History’s Strongest Disciple: Anime-Zine #2

“Japanese animation is science-fiction books on film. Done for an intelligent, literate audience with an appetite for variety (remember, most of it is based on manga). An audience that appreciates and accepts artistic expression in any form. This…

“Japanese animation is science-fiction books on film. Done for an intelligent, literate audience with an appetite for variety (remember, most of it is based on manga). An audience that appreciates and accepts artistic expression in any form. This allows for a richness and complexity of characterization and background usually missing from most SF cartoons, and a realism missing even from live-action.”

This quote is from the publisher’s note at the beginning of Anime-Zine #2, which was published in 1986. [Edit: Actually, it was 1987.] I included it not just because it’s an incredibly quaint sentiment, but because it probably says a lot about fandom around the time this issue was published.

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Truth be told, I don’t know anything about this magazine. Some Internet research leads me to believe only three issues were published, and aside from Robert Fenelon and Toren Smith (pioneers in American cosplaying and manga translation, respectively) none of the names involved with the magazine strike me as familiar. Anime-Zine #2’s publish date is given as 1986, [Edit: Again, it was actually published in 1987, not 1986] meaning it predates both Protoculture Addicts and Animag, possibly making it the oldest English-language “professional” anime magazine? I can’t say for sure. Hopefully some of the more knowledgeable readers can chime in with some actual information (paging Dave Merrill and Steve Harrison), but for now I’ll stick to just talking about the issue itself.

Rather unassuming at only 40 newsprint pages, the magazine is nonetheless filled with interesting things. The typesetting and writing is professional enough, certainly not nearly as amateur as the early issues of Protoculture Addicts. Lots of big images from Japanese sources, none of which look particularly stellar when reproduced on black-and-white newsprint.

The cover story is on the third season of Space Battleship Yamato, although it advertises it as the third season of Star Blazers. The article is your typical mix of background information, character bios and episode summaries. The most interesting part may be the outline of the original 52 episodes that the series was supposed to run, before being cut down to just 25. Saint Seiya gets similar treatment in another article, although not nearly as in depth.

Toren Smith writes a multi-page plot synopsis of Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise, which admittedly isn’t that interesting of an article. What is interesting is the follow up, a comparison between the Japanese language original and the English-dubbed version titled Star Quest. Interesting not just because I had absolutely no idea Royal Space Force was dubbed into English in the 80s, but because the comparison piece provides multiple examples with the English-dubbed dialog and the Japanese script translated into English. According to an old USENET post by Carl Horn, Star Quest was shown in public only once, at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. One wonders if there are any nth-generation bootleg tapes of this floating around.

The next article is a brief article about various Japanese monster films, ostensibly proving that ever since there have been anime magazine, there have been articles about live-action Japanese films that most people don’t care about. Toren Smith pens another article, this time covering various news and information from Japan. There’s some really interesting stuff in here, like mention of a trip Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii took to Wales to do research for My Neighbor Totoro, which I’ll cover that in a minute. The magazine closes out with a brief summary of Megazone 23 Part II.

In addition to these articles there was the typical news and a letters sections, all containing some interesting bits that I’ll mention briefly now:

Star Musketeer Bismark was being shown on American TV as Sabre Rider and the Star Sheriffs.
• There was talk of an American-financed animated Godzilla film.
• US Renditions was apparently preparing to release English language film comics of Iczer One.
• One letter recounts meeting the people behind the absolutely hideous Robotech dolls and how these advertising executives had absolutely no interest in the origins of the Robotech show or the depth the characters.
• Another letter asked when the Robotech movie would be released. Poor guy.
• Toren Smith mentions he saw an English-dubbed version of Aura Battler Dunbine, done by none other than Harmony Gold. While I knew Harmony Gold had done more faithful dubs of both Genesis Climber MOSPEADA and Super Dimension Fortress Macross, I had no idea they’d taken a shot at Dunbine as well.
• According to Yutaka Izubuchi, a live-action film based on Dunbine was in the works, with involvement from Lucasfilm.
• Yutaka Izabuchi also insinuated his Protect Armor design from Oshii’s Panzer Corps/Kerberos Cops series might have been ripped off in the live-action He-Man movie.
Project A-Ko II, Macross Flashback 2012, and Robot Carnival were all to be released shortly in Japan.

