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Friday, April 13, 2012

"12 More (+1)" Anime I Would License: Package Deals, Dead Ahead! Part 1

At the end of last year I did an interesting "Twelve Anime" list, where I brought up anime I would license if I had my own anime licensing company. I also called it a 'Twelve-Step Program' on how to kill an anime licensee, but let's remain hypothetical and say that my company survived the onslaught of licenses like the Kochikame movies, Akagi, Ring ni Kakero 1, & RAINBOW... What would I go after next? Well, one aspect of licensing is that the company you are licensing from (i.e. the licensor) will occasionally try to throw an additional title in with what the company (i.e. the licensee) wants to license; this can be called a "package deal", and usually happens because one title might be less likely to be licensed on its own, so by putting it with another, more likely, license this less-likely show can get licensed. From what I can tell it seems like these package deals are usually decided by the licensors and not by the licensing company, but what if I could choose for myself? What companies would I package from and what titles would I choose? Well, I've chosen two companies and from each company I've chosen six(-ish) titles, so let's get started!

Geneon Universal Entertainment
It seems that the merger between Geneon Entertainment & Universal Pictures Japan has finally gone through its initial "merger pains" (you think of another way to put it!), as FUNimation has finally said within the past few months that they are finally getting materials for shows like Shakugan no Shana, Hellsing Ultimate, and the To Aru series (Majutsu no Index & Kagaku no Railgun), and companies like Sentai have been licensing more titles from the company lately. With a catalog that covers the days of Pioneer LDC, Geneon Entertainment, & Universal Pictures Japan, plus more-recent titles that are only under the merged brand, this company looks like a great place to get a package deal from. Going off of my first license selections, I've already "dealt" with this company via the hilarious Kamen no Maid Guy, so let's see what else Geneon Universal has in their vault.

Souten no Ken
Fist of the North Star had a bit of a renaissance in the past few years. What was once considered a series that could not appeal to a large enough audience here in North America back in the late-90s & early-to-mid-00s, as shown by the unfinished manga releases by Viz & Raijin and the unfinished release of the TV series by Manga (the New Fist OVA series is an outlier in all aspects), is now seemingly the opposite. Discotek came back to anime via the animated movie and continued handling the franchise by doing the once-thought impossible & releasing all 152 episodes of the TV series across four boxsets. Sentai Filmworks even got into the picture by releasing the Raoh-focused spin-off anime Legends of the Dark King and then later dubbing it for a re-release. All that effectively remains to license from this franchise is the series of movies & OVAs released under the New Savior Legend banner, which is likely very expensive to license, as well as the 26-episode Souten no Ken/Fist of the Blue Sky TV series, which is a prequel that details the battles of Kenshiro Kasumi, 62nd successor of Hokuto Shinken, upon returning to Shanghai to help his triad friends.

The Souten no Ken anime can be a mixed bag. The story itself is really good (I personally find the story better than the original series'), the characters are memorable, and this Kenshiro is voiced very nicely by Kouichi Yamadera. At the same time, however, the animation can be very limited (even the DVD version has some scenes that can make one wonder "Who thought this was an acceptable way to animate the scene?"), and fans have argued that the anime does complete injustice to Tetsuo Hara's original manga artwork, as Hara was arguably at his artistic peak upon starting the Souten manga. Still, I'd give this series a try, and hope that Hokuto fans would still find it appealing enough to buy. Even in Japan the series was given two multi-disc boxsets in 2010, split in a 12/14 fashion, after the initial singles release across nine DVDs back in 2007, which might have meant that the DVDs didn't sell amazingly so I think Geneon Universal wouldn't be against a company trying to release the entire series in one go, kind of like how Discotek seems to handling series of similar length in the future, and naturally it would be a sub-only release.

Wangan Midnight
Initial D is a series that is so well-known that even if one hasn't seen the anime or read the manga, more than likely he/she has at least heard of it. Its focus on mountain drift racing is something that people who live in North American don't see or hear about that often, but there's another form of illegal racing that has a manga based on it that not only runs in the same magazine as Initial D, Kodansha's Young Magazine, but even predates it by about 5 years! Michiharu Kusunoki's Wangan Midnight focuses on illegal highway racing, specifically nighttime races on a stretch of highway around Tokyo called the "Wangan-sen", and debuted back in 1990 and ran until 2008; a sequel title, Wangan Midnight C1-Runner, has been going on since then. From mid-2007 to mid-2008, an anime adaptation by the director & studio behind Initial D: Fourth Stage aired on Animax in a two-episodes per month style, ala Ring ni Kakero 1: Sekai Taikai-hen. It was released across 13 DVDs in Japan by Universal Pictures Japan and hasn't seen any re-release since. It's not even listed on Geneon Universal's Rondo Robe page, which is the company's anime label, but neither is Souten no Ken and you can see that the boxsets feature the G-U logo, so I'm pretty sure that Wangan is still owned by the company. Initial D was given a second chance by FUNimation, and this time it went all the way up through Fourth Stage with a brand-new accurate dub, but the fact that it's already on the S.A.V.E. label means that it didn't do that well, so admittedly Wangan would be a risk. I'd try to get it all out in one go sub-only, just like Souten no Ken.

Naikaku Kenryoku Hanzai Kyousei Torishimarikan Zaizen Jotaro
Zaizen? From the JManga 13 & the TV vs. DVD pieces? Weird, man. Anyway, Zaizen Jotaro is effectively an easy example of a package deal license, as an anime with it's subject matter would easily be something that companies wouldn't be actively looking to license, but it could conceivably be something that Geneon Universal could add to another show in a "In order to license 'Show A' you have to license Zaizen Jotaro at a discount" way. I'd try to get it out all out in one set, complete with the 40-minute Staff & Cast Discussion extra and probably the art gallery that covered every episode... The TV version of Episode 1 would be left on the cutting room floor. Obviously it would be cheaper than the Souten & Wangan sets, but like them it would be sub-only.

