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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Daisuki Deluge: Underlooked Anime That Deserve The Chance Part 1: Toei Animation

[2018 ADDENDUM: As of this update, Daisuki is no more, and its impact on anime streaming was minimal, at best. That being said, let these lists act a reminder of the potential of this site, as well as behave like a semi-wish list, of sorts.]

Last month I covered the launch of Anime Sols, the streaming/crowdfunding site for vintage anime... Which I hope can recover from its absolutely less-than-stellar first try & work out any kinks that are still in the works. Anyway, last month was also the launch of another official anime streaming site done by the Japanese, but this one is a bit more potentially ambitious.

Daisuki is a concerted group effort by Aniplex, Sunrise, Toei, & TMS, as well as Nihon Ad Systems, ADK, & dentsu to bring anime to as much of the world as possible, with English (both subs & dubs, if possible) being the main focus right now. Upon launching, the site is likewise not exactly going forward on the best footing (the videos don't seem to be the HD-quality they were indicating & it's pretty barren right now), but one thing Daisuki has in terms of potential is absolute quantity. Just from Toei, TMS, & Sunrise alone, the amount of potential titles that can be on this site is mind-boggling, and Daisuki knows that... Which is why they have gone surveying. Starting late last month, they have done five surveys asking anime fans to select which titles they would love to see streaming on Daisuki; as of this post, the last survey (which covers from roughly Ne-Sc) is still active until June 23. How many titles have been listed on the survey? Just slightly over 300! With so many possibilities, allow me to have some fun & look at the titles that have been on each survey & talk about which titles I feel deserve the opportunity to be streamed on Daisuki, giving them the first opportunity to gain an official fanbase that they never had (or, at least, haven't had in a while). Think of this as the equivalent of a "Twelve Anime" list, only super-sized! I'll be splitting this up across five parts, one for each studio listed on Daisuki's "Anime Studios" tab, & let's start with Toei Animation, the company with, arguably, the most titles across all five surveys!

Being a guy I tend to, naturally, hover more towards shonen titles, but every now & then there's a shojo title that catches my interest, and I can usually rely on Arina Tanemura on delivering really good shojo titles. Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne/Jeanne, The Kamikaze Thief was Tanemura's big hit for Ribon magazine during the late-90s, & CMX was actually able to release it in its entirety while the company was still around, with it being one of their better sellers; there's good reason why Viz had a slight Tanemura binge a few years back. The story of Marron, regular girl-by-day/"Phantom Thief" reincarnation of Joan of Arc-by-night, & her battles against evil demons that reside in art, as well as rival thief Sinbad (who's really Chiaki, the guy she love-hates), was filled with great comedy, nice action, & an intriguing story that got surprisingly serious & gloomy at the end, & from 1999-2000 Toei made a 44-episode TV series based on the manga. I've considered watching the anime numerous times, especially since it's supposedly really good, but the existing fansubs are rough, both in video & translation. Having a nice, official stream to watch the show would be awesome.

Fans can keep asking FUNimation if they'll ever do more Detective Conan/Case Closed, but we all know the answer to that: No way in hell. So, instead of Shinichi Kudo, how about we take a look at his Kodansha counterpart, Hajime Kindaichi? From 1993-1997, Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbou/Kindaichi Case Files, by Fumiya Sato (art) & Yozaburo Kanari (story), ran in Weekly Shonen Magazine. Unlike Conan, which featured all sort of gadgets & a wacky de-aging plot element for Shinichi Kudo, Kindaichi was straight-up mystery. Kindaichi & his friend Miyuki would end up in some mystery, & it would be up to them to solve it, just like Kindaichi's grandfather (who was considered the Japanese Sherlock Holmes). Some people might remember TokyoPop's aborted release of the manga, which had each mystery take up one book, but from 1997-2000 Toei made an animated adaptation that lasted 148 episodes & two movies, & Kindaichi even returned for another go this past December in the two-episode OVA Kuro Majutsu Satsujin Jiken-hen/Black Magic Murder Chapter. Considering that Detective Conan wasn't listed on the surveys, Kindaichi Case Files would make a great replacement.

When anime fans think of awesome teachers, most will immediately think of Eikichi Onizuka from Great Teacher Onizuka/GTO (which is getting re-released by Discotek!)... But what about Shonen Jump's resident awesome teacher, Meisuke "Nube" Nueno? From 1993-1999, Jigoku Sensei/Hell Teacher Nube, by Sho Makura (story) & Takeshi Okano (art), ran in the pages of Jump, telling the tales of Nube's mission to not only teach his class but also guard them from all sorts of evil beings, especially demons & monsters, by way of his left "Demon Hand". From 1996-1997, a 49-episode anime series was made, as well as three movies & a three-episode OVA continuation. As awesome as Onizuka is, Nube might just be the "Rippin', Roarin', Greatest #1" teacher that Daisuki needs to ward off the bad vibes that the site is emitting at the moment when it comes to content & quality.

