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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Daisuki Deluge: Underlooked Anime That Deserve The Chance Part 4: Aniplex

Toei, TMS, & Sunrise may be the only animation studios supporting Daisuki, but that doesn't mean that there isn't any more anime to choose from. Sure, those three studios are big enough to have the main rights behind their own shows, but for many other studios those rights belong to other production studios, and probably the biggest one of them all right now is Aniplex. Originally called Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) Music Publishing Inc., before changing to SPE Visual Works Inc. & then Sony Music Entertainment (SME) Visual Works Inc., Aniplex handles the planning, production, & distribution of any & all anime that Sony Music Entertainment Japan is involved in. The company is so successful that, in 2005, they opened up their own animation studio, A-1 Pictures, & opened a North American division, Aniplex of America. Nowadays, Aniplex of America is known for, essentially, doing what Bandai Visual USA did in terms of releasing anime in North America with Japanese Region 2 DVD & BD pricing... But they are able to actually make money with this method! Anyway, out of what Aniplex is willing to offer for Daisuki, most of it is either already available on DVD/BD or, at the very least, can be watched via streaming; that makes me unwilling to list titles like 009-1 & Nerima Daikon Brothers (i.e. titles that desperately need more appreciation). Luckily, there is an unavailable title every now & then.

If Anime Sols has the works of Osamu Tezuka at their hands via Tezuka Productions, then Daisuki should be there with Tezuka's compatriot, Shotaro Ishinomori. I've already mentioned 009-1, but another Ishinomori title Aniplex has is 2000-2001's Android Kikaider - The Animation, based on the 70s manga of the same name. Whereas Tezuka's Astro Boy was heavily influenced by Pinocchio, Ishinomori's Kikaider was both Pinocchio as well as a Frankenstein variant, with lead character Jiro being made with the ability to understand the difference between good & evil as well as the concept of being human. The anime adaptation, made by Radix & Studio OX, was most-definitely a dark robot tale, with its 2001-2002 sequel OVA, Kikaider 01, taking some even darker twists. Bandai Entertainment licensed & released Kikaider from 2003-2004, & even got it aired on [adult swim] (where it obviously bombed), but the DVDs are now getting pretty rare & expensive to get a hold of. Also, in September 2003, Japan received a final OVA, Guitar wo Motta Shonen/The Boy with the Guitar - Kikaider vs. Inazuman, which put a much more concise & upbeat ending to the Kikaider anime series. Unfortunately, Bandai licensed the show before this OVA was made, so they were never able to release it, though the complete collection box coincidentally had an open DVD spot left over. It may not be the kind of series for those who want fast-paced action, but Android Kikader could definitely use a second chance now.

City Hunter, based on the 1985-1991 Shonen Jump manga by Tsukasa Hojo, has an interesting position in terms of potential streaming right now. First off, this can be counted as both a Sunrise entry as well as an Aniplex entry, so one could call this cheating (if you do, though, then too bad). Second, it's technically split up between both Daisuki & Anime Sols. You see, Aniplex has the rights to the four TV series that aired from 1987-1991, but Yomiuri Television has the rights to the City Hunter movie, OVAs, & TV specials that were made from 1989-1999, & these non-TV series entries were a choice on Anime Sols' recent survey. Still, City Hunter has been sorely out-of-print for years, & ADV's 2002-2003 DVD release of everything that was made, except for the 1999 TV special, is uber-expensive to buy all of now (you try to get CH3, '91, & Box 1 of CH2 for cheap!), so having it be available via streaming could, at the very least, let people see why Ryo Saeba & his gang offered some really fun & "mokkori" adventures in their time.

Anyone notice a theme here? Yeah, it's yet another anime that's hard to get all of for a fair price, though in this case it's only one DVD (Volume 2). 2006-2007's FLAG told the story of a civil war in an Asian country, & one photojournalists' job to record the activities of the UN's attempt to help quell the violence. Director Ryousuke Takahashi (Armored Trooper VOTOMS, Blue Comet SPT Layzner, & Intrigue in the Bakumatsu - Irohanihoheto) has always been known for going against the grain, and FLAG was probably one of his most grain-resisting titles of all by having the entire story told from the point of view of camera lenses, as if the viewers were the people filming the scenes themselves. Naturally, this results in an execution that rubbed many people the wrong way, not to mention the distinctly realistic setting, & I can't tell if the 2009 complete collection release ever came out; if it did then it's nigh-impossible to find. Once again, Daisuki can be the place for OOP titles to get a second life.

With so few Aniplex titles in the surveys that weren't already easily available for viewing, I had to go with a title I have really no knowledge of. 2005's Gallery Fake, based on the manga by Fujihiko Hosono (creator of Bio Hunter, Magistrate of Darkness - Judge, & artist of the Crusher Joe manga), tells the story of Reiji Fujita, owner of the art gallery called Gallery Fake. Following his time as curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Fujita now sells art on his own, both real & fake, for extravagant prices... But sometimes he deals with dirty dealers & art owners, because in the end he has a true love for art. To be honest, this sounds like Black Jack, but with art instead of surgery, and I think that's an awesome idea. I may not know art, but I know what I like (or, at least, what sounds like a cool show), so if Gallery Fake was to appear on Daisuki I would certainly check it out. Yeah, there are fansubs out there for this show, but if I can do something legally & support a good cause then I'll go in that direction.

Aniplex didn't have an Ideon image, so here's a BD cover!

Yeah, it's another cheat... So sue me. In fact, Aniplex's page for Densetsu Kyojin/Legendary Giant God Ideon (also known as Space Runaway Ideon) is so barren of info that I can't tell if they have the original 1980-1981 TV series, the two 1982 movies (which were funded by Sanrio, the Hello Kitty people!), or both, but I'll still include this in general. Anyway, long before Neon Genesis Evangelion did the whole "Killing everything & everyone you've ever loved" ending, Ideon did the same in a much, much more violent & unsettling fashion. In fact, Ideon's ending is so legendary that almost everyone thinks that the Ideon itself destroys the universe, but in reality it only destroys about a galaxy's worth of existence... Yes, Hello Kitty paid for the destruction of an entire galaxy, so don't you ever piss that cat off. Still, even if you already know how Ideon ends, there's the entire journey to get through & Daisuki would be a nice place for people to make their way through the death & destruction that only Yoshiyuki Tomino can do.

Much like Ideon, Aniplex's page for this title is barren, but at least it has an image. 1988-1989's Yoroiden/Legendary Armor Samurai Trooper was Sunrise's take on the "armored heroes" concept that Saint Seiya made popular, but replacing the Greek mythology veneer with a Japanese Samurai motif. North American fans might have some nostalgia for this series as Ronin Warriors, the name it had during its edited TV run back in 1995-1996, as well as a Toonami run in 1999. Bandai Entertainment actually gave this show a DVD release from 2002-2003, but in an interesting twist Bandai actually released both versions on the same disc; Side A was the uncut, sub-only Samurai Troopers, while Side B was the edited, dub-only Ronin Warriors. These DVDs, as well as the complete collection from 2004, are hard to get in complete for a good price (once again!), so it would be neat to see Daisuki stream this show. Hell, it would be even better if Daisuki streamed both versions, if only for the nostalgia!
That ends this look at what Aniplex might be offering for the site. Like the other companies, though, there were some odd-man-out titles that I wished were on the surveys. I had mentioned the Amon - Apocalypse of Devilman OVA when I talked about TMS's offerings, but there's also titles like Angel Heart (the alternate universe sequel to City Hunter), Arc the Lad (the anime adaptation of Arc the Lad II), the Read or Die OVA (only the TV series was on the survey), Ookiku Furikabutte: Natsu no Taikai-hen (the second season of Big Windup!), GTO, Sadamitsu the Destroyer, Parappa the Rapper (yes, there's a Parappa anime), Powerpuff Girls Z (the anime take on the Cartoon Network series), Yakitate!! Ja-Pan, Wild Arms: Twilight Venom, or even Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. I honestly don't want to keep listing stuff that wasn't on the surveys, but it's weird that these companies put their own money down on this site, yet they're still being hesitant on potentially offering their entire line-ups to the world. Oh well, at least Aniplex actually is offering a large amount of titles, unlike TMS. Next, we'll be finishing this look at "The Daisuki Deluge" by looking at NAS, who is offering the least out of the five companies I'm covering... But it's not like they had much to offer in the first place.

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