History's Strongest Disciple: Anime Reference Guide
by Sean - January 27 2012


It’s 1991 and you’re balls deep in this anime stuff, there’s just one problem: It’s not translated and you don’t speak any Japanese aside from “konnichiwa” and “teriyaki,” so what do you do? You could try and track down the handful of subtitled anime available in the US, but they’re all expensive and Madox-01 and Gunbuster are so two years ago. And don’t even think about watching those anime titles that were dubbed and released in the 1980s, because they’ve all been hacked up and edited by assholes like Carl Macek who have no appreciation for real art. Your only option is to find yourself some synopses and your best bet for that is to pick up the authoritatively-titled Anime Reference Guide.

...

Any English language anime magazine of the early 1990s was going to have a good portion of its content devoted to synopses, and a lot of fanzines did the same. And while I’ve never had to sit through Nausica as narrated by the ubiquitous Friendly Guy With Beard, apparently that was de rigueur back in the day. Somebody at one of our panels at Anime LA mentioned how he memorized the entire script for a film just so that he could watch it in raw Japanese without any distractions.

So with that said, it’s probably safe to say that the biggest hurdle of a Western anime fan in the late 80s and early 90s after actually finding anime, was understanding it. Toren Smith’s Baycon 86 Japanese Animation Program Guide was the forerunner to the Anime Reference Guide, as it was a book of synopses from the anime video track being run at Baycon 86. Smith would later go on to achieve fame by appearing in Gunbuster and helping to build the foundation of manga in the US with Studio Proteus, but his Baycon guide remained an important reference to anime fans for years to come.

Similarly, the Anime Reference Guide was produced in conjunction with AnimeCon ‘91, the first large-scale anime convention in the U.S., which was co-funded by Gainax and planted the seeds that would create California’s original feudin’ anime cons, Anime Expo and Anime America. Produced by Cal-Animage, an anime fan club with chapters at multiple California colleges (and one in Australia, oddly), the Guide’s production values are impressive considering its fan origins.

Squarebound with a glossy cover by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the interior pages are black and white with a clean, three-column design. Minimal interior art is provided by official lineart ostensibly taken from artbooks. Over 70 anime episodes or films are featured within, and they give you a pretty good idea of what was popular among fans at the time. Ranma 1/2, Project A-ko and Bubblegum Crisis get lots of coverage, although some of the choices are a bit weird. Only Gunbuster volumes 2 and 3 are covered, and if you’re looking for information about Maison Ikkoku episode 96 it’s got you covered, but only episode 96. I assume this has to do with what was being shown at AnimeCon ‘91, but it’s worth pointing out that the Guide was still being offered after the convention wrapped up.

The middle of the book features autograph pages for the guests of AnimeCon ‘91, which I’ll list off here just to make you furious that you weren’t there: Johji Manabe, Leiji Matsumoto, Haruhiko Mikimoto, Toshio Okada, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, and Kenichi Sonada.

This particular Anime Reference Guide is listed as Vol. 1, Issue 1, and from a cursory Internet search it looks like there were at least three more issues released over the next few years. They’re available on eBay for fairly cheap, although I’m not sure why you’d want to buy them. As an actual resource, it’s largely unneeded today as every anime title covered (aside from Osamu Tezuka’s Jumping and maybe Dream Hunter REM episode 4?) has been released officially in the U.S. or is available via fansub. As a bit of nostalgia for anime fandom of days past, it’s not exactly the most gripping thing to read, as it’s a play-by-play of things you’ve already seen, or could easily go watch.

30 comments

Comment from: flintm [Visitor]

Awesome stuff, Sean! I’m forever bitter that I was only 3 when this stuff was going on. It would be one thing to not have been born yet, but I was and still wouldn’t even learn about anime until the late 90s. I know exactly when and where I’ll be going when I build my time machine.

01/27/12 @ 05:33

Comment from: Yanki My Chain [Visitor]

“but they’re all expensive and Madox-01 and Gunbuster are so two years ago.”

Only recent generation anime fans cared about release dates.

“The middle of the book features autograph pages for the guests of AnimeCon ‘91, which I’ll list off here just to make you furious that you weren’t there: Johji Manabe, Leiji Matsumoto, Haruhiko Mikimoto, Toshio Okada, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, and Kenichi Sonada.”

I’d only wanna meet Matsumoto. Everyone else is overrated. But someone recorded Sonoda’s cameo in an AnimeCon skit @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CotUfZomEGM .

