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ANN 1999 Spring Anime Preview

by Justin Sevakis,

(For those of you who keep track of this sort of thing, this article has missed its deadline by one and a half months. -_-;;;)

Last year was an amazing year for commercial aquisitions. Some of the newest, coolest shows were finally picked up, as well as some old favorites. While we couldn't see all of them ahead of time, ANN has a glimpse of some of the most saught-after shows that are likely to see a 1999 release!

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, only the ones we got to see ahead of time.

Cowboy Bebop

From: AnimeVillage.com
Estimated date: 6/99
Type of show: 26-part TV series

Synopsis: Spike Spiegel is a space bounty hunter, and accompanied by his companion Jet Black, he goes in search of the big prizes (along with numerous others) but things usually don't turn out as planned. Along the way, they end up unwittingly taking on additional crew, including the artifically-bread ultra-intelligent Welsh Corgi Ein (escapee from the lab), Faye Valentine (A beautiful woman with no memory of her past, but is in pursuit by lots of outside forces), and hacker-boy Ed. Sort of like Tenchi Muyo with guns, sans all the estrogen...

The Good: Simply amazing animation. The CG sequences are some of the most impressive to date, and is accompanied by a great jazz soundtrack from musical goddess Yoko Kanno (and her mock-band, the Seatbelts).

The Bad: Not much to speak of, except for a lack of originality. As the show progresses, that may improve.

The Ugly: AnimeVillage really needs to improve their advertising copy, which might hinder the sales just a bit.

The Verdict: This is easily one of the most anticipated shows to come out this year, and for good reason. Cowboy Bebop is a powerhouse of a show that should not be missed.

Serial Experiments Lain

From: Pioneer
Estimated date: 7/9/99
Type of show: 13-part TV series

Synopsis: Her mother is a self-absorbed introvert who may or may not be all there. Her father is a cyberjunkie whose sense of moderation expired years ago. Welcome to the post-adolescent information age, where computers and intercommunication have progressed to a point where people routinely slip inbetween the real world and the Wired. Through their "Navi" terminals, the life they build online may, in fact, be more interesting than the real world. When Lain's classmate makes that conclusion, she kills herself to free herself from the limits of the human body. When innocent Lain gets e-mail from the recently deceased, she asks her father for a new Navi and begins her explorations...

The Good: Oh man... This may, in fact, out-weird Evangelion. The mind-shattering psychotic nature of the show doesn't obscure a very clear plot (something Eva can't brag about), and the social commentary it gets across at the same time is disturbing and thought-provoking. The opening song (in English, performed by Boa) is awesome to the point where it may have medicinal qualities.

The Bad: Uhh... Well, the cel animation isn't GREAT, but it really doesn't matter much...

The Ugly: Fans may be forced to riot in between episodes. Could be lethal in conjunction with marijuana or alcohol.

The Verdict: Serial Experiments Lain is the only show this year that's more of a sure-fire hit than Cowboy Bebop. With a simultanious DVD release, Pioneer is setting itself up for sainthood. There's really no excuse for not owning a copy of this when it comes out... it's that good. You know what? Watch the opening now. Here's a link. You won't regret it... I promise. Just come on back when you're done.

Video Girl Ai

From: Viz Video
Estimated date: 4/99
Type of show: 6-part OAV series

Synopsis: Youta Moteuchi is pretty unlucky when it comes to girls (hence, his nickname of "Motenai" which Viz translates as "Dateless"), but when the object of his desire Moemi admits that she's in love with his best friend Takeshi, things go from bad to worse. He rents what he thinks is a porno to cheer himself up (from this odd video store that came out of nowhere), and the girl in the video, instead, beams through his TV and pays him a month-long visit. However, she's not as advertised... she's a tough tomboy, who's vowed to help Youta and Moemi hook up. Anyway, video girls can't fall in love... or so she thought.

The Good: Good animation, great character designs, jaw-dropping musical score, and above all... an awesome plot. The last scene in the first episode and most of the last episode are absolutely moving. It's easy to see why this is considered a classic.

The Bad: The series ends very early in the manga series, and a lot is still left to be resolved. The ending is a bit non-conclusive, although this leaves the story open to interpretation, which may be an advantage.

The Ugly: The fact that it took this long. The CD soundtracks were released two years ago, and the fansub has been so far-reaching that it is often the only fansub in many anime collections. There are, for once, very valid worries that most won't replace it with a commerical version that, if the Key the Metal Idol subs are any indication, may be inferior to the fansubs. (Of course, a DVD release would easily fix that... HINT-HINT!)

