed a few series from Enoki Films USA: Gokudo, Zenki, & Fortune Quest L. One would guess that Gokudo & Zenki were good sellers, especially since MB said that they would only do all of Zenki if it sold well, so at Anime Central 2002 the company licensed a bunch of shorter animes from Enoki, including the likes of Gun Frontier, Babel II: Beyond Infinity, Genma Wars, & Demon Lord Dante. While those previously-mentioned titles did get complete releases (Dante from Geneon in the end), three licenses from this deal never got released: Mars (a.k.a. Shin Seiki Den Mars, which I've reviewed), Wild 7 Another: Bouryaku Unga (based on Mikiya Mochizuki's motorcycle vigilante manga), & Barom One (based on Takao Saito's, of Golgo 13 fame, superhero manga), all from 2002-2003. So why weren't these three titles released? Well let's just say that very few of these Enoki licenses are well-regarded, especially Genma Wars & Babel II, and John Sirabella felt screwed over to the point where he decided it was better to cut his losses and simply drop the deal with Enoki. Fortune Quest Volume 1 seemed to be the last release from this deal, and therefore it doesn't count as unreleased. Granted, these three shows weren't going to set the anime world on fire, but you never know... At least one of them could have gotten a fanbase over here.
Engage Planet Kiss Dum [Licensed in 2007]
Kiss Dum is, oddly enough, an anime that just won't lay down and die without a fight. Running throughout 2007 for a total of 26 episodes, Engage Planet Kiss Dum is probably more well-known for its production stories instead of its actual story; the show was, essentially, Satelight's test to see how well they could handle a show similar Macross, which was proven when the company would do Macross Frontier later on. Also, the man behind the entire production, Yasuchika Nagaoka (director of the Banner of the Stars series & Godannar), apparently suffered an anxiety attack shortly before the show debuted on television. Unfortunately, Nagaoka never wrote down anything regarding the story and his plans for the show, outside of a partially-completed storyboard for episode 1, so the crew & new director Eiichi Sato (director of Slayers Next & Fortune Quest L) effectively made an entire 26-episode TV series as it aired. The reason the show "won't lay down & die without a fight" is because in 2008 the show was remade and aired on the Bandai Channel as Engage Planet Kiss Dum R, which featured extra footage and apparently fixed some of the problems the original show had. Then early last year it was revealed that Kiss Dum R might get a Blu-Ray boxset release, complete with even more new footage, if there were enough pre-orders. Finally, in June of last year, the BD boxset received enough pre-orders to go into production, but I don't think it has come out yet in Japan.
Wait, wasn't this supposed to be about how Kiss Dum was licensed for North American release but never happened? Oh yeah, it is... Well, in mid-2007 Bandai Visual USA licensed the original version of Kiss Dum for a DVD release, but since the show has never received a DVD release BV USA was never able to bring it over. Of course, BV USA's releases were essentially the same thing as what Japan gets, right down to the crazy-expensive pricing, so who would have actually bought it, anyway? You know, it really says something when the story of how Kiss Dum keeps coming back for more is longer and more interesting than how it was licensed but never released...
Lupin the 3rd: Legend of the Gold of Babylon [Licensed in 2005]
Nowadays Discotek Media, and their Eastern Star label, is probably the most-beloved licensor of vintage anime in North American right now, but one must remember that before their license of the Fist of the North Star movie back in 2009, which was the start of their present spot in the industry, the company had tried releasing vintage anime before. In fact, the company started up back in August of 2005 when they announced the licenses to 1971's Animal Treasure Island, 1969's Puss 'n Boots (which is where Toei Animation's mascot, Pero, is from), 1979's Taro the Dragon Boy, &, former AnimEigo license, 1987's Lupin the 3rd: The Fuma Conspiracy. But there was one more license among those, 1985's Lupin the 3rd: Legend of the Gold of Babylon, also a former AnimEigo license. All of the previously mentioned anime came out, and can still be bought, but Gold of Babylon never came out, and in late-2007 Discotek confirmed that the movie's DVD release was "indefinitely delayed". Their reasoning was that sales weren't strong enough to warrant releasing it, and considering that the company took a roughly 2-year break from anime I can believe that reasoning. Interestingly enough, though, ever since Discotek came back to anime they've seemingly have a big hit in Fist of the North Star and have also returned to Lupin; they licensed and released the 2002 TV special Lupin the 3rd Episode 0: First Contact on DVD, which is highly recommended for newcomers to the franchise, and on June 26 Discotek will be releasing the entire 23-episode First Season of Lupin, a.k.a. the "Green Jacket Series", on DVD. Who knows... Maybe if Lupin Season 1 does well enough Discotek will continue licensing Lupin anime, and then maybe Gold of Babylon will finally get that DVD release.
