Comcast’s Anime Selects on Demand – Part 1
A question I often get is “Prede why do you watch all that old and weird stuff anyway?”* . Now I could easily answer this question by just saying “because it’s good”, but that doesn’t even come close doing the “old stuff” service. And it also ignores the personal factors that effected my viewing habits. And sure, sure that answer could be simplified to a statement about how my friends and acquaintances threw old ultraviolent anime VHS tapes at me as soon as they found out I liked anime (thanks Bobby!). But there’s more to it then that though, while I’m sure that played a factor in it. Sometime around 2003 my best friend, Johnny called me and told me “you have to check this out! There’s all this anime on demand!” He told me to go to the on demand menu and then under cutting edge I’d find it. Here was a video-on-demand channel with all the anime I could ever dream of. The channel next to it was Anime Network on Demand (which I won’t get into, but I enjoyed it very much as well).
Up until this point I was pretty much just buying whatever anime I could on DVD, or watching whatever Adult Swim had on. Which I admit was a lot of anime, but my funds weren’t unlimited, and Adult Swim wasn’t perfect. Now Johnny was never too big into anime, but he knew I was, and that one phone call changed the way I watched anime, and the types of stuff I watched. When I first looked through Anime Selects nothing was even remotely new, all the shows were old and crusty. Whatever I picked to watch was either very strange, or old, or just not something I’d heard of before. And I admit I wasn’t entirely thrilled at first, but here was some free anime and I’d be damned if I was gonna let it go to waste. I was seeking out the new stuff at this time, pretty enthusiastic about the types of shows being made and wasn’t really looking to see any classics or oddities… But fast-forward a week and I had a new kind of anime craving. I wanted the weird stuff! I wanted the old stuff! I loved this off the beaten track kind of anime! Pretty much spent all my free time that week watching what Anime Selects had available. Turns out I went through that stuff pretty fast, and was just waiting for the new episodes to go live. So instead of reviewing another anime you never heard of, here’s a review of a TV station you probably never heard of! You can say this is my version of Justin Sevakis’s Special Edition in his Buried Treasure column. I’ve been thinking about this channel for awhile now, while additionally being pestered about why I like “weird anime”. I think this will kill two birds with one stone.
It’s a pretty safe bet to say I saw about 90% of what Anime Selects played from that faithful day forward. And that channel’s odd choice of anime ended up affecting the types of shows I now look for. Some of my favorite anime related memories of my teen years are made up of eating this stuff up! Oh I remember very fondly starting many series from the middle (because that’s the episode that was available), not knowing what’s going on but eventually figuring it out! Half the battle of an anime fan I suppose. And plenty of my DVD purchases are made up of re-buying stuff I first saw on Anime Selects. Well I best explain the channel a little more before getting into what anime aired there exactly. In the early 2000’s Comcast launched their video-on-demand service, and wanted to fill it with content. From what I can tell (and from what anime industry insiders have said) the mainstream tv stations didn’t really jump at the chance to put their stuff on demand. I’m sure stuff did get put up there, and eventually most channels got an on demand station, but early on content was needed and so were channels. So Comcast took it into their own hands and made plenty of “Selects” channels that they ran (one of them being exercise tv selects, another being the notorious Something Weird on Demand – NSFW Link) . But of course the one that mattered most to me was Anime Selects. Much of this content Comcast got for dirt cheap, or was in the Public Domain. The anime R1 companies being run by plenty of people at the “cutting edge” of technology saw the advances and quickly jumped at the chance to get their content to more viewers, in hopes it would translate to DVD sales. Anime available was primarily from Central Park Media, Rightstuf, and Tokyopop, although toward the end of the channel’s life span Funimation got in on the action too. Geneon is noticeably absent from the list and ADV Film’s anime was instead run on their own channel, Anime Network. I can’t imagine it cost these companies much (or anything really) to get the stuff on Comcast’s channel. Additionally since it was run by Comcast they didn’t have to worry about running their own channel, or working with a rival to get their stuff on their channel. Also of note was nothing on Anime Selects was pay-per-view, everything was free. And everything was dubbed as far as I could tell. Over the years they got some new content, but much of it was just recycled, once they got done with the current bunch of series airing, they’d air the last group from episode one again. There would be around 3 TV series airing at once, and usually a movie or short OVA series. Now Anime Selects didn’t make me an anime fan, no I was already a huge one by the time I found the channel. But it did help make me into the type of fan that both respects the classics and seeks out the odd shows, and so I think it was important for me.
