A Perfect Example of "Media"* Bias...

No, I'm not exposing some other news outlet; I'm blowing the whistle on myself. It's not for anything I've written before, but what I am going to write in this article. I have two hopes with this article: the first is that the readers will become as excited about the subject matter as I am and the second is that perhaps some journalistic source may run across this and use as an example.

I <3 AnimEigo. That's right, I *heart* them. This hasn't been a recent development. In my ten years of fandom, this is a company that has put out quality title after quality title. What's better, is that AnimEigo is much like the best friend of Akihabara Renditions: They revolve around the same licenses and titles that AkibaRen likes to look at. And their lament and business seems to be about the same as mine: most fans now-a-days are looking for the next Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Fullmetal Alchemist) 『鋼の錬金術師』 or Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu (The Meloncholoy of Suzumiya Haruhi) 『涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱』, a lot are ignoring other classics like Waga Seishun no Arcadia (My Youth in Arcadia) 『わが青春のアルカディア』 or Choujikuu Yousai Macross (Superdimension Fortress Macross) 『超時空要塞マクロス』.

As such, AnimEigo's catalog has always remained small, more niche titles. However, that does give them the time to take quality control seriously, which unfortunately in the past year or so has fallen through the cracks on some titles from companies like Bandai Entertainment Inc. Their method of putting short translator's notes on actual discs and in-depth "Otaku Notes", as I call them, both inside the DVD cases and on their public website has yet to be mimicked, let alone surpassed. In fact, learning the nerdy information about some of my favorite series from them is probably the root of losing several perfectly good afternoons when I probably should have been doing something else. The recent boom and bust between 2002 and 2005 also has had a negative effect on them. With more and more recent titles coming out faster and faster from their competitors, not to mention in larger quantities, the fanbase who normally purchase their anime have a lot of choices with relatively minimal incomes (or minimal excess income). Age might be another factor; anime from the seventies, eighties and early nineties have their own distinct look, especially when compared to anime from the late nineties to the present. As companies and license holders in Japan up their prices of the IP (intellectual property) they are selling and are more reluctant to sell old properties, AnimEigo has been focusing on getting their old libraries updated to DVD releases, releasing the last of their "new" licenses, as well as moving onto Japanese live action films to help pay the bills. As of the middle of this year, with their last acquired title Taihoshichauzo! (You're Under Arrest!) 『逮捕しちゃうぞ!』 , finished the last of their DVD conversions on Urusei Yatsura (Urusei Yatsura: Those Obnoxious Aliens) 『うる星やつら』, as well as unfortunately had some licenses expire on them and several titles go Out Of Print, AnimEigo seemed to be on its last lifeline as a North American anime distributor. Which I felt was a horrible shame...

Until the 17th of August [Anime News Network] of this year when AnimEigo announced their first license in five years: Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl!

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**Image Courtesy of AnimEigo's Website**

Yawara's popularity in Japan has been one of massive popularity when it was aired from 1989 to 1992 to a forgotten, yet nostalgic anime in years since. In July of 2002 on TV Asahi's This is Japan's Best 100: Anime, Yawara ranked a low 70 on the list, yet still, the list is missing numerous anime most non-Japanese fans would expect to appear on the list; the main character, Inokuma Yawara faired much better reaching 38 on the list of 2003's Best 100: Anime Characters and on 2004's Top 20 Anime Songs of the 1980s, the first opening "Miracle Girl" ranked 15.

Yawara is, however, one of the many classics that maintains a sort of nostalgia in Japan that didn't find an audience outside of Japan until digital fansubs were able to be produced. Since the release of them began in 2002 or 2003, a very much grassroots campaign began to have the this series licensed.

However, what separates Yawara! from most other anime is really superficial. If I were to say there is anything really unique about it is that it is a Romance-Sports anime that approaches each side of the genre from different gender stereotypes. To me, the Romantic side seems to be told from a very female perspective, with Inokuma wanting the ideal romance most teenage girls long for and a seeming parody off of the "Shounen romance" found in other series like Maison Ikkoku 『めいぞん一刻』 as boys and men develop crushes on Inokuma herself. However, while Inokuma is wishing for schoolgirl romance, she is also wishing that she could be a more normal schoolgirl. Unlike her classmates, Inokuma Yawara is under constant pressure from her grandfather Inokuma Jigoro to enter the sport of Judo professionally when she enters college. Jigoro has been training his grand-daughter since she was in the first years of elementary school and with Jigoro ranking as high as he did when retired, many have high hopes for Yawara when she decides to enter the pro-arena (all with Jigoro's consent and knowledge, of course). The sport scenes where Yawara competes are, from as I can see, from a Shounen perspective, like many sports anime. They are the type of scenes full of internal monologues, edge-of-your-seat action, and huge sighs of relief at the very end of them. They are sure not to disappoint.

