Despite the number of stereotypes attributed to it, the word “anime” is simply an abbreviation for the Japanese term for animation. It covers any form of cartoon made in Japan, comprising multiple genres. While cartoons in the States are often unfairly dismissed as juvenile junk, they flourish as a true art in Japan. With content generally more serious than American cartoons, it isn’t surprising that many anime franchises have become mainstays of youth culture in the west. Without a doubt, those who dismiss anime as the obsession of japanophiles are missing out on the best animation in the world.
Before people outside Japan can enjoy an anime (legally at least) it has to licensed for western distribution. Determining what get’s brought over and by who is a long complex process. Anime is first and foremost produced for a Japanese audience and not all of them can find success in front of a western one. The following listing is basically my wish list for the anime I want to see localized. Ideally, these shows would be given Region 1 DVD release, preferably with an English dub.
Hunter x Hunter
Saying that Yoshihiro Togashi is one of the greatest manga authors ever doesn’t even come close to overstating his talents. A gifted minimalist artist and master storyteller, the anime adaption of his first major manga, Yu Yu Hakusho, is one of my all time favorite cartoons. By all regards, Togashi only improved with his adventure series, Hunter x Hunter. While at first glance it appears to be a typical kid’s series, this is purposely deceptive. Boasting complex characters, an intrigue plot, and hidden depth, it deconstructs everything one would expect from a Shonen anime.
There are two Hunter x Hunter anime series, one that began in 1999 and ended with a number of OVA releases in the mid 2000’s, and an ongoing reboot series that began in 2011. The newer show is being produced by the respected Madhouse animation studio. The company has a well known penchant for quality, which is evident in how seamlessly they’ve adapted Hunter x Hunter. Madhouse has done a great job of capturing the manga’s identity, especially the dissonance between its lighthearted visual style and dark content. With each episode pristinely animated, Hunter x Hunter really has the potential to become the next big Shonen anime in America.
Funimation would be the ideal candidate to bring this masterpiece series to North America. While Viz Media was the company that licensed the first Hunter x Hunter anime, the results of their efforts weren’t exactly ideal. The quality of their English Dub was hit and miss and poor marketing doomed the series financially. Viz Media didn’t even bother to bring the entire series over. Funimation is really the only company with the resources to do Hunter x Hunter justice. Their voice actors are the best in the anime dubbing business. Furthermore, the company already has experience dubbing anime based off Togashi’s comics. Yu Yu Hakusho is one of their most popular series, and their acquisition of the 2011 “Level E” anime shows they have continued interest in the author’s works.
Set in a fictional European country in 1924, Gosick follows Japanese exchange student Kujo’s adventures with a mysterious girl. The girl, Victorique, is shown early on to be far from ordinary. Her deductive reasoning and intuition allow her to solve the most bizarre mysteries with little more than a shrug. Most cases Kujo and her face have a supernatural appearance and the show is decidedly spooky and downright sinister at times. Still, enough humor and heartwarming material is mixed in to keep the mood balanced. Romances in anime are often too over the top for my tastes, but the one between Kujo and Victorique manages to avoid this.
Gosick was originally going to be licensed by Bandai in America. The company unfortunately stopped releasing new titles recently. This means that Gosick is now back up for grabs. Right now it’s debatable who, if anyone will pick it up. Funimation has rescued series from defunct companies in the past but they might not bite on this one. They’ve been burned on detective anime before (Case Closed) but Gosick could be different enough to be successful. The series is much shorter in length, so it wouldn’t require as much money and resources to bring over. Costs can further be reduced through releasing it sub only.
Digimon: Xros Wars
Digimon became a major part of my childhood when it first hit the States in 1999. Looking back, it’s hard to not see it as an attempt to cash in on the Pokémon craze. Still, the franchise has been able to stand on its own through the years. Admittedly, the cartoon is often ridiculously cheesy, yet it also has some truly profound moments too (I’m looking at you Digimon Tamers).
Xros Wars is the latest incarnation of the Digimon anime. With a fast moving plot and loud explosive battles, it sticks pretty close to the traditional Digimon formula while also managing to avoid feeling stale. The animation is crisp and colorful and I can definitely see it finding a good home on any number of kid oriented channels. A new generation of kids needs to experience Digimon and Xros Wars would definitely get the job done.
Yu Yu Hakusho Poltergeist Report
As I said earlier, Yu Yu Hakusho is one of my all time favorite shows. It’s only natural that I’d like to see its feature length movie get a proper English adaption. While Poltergeist Report has technically already been released in North America, its dub is terrible. So bad that it might as well not exist. Naturally, it would be perfect for Funimation to get the rights to Poltergeist Report. It’s all they need to finish their dubbing of the popular series after their released of the Yu Yu Hakusho OVAs last year. It’s easy to tell from this that Funimation is still interested in the series and capable of bringing their dub’s brilliant voice caste back together.
Dragon Ball Z OVAs
The term OVA stands for Original Video Animation. They are basically mini-films made directly for home video. Currently there are three OVAs in the popular Dragon Ball Z series that have yet to be licensed in North America. Obviously, it would be great to have them become available here so that DBZ maniacs (myself included) could finish their Dragon Ball collections. Obviously Funimation would be the ones to license them. It's probably only a matter of time until they get around to it.
None of these short films have particularly compelling plots, but they’re all well animated regardless. DBZ animated features outside the main series have always been about telling fun side stories that feature our favorite characters. For better or worse, that’s pretty much exactly what these OVAs accomplish.
The oldest of the three OVAs is from the Cell saga era of the series and features the main caste going up against the evil Dr. Raichi. There are actually two versions of this OVA, dubbed “Dragon Ball: Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans.” The original was released in Japan in 1993 and the second was re-scripted and re-edited as a bonus feature for the 2010 video game Dragon Ball: Raging Blast 2. While this second version came with the North American release of the game, it included only the Japanese audio with subtitles. An English dub would definitely be ideal and I’d also love to see the original version of the film included along with the new one.
Dragon Ball: Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!! premiered in Japan in 2008 and marked the first new Dragon Ball animation since 1999. Set a short time after the end of DBZ, the short film introduced Vegeta’s younger brother, Tarble (for what’s supposed to be a nearly extinct race, new Saiyans really have a habit of turning up out of the blue). Most of the episode is about Trunks and Goten fighting two chubby joke villains. Its focus is definitely more on humor than action. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, given that humor has always been an important part of Dragon Ball.
Dragon Ball: Episode of Bardock is the anime adaption of a short manga story penned by one of Akira Toriyama’s assistants, Naho Ooishi. It tells a what-if story featuring Bardock, a fan favorite character made famous in the TV special “Bardock: Father of Goku.” The gist of the story is that Bardock is sent back in time when the galactic warlord Frieza destroys Planet Vegeta. In the past he fights one of Frieza’s ancestors and turns into a Super Saiyan during their battle. Though the whole plot reads like a bad fanfic, the animation itself is sharp and seeing more of Bardock is definitely not a bad thing.
Dr. Slump is the first major work of Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. Being equally as popular as Dragon Ball in Japan, two Dr. Slump anime were eventually made. It would be great to finally see either or both of them brought to states. Considering the phenomenon that Dragon Ball is, it’s amazing that nobody has at least picked them up for a subbed release. My preference would be for the newer 1997-1999 series, as it has better animation. Its shorter length would also make bringing it over easier. Dragon Ball’s protagonist even appears in a few of its episodes and it’s always great to see more of an iconic character like Goku.