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Monday, June 11, 2012

Fukkatsu! The Renaissance of Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues Part 1

AnimeNEXT 2012 was great fun, & though my Masami Kurumada panel started off with barely anyone attending, around the time I was at Fuma no Kojirou & B't X I had a fair crowd in the room. So thank you to everyone who attended my panel (competing against Cosplay Chess & a Miyazaki panel isn't easy), since I had a fun time running it and I'll definitely be doing this panel again next time... Hopefully with a time slot that allows for a larger crowd, too.

Anyway, throughout the past twelve months I've expanded upon the "Twelve Animes" list format, first with titles I want to review but can't (of which one has been reviewed, with another one being possible for the future), followed by two lists of anime I would license if I had my own licensing company, and even a list of anime that were once licensed but never released (if you want, you can also count the JManga 13). But, to be honest, the list that is the most fun to make and write about is the original... The license rescue list! So, with the last license rescue list having been done a year ago I think it's about time we head back into this territory, especially since during this past year two titles from my previous two lists have been license rescued, the 90s Casshern OVA & the Space Adventure Cobra movie, both by Discotek, and there's a fair chance that another one might have been rescued by Discotek! It's time for a renaissance, so let's get started!

(P.S. The "Fukkatsu!" in the title is meant to be spoken in the way Dark Schneider says it in Episode 1 of the Bastard!! OVA)

If there's one innovator of the entire anime & manga industry that gets a bit of a cold shoulder in North America, it's Shotaro Ishinomori. Starting his career as an assistant to the "God of Manga" himself, Osamu Tezuka, Ishinomori wound up becoming a legend all his own, even becoming a posthumous inductee into the Guinness World Records as having drawn the most pages of manga ever. But no matter what titles get brought over to North America, Ishinomori doesn't get the same type of respect that Tezuka does. Whether it's Cyborg 009, The Skull Man, or Gilgamesh, Ishinomori anime tends to do less then stellar over here. A big case in point would be Android Kikaider, Ishinomori's dark take on Astro Boy's idea of whether a robot can be "human", complete with replacing Astro Boy's Pinocchio influence with a Frankenstein influence. After a semi-successful manga & tokusatsu run in the 70s the title would go into hibernation until 2000, when a 13-episode anime adaptation was made by Radix. Amazingly enough, in 2003 Bandai Entertainment licensed the anime, as well as its 2001-2002 4-episode OVA sequel, Kikaider 01, and even got it TV airtime on [adult swim], where it understandably bombed and was promptly forgotten by fans of that programming block; I'm not even sure if 01 aired on TV.

It's kind of understandable that Kikaider bombed on TV, since it's a very slow-paced and somewhat psychological story that requires a lot of attention, & an appreciation of old-school designs, to really appreciate. Here's hoping that Casshern SINS, which has some similarly slow-paced stylings, does better on the new Toonami. Anyway, if one wants to buy Kikaider now it isn't exactly a cheap expense, as the complete collection release, which covers the TV series & Kikaider 01, goes for close to $75 used online and buying the five singles isn't any cheaper, especially since 01's sole DVD goes for around $75 used on its own. Then there's the fact that Bandai's release isn't actually complete, though it's not really their fault. In September 2003, a 25-minute OVA, called Guitar wo Motta Shonen/The Boy with the Guitar - Kikaider vs. Inazuman, was packaged with the special collector's DVD box set of Kikaider 01 in Japan. This OVA actually acts as the final episode to the entire Kikaider anime series, ending everything with a sense of hope since 01 had a very somber ending. Unfortunately, this OVA wasn't around when Bandai licensed the series, though, coincidentally enough, the complete collection brick box does feature an extra disc slot, since the box fits six DVDs but the TV series & OVA only use five. Android Kikaider is definitely an under-appreciated title and I would likely be willing to re-buy everything if it was the only way I could have a legal copy of the Kikaider vs. Inazuman OVA.

