There’s always a lot of anime to be dealt with each season with so many new shows and things to get excited about that are getting home video releases. But there are also a whole lot of releases over the years, many from companies that no longer exist in the North American market, that got a DVD release but never got a high definition release. Sometimes there simply were no materials at the time, the licensor didn’t have the Blu-ray format rights, or there were holdbacks while waiting for Japanese remasters to get done. We’ve pooled together some ideas of a few shows we’d like to see (and we’ll have more in the near future as well) as our recommendations of things to try and check out while also serving as a reminder to ourselves and fellow fans of shows that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Satoshi Kon Box Set – Ink
With the recent deluge of older titles given the right and proper respect they deserve from Nozomi/Lucky Penny as well as Sentai’s acquisition spree spurred on by 2013 deals with Tatsunoko and Sunrise, I was having a hell of a time thinking of something to add to this article. Then I slapped myself … hard. The works of the late Satoshi Kon, which enjoyed popularity in the West far more than they did back in Japan, have yet to see any BD treatment in the states, and as if to add insult to injury, the DVDs are all out of print. All four of his movies – Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, and Paprika – as well as his only original television series, Paranoia Agent, are among the most deserving of a BD release not only for the artist’s attention to fine background details but for scene compositions so stunning that some have even been replicated in homage by hollywood filmmakers. Kon also worked a lot with sound in his features, and it would be amazing to hear how the audio clarity of Blu-ray enhances all of his works. And as bonus content, how about slipping in Magnetic Rose, written by Kon, from the Memories anthology and Kon’s short, Good Morning, from Ani*Kuri?
I have done some searches for this show on Blu-ray, but have yet to see any such releases of this quintessential masterpiece. While some studios have produced Directors’ Cuts of material spin offs, as far as I can tell no one has remastered the complete series, which is strange since several live action movies have been released based on the original manga. This series is the standard upon which many other samurai anime dramas are compared to, but none have yet to surpass it. A ronin who is trying to redeem himself from his ominous past and put behind the foreboding title of Battousai the Manslayer … what more do you need? Add a female teacher of a disgraced kendo dojo, an orphaned boy from a once prominent samurai family and a ruffian who has his own past to salvage and you end up with a show which only gets better as it progresses. Then add sadistically ruthless villains, spectacularly thrilling moments and monumentally moving story arcs based on historic events which amplify an excellent narrative, and you cannot go wrong! After all, if you have an anime which ran for 95 episodes, had numerous films & OVAs, live action movies and is one of the most popular series within Japan … how can you misjudge this show than to not give us the result in glorious high resolution in order to see all of the spectacularly intense action scenes with times of oafish comedy revolving around such an admirable hero?
In recent years, there have been a couple good samurai anime done up for HD including Ninja Scroll, Rurouni Kenshin and Sword of the Stranger. This sprawling epic by Rin Taro deserves to be cleaned up and given its place among the classics. The movie shows a young man named Jiro who must find out who framed him for the murder of his mother, while dealing with a vile conspiracy all around him. Taro was at the top of his game in the mid-80s after having successes with Galaxy Express 999 and Harmageddon at the time. We get to see crazy swordfight movements and psychedelic colors, setting up a trek of great landscapes from Asia to the U.S. After having a marginal edit released by Celebrity Home Films and a decent but still dated release by AnimEigo, Dagger of Kamui is an excellent flick that could use a touch up.
Solty Rei has largely been forgotten by the fandom as a whole, but a Blu-ray release might be exactly what this odd little show needs to actually get the attention it deserves. The story is a surprisingly touching tale of a bounty hunter who lost his wife and daughter gradually forming a new family with a mysterious girl he encounters and a young thief who decides to move in with them (against Roy’s will). While this isn’t the most original premise, the father-daughter bond between Roy and Solty always feels genuine and keeps the anime anchored through the occasional rough patch when the story gets too lost in sci-fi nonsense. It’s a fun sci-fi show with a solid emotional core that deserves more popularity than it has. For all its faults, I still consider Solty Rei to be a hidden gem that deserves better than it got. Funimation has the rights to it, so a long-overdue Blu-ray release could introduce it to a completely new audience.
My first choice for this list is also my first choice for a license rescue. Hajime no Ippo was released by Geneon as Fighting Spirit, but after their demise over a decade ago, it can only be seen by attempting to locate all of the many out-of-print DVD singles, some of which are incredibly hard to find and can only be purchased for ridiculously high prices. It was also released in two half-series collections, but they must’ve had much shorter printing cycles, because there’s no sign of them anymore. Its sequel New Challenger has never been made legally available in English whatsoever, and the next and most recent installment Rising was simulcast on Crunchyroll, but that doesn’t do anyone much good without access to the just over 100 episodes that preceded it. Every time Discotek teases some exciting new announcements, especially if the word “sports” is mentioned, I hope that the masterpiece of sports anime will finally get its proper treatment, but no such luck so far. From my searching, I fear that only Rising may have gotten a Blu-ray in Japan, so this may be an even less realistic pipe dream than just wishing it would be licensed at all, but if all the stars could align one day, I’d love to see this on Blu-ray.