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Monday, February 16, 2015

The d-low on d-rights Part 2: You Better Recognize!

With the never-before-licensed titles out the way, it's time to cover the rest of d-rights' as-of-now unlicensed properties. As I mentioned in Part 1, though, it's pretty amazing that most of this company's titles have actually seen (or will see) release here in North America at one point or another. Therefore, the easiest way to handle this will be to block them together into groups, with Part 2 here focusing on what Media Blasters once released in the past. Also, I'll include the titles ADV once licensed from d-rights, but that's only because it, like CPM, only handled a smattering of titles from this licensor.

So let's see what the anime company equivalent of a cockroach (i.e. it never dies, no matter how much cynics want it to) once had from d-rights...

Gunparade March "Spirits of Samurai"
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a time when this was kind of popular among anime fans? I could be completely wrong about this, but I remember back 11 years ago, when I became a true anime fan, there was generally nothing but praise for 2003's Gunparade March, a 12-episode TV series based on a PlayStation game from 2000. Taking place in an alternate universe where World War II abruptly ended when aliens appeared & started slaughtering mankind, humanity is still fighting against the "Phantom Beasts" 50 years later for the sake of survival, but now battle is done via giant robots called Humanoid Walking Tanks/HWTs. The show focuses on the 5121st Platoon lead by Atsushi Hayami & Mai Shibamura.

Anime based on video games are by no means a rare thing, especially nowadays, but it is interesting when most people in another country identify something as anime first & foremost. Gunparade March is one of those cases, simply because we never saw the original game over here. Again, for some reason I distinctly remember this anime being pushed as something big & notable, but since it was released by Media Blasters its importance & notoriety may have only been relative; I was a new fan, after all. Still, it's not like I've heard bad things about the show itself, and the concept of aliens prematurely ending WWII & becoming the new threat sounds enjoyably silly. There was also a sequel, Gunparade Orchestra, that actually never saw release over here before, but d-rights doesn't seem to have the licensing rights to that title. Therefore, it's not being considered here.

APBL: 40%
The calculations were looking so good, with the first two dice rolls equating to 6s, but then I rolled a 0, which resulted in the percentage above. Quite honestly, though, that seems to describe Gunparade March's apparent reception over here: It seemed like a notable thing, but in the end was more or less something that simply came & went. That said, the show had its fans & a re-release might remind people of some fond memories, leading to them recommending it to newer fans who never got the chance to see it the first time around. As for Orchestra, it certainly won't ever get licensed if March never gets rescued, at the very least. But, really, when the old MB DVDs are still pretty cheap to this day, a rescue seems all the less likely, barring being part of a package deal.

Seven of Seven
Yasuhiro Imagawa is the beloved director of cult favorites like G Gundam, Giant Robo, & Shin Mazinger, but has moments where he wants to do something that doesn't involve giant robots. Combine this with him wanting to have a product that was completely his creation & you get 2002's Seven of Seven, a 26-episode series about Nana Suzuki, a clumsy girl who winds up getting split up into seven copies of herself, each of which is based on an aspect of her personality. Where Imagawa was known for stories featuring grand scales & a penchant for being over-the-top & old-school, this series was meant to be a family-friendly tale of a girl who learns to become a better, more confident person, make her way into a good school, & maybe even get the guy she falls for. She just also happens to masquerade with her copies as masked heroes of justice... What, don't tell me you never did the same thing when you were a kid.

Seven of Seven is definitely an oddball show, but even having only seen the first episode I can see some of the charm. Nana is a fun lead, even though it's kind of traditional for its genre in terms of how she gets into her predicament, i.e. it's her own fault for being too nosy. Apparently, Imagawa wanted the anime to be very good for all audiences, and would often have to stop his animation staff from putting in too much fanservice, which is interesting considering some of what Imagawa has done in his career; the manga version is apparently downright raunchy, however. When Media Blasters released it over here from 2004-2005 I remember hearing about it, but I think it more or less went by with little fanfare, though the dub is apparently good, even featuring Veronica Taylor as Nana. Overall, it seems like a quirky show that has a fun hook, but who knows if it would ever see a license rescue. I mean, it's not quite an expensive title to buy today. Let's check out what my calculations say...

APBL: 46.67%
Yasuhiro Imagawa, though not known for being a "mainstream" director, has enough pull to his name to make licensing his works every now & then worth it from a niche perspective; we are finally getting Shin Mazinger, after all. Still, Seven of Seven isn't exactly the kind of show you can re-release & slap "From the Director of G Gundam & Giant Robo!" on it. It's a complete change of pace from what Imagawa's generally known for, and that alone will likely hurt it's chances at ever getting rescued. It truly is a toss up, but I'm putting the slight edge towards "Not gonna happen."