Remember ADV's release of Final Fantasy Unlimited? Well, that wasn't the first time we got a Final Fantasy anime, as Urban Vision was the first to do it back in 1998 with Legend of the Crystals, a 4-episode OVA from 1994 that acts as a sequel to Final Fantasy V, taking place 200 years later. Legend of the Crystals is infamous nowadays for two main reasons: It was directed by Rintaro (whose resume ranges from the Galaxy Express 999 movies to the X movie to Harmageddon) and it features panty shots... Lots and lots of panty shots. I haven't seen this OVA in years, but I still remember those panty shots. Overall it's an okay OVA series with some nice action, but it can't live up to the Final Fantasy name, though that seems to be a requisite for any Final Fantasy anime and/or movie.

Like I mentioned, Urban Vision released this OVA back in 1998 across two VHS tapes, both dubbed and subbed (at least, I think there was a subbed release). Buying the tapes used isn't exactly expensive, but at the same time it would be cool to see this OVA get a dual-audio DVD release. It may not be an excellent OVA series, but it still entertains in many of the right ways... And any and all panty shots that Final Fantasy games may have received since 1994 can be blamed on this anime!

"Who is that? Who is that? Who is thaaaat?" It's the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman! Older anime fans probably have seen this series back in the 70s when it was Battle of the Planets, back in the 80s when it was G-Force, or even 7 years ago when ADV released the original uncut Japanese show in it's 105-episode entirety across 18 DVDs, complete with a 100% accurate English dub. Even though the show will be 40 years old this October, Gatchaman is still great fun to watch, and truly deserves its status as one of the true anime classics. Unfortunately, ADV only had a sub-license to Gatchaman, since Sandy Frank Productions licensed the anime back in the 70s, and in February 2007 SFP's 30-year license expired, which means that ADV's uncut release, which featured cover artwork by famous comic artist & super fan of Gatchman, Alex Ross, was only in print for about two years. Buying the first half of the show for cheap now isn't too hard, but Volumes 11-18 are getting pretty damn expensive, especially Volumes 11 & 12 (which are the only DVDs I need). There's also nine special edition releases, which each featured two volumes as well as a third extras DVD, all housed inside a small artbox featuring more Alex Ross artwork. Yeah, that's nine artboxes in total, and just like the singles, the second half is really expensive now.

Unfortunately, I highly doubt that Gatchaman will ever get license rescued. It's age, combined with it's length & notoriety, likely make it too risky to re-release, even if there is a complete English dub to go with it. ADV's release was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own the show in it's original form, but you all know that I would love to proven wrong here.

[6/2013 UPDATE: The impossible has happened... Sentai Filmworks has licensed rescued Gatchaman! Not only that, but they have also rescued the OVA Urban Vision released & will be releasing both on DVD & Blu-Ray! Buy it, people!]

The Right Stuf International is the biggest online anime retailer out there, forming back in 1987. But TRSI isn't only a retailer, as they have also been licensing and releasing anime in North America since the 90s. Because of this, the company has a big list of back-catalog titles whose licenses have since expired and could use a license rescue. The Toward the Terra movie was given a second life by TRSI, under it's current Nozomi label, but one movie isn't enough. We have 1982's Godmars (released in 1994), a 95-minute compilation movie for the mech anime Rokushin Gattai God Mars that actually is really good for newcomers in terms of compilation movies, Ai City (released in 1999), an 86-minute cyberpunk/sci-fi movie from 1986 that's been known to be very weird, and even Leda: The Fantastic Adventure of Yohko (released in 2000), a 75-minute OVA from 1985 about a girl who gets transported to a fantasy world in order to save it. Out of the three Leda is actually a fondly-remembered production by older anime fans, and TRSI even expressed an interest in releasing a dual-audio DVD back in the early 2000's, but that never happened. Supposedly, the creator of the OVA wanted Japan to get a DVD release first, which didn't happen until the mid-2000s, which was after TRSI's license had expired. The last time Shawne Kleckner, head of TRSI and "Dark Lord", was on ANNCast he was asked about the chances of these titles being re-released nowadays (my question, naturally), and Kleckner did say that all three titles did deserve a new release, but the market would have to be friendly to them.. Well, Dirty Pair has seemingly been doing well for them and Anime Expo (the only con that TRSI does a panel at) is coming up next month, so who knows what we can expect from the Nozomi label, but hopefully these three 80s anime will get their second chances one day.

