What Is Anime Midstream?
by Justin Sevakis,
This past week I saw the article on ANN about a company called Anime Midstream releasing anime B'tX. I was excited because I liked that anime and it never was completely released here before, but it got me wondering who was this company exactly that I never heard of who decided to take on an endeavor normally reserved these days for someone like Discotek. Digging I could find they released Matchless Rajin-Oh at a trickle speed over 5 years but that's it (however I was happy to discover this was released actually here and snagged them on Amazon asap). Is Anime Midstream just a group of fans? Did they release nothing after Rajin-Oh cause the sales bombed here and almost killed them at their start? What is up with them?
Yes, basically -- Anime Midstream was originally a group of fans from St. Louis, Missouri. Their Executive Producer Jimmy Taylor and Localization Director Christine Thompson actually went on ANNCast about 6 years ago. The group is mostly made up of fans and occasional local voice talent (Taylor had a few bit parts on ADV dubs and worked on morning talk radio; Thompson helped run Anime St. Louis) that had long kicked around the idea of licensing something and dubbing it. According to our old interview, they reached out to every licensor they could find, and given that this was immediately following the collapse of the anime market in the US, they were able to negotiate a deal with Sunrise. They licensed Raijin-Oh more or less sight-unseen.
What followed was pretty much what you'd expect a group of fans trying to release something on DVD without really knowing how. Of the 51 episodes of Raijin-Oh, they managed to release the first 25 in English across five DVD volumes -- and it took them four years to do that much. (A year later, they released the rest of the series as a subtitled-only boxed set.) With only six releases in seven years, it really isn't overly harsh to say that it's hard to think of them as an actual, functional company. This operation is very clearly being run as a hobby, and I can't imagine each volume was selling more than a few hundred copies (if that). Nobody can live on those revenues. It's to their credit that they did finish the show eventually.
Most of us thought that they'd heard the last of Anime Midstream by that point. Founder Jimmy Taylor had moved to Dallas, TX -- away from the others that had worked on and starred in the dub -- and for the past two years they've been completely silent, until their announcement last week.
Their new show, B'tX, also has a checkered history. It was one of the four shows that were part of the initial line-up of start-up anime distributor Illumitoon, which was launched by former FUNimation executives back in 2006. (The other three were AM Driver, Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo and Beet the Vandal Buster.) The company didn't last very long -- only a year later the company was kaput, leaving all of the shows they were releasing unfinished. Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo was already dubbed, but the others, including B'tX, didn't even have complete English dubs.
B'tX was never very popular, so people haven't exactly been clamoring for a re-release. With the dub left unfinished, no broadcaster or streaming service would have picked up the show, and other anime publishers probably would've passed on it as well. Anime Midstream's offer on the show was likely the only offer the licensor got, and the licensor decided to give them a chance. It will be very interesting to see what happens from here: did Taylor assemble a new dub team? Will he attempt to finish the old dub with the same cast, since Illumitoon was also based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area? Will he be able to release the show quickly enough? And will anyone buy it? Only time will tell!
For what it's worth, as long as it took, Raijin-Oh's release was a decidedly nice thing that happened. A few of the Raijin-Oh discs have technical issues, and the dub is certainly not one of the best, but Raijin-Oh is a cute show with some big talent behind it, and is very much worth checking out if you like family-oriented mecha shows from the early 90s.
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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.
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