When Streamline Pictures and the other new American anime companies began to license Japanese anime, none of us had much money. Streamline shopped carefully. Yet there was one type of anime that was very cheap, yet Carl kept turning it down. Those were the titles, usually OAV mini-series, that, no matter how good we thought they were, were so unpopular in Japan that their studios abandoned them partway through. Carl would not touch a title that we could not present completely. (We did not get to complete some titles, like Nadia, and there was Zillion, but that’s a separate matter.) Other companies like A. D. Vision usually grabbed them because their rights were so cheap.
Bavi Stock: Time for Action series, episode 1, Endless Target, directed by Shigenori Kageyama. 45 minutes. December 20, 1985.
This was the first of the unfinished series that Streamline rejected. I had recommended it before I joined the company, when Carl Macek asked what anime American fans might like. I warned him to stay away from Bavi Stock, episode 2, “The Revenge of Iceman”, which was dreadful, but #1 stood nicely on its own and I felt that anime fans would enjoy it. But Carl felt that the knowledge that there was a #2 (and we didn’t know whether the plot ended there; just that the producers had run out of money), and that Streamline couldn’t provide it, would hurt sales severely.
The confusing background is that the galaxy has fallen under the rule of the oppressive Bentica (or Ventika or some other variation) Empire, and is opposed by an interstellar police force, the G.P.P. The G.P.P. has assigned one of its top agents, Kate Lee Jackson, to rescue a mute young girl, Mūma, from a supposedly escape-proof prison floating in the sky. She does, after a speeder-bike chase like the one in Return of the Jedi. The villains are introduced; Ruth Miller, the Empire’s top psionic killer, and Lord Iceman, her henchman. (Iceman has been transliterated in America as Eyesman, Aizman, Iyzeman, and other variations, but as I said previously, Shibazaki said that he was supposed to be named Iceman for his icy personality.) Miller decides that the G.P.P. has become too troublesome. Kate’s G.P.P. superior tells her that her next assignment is to collect a boxer, Bavi Stock, from a maximum-security prison and to bring both Mūma and him to G.P.P. headquarters. They will be crucial to fighting the Empire, for unexplained reasons.
A slow approach to the prison, against the song “Shades of Black and Blue”, establishes how escape-proof the prison is. Bavi Stock is a young boxer who is imprisoned for murder for having killed his opponent in the ring, despite the death being an accident. The cruel prison warden has set up a boxing match against Bavi to show how strong he is. (This is mostly a ripoff from the 1974 American movie The Longest Yard, where it was football instead of boxing.) Bavi is ordered to lose, if he knows what’s good for him. Bavi’s only supporter is Sammy, the honest prison doctor. Despite his orders, Bavi fights honestly and wins, just as Kate arrives in the G.P.P. gunship and demolishes the prison’s weapons. The prisoners revolt, and in the confusion Kate grabs Bavi. Sammy goes along with them.
They arrive at the G.P.P.’s location to find it completely destroyed by the Empire. With no place else to go, they go to Sammy’s home planet (which is presumably neutral), arriving on the eve of a big skysled race which Sammy and Bavi enter. A delegation from the Empire including Ruth Miller arrives; Iceman is also a racer. During the race, Ruth Miller uses her psionic powers to destroy the race officials’ videos, so Iceman can cheat unseen. Kate leads the fight against Ruth Miller, while Bavi and Sammy fight against Iceman. The climax reveals that Mūma has an Unknown Secret. The 45-minute video ends with the four heroes victorious, but presumably alone against the Empire. The much-lower-quality sequel, titled “The Revenge of Iceman”, shows that a series was planned.
Dragon Half, directed by Shinya Sadamitsu. Two half-hour OAVs of a planned four. March 26 and May 28, 1993.
This was licensed by A. D. Vision and has been kept available over the years, so I don’t feel any need for a long plot synopsis. I consider it one of my favorite anime comedies, despite its breaking off after two episodes.
Mink is a half-human, half-dragon teenage girl, shown as a teenage girl with cute dragon horns, wings, and tail who can breathe fire. Her parents are Ruth, a male knight who was supposed to be a dragon killer, and the female dragon he was supposed to kill – he eloped with her instead. As a result, he has been under sentence of death by the fat, bald king; supported by Princess Vina, and Rosario, the inept Court Magician. When Mink develops a crush on Dick Saucer, the mega-popular singing star and dragon slayer, with Princess Vina as the president of his fan club, they go after Mink instead.
I love almost everything about Dragon Half: The constant quick switches between realistic and super-deformed art. Rosario’s carrying around a bucket of dry ice so he’ll appear in a mysterious cloud. Such dialogue as Rosario to Mink: “Here, little girl, have an apple.” Mink: “Are you kidding? It’s probably poisoned!” Rosario, aside: “Curses! My Snow White Strategy has failed!” Damaramu, the stupidest assassin in the world: “I, Damaramu, will regret this!”
The closing credits, sung to the tune of excerpts from Beethoven’s symphonies (mostly the 7th) in a pop-melody arrangement, to lyrics about a teenage girl trying to cook an omelette for her boyfriend (“Oh, eggs! Eggs!”). Several years after A. D. Vision released this and it had just been re-released, I told A.D.V.’s Matt Greenfield that the company ought to commission the Japanese creators to finish the canceled episodes 3 and 4. He replied that they’d already thought of that, but the Japanese creators had gone on to other projects and weren’t interested.
That’s really about it. One other that I liked, with two episodes made and then discontinued with the last two unmade, was Elf Princess Rane, directed by Daichi Akitaro, released on October 27, 1995 and January 26, 1996. But by then Carl had made his disinterest in any uncompleted titles plain, and this was just as Orion was making it impossible for Streamline to acquire any new titles. Media Blasters got it for the American market.
Next week: Something new again.