[8/2018 UPDATE: While Shawne Kleckner did admit to feeling that Godmars deserved a new release, in the end it's not Right Stuf that will be bringing back the 80s classic. Instead, it will be Discotek, who is planning a giant SD-BD release for the entire TV series, the recap movie, & the Untold Legend OVA!]

Remember back in the first license rescue list when I showed the cover art for City Hunter '91 and then said that you'll likely never see it in person? Well, here's another one for you! This second boxset (of two) for boxing anime Hajime no Ippo (released under the name Fighting Spirit) was released on October 30, 2007, which I believe was the last day that Geneon Entertainment USA ever released anything. Because of that this boxset is really rare and sometimes thought to simply not exist, but when something commands prices of $200-$275 online I guess thinking that it doesn't exist simply makes things easier. Anyway, you have to commend Geneon for having the balls to license and release this anime. Yes, it's an excellent title, if a little slow-paced (and, in terms of the manga, losing a bit of it's luster lately), but there's no way that this anime was ever going to sell well enough across 16 DVDs (15 for the 75 TV episodes & one for the feature-length movie) to make it's money back, especially when it features a very lackluster English dub as well as a Spanish dub, which Geneon thought would help sales out, since Hispanics love boxing (I guess).

Still, nowadays people don't want 16 singles in their DVD collection, and there's even the fact that there's more Ippo anime out there. Geneon never licensed Episode 76 of the TV series (which was the final episode and focused on heavyweight boxer Takamura's beginnings) or the Kimura vs. Mashiba OVA production, not to mention that back in 2009 a second series, Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger, aired that added another 26 episodes to the entire thing. I would gladly trade in my singles for a more-recent boxset re-release, especially if Episode 76 & the OVA were added in, and I would gladly buy New Challenger if it was ever licensed... But I'm positive that I'm in the absolute minority here, so there's no chance of it happening.

Before being known as that crazy company that was ready & willing to release all of Urusei Yatsura across 50 singles, likely would have released all of Yawara! too if there weren't any apparent licensing issues, and then returned to anime via Hello Kitty, AnimEigo was your usual anime licensor, though they were known to veer into more obscure or experimental titles. I don't think Genesis Surviver Gaiarth (yes, it's "Surviver" and not "Surivor") is one of those experimental titles (that would be Shonan Bakusozoku), but it's definitely an obscure one. This 3-episode OVA series from 1992-1993 told the post-apocalyptic story of a boy named Ital Del Labard and his journey to get revenge on the man who killed his father. I've generally read good things about this title, and it's not exactly hard or expensive to buy, but like many VHS-exclusive anime releases you're forced to choose between dub tapes or sub tapes. That was a big reason why DVD became such a big hit with anime fans, since you had the ability to choose between audio. I can only hope that Hello Kitty does well for AnimEigo, since I'd love for them to come back to back-catalog titles like this and give them brand new DVD releases. Also, a re-release of the Baoh OVA would be greatly appreciated, because that DVD release commands some high prices nowadays...
And that's the first half of the renaissance of the good-ol' license rescue list.  Part 2 will be filled with other interesting, obscure, & possibly even fondly-remembered titles.


  1. First off, like the site and the content you have in it, love your work.

    As for you Gaiarth section, I had a chance to interview Robert Woodhead regarding AnimEigo in general, and as it stands, there is no way he can get Baoh back. So if you want it, Discotek is the best option if they get a hold of it. If you want to check out the interview, check out the podcast at:

  2. Thanks.

    That was a cool podcast you did there. Robert Woodhead is a rarely heard from person in the industry, so it was cool to hear his voice and talk about a bunch of titles. I'm not surprised to see him hesitant to re-release his back-catalog, but I do hope that Hello Kitty gives him the leeway to make him more willing to try them out again.

    Also, Robo Woodhead is truly something to fear.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, and hopefully we get a new listener to the podcast too.