We may have reached the end of 2003 but it has left behind it more anime releases in the UK than we've seen since the peak of Manga Video. As well as the DVD reissue of many of Manga's back catalogue including Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Vampire Hunter D they have also been unleashing new acquisitions like Read Or Die and Kai-Doh-Maru. ADV have also re-entered the UK market in a big way with around 6 new DVD's per month! Throw in the likes of MVM, Buena Vista (finally), Contender and FUNimation and we've had a bumper crop, but what does the future hold?
The big news is that, following the releases of (Laputa) Castle in the Sky and Kiki's Delivery Service last October, 2004 should be seeing a lot more of the Studio Ghibli/Buena Vista partnership. Miyazaki's Porco Rosso and Yoshifumi Kondo's Whisper of the Heart are pencilled in for an April 2004 release, with Isao Takahata's Only Yesterday and Pom Poko slated for September and Miyazaki's Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind and My Neighbour Totoro completing the schedule in November. For more info check out:
Also on the Miyazaki front is the Oscar winning Spirited Away which should get a February release from Optimum Releasing, who have also snapped up the rights to Studio Ghibli's most recent blockbuster The Cat Returns, suggesting a cinema release could be on the cards.
Another big mover is ADV who, after blasting back into the UK market so spectacularly in 2003, will be following up with more of the same. Big releases from them include the final few volumes of Excel Saga, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Noir and Dai Guard early in the year and the continuation of RahXephon, Full Metal Panic! and Zone of the Enders. And that's just for starters. ADV will also be bringing over King of Bandit Jing, Angelic Layer, Pretear, Final Fantasy Unlimited, Sakura Wars and Najica Blitz Tactics following successful US releases and have secured the UK rights to Slayers Return, the Nadesico film and the highly anticipated Revival of Evangelion - Hideaki Anno's remaster of his landmark series. There are also rumours of UK releases of Sakura Diaries and Magical Shopping Street Abenobashi. Whatever happens, with the UK and US releases from ADV appearing to be getting closer and closer together, there will undoubtedly be more from them as the year progresses. For more info check out: www.advfilms.co.uk
Another great thing for UK fans is MVM's new position of 3rd party distributor par excellence, with UK distribution deals secured with Tokyopop, Animeigo, FUNimation and Geneon (previously Pioneer). The first fruit of the Geneon union is the critically acclaimed Serial Experiments Lain, with Tenchi Muyo and The Adventures of The Mini Goddess following shortly afterwards. Tokyopop's Vampire Princess Miyu and the FUNimation duo of Fruits Basket and Kiddy Grade are also receiving an aggressive release schedule. MVM have not been resting on their laurels though and continue with their Sailor Moon releases and add several OVA's and the eagerly awaited Ninja Scroll TV Series to their canon. Their distribution deals have also been rumoured to include rights to Love Hina, the CLAMP collective's highly rated Chobits, the Ranma 1/2 films and Real Bout High School, although this has not been confirmed. Whatever happens, there's no doubt that their confirmed releases have well and truly catapulted them into the UK distribution big league.
Another newbie is Contender Video, who snuck in and snapped up the rights to children's favourites Beyblade, Cardcaptors, Medabots and Yu-Gi-Oh!. With these titles going on seemingly forever, Contender appear to have picked themselves up a solid groundwork to build on and don't be surprised if they begin to acquire other similar titles.
Things are relatively quiet in the Manga Video camp at present with no announcements of other major titles, however, it is likely that the lesser known titles in their vast back catalogue will continue to crop up in their budget Manga Collection series. This said, they do have a number of popular titles on VHS that have yet to get a DVD release, such as Wings of Honnemeise, Battle Angel Alita, Fist of the North Star, Project A-KO and 3x3 Eyes. As long as the rights haven't lapsed we could see some of these in the next 12 months, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them acquire the rights to Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex or Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust either.
Also worth noting is the UK release of the Ichi The Killer anime from Premier Asia on the 26th January. Set before the live action version, the anime explains the immensely violent and disturbing past of Ichi and also features an interview with Takashi Miike - director of the live action film and classics like Happiness of the Katakuris and Audition.
Despite the behemoth that is Viz Video still not entering the UK market (potential copyright issues with the oddly popular British 'adult comic' Viz could be partly to blame), there is still a lot to come over the coming year. The above is just a taster, with much more licensing to come and several smaller companies in the wings 2004 could be even bigger than 2003. Here's hoping...
Anime is huge in the US at the moment, and 2003 has even seen the launch of the West's first anime channel there! 2004 promises more of the latest books, films and series from Japan, far too many in fact to list here. Amongst the most eagerly anticipated is Texhnolyze - the latest brainchild of Serial Experiments Lain creator Yoshitoshi ABe, Hideaki Anno's Revival of Evangelion, Slayers Great, Slayers Gorgeous, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex and Satoshi Kon's Millennium Actress. 2004 will also see the US release of most, if not all, of Studio Ghibli's back catalogue and probably the new Astro Boy series. We may also (at long last) see an American distributor finally pick up the rights to the One Piece and Naruto anime series' following the successful serialisation of the corresponding Mangas in Viz Comics' monthly Shonen Jump magazine. For more up to date information check the distributors' websites (see our Links section) and check out www.animeondvd.com.
And finally we come to Japan. Again, far to much anime is released to list it all, and to be honest we don't have a clue what half of it is anyway! Amongst the most immediately interesting titles is Innocence Ghost in the Shell, a film that brings together the anime powerhouses of Production IG and Studio Ghibli and returns Mamoru Oshii to directing after an absence of several years. What we have seen of this film so far is jaw dropping to say the least and some of the animation defies belief. This film will set new boundaries in animation, but they may be broken very quickly with Oscar winner Hayao Miyazaki's latest effort, Howl's Moving Castle. Taking a much loved fantasy novel by Welsh author Dianna Wynne Jones and adding his own magic, Miyazaki's latest is being kept very much under wraps with only the briefest tantalising clip appearing on the recent Japanese DVD release of Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind. With these two titles due to rule the Japanese box office, series tie-ins like the latest Inu-Yasha film may be left in the shadows. Things are hotting up on TV as well, with Naru Taru (known as Shadow Star in the US) and the new CGI series of Masamune Shirow's Appleseed joining the likes of Saiyuki Reload, Nintendo game tie-in F-Zero Falcon Densetsu and the new Tetsujin 28 series (otherwise known as Gigantor) in battling it out with long running established series like One Piece, Doraemon, Gundam and Inu-Yasha.
2004 is also due to be the year we see something of the live action anime films, with the Japanese cinematic outings for Cutey Honey (to be directed by Hideaki Anno) and Tetsujin 28 Gou (aka. Gigantor) currently in production being joined by US versions of Battle Angel Alita, Lupin III, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ninja Scroll and possibly even the oft rumoured Akira and Dragonball Z.
There's a lot to come, and this doesn't even scratch the surface. We'll post interesting stuff on the Messageboard as and when we hear about it but we suggest you start saving your pennies and keeping an eye on sites like www.play.com, www.uk-anime.net, www.otaku.co.uk and www.dc-dvd.co.uk, odds on there's some stuff on the way to interest you.