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2001 - A Year in Review: More News

Streaming Anime

By George Phillips

This year we saw the premiere of a number of 'streaming anime' websites. Much to the rejoice of Cable Modem and DSL users everywhere, these high-quality web-based broadcasts allowed fans to watch anime from the convenience of their monitor, at any time of day or night.

On Monday, March 26th, the first Toonami Reactor went online. Initially offering streaming episodes of Dragon Ball Z and Star Blazers Season 1, Toonami Reactor mixed high-quality flash animation and editorial content, encouraging visitors to play games while watching streaming episodes. The initial launch was a "three month experiment". At the end of June, the experiment ended, and Cartoon Network deliberated the future of the Toonami Reactor.

Shortly before its re-launch on November 14th, a mysterious riddle appeared, hinting at things to come:

Toonami Reactor returns once more
With four sagas born of eastern lore
An epic record of robot wars
Of cosmic labors unseen before
And creatures torn from legend's yore
Of pirate ships, the police...and more.

The solution to the riddle came on November 14th, when the Toonami Reactor returned with Daft Punk, the Harlock Saga, Starblazers Season 2, and the Record of Lodoss War TV series. The final saga, of "the police", refers to Patlabor, but it has not premiered on the Toonami Reactor yet.

Of course, the most ambitious streaming project of 2001 was that of Blood: The Last Vampire, streamed on sputnik7.com. On August 28th, the day stores began selling Blood, the movie was also streamed from sputnik7.com for 24 hours! Undoubtedly this method proved highly successful for Manga Entertainment, as Blood became their fastest selling video, ever. Sputnik 7 continues to offer other video series like Landlock, Gunbuster, Giant Robo, and Angel Cop. No registration is required -- just sit back and watch the anime!

English-speaking fans aren't the only people benefiting from streaming anime. One streaming series, called "Mahō Yūgi" (Magic Witchland) premiered on the Lycos Japan website on November 11th. Every friday, a new episode is uploaded to maho-yugi.lycos.co.jp, and everyone can watch -- even 56k modem users! The series is only streamed in Japanese, but English fans might enjoy the artistic style, as it hails from AIC, also known for El Hazard and Tenchi Muyo! Mahō Yūgi is a bizarre mahou Shoujo series, where witches dress up in bizarre costumes and battle one another to become the best witch in the world.

If magical girl anime isn't your style, perhaps "i wish you were here" is better suited for your tastes. The Japanese company e.goo, webcasts episodes of this action-packed anime series. It was recently announced that this series will be available on DVD starting February 22nd.

Studio Ghibli Museum

By George Phillips

The recently opened Ghibli Museum has already attracted a large share of visitors. From Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service to Miyazaki's latest, Spirited Away, this museum houses artifacts related to all of Ghibli's films.

The museum, located just west of Tokyo, isn't too expensive. Tickets are only 1000 yen (roughly $7.50) for an adult. However, ticket sales are limited to a mere 2400 visitors per day. In November, we reported that these tickets went for as much as 10 times more when auctioned online. Currently, tickets sell out over a month in advance, and can only be purchased in Japan.

If Japan is a little too expensive to travel to, just to see Ghibli Museum, perhaps it would be better to peruse Justin Leach's tour of the museum.

Death of VHS

By Christopher Macdonald

While VHS's impending death was forecast a long time ago, and cemented in the year 2000 when Bandai announced that Tenamonya Voyagers would be the industry's first DVD only release and AnimEigo announced that they would be going DVD only. 2001 was the year that saw VHS really slip into the shadows, most of the more important Anime distributors made the decision to release the majority of their titles on DVD only. Only titles with significant mainstream appeal like Gundam and Kenshin.

Death of SyCoNet

By George Phillips

Two years ago, SyCoNet was one of the largest anime distributors in the industry. Originally a comic distributor, SyCoNet (formerly Syco Distribution) surfed the 1990s anime "wave", becoming one of the largest anime video distributors in America.

Surveys passed out at a "leading Anime convention" in 1999 showed that many people were interested in purchasing anime CDs. SyCoNet quickly pounced on this opportunity, and began creating "Otaku Music USA. It's highly ambitious aim was to sell anime CDs in America for $10 to $15 dollars, with boxed sets running only slightly higher. Everything seemed to run as planned as the company continued to grow throughout the year.

Then disaster struck.

Sales rapidly dwindled in 2000, and a week prior to Anime Expo 2000, SyCoNet failed to make payroll for its employees. Worse yet, CEO and founder Sy Picon had a heart attack at Anime Expo 2000, and withdrew from his positions at SyCoNet. This was a grim foreshadowing of events to come for his company.

In February 2001, Ross Rojak stepped down as co-CEO of SyCoNet. A scant three months later, a required SEC Filing revealed the internal collapse of the company. 31 million shares, once valued at $2.91, traded for under $.01.

We talked briefly with Mr. William Spears in May. After the SEC Filing, he acquired all of the anime merchandise previously held by SyCoNet, and began work on reconstructing Anime Depot.

Visitors to Anime Depot today will encounter a much sleeker, more up-to-date store than what existed there a year before. The new Anime Depot was launched after our talk with Mr. Spears.

SyCoNet has since halted all operations, and has disappeared from the Anime industry all together, but Anime Depot lives on.

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