Anime in Need of a (License) Hero

No need for Tenchi Muyo?

No, that wasn’t a “keikaku means plan” moment.

I was recently extremely shocked to discover that Rail of the Star actually did have a commercial release in America, way back in the day from ADV. The license has long-since expired, and although I would love to re-watch, our VCR stopped working a while back and I don’t really feel like getting a new one just to watch one thing. No DVD release, no Rail of the Star for me.

But it did put me in a mood for poking around a bit for older anime movies, which in turn lead me to a few things for which there are no longer licenses, which then in turn made me sit up and go, “Dammit, why is all this stuff unlicensed?” And then I made a list because I have a blog and this post was formed. Hooray.

Tenchi Muyo!

(OVA’s 1 and 2, The Night Before the Carnival, the Mihoshi Special, and TV)

Shin Tenchi Muyo/Tenchi in Tokyo can get stuffed. What a terrible series.

It seems so strange to me that Tenchi Muyo is no longer available in the U.S. This was my first harem show, and, if you ask me, it still remains one of the better ones out there, certainly one of the funnier ones. This is harem before moe took over, even if Sasami visually could fit into that archetype. But Sasami, at least in the anime iterations, was never overtly sexualized – she may’ve had a thing for Tenchi, but we certainly never saw her panties, and ultimately she viewed Tenchi more as an older brother-figure than anything else. But, I digress.

I’ll admit that this could very well be bias playing in, as TM was one of my earliest shows, but it was also massively popular in America and even more massively popular in Japan, as clearly evidenced by the sheer amount of versions of the core material and the multitude of spin-off series. To whit:

  • Tenchi Muyo OVA 1
  • Tenchi Muyo Special: The Night Before the Carnival
  • Tenchi Muyo OVA 2
  • Tenchi Muyo: Mihoshi Special
  • Tenchi Muyo TV/Tenchi Universe
  • Shin Tenchi Muyo/Tenchi in Tokyo
  • Tenchi Muyo in Love
  • Tenchi Muyo: Manatsu no Eve
  • Tenchi Forever
  • Tenchi Muyo GXP
  • Tenchi Muyo OVA 3
  • Magical Girl Pretty Sammy OVA
  • Magical Girl Pretty Sammy TV/Magical Project S
  • Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure
  • Sasami: Magical Girls Club
  • Saint Knight’s Tale/Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari

And that doesn’t even mention the two manga series, the novels or the radio dramas. This franchise is huge. And with the exception of Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari, all of the anime has been available at some point in English, as have both those manga series.

But you can no longer get the best iterations of the main Tenchi line on DVD in America, e.g. the first two OVA’s (with their affiliated specials) and the first TV series. As a person who really enjoyed this show, and someone who lived when it was almost inescapable due to Toonami, Toonami: Midnight Run, and Adult Swim’s constant running of the older OVA’s and both TV series, I find it basically mind-boggling that I can’t buy these any more.

Is TM high art? No. Is it a lot of fun? Absolutely. So: wryyyyyyyyyyyyyyy???????

Magical Girl Pretty Sammy

Yeah, I could’ve talked about this in the above section, but it is technically a different show, even if it is a spin-off. Pioneer/Geneon had the license for the OVA’s and the TV series of this, too, and once they went under, this show also became unavailable.

As Funimation has the licenses for GXP, Sasami: Magical Girls Club, and the third Tenchi Muyo OVA, I can only figure that this and the other TM formerly released by Pioneer/Geneon are in some kind of licensing hell that either hasn’t been resolved yet or is such a mess that no one wants to bother messing with it. Because, honestly, I am sure that some decent money could be made with a re-release for these various series, particularly if done in some kind of box set with some extra goodies. There are a lot of old fans of this show still hanging around American anime fandom, and they’re now allllll grown up and have REAL jobs and therefore actually have money to spend!

CardCaptor Sakura

Here’s another show with which I find it baffling that it remains out of print in America. CCS was a gateway drug for many, many American anime fans, and is an example of a show wherein fan agitation resulted in a release of the subbed, uncut show on DVD. It also was one of the earlier shows to get a sub-only release on DVD in uncut form, although the second movie did get an accurate, uncut dub (the first movie was hacked to bits like the TV show was when rendered into “Cardcaptors”).

CCS is a top-notch magical girl series, and its manga recently began to be re-released by Dark Horse with the explicit blessings of CLAMP themselves (CLAMP’s titles are the only Kodansha titles now available in America that are not handled by Kodansha in tandem with Del Rey; CLAMP has an extremely good relationship with Dark Horse… and rumor has it they were not thrilled with the way their properties were handled by TokyoPop, particularly the way the licenses were allowed to expire). So, like many others are wondering with Sailor Moon given its re-license of the manga, I’m wanting to know if there’s any chance of a CCS re-license.

Now, obviously CCS was never on the same level as Sailor Moon popularity-wise, although I think it is a much better series, but it did enjoy a period of solid popularity in America in part due to its dub appearing on TV. As a gateway series, I think this is one of the best out there; its the kind of show I’d love to watch with my younger cousins once they get good enough at reading to keep up with the subtitles.

Spring and Chaos

If the previous two enjoyed periods of popularity, Spring and Chaos stands in stark contrast, a TV special/TV movie about the life of Kenji Miyazawa, author of the well-known and beloved Night on the Galactic Railroad, as well as one of Japan’s greatest modern poets.

Spring and Chaos had a terrible, terrible commercial release in America originally, as there were problems with the picture and the “subtitles” were actually just dubtitles. TokyoPop (which was actually back in its Mixx days when it first brought this over) went back and released a re-mastered version with accurate subtitles a few years later, but with the license having lapsed it is almost impossible to determine if one is buying the original or re-master release unless one can physically inspect the merchandise (the re-master is from 2001).

Spring and Chaos has very limited appeal; most anime fans just don’t know who Kenji Miyazawa is, and so will probably have little interest in watching cats (yes, because everyone was rendered as a cat here) at an agricultural college, where most of the action takes place. But its a lovely little movie, and a must-watch for anyone who enjoys Miyazawa’s work.

Night on the Galactic Railroad

Speaking of Miyazawa, his most famous work also got the cat treatment… and a rough initial release, as Central Park Media’s release had some video problems. However, the subtitles here were actually subtitles, so that’s a big step-up from what Spring and Chaos had to go through.

I didn’t get the chance to read Night on the Galactic Railroad until I was a college freshman. Even though I was far older than the target audience, I found it to be a beautiful, enjoyable work, and read it all in one sitting although that had not been my original intent.

Honestly, this could very easily be given as an example of why CPM doesn’t exist any more. Although used it now is regularly listed in the $50+ range, it is a very niche title and did not sell very well when in print. Too bad; its a great movie which deserves to be available to and seen by many more people than it has been in America.

(By the way, I glanced on Amazon to confirm that this did, in fact, have subtitles, and I was reminded of my visceral dislike for Charles Solomon, whose reviews of anime sadly besmirch the listing pages for many, many of the anime available on Amazon. One of the lines of his review reads “The characters as depicted as cats, presumably to avoid the problems of animating humans.” Can someone please explain to me why this man is considered such an excellent and respected art critic? If you need more reason to distrust him, go check out his Revolutionary Girl Utena reviews, which demonstrate that he has no idea at all of what he is doing.)

Cat Soup

Aaaaand speaking of CPM and niche titles!

Oh, Cat Soup. What an utterly bizarre OVA.

So, there are these two kittens. And they’re brother and sister. And one day, the sister, Nyako, has half her soul stolen by Jizou. So, then they set out to find the other half. And buy tofu. And there’s no dialogue. And God drains the Earth’s oceans. And there’s this pig that gets eaten after being unzipped and having parts of it taken out. And there’s a circus. And the flow of time accidentally gets turned off.

Uh… its really weird. And kind of hard to really describe without actually showing it to someone. Someone re-license this – you don’t even need a translator!

Sailor Moon

Do I even really need to say anything else at all about this one? Wanna toss Sailor Stars in as well, please? And, no, I don’t mean with the Italian explanation of why the Sailor Starlights swapped sexes when they transformed, thank you.

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8 Responses to Anime in Need of a (License) Hero

  1. chii says:

    Yeah! cat ova’s and movies need to be seen/owned by ALL!

  2. kadian1364 says:

    CCS particularly still has commercial viability. The out-of-print DVD set goes for a half-grand easy, and the manga collection is close behind in price. Japan recently got a remastered Bluray release of the series, so it’s a mystery why no R1 company has bitten on a relicense yet.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I figure there may be some kind of issue with the license, like how I suggested with Tenchi TV and the first two OVA’s and their affiliated specials… oh, and the Pretty Sammy titles excepting Magical Girls Club.

  3. hikaru says:

    I just finished reading the entire Sailor Moon manga series ^_^ May I ask what the Italian explanation of why the Sailor Starlights changed genders when they transformed is? I have a feeling it’s really good in a really bad way =P

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Well, apparently in Italy they had this really convoluted thing wherein the Sailor Starlights in civilian mode were one set of people, and in transformed mode, those were actually their twin sisters.

  4. Nazarielle says:

    I’m just here to say, I got my cat’s name from Ryo-Ohki (I smashed it together to make Ryoki for easier pronunciation :p). Damn that was a loooong time ago. I don’t even really remember much of Tenchi or even what the hell version I watched.

  5. glothelegend says:

    Ugh…all those tenchis I still have to watch….Bleeeecccccchhhh

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