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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Twelve Older Animes That Deserve License Rescues... Overloaded!! Part 2

Now it's time for Part 2 of this license rescue list, so let's get right into with more Urban Vision!

Much like how Fist of the North Star has seemingly had a bit of a resurgence in popularity, something similar could be argued for Golgo 13. Sentai Filmworks surprised many by licensing the first half of the 2008-2009 TV series, not to mention dubbing it, and promised to do the second half if sales were good. Even more surprising was when Sentai later confirmed that they would be doing the rest, though the unfortunate earthquake & tsunami Japan suffered delayed the arrival of materials. Alongside Golgo TV, though, was Discotek Media licensing The Professional: Golgo 13, the very first anime adaptation of the famed sniper. A 1983 movie directed by the legendary Osamu Dezaki, The Professional was also groundbreaking for being one of the first anime to use 3D CG; sure, it was a horrible-looking helicopter, but it was still groundbreaking.

The focus of this entry, though, is the 1998 OVA "sequel", Golgo 13: Queen Bee. While not considered quite as good as the original movie, Queen Bee is still considered a solid Golgo production, and UV's dub for it even features some interesting cast choices, like John DiMaggio (Bender in Futurama, Marcus Fenix in Gears of War) voicing Duke Togo himself. I am fairly confident that as long as The Professional sells well for Discotek (the fact that it's the best release the movie has ever gotten should help) they will eventually do Queen Bee, but I do hope they announce it soon... This OVA goes anywhere from $20-$65+ over at Amazon right now!

Here's another d-rights title, but this wasn't originally released by Bandai, so it gets its own spot on the list. ADV was always a company known to try out some risky titles, and while some of them did gain a fervent fanbase that didn't always equal sales, and that's what happened to Princess Nine. This 1998 TV series was about Ryo Hayakawa, the daughter of a legendary pitcher, who hopes to lead her high school's baseball team all the way to Koshien, proving that girls can be just as good at the sport as guys, if not better. I personally remember hearing tons of praise for this show back when I was first really getting into anime, which apparently also had a great dub, and I have wanted to check it out. Unfortunately, getting it all for a good price back then, let alone now, is tricky.

The six singles ADV originally released vary in price from pretty cheap (~$5) to pretty expensive (~$60), but in an age of boxsets buying singles isn't as attractive anymore. The good news is that there is a boxset for the show... The bad news is that it is insanely overpriced on the second-hand market, ranging from $70-$180! Yeah, I know that sports anime is essentially dead-on-arrival anytime one is released here in North America, but considering that this show already has good subs, a supposedly good dub, and even a group of fans that would likely love doing some free promotion so that others might get interested in checking it out I would say that Princess Nine at least has some things going for it. Glad that I'm one of those weirdos that doesn't really watch sports, yet is perfectly fine with watching sports anime, right? I mean, honestly, I have not been able to find any good, solid, & definitive reason why sports anime is such a money drainer here in North America, especially since CrunchyRoll seems to do well with them.

[7/2013 UPDATE: Add Right Stuf to the small list of companies who have fulfilled a part of these rescue lists, because TRSI will be giving Princess Nine a new release via their Lucky Penny label!]

Remember when I mentioned that there would be another "bad-good" entry? Well, here it is, and boy is this an infamous one. Originally released slowly from 1989 to 1994, Angel Cop was the creation of Shou/Noboru Aikawa & Ichiro Itano, while also involving other known names in the industry, like Nobuteru Yuuki (character designs) & Yasuomi Umezu (animation director), and the end result was a hyper-violent sci-fi story of a lethal special forces unit, with some pretty harsh words in regards to other countries & religions. I think Justin Sevakis (who "suggested" this in the same way Zac "suggested" Dracula in Part 1) said it best in his Buried Garbage article:
"To date, I have not heard either of them talk about this title or their reasons for making it, but most people would find their original intentions to be pretty offensive. In the end, it's discovered that the top levels of Japanese government have sold out to the Jews that took over America, and having successfully plundered Vietnam and Iraq for the sake of money, these Jews are going to turn Japan into Asia's nuclear waste dump.

Yes. That makes no sense, is patently anti-American, anti-Semitic, ethnocentric, Japanese imperialist, vile, and above all, dumb."

