Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gurren La-pse in Judgement?


Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Pierce the heavens with your drill. Super Robots vs Real Robots with stunning Gainax animation and it's tongue firmly in cheek. In short, it's the greatest piece of art the 21st century has insofar given us, and likely may remain that way for the next decade or two.

Originally licensed by ADV Films, they basically imploded earlier this year for a few weeks, taking down their licenses from mid 2006 onwards and - at least as I hear it - ran back to Japan with their penis tucked firmly between their legs to beg Sojitz, their Japanese backing company, for a second chance (which, clearly, they were awarded). No, you won't hear this from any "official" news source; all they said at this time after a week or two of deafening silence and no releases being shipped was that they were going to release Blu-Ray titles by the end of Spring, which was so chock full of bullshit I'm amazed everyone with a quarter brain didn't immediately call them on it. Anyway, 4 weeks later ADV was back in full swing, minus three things: credibility, Sergeant Frog (Keroro Gunsou), and my beloved, Gurren Lagann.

A couple weeks ago Bandai Entertainment International announced their plans to release Gurren Lagann, starting in July as a trio of subtitled-only sets for a mere $30 a piece ($40 if you want it with a bonus CD), with a bi-lingual special edition to follow in 2009. They've since announced that while the sub-only sets are making the rounds, the English dub version will also start airing on the Sci-Fi Channel's AniMonday block, which is great news for everyone who's too lazy to follow the fansub circles but know an awesome show when they see it. Of course I can already see the dubniggers* watching the show in English, buying it in Japanese and their heads exploding already... it really is a beautiful sight.

*Dubnigger (n): A self-professed foreign film fan (in this instance relating to Japanese animation) who refuses to purchase or enjoy a title if it has not been dubbed into their native language, or if flaws inherent in the English dub keep them from purchasing or enjoying a title that they have a perfectly viable option to watch in its' original language with


Dubnigger: "Cool, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence has been rescued by Bandai! Now I can finally listen to Mary Elizabeth McGlynn playing The Major. Again."

Otaku: "Shut the fuck up, dubnigger. I'm watching Code Geass R2 here."

So, where's the problem? Whole show subtitled for $90 retail, don't have to wait for a dub... sounds like paradise, until ANN drops the following "D'oh!" moment:

"Sci Fi Channel's run and Bandai Entertainment's first box set in July will include the same version of episode 6 that originally aired in Japan. However, Bandai Entertainment's later bilingual DVD release will include both this version and the updated version that premiered in the Japanese DVD release."

Waaaaaait... so, we buy the show as it first comes out, and as a result we get the far less interesting TV cut, which features an 8 minute recap (of the first 5 damn episodes!) because an entire chunk of it dedicated to Kamina trying to scope out hot spring boobs (complete with shota pee-pee and kanchoing for good measre... see here for more examples) was simply too much for the show's Sunday Morning slot. If Bandai couldn't get the uncensored episode in the first place, I'd be pissed but understand. That they'd potentially hold the DVD version hostage as a special feature for the dub-friendly version is nothing short of frickin' criminal.

It's already been suggested that this is all just a failure to communicate, and that the TV version will actually be the extra on the bi-lingual version, with the sub-only sets featuring the DVD cut of episode 6. If this is true, I'll still purchase the Subtitled Only Ghetto Edition, with or without CD (...really, why the hell would you offer a 2 disc sub-only cheap-o set, AND THEN THROW IN A CD FOR $10?!) but if this report turns out to be legit, Bandai has lost the first guy in line for the show. Hell, I've only watched the first 6 episodes because I knew damn well that I wanted it, and figured I'd wait 'till I had a professionally translated, well authored DVD to watch the rest of it (figuring it would happen very soon - and would have, had ADV not screwed the pooch). So much for being clever about it all... I guess one could argue that the presence of both should be a given on either version, and since Bandai is including clean OP/ED animation, it's not like this subtitled set release is completely bare bones. (Plus, optional CD. OPTIONAL CD!? Por que?!)

More and more, this subtitled version is sounding less like an ideal release for those who genuinely don't care about a dub, and more like a slapped-out cash dash product trying to get to the market as fast as possible, with no regard to the standards that either Bandai Entertainment, or the US anime market has come to expect--

Oh, my, god... it's a legitimate speedsub.

I'm actually fine with that, too: I watched the fansubs because I liked the show, and I'll buy the speedsub DVD release, too, so long as I don't think that waiting 4 months will get me a bunch of Japanese based extras I should have gotten the first time around, anyway. More and more my gut is telling me to wait, even if that means I'll pay more for the dub. At least that way I might get a special edition with a box to hold the series in.

I might wait until Bandai one way or another owns up to which version of episode 6 is on the sub-only release. While I've avoided ADV "extras stripped" thinpacks for years, and tend to avoid any version skipping content just because the studio feels it can milk me for another release later on, Gurren Lagann is such a breath taking experience that I honestly want Gainax to bleed my wallet for it. Heck, I'd buy the sub-only release first hand to show my love and then buy the bi-lingual version used for the goodies, no problem. I just don't want to send them the message that screwing me out of uncensored episodes just because I want it NOW! is okay, because it isn't. I'm willing to forego interviews and double sided covers and whatever other nice things the bi-lingual version could have to some degree, but deny me awesome boob humor and I'm fucking out.

Also: Japan never got the TV version on DVD, not even as an extra. American Exclusives are on the rise after that whole "Haruhi Broadcast Order" clusterfuck, I guess.

I should also say that Bandai Visual has eaten itself, and is currently liquidating itself to Bandai Entertainment. Good riddance. I'll miss pointing and laughing at their eternal tumble down an up-escalator to nowhere, but this might mean that Diebuster (Gunbuster 2) and Demon Prince Enma get a reasonably priced release via the "good" Bandai, now the "only" Bandai.


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