While trying not to give away too many spoilers about the series, there's a bit more to this series than Yawara wishing for romantic love and sports action of women and girls throwing each other around; there is a bit of underlying family drama throughout the series it appears as well as numerous contenders for Yawara's affections who often find themselves not having those feeling reciprocated at one point or another.

While I am anxiously awaiting the first Yawara box set to be released, I have been kicking back with some of AnimEigo's other releases that have recently or are soon to be Out Of Print and I am quite pleased with them, I honestly cannot say why I waited so long to get a hold of these.

The big news earlier was that Kimagure Orange Road 『きまぐれオレンジロード』's TV series was going out of print on 1 August; however, shortly after that date came (and I missed it), the OAVs and first film, also licensed by AnimEigo, were going Out Of Print as well (along with another series to be mentioned later). I happened to grab them on the last day and found excess stock of the TV series at a great deal, so I bought them all up; consequences be damned.

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Due to financial and shipping logistics, I ended up receiving the OAVs and Film first, but a few days later, my TV series box set arrived. I started watching through it and I really enjoy the series. My first experience was from a friend of mine ranting and raving about how good it was; when it crunch time came to his hobbies from lack of funds, he went back to video games (well, some other anime fans helped with that choice, too) but he still maintains how much he loves KOR. I watched probably a couple episodes with him, but once I heard it was going out of print, I was rushed into getting a set for myself.

KOR is a lot like any typical romance series where you have a young, male protagonist that cannot decide between which girl he has affections for. What is different for Kasuga Kyousuke is that he has one girl who openly likes him, yet he feels more of an attraction to another, Ayukawa Madoka, who has an on-again-off-again attraction for him. Though, what initially sets this series apart is the addition of a magical curse in the form of telekinesis shared between Kyosuke and his sisters, which makes for a convenient reason for easy comic relief, especially when concerning the Kasuga's cat, Jingoro.

However, the real shock I've had with my most recent AnimEigo purchases and continuing love for the company comes in the form of an early 1980s Sunrise animation - Crusher Joe 『クラッシャジョー』.

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AnimEigo has loaded up the original Crusher Joe film and the two OAVs into one excellent collection. The setting is a very generic galactic adventure type setting that most sci-fi fans will be comfortable with. In fact, the strength of Crusher Joe comes from that despite being written by a Japanese author (he same author of The Dirty pair) and being animated by one of the most notable animation companies of the 1980s, it has more of the feel of a Western sci-fi story adapted to animation that was outsourced to Japan at that time (as was a relatively common practice). I enjoyed the movie so much, I cannot wait until I have time to squeeze it into my schedule again. I am kinda kicking myself for waiting so long to check this out; I had seen clips from the movie, apparently edited and dubbed poorly, which could have ruined the perception I had of it. I'm glad that, again, unfortunately these are going out of print and I took the chance on them. Crusher Joe has become one of my recent favorites.

In closing, AnimEigo has experienced a desert of news concerning their anime licensures but as business was wrapped up in the past five years since their last new license, AnimEigo has opened up with what I think will be a block-buster, classic title once some more press is put out about it. I cannot stress enough about how excited I am about the licensure of Yawara. I think it would be really nice if AnimEigo were able to host a panel at AWA coming up here in around three weeks that they might have a sneak preview for us of their progress so far or some more information concerning the release. Unfortunately, the news of this excellent license is also accompanied by more licenses unable to be renewed and relinquished. For these series, while one is unable to purchase them from AnimEigo directly, I highly suggest hunting down the Kimagure Orange Road TV series, OAV series, and first film and the Crusher Joe film and OAVs. I personally believe the search will be worth it, especially since I believe the chances of these titles being re-licensed in our current market are very slim, even given how surprising the market has been concerning classics from 2005 up through this year.

*From the Article Title: I put "Media" into quotes because the vast majority of blogs aren't of the same sort of media that folks like Fox, CNN, AFP, Reuters and other more legitimate news services but many in the blogosphere have taken a stance of acting as the watchdogs of the legitimate services. Most anime news outlets are good about what they report, so AkibaRen has not taken the same stance of watchdog against them. I also do not intend on keeping AkibaRen here forever; I plan on moving to its own domain and hope to continue explanding its scope from what little I can do here. What's most important is that AkibaRen isn't just a n opinion blog about what I think about a multitude of series; I'm hoping to make a little more sense of the business practices and models and to spread my love for classic Japanese animation.

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