Wow, could Mr. Aikawa be an angry person, or what? Either that, or he was parodying such sentiments by taking it 100% seriously, hoping viewers would find it just as ludicrous. So, naturally, Manga tried to hide as much of that message as they could in their subs, and Manga UK did the best they could to simply fill the dub with their usual (of the time) style of profanity & absurd delivery, making the English dub amazingly horrible & worth watching. In fact, Justin loves stating how much he loves Angel Cop, and he has no hesitation in saying that Angel Cop is his most-wanted "bad-good" anime license rescue. He only hopes that if it does get license rescued that the company doing so would, at the very least, add a disclaimer to their release:
"The views & opinions stated in Angel Cop are not the views & opinions of [Insert Anime Company Here]".

[5/2018 UPDATE: At Momocon this year, anime disc authoror (& occasional Discotek rep) Justin Sevakis announced that the company would be releasing Angel Cop on Blu-Ray! It will include restored, but not remastered, video, the Manga UK dub, the original Manga subtitles, properly translated subtitles that don't hide the anti-semitic sentiments, a text interview with dub script writer John Wolskel, & an essay contextualizing the story from Todd Ciolek, formerly of ANN fame. Leave it to Discotek to not only give an OVA like this the best possible release it can get, but also bother to explain why the story went as bonkers as it did.]

I love shonen action/battle titles, in case you couldn't tell from this blog. Yeah, there can be a "sameness" to them, not to mention a lot of re-used tropes, cliches, etc., but these titles tend to be really enjoyable for me to watch. The Law of Ueki, based on the Shonen Sunday manga by Tsubasa Fukuchi, is one of those shonen battle titles that both revels in what makes the genre work as well as does things different enough to make it stand out. The story of young Kosuke Ueki & his entry into a battle between junior high students in order to determine the new "God/King" of the world initially gives off a generic view, but what makes Ueki shine is both in its willingness to poke fun at itself & the genre in general as well as its inventiveness when it comes to the powers that each student has. For example, Ueki can turn trash into trees (recycling is an underlying theme in the title), while his friend Sano can turn towels into steel, and those are just the simpler powers!

Geneon, in their last days, tried releasing Ueki via singles while also having it air on imaginAsian TV, but they only got nine volumes in (out of what would have been thirteen) before being forced to close shop. In 2009, during a distribution deal, FUNimation would release all of Ueki in one giant dual-audio boxset, but that one release would be the only time Ueki would get a complete release. What if you didn't buy that Ueki boxset & still want to watch it legally? Well, be ready to fork over $300-$350 over at Amazon, because that's what it's going for right now. For some people Ueki might look a little too silly to take seriously, but this was definitely a title that just kept getting better & better as it went on, not to mention that the anime covers the entire manga story, so it's a giant shame that the anime is out-of-print & ridiculously expensive right now. It could really use a recycling right now... Yeah, I know, bad joke, but Hideyoshi might have liked it.

[5/2018 UPDATE: Also at Momocon, Discotek announced that The Law of Ueki will be given an SD-BD release, i.e. the entire show will be released on a single, standard definition, Blu-ray disc. Like the old releases, it will be dual-audio & feature English subtitles, but unlike the last release it will actually remain at a reasonable price for longer than a single year or so.]

Go Nagai has a bit of stubborn relationship with North America, especially with anime. Many companies have tried releasing anime based on the man's work but none of them seem to really sell, even though a number of them are well-beloved. One that some people might forget is ADV's release of the anime adaptation of Devilman Lady from 1998-1999, which was re-named The Devil Lady for North America. Devilman, alongside Mazinger, is one of Nagai's biggest-name work, & Lady was an alternate universe take on the story, but with the main character being female (Jun Fudo) instead of male (Akira Fudo). The anime was yet another alternate universe take, telling a similar story as the manga, but going in its own direction as it went on.

Like I mentioned before, Nagai's works were sometimes well liked, & Devil Lady was one of those titles during it's 2003 singles release. Those singles now go for fair prices (no more than $20 per DVD, usually), and even the 2004 boxset release isn't anywhere near as expensive as something like Princess Nine, though it still is kind of up there depending on the condition ($30-$100). NIS America gave the recent Enma-kun anime a try & Discotek is digging into the Nagai/Dynamic Pro well with Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, so there may be hope for The Devil Lady to see a re-release one day. If anything, one might hope for the Devil's luck... Please stop me, I can't help but makes puns right now!

