Sadly, I will not be at Anime Boston this weekend due to personal circumstances; maybe next year. Also sadly, this post isn't exactly a happy-go-lucky one because I want to give a proper farewell to a site that I had hoped would have lasted longer & done more with time: Anime Sols.
I covered the launch of Anime Sols back in May of 2013, and this past January I did a month-long overview of most of what the site offered in creator Sam "Quarkboy" Pinansky's attempt to bring old & left-behind anime to North American fans via crowdfunding; read those if you want an overview of what the site did in detail. Anyway, yesterday Pinansky updated the site with news that, after this month, Anime Sols will be no more. On May 1, the site will shut down & all 318 episodes, stretching across 21 different shows, plus the six 24 Hour TV Specials that were offered will be gone from legal streaming, with the exception of Kindaichi Case Files R (which is still over at CrunchyRoll). While most of the series offered were not fully available for streaming, since most of them failed in their DVD set & streaming drives, Anime Sols did still fully offer Magical Angel Creamy Mami, Dear Brother, & Hurricane Polymar for streaming, with the first two even receiving complete DVD releases via the drives. Also, Black Jack TV saw two DVD set successes, and though no more will be made the show was episodic from start to finish, which lessens that blow. While we can go & talk about what the site did "wrong" & what it "could have done instead" to make it work, the fact of the matter is that we will likely never know all of the decrees that Pinansky had when it came to the restrictions the site had, such as why it simply didn't use Kickstarter (or even Indiegogo) or why it was only offered to the U.S. & Canada. I'm not here to play armchair know-it-all, which I never want to be in the first place, but rather I simply want to consider what Anime Sols has done & what, if anything, can come about in the future due to this site.
When this site was announced, I admittedly had my hopes held high, because this was an idea I could get behind. I was all for being able to check out anime I had no other chance at seeing before & giving them chances at DVD releases here. After doing The Winter Sols-tice this past January I realized that Anime Sols actually had great potential, but knew that tempered expectations would be best. Not everything could & would see DVD release, but at the very least it was still great to see so many otherwise unknown anime be given official & legal streams. Seriously, let's simply go over what this site did in just two years:
-A Disproportionate Amount of Content Compared to the Size of the Site-
The biggest thing to remember is that Anime Sols was essentially a one-man operation, run solely by Sam Pinansky; he had some contract work for subbing, timing, & DVD production, but nothing else, really. Taking that into consideration, it's amazing that such a simple & small operation ended up offering as much content as it did. Go back up & check out the number of episodes that are on Anime Sols... 318! Even if you take out the Kindaichi R episodes, which were simply CrunchyRoll embeds, that still keeps the total over 300, and that number doesn't include the 24 Hour TV Specials that Tezuka Production made back in the early 80s. Now, yes, that number pales in comparison to the literally thousands & maybe even tens-of-thousands of episodes offered on CrunchyRoll or Hulu, but considering how small this operation was, combined with the fact that most of the content was initially put up within the first year, it's damn impressive what Pinansky was able to do... And offering all of it for free, no less!
-DVD Sets Were in Fact Produced & Released-
One could scoff at the fact that, out of a total 21 series, only four of them (or 19%) actually succeeded at their drives in some way or another, but considering how each of these drives succeeded with so little support, I think the highest amount of support for one drive was barely over 200 people, it's honestly a minor miracle that nearly 1/5 of everything succeeded in the first place. In fact, it's astonishing that two of these shows, Dear Brother & Creamy Mami, saw enough repeated support to see complete DVD releases, as they needed 3 & 4 drives to succeed, respectively. Add in the two sets that Black Jack TV was able to succeed at & the streaming support that Dororo's first half had & I'd say that there's enough to call this experiment a success, even if only a minor one. These drives were proof that Kickstarter wasn't exactly needed to see success, though it definitely would have helped.
Hey, a win is a win, no matter how it's done, and these wins were done without cheating.
I highly doubt that Sam Pinansky expected every title to succeed in this endeavor, but what about the future? Did Anime Sols' existence help change things, and is there any hope for what was offered on the site? It may surprise some people, but the answer to that question is "Yes."