The Verdict: With Viz busy recruiting new fans by publishing the manga in Animerica Extra, that fear is probably not cause for too much concern. There's no question that the series is a classic, but can they market it correctly? They already blew it with Please Save My Earth, but at least this one is getting the subtitle treatment.

Bubblegum Crisis 2040

From: ADV Films
Estimated date: Fall 99?
Type of show: 26-part TV series

Synopsis: Linna just started her new job at the Police department, and things are not going smoothly. She keeps being knocked around by this bitch named Priss, and spends her work time daydreaming about the super-cool Night Sabers, a band of vigilantes that take the law into their own hands, much to the dismay of the AD Police Department, which feels threatened by the intrusion into their territory: boomer crimes. Little do they know that they have a night saber working among them already: Nene! When Linna finally tracks down the Night Saber hideout, they recognize her natural abilities, and agree to take her on as a new Saber.

The Good: On its own, the show stands up reasonably well, both in the animation department and in the music department. While the character design looks like El Hazard, it still has a life of its own. Leon (who's now this tough-as-nails no-nonsense anal-retentive) is pretty funny when he gets P. O.'ed at Nene calling him Leon-chan.

The Bad: The series is off to a slow start. The end theme is HORRIBLE.

The Ugly: Don't expect a remake of the OAV series. There's no 80's J-pop here, and none of the characters look or act like their old selves. In fact, the only things that are the same are the character names, the suits themselves, and the setting.

The Verdict: ADV paid big money for this one (this is the first series to ever have been licensed before it was produced), and it's a gamble. While the name recognition may do some good, it's too soon to tell whether fans will go for the radical change, or recognize that this show really isn't anything special.

Revolutionary Girl Utena - The Black Rose Saga

From: Software Sculptors
Estimated date: 4th Q. '99?
Type of show: TV series episodes 14-29

Synopsis: If you thought Utena was odd before, you ain't seen nothin' yet! In the Black Rose saga, a new force, led by a boy genius, seeks to bypass the student council and bring about revolution himself. The scary part: He looks like a male version of Utena, and his close (ahem) collegue looks an awful lot like Anthy! How will they do this? By taking the hatred and the hurting of others, and manifesting that hatred into a sword, to be extracted from each Duelist. Meanwhile, Utena meets Anthy's brother, and that relationship might not be what we'd expect...

The Good: In this part of the series, director Kunihiko Ikuhara has defined himself as being just as screwed up as Evangelion director Hideaki Anno... maybe moreso. (He's also not above interrupting everything for a comedic episode: Nanami turns into a cow in this series!) Expect to end every episode screaming, "OH MY GOD!!!"

The Bad: The arena entrance music as performed by Seazer's Chorus (you know, that song they play every time Utena walks up those stairs before a fight) has been re-recorded, this time with a more male group. It just doesn't sound as nice...

The Ugly: The sometimes adult subject matter (not to mention the gender-bending) in these episodes might upset parents of young kids that got into the series. Hasn't officially been announced yet, so the date above is an educated guess... It may be overly optimistic.

The Verdict: Whenever Software Scultors releases this, it will be a must-buy. Utena is addicting in the first place, and the new plot twists make it so much moreso.

Those Who Hunt Elves

From: ADV Films
Estimated date: 5/25/99
Type of show: 2 12-part TV series

Synopsis: This one's pretty simple... A brainless tough guy, a beautiful movie star, and a violent schoolgirl (along with their tank) mysteriously find themselves in another world. An elf attempts to send them back to Earth, but gets distracted, and so parts of the spell she was manifesting have to be collected from the bodies of elves all around the world. To make matters worse, she's turned into a little doggie. So here these Earth weirdos are, accompanied by a dog, going across the land attempting to strip elves!

The Good: This series is just fun. Brainless fun, but fun nonetheless.

The Bad: This ain't Evangelion. Don't expect any social or religious commentary or anything... Heck, this is up there with pro wrestling in terms of brain power.

The Ugly: A lot of people like the odd-ball end theme, but it tends to get on my nerves.

The Verdict: Yeah, it's an ADV release all right... It'll sell, thanks to the premise alone. Luckilly, they get enough milage out of this one to stay entertaining for a long time to come. (We'll see if they license the second series...)

