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Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - I want it now!

I enjoy Anime. Now, I realize that may come to a shock to many of you, but hear me out! Every now and then I have to reaffirm this love affair with the entire animation genre, Anime in particular. Most of the time this renewal comes about because of an encounter with a piece of work that redefines Animation. This time around it was due to a lovely little film entitled, "Kurenai no Buta." This is another Ghibli classic that thanks to Disney we have yet to see in an official release on the North American continent. Disney, through its distribution arm, Buena Vista, has exclusive worldwide rights to distribute the majority of the Ghibli line of movies. Unfortunately, Disney has been dragging their feet because of the poor sales of these titles in the U.S. Is it really poor sales, or are they missing the point that Anime titles appeal to a certain audience, large in numbers, but not large enough to allow movies to pull in the millions that Disney seem to be looking for.

Citing poor ticket sales, Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime) was deemed a theatrical failure in the U.S. It of course had nothing to do with the limited release, poor advertising or high upfront cost in producing an all-star dub with top name actors. According to Disney, the fans weren't there. Of course, movies like Metropolis, Jin-Roh and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust seem to point in another direction, but who are we to tell the big suits at Disney how to market films? What it really seems to point to is Disney may just be too big to give each title the proper treatment.

Take some of the smaller companies that exist. Anime is obviously profitable; why else would anyone even attempt to sell the stuff? A.D. Vision, FUNimation, TOKYOPOP, Viz, Bandai, Pioneer, and CPM: there are quite a few "small" companies out there and they all seem to be doing ok. Sure, some of them are a bit larger and are able to crank out release after release while at the same time picking up more releases. Of course, some of these "big" fish run into their own problems as it takes months or years for a licensed product to show up on store shelves. The fact that they keep cranking the stuff out also shows that money can be made, even without an all-star voice cast.

Well, the good news is more Anime is premiering in Japan all the time. Over the period of a single season, Japanese airwaves see over 40 new series. Some of these series may even make their way over to North America. You've probably heard of some of these, thanks to various resources, and some you've probably already seen. Once they've premiered, you begin to ask certain questions. First, "who's going to license my new favorite series"? Next, "when are they going to release it"?

My goal with this column is to introduce you to some of the new series premiering in Japan. This includes the ones hitting TV and Satellite as well as OVA series. On occasion, I might even be able to cover some of the movies that premiere as well. I'll cover the basics of a new series and hopefully help generate the necessary "I want It!" buzz that will make a series appear sooner than the normal 1 to 2 year wait that we tend to have. So, let's get to it!

Let's start things off with an OVA featuring lots of action and aliens. Sadamitsu is an average high school student, who just happens to be the toughest SOB this side of Tokyo. He's no bully, fighting under the ultimate warriors code. The earth has become the landing point for a group of aliens that have nothing better to do than terrorize various parts of the universe. An Attendant from another world is sent to remove the aliens one by one. Of course, there is an accident and Sadamitsu must help the Attendant defeat the various aliens.

Overall, this is a strong tale for the action-oriented folks out there. Lots of fighting, and general chaos involved. There's also a major pull at the heart strings as Sadamitsu tries to figure out his feelings thanks to a rival hunter who he may have had some involvement with as a youth. This is a classic good vs. evil story with a bit of gray thrown in just to keep things interesting.

No announcements yet on who is after the license for this one. It's ideal for the North American market with a broad appeal to the action fans out there. With the recent rash of Anime to Live Action movie deals this one could fall into that category as well. Of the companies out there, this one seems to fit well with either Bandai or ADV.

In the near future, people play a highly interactive RPG online. One player finds himself involved a lot more than just simply logging on. For you Everquest fans, this show might strike a familiar cord right off the bat. Having just premiered in the first week of April, there's not a lot of information to go with at the moment, but the show looks very promising. Strong character design and fluid animation show a lot of care and expense for a standard TV animation. In the first episode alone, there is a great sense of urgency in the back-story. The second episode points to this being an interesting ensemble cast show, with the potential for strong character development.

The visual look and eerily familiar storyline should strike a cord with North American fans. This would be an ideal title for Pioneer, considering their range of product.

Another series from that hard working group over at CLAMP. Based on the Manga of the same name, Chobits tells the story of Hideki Motosuwa a ronin who has made his way to Tokyo to get into college. In Tokyo, Hideki finds that everyone has a Persocon, a sort of personal computer that happens to be in human form. He of course feels he must have one to be the envy of the small town he comes from, but can't afford them. As his luck would have it, he happens to find one abandoned on a trash heap. This one is stacking up to be one of those ironic romantic pieces that the CLAMP group loves to dish out.

Character designs are very much typical CLAMP in look and feel. The first episode does a good job of introducing the main characters, and setting the idea of a good back-story.

Being a CLAMP property, Nelvana has a first look clause to consider licensing this story. If Nelvana wants to be a serious contender as an Anime distributor, they would be wise to pick this up. Of course, considering their history with Card Captor Sakura, more than likely they will not pick this up. Pioneer would be the ideal choice, since most shows they handle now are similar in tone to this one.

1 OVA and 2 TV series is always a good start, especially as I try and get the feel for this column. There's plenty more hitting the airwaves and store shelves in Japan, so there's still plenty to talk about. I'll be back next week with more!


Allen Divers

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