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Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - Convention Chaos

by Allen Divers,
Convention season is upon us, and the announcements of acquisitions have really begun to kick in. Anime Boston saw the announcement of quite a few popular titles including Haibane Renmei, Azumanga Daioh, Witch Hunter Robin and a reminder that Licensed by Royalty (L/R) had been acquired. Of these four, I've already had a look at L/R and Witch Hunter Robin and actually managed to guess who had licensed them. Information about Azumanga Daioh had managed to leak out a bit before, so the fact that ADV had it was simply confirmation of a long standing rumor. Pioneer's acquisition of Haibane Renmei was also not much of a surprise, as Pioneer has handled many of the works of Haibane Renmei's creative staff before. Of these, Bandai's announcement of Witch Hunter Robin had the most shock value, mostly because no one expected them to be ready to announce it this soon.

Haibane Renmei

From a story by Abe Yoshitoshi, the man behind Neia_7 and Serial Experiments Lain, comes this tale about a group of angels living in a long forgotten town. Sharing much of the visual look of Mr. Yoshtoshi's first few series, Haibane Renmei is an easy going tale about a young girl who wakes up in this strange new world. While no one is sure what exactly these angels, also called charcoal wings, are doing in this world, a system has evolved to allow them to live with regular humans. As seems to be a running theme from Neia_7 and Lain, there is an undercurrent of a much larger background story, but the protagonists and the viewer are left worrying more about day to day life.

The English soundtrack for Haibane Renmei is being handled by the folks over at New Generation Pictures. While not much has been said about who has been cast in which roles, you can safely bet the show will feature many familiar voices from dubs such as Neia_7 and Strawberry Eggs. Much of the focus is around an all-female cast, so hopefully NGP will cast a good set of voices that play well with each other. There are a lot of high expectations on the script, as NGP has made quite a reputation for itself by remaining very true to the original intent of the Japanese script. Having had a chance to speak with Jonathan Klein over at NGP, he did mention they won't be using honorifics in the dub. Considering the setting and tone of the series, they just didn't fit in with the translated script.

Licensed by Royalty (L/R)

I had originally referred to this title as Licensed by Royal, but its official title is Licensed by Royalty. This 12 episode series follows the adventures of a special team of agents assigned to protect the royal family of a small island off the coast of England. New Generation Pictures again gets the green light on a project from Pioneer, handling the English soundtrack. Again, while no official word has been given, we can expect a strong script favoring the original Japanese version. L/R will also benefit from NGP's experience with Hellsing to make a believable European flavored drama. I expect to see quite a few British accents peppered through this dub, although NGP may surprise us all. Again, no casting information, but I expect to see Crispin Freeman in the role of either Jack or Rowe and Jennifer Sekiguchi in the role of Noelle.

Azumanga Daioh

Probably the strangest series to be announced comes Azumanga Daioh. This show has managed to create quite a stir, almost bordering on the line of a cult classic. With a strong reliance on Japanese culture, and much of the humor tied into puns and other cultural ideals, many saw this show as un-licensable. The fear for this show was the fact that no distributor would be interested in it, because it wouldn't make money. But, really, who can predict what companies will license. (Ok, so I try to, but heck, I'm not always right.)

Azumanga Daioh follows a class of girls as they make their way through life. With an assorted mix of characters and another layer of strange personalities thrown in, Azumanga Daioh comes across as a bunch of loosely connected short stories that are strictly for entertainment's sake. There is no driving back-story, no alien invasion and really nothing else happening in this series. It simply runs as a series of shorts designed to make the audience chuckle. And, after watching a few episodes, there is plenty to chuckle about. The show has a charm that makes it addictive to watch.

So, now we know its coming, and we know that ADV has it. Now the next level of criticism begins. How will they handle it? There's two ways they can handle this. First, they could create a story putting in American pop culture references, American puns and simply creating their own dialogue to fit with the actions on the screen. While not the choice many of the fans want to see, it would make the show more sellable on the wider market. The second option is a bit of a compromise. Stay a bit truer to the original feeling of the Japanese script with the inclusion of a healthy amount of liner notes. In this case, the liner notes would be ADV's Vid Notes, and would probably be animated as Chiyo's pony tails. There would still be a few American pop-culture references as well as a few American puns, similar to what fans got for Excel Saga. A true and almost literal translation of the original Japanese dialogue simply wouldn't work, even with a healthy dose of liner notes just because the only audience this would appeal to will probably be listening to the original Japanese anyway.

Before I end this week, I wanted to mention one last series that's getting quite a bit of buzz. Macross Zero has already got the fans in frenzy even though only the second episode has just been released in Japan as an OVA. North American fans are foaming at the mouth as they hit the convention scene, hoping for news of this series. At Anime Boston, the Manga panel was pummeled with the question of, are you seeking this license? The answer was a swift no, but the audience was told to go ask Pioneer. Well, the fans went to talk to Pioneer and so far, Pioneer isn't talking. At Anime Central the crowd sat back waiting for Pioneer to make some announcement and again, no word.

So, the question is who has Macross Zero? My money is with Bandai. In the last 2 years, Bandai has built a strong relationship with Shōji Kawamori, the man behind the new Macross. While this isn't a guarantee that they have it, they do appear to be a major player in the game for the license. The real problem though is that the entire Macross license seems to be in limbo. Last year's decision by a Japanese court seemed to put the world wide rights of the license back in the hands of the original owner. Here in North America, Harmony Gold continues to yell out that they have the rights to anything Macross. So obviously, there are still a lot of legal questions that have yet to be answered.

Macross Zero is coming, one way or another. It's potential to gain an audience in North America will make any company that brings it over quite happy. At this point, its status could be held up in a major bidding war. Unfortunately, this kind of information isn't made available to rest of us. The convention season is still just starting, so there are plenty of places for an announcement to be made!

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