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Editorial: A Look Ahead
By Chris Beveridge
So here we are, for a look ahead into 1999. Last month, I went into the changes, ups, downs and other various things with how anime has gone for 1998. It's been a hard year for anime fans who are solidly into DVD.
If you're like me, you now have a very difficult time watching VHS, be it anime or live action movies. You're seeing your overall collection surge over what you've had on VHS, and for some, laserdisc. You're buying things you haven't before, both to show support and because you want to check things out since titles have been few and far between for awhile. You've gotten into spirited debates on various forums or newsgroups about your new passion, trying to bring education to people who may just be repeating information that's months and months old and out of date.
And, you may just be getting all fidgety now. 1999 is looking to be a very strong year for anime on our favorite format. Let's go down the list a bit.
Central Park Media - They deserve first mention because they're almost the Warner Bros. of anime, bringing out a lot of shows through various sublicensors (Image, Crush, DVD Inc, themselves). Though there've been some fluctuations in quality, it's no different than the previous year for DVD in general, and a learning curve for many companies. Product is improving greatly as they go along. Their lineup for 1999 is apparently sketched out quite well, with several compilations due before May itself. The Arslan compilation has many fans eager, as well as the Takegami minicompilation. One that a lot of people have emailed me about and are the most eager for is Utena, Revolutionary Girl. Scattered throughout are various smaller shows, one shot OVA's and movies. A full schedule is in front of them, and I can tell that they're very excited about everything they're doing.
Pioneer - After their sporadic releases in 1998, 1999 is looking to be the year for Pioneer to rival if not surpass Central Park Media. With the release in January of the latest Tenchi TV series, this marks a new beginning in acceptance of the format. With the exception of going to import laserdiscs, domestic anime fans have only VHS and DVD to choose from, and more people are moving into the camp with us now. Add in Fushigi Yuugi, and you've definitely snared more people from the VHS and LD crowd. The only downside to their upcoming releases, at least initially, is the lack of parity between VHS. When Pioneer was releasing LD and VHS, they were released at the same time, or within weeks of each other. Now, we're looking at DVD being a few months behind. This may be due to the late change in priorities of doing only movies and short OVA's on DVD to a full commitment by the company to bring everything out. With titles like Tenchi in Tokyo, Fushigi Yuugi, Bastard and many other potential shows just now showing up in Japan, Pioneer has a chance at bringing out some of the high interest titles as they go further into 1999. They've barely made mention of their 1st quarter releases, but the 3 prime titles mentioned here alone make me excited to see what's to come.
Manga - Sadly, Manga's been one of the biggest disappointments so far, insofar as their announcements. 1998 was good for quality releases, once the problems with Ninja Scroll were cleaned up, but their output has been even more minimal than laserdisc. Whether this has more to do with their work on their upcoming TV series they have in production or a lack of interest in general is unknown. To date, every single email I've sent to them has gone unanswered.
Animeigo - With their first big title now out and being disseminated throughout the net, people are definitely eager to see more. Retailers are selling out of this title faster than they can stock it (with numbers at some sites going over the number of discs sold by companies like Paramount for their mid-range titles) can only tell both Animeigo and M2K that people like what they're seeing and want more. Unfortunately, it's too early to tell what 1999 will bring from Animeigo, as they wanted to see how BGC will do. Hopefully, they'll hear us loud and clear and bring out more in 1999.
AD Vision - With the initial fear of the upcoming Tekken being their only title in 1999 out of the way, people are now breathing a little easier about AD Vision. Summer 1999 will see the release of the very cool Queen Emeraldas, but little else is known about their plans at the moment. With the word being that they're going to concentrate on OVA's and movies for now before getting into TV series, they have plenty of titles in their catalog to bring out, and anime starved DVD fans will be eager for a lot of it, myself included.
Right Stuf - Other than the initial announcement of a potential release of Tylor on DVD in 1999 sometime, I've heard little else from them. At this point, I can only assume that they're getting the numbers crunched and looking into it. The Tylor series will definitely be among the highest anticipated in my home next year.
Urban Vision - With the information provided by fans here, Urban Vision should be able to make a large splash into the DVD market next year. The information acquired in the polls has apparently been very helpful to the folks over there, and I can only wait with the rest to hear of their first releases in 1999.
Media Blasters Group - With the announcement just over a week ago about Magic Knight Rayearth, and the email I received from Mr. Sirabella, we can most likely look forward to the release of this title in a box set series towards the end of next year (the VHS release won't be until around September). Hopefully, in the meantime we'll see some DVD releases from them, especially since they have several of the titles recently reviewed in our region 2 section that just sound great.
For the most part, almost every company is supporting anime DVD or is preparing a potential launch of product on it. A far cry from this time last year, or from the past couple of years on laserdisc with sporadic support by many of the companies, even the larger ones. Things are looking good, but the work is hardly done. The petitions are a strong way to send messages to the companies, and several do regularly check them out as well as other news pieces here. Your voices are being heard, and the next year of releases is due entirely to the eagerness of fans and their support of anime itself.