Mirai Robo Daltanious & Kousoku Denjin Albegas (a.k.a. The Voltrons that Never Were) [Licensed in 1984]
Okay, this entry isn't actually about any sort of home video release specifically, though that would be an eventuality in this case, but rather this is about television airing. World Events Productions' morphing of Beast King GoLion & Armored Fleet DaiRugger XV into two Voltron series isn't unknown by any means, but the stories behind the two shows that missed their chances into becoming Voltrons aren't as well-known. Back when WEP was looking into creating Voltron they contacted Toei and looked at a mech anime named Mirai Robo Daltanious, which was the last title mech anime legend Tadao Nagahama ever worked on before his death (he actually died shortly before it debuted). Legend has it that WEP actually did adapt at least one episode of Daltanious into their Voltron story and it was test-marketed in some some areas of California & Hawaii, though there are seemingly no recordings of this around. Anyway, WEP liked the results and they told Toei to give them the show "with the lion in it". For some reason Toei confused this request as WEP asking for GoLion, which featured five lions instead of Daltanious' one, so WEP got this brand-new show that they were unfamiliar with. The rest, as the saying goes, is history and Daltanious ended up becoming, as I jokingly call it, "Prototype Voltron". Anyway, Voltron became a gigantic hit in North America and WEP adapted DaiRugger XV into the second Voltron show. WEP then started looking into adapting a third show, Kousoku Denjin Albegas, into a third series, Voltron of the Middle Universe or "Gladiator Voltron", and Matchbox even got some toys out into stores to help promote the upcoming show. Unfortunately, Vehicle Voltron wasn't all too popular and WEP decided that instead of producing a new show they would instead re-air the original "Lion Force" Voltron, which was still popular. It's interesting that the Voltron series was only made up of two animes, yet four were involved in the overall production. Just imagine if Daltanious was used instead of GoLion, or if Albegas actually was adapted into "Gladiator Voltron" (in a funny coincidence, Daltanious is formed by a lion, a vehicle, & human-like/"gladiator" robot).
Riki-Oh the Animation [Licensed in 2006]
We're near the end of this list, so here's an anime that was licensed twice but never released... Kind of. Masahiko Takajo and Tetsuya Saruwatari's violent action manga Riki-Oh is probably most well known outside of Japan for it's live-action movie adaptation, titled The Story of Ricky, but in Japan the manga was adapted into two 45-minute OVAs, one in 1989 and one in 1990. According to "Ask John" Oppliger of AnimeNation, in 2001/2002 a small-name company called Unearthed Films was looking into licensing the two Riki-Oh OVAs and making them the company's very first release. Unfortunately for Unearthed, in early-2006 Media Blasters announced that they had licensed the two OVAs and were going to release them on one DVD on April 11, 2006 for $19.95. Here's where it gets weird: Apparently the Japanese company that both Unearthed & MB were talking with wasn't actually the company that had the rights to the Riki-Oh OVAs. Media Blasters canceled the DVD release, and you can still find the online store listings for the release to this day. No one really knows who owns the rights to these two OVAs in Japan, and they haven't been given a DVD release in Japan, either. Nowadays we hear both good & bad news from Media Blasters and Unearthed Films is still around, releasing crazy stuff like Frakenhooker, Rock & Rule, Ichi-1, & Where the Dead Go to Die. Looking at their line-up, Riki-Oh would have fit in perfectly with Unearthed Films.
"Wait a minute! B't X was licensed and released in North America, even if only partially!"
That could be what you're thinking right now, and you'd be right; in late-2006 Illumitoon Entertainment licensed B't X & OVA sequel B't X Neo and in 2007 Illumitoon released two DVD singles for the TV series, with Volume 2 being the company's last release ever. So if it was released at some point then why is it on this list? That's because it had been licensed at one point before Illumitoon got their hands on it.
And that ends this list of "twelve" anime licenses that were never released in North America but should have. This kind of stuff is rare but it has happened, and hopefully the recent examples of Gosick, Nichijou, and Turn-A Gundam, all of which were licensed by Bandai Entertainment but are now considered unreleased, will find a new Region 1 licensor home. Honestly, this is one list I would hate to make a second version of; license rescues lists are fun to make, but this kind of list is just depressing.
[2/2017 ADDENDUM: Talk about miracles happening, as B't X (& Neo) has been given a third chance here in North America, as Anime Midstream announced in mid-2016 that it will be giving the show a proper, unaltered, dual-audio DVD release in the future. It may come out slowly, but it's already going to be better than Illumitoon's botched release.]