Next Week: Shameless Bandai advertising organs.

14 Comments

  1. Yeah, better times. Damn.

    BTW – I’d heard Miyazaki (the guy loves us Brits, shame he can’t get his films released here quicker) had been in Wales doing research before, but Oshii was with him? Really? I’d like to read that…

  2. > timmaughan

    Well, that’s actually as much as it said in the article. Didn’t go into any further detail, sadly.

  3. This articlle, and series of articles. are interesting started watching anime recently and have never actually seen any print magazines devoted to anime.

    That opening quote sounds particularly strange now, partially for how the reversal seems to be true in terms not only believable characters and anime as sc-fi, which is fair enough considering the kinds of anime avialble at the time. Perhaps the most depressing part the glowing optimism about the (literate)community of people who watch anime. I can only imagine what the writer of that quote has to say about the current state of anime discussion.

  4. It’s interesting Toren Smith was putting out the ‘I saw an English dubbed Dunbine’ thing, as I have never found any proof it existed.

    I DO know there was a 16mm print of the first episode SUBBED in English, as I was one of about 50 people who saw it at Worldcon 1984 in Los Angeles. Tomino ran it after his talk. It got me so hepped up for Dunbine I ran to the dealer’s room, grabbed the first LP for the series and ran back to have Tomino autograph it. I still have that.

    Harmony Gold had the rights to Dunbine for some time. While I have no proof (no secret memos leaked or anything) I am pretty solid in putting out there that ADV subleased Dunbine from HG. the pieces fit, including the odd event of Macek doing the ADR work for the dub. That may have very well been a contractual obligation on getting the show.

    I can’t say for sure if Anime-Zine was the first mass release ‘pro-zine’or not, but there was a rash of them. I’ve got something from 1988 called ‘Japanamation’ published in Detroit,it changed its name to Anime Journal with #4. I know the folks who became ADV published a mag…let’s see…Fanime..ok, never mind, that was 1995, second generation.

    I think it was a part of the whole ‘black and white comic’ boom, there was so much going on, and so much sheer volume of product hitting shelves of the comic shops, that if you put a 30-some page comic book sized magazine out there you’d sell it.

    That’s what I got for now.

  5. Thanks, Steve!

    One of the more amusing parts of going back through these old magazines is trying to figure out which facts they printed are true and which are absolute fabrications.

    I’d never heard of Harmony Gold having its hands in Dunbine, but it isn’t surprising considering the number of shows they seemed to be involved with in the 1980s!

  6. Recall, the Agrama Brothers (Harmony Gold) were mainly about importing movies and TV to, oh crap, mind fart, Italy or Spain and then the rest of Europe. Their main job in the U.S. was finding shows to buy up for syndication in Europe. They didn’t have much luck exporting their licenses to the US until Macek came on board, so it seems.

    I am still convinced that Harmony Gold was a shadow partner in Streamline Pictures. I know Macek got his ‘video comics’ material from HG (unsold pilots done to show the product at MIP-TV and NATPE, that’s why we never saw more than a handful of Zillion and Nadia from Streamline, that’s all that was done).

    Word had it that it MAY have been the showing of Dunbine at the Worldcon that convinced HG to pick up the rights, but they never did anything with it in the US. Until ADV came along that is, and I might argue that for all intents and purposes they STILL haven’t really done anything with it. But I’m bitter like that.

  7. Wow…memories of days past. Thanks again for this!

    To Sean–you’re right about ANIME-ZINE having only three issues. I had the first one (with MEGAZONE 23 as the cover story) and still have a copy of #3 (with the Dirty Pair as the cover story).

    To Steve–it is true that there were many anime magazines (more like fanzines, but…) around back during the 1980s; with the rise in popularity of ROBOTECH (and to be fair, VOLTRON), plus the growth of anime viewing rooms at SF and comic conventions, they just seemed to pop up. Some only lasted a couple of issues; others–like ANIMAG and PROTOCULTURE ADDICTS–went on for much longer.