To most (if not all) people, Vampire Hunter D is Hideyuki Kikuchi's masterpiece. Even since 1983, the many adventures of the mysterious dhampir/dunpeal named "D" in the 13,000th century have been compiled in many novels, and are even being adapted into manga form so that more people can read them. When it comes to anime, though, there are only two adaptations: The 1985 OVA based on the first novel & the 2000 made-for-America movie Bloodlust, based on the third novel. Streamline Pictures originally released the '85 OVA in North America back in 1992 theatrically & then it had a VHS release and some rotation on Sci-Fi Channel in 1993. In 2000, Urban Vision released a Special Edition, dual-audio DVD release of the OVA while they went around promoting their co-production Bloodlust. Supposedly, the English audio that was made for Bloodlust was actually only meant to be a "test" & was planned to be properly cast with Hollywood actors... No one bit on it, though, so it became the "official" audio.

With Urban Vision gone now many wonder what the future is for these VHD anime productions. The '85 OVA should be no real problem, but Bloodlust was co-produced by UV, which might make licensing it now tricky. The other potential issue with Bloodlust is that the Japanese dub (yes, the Japanese cast is the "dub", as it was animated with the English voices in mind) was made after UV's original DVD release in 2002; UV continually promised a "Special Edition" release for the movie that would be dual-audio, but it never happened. In fact, North America is seemingly the only place in the world to have never gotten the Japanese audio. I have the UV release, but I bought a second copy when I was visiting family in Hungary, and even that DVD had the Japanese audio (plus a Hungarian dub!). UV usually kept these two anime in print, but with them gone now the prices have finally started to go up, with VHD going for $20-$75 & Bloodlust going for $40+. Let's face it, though; Vampire Hunter D is too big of a name in anime for it to be left out-of-print forever. One day those issues will be ironed out, and these two titles will see a re-release, and hopefully Bloodlust will finally be dual-audio here in North America. I am 100% positive in saying that this license rescue isn't a question of "if", but rather "when".

[4/2015 UPDATE: Like I said, it was a question of "when"... Because now both of these productions have been rescued! Discotek announced a re-release of Bloodlust on both DVD & BD a few months back, while Sentai just announced a re-release of the original OVA, both on DVD & BD as well.]

Finishing up this entire list is the MacGyver of anime himself, "Master" Taichi Keaton. Naoki Urasawa is such a well-beloved & celebrated mangaka, yet the anime adaptations of his works are notorious for never being completely released on DVD here. Well, Pioneer/Geneon did in fact fully release an Urasawa anime over here (though Urasawa only did the art for the manga), but it likely bombed in all ways. Master Keaton is about an insurance investigator for Lloyd's of London who gets caught in all sorts of adventures while simply doing his job. His ingenuity & quick thinking in troublesome situations make him more than he seems, and it makes the anime obviously something that aims for an older crowd... Which is all the more obvious why it likely sold horribly. Luckily, Pioneer/Geneon's 2003-2004 singles release covered the entire 1998-1999 anime as well as its 1999-2000 OVA continuation, and it's dual-audio to boot! Unfortunately, the show never received a boxset release, and while some of the eight singles are still available for a good price, others are getting into the $30, $60, & even $100+ range.

Yeah, Viz didn't release anymore Monster after that first set, & AnimEigo didn't do more than one set of Yawara! (though AnimEigo indicated that was due more to licensing issues, because they wanted to do more), but I would like to think that the anime fanbase over here has aged enough that a re-release of Master Keaton could be worth it, especially if it was released across two boxsets. Luckily, the show did get a Blu-Ray release in Japan in 2011, so there's even better video masters out there. It is a long-shot, no doubt, but who better to get us out of a tricky situation than the man who can make MacGyver proud?
Well, that's the end of this "overloaded!!" variant of the license rescue list.  In this version we had baseball, "bad-good", Devilman Lady, your not-so-friendly dhampir legend, downers, & even super robots.  All in all, I say it was a good list, and here's hoping some of them can come true in time.


  1. No love for Gregory Horror Show or Sherlock Hound?
    typical otaku >:(

  2. I bought some of the Master Keaton DVDs cheap at Walgreens a few years ago for five bucks each, but I had a hard time getting by Keaton's lack of a British accent.... It's a stretch for me that he's half-English/half-Japanese, but hearing an American accent ruins it all for me. A new dub job would be most welcome! Meanwhile, the OP theme music often plays in my head. A shame that issues with the writer of this series has kept Urasawa from keeping it going... Now if only his Pluto series could get animated. Tezuka would probably have a cow but it'd be (hopefully) better handled than Metropolis was.