Anime Expo 2007
by Mikhail Koulikov,
Representative: John Sirabella
John Sirabella, the president of Media Blasters, wasted no time and went straight into making a number of new license announcements. Under its more mainstream Anime Works label, Media Blasters will be bringing out seven new TV series or OVAs: Strawberry Panic!; Kujibiki Unbalance (a full twelve-episode take on the series-within-a-series enjoyed by the characters of Genshiken, which Media Blasters also releases); the three episodes of the Genshiken OAV (each of which is included as an extra with the three Japanese releases of Kujibiki Unbalance); the Ikki Tousen sequel Dragon Destiny, which Sirabella called a “surprise” license; Futari Ecchi (announced as 'A Step-up Love Story); Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru (‘Maiden in Love with Me’, described as being based on a game that is “pretty popular for the yuri-slash-whatever audience); and Angel's Feather, a two-episode OVA from the script writer of Chobits. He also confirmed that a new Kite OVA, Liberator, is now in production. Media Blasters will be releasing that as well. Of these acquisitions, at least Ikki Tousen, Kujibiki Unbalance, and the Genshiken OAV will receive dubs. And although the full second season of Genshiken is not going to begin airing on Japanese television until the fall, Sirabella stated that it will be “more than likely” Media Blasters will eventually get that license.
Continuing a licensing trend that has been seen increasingly frequently, he then announced two licenses for shows that have already been released in English: the classic six-episode OVA Golden Boy, previously released by ADV Films, and Central Park Media's three-episode Angel Sanctuary.
Media Blasters' live-action Tokyo Shock imprint will continue putting out Japanese live-action features, several with obvious connections to various anime and manga. Confirmed for release are Takashi Miike's Zebraman, about a mild-mannered teacher who cosplays a superhero from a long-since-cancelled live-action TV series; the 2004 live-action version of Devilman; this year's Hair Extensions, and Akihabara @ DEEP, the 2006 celebration of all things otaku. Another Miike film that Media Blasters will be releasing eventually, is currently in pre-production. It is entitled CroZero.
The company has had an almost exclusive position as a distributor of boys'-love anime in English, and four new titles are now confirmed for US release: the anime adaptation of Haru wo Daitiete (Embracing Love); Flower and Snake; Fuyu no Seme (Winter's Cicada), and Okane ga Nai (No Money). Media Blasters also continues to acquire anime aimed at an adult male audience, and the one addition to this list is Gakuen Nanafushigi, a two-episode hentai series from the character designer of Bible Black.
Like several other North American anime companies, Media Blasters also operates a manga division, although its releases have been relatively low-key. Originally, only the first six volumes of Eiken were licensed, but now, the rest of the series (volumes 7-12) have been acquired as well. Also forthcoming from Media Blasters Manga are the yaoi titles Roses of the Rhine, I wanna be Naughty, and Return to Scandalous Seiryo University. More manga acquisitions may be announced by Otakon.
At this point, Sirabella concluded the prepared part of his talk, and opened the floor to questions from the relatively small audience. One of the first he answered had to do with Media Blasters' further plans for Voltron. It has been a major hit, and as long as more episodes of the series are available, Media Blasters will be working to release them. As first mentioned last year, plans are currently underway for an uncut release of the original Japanese Hyakujū Ō Golion, as well as “Vehicle Voltron” (Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV). There was some debate around the Media Blasters office regarding whether it would make sense to begin releasing the uncut GoLion before the release of Voltron had fully concluded. Simply because of how time-consuming the task of putting together Voltron DVDs has been, however, the first volume of GoLion will not come out until sometime after all of Voltron is released. A street date sometime in the first half of 2008 seems probable.
Media Blasters released the first season of the new Ah! My Goddess TV series, but chose to pass up on the second season. The first twenty-six episodes were their most expensive title ever, with the license costing over $1.5 million, and while sales were fairly good in general, for such a pricey property, they were “good, but not Voltron good or Invader Zim good.” Moreover, Sirabella mentioned that Japanese licensors frequently base prices for subsequent seasons of a given title on the price for the first season. When the opportunity to license the second season came up, the first part of the series had just barely broken even. Once Wal-Mart informed Media Blasters that sales on the final volume of the first season were starting to drop off, the decision was made not to pursue this license any further. In fact, according to him, Wal-Mart is not even interested in stocking any of the Season 2 volumes.
Media Blasters is also involved in localizing and publishing several Japanese computer and video games. The Bible Black visual novel was recently released, and Discipline is currently approaching its street date, as is a PC port of Gurimin and a Samurai Deeper Kyo 2-D fighting game for the Game Boy Advance. In general, though, Media Blasters does not work extensively with games, especially visual novels, because of the sheer amount of in-game text that usually needs to be translated. Another issue is that such games, especially those that are older, are usually censored somewhat for the Japanese release, and when Media Blasters looks to put them out in the US, they must be specifically decensored, which is a fairly intensive and time-consuming process. In general, Media Blasters only pursues videogame licenses that are related to the anime series that it is already putting out.
Given how unpredictable the licensing market is, Media Blasters plans to continue actively co-producing both anime and live-action features. In addition to Kite: Liberator, the company is currently involved in the development of Machine Girl, a live-action film about a teenager who sets out to avenge the death of her brother at the hand of a gang of bullies, and in the process, ends up replacing various body parts with weapons.
As the panel came to a close, Sirabella launched into a talk about some of the major issues that are currently affecting the anime market in the US. In particular, he argued that the certainty that any given anime that is released in the US will eventually be available as a full-series thinpack is making it very hard to justify single four or five-episode DVDs.
He concluded the panel with presenting what amounts to an overall mission statement for Media Blasters. “We're different, we do a little bit of everything…we try anything. We usually give it a shot, and see how it goes. And if it does good, we'll do more of it.”.
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