Maze – The Megaburst Space
Now where to beging with going through the anime I saw there. I know for sure that I’m going to leave some out, but here goes. Probably one of the most important and earliest shows I saw was Maze – The Megaburst Space; the anime that I’m convinced the entire production team was chronologically frozen in 1984 and thawed out in 1997 to make the thing. The look of the show is very 80’s inspired. BUT it is the music that convinces me this to be true. The show is also noteworthy for having the best ending theme ever made, and if you disagree your opinion is no longer valid. I think it samples “Off the Wall” by Michael Jackson. The anime is rarely known or talked about, and when it was reviewed it got a lot of bad press. Critics often just say it copied X from show Y and that it’s all rather generic. I disagree, it is instead making nods and references to these anime series and hollywood movies. In fact it’s basic plot of a bunch of rebels trying to overthrow a cruel (but cool) Emperor (my twitter avatar) is basically lifted straight from Star Wars (But instead of one Darth Vader there are two, Chic and Gorgeous who are even cooler and they never yell about podracing [but girls who like this series say they may want to have sex]). I admit the show has a few gimmicks going on (some characters change genders, Ranchiki was Pico before there was Boku no Pico, Princess Mill is good ol fashioned jailbait, and there’s fanservice galore), but the story is entirely epic, the characters are likable and interesting, and it’s well paced. Perhaps it’s not the deepest thing ever, and maybe it’s the nostalgia talking but it’s a damn good show. It mixes fantasy and mecha elements together, but it also references The Wizard of OZ and pays homage to Slayers (head writer Katsumi Hasegawa was a writer for Slayers). The dub is also worth mentioning, it’s probably Matlin Recording’s best effort to date, although I’m sure Elisa Wain shouting “Big sister-brother!” or “ukyuu here we go” haunts the dreams of many (personally I like her high pitched voice). It’s a New York City dub, with some known actors, but plenty of unknowns. But the dub is far from a late era ADV dub, so don’t expect perfection or anything. Maze was available on DVD in a box set (the first straight to complete set DVD release in R1 history as far as I know), and this is how I own it. The boxset is getting quite expensive now though. Additionally CPM put out the OVA (on DVD) which I also enjoyed but didn’t see on Anime Selects, but rather just purchased it because I liked the TV series so much, and that’s still easy to get. The OVA was made before the TV series and doesn’t take place in the same continuity.
Crazy Sexy Tokyo
In 2008 (many years after I had seen Maze) Comcast decided that they hated having money, and produced a show called “Crazy Sexy Tokyo”. They picked someone to be a “tokyo reporter” and go all around and record cool things in Tokyo. They picked the cute Stephanie Yanez as their reporter, and paid for her trip and expenses and she did the show for them. You can watch some of the show here. It was a good show, very funny, and cute. It wasn’t groundbreaking perhaps but it showed many different sides of Tokyo. It tried to give American fans a glimpse of anime, video games, manga, and Japanese culture, while also showing all the cool things you could do in Tokyo. In one of the better episodes, Stephanie Yanez went to an “American Restaurant” which was all baseball themed. It was pretty hilarious all the things they got wrong about what types of food we eat, although they did get a lot right. Another good episode had her visit a love hotel, it managed to be pretty risque, and very funny. But all the episodes were interesting and you felt like you learned something. Not to mention it gave you a good inside look at Japanese culture. The show had a camera man follow her around mostly, but when he was gone she had her own little camera and would hold it up to her face and usually just talk about something, this was called the “Steph cam” (would they have been able to come up with a good name like that if they picked someone with a different name instead of Stephanie Yanez? ). One episode even had Yanez dressing up as Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion. It was a fun show to watch, each episode only being a few minutes long. Perhaps it was a little corny, but it had its own charm and style that I liked.
Anime Selects had a decent run, but sadly a few years ago Funimation was the only one really providing material for Comcast to air. And by this time video-on-demand was hardly a novelty, it’s become a pretty big deal with millions of people watching their favorite tv shows when they want to, as opposed to when it airs. Hollywood and the major networks are now really invested in VOD, putting much of their content and libraries up there (for free and pay-per-view), so it’s not like Comcast needs anything to throw on there anymore. And at this same time Funimation was trying to expand their own On-Demand channel, and so eventually Anime Selects was taken down, and the Funimation Channel on demand replaced it. Although the channel no longer exists it holds a special place in my heart. If not for Anime Selects I wouldn’t have seen a metric ton of shows. And if not for their weird tastes, and their need to grab “whatever” just to have content I myself might not have eccentric tastes in anime. You see since the anime was up there, it was free, and it was easy to get to I watched most of what they uploaded. Now I can’t say I liked all of it, but without a doubt I watched anime I otherwise would have never bothered with, if only because it was there. And some of it surprised me in how bad I thought the anime would be, but how good it turned out. That shows you can’t judge an anime to quickly. I must also mention that the opening logo/music to Anime Selects (which played before anything you watched) just gives off an excellent feeling. When you heard that noise and saw the little logo you knew you were in for some great stuff that you never heard of before. And after the show was over it would yell at you “MADE FOR ON DEMAND!” . In Part 2 I will discuss a few more anime that aired on the channel and another live action TV series made for the on demand channel.
* Good anime is still being made. I still watch new anime. I don’t think anime has fallen from some “grace” after <insert year here> . I do think the types of anime being made is less diverse now then it was half a decade ago. And I would love to see more diversity. However, the current trends in anime has helped keep anime afloat. In fact without the huge devotion and support from Japanese fans for the stuff being made currently who knows where anime would be today. But this is neither here nor there I suppose. This “review” is about odd anime, much of it old.