Original Dirty Pair

From: ADV Films
Estimated date: 5/25
Type of show: Long TV and OAV series

Synopsis: Kei and Yuri, the infamous trouble consultants for the WWWA are finally seeing the light as their old, real selves... and in sluttier clothing than their DP Flash counterparts! The two travel the galaxies, solving crimes and leaving even bigger problems in their wake.

The Good: The show, although outragous, is still pretty funny. This is just one of those classics that will never really die.

The Bad: We're talking SERIOUS 80's fashions and music here, people. The animation is really dated.

The Ugly: While the seasoned otaku will definately want to pick this up, the newbies who have been nursed and weaned on Dirty Pair Flash might reject the older designs.

The Verdict: This will be a hit with old school fans, but it might not have enough newbie savvy to stand on its own in today's market. We shall see...

City Hunter

From: ADV Films
Estimated date: 6/22/99
Type of show: Multiple TV series and feature-length OAV's

Synopsis: Ryo Saeba is City Hunter: a detective-for-hire with a libido so huge that if he was in America, he'd have many many lawsuits pending against him. His partner Kaori is his grounding mechanism, keeping him in line by means of severe physical agony. The two work together, and there's obviously some attraction, but never really hook up for various reasons. Together, as City Hunter, they are unstoppable when faced with assassination attempts, terrorist bombings, and most anything else.

The Good: This is probably one of the all-time funniest shows ever animated. While it does get repetative sometimes, the plots are simply riveting. The dub is possibly one of the best ever made.

The Bad: A few of the OAV's are a bit slow moving. The TV series isn't much fun until about episode 5 when Kaori shows up and starts whacking Ryo over the head with blunt objects.

The Ugly: The names have been changed for the dubbed version, since ADV is trying to sell the extremely long TV series to a TV (perhaps cable) network. Since it still takes place in Japan and some characters still have Japanese names, that doesn't work very well, and just PO's the purist otaku movement.

The Verdict: Let's face it: City Hunter is darn cool. While the name changes are irritating, they're not serious, and it's only in the dubbed version. (The sub is accurate.) Expect the feature-length made-for-TV movies to do very well.

Martian Successor Nadesico

From: ADV Films
Estimated date: 10/99?
Type of show: 26-part TV series

Synopsis: It's a pretty nasty war out there, and when loose-cannon Yurika gets assigned as captain to a new ship along with her old childhood buddy Akito, things are already weird. Toss in a totally deadpan little girl pilot, a combat crew that borders on insanity, and the fact that 80% of the crew are otaku for an old crappy 80's giant robot TV show, and you have one nice little story...

The Good: Fun animation, nice music, and very likable characters. A great story, with plenty of otaku in-jokes.

The Bad: The series takes a while to get into, so fans might not be in much of a hurry to get more at first.

The Ugly: The new movie, Prince of Darkness, just came out in Japanese theaters, so it might not be licensed for a while. Some might find that it takes a while to get used to the perfectly round eyes in the character design.

The Verdict: If fans can just stay through the first few episodes (which, although fast-paced, can get slightly tiresome), they will be rewarded. Whether they do or not probably depends on how well ADV can market this show. (The writer adjusts his Nadesico stand-up plastic figues and gets mildly frustrated that his Akito figure keeps falling over)

Nadia of the Mysterious Seas

From: ADV Films
Estimated date: 11/99?
Type of show: 39-part TV series

Synopsis: The classic Gainax TV series (and the show that put them on the map), this show based VERY loosely on Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea features the misadventures of boy inventor Jean, his mysterious friend Nadia, her pet lion King (who sometimes seems human), and rescued little girl Marie, as they investigate the Nazi-esque tactics of a band that seems to be somehow connected to Nadia and her necklace. With the help of Captain Nemo and his mysterious submarine.

The Good: Great characters, a wonderful opening theme, and a fun plot make this one a can't-miss. The series' finale is just magical.

The Bad: The plot, at times, feels very ad-libbed. The infamous island episodes (around #28-30) are some of the worst things ever put to animation. Some of the technology is kind of silly...

The Ugly:Those who saw the horribly crappy Streamline dub might be unwilling to come back to the show. Hopefully, ADV won't be tempted to dub anyone with a bad accent...

The Verdict: The rest of us know better. All ADV has to put on the box is "from the creator of Evangelion" and they'll have a best-seller. I just hope they'll keep the bonus extras that were on the Japanese LD's... Those were often the best part!

