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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Twelve Older Anime That Deserve License Rescues R (Returns) Part 1

Well, I'm not quite ready to get to the next review (read: sequel to the previous review!)... So how about I bring back an old standard of the blog & do another license rescue list, especially since the last one was over a year ago? The industry is still pulling them off, but there's always more of them to bring up in place of the fulfilled ones, so let's see what else was once released here in North America & may just be worthy of getting another chance. Unlike last time, though, I did keep the list down to only twelve entries... I have to keep some decorum here, no?

[NOTE: For those who don't get the reference, the post title is inspired by the newly-debuted anime Kindaichi Case Files R (Returns)]

In the second license rescue list I introduced the concept of rescuing anime that wasn't what most would consider "exquisite" when I included Mad Bull 34 (which actually got rescued by Discotek & can now be bought on dual-audio DVD!). I followed that up in later lists with Final Fantasy: Legend of the CrystalsDracula: Sovereign of the Damned, & Angel Cop, so we might as well get this list's "other" entry out of the way first. I first heard of this title last year at Otakon when Mike Toole showcased it during his "Worst Anime of All Time" panel, but I forgot all about it until Justin Sevakis wrote about it two weeks ago for his Pile of Shame column; in fact, this title made me want to make another license rescue list!

While Daiei Co. Ltd. saw their biggest success in the 60s & 70s with stuff like the Gamera franchise, come the 90s the studio was a shell of its former glory, releasing softcore porn & being the original distributor of hentai like La Blue Girl & Sailor Moon-parody Venus 5 (note: the hentai came after this specific OVA). In 1991 the studio released Makyu Senjo/Temple Battlefield, a two-episode OVA, based on the novel by the late Sho Takeshima, about Joe Takami, a computer genius who finds out that he's actually a genetically-altered clone who transforms into a muscle-bound violent warrior. As it is this OVA is considered the absolute bottom of the OVA boom barrel that offers nothing but absurd amounts of violence & gore as well as poorly-done animation, so why is it on this list? That's because it has an odd history of English dubbing. First, Manga UK licensed & released it under it's original Japanese title in 1997 on dub-only VHS, but when ADV licensed it for VHS in 1998 they did their own dub that only covered the first episode; ADV also released both episodes subbed. Granted, this may not be as "so bad it's good" as Mad Bull 34, nor does it seem to be as ridiculous as the other three titles I mentioned in the paragraph above, and the VHS tapes aren't exactly asking for high prices, but the double-dub situation gives it an odd potential sense of replayability... And there's also the "bile fascination" factor: Is it truly as bad as it's said to be? Maybe I'll find out myself for Review #200 (Why not #150? Because that's already been chosen...).

Yeah, I just reviewed it, but it does fit the criteria for a "good license rescue". Anyway, Ashita no Joe was essentially a cultural phenomenon in Japan during it's original serialization from 1968-1973, and Mushi Pro's 1970-1971 anime adaptation was similarly iconic. Unfortunately, that anime couldn't tell the full story, so in 1980 TMS Entertainment decided to give the rest of Joe Yabuki's journey from slum-residing street urchin to beloved boxing hero an anime adaptation. In order to get newcomers ready for Ashita no Joe 2, though, TMS teamed with Fuji TV & Nippon Herald to compile the most important parts of episodes 1-52 of Mushi's anime into a 2.5 hour movie; instead of continuing where Mushi left off, TMS chose to restart from an iconic moment in the story. Featuring some returning voices from the original anime, plus some live-action actors, this compilation movie is an excellent way to get introduced to the story & get ready for the sequel anime, which is actually streaming right now over at CrunchyRoll!

Unfortunately, though Tai Seng did give this movie a North American DVD release in 2008, complete with a perfectly watchable & enjoyable English dub (though not perfect), their DVD is now highly out-of-print. Sure, Cinedigm is offering the dub of the movie over at iTunes for $9.99, but for those who want to watch it in it's original Japanese, or simply want a physical copy, the DVD release now commands at least $70 over at Amazon. Who knows, maybe Cinedigm's digital offering could be a potential roadblock to a license rescue, but considering that there are people wondering if they can go straight into Champion Joe 2 without seeing the original I think this movie should be given a new chance.