Well, what do you know? Here's yet another anime that isn't listed on the venerable Anime News Network Encyclopedia! That's not a knock against the Encyclopedia, but rather it just shows how much anime there is that can still be found. Anyway, Shinken Legend/Shinken Densetsu Tight Road is an interesting anomaly, as it's a show from 1994 that only lasted 13 episodes. I'm sure there were other shows on TV this short back then, but it was no doubt rare in a pre-late-night era. According to Wikipedia Japan, Shinken Legend was actually made as a cross-promotion between Toei & then-new video game company Gust, now know for their Atelier Series of RPGs; Toei would make the anime series & Gust would make a fighting game to go with it. Unfortunately, the fighting game never materialized, leaving only this obscure action series. According to Toei's page for the show, here's the synopsis: "Taito, an 18 year old youth is the strongest martial art fighter. He saved a man who fell into the sea. Then, unknown men who happen to be pursuing after this man, suddenly attacked them!" Yeah, that's a simple idea, but sometimes a show can succeed simply by doing something well, and for all we know this show probably does action well. To it's credit, the opening footage seems to indicate that the fighting here is more grounded in realism than most action titles are, & the staff looks solid, featuring the likes of Yukio Kaizawa (director), Kenichi Kanemaki (series composition), Goji Tsuno (music), & the debut of Michio Fukuda (director of Hyakko & Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan) as the character designer. In fact, in an interview by ANN two years ago, Fukuda admitted that he considered Shiken Legend his favorite title out of his entire catalog in terms of character designs that he's done (you'd think ANN would have made a page for the show at that point, since it was mentioned...). To Fukuda's credit, his designs do look really solid & cool in a simple way. If anything, Shiken Legend deserves to be on Daisuki solely so that people can actually watch any bit of it!

Every anime streaming site needs at least one oddball title in its line-up, so here's one from Toei. When it comes to mahjong anime, people seem to always bring up Saki, with its over-the-top delivery & yuri undertones (or maybe they're outright overtones?), but for me I'll take more gritty portrayals of the world of mahjong like that of Akagi or this (supposedly) true story: Gambler Densetsu Tetsuya/Legend of the Gambler - Tetsuya. Created by Yasushi Hoshino (art) & Fuumei Sai (story), & running from 1997-2004 in Weekly Shonen Magazine, Tetsuya ended up with a 20-episode anime series from 2000-2001. Taking place only a few years after World War II, the story was apparently based on the real life of Tetsuya Asada, who in Japan was a famous novelist & mahjong player. In a cool change from that of Saki & Akagi, Tetsuya actually put a fair amount of focus on showcasing how to cheat at mahjong without getting caught, though fair play was still a focus, too. True, it may not be as visually insane as Saki or as psychological as Akagi, but Tetsuya's real life origins & cheating ways may be enough to set it apart from its more recent competition.

To finish off this look at the kind of titles Toei can offer for Daisuki, let me give you a twin-pack (like I can ever give you a simple list, right?). In their history, Toei has made two anime adaptations of Masami Kurumada manga: 1977-1981's Ring ni Kakero 1 (animated from 2004-2011) & 1986-1990's Saint Seiya (animated from 1986-1989 & 2003-2008). Considering how much Kurumada I've covered on ths blog I'll leave this entry short, but I do hope that both of these titles can get onto Daisuki. Seiya TV's second half (i.e. episodes 61-114) has never truly had a good translation & I have always hoped for some sort of official release for Ring ni Kakero 1, and right now Daisuki is the absolute best shot these two titles have at that, unless Discotek's upcoming release of the Seiya movies next week do well enough for them to do more Kurumada anime... You did pre-order them, right? So, please, go to Daisuki's last survey right now & while you click the boxes for the titles you honestly want to see streamed on the site, be a pal & click the boxes for "RING NI KAKERO" & "SAINT SEIYA", would you? Even if you aren't exactly interested in these two titles, be sure that if you were in the same situation, asking random strangers on the internet to support something you want & all it takes is to click a box, I would gladly do the same for you. This last survey ends on June 23 (this Sunday!), and if you've already taken the survey you can always load up a different internet browser & take the survey again (in fact, Daisuki encourages fans to do this!).
And that ends this first part of what I am calling "The Daisuki Deluge". Trust me, these surveys were outright filled with all kinds of titles from Toei, including the likes of Kanon (the 2002 adaptation that everyone ignores), Flat Broke Sisters (a.k.a. Bimbou Shimai Monogatari), Cutey Honey Flash, Gash Bell!!, Goldfish Forecast, both GeGeGe no Kitaro & Hakaba Kitaro, Ayakashi & Mononoke, Marmalade Boy, & numerous Pretty Cure series, among many others. Toei Animation hasn't put anything on the site yet, though One Piece is promised (& also listed on one of the surveys, oddly enough), but they definitely have the most to offer & I do hope they can deliver the goods. Check back later for Part 2, where we look at TMS Entertainment, a company who already is in love with streaming their catalog but still have some titles here & there that deserve the chance.

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