History’s Strongest Disciple: Anime UK #3

Anime fandom and collecting often go hand in hand, be it a shelf full of DVDs, a display cabinet full of man-child toys collectibles, or in my case, printed material. My biggest interest is early English language anime magazines, but I’ve amassed…

Anime fandom and collecting often go hand in hand, be it a shelf full of DVDs, a display cabinet full of man-child toys collectibles, or in my case, printed material. My biggest interest is early English language anime magazines, but I’ve amassed a fair collection of books and magazines (in both English and Japanese) from the 80s through the early 90s. For lack of anything else to do with them, and with a desire to do a regular feature here on Colony Drop, I’ve decided to do a weekly column where I’ll talk about a single book or magazine from my collection. The intent is not just to describe the publication, but to try and place it within the context in which it was written and released.

For the first installment of this column, I figured I’d be a bit cheeky and talk about the first anime magazine I ever purchased, Anime UK #3 released in 1995.

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To be honest, I’m not sure exactly when this issue was released, simply because there isn’t an actual publishing date anywhere to be found within the magazine. But since they talk about the guests announced for Anime Expo ’95 it’s safe to say it came out out sometime early that year. For whatever reason, publishing dates were hard to find in older issues of Anime UK, why that is I have no idea.

Anime UK was born out of the fanzine efforts of a group of British anime fans (including, among others, Helen McCarthy). Throughout its six-year run the magazine saw a number of changes, transitioning from an amateur publication into a full-color glossy magazine. This issue #3 is actually the second issue #3, as after the first seventeen issues the formatting was updated and the numbering restarted at #1. This so-called “new series” followed through until the magazine’s demise in 1996, as the numbering was not changed when the magazine updated its design once again and changed its name to Anime FX.

The cover of this issue features a particularly well done piece of art by Steve Kyte of Noa Izumi and her AV-98 Ingram from Patlabor. As you might expect, Patlabor is represented heavily in the issue’s articles, with a number of articles about the origin of Patlabor and the first Patlabor film. Other articles include features on Slow Step, Future Boy Conan, Macross, Dragonball and Dairanger (the latter not actually being anime). In addition to the anime features and regular sections like news, reviews and a letters page, there’s an article about comics in Asia outside of Japan, a book review of China Mountain Zhang and a roundup of recently released fanzines.

Features on Macross, Dragonball and Patlabor certainly weren’t out of place in the mid 90s, and clearly indicative of the market at the time. In fact, aside from the two features on Slow Step and Future Boy Conan, there’s little mention of any anime title that wouldn’t appeal to the 14-to-28-year-old male demographic that dominated fandom at the time. Compared to contemporary English language magazines Anime UK always did a better job of talking about productions that fell outside of that particular demographic (you certainly didn’t see many articles about Slow Step in Animerica or Protoculture Addicts), but you can’t exactly blame them for playing to the biggest consumer group for anime at the time. Remember that this was still the era of the “Not For Kids” OAV.

It’s interesting to note that most early English language anime publications focused less on critical analysis and more on providing raw information to fans in the form of synopsis, character bios and general information about a series. The trend began to change in the mid 90s as fans became better informed and there were more sources of information, but this particular issue of Anime UK was stuck in an awkward time, when they were still doing character bios and story summaries for Patlabor and Dragonball, while at the same time having more in depth articles about other series’.

With an idea I borrowed from Awesome Engine’s Manga Mania write ups, I’ll summarize some of the news and releases that were going on when this issue saw print:

• New programs on Japanese TV included Gundam Wing, Slayers and a little show called Neon Genesis Evangelion.
• AnimeEigo released its first dual language laserdisc, Baoh the Visitor.
• Volume one of Angel Cop saw release in the UK, and I only mention that as an excuse to link to this video. The first Patlabor movie also sees its first video release in the UK (hence the cover story in this issue).
• US Manga Corps released the first volume of Colony Drop Favorite Cyber City OEDO 808, volume two of Lodoss War and something called Zeguy.
• Viz released yet another Ranma 1/2 video, because back then people couldn’t get enough of that crap.
• AD Vision released Curse of the Undead Yoma, Samurai Shodown and All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, showing that the good sensibilities that brought them to financial ruin in the 00s were alive and present in the company as far back as 1995.

Click to read a sample page

Reviews in this issue include favorable takes on Starblazers Part 5, Adventure Duo 3, Hummingbirds, New Dominion Tank Police and Orguss 02 as well as not-so-favorable reviews for Love City and Legend of the 4 Kings.

These older issues of Anime UK were always a little rough around the corner, never quite wearing their fanzine origins quite as obviously as Protoculture Addicts, but still featuring the occasional typo and some fanboy (or girl) enthusiasm. Whereas Protoculture Addicts was too amateurish and Animerica was too commercial, Anime UK maintained a nice balance and provided consistently well-written commentary on anime and related topics. For my money it was the best English language anime magazine of the era.

It may also be worth noting that while a decent portion of the pages in this issue are in color, most are in black, white and… pink. In fact, many pages have a staggering amount of pink used on them. Whether or not this subconsciously affected the visual design for Colony Drop, I couldn’t really say.

Next Week: Something in Japanese!

