Intended Audience Ages
In Japan, in fact, there are shows for just about everyone. There are tons of product just like the stuff that has been coming to the US for years now (primarily aimed at high school and college aged boys). There are also shows aimed at small children like Doraemon (the merchandising for which makes the merchandising for Independence Day look anemic). There is also a substantial amount of product that is aimed at adults, and some of this can only be described as spooge. In the early days, these were quite tame (perhaps a shower scene or two). As time went on, they got a lot worse (one person I know describes these perfectly as "girls getting raped by Jello"). Where the line is drawn is sometimes difficult: even Urusei Yatsura had topless women in it from time to time (only a flash, but topless nonetheless). Ranma f has more mammary jokes than anything else in recent memory, and this showed on regular television in primetime. That truly adult titles are coming to the US market along with everything else has caused us at TRSI some concern about the comfort level of our customers.
To this end, we've added a warning tag to those titles that we feel merit adult status. We realize that some people will buy these just because they ARE tagged as adult, and that's fine if that's what you're looking for. We're not out to practice censorship, but if you're ordering this sort of tape, we do ask for a signature certifying that you're of an appropriate age to receive them. Ranma isn't tagged as such, even though there are some pretty blue scenes. Things like Angel of Darkness or Twin Angels are because they are VERY adult titles. If you should have a question about a particular title, by all means give us a call about it first.
Anime At The End Of The 70's
As the 1970's drew to a close, several things were happening at once. Television animation was cranking out new stuff at an incredible rate. The Matsumoto TV shows like Captain Harlock: Space Pirate, Space Cruiser Yamato and Galaxy Express suffused drama and high adventure like nothing before them could. And, a robot show popped up that flipped the industry over and it hasn't been the same since. It was called Mobile Suit Gundam, and more than a giant robot show (we've had them before this: witness Go Nagai's Mazinger, and even Tetsujin 28! ), Gundam dealt with character development like a Matsumoto show and brought with it the word Newtype. These Newtypes were the most precious resource known to Man ... more valuable than gold, diamonds, oil, or uranium, Newtypes just did things a little better than normal humans. In the case of Amuro Rei, it was reflexes. He defeats his initial opponents with the power of the Gundam easily ... until he encounters Red Comet, flown by Cha Aznable. Thus is born one of the greatest stories ever told in anime, a story finished almost ten years later in the "Cha's Counterattack" movie.
Many have asked about this series, specifically why it hasn't made it to America yet. There are probably about five or ten huge shows that have not come over yet: in some cases, it's the Japanese who don't want to relinquish the rights, in others its a case of outlandish amounts of money being asked, and in still others the question of who actually owns a product is the issue.
Gundam wasn't the only thing that happened as the 70's ended: a movie featuring a popular character was given to an up and coming director who also happened to have a budget to work with. What emerged from the mix was one of the greatest films ever made from one of the greatest Japanese directors in the business: Lupin III: Cagliostro Castle from Hayao Miyazaki. This film is very near perfect in its execution; there is action, there is great music, there is one hell of a story, and all the little things are there. It captures the essence of Lupin (a fantastically capable thief) and his almost equally capable pursuer (Inspector Zenigata) while treating the audience to a genuine roller coaster. There are spots only marginally long enough for the audience to catch their breath, and then it takes off again. There has never been a Lupin film like it before or since: in fact Mystery of Mamo (an excellent film in its own right) pales when compared to this. Many have commented on just how good this film really is, and it has become the yardstick on which other films are measured ... as it should be.
The 80's: The "Golden Years" Of Anime
The 1980's are generally considered to be the golden years of Japanese Animation ... this may come as a surprise to the people who refuse to look at anything made before 1989 or so. The greatest diversity of product was being made during this period, having ramped up from the chaotic 70's. Now, a great deal of money was flowing into the industry, and the world began taking serious looks at the things that were being created on a regular basis here. The last of the Matsumoto influence was being felt with films like the Queen Millennia movie and the TV series by the same name. It was also the last we got to see of Captain Harlock (for now, anyway) ... the second television series "Endless Road SSX" was created to re-establish the Matsumoto industry dominance. That it didn't was less a failure by Matsumoto than a wild success by a female manga artist named Rumiko Takahashi. Her Urusei Yatsura (which premiered in 1981) smashed the competition, and made her a millionaire many times over (as she largely owned the rights to her creation).