Outlaw Star

From: AnimeVillage.com
Estimated date: 11/99?
Type of show: 12-part TV series

Synopsis: Gene Starwind is a fast-living young space bounty hunter. When he and his young sidekick Jim get sucked into something a lot bigger than they imagined when a weird woman named Hilda hires them to escort her to a treasure... which just happens to be a cryogenically frozen girl in a briefcase! Pirates are apparently after it, but they're already being chased by both pirates and outlaws! That's when they head for cover and find the coolest ship they ever did see...

The Good: Great animation, a great opening, and fun characters. This one is just a good-natured bullet-covered space romp.

The Bad: AnimeVillage's two-episodes-per-tape philosophy doesn't work well for this series, as the episodes are pretty tightly packed.

The Ugly: Nothing, really. This is the kind of show that always does well.

The Verdict: A true winner. This one shouldn't be missed.

Record of Lodoss War TV

From: US Manga Corps
Estimated date: TBD
Type of show: 26-part TV series

Synopsis: Pretty much a retelling of the OAV series, although this time, there's more characters, more character interaction, and the story is more linear and fast-paced. The character design has also been given a nice face-lift.

The Good: Remember the opening to Escaflowne? Well, Yoko Kanno and Maaya Sakamoto have teamed up again to bring us an opening theme reminicent of Karl Jenkins' "Adeimus" works. The improvements are still pretty nice...

The Bad: Although substantially faster-paced than the OAV series, it's still a bit slow in getting to the action, and since it's a linear plot this time, there's no big dragon battle in the first episode to keep people awake.

The Ugly: The series is also twice as long as the OAV series, so it's questionable whether they can keep up the pace.

The Verdict: Those who found the OAV boring might find this series a bit more to their liking. Given how many people loved the OAV series, however, this one is bound to do well, regardless. This one's a can't-miss.

Perfect Blue

From: Manga Entertainment
Estimated date: 6/99
Type of show: Movie

Synopsis: Mima is a pop star in a idol band known as "Cham"— they're not exactly chart-toppers, but they have an audience. Mima announces her decision to leave Cham to go into acting... to a mixed reaction. However, one grotesque otaku that disagrees with her career move (and later ones that put her at a less-than-desirable level) isn't buying that she's the real Mima. It's not long, however, until Mima starts to wonder herself. When two people close to her end up dead, she's not even sure if she's the killer... if she's killing... if she's being killed.

The Good: Beautiful designs, haunting music, and a chilling story. This is probably the best horror anime produced to date. The animation, mostly digitally-produced, is among the best. (Even the intentionally hokey Cham songs are some of the top J-pop out there...)

The Bad: The rape scenes might be too much for many people to handle. Expect a lot of people to be confused by the intentionally convoluted storyline.

The Ugly: This ain't going to do much good for anime's image in American culture. Since this is a theatrical release, expect it to garner just as much attention as Ghost in the Shell... Only this time, there's a lot more to find objectionable.

The Verdict: This one's too good to miss, in the theater or otherwise. Close your eyes at the rape scenes if they bother you, and show the people that think all anime is like that Grave of the Fireflies.

Haunted Junction

From: AnimeVillage.com
Estimated date: now
Type of show: 12-part TV series

Synopsis: Haruto Hojo is the son of a priest who has been appointed president of the Saito High School student council against his will... but his school seems to have more ghosts living in it than students! He unwittingly leads the group (comprised of perverted Budhist Monk's son Kazuo and pedophile primadonna Shinto daughter-of-priest Mutsuki) as they wrangle the monsters giving people a hard time, while poor Haruto is really pulling his hair out looking for a way out of this school from hell.

The Good: Some of the best slapstick comedy here since Goldfish Warning. Atsuko Nakajima's character design should attract some Ranma fans.

The Bad: Unbelievably cheap animation in parts. (The opening, although cool, is comprised almost entirely of still pans — and is entirely obscured in the English version by boxes containing the English credits!) The series bombed, resulting in only 12 episodes being produced.

The Ugly: Some are sure to find Mutsuki's "under 12-years-old" fettish a little too disturbing (even though she doesn't do anything nasty...). At least it doesn't insult the religious groups too much. The spastic nature of the show might be hard to describe on a tape box.

The Verdict: This is an unbelievably funny series with plenty of slapstick to go around. Although the series fizzles a bit after the first two episodes, it's always worthwhile watching. Lord knows if it can be marketed right, however, as AnimeVillage is still rather new to the retail game.

