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Annals of Anime: “Urusei Yatsura” Becomes Homeless

posted Jul 28, 2012, 10:21 PM by Douglas Sun   [ updated Aug 1, 2012, 11:11 AM ]

Originally posted: February 26, 2011

Via Rumic World, the redoubtable Rumiko Takahashi fansite, comes news that AnimeEigo’s license to publish the “Urusei Yatsura” anime will lapse in September — although it is not quite clear to me, either from Rumic World’s blurb or AnimeEigo’s announcement. whether the decision to allow it to expire came from AnimeEigo or from the Japanese rights holder (presumably Shogakukan). Either way, it means that one of the great anime/manga comedies of all time will have, in practical terms, no publisher backing in the North American market after this year, since Viz continues to show little interest in doing anything with the manga.

On the one hand, I’m sad to see AnimeEigo’s connection to “UY” severed like this. They treated the anime with obvious respect and affection, and their translation notes are uniformly helpful. They never bothered with an English dub, except for the theatrical features, but I see this as a sensible recognition that a dub would only have added to the cost of production without adding much to the experience. If you have any interest at all in the anime, you must experience Fumi Hirano’s characterization of Lum to understand why it remains so popular in Japan, even 30 years after its premiere, and why Lum is still a beloved character.

But on the other hand, it has always been obvious to me that AnimeEigo could have done a better job with it, and I’m not entirely sure why they didn’t. Their DVDs are all pretty basic: four episodes per disc, with translation notes. Nothing else. No amusing extras, like clean opening and ending sequences. Perhaps AnimeEigo didn’t have access to materials like that, but they’re pretty much standard fare for anime DVDs.

I also fail to understand why they never released boxed sets. The time when you could sell an anime series — particularly a long one like “Urusei Yatsura” — disc-by-disc at $20 per DVD without offering at some point a more cost-effective package deal has long passed. There are too many consumers — like me, for one — who have come to view that serial, piece-by-piece model for buying anime as overly expensive and troublesome. When I get a taste of something I like, I want to get the whole series at a good price so that I can watch it all at once. Otherwise, I’ll probably leave it alone and move on to something else. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. That’s why you can find single-volume DVDs of even popular anime series on Amazon and eBay for a slender fraction of their MSRP.

So “Urusei Yatsura” DVDs will be out of print by the end of the year and even harder to find than they are now. Best to get them while you still can; Rumic World is skeptical than another publisher will pick up the North American rights. I hope someone else who can put a little more spit and polish and marketing savvy into selling the anime will pick it up, but I’m afraid that they’re probably right. “UY” seems to be very much under-appreciated in the North American market, probably because it first came along at a time when anime was still a cult taste. When anime gained in popularity, it got overlooked in favor of series aimed at the youth market, or that seemed edgier and more hip. As popular as it has been, “Inuyasha” should have served as a gateway drug to “UY” along with Takahashi’s other work, but for reasons that I can’t quite fathom, that isn’t how it has played out.


BTW, whenever I order from RightStuf Anime, I always enter their site through the link on the Rumic World homepage. They’re RightStuf marketing associates, which means that they get a cut of orders from people who enter RightStuf through their link. Just like I get a cut of all orders placed when you enter Amazon through the links on my site. The Rumic World guys have done great work for years, providing Takahashi-sensei’s fans with basic information about her work and a wonderfully miscellany of supporting material that’s incredibly hard to find through other means, so I want to support them.

However, when I shop at RightStuf, I tend to restrict myself to their sale items. I’ve found some tremendous bargains that way on stuff I was looking for, as well as prices so low on other items that seem only vaguely interesting that buying them is worth the risk. I fill my cart full enough without buying anything at their regular price. But on my last shopping trip, I finally took a look at the fine print and saw that bargain bin items are not eligible for referral fees, meaning that the associate whose link I used to navigate to RightStuf gets nothing. Yeah, it’s kind of a rip. But it’s their policy. And now I regret all those times when I came over from Rumic World and nothing came of it because I only bought stuff from which they get no cut.

So if you wish to support Rumic World as I do, by using their RightStuf link, keep this in mind. This time, I added two of the “Full Metal Panic” series at regular price just for them.