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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The "Kurumada Curse": Or Why Can't Anyone But Discotek Do This Right?

If you haven't heard, New Video Group/Cinedigm Entertainment (a.k.a. the guys who released Saban's dub of Digimon's first four seasons on DVD) quietly solicited three new releases for later this year: A second collection for Yu-Gi-Oh!, a "Megaset" release of Zatch Bell (the edited TV airing of Konjiki no Gash Bell), & a "Sanctuary Complete Collection" of Saint Seiya. NVG, though, is confusing anime fans in regards to their Saint Seiya release... Which will apparently be a dub-only boxset containing Episodes 1-73.

It's pretty damn confusing for a few reasons. First, why is it dub-only? Calling the release "Saint Seiya" makes it pretty obvious that NVG is not releasing DiC's aborted Knights of the Zodiac adaptation (unless the company is trying to promote false advertising), so it has to be ADV's dub. But if it's ADV's dub, then why isn't the company simply going for a dual-audio release? There are subtitles already made for Episodes 1-60, and the company has done closed captions for their Digimon releases, so adding in soft-encoded subtitles shouldn't be an impossible thing for them to do. Second, if it is dub-only, where did the dub for Episodes 61-73 come from?

The now defunct DiC Entertainment licensed Saint Seiya back in 2003 and, as reported by ICv2, the company only adapted 40 episodes into Knights of the Zodiac. ADV, in a deal with DiC, was able to sub-license the series & give it an uncut & dual-audio release, complete with a 100% accurate dub, as long as they also released KotZ on DVD alongside Seiya. From what I can tell, low ratings resulted in only 32 episodes of KotZ being aired, which ADV only released 28 of on DVD, while ADV released the first 60 episodes uncut on DVD. Unfortunately, it was at this point that ADV realized that DiC had only licensed those first 60 episodes of Saint Seiya, leaving them unable to release anymore of the show. The company continually stated at cons that they wanted to continue releasing the show, even being so specific that they would have been fine with only Episodes 61-73, so that they could finish the Sanctuary Chapter, but it never happened, & in 2008 DiC was bought up by Cookie Jar Entertainment; the next year DiC's original license expired & Cookie Jar let the series go back to Toei. This whole ordeal between ADV & Toei was the first example of what I have called the "Kurumada Curse".

Think about it for a second: How many animes based on the works of Masami Kurumada have seen a complete release in North America, specifically the USA & Canada? That's right...  None. ADV would have finished Seiya had DiC licensed the entire show, & I'm going to guess that Toei was never going to license out the second half of the show to ADV simply because they didn't have the license to the first half. Then, in 2006, Illumitoon Entertainment announced that they would be releasing B't X, Kurumada's hit of the 90s... Which only got two DVDs in before Illumitoon's distributor dropped them, not to mention the fact that only the first 14 episodes were dubbed. Manga-wise, the "Curse" was in effect somewhat by way of the extremely slow releases of the manga of both series, but in 2010 the "Curse" was lifted when both series had their final volumes released. I had hope that Discotek Media might be the company to finally lift the "Curse" on the anime when they announced their license of the Saint Seiya movies last year, and they did get those two DVDs out with no trouble, but these were nothing more than a stopgap; they were an easy release compared to what came before.

In the end I could only, truly, call the "Curse" lifted if an entire Kurumada TV anime was released in North America. Over at Saint Seiya Fan, the home of English-speaking Seiya fans, a fan spoke to Discotek at ACen & they did say that they would love to do the TV series if the movies sell well enough... But, much like Galaxy Express 999 TV, someone else has come in for the "steal", and it looks like they will do nothing but reinforce the "Kurumada Curse". My only hope is that the Seiya movies do well for Discotek & that, in place of Seiya TV, they'll go after B't X, or even Ring ni Kakero 1 or Fuma no Kojirou (personally, I'd want all three), in order to please fans of Kurumada & definitely put down this "Curse" hard.

Look, if NVG indeed has all of the Sanctuary Chapter & will be releasing it on DVD, then that's certainly a great start, all the more so if they end up doing an "Asgard & Poseidon Complete Collection" later on... But the biggest sting, & biggest confusion, of all is still the fact that this release looks to be dub-only. Now, I'm certainly no dub-hater, but if you get an uncut dub then you might as well go all the way & do a dual-audio release. By the way, how in Hades can this "Complete Collection" be a dub-only release?!