Seraphim Call
While the previous two titles had some sort of promotion & push, even receiving dubs, these latter two titles came & went with few seeming to notice. In fact, both of these titles were announced at Anime Expo back in 2002, alongside Seven of Seven & the first IRIA: Zeiram the Animation rescue, indicating that they were both likely included as a package deal. Anyway, Seraphim Call was a 12-episode anthology series from 1999, detailing the lives of eleven girls & the dilemmas each of them had in their respective focus episodes; the final episode apparently had them all meet up & discuss what happened. Featuring character designs by Aoi Nanase (Angel/Dust), this series is a perfect example of something that came, did its thing, & then left before anyone could really talk about it. Haven't heard of it before? Neither have I.

To be fair, though, doing some research shows me that it likely was never going to be highly appreciated in the first place, since it's apparently considered a bit of an avant-garde production. Aside from it's anthology-style execution, there's the whole "everyone meets up" final episode, which itself is an odd thing to do in this style of show, & apparently the show experimented with different ideas, too. There's supposed to be an episode that's from the perspective of a stuffed animal, another that's a Thunderbirds parody, and two episodes actually tell the same story, but from the different perspectives of twin sisters. It's admittedly an interesting concept & I'm actually a little interested in seeing it myself one day now. Another bit of cool trivia is that Seraphim Call was actually directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, the man behind cult-favorites like the second Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou OVA series, House of Five Leaves, & Studio Ghibli's Ocean Waves. That kind of notoriety makes this even more of a curiosity to check out, honestly. Luckily, it still goes for pretty much peanuts on the secondhand market, so maybe a rescue isn't really needed. Still, being able to promote it with "From the Director of House of Five Leaves!" isn't exactly a bad thing.

APBL: 40%
The first time this was licensed it was more than likely included as a "Release this title & we'll let you license what you really wanted" deal. It's apparent avant-garde execution, anthology concept, and character designs that simply scream "It's from the 90s!!" are all turn-offs for its chances at being rescued (not to mention it's secondhand prices). At the same time, however, its director has a number of beloved shows on his belt, and being able to tie them into Seraphim Call's potential second promotion can work in its favor if marketed to the right people. It's chances of being rescued are small, but not exactly nil.

Sentimental Journey
Sometimes people are introduced to a Japanese franchise by means other than the way it debuted in its home country. Fire Emblem was introduced outside of Japan through Super Smash Bros. Melee, franchises like Super Robot Wars introduce people to mech anime they've never heard of before, & nine years before Gung-Ho Online Entertainment released iconic dating sim Sentimental Graffiti onto the PlayStation Network in 2013 we saw a sub-only boxset release of its anime spin-off, Sentimental Journey. The game had you meeting, interacting, dating, & falling in love with one of twelve different schoolgirls in an attempt to find out who sent you an anonymous love letter. Instead of simply adapting the game, however, the anime apparently gave each girl her own episode, showing each of their own experiences in first love. It kind of reminds of Amagami SS, which adapted another dating sim by having each girl get her own story arc with the main character, essentially resulting in a bunch of "what if" scenarios.

This is similar to Gunparade March in that we got the anime without ever receiving the original game, but unlike that show Sentimental Journey wasn't exactly a direct adaptation. Instead, it's apparently a bunch of potential epilogues, depending on how the story of the game played out in its various forms. Also, unlike that other show, we did eventually get the original game, though it's an untranslated import release that's only available digitally. As mentioned with Seraphim Call, this was obviously a package deal type of show, and it's secondhand market price is proof of that; in fact, it's cheaper than Seraphim Call! As for the reception it got when originally released, there isn't much out there, with the most notable one being a very positive mini-review from Bamboo Dong over at ANN. While the game was aimed at boys, the anime was likely meant to be the female-oriented take, and while I wouldn't say that the game having finally come over would amount to much in terms of advertising, it could very well be worth bringing over simply for female fans, who make up a much larger portion of anime-purchasing fandom than they did 11 years ago.

APBL: 66.67%
While female fans seem to put more sales towards titles involving pretty boys & fujoshi-friendly titles, there's probably still enough appeal for anime that simply wants to relate to girls. In fact, now is probably a better time to re-release Sentimental Journey than it was a decade ago, and maybe this time around it's worth actually wanting to release, rather than be an also-ran that a company was forced to take in. I guess only time will tell for this title.

Speaking of companies that are still amazingly around, even if this latter one is mostly only by name, what two (technically three) titles did ADV Films once license from d-rights?

