As anime and manga slowly but surely become more and more of an integral part of the UK’s popular culture, it’s fair to say that we as fans have never had it so good. Whether you share this view or not, there have been some important events in the past twelve months that have, for better or for worse, had a profound impact. As 2007 draws to a close I’ve concluded that it has, as Tori Amos said, been a Pretty Good Year.
New to DVD
My own personal highlights were the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll drama Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad and Eureka Seven. The former arrived after numerous delays and speculation, complete with a fantastic limited edition collector’s box; the latter, the mecha thriller born from the creative minds of Studio Bones and Macross creator Shoji Kawamori, features great characterisation, vibrant giant mecha action scenes (complete with airborne scenes in which the combat is fought surfing on particles of pure light!) and an overwhelming sense of youthful ‘cool’. I daresay these are among the best shows of their respective types in recent years.
I’d all but given up on a UK release of the medieval fantasy adventure Berserk; after hearing so many good things I was all set to resort to importing…until MVM delivered the goods with the Region 2 edition last autumn. Similarly, AD Vision demonstrated that they hadn’t forgotten about us Brits either, kicking off their release of the sci-fi piece Kurau: Phantom Memory. Speaking of sci-fi, the first feature-length addition to the Stand-alone Complex branch of the Ghost in the Shell franchise, Solid State Society, also hit the shelves this year, as did the atmospheric cyberpunk series Ergo Proxy.
Fans of box sets and special editions shouldn’t be disappointed this year either with the likes of Satoshi Kon’s Paranoia Agent, .//Hack: Sign, Haibane Renmei and Planetes being among those getting the box set treatment.
From a collector’s point of view, it’s been a great time to start collecting more of your favourite movies and series but from the industry perspective it’s not been without its problems. A high-profile collapse of a potentially lucrative deal between old stalwarts ADV and Geneon threatened the distribution and availability of some popular Geneon titles, with potential repercussions for the European markets; especially when our own MVM relies on Geneon for many of its own current roster. On the plus side, a new contender for UK distributor in the form of Revelation films picked up some dropped MVM titles and one or two of its own.
The questionable state of the anime market in general, both in Japan and the West, was thrown into the forefront more recently with a series of press releases and statements from various corporate representatives, relating to the age-old debate regarding the effects of fansub downloading and distribution on the financing of studios and new releases. Whatever your opinion on the subject, it’s an issue that shows no sign of going away any time soon; studios, distributors and fans all had to come to terms with some harsh realities in between the circular arguments, finger-pointing and fears of industry collapse. My own view is that things probably aren’t quite as bad as the pessimists made out but in an age of digital file sharing, the increasing influence of the internet and the rising global popularity of anime, there are some important lessons to be learned and the way in which things are done will have to adapt with the changing times.
Anime on UK TV…at last
After being treated to little more than heavily edited Shonen Jump shows on kids’ channels and the occasional movie in the small hours of the morning every few months, we’ve had anime broadcast on national TV for the first time since the ‘good old days’ of Evangelion and Nadesico on the Sci-fi Channel. This year, we saw the first defintive evidence that all this could change. A number of fan favourites, including GitS: SAC, Cowboy Bebop, Azu Manga Daioh, Wolf’s Rain and Full Metal Alchemist were given regular slots on the channels Anime Network UK and Anime Central. It goes without saying that the combined efforts of these two is a pretty big step in the right direction for UK viewers!
Coming up in 2008
This is all well and good, but what’s to come next year? The announcement of a second season of Gunslinger Girl, a new Mamoru Oshii production in the form of Sky Crawlers and even a 25th anniversary addition to the Macross franchise, Macross Frontier, featuring a soundtrack penned by Yoko Kanno, all promise good things for the months ahead. With ADV picking up the licence and arranging a preview screening in Edinburgh for Makoto Shinkai’s latest feature, Byousoku 5cm (5cm per Second), a DVD release can’t be far behind either.