Elf Princess Rane

From: AnimeWorks
Estimated date: 6/15
Type of show: 2-part OAV series

Synopsis: Go is a treasure-hunting high school kid with a passion for adventure. If only his 30+ identical sisters felt the same! Along comes a fairy, to make Go's wishes come true... except she can only speak fairy language, which is comprised of totally normal Japanese twisted into gobbly-gook. Another fairy comes along after her, intent on getting the treasure for herself, and falls into the hands of Go's girlfriend, who's disgruntled that she's been taking a backseat to his treasure-hunting. Toss in a guy with the wackiest hair this side of Battle Skipper with the hots for Go's girfriend, a plot to turn the entire town into an amusement park, and a dead-pan giant butler, and you have... a mess.

The Good: If you've seen Kodomo no Omocha, this is by the same director. Expect a break-neck comedy with a blood sugar level that puts Dragon Half to shame!

The Bad: Nonconclusive ending. (Like most great OAV's, the plug was pulled on this one prematurely, except this one didn't seem to have prior warning.) Subtitle fans might be forced to take speed-reading courses.

The Ugly: Licensor KSS really screwed with the names on this one. First of all, she's a FAIRY (yousei), NOT an ELF! Second, her name isn't pronounced Rane, it's REN!

The Verdict: Take the damn speed-reading course.

Magic Knight Rayearth

From: AnimeWorks/Manga Video
Estimated date: 9/99, TBA
Type of show: TV series, OAV series

Synopsis: Do I even have to explain this? Middle school girls Fuu, Umi, and Hikaru are suddenly transported to a different world named Cefiro... which just happens to be loaded with monsters and people who use magic. It used to be paradise, but now the evil priest Zagato is bearing down on fragile Cefiro... and it's up to the girls (who were plucked by Princess Emeraude) to win their spurs and defeat him.

The Good: Heck, this is the series that 80% of anime fandom is waiting for! Shoujo fans who have been reliant on fansubs and the amazingly horrid Mixx manga translation are finally in for a treat!

The Bad: The sugar level may be too high for some... If Urotsuki Doji is your favorite anime, chances are you won't like this. (There are, of course, exceptions...)

The Ugly: The OAV (it's actually the movie version, which is just the OAV's edited together) will probably be released around the same time as the TV series, and that's sure to cause some confusion

The Verdict: It's foreordained. AnimeWorks will have the biggest success of their carreers with this one.

Twin Signal

From: AnimeWorks
Estimated date: TBD
Type of show: 3-part OAV series

Synopsis: His grandfather built him this robot to be his brother, but something went wrong. Signal, now a slightly-maladjusted older brother, turns into a little baby whenever his young master sneezes! Add to the fact that he's made of a top-secret compound that regenerates (and there are several parties who are REALLY interested in getting their hands on it), as well as an early prototype wanting to kill them, and Signal has quite a fight on his hands.

The Good: This is just really, really cute and wonderfully funny. Great for the whole family. And oh, that mega-genki end theme!

The Bad: .... Sorry, I can't come up with anything.

The Ugly: HEY! I special ordered the import soundtrack for this, and the end theme wasn't even on there! I feel violated...

The Verdict: I really really hope Animeworks releases this all on one tape. I'll have to buy it (and eventually the DVD, or so I hope) and die a happy man.

Virus Buster Serge

From: Manga Entertainment
Estimated date: Summer '99
Type of show: 12-part TV series

Synopsis: 100 years in the future, something known only as "Incubator" has created a hybrid computer/human virus, and so a new unit of law enforcement, "STAND" was created to protect the people from its ill effects. The virus likes to attack and control big mecha ("Armored Gears"), and so STAND's people wear Variable Gear power suits. Serge, a young guy, has been having dreams that seem to be telling him to kill Raven, the leader of STAND. Raven, however, already knows the boy's potential... and is willing to resort to trickery to get him to join the force.

The Good: LOTS of action, most of it very well-animated. A strong plot, albeit a little cliche. Fun grunge opening theme.

The Bad: A lot of people are turned off by Masami Ohbari's steroid-pushing well-endowed anorexic character designs.

The Ugly: This will attract newbies. LOTS of newbies. (At least this one doesn't have magical girl-esque transformation sequences like Gowkaiser...)

The Verdict: If you like Masami Ohbari anime (like Gowkaiser), you'll probably like this one as well. There's enough that do that this will certainly do very well.

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