May 11, 2009
by: Serdar Yegulalp
Are some of our favorite upcoming shows getting short shrift without us knowing it?
There are two shows airing in Japan right now that are either a) already licensed for U.S. distribution at some point or b) will be licensed because, to paraphrase what Agent Smith said to Neo, it is an inevitability. There is no way [show #1] an ass-kicking warrior with the head of a leopard or [show #2] a whole bevy of flimsily-costumed fighting gals can not end up here in these United States with domestic distribution deals.
That’s what I’d like to believe, anyway.
The first show is Guin Saga. If I need to build a case for a continent-spanning, sword-swinging, face-stomping, army-raising, swashbuckling epic about a man with The Face Of A Beast, The Body Of A Warrior, and the Heart Of A Hero (note to prospective film adaptation people: you’re free to use that tagline on the posters, kthx), something is very wrong. Go read the books, go check out the manga (both translated and un-), and if your pulse isn’t raised, you sir know exactly jack poop about entertainment.
The second show is Queens Blade. And again, there is very little about Queens Blade as a franchise I should have to explain to anyone reading this. All you need to know is that they went and made a TV show out of it, and God help us it has more fanservice than a whole highway rest stop’s worth of maid cosplay theme restaurants. It is also possible to watch this thing and not feel your brain cells tearing loose and dashing themselves to their deaths against the back of your forehead—which after the terminal brain damage of stuff like Kamen no Maid Guy, is really saying something. The only reason that Queens Blade is not an end-to-end pervert’s slideshow is because the fans already did all that with the doujinshi.
I wouldn’t mind if Queens Blade got picked up. (Best off-the-cuff guess for which outfit does so: Media Blasters. It’ll be in good company on their shelves.) What I wonder about, though, is something that is hard not to put out of mind given how murky the mechanics and economics of this sort of thing is. How often do good-to-great shows—like, say, Dennou Coil (dude, it’s Miyazaki meets Matrix!)—get the fuzzy end of the lollipop because there were only XYZ dollars in the acquisition budget this year and the money all went towards mediocre shelf-stuffers like Kenichi: History’s Greatest Disciple or cute-‘til-you-puke like Shuffle?
I worry about this sort of thing for a whole basket case of reasons. First: there’s that much less shelf space to go around, no thanks to all-around bad economic times and the resulting implosion of retail space. Second: there’s that many less people to offer material to fill said shelf space, although FUNimation is fast becoming the Last Anime Licensor Standing. This is not the worst thing in the world, though. I might have the odd nitpick with their choice of titles or the way they choose to bring said material to English-speaking audiences, but when they give you chestnuts like Galaxy Express 999 free on the web, there’s that much less grousing to go around, too.
Still, even FUNimation doesn’t have an Uncle Scrooge-sized budget for acquisitions. They have to go with what they can justify spending the money on, and sometimes even a “fan favorite” has to take a backseat to something that doesn’t need to be promoted to sell like mad. A couple of years back I was sitting in on the panel when FUNi announced they’d picked up Ouran High School Host Club, and I worried that the resulting shrieks of joy and drumming of feet would cause the building’s foundation to shift. And sure enough, the whole thing sold fast enough that they could afford to license it for the web and still come out on top. This despite the fact that most people with an Adult Swim-level anime education probably neither heard of nor could spell Ouran. (I love the smell of fan vindication in the morning…)
So do you blame me for seeing a show I like, and then a show I hate myself for even watching, and then getting this creeping feeling of dread as to which one is going to get snapped up faster? Didn’t think so.