This post is just to keep fans up to date on Toei‘s milestones. It is too early in the year to know if there’s a window of possibility of Sailor Moon in North America.
From January 25th-27th in Las Vegas, the National Association of Television Program Executives held their annual Market and Conference. Toei didn’t make any announcements with respect to the North American market, but did make a few towards the Latin American market (which is also handled through their Los Angeles office). Dragon Ball is headed to Chile, and will be broadcast on Megavision TV, and Digimon Frontier is headed to Brazil on Rede TV. The DVD rights for Digimon Frontier have been licensed to Brazilian distributor Five Stars. Toei had a booth at the market, but doesn’t appear to have made any major presentations other than these announcements.
Perhaps one of the biggest announcements comes from FUNImation – and this was posted a little over two weeks ago. FUNImation announced that it did in fact get a license from Toei for Dragon Ball Z Kai, a retelling of the DBZ saga. In Japan, the series is known simply as Dragon Ball Kai, featuring remasterd Hi-Def picture, sound, and special effects, along with a brand new voice track recorded by the original cast. Since many of the frames from the original were destroyed after production was completed, the frames were redrawn over still frames from existing footage and filled in with softer colors to reduce the visual damage – and all kinds of tricks were played, some frames were cropped, others became more detailed. But the most important difference is the faster pace of this story, which remains true to the manga and doesn’t drag on like the last series did at points. There will be around 100 episodes once this is complete in Japan. FUNImation announced the cast for the English version, however the comments show that many fans are unhappy with some of the changes (in fact some fans are still angry over the lost of many of the Ocean Group’s dub VAs).
The second big story from Toei is all of the buzz surrounding Halo Legends, which was released last tuesday. Toei was one of a few Japanese studios commissioned to produce one of 7 different shorts based on the popular gaming franchise. Toei’s, was special though. While the other six shorts were considered to be canon with the “Halo-verse”, Toei’s was a complete parody of it! It involves a character named 1337 who falls off a ship and lands on some strange planet. He meets a couple of kids riding a dinosaur, gets into a DBZ-esque fight with a Brute… and it only gets goofier. So far, reception of Halo Legends has been positive. So, if you’re looking to watch Toei take a ridiculous and hilarious take on the “Halo-verse” definitely give this one a rent! Fans can get more information on the release here.
And a bit of news on Sailor Moon’s “rival” in Japan that is currently trying to take the world by storm, Pretty Cure. The 7th series, Heartcatch PreCure debuted last week on Japanese TV, and features two Seiyuu that were from Sailor Moon: Chika Sakamoto (Sailor Star Healer/Yaten Kou) and Taeko Kawata (Momoko Momohara). They play Kaoruko Hanasaki (Tsubomi’s/Cure Blossom’s Grandmother and Confidante) and Shypre respectively. On March 20th in Japan, a new Pretty Cure movie (Precure All Stars DX2: Light of Hope— Protect the Rainbow Angel!) will be released in theaters featuring all PreCure heroes from past and present! YTV has also put Pretty Cure back on the schedule on Saturday Afternoons (this is probably the second or third run of the series). And, while we were researching all of the exciting news coming out of Italy we stumbled upon some dubbed trailers for other seasons of Pretty Cure on Toei Animation Europe’s site here and here. It’s likely that these trailers were probably dubbed in Canada (the voices do sound very similar to the ones used in the dub of the first season). We’re not sure what Toei has in store for Pretty Cure, but we encourage all fans who want to see more seasons of this in English as well as a DVD release, to support the show as best they can in Canada and write a letter to Toei about Pretty Cure.
Last week, the Mobile World Congress was held in Barcelona, Spain. This is a special conference held once each year, where thousands of mobile leaders from around the world “gather, collaborate, conduct business and experience vision in action.” This year’s conference featured keynotes and panel discussions, an exhibition with over 1,300 booths,and an awards ceremony and seminars that highlighted the most innovative mobile solutions. Among these 1,300 exhibitors, tucked away in the very last exhibition hall, was a booth from Toei Animation Co. Ltd. featuring two executives from their Los Angeles Office. Pictured left-to-right: Kenji Ebato (Executive Vice President of Toei Animation Inc. of Los Angeles) and Sae Song (Manager of Digital Media and Mobile Content). Those of you who have written letters to Toei, will have addressed the guy on the left, so now you can see who you are sending them to! What this image (from here) doesn’t show you, is that there was in fact a Sailor Moon poster on display. Yes, this is a pretty drab looking booth compared to photos of some of the others we have seen, but Sae had a lot of interesting things to say to Andrew Lim of Recombu.com. Sae first blames the decline of the anime industry on two things: Japan’s declining population of children, and bittorrent from overseas markets. The fans, according to him, are consuming anime differently, and it is difficult for Toei to keep up. They are facing the same challenges as many other companies are in trying to effectively monetize their content. They can put Fist of the North Star online, but it isn’t easy to make any money off it (we have a few qualms with this statement, but we’ll save this for later). He thinks that anime is at a tipping point now, and all of the studios need to get together and make a common hub for fans to watch anime online. But, this isn’t as easy as it sounds to get everyone on board, so Toei Animation Inc. wants to follow after Toei Animation Co. Ltd. in Japan, and get their content out on mobile phones and tablets. At this conference, they had hoped to speak to application developers and networks to come up with something “amazing”. But, the majority of companies that should be interested in this kind of thing, just aren’t. Toei hasn’t gotten a lot of requests for information from anyone about this. Lim ends by saying that they had a lot of great ideas, but they should have been put in a better part of the exhibition rather than in the very last hall.
As far as older series like Fist of the North Star goes, we think Toei might have been better off selling high quality episodes as digital copies, or releasing DVD boxsets. There are some hardcore anime fans that still enjoy these series, even though these audiences may not be as big compared to other series. Many fans are still a little irked with the new “movies” being produced of these older series (EDIT: Thanks to reader NJ_, it looks like there is at least some hope for Fist of the North Star). And, North America does not compare to the strength of Japan when it comes to mobile devices. There are maybe only a handful of mobile phones across the market which compare to most Japanese mobile phones, which are more powerful and capable of a lot more. For Toei to really be successful they would have to think outside the iPhone and Blackberry box with their fans to deliver mobile content that could work across most mobile phones. To Toei’s credit in Japan, they have many successful ANIMO sites for many different series (including DragonBall, Sailor Moon, Pretty Cure, and Saint Seiya), delivering anime content to mobile devices.
Fans can now see the T-shirts that Toei collaborated alongside Uniqlo with on their site. However, here’s the really strange part. The shirts are available on the English site for the European and American markets, but are nowhere to be found on the Japanese website. This brand is very popular in Japan, and we find it a little strange that this appears to be a deal reached through Toei Animation Europe, and not through Japan where the apparel could have been more successful since the brand is just making itself known in Europe and North America. Nonetheless, we like the t-shirts, and we have them pictured here for you. These shirts are only part of their men’s collection, and sorry, no Sailor Moon. They are affordable, priced at $15.50 USD.
And finally, Toei Animation Inc. has named Firefly Brand Management the North American licensing agent for Digimon. Firefly will have the rights to the merchandise licensing sales for the first five seasons. The article goes on to mention that it “briefly flowered in the U.S. during the early 2000s”. Reading something like this worries us a little, because shouldn’t a show still be flowering for a merchandise strategy to really be effective? Digimon was never as popular as Pokemon in North America, and we haven’t heard too much buzz about that franchise lately. Nonetheless Kanji Kazhaya (President and COO of Toei Animation Europe and possibly Toei Animation Inc. in Los Angeles) had some optimistic remarks, saying “As one of the industry’s most reputable and experienced licensing agents, we look forward to benefitting from the expertise of Firefly’s founder, Cynthia Modders, and her brilliant colleagues.” We hope that Firefly Brand Management redoes their site a little – there isn’t much there in terms of clients they have worked with, so we can’t say for sure what sorts of merchandise will come out of this deal. This sort of affects Sailor Moon because if Firefly does a good job with this series, we may see them handle some merchandise rights for Sailor Moon in the future. Speaking of which, watch this site. More action, coming soon!