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2001 - A Year in Review: Licensed Anime

2001 - A Year in Review: Licensed Anime

By Christopher Macdonald

As with any other year, dozens of new titles were licensed for North American distribution this year. Probably the biggest licensing story of the year was how Media Blasters snatched Berserk from Urban Vision's grasp. Urban Vision had been negotiating for the Berserk license for months. Clearly they were having problems getting the license finalized, it seems that UV really wanted Berserk but the Japanese wanted too much money for it. Whatever the sum of money, and it is said to be a very significant amount; it seems that Media Blasters was willing to pay it. At Anime Expo, only hours after Urban Vision repeated once again that they were "still working on finalizing the Berserk deal," Media Blasters announced that they had signed a contract for Berserk only a few days earlier.

Also somewhat interesting is ADV's flip-flop regarding Noir; Noir was originally on the very long list of acquisitions that ADV discussed at AX, but they later stated that it was all a misunderstanding and that they had not licensed Noir.

2001 also marked the emergence of a very important trend in Anime licensing, the licensing of titles before they are even released in Japan. Very often this is mixed with co-financing, and the titles are even being produced with the American market in mind. AD Vision is probably "King" in this arena; At AX ADV announced licenses for a whole slew of titles that had not yet been released in Japan. ADV's titles include the new Kenshin OVAs, the new Cutie Honey Series (not Cutie Honey Flash) and the new Urotsukidoji OVA series. In total, ADV hinted that they had licensed, or were co-producing / co-financing, at least 13 titles that had not yet been released in Japan.

ADV wasn't the only company to license something before its Japanese release, Urban Vision co-produced Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Pioneer was involved with the Hellsing Project.

Without a doubt, this is a trend that is going to continue, foreign markets have become a very important factor is supporting the Japanese Anime industry in the past couple of years.

Some of these titles, including some of the many others that were licensed in 2001 will make there was on to DVD (and maybe even VHS) in 2002, others won't make their way onto home video until 2003 or later. For a look at what else might be coming our way in 2002 and beyond, let's take a look at some of the more anticipated titles coming out in Japan.

In October word came our way that a 3rd Love Hina OVA was in production in Japan. The Love Hina TV series, which is just making its way to the American home video market now, is undoubtedly one of the funniest Anime TV shows in years, and even now when the first DVD has not yet been released, American Love Hina fans are anxiously awaiting the new OVA.

Despite the colossal Box office failure of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and the relative unimportance of the Final Fantasy OVAs, Final Fantasy itself remains one of the most profitable video game dynasties of all time and still has tremendous cross-over potential. The first of 52 episodes of Final Fantasy Unlimited premiered on TV-Tokyo on October 2nd and FF:U is sure to be on its way to North America soon enough.

Gainax's six episode OVA series, GunBuster is a definite fan favorite. Originally released in 1988, Gainax has confirmed that they are producing a sequel to Gunbuster. The new Gunbuster hasn't been released yet, in fact not very many details about the sequel are available, so we'll just have to wait this one out and see what happens. Although Gunbuster may not have tremendous appeal as a mainstream American release, there's a good chance that one of our American Licensors, probably Manga, ADV or Bandai, will license the show for our viewing pleasure.

Another sequel that will undoubtedly make its way to American shores is Armitage: Dual Matrix. AIC confirmed in August that they had completed production of the Armitage the 3rd sequel and there can be no doubt that Pioneer Entertainment will bring this title to North America soon enough.

So what Anime are you most excited about? Is it one of the ones we mentioned? Or something else like Tenchi Muyo GXP, Full Metal Panic, Kanon, Onegai Teacher, Aquarian-Age, Kinnikuman Second Generation, X, I wish you were here, Mahoromatic, Vandread Secon Stage, Chobits, Galaxy Angel 2, Steam Detectives, Inu Yashu 2, One Piece, Tokyo Mew Mew; or something else entirely? Let us know in the forum.

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