When the Urusei television series came to an end (sort of an ambiguous end, but somehow perfect just the same), her Maison Ikkoku (now being released in the US by VIZ) appeared in the same time slot the following week (in fact, the last episode of Urusei Yatsura had the hook for the first Maison Ikkoku where next week's Urusei hook would normally have been ... the transition was perfect). Maison Ikkoku, a show about as different as you can get from Urusei Yatsura, did surprisingly well on its own. Less of a schizophrenic comedy, Maison Ikkoku comes off almost as a soap opera, although a pretty strange one. Borrowing a page from the Matsumoto stories of the 1970's, Maison Ikkoku has to be watched in sequence. The main story follows two people as their entire outlook shifts around, and culminates in a remarkably poignant event. When it went off the air after 90-some episodes, it had run a story from the beginning to a logical ending.
Some time elapsed before Ranma f which, true to form, was totally different from both Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku. Many people were quite annoyed at an event in Japanese politics that happened at about the same time as Ranma: fans who had contacts taping the show in Japan now have a great deal of coverage of Emperor Hirohito's funeral proceedings. Ranma has been off the air for some time now, and many of us here find themselves wondering what's going to be next. Whatever it winds up being, we're sure that it'll be a surprise. Surprisingly, there aren't a lot of Takahashi imitators; it seems likely that no one else can get the mix just right. The next big thing, in fact, wasn't even a comedy.
Macross Hits The US
Capitalizing on the time tested idea of merchandising the hell out of whatever you've got, the crew at Big West launched a show whose echoes are still heard today. If Urusei Yatsura wasn't enough to kill SSX once and for all, then Super Dimensional Fortress Macross surely was. Macross is a surprisingly standard story that's raised several notches higher with its character design and most importantly, its mechanical design. When this thing came out, everyone and I mean everyone wanted a Valkyrie toy for their very own.
Companies like Bandai and Takutoku were more than happy to grind these things out (as a side note, Takutoku went bankrupt just before the huge toy boom hit. Fittingly, one of their last items was a super armor kit for a stock Valkyrie ... now VERY scarce and demanding top dollar from anyone trying to find one). As Macross' popularity soared, out comes the Macross Movie in 1984 (aka Do You Remember Love? ), and the fans went through the roof. With a huge budget and stunning animation, this film took Japanese fandom by storm. Interestingly, this was one of the first films where lip movements were even considered when writing the dialogue ... something that US animation fans take for granted but is seldom if ever considered by the Japanese. With the Macross Movie, you actually had lip sync in Japanese. The Macross series, being about the hottest thing in Japan at the time, was then licensed for distribution in the US. With an eye toward getting it on television but faced with the fact that US stations wouldn't run a series with only 36 episodes, the decision was made to cut Macross and two unrelated television series together.
One man's vision was responsible for Harmony Gold's project: Carl Macek. He was able to get his project syndicated on television all over the US (like Fred Ladd with Astro Boy before him), and his Robotech became responsible for many of today's most ardent (Third Wave) fans. Macross didn't stop there, though. The Macross II series of OVA's followed, and they in turn were followed by an OVA series which was as stunning to newer fans as the Macross Movie was to 1984's fans: Macross Plus. One of the most expensive OVA series produced to date, this new series is a barnburner, and even that isn't the end. The new television series Macross 7 has recently concluded on Japanese TV, but we don't expect it to be brought over to the US anytime soon. The good guys fight their wars with music and musical instruments. While this is an interesting concept (and in keeping with the original Macross storyline), it is not the most effective imagery for the US mass market.
One other thing about Macross while we're on the subject, and that is the name. Think about this for a second. Macross (Macintosh). Macross II (Macintosh II). Macross Plus (Macintosh Plus). Macross 7 (System 7). What's next ... Power Macross? Macross Quadra? ?
The Huge Films of the Mid-80's
As the market entered the mid 1980's, huge film followed huge film with no end in sight. Miyazaki stunned the world again with his Nausicaä in the Valley of the Wind, and then again with Laputa: Castle in the Sky. The first two Urusei Yatsura movies (Only You and Beautiful Dreamer) carved out a sizable chunks of money for themselves, Matsumoto tried three times with My Youth In Arcadia, the Queen Millennia movie (with a score by Kitaro ... probably his single best work) and the second "final" Yamato film where the Yamato is blown apart once and for all (at least, until the new series). Still, all was not well. Films were getting more and more expensive, and the voices that were saying that no film was ever going to be made for this much money again were being taken seriously. To be fair, the revenues were not being generated in proportion to the expenditures ... a situation that any business person will tell you will lead to disaster is something isn't done about it. That something was a new medium.