And, yes, this should be end of me bringing up Zaizen Jotaro on the blog for a good while.

Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku -The Legend of Koizumi-
This is one of those titles that you either "get" or you don't, but if you "get" it you will instantly love it. Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku/Reform with No Wasted Draws by Hideki Ohwada, the creator of Magical Witch Punie-chan/Dai Mahou Touge, is the story of former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and how he continues to protect Japan from its political enemies... Though epic mahjong battles! Though it runs in the Kindai Mahjong series, the same magazine series that Akagi runs in, the mahjong is simply a means to an end, especially since characters will likely break the rules on a regular basis. In 2010 a short 30-minute OVA (technically an ONA, since it was shown online first) adaptation of the manga was made that told an altered version of Koizumi's match against Kim Jong-Il on a battleship as well as told an original story written by Ohwada where Koizumi takes on China's leaders before battling a revived Chairman Mao Zedong, voiced by Raoh himself, Kenji Utsumi.

You think that's crazy? The manga goes even crazier by having Koizumi take on Pope Benedict XVI and then gathering a group of world leaders, including Vladmir Putin and a gigantic "Papa" Bush, to take on Neo-Nazis who have revived Adolf Hitler... Who can turn "Super Aryan", complete with his hair turning into a golden swastika! This series is awesome in so many ways yet it is potentially so politically blasphemous (or is that accurate?) that even Ed Chavez of Vertical feels that "America is not yet ready for Koizumi". Well, I'd at least get the OVA released, though its extremely short length would make it kind of tricky to release. It would have to be a cheap release (read: $15-$20, at most) with likely some extra incentive to it (in Japan there was a "Deluxe" release which featured the OST), but it's short length would also make it ideal to dub. Dan Green as Koizumi, anyone?

Strange Dawn
Here's the sole license rescue from this package deal I'd pick up. Strange Dawn aired back in 2000 and was the creation of Junichi Sato (Aria, Kaleido Star). It told the story of two girls who are transported to a world filled with tiny people and are treated as "Great Protectors". Urban Vision tried their hand at releasing it in 2002 under a new label called "Lil' Vision" that was going to focus on anime for younger audiences. Unfortunately, after two volumes, about half of the show, UV dropped it and the Lil' Vision lable never appeared again. The show did gain a small but loving fanbase, though, with even Christopher McDonald, the head-honcho of ANN, giving the show high marks in his review of Volume 1 by commending it for being a kids anime that tries to be appealing to older audiences as well. Apparently the dub that was on the UV release was not commissioned by UV but was instead supplied to them, and was likely made in Japan using native English speakers. If it was "supplied" then likely the show was fully dubbed, so all that needs to be done is finish the subs for the rest of the show and get it out in one 13-episode boxset. That sounds like an ideal-yet-niche candidate if I ever heard one.

Bus Gamer
Kazuya Minekura's Saiyuki is easily her most well-known work, but she has done a few other titles of note, with anime adaptations of them still being made, the most recently announced being one for Wild Adapter. Probably the most-interesting one of them all, from a production standpoint, is that of the 2008 TV anime Bus Gamer ("Bus" here is pronounced "Biz", as in "business"), which was based on the single-volume manga of the same name that TokyoPop released in North America. The TV series debuted around the time a reboot of the manga debuted, which only lasted another volume before going on indefinite hiatus, and was extremely odd in that it was only three episodes. Essentially, this was an OVA that was actually given a weekly television time slot, making it a TV series. When ANN did their Spring 2008 Preview Guide, the first two episodes were even covered, and if the guide went on one week longer I wonder if anyone would have bothered to see the last episode, turning it from a "preview" to a "review". The three episodes were released across three DVDs in 2008, and being only a little more than an hour it would be a neat single-DVD release at your usual price point of around $20-$30, complete with a dub.

Chi's Sweet Home
North America has a fever for one specific Vertical manga, and that's Chi's Sweet Home, the story of a stray cat named Chi that gets picked up by a family. Though I haven't read the manga, I must admit that it can be hard not to feel for a cat with a face like that. There are two anime adaptations of the manga, 2008's Chi's Sweet Home and 2009's Chi's New Address, and though both are technically 104-episode anime, each episode is only three minutes long, which means that each season is the equivalent of a 13-episode series. Also, CrunchyRoll streamed both of these series, which means that subtitles are already made for both shows! The anime adaptation of a popular manga series in North America that comes with ready-made subtitles? It may not be my thing, personally, but I certainly wouldn't say "No" to this show. Who knows, maybe I'd even dub it...

[4/2014 UPDATE: Leave it to Discotek, of course! Just recently announced, Discotek will be releasing both Chi's Sweet Home anime series on DVD!! No dub, though.]
And those are the titles in Geneon Universal Entertainment's catalog that I'd likely try to license if I was going for a package deal with the company. As you can see, I put down seven entries and that's where the "(+1)" in the title comes from. Hey, any time I do a "Twelve Anime" piece I seem to always do more than twelve, so at least this time I'm being honest about it in the title. In Part 2 I'll focus on a company who I already seemingly had a package deal with in the first license list, and it's a company who is known for being finicky to deal with, yet is also seemingly a very good starting point for new licensees: Toei Animation. And with this company I try to be both frugal as well as ambitious...

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