ANN 1998 Retrospective

by Justin Sevakis, Jan 13th 1999
Wow, I didn't think we'd make it this long.

Since last summer, ANN has worked hard to provide you with the most up-to-date, complete, unbiased news coverage in the anime industry. Now, with the start of the new year, it's as good a time as any to take a look at what happened in the past few months...



The Big Stories

Admittedly, the two biggest stories of the year happened at a time when ANN, frankly, didn't have it together quite yet. Those stories were the release of Kiki's Delivery Service and Pok»mon, both to a potentially mainstream market.

We were all quite surprised two years ago, when The Walt Disney Company and Tokuma Shoten (the Japanese distributor for Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki's and Isao Takahata's company) announced a worldwide distribution deal, in which Disney would dub all of the Ghibli films (with the exception of Grave of the Fireflies, Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro and I Can Hear The Sea) and distribute them worldwide.

Kiki's Delivery Service was the first fruit born of the deal, and although it didn't sell nearly as many as their other direct-to-video release, "The Lion King II: Simba's Pride," the release was a modest success, selling nearly one million copies and got the attention of most of the critics out there. Entertainment Weekly went so far as to call it the best video release of 1998.

But most surprising was their release of a subtitled version. While the translation left a lot to be desired (like accuracy, for example), the fact that they even released one at all shows that they were paying attention to the otaku purist as a possible customer.

Pok»mon turned out to be less of a story, as it eventually revealed itself to be just another little kid anime-turned badly hacked American kids' TV show. We've seen this so many times before that it's not even that big a deal anymore. Just the same, Viz really cleaned up on the deal, distributing the video series through Pioneer and releasing the manga, which was so successful that it even had a second printing.

The Local Distributors

1998 saw the opening of Bandai's new AnimeVillage branch, which started off distributing titles from Sunrise but soon branched off to other titles. Initially an internet-based mail-order-only distributor (with more than its share of glitches, which still continue today), the company was inevitably forced to abandon this way of doing business, providing its tapes to other retail businesses.

AnimeWorks, which really had no big-caliber titles, but was working its Kitty hentai division to get money for licensing, made a surprise announcement in November that they had appropriated the rights to Magic Knights Rayearth, the incredibly popular TV series, which had previously been made available only through fansubs.

Pioneer surprised many people with its licensing of Fushigi Yugi, while Viz distributed the manga through their new, highly acclaimed magazine Animerica Extra. Viz also announced their licensing of Video Girl Ai, which will see a release this year. Manga Entertainment had a quiet year while switching distributors and gearing up for the release of the Fist of the North Star TV series and next year's theatrical release of X: The Movie and Perfect Blue. U.S. Manga Corps jumped on the shojo bandwagon with the release of Revolutionary Girl Utena, and have already licensed the new Loduss War TV series.

ADV Films finally announced its first DVD release with the Tekken OAV (which it felt compelled to call a "motion picture"), and quickly followed that up with the planned release of Queen Millenia OAV on DVD as well. The company is currently working on the release of other titles, including the much sought-after Neon Genesis Evangelion. Meanwhile, orphaned Streamline Pictures titles have found a new home with MGM after they bought the property owned by Orion after it went belly-up.

Urban Vision surprised fans with its announcement of their first theatrical release, the new remake of the Vampire Hunter D: Movie. The film, which is directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll), is expected to hit theaters this year, and UV has put up RealVideo samples on their web site.

Finally, The Right Stuf finished off it's popular Irresponsible Captain Tylor TV series (they plan to release the OAV's next year)... and followed it up with the nastiest thing ever animated, Cool Devices! Now there's a nice mix!

Problems Abroad

In the "what were they thinking?!" department, this fall Shogakuken launched their new online "Webmanga," in which they took a twenty year old Urusei Yatsura manga page and added a 3-D Lum and expected flocks of people to come running to play zap-the-manga-panel.

Also making news was Gainax and their admission of guilt in a tax evasion charge from the Japanese government. What effect this will have on Gainax projects or the company as a whole is still not known.

Fans of legendary director Akira Kurosawa were saddened at his passing this fall. Maker of such well-known films as "Ran" and one of the only Japanese talents to have won an Academy Award was 88 years old and died of natural causes.

There was SOME good news. In a collaboration with American and Japanese animators, the Final Fantasy rendered movie is currently in production, and will be released by Sony in the United States before its Japanese run. The movie will have nothing to do with any Final Fantasy game.

Fan Chaos

Just as ANN was opening we received word of some severe problems at AnimeExpo and the hotel's security team. Threats that seemed to stem from Christian extremist points of view were aimed at everyone from vendors of hentai titles to fans in costume. No word on whether any lawsuits were filed or not, but AX will be at the same hotel next year. The fandom community was hit hard by the brutal attack of Nausicaa.net by Russian hackers. The hackers hit the entire server, deleting... well... everything. While the cleanup continues even now, the site is ALMOST back to normal.

The Mixx Story

...But the story that really put us on the map was the one covering the issues with Mixx Entertainment and the fan backlash to their switching of Sailor Moon to new girly magazine Smile (and a host of other nasty accusations). The backlash was severe enough that they started censoring their own message board before taking it down altogether.

A week later, MixxOnline.com was hacked, replacing the splash screen with an R-rated picture of Sailor Moon lifting up her shirt. An anti-Mixx page on Tripod was taken down by demand of Mixx C.E.O. Stuart Levy, who responded to criticism with some of his own.

As little as a month ago, we still saw some of their problems when we learned of allegations of Mixx inflating their subscription numbers.

...And here's 1999!

Now that 1999 is here, fans have plenty to hope for and experience, and through it all ANN will be here to cover it. Thanks for a great 1998!

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