Sakura Wars & Sakura Wars 2
Sega has never been a company to shy away from multimedia franchises, and in 1996 one of its most iconic, Japanese-centric examples debuted. In that year the very first Sakura Wars game saw release on the Sega Saturn. A co-production between Sega & Red Entertainment, the games mixed together dating sim & visual novel elements with strategy-RPG gameplay, detailing the battles between evil & all-women (plus one guy, of course) imperial squadrons by way of steam-powered, mech-like armors. Games were only part of the equation, however, and from 1997-1998 the first OVA series came out, acting as a 4-episode prequel to the original game. Then, from 1999-2000, a second OVA series was made, this time being a 6-episode character focus that expanded on each female warrior & took place during the first two games. ADV released both of these OVA series on DVD, as well as releasing the later TV series adaptation. Later anime productions would be either be brought over by Geneon & FUNimation (plus Sentai, wink wink), while others would stay in Japan.

Sakura Wars has always been a franchise with fervent & loyal fans, but the size of that fanbase has always sounded larger than it actually is. We got a bunch of the anime, but a lot of that was likely due to Japan hyping them up & making them sound like the next big thing, which is kind of was in its home country. Due to licensing issues, however, we only received one game over here, the fifth one, and that title's anime adaptation never came over. It's an odd case where one part of the story was brought over via anime, while another part was only via game. Still, there is a lasting appeal to the franchise over here, with FUNimation's part being a license rescue of the movie back in 2013, which itself was the sequel to these very OVAs. ADV released the OVAs multiple times, which makes it hard to fully judge how easy it is to buy now, but a re-release of those original productions would be cool. Hey, any excuse to listen to "Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan" is fine by me.

APBL: 70% (Sakura Wars), 50% (Sakura Wars 2)
This is the highest calculation that I actually agree with completely. While the fanbase may be a case of a vocal minority, I do think that Sakura Wars will be something that will continually stay in the minds & hearts of anime fans, and some part of its anime adaptations will always be around at some point or another. Sentai re-released the TV series in 2009, FUNimation kept the movie in print with a new BD release, and I honestly do think that the original OVAs will one day come back.

A.D. Police
1987-1991's Bubblegum Crisis OVA series is now considered an iconic piece of anime history, and has since seen numerous sequels & spin-offs. One of them was 1990's A.D. Police Files, a 3-episode OVA prequel; AnimEigo has released both of these, with the latter seeing a recent Blu-Ray release. In 1999, a new, 12-episode version of this spin-off was made for late-night television, simply titled A.D. Police. ADV Films, who handled release of some Crisis spin-offs & reboots, gave this TV series two dubbed VHS releases in 2001, but a year later simply put the entire show out on DVD in a single boxset, an early example of straight-to-boxset DVD releases that would become common years later. With the earlier-mentioned Blu-Ray re-release of Bubblegum Crisis now out, could there be a chance for A.D. Police TV, especially when the original OVAs have been hoped to be another possibility for BD?

Out of the entire franchise, this TV series is probably the least talked about, and that's because the general reception seems to either to be disdain or, at best, absolute uncaring. I actually own the DVD set myself, yet have considered getting rid of it over & over despite never having seen it; it was a cheap impulse buy during my early fandom days. As it is now, I'm on the side of keeping, if only because I now have that Bubblegum Crisis BD set, so I'm curious about it again. ADV's set is still inexpensive to buy used, and it was even re-released as part of a double-pack with Parasite Dolls, another lesser-known entry in the franchise. I don't know if that's a good thing or not, actually.

APBL: 23.33%
Wow, this is the lowest percentage yet... And I really don't blame it, either. ADV obviously picked A.D. Police TV up just to go off of the Bubblegum Crisis name, but no one really cared. Supposedly the staff behind the TV series aimed to surpass the original A.D. Police Files OVAs, but it seems like no one's going to say that they succeeded in that regard. Hell, being double-packaged with a short OVA just really showcases how unimportant this TV series is, and while I'm all for stuff being licensed rescued & given a second chance, A.D. Police isn't a title anyone's going to be championing for.
This puts an end to Part 2, and I must say that I learned a bit doing this piece. While the Sakura Wars OVAs seem like the most likely rescues among these titles, I actually think it would be cool for Seraphim Call to be given an honest second chance, and Sentimental Journey might actually have more appeal now than it did back then; funny that the two forced licenses now seem more appealing, huh? As for the other titles here, anything can happen, though A.D. Police will likely be left in the vault, all by its lonesome.

Come back again for the third & final part, where we check out what's left of d-rights' catalog... All of which was once licensed by Bandai Entertainment at one point or another!

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