Recently the "Uncut" Blu-ray version of Yasuomi UMETSU's masterpiece, A-KITE/カイト, was removed completely from the RightStuf website. I had half assumed that was the end of it... but no, this tale of intrigue and horror is only getting started.
Media Blasters has seemingly abandoned all future Shriek Show releases (despite having solicited Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals and said that Zombi 3 and After Death were on their way), canceled* the second half of Bakuman, relinquished the rights to The Record of Lodoss War, and having already said that they would "be dubbing the rest of Queen's Blade", the announcement that Sentai Filmworks now owns the rights to Queen's Blade Rebellion suggests that CEO and public voice John Sirabella is finally so far out of his depth that he's spouting off nonsense that in no way reflects reality, instead of the usual incomprehensible mix of honest misunderstandings and bullshit half-truths.
It's with the following information firmly in mind that I'm going to repeat the following exchange from the Media Blasters facebook page:
Q: Has the uncut Blu-ray of Kite been cancelled, or just delayed? Also, is the Blu-ray an upscale or was it actually re-scanned in hi-def?
MB: Not cancelled at all. Just got the negative in from Japan. We are doing the transfer ourselves here in the states as they just felt in Japan not worth it for them.
Q: I pre-ordered the Kite Blu-Ray (which I assume will be the 45mins R-Rated cut). Umm...Can you guesstimate if I'm going to be getting this in the next month or so (amazon says it should be shipping in the next 4 days)?
MB: Good question. We will have the footage for the Uncut so we will release both versions. The one under AW is the cut one.
...is it possible to have a ragegasm? Ignoring the fact that they've completely ignored the "when" part of the latter question, the suggestion that Media Blasters literally owns the original camera negative turns my stomach.
On the one hand, this isn't all bad news. The last time Media Blasters did their own HD transfer from an actual 35mm print it was for Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend, and that was QUITE THE CLUSTERFUCK. Media Blasters had the seemingly legitimate excuse of having had to scrounge around for elements until all they could come up with was a battered and censored UK release print, which was about two steps removed from belonging in a dumpster behind 42nd Street circa 1981. If they do have the camera negative on hand, it'd be almost impossible to fuck up; there's no reason A-Kite wouldn't have been edited on film, sans the original credits+. If what Sirabella's said is true, that means all he has to do is pick a competent film lab and it's done.
But would the Japanese licensor really hand over the original negative? I'm honestly not certain. Green Bunny was the adult anime production wing of Happinet Pictures, a Japanese subsidiary of Bandai/Namco Holdings, and Happinet released the 2007 Premium Version of A-Kite and Umetsu's follow-up Mezzo Forte before quietly dumping most of their remaining porn off at Pink Pineapple's door to release as bargain bin titles... well, at least as bargain bin as Japanese adult animation tends to get. I don't doubt that Happinet sees little point in doing a new scan of a 12 year old title for Blu-ray when contemporary hits always sell dramatically better than "old" content, and if they're not willing to send the negative out to a film lab to start with, it isn't unthinkable that they made Sirabella a substantial offer to essentially be the new international licensor for the series - they're done with it, after all, and since John Sirabella literally paid out of pocket to have that incredibly disappointing Kite Liberator sequel made - a sad fact that makes me grin to this very day - I would imagine he had no complaints.
Media Blasters is best described as "inconsistent", pumping out fantastic HD transfers one minute and shitty SD upscales the next. The only constant has been that their releases have been phenomenal when they were handed a perfect HD master from the start. Titles like Crows Zero, Queen's Blade and Mazinkaizer SKL were all fantastic because they were basically just copies of the Japanese Blu-rays. Truth be told suspect they were actual 1:1 copies of the Japanese encodes with the English audio and subtitle options muxed in after the fact, and that's fine by me; if the results kick ass I could care less if you're skipping the middle man. When they have to scramble for transfers themselves, well... that's when you get shit like Versus, Zombie Holocaust and The Machine Girl (lulz). Occasionally they manage a competent release, like Devil Dog or their own Flesh for the Beast, but more often than not you get something like Burial Ground or fucking Urotsukidoji.
I'm sick of Media Blasters' very existance... but I do love A-Kite. Love the fuck right out of it. If Sirabella pockets my money for a new HD scan, so be it. I just don't want him to expect me to give it anything but a fair treatment.
* Well, officially, it's just "delayed indefinitely". From what I hear, DO NOT hold your breath on this one getting a complete US release..
+ On second thought, the credits being video generated does give me pause to wonder if this would have actually been an A/B roll affair - in which case we could, potentially, have yet another Burial Ground level clusterfuck of lost frames on our hands. Still, all we can do now is take a deep breath and wait...