[4/2018 UPDATE: By the time this update has been made, Discotek will have already released its BD/DVD combo pack of this movie, now re-titled Tomorrow's Joe the Movie. This new release shows the movie in glorious HD, complete with a redone subtitle script, and Tai Seng's weird but generally solid dub is also included, for completeness' sake.]

Anime based on non-Japanese fiction isn't anything special, and neither is Japan not bothering to get actual approval from said non-Japanese source. Monkey Punch's Lupin the 3rd had issues with Maurice LeBlanc's estate when it came to international licensing until LeBlanc's Arsene Lupin character went into public domain in the 90s, and it's a similar thing with this title... Though there's much, much less Lensman anime to go around. Debuting in 1937 by Edward Elmer "E.E. Doc." Smith, Lensman is generally considered one of the very first space operas & has been the inspiration behind many of the world's epic space stories since.

It was similarly popular in Japan & in July of 1984 Madhouse made a movie, SF Shinseiki Lensman, based on the series that was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. A few months later Madhouse debuted Galactic Patrol Lensman, a 25-episode TV anime based more accurately on Smith's story. They didn't become internationally known, though, until 1988 when Carl Macek & Streamline Pictures released the movie theatrically & Harmony Gold compiled the first four episodes of the TV series into a movie called Lensman: Power of the Lens. These releases caught the attention of Smith's estate, who not only looked down on their "unapproved" production but also found both adaptations to be disgraceful to the original books; the movie was more Star Wars than Lensman, while the TV series was only slightly less so. In Japan the movie has stayed exclusive to VHS & LD, while the TV series has only seen a complete VHS release since its original airing. The thing, though, with public domain is that it differs between countries, and since E.E. Smith was an American & died on August 31, 1965 the copyright to Lensman may very well expire next year, 50 years after Smith's death, putting the series into the public domain & allowing an actual re-release of both anime productions without needing approval from Smith's estate. Of course, I'm no expert on copyright, so this is just a guess. I mean, I've heard that copyright can also extend to 70 years after the creator's death, extending it 2035 in this case, & even after entering public domain a title can still be looked after by a group, ala Zorro. Let's just hope for the best, okay?

If nothing else, you have to give Central Park Media credit for being essentially fearless, as it licensed all sorts of anime throughout its entire run. While some have been getting license rescued throughout the years, one that looks unlikely to ever see another chance here in North America is Armored Trooper VOTOMS, Ryosuke Takahashi's 1983-1984 TV series & what is likely going to go down as his magnum opus. Telling the adventures of Chirico Cuvie, a soldier with the devil's luck who fights not only as a part of a 100-year sapce war but also for his own survival, VOTOMS is generally praised by those who have seen it. Just bring up the title to Tim Eldred (of Star Blazers fandom fame) and he can regale you all about how its one of his absolute favorite anime of all time.

CPM originally teamed with Image Entertainment to release VOTOMS across 16 DVDs back in the early 00s, but in 2006 the company gave the show a re-release with an overall better version across four sets. CPM's plan was that if VOTOMS did well enough they would do Dancougar next, but when all was said & done the company never got that far. In fact, after finishing VOTOMS, I don't think CPM ever released another DVD before declaring bankruptcy in 2009, making this their final title. Today the old CPM/Image DVDs can be had for cheap & the same can be said for the first three 2006 sets, but that last set (pictured above) is the killer; it's so rare that it's not even being sold over at the Amazon Marketplace right now! Also, CPM put out an ammo tin case to hold these 2006 sets, which itself can go for high prices... And that's not counting the bonus disc that originally came with those tins, which featured storyboards, interviews, & even a "Why the Hell Not?!" English dub for the first episode! Let's face facts, though: VOTOMS will, unfortunately, likely never see another physical release over here; the fact that there are plenty of OVA sequels, prequels, & spin-offs out there, as recently as 2010, doesn't help things. At the very least we can hope for a streaming option.

[8/2018 UPDATE: Well, there is a streaming option out there now for VOTOMS, and it's through HiDive! Not just that, but a physical release seems to be on the horizon at some point, and though Armor Hunter Mellowlink hasn't been confirmed yet, we are definitely getting the original TV series & pretty much every other OVA that has been made!]

