Saturday, November 17, 2007

anime comics

Megazone 23 and Mospeada animation comics

Back before filesharing, before DVDs, even before cheap VHS tapes, anime fans had it tough. How could we experience Japanese cartoons beyond the once-weekly television schedule? The problem was solved in Japan by several different means - Roman Albums about Yamato or Harlock or Gundam, the five or six monthly magazines like Animage devoted to anime movies and TV shows, and of course comics and toys and stationery and t-shirts and menko cards and the rest of the gigantic merchandising industry that churned out colorful junk that we in the States could only wish for. They also had these things called "animation comics".

Cyborg 009 Legend Of The Super Galaxy animation comics

Captain Harlock animation comics

Anime Comics were squarebound paperback books with color pages and glossy dust covers. They were comic photo-novels with artwork shot directly from the cel art and dialog added later by underpaid Kodansha employees. For American fans without access to these TV shows or movies, this was almost as good as having the show on videotape.

Tetsujin-28 and Queen Millennia (TV) animation comics

For budding translators the simplified dialog (with "ruby" style kanji aids) was a godsend. Plus you could take them to school and mystify classmates because you had some kind of book that seemed to be full of pictures from that Cliff Hanger videogame from down at the arcade.

Lupin III Castle Of Cagliostro animation comics

Of course we never thought we'd see anything like this available in English. So when we saw this ad in the Comics Buyers Guide sometime in 1982, we were pretty excited.

Star Blazers animation comics?? Since the local UHF station was being remarkably unhelpful in re-running the show to allow those of us with VCRs to tape it, this was great news! Books Nippan, the LA outfit supplying anime product to a hungry North America, promoted the release with a full color flyer that featured typos corrected in ball point pen.

I recall a frustrating delay in the actual arrival of the books. Once they apppeared, they quickly became a staple item on the bookshelf of every anime fan. The artwork was right from the TV series, arranged manga-style with sound effects and dialog set in type.

 Extras included Yamato production artwork, diagrams, the big cutaway Yamato blueprint illustration... all the stuff we'd pored over in Roman Albums. The dialog was taken directly from the Star Blazers shooting script, odd for a book produced and printed in Japan, but then again West Cape always stood firmly behind their American version of Yamato. They may have not known exactly what to do with it, but behind it they were.

Nowadays of course with the advent of cheap home video, laserdiscs and especially DVD box sets, the need for photo-novel versions of cartoons has passed. However, back in 1982 these books were the high point of my Star Blazers fandom, at least until I came across a flyer advertising a Star Blazers fan club in Texas. But more about that later. 

-Dave Merrill

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Anonymous said...

On the Star Blazers anime comics...I'm pretty sure they were a bit later than 1982. I see in my copies the only date is the West Cape copyright on Star Blazers which is a bit odd, actually. I think it may be tied in to the ending of the Westchester films / Claster Television coopertive deal.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure they didn't start in '82 because I was buying stuff left and right. I DO know 100% they were all released by 1985 because that August I was selling Books Nippan stuff on consignment and the SB anime comics were part of my inventory.

The model sheet illos in the SB books are right out of the famed Silver Book set. Ah, if I had those when I was doing Space Fanzine Yamato...

I kinda miss the days of the anime comic. If I had been an artist I'm sure they would have been my most beloved reference source.

Anonymous said...

Gyaarrgh. I didn't put the date in! The date in the books, the mysterious copyright to West Cape was 1983.

d.merrill said...

In the article I'm mentioning 1982 as the time I first saw the ad for the books, and I did mention the nail-biting wait for those comics. In fact as I recall the arrival of the books was a bit of an anti-climax, it took so long...

Chris Sobieniak said...

During those times I would've been 5-7 years old, but I can see how important these 'animation comics' were in the days when home video wasn't a widespread commodity and either seeing it in the theater or on TV was the only way you ever saw it, or not if you missed it (reminds me of the days before the Disney animated features become as accessible as they are today, the Panini sticker books are represented of the frustrations I had over these matters).

Nowadays, I'm not much into "Ani-Manga" or whatever they call 'em these days, and they seem like a waste of money than to buy a regular manga title.

Unknown said...

I love anime comics! They also made some for Godzilla movies, Jackie Chan flicks, and Ultraman 80. On second thought, I love this blog!

- Patrick Macias

Daryl Surat said...

Chris mentioned it, but these publications still exist and are released in the US to this day. Viz and Tokyopop have released lots of stuff under their "Cine-Manga" and "Ani-Manga" lines, and I can honestly say that I have never ever seen a single person buy or even look through these things. Someone's gotta be, because they keep making them.

In fact, they make them for live-action titles as well as American animation too at this point. I look at books consisting of photos of NBA basketball players with text bubbles with bewilderment, but apparently the cine-manga for Avatar: The Last Airbender sold half a million copies:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. There is not much stuff to be found about anime comics (but a lot about manga!) I don't know if they published it in english, but in french, the movie Spirited Away has been published in anime comics.