01/27/12 @ 06:28

Comment from: Marc McKenzie [Visitor] · http://redshoulder.deviantart.com/gallery/

Sean, reading about the ARG brings back memories…thanks for this!

I remember that this guide was always on the shelf of many anime fans back in the day. And you are right about other issues being released–my friend recently left his copies in my care, but I have to admit that they didn’t have awesome covers like the first one.

“As a bit of nostalgia for anime fandom of days past, it’s not exactly the most gripping thing to read, as it’s a play-by-play of things you’ve already seen, or could easily go watch.”

Very true….

01/27/12 @ 12:23

Comment from: Groove-A [Visitor]

That’s a damn fine line-up of guests, it’s a shame that cons don’t get these kind’s of guest lists of both old and rising creators these days.

01/27/12 @ 15:54

Comment from: ZeonicFreak [Visitor] · http://animeofyesteryear.blogspot.com/

>> flintm

In 91, I was 5 living in Seattle at the time, so I missed this as much as you did.

>>Yanki

I actually find that Sonoda seems to be underrated in today’s fandom or has been kinda removed other than older fans like me and who hasn’t turned in there anime fandom badge to old age. Sonoda is the only person I would bend over backwards to meet and treat the guy to a nice dinner, or a car ride in a vintage 67′ GT500… stolen or not.

Those Lovely Angel cosplayers are super fine…mmm. Sonoda, you lucky son of a gun.

01/27/12 @ 16:11

Comment from: davemerrill [Visitor] · http://misterkitty.org

Actually Matsumoto was a no-show at Animecon ‘91, which made me feel better about missing the whole thing. I know Cal-Animage printed several other “anime guides” which were mostly translations of Ranma 1/2 episodes. Jesus the early 90s sucked.

01/28/12 @ 13:46

Comment from: sean [Member]

I think they did one for Anime Expo in ‘92, and then two issues of a “Volume 2″ that might not have been attached to any particular convention? Giant Robo is on the cover of at least one of those.

Looking through the list of titles covered, it’s kind of amusing to see what still gets attention in fandom. I doubt anyone in 1991 would have guessed that anime fans in the 2000s spend more time talking about stuff like Angel Cop or MD Geist than Ranma 1/2.

01/28/12 @ 19:10

Comment from: Yanki My Chain [Visitor]

davemerill: We got Lodoss, Nuku Nuku, and 3x3 Eyes out of it, which is more than I can say for the mid-2000s.

01/29/12 @ 02:26

Comment from: SignOfZeta [Visitor]

This book was available in many many places for years. For some reason I never bought it, probably because I thought of any official US anime/manga product as being half-bred trash…which it pretty much was.

BTW, I’ve never thought of any anime as being “too old". I don’t really get that mentality, especially since the industry has been in a downward spiral for a decade now, at least. I would KILL for something as awesome as Gunbuster now, or even MADOX 01 for that matter. Both are great, but Gunbuster has really stood the test of time as one of the best scifi things that has ever existed.

If you want a real retro flashback meltdown, check this out. The other day I was looking through some of my old magazines trying to find a picture of a specific model kit, and I pulled out the October 1987 issue of Animage, the one with Hi Streamer on the cover.

Check out what was going on that year:

Movies:

Robot Carnival
Labyrinth Tales (aka: Neo Tokyo)
Char’s Counterattack
Twilight of the Cockroaches

TV:

Dragon Ball
City Hunter
Zillion
Orange Road
Saint Seiya
Machine Robo
Maison Ikkoku
Fist of the North Star
Transformers: Headmasters
Dragonar
Gal Force
ZZ Gundam

OVAs:

Bubblegum Crisis
Dangaio
Dirty Pair
Devilman

The scene just straight up KICKED ASS back then, and things were ramping up all the time. The OVA industry was just really starting to take off, the garage kit scene was exploding, nothing had collapsed yet. People were forming new companies instead of of closing them. Nothing was being catered to the US market, and almost everything was actually made in Japan. Nobody was tightening their belts and making due with less. Everything was about doing more, better, cooler, stuff.

Fast forward to now and I end up deleting almost every show I see off my hard drive half way through the first episode. Robot and scifi anime is virtually dead. Computer generated effects substitute for actual animation skill because there just aren’t that many qualified working animators in Japan that haven’t been hired by Ghibli. Every once in a while I see something great like Shin Mazinger, Suzumiya, or the newest Lupin movie, but most everything is pathetic lolicon cookie cutter bullshit made by three dipshit otaku who have read nothing but manga their entire life, a couple of suits who have never read manga in their life, and an army of Koreans who will never see the show they are actually making, let alone meet any of the directors, VA, key animators, etc.