Some people thought that DiC might have dubbed more episodes, but, like I indicated above, DiC only dubbed 40 episodes & ADV was only able to do up to 60... So where the hell is this supposed dub of those last 13 episodes coming from? I highly doubt that NVG is spending the money to dub those episodes (not when they won't even spend a little extra to make this a dual-audio release...), so how can this be 73 episodes of English-dubbed action? Personally, I have two possibilities in mind:
1. NVG is simply assuming that 73 episodes have been dubbed. Unfortunately, this would be a stupid thing for the company to do & it would make them look as inept at doing anime as S'more Entertainment has been. This is really a last-resort thing to consider, but it is a possibility. All I'm saying is that, in the time between now & the December release, if NVG's solicitation changes from "Contains Episodes 1-73" to "Contains Episodes 1-60" don't be shocked.

2. Sometime between 2009 & now Toei must have commissioned a dub for those last 13 episodes. Now, this sounds slightly more unlikely, but it's not like Toei hasn't paid for English dubs on their own dime before. When Toei tried released Interlude, Slam Dunk, & Air Master on DVD over here, about ten years ago, they had all three shows dubbed, though who knows if the latter two were dubbed in full after their DVDs got canceled after a few releases. Also, as I've pointed out before, Toei did apparently commission Ocean Studios to make a dub for the Ring ni Kakero 1 pilot film years ago, so it wouldn't be too surprising to see Toei make sure that the Sanctuary Chapter is now fully dubbed. If that is the case, though, who do think Toei hired for the dub? Did they go to Seraphim Digital, who were once known solely as ADV's dubbing studio? Seraphim's site does list Toei as one of their clients, so it's possible, but there's been absolutely no hints at all at Seiya's dub getting continued using the same cast.

Regardless, I'll be keeping watch on what gets confirmed on this upcoming re-release of Saint Seiya TV. On the one hand, it's awesome to see a release that goes beyond episode 60, but, on the other hand, dub-only would be a pretty silly way to handle it. Zatch Bell, Digimon, & Yu-Gi-Oh! are dub-only releases for good reason: Their dubs were edited for TV, hence making them impossible to sync up with their original Japanese language tracks. But "Saint Seiya" had an uncut English dub, so why not offer the original Japanese language with English subtitles, especially since ~82% of the episodes have them made already? Yeah, that still leaves 13 episodes/18% that would need brand-new translating & subtitling work done, but I highly doubt that 13 episodes-worth of subbing is a cost that can't be made back by the extra sales NVG would get by making this a true, dual-audio release. Also, what happens after this set? Will Episodes 74-114 just get ignored & left unreleased? If so, then it's just more proof that the "Kurumada Curse" is still seemingly in effect. Why can't any company that's releasing a Kurumada anime in North America do so without any problems? Really, Discotek is seemingly the only company that's willing & able to break this "Curse", so I say ask them to do B't X, Ring ni Kakero 1, & Fuma no Kojirou.

I sent an e-mail to them but I don't use Facebook, so can you guys ask them via Facebook, too?


[2/2018 ADDENDUM: NVG's Saint Seiya release wound up being a sub-only collection for Episodes 1-73, which at least did finally give the Sanctuary Chapter a complete release, though it is annoying that ADV's dub for eps 1-60 weren't included, if only for the sake of completion. Unfortunately, all that's happened since then is NVG adding those subbed episodes, plsu all of the Hades OVAs, to CrunchyRoll, which is awesome, but the second half of Saint Seiya TV still remains without any sort of official English release; even via streaming, the "Curse" still looms over this specific anime. As for Discotek, that company tried its hand at releasing Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas' OVA adaptation via a sub-only complete collection, but that release bombed so hard that Discotek has effectively decided to never do another Kurumada anime ever again.

As of this update, the only chance for a true-blue "Kurumada anime", as in one based on a manga that Kurumada himself made, to finally break the "Curse" is with Anime Midstream's license of B't X, which was announced back in mid-2016. While there hasn't been any word from that company in roughly a year, I did send & e-mail, & was told that the first release should come out sometime this year. Here's hoping for the best...]

1 comment:

  1. Discotek is godsend. And I don't even live in the USA. I have yet to listen to the americanized dub of Saint Seiya. The French dub had its problems as well, so I'm kinda curious.