    As mentioned in the article, the quality varied from crude to polished. ANIME-ZINE was certainly up there in quality, as was ANIMAG.

  8. You don’t have a copy of STAR QUEST? Why, it’s indispensable! A must have for any true anime fan! Actually it’s a pretty lousy dub. I was not at the Mann’s Chinese Theater premiere, but I have the little handout.

    I got copies of Anime-Zine second hand as distribution was kind of spotty in my area, but I always liked the clean graphic design.

  9. Once again, nice summary! I really enjoy reading these.

    However, I think you’ll find that Anime-Zine #2 was published in 1987, not 1986 (unless the copyright notice on page 1 is not indicative). It would also help to explain (his insider status with Gainax notwithstanding) Toren Smith’s Honneamise article, since Honneamise and Star Quest both came out in 1987.

  10. Lawrence, you’re absolutely right. I have no idea why I wrote 1986 instead of 1987, but I’ve corrected it in the post. Thanks!

  11. Strangely enough, even though it seems to be a relatively obscure magazine, I managed to somehow get a copy in Australia in the late 1980’s. At GALAXY BOOKSHOP of all places! (Sydney’s main SF bookshop for the last 25 years or so, expensive bastards) For some reason Galaxy had this anime mag as well as several other ones from the U.S. and they must have been at a reasonable price for a high school student like me to be able to get one. This was back in the days when being an anime fan in Australia was very difficult. Channel Ten had only purchased 52 episodes of Robotech (very annoying), Battle of the Planets had made the jump from Channel 10 to the ABC, Star Blazers had been shown twice and a third showing was on the way, I had my VCR ready to record it, only to have the season aborted because the ABC no longer had the rights. BOTP was soon to disappear from TV screens in Australia forever because some nosy mothers group was getting organised and pressuring Australian television networks to stop showing “violent” cartoons (won’t somebody please think of the children!!). The same mothers group was incensed when Channel Seven purchased the rights to Robotech and tried to get the network to stop showing it, and were promptly told to get stuffed. Astoundingly, Akira got a limited cinema release in Australia as well (initially at the Valhalla, but eventually Greater Union on Pitt Street gave it a go.) Back to the topic. I was amazed to get a copy of this magazine, I don’t know how it made it to Australia but I was lucky enough to get a copy and it was good. This was back in the days when if you mentioned “anime” or “Japan” to the staff at Galaxy looked like they wanted to spit at you. I will have to dig out my old copy and scan it.

  12. Toren was doing a lot of travelling back and forth to Japan back in the mid-80s even before he got involved with Gainax, and it’s possible he saw this mysterious dub of Dunbine on one of those trips. For the record, I recall hearing the rumors but nothing more.

    Those early zine efforts were made more difficult because it was hard to get the big two distributors interested in carrying this kind of stuff, and sales suffered because of it. Sometimes you had to actually invest in printing the thing before the distributors would even put it on the schedule, which helps to explain why there weren’t more of them and the ones that did exist didn’t get very far…

    RWG (interesting times)

  13. I stand by what I said… of course I’m sure there’s all kinds of English dubbed pilot episodes out there made to show at the various events, but an English dubbed Dunbine never, ever reared its head.

    I know that people sometimes do ‘misremember’ events. I recall one person stridently, with great anger insisting that Lensman (the movie) was shown dubbed at Worldcon 1984.

    Another said he saw Robotech: the movie in a theater in Boston. We all KNOW that didn’t happen. I’m still convinced the showing in Texas was only to be able to say legally that it was shown *in theaters* in the U.S. so they could pimp it overseas. Yes, distributors and studios do things like that.

    So, Toren is an alright guy and all, I can’t take his word on this.

    This is where Mike Toole whips out his copy of the vintage Sunrise produced Dunbine dub he just came across and makes me look even more the fool than I normally am. 🙂

  14. Being reminded I have a copy of Anime-Zine #2 in my mitts, and it’s quite a page-turner of information that the early anime fandom ever had in those pre-WWW days.

    Wouldn’t mind checking out that “Star Quest” dub if or when I come across it for comparison sake (because I have a thing for “Bad American Dubbing”).

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