Its pretty sad, really. I feel like watching episode 96 of Maison Ikkoku…

01/29/12 @ 19:22

Comment from: ZeonicFreak [Visitor] · http://animeofyesteryear.blogspot.com/

>>Sean

This might be that Giant Robo cover you were talking about: http://www.amazon.com/ANIME-REFERENCE-GUIDE-Vol-Number/dp/B000KHC0GU/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1327895202&sr=8-4

I found one on ebay, but some guy wants like $65.00 for it, which is why I did the amazon link.

>>SignofZeta

Yea, there is nothing on that list that makes me sick to my stomach in agony. Most of everything on that list is either stuff I have seen and own in my collection, still watching, or have no excuse to not have seen it yet.

01/29/12 @ 20:54

Comment from: SignOfZeta [Visitor]

I just noticed an error in my post. Gal Force is an OVA series, not TV.

01/30/12 @ 22:12

Comment from: Allemann [Visitor]

Fast forward to now and I end up deleting almost every show I see off my hard drive half way through the first episode. Robot and scifi anime is virtually dead. Computer generated effects substitute for actual animation skill because there just aren’t that many qualified working animators in Japan that haven’t been hired by Ghibli. Every once in a while I see something great like Shin Mazinger, Suzumiya, or the newest Lupin movie, but most everything is pathetic lolicon cookie cutter bullshit made by three dipshit otaku who have read nothing but manga their entire life, a couple of suits who have never read manga in their life, and an army of Koreans who will never see the show they are actually making, let alone meet any of the directors, VA, key animators, etc.

It’s the cultural fetishism in the West that contributed to the death of Japanese animation. The early, budding interest in it started because one couldn’t believe what can be done with animation, which was relegated mostly as an entertainment medium for underage children, with rare counterexamples like Duckman, Heavy Metal, or Fritz The Cat (the Saturday morning and old Cartoon Network cartoons still rock, of course!); but then Japanophiles had to come, make it more mainstream (read: commercially exploitable), and ruin everything. The irony remains that cultural fetishism in the East is what Japanese animation of that time good.

01/31/12 @ 03:14

Comment from: SteveK [Visitor]

I have six of these - just pulled them off the shelf after reading this article!
They used to give them away in the “SWAG” bags you received with your badge at Anime Expo. The ‘92 Anime Reference Guide has Macross II on the cover.
The ‘93 Anime Ref. Guide is the one with Giant Robo on the cover, and the format switched to a horizontal layout for this and the next. Also, from ‘93, all of the back covers have the Anime Expo logo and year of the convention.
I think I have all of them; it seems they skipped a year in 1996. The 1997 Guide was the last one they made.
Just as the article says, these guides were very indicative of their era, when oftentimes the only way we knew the plots of what we were watching were from sources such as these, and the odd fanzines and issues of ANIMAG.
However, by the time the last one was printed, anime was becoming much more widely available through commercial releases, a burgeoning thing called the internet, and (you guessed it) fansubs.
Nevertheless, I was disappointed when I looked through my freebies at AX98, and the guide was nowhere to be found.
By this time, I knew a lot of the staffers at Expo and was told the obvious: we don’t need to do them anymore, and we can’t spare the staff.
It’s amazing to look back and think how different those times were!
Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

01/31/12 @ 17:55

Comment from: Steve Harrison [Visitor] · http://tochiro998.livejournal.com/

SignOfZeta: And all THAT was post the bubble-burst of 85/86!

The Anime for August 1982:

God Mars, My Youth in Arcadia, Ideon wraps up, Space Adventure Cobra, the Dr. Slump ‘Space’ Movie, Xabungle ramps up, Final Yamato is in production, Harmageddon, baby!, Andromeda Stories, Technoboyager (aka Thunderbirds 2086), and too damn much TV anime in mid-season to even try and write about but including Baxinger and Patarillo and Dougram and Child of the Sun Estaban aka Mysterious Cities of Gold and Urusei Yatsura and…and…

**head ’splodes**

01/31/12 @ 23:45

Comment from: Bruce Lewis [Visitor] · http://www.brucelewis.com

I have to admit life (and anime) were sweet way back then – but life is generally sweet when you’re young and stupid. .

Here’s how old I am: I remember one afternoon spent talking on the phone to Derek Wakefield (who later became president of the EDC anime club whence came A-Kon) about joining his new fan club dedicated to that great new show called Star Blazers. Here’s the scary part: that conversation (which got me in trouble with the folks – the only phone company back then was Ma