When the Sega Dreamcast launched in North America on September 9, 1999 one of its launch titles was a 3D fighting game by Capcom called Power Stone, a home port of the arcade original. It was awesome & had an even better sequel one year later, but by the time the console version came out a 26-episode anime adaptation by Pierrot was just finishing up in Japan. The anime focused around the adventures of Edward Fokker (a.k.a. Edward Falcon in the English version), who would meet up with the other characters from the game before teaming with them in a battle against the evil Valgas & his pirate partner Kraken. ADV, teaming with Lacey Entertainment & Kaleidoscope Entertainment (the studio behind Toei USA's attempted DVD releases' dubs), released this anime on DVD from 2001-2002, though as a dub-only release for some reason, complete with new music & even a different opening. In fact, the anime wouldn't even appear on North American television until 2003, and even then it was only aired on YTV over in Canada.

So why am I including this anime on the list? Well, there has since been a bit of a habit of seeing older anime that were shown on television being given new DVD releases. New Video Group/Cinedigm are doing Digimon & Yu-Gi-Oh!, along with Zatch Bell, & Discotek has done Samurai Pizza Cats and are presently releasing the Monster Rancher anime's dub on DVD. Discotek is also giving people interested in the original Japanese versions of these shows a chance to see them by releasing Kyattou Ninden Teyandee & are planning a giant complete collection for Monster Farm in the future. While the nostalgia for the Power Stone anime will likely be kept to Canadians it would still be interesting to see the anime get the dual-audio release it, oddly, never received in the first pace.

Another CPM release here, this time one of their seemingly random OVA releases that never went beyond VHS & LD. Based on the 19-volume manga by Masahiro Shibata, Blue Sonnet was about Ran Komatsuzaki, a seemingly regular high school girl whose life is changed when she meets Sonnet, a mysterious transfer student... Turns out that Ran is actually a super-powerful psychic who has the power of a legendary ESPer named the "Red Fang"! Yeah, the original manga was part of an apparent ESP boom that was going on during the 80s, and though it ran in Hana to Yume magazine, which categorizes it as shojo, it's apparently extremely violent. In fact, when Justin Sevakis covered it for Pile of Shame, he outright called the OVA "the goriest shojo anime ever made".

CPM's release was a relatively standard sub-only affair, but the mix of psychic powers, violent action, & potential shojo trappings really does make it sound very intriguing. What adds to the potential for a rescue, though, is that it was actually given a dub-only release by Manga UK. Now, yes, it's apparently very similar to that of Makyu Senjo/Dark Warrior in that the dub is extremely awful, but part of the fun of digging into the toy chest of abandoned anime releases is finding what extra pieces actually went with it that you didn't know about the first time around. The fact that it took Justin, even with help by Mike Toole, the better part of five years to actually track down the entirety of the Manga UK dub for Blue Sonnet just makes someone like me want to see this OVA get a true dual-audio DVD release, if only so that something rare & unknown can be known to more people. That's partially why I do this blog in the first place, after all.
The first half of the return is now over... Check back later for the second half, where we look at some more CPM, Streamline, & even a Media Blasters release!



    So theres this video I had as a little kid, heres some details
    >it was a full length type of film
    >was asian, most probably japanese
    >maybe drawn in the 80s?
    >stars a little boy as the main character
    >little boy befriends some monsters
    >the monsters turn into shabby house hold items in the sunlight
    >little boy becomes friends with a little monster that turns into a brush during the day
    >mom throws the dirty brush into the trash once not knowing
    >boy freaks out and goes to find him
    >monster is angry
    >at one point the brush almost gets set on fire!
    >theres a girl with long blue or purple hair
    >she plays piano
    >boy has a crush on her
    >she throws a party of sorts
    >everyone goes
    >aliens abduct them!

    Thats about what I remember, if I could draw I could almost draw the movie! I have no idea where this cartoon ran off to but I am dying to find it again!

    I know it exists!

  2. I remember this cartoon too and we used to rent it on vhs from a place called Jumbo video in Canada. No clue what it's called though....