11 Comments

  1. It never fails to amaze me how many people still have issues of AUK stashed away somewhere. This was a blast from the past. Pink pages notwithstanding, (remember, we were still paying off our wartime loans to you guys at that stage!) I think it still looks hot. Editorial shortcomings are my own, but the design team never let me down.

    It’s difficult for many fans now to imagine the anime industry in Britain in the early 1990s: the Internet in its infancy, a whole generation of Japanese language experts as yet unborn (and fewer who could actually speak and read it available at the click of a mouse) and this flood of amazing stuff coming out from companies whose atttudes (and in some cases business methods) made California in the Gold Rush seem endearingly conservative. You could tell me Deadwood was written by someone who survived the British anime industry in the 1990s and I wouldn’t laugh.

    Thanks for a refreshing blast from the past.

  2. Oh man, could you throw the Legend of the 4 Kings review on the tumblr? I’m interested in reading that since I just reviewed it myself as “Legend of the Dragon Kings.”

  3. Slow Step was being released by Western Connection in the UK at the time. If rumours are true… that company’s shenanigans alone could make for a very entertaining article.

  4. slow step was definately released, they still have it in the reduced section of the sheffield space center! it’s nice to read of olde time uk fandom, this one article and the ones on awesome engine you mention are the only ones i know of D:
    my favourite oldtime anime magazine was j-fan, that only lasted 2 issues, and i only had the first one! it had a nice amateurish, but loving charm to it

  5. I think I had a couple of issues of this that made its away across the pond. I remember liking it, however, Animag was my bible back in those dark ages(even if it came out sporadically). In some ways, I miss the old days. Yeah, its great to be able to watch stuff streamed off Japanese TV in realtime, but the mystery and the allure is all but gone. 😀

  6. I really enjoyed AnimeUK, but it may have been partially due to seeing familiar names from S.I.G. and Century 21. 😉

    I was always filled with wonder and some kind of odd otaku pride when I saw our brothers/sisters across the pond groove on anime. Such HUGE barriers they had, more than just the language issue! The dedication to the medium always impressed me.

  7. Nice to know you’re still around Helen!

    I *can* imagine what it was like to be an anime fan in the UK in the 90s because I was one, and at probably just the right age then to appreciate how lucky we are now. At the time, the cover image for that issue – Patlabor – (at least the Tv series) seemed as far away as ever getting a release in the West as travelling to the far side of the Moon was to an average person.

    Anime UK was a vital early bridge, though its possibly difficult for some modern fans to understand the role imagination had to play when reading its articles. “My” vision of Char Aznable was very different to the “actual” Char Aznable I encountered when I finally encountered Gundam for real, some years after reading Anime UKs excellent (two-part!) article on the subject.

    I’d also like to say that Steve Kytes artwork was always very good, but that hes also responsible for one of my all-time favourite works of anime-related art – the Aura Battler Dunbine back cover from the “first” Anime UK issue three…

  8. this is the mass-Market incarnation of AUK, which you’d find in newsagents (if lucky), and was similar – but not quite as lush – to the dozen and a half mailorder issues I also bought back then. I still cherish them, some leaflets and handwritten letters from Helen McCarthy, and they’re the reason I still glance across at anime despite my primary interest having moved onto Japanese live-action cinema in the past decade.
    by the time these issues had arrived, although the public were slightly more aware of anime, the few (and largely similar) choices made by manga entertainment dictated the image most have to this day : and a similar, but much more diverse, trend of generalisation still seems to plague the American Market of the DVD era.

    happy times, the early 90s interest in anime, thanks to Helen McCarthy and Co.

  9. Thanks to Sean for a great trip down memory lane and thanks to Helen for making it all possible in the first place. Helen, I remember 11 years ago I was all psyched to see you speak your thoughts on Miyazaki’s “final” masterpiece, “Mononoke Hime” at Shinnenkai at the Radisson Edwardian near Heathrow.

    I never would have known there was such a group of passionate experts on this minor hobby in the UK if it hadn’t been for AnimeUK/FX.

    Not that the magazine was particularly easy to find on the shelves. I missed quite a few issues back in the day, though I managed to see places with back numbers and accummulated quite a few.

    Many years later I would find that actually Jonathan Clements was a graduate of Stirling University like me.

    Mr. Laufeyson: I am very pleased to hear that tidbit about the Sheffield Space Centre, that place is like a time capsule. I went once many, many years ago and spent insane amounts of money. The closest thing we had in London was Comet Miniatures.

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this trip down memory lane! Anime UK was one of my favorite anime magazines back in the 1990’s; while it could be difficult to find it here in the States, it was worth buying. The writing and presentation was top-notch (and better than most popular websites today)…and yep, I still have all of my Anime UK issues.

    And Steve Kyte was a phenomenal artist….I wonder what’s happened to him?

  11. Lovely to read all these comments – it’s made me go all gooey!

    Marc, Steve Kyte is alive and well and living in London (with me, actually) but he got tired of doing artwork for people who expect to pay next to nothing and get it re-done constantly when the chief exec’s wife nitpicks about it. So he gave up illustration, works in an art gallery and makes art for himself. (And sometimes for me, I’m happy to say.)

    But if the right job came along, who knows? I still think the chara design work he did on Firestorm was the best thing about that show. Someone in Japan should take note and hire him. A Steve Kyte/Yasushi Nirasawa collaboration would be one hell of a design team.

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