"Yeah... something like this." - The Right Stuf
In a startling announcement Saturday, online anime super store and part time anime distributor/licensor, The Right Stuf, revealed they will be releasing the most successful mecha anime franchise, Gundam, in North America. While the exact formats of this wide-ranging release of the long-running, storied franchise is yet undetermined, it has been divulged that the first releases will be the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam television series (previous licensed by the defunct Bandai Entertainment, and now long out of print) and 1999's Turn A Gundam, previously unlicensed for the North American market. Also of note is their intention to furthermore release 1986's Mobile Suit Gundam Double Zeta (or Gundam ZZ) at some point in the near future, as well as Sunrise's adaptation of the Gundam: The Origin manga, which is still in production, and will be dubbed in English by NYAV Post. A license for the newest running TV series, Reconguista in G, is still in the works.
Now, I am a hardcore Gundam fan, a grown man who has dedicated what may be an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy following, collecting, discussing, and writing about this decades old giant robot cartoon series and its increasingly diminishing returns on television (let's hope G-Reco halts that). When I caught wind of this announcement, I was abuzz with a vibrant aura that only a Newtype can feel sensing another. It's possible that The Right Stuf International is going to free the souls of fans weighed down by the gravity of past disappointments and allow us to soar into the inky ether, which is probably where all of Kamille Bidan and Char Aznable's ex-girlfriends hang out, so maybe we'll find romance.
"I keep telling you: ghost sex is nothing! It's worse than nothing."
But let's face it, children. And man children. Especially the latter. Let's face it, it's risky business. And likely fairly expensive.
I don't think it's melodramatic to claim that, in large part, Gundam has failed in North America. Sure, there's a definite fanbase, a dedicated one, people I use to talk to on a regular basis, before I came to the conclusion that, outside of myself and a couple of others, I hate that dedicated fanbase, they're dummies with terrible taste and why can't they just agree that Zeta Gundam is the best one ever and Gundam SEED smells, damn it? Where was I going with this? Ah, yes. Despite its throngs of pedantic, arguing Penguin Truth clones (and I don't mean that douchebag on Ask.fm pretending to be me), Gundam failed for years here. Or rather, it didn't succeed to the expectations of the Japanese licensors... licensees? The gentleman at Bandai/Sunrise. The sales didn't suit their expectations.
We all know which Gundam entry actually succeeded in North America, and that was the first one that made a splash on TV: Gundam Wing. You can analyze why it did so well until your blue in the face. Maybe it hit at just the right time, when Toonami was taking off as a programming block and children and young teens were blown away by Japanese animation as an exotic alternative. Maybe because it appealed to the right demographics (loud, violent action for the boys, slender, androgynous boys for the girls... I'm stereotyping here, but you get the point). Maybe the voice of Peter Cullen could sell swimming pools to deep sea fish and fire to the sun. (Remember those old Toonami promos? "Those who oppose them....... die.") Or maybe it was just that good (it wasn't). But however it was, it succeeded, the others failed.
Must've been all that beefy, testosterone-driven machismo.
I believe G Gundam did decently, actually. Maybe SEED moved a few units, probably even Gundam 00. But Bandai was dissatisfied. They had licensed out a flagship property, gave Americans (and our wooly Northern brethren in Canadia, home of Andrew Graham's Lumber Gundam) the privledge of watching beloved classic Japanese cartoons like the original Gundam series, like Zeta Gundam. And they landed on our shores with a resounding thud. The original Gundam aired on Toonami, garnered little ratings (though I maintain that ratings on a cartoon channel are utterly meaningless and just an excuse to move around programs certain people at the channel like or dislike), and was cancelled "because 9/11" (sure it was, CN). Then it aired again and, if I recall correctly, Cartoon Network had the decency to admit it just had poor ratings (though, again, I doubt they cared if it did or not). It being a show from 1979 that nobody here grew up on probably alienated a lot of potential viewers, and it was barely advertised. Not everything the Japanese maintain is a classic will be embraced here, but stubbornly, after many similar setbacks and disappointments, Bandai Entertainment folded. The last Gundam show to even grace North American airwaves was Gundam 00, which aired on the Sci-Fi... Syfy... whatever that abomination is calling itself these days, in 2008.
"Next on TCBY: Sharknado 3! Tara Reid toppings."
So, let's be honest with ourselves here: The Right Stuf is gambling. But how much a gamble? It seems to me likely that they'll be passing the risk onto the customer. That is to say, I expect to have to pay for these like Char paid for Axis: cases of gold bricks. I will be very shocked if I don't see Aniplex-esque (or hell, let's just say it, Bandai Visual/Honneamise) prices for many of these titles, especially if any of them get Blu-Ray releases. Or else the wait for these will be long and arduous. And who's to say we even see physical releases for all of these? They can slap some of the older, riskier titles onto Hulu or Crunchyroll, and make money off the ad revenue, while enticing us with Gunpla and other sundries.
How many bought versus how many actually used, you figure?
To be even more stunningly frank: we should be glad if they do. I don't want to lower our expectations, make us swallow any little drop of sweet, sweet Gundam we can't brown bag because the people on the streets can smell it on us, but Gundam has come and gone, and now that it's back, I don't want to regret the mistakes of my youth again. I have my dignity (I think), but I can't be more plain about this: I want Turn A, I want Zeta on Blu-Ray, I want The Origin. I want physical copies. I can't imagine the prices will be quite as painful as wanting just four episodes of Kill la Kill and finding that somehow post cards somehow double the price of a Blu-Ray (yes, even the standard edition is too expensive for 2014), anyway, so what's a few extra dollars to see the tears of time? But I'll stream. If I can't afford, I'll stream. If I can, I won't cheap out. I'm only a man, Sunrise. And if you can only afford to stream? That's not optimal. I'll gripe, I'll stomp my feet. But I'll watch. I have my preference in physical media, of course, but it's amazing Sunrise will even give this a chance here again.
Oh, and... uh, is there any chance of getting cheaper Gundam Unicorn Blu-Rays yet? Those things are only going to go up in price at this point, guys. I'd like to finish my collection on one format, but those last two volumes are astronomically expensive, and I'm an out of work freelance writer (do without? What's that?)! What am I, a member of the Ronah family here? I tried to go to that rally and got out of there because of the Ash Like Snow. Ten Years Later and I may not Trust You Forever, but let's face it, you're The Winner, so put on that Silver Dress, It's Just Love.
Uh... where was I going with this? There's a difference between dropping reference and dropping all semblance of coherence. And I think that line is a Distant Memory that's Beyond The Time! (Okay, okay... sorry about that. I just wanted to give this a Human Touch.)
Aw, I'm just Goufin' around. It's not Love Today, but I Trust You like a Zabi trusts A CHAR.
Damn it, I keep doing that!
Bottom line, Last Impression (!), my love for Gundam is Everlasting, but save your lofty expectations for your Dreams, Sunrise. Myself? I WANNA HAVE A PURE TIME, EVERYONE'S A NOBLE MIND.
Better days are coming.
Blame it on the misfortune of your birth!
- Penguin Truth