-Money Was Barely Lost & New Partnerships Were Made-
Many anime fans were quick to call Anime Sols a disaster upon the news of its death next month, and many were calling it dead upon arrival two years ago, but Pinansky was quick to quell that kind of talk. In a post on the ANN forums, Pinansky cited minuscule costs to the companies involved (as was intended by design), and the partnering between Yomiuri TV, Tezuka Pro, Tatsunoko, & Studio Pierrot already resulted in some fruit, though the most immediate one wouldn't mean much to hardcore fans. Last year Tezuka Pro & YTV teamed up to make Little Astro Boy, a series of 5-7 minute edutainment shorts for little children, and this production was more or less made because of the new partnerships that were made through Anime Sols. Pinansky also stated that much of what Anime Sols ended up doing for the industry won't be noticeable to the general public. While it wasn't a breakthrough success, things did happen for the better & very little (if even anything) was lost.
And, hey, one can always hope for Tezuka Pro & Tatsunoko offering some sort of crossover, where Osamu Tezuka's cast of stars meet up with Tatsuo Yoshida's heroes of all kinds. It would be awesome to see happen, honestly.
-All Is Not Lost on Dororo-
The other bit of news from Pinansky came from an e-mail that he sent to everyone who registered for free on the site. Here's a part of what it said:
"It won't be long until all of Dororo will be legally available in english. Just not through anime sols. Your support for the first half was enough to show that support is out there for the show."
Think about that for a second... If Anime Sols never got Tezuka Pro to talk to Mushi Pro about offering some of its oldest productions from the 60s, we would have never gotten the opportunity to give a show as well made & outstanding as the Dororo anime from 1969 a chance at being offered legally with subtitles. And now, having given it the sole streaming drive success for the first half of the show, the entirety of Dororo will be legally available at some point in the future. I'm expecting it to be a legal stream of some sort, but you never know; the drive's success could have made a company that does DVDs interested, too. As someone who has longed to actually watch the entire show (& review it for the blog), I'm glad that I will eventually be given the opportunity, and I have Anime Sols to thank for that.
[4/9/2015 UPDATE: Only a few days later, it was announced that Discotek Media will be releasing Dororo on DVD in a complete collection, including the original color pilot! Great news all around.]
-There's Always Hope for Second Chances-
While May 1 will mark the end of nearly everything on Anime Sols being available legally, that doesn't mean that none of them will ever be heard from again, & I don't mean Dororo in this case. For example, while CrunchyRoll did offer Black Jack TV for some time before Anime Sols did to go with the DVD drives, they presently only offer the first 28 episodes; Anime Sols went to 56, merely five episodes from the end. With all of that extra content now officially subtitled, I say it would be good for CrunchyRoll to talk to YTV & Tezuka Pro about getting those next 28 episodes onto their site for streaming, followed by getting those last five episodes out. Another show that could have a second chance is Hurricane Polymar, which infamously was one of the most popular selections on a survey Anime Sols did before bombing when a complete series DVD set drive was attempted. Why would this show have a chance at being given a second opportunity? Well, not long before Anime Sols officially announced the drive for the show, Discotek Media posted on their Facebook page that they made an offer for Polymar, having released the 90s OVA reboot on DVD, but were denied due to the then-unrevealed Sols drive. While Polymar TV failing via the drive is a worry, I'm sure a company like Discotek potentially giving it a more traditional release wouldn't be an impossibility, especially when the entire show has now been fully subtitled, lessening the overall costs to bring it over.
Of course, there's also fair chances that Creamy Mami & Dear Brother, two shows which were originally looked at as unsellable, might now be looked at as potential license rescues. Remember, those drives were meant only for North America, and buying them now can only be done via Right Stuf at a mark-up. A company like Discotek or even Right Stuf themselves picking up these shows in a year or two, & releasing them to larger audiences at cheaper prices, is now a likely possibility.
Sam Pinansky had a grand idea to give anime that were generally ignored a chance to shine here in North America, and the result was Anime Sols, a site that actually managed to do more than most likely expected within two years. Yes, it wasn't a massive success & with some fixes & changes it could have been more, but hindsight is always 20/20 & people can always assume to know more if they don't have to bother considering things like business acumen or how the Japanese companies think & work. I salute Anime Sols for what it tried, and I'm glad that it existed. Because of that site I know own all of Dear Brother on DVD & I look forward to watching all of it. I will also own the first 25 episodes of Black Jack TV on DVD, something I thought would never happen since I saw the first episode roughly ten years ago. With one more month left before it's gone, I say watch some of the stuff that's on the site, if only to see something different. Doing The Winter Sols-tice was one of the most amusing & enlightening things I have done with anime in a long time, and I recommend doing the same.
Rest in Peace, Anime Sols
May 13, 2013 - May 1, 2015