Friday, January 23, 2015

The One(s) That Got Away

All cultural media suffer from artifact loss, as a result of time or changes in taste. Time causes books to decay, photographs to fade, movies to disintegrate, etc. Changes in taste relegate yesterday's popular art to the status of curiosities or embarrassments, best forgotten.

Another source of loss, though, is technology change and the costs it imposes. As media change over time, some works get left on the wrong side of the technology divide and become increasingly difficult to find or, if found, to play. For example, quite a few obscure folk music records or cassettes never made it to CD, because the economic justification for remastering was lacking. One of the goals of my retirement is to digitize my remaining LP and cassette collections, while I still have equipment to play them.

The world of anime is filled with examples of works that were stranded on VHS or at best Laserdisc and never made it to DVD or streaming digital format. Indeed, several of Orphan's projects have been directed at marooned shows. For example, the Maze special never made it beyond VHS; Sei Michela Gakuen Hyouryuuki and Yamato 2520 never made it beyond Laserdisc. Of course, there's a temporal component to this too. Orphan subbed Blazing Transfer Student off a Laserdisc rip, because that was the only version available, and then a BluRay version was released. FroZen-EviL subbed the two Yawara! specials off VHS and Laserdisc (obtained at considerable expense, I might add), only to see both included in the final Yawara! BluRay box set. Even Gosenzosama Banbanzai has been released on DVD. As long as masters exist, there's reason to hope.

Still, some shows seem doomed to be Left Behind. When Maze was released on DVD, its ecchiness was toned down considerably. The special doesn't fit with the current DVD release. Yamato 2520 is probably irretrievably tangled in legal difficulties about ownership and copyrights. Bakumatsu no Spasibo, a 1997 feature length film originally recommended by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, may have been a casualty of deteriorating relations between Russia and Japan. Other shows suffer from lack of demand. Is anyone really waiting for DVD versions of Hi-Speed Jecy or Hashire Melos or An Adventure in the Otaku Galaxy or AWOL, to name just a few shows available only on VHS or Laserdisc?

However, there are some items whose fate is mysterious: they simply never showed up on any medium. One example is the Maze movie. It certainly existed and played in theaters, but it has never been released on any consumer medium: not VHS, not LaserDisc, not DVD. Another is the long version of the Elfen Lied opening, Lilium. A full-length version must have existed, because excerpts from beyond the opening are quoted in other places in the series, but it was never released. And in both cases, no one seems to know why. Damaged masters? Rights conflicts? The mystery remains unsolved.

What anime shows are on your list of "the ones that got away"?

[Updated 24-Apr-2015]

1 comment:

  1. Well, two things I remember are: the infamous Phantom Blood movie that was disavowed by the original author. Also, Gothicmade. Even that was mentioned on AnimeNation: