FUNNY ANIMALS AND MORE
August 28, 2016 posted by

Answers to Questions

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A reader identified as “Steveatserve” recently sent me this long rambling letter requesting information:

I would like to see an article or something from you about why sci-fi anime is not more widely known here.

Our Barnes and Noble had one Gundam model. The hobby store no Gundam models. In Akihabra there is the store with thousands of Gundam models.

I sometimes get the feeling that you sort of burned out on sci-fi anime;however, I may be reading you wrong.

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I like Sunrise the best, even though there are many, many very good studios like Gonzo. The anime encyclopedia says Gundam is used for selling toys. But it is more than that, because I”ve seen all of Gundam, except SD, and I didn’t buy any toys or models.This may not be pc but I like Gundam the best of all the anime series, and I’ve seen many, many series but not as many as you have. I had to get some of the sets from Malaysia.

The best page I ever got from Wikipedia was a complete Sunrise listing of their works tv, OVA, and movies. But they soon removed it , saying it was marketing, or maybe because some parts not translated, but you could make it out.

Not pc, but I like Gundam better than Star Trek and Star Wars and I liked them a lot always. I would venture to say the bigger franchise is Gundam, even though Americans have the money to spend, so much more money was probably made from the American shows.

I also liked Macross and Starblazers.

I saw one article you wrote in Newtype about some of the complications of dubbing, translations, licenses, etc. I’m still wondering why anime sci-fi is not more available and known here – and I know you have been a big part of getting what we do have.

Here’s my attempt to answer “Steveatserve” as best I can:

“Steveatserve”, I don’t know where “here” is, but if you’re talking about my columns in Newtype USA, they’re all over ten years old. I haven’t written for Newtype USA since my stroke in 2005, and the magazine itself ceased publication in February 2008.

But “sci-fi anime is not more widely known here”? And you’re conflating the Japanese animation with its model merchandising? Well, Japanese TV anime is rarer in America than it was a decade ago when companies like A.D.V. Films, Central Park Media, and Manga Entertainment were active. Today there’s FUNimation and … FUNimation is about it.

A scene from "Kamichu!"

A scene from “Kamichu!”

It’s never been about the TV broadcast of Japanese animation in America. Only the few most-popular TV anime titles have gotten TV broadcasting. Until most of the American-specialty anime licensers disappeared, most other Japanese TV animation appeared as DVD releases. And those disappeared, the Japanese TV anime and the American licensers, because the licensers spent too much money licensing titles that had almost no sales in America.

For an example, take Kamichu!: a 16-episode series on Japanese TV from June through September 2005. It was released as a boxed DVD set in America in 2008. I loved it, but it was made for young girl/Shinto audiences. 11-year-old Yurie Hitotsubashi, a shy middle-school student, wakes up one morning aware that she’s just become a goddess; but she doesn’t know of what.

She tells her school pals, one of whom is Matsuri, the daughter of a Shinto priest and a priestess-in-training herself. Matsuri promptly “takes charge” of Yurie and tries aggressively to turn the other students at their school into Yurie’s worshippers, to Yurie’s embarrassment. The students are less interested in worshipping her than in nagging or bullying her into changing their grades to “A”s. Meanwhile, every few episodes, some of the other Shinto gods and goddesses welcome Yurie and bring her into their supernatural world. Kamichu! – the title translates roughly as Cute Little Goddess! – is set in 1983-1984, before DVDs were invented, and in episode 12, Yurie is invited to a crowded “God Convention” where she meets the rival new gods of VHS recorders and Betamax recorders. (According to Shintoism, everything has a god.) All of this is developed in a girl’s slow, dreamy series that also emphasizes pre-teen romance.

Now, try to imagine how popular this was in America. Sales were almost nonexistent. I found the Shintoism for youth exotic and charming, but most American adolescent anime fans dismissed it because there were no robot armors or evil monsters in it, and the little Shinto gods were “creepy”. Some parents were apparently hesitant because it wasn’t Christian.

Kamichu! may be an extreme example, but too many American anime-specialty companies spent too much money licensing anime that just didn’t sell in America.

And this is the anime itself! How much of the anime merchandise made it to America? For a lot of the TV series, nothing. For a few of the programs like the Gundam series with models and model kits of flashy mecha, a few of them. Yeah, the toy stores in the Akihabra district of Tokyo are a well-known treasure trove for visiting American anime fans, some of whom spent so much money there that they had to cut their planned Japanese vacations short.

Concentrating upon Gundam: sorry to break it to you, but yeah, the Gundam TV s-f military stories are mainly to support all the resulting merchandising. It’s mostly for the robot battle suit models, but there are also smaller toys, music CDs, wall posters, costumes, and so on. The Gundam TV serials run about a year each, and then it’s time for a new series with new merchandising.


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Side-note on another topic – I just got an advertisement from Nozomi Entertainment for a re-release on November 1st of the Kimba the White Lion DVD set that “Includes a special “How Kimba Came to Be” booklet written by Fred Patten and Robin Leyden.’ This must be the same Kimba DVD boxed set that the Right Stuf International released in March 2003. It also includes a 28-minute video interview of me on disc 4.

I hadn’t known that the 2003 release was out of print, but I’m glad that it’s being made available again for today’s fans. Kimba the White Lion was one of the titles that made me an anime fan. It was also instrumental in getting furry fandom started in the early 1980s. Probably the three most common animation influences named by the first furry fans were the then-recent Animalympics, the 1973 Disney Robin Hood, and the 1966 (in America) Kimba the White Lion.

Next week: Back to the “Forgotten” anime OAVs.

4 Comments

  • Regarding Kimba, how many episodes of the original series were dubbed in English when it first aired in the U.S. in the ’60’s?

    • All 52 episodes. They’re all on the DVD set, in the order they were produced (which was not the original story order because NBC wanted them to have no story order, so they could be shown in any order). Showing TV cartoons in story order didn’t start until “Star Blazers” in 1979. As late as “Robotech” in 1984 and throughout the 1980s, Carl Macek got complaints from viewers in several cities that their local TV stations were running episodes in random order which made no sense.

    • Wouldn’t surprise me if some stations simply didn’t follow the intended order if they were already so used to mixed reels around on their logs.

  • Japanese animation, at least in recent years, have often had to wrestle between stuff that is obviously marketed to a kid audience (like the Shonen Jump titles) or those catering to the grown-up set, often relased exclusively on home video, screened theatrically or shown at 2 in the morning. The commerce side of anime has always been strong, moreso than what we’ve seen here in the states, of course we’ve heard complaints about that from our side when it comes to the marketing of cartoons as well.

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