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Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Matchless Beat is on the Horizon: An Interview with Anime Midstream's Jimmy Taylor

Back in August of 2016, Anime Midstream announced at that year's AnimeFest that it had license rescued B't X, the 1996 anime adaptation of Masami Kurumada's manga of the same name; previously, Illumitoon Entertainment gave the anime a (poorly done) try back in 2007. For those unfamiliar with Anime Midstream, which is understandable, the company first broke onto the scene back in 2008, when it licensed early-90s mech anime Matchless Raijin-Oh. From 2009 to 2014, the company released the first half across five dual-audio DVD singles, once per year, followed by a sub-only boxset for the second half. Over the next two years, Anime Midstream went silent until about a month before AnimeFest, & almost nothing has came out in terms of information regarding B't X's release since the con, except for a teaser image in March of 2017 saying that "Season 1" would be "Coming Soon...", and what looked to be an indication of dub work being done a month before that.

Huh, now there's a Shueisha credit in the copyright, instead of Kadokawa Shoten...
Haven't seen that happen with an anime before.

Now that we're coming up on two years since the original licensing announcement, I decided to see if I could get some answers from Anime Midstream regarding not just B't X, but also about Raijin-Oh, the change in the anime industry since 2008, and other topics. Thankfully, Midstream's founder Jimmy Taylor was able to find some time during the hectic, final weeks leading up to release, he plans to make an announcement by the end of this month, to answer my questions via e-mail.

How have operations changed for Anime Midstream, with the move from St. Louis to Dallas back in 2012?

Not much has changed since we left St. Louis. We are just now using Dallas-based studios to help with our releases. We did the same thing when we were in St. Louis by using studios based there.

Ever since you first announced Matchless Raijin-Oh at the end of 2008, the anime industry has changed, especially in regards to releasing vintage anime. In fact, just a day or two after your announcement, Discotek announced the Fist of the North Star movie, and now Discotek is a fan-favorite for old-school anime. How have these changes in the industry affected Anime Midstream? Has it made licensing something like B't X easier or more difficult?

Actually, we have noticed that a lot more older anime are starting to see the light of day. I wouldn’t say that it makes things easier, as now companies are looking at old anime just as much as new anime. It makes it harder to find classic titles that haven’t been licensed for release. As for the license of B't X, or any other license, it’s never easy. :)

Any future plans for Raijin-Oh, like a Season 1 boxset?

Sadly no, since the main computer that held all the master files for the English version of Raijin-Oh was lost when it ended up overheating and catching fire. We still have the hard drives from that computer, but we haven’t had anyone interested in helping us try to recover them. So, as of right now, Raijin-Oh is finished.

How different was working with local St. Louis talent for Raijin-Oh's dub, compared to working with the more anime-versed Dallas region for B't X?

There isn’t much difference; you call and book an actor, they will show up and do their best. We do miss working with our talent pool in St. Louis, but we have had a wonderful time getting to know and work with the talents in the Dallas area.

More often than not, when one company fails with an anime, regardless of the actual why or how, almost no one else is willing to give it another go. What made you willing to give B't X a second chance, possibly third if ADV truly licensed it back in 2002, since Illumitoon had failed with it once already?

Actually, B't X was one title that we were looking at with a few others. We really wanted to try and revive Saint Seiya from scratch, but we were unable to get the license for that show. That is one we would still like to try and do. B't X just seemed right since it has the same feel as Saint Seiya. And being that I am a huge Kurumada fan, I thought why not see if we could get that and we did!

With Masami Kurumada's name generally associated with Saint Seiya, especially with both the new Netflix CG reboot & Saintai Sho anime on the horizon, what is it that you feel makes B't X worth checking out, both for Seiya fans & those who have no prior experience with Kurumada's works?

B't X has fighting, mechs and a great story! What’s not to like?! Plus we are hoping that fans of anime will like what we did with the new English dub!

Last year, Anime Midstream advertised B't X's release as "the complete first season". Considering how varied the term "season" can be, can you elaborate on how much of the show will be in the upcoming release?

Season 1 will contain all 25 episodes of B't X with dual audio tracks.

Any updates regarding extras? The laserdisc release in Japan included interviews with the cast, & there's also the 14-episode Illumitoon dub that never saw a "complete" release & most haven't heard before.

The extras will be just like we did for the Raijin-Oh release. Each disc will have its own separate blooper track, and the last disc also contains a commentary by one of our assistant ADR Directors and one of the voice actors that worked on the show. I don’t want to say who that is yet.

Considering that streaming has become such an important way anime fans watch titles now, does Anime Midstream have any streaming plans for Raijin-Oh & B't X?

As of now, we do not have the streaming rights to those shows. Being that they are older, we don’t know if people would even be interested in streaming those shows. Maybe after we get a bigger catalog we might consider looking into a streaming service.

With everything that you & everyone at Anime Midstream have learned since 2008, if you could go back to Raijin-Oh's release & change anything, would you?

Wow. Honestly, that’s a hard one. Everyone, from the staff to the actors, had a great time working on Raijin-Oh. There wasn’t a day that we weren’t all smiling or laughing in the studio. If I had one thing to do over for Raijin-Oh, it would be how it was released. I would have tried to make the releases closer together. But since we had limited resources when we were starting out, we have to do the best we could.
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I would like to thank Jimmy for answering these questions, and anyone who is interested in the upcoming Season 1 DVD release for B't X should keep an ear & eye out for more information soon; I'm sure the likes of Anime News Network, CrunchyRoll, & The Fandom Post will report on it. In fact, Anime Midstream just put up a new photo on its Facebook page today, showing what looks to be a pallet, possibly full of DVD boxsets. As for me, once that release happens, I'll be sure to check it out & write about that brand-new English dub; depending on the release date, I might even make it the next Retrospect in Retrograde this fall.

UPDATE: B't X Season 1 is scheduled for release on August 3, 2018 & now available for pre-order. The new English dub is done by Sound Cadence Studios, with direction by Jeremy Inman, & features a who's-who of Texas-based voice talent.

4 comments:

  1. Nice interview with some cool insight. Especially that they have an interest and even tried to license Saint Seiya. Gives me some hope we might get more of the series one day.

    Obviously the set for B't X has gone up for pre order now. Will definitely be buying sometime next month.

    As I've iterated on the FPF but if Anime Midstream can manage 1-2 releases every couple of years that'd be really amazing, more than that would be incredible. Though I do hope we won't have to wait more than a year for the second season of B't X *fingers crossed*

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    1. Yeah, the reveal that Midstream looked into Seiya was surprising, but now that New Video Group did release the first 73 episodes on DVD, it does make it tougher to properly re-release, at least at any time within the next number of years (theoretically).

      As for more releases from Midstream, my only hope is that, with a dub studio & cast for B't X already established, B't X Neo won't take too long to release. There are really only about 5 or 6 new (important) characters that would need casting, and it's half the length of the TV series, after all.

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  2. Impressed they rescued this show, specifically. Here on Brazil, the manga was released only once (and I managed to find the complete collection on a second hand bookstand! Yeah) but we never got the anime.

    Here's hope it's sucessful enough so we can see other Kurumada anime like RnK and FnK. Not to mention the other Eldoran series.

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    1. It's more or less the same here in North America, as we also got the manga release only once. Sure, Illumitoon gave the anime a try, but considering how bad those releases were, I'd rather ignore their existence.

      I do hope that Midstream does well enough with B't X to continue releasing more Kurumada anime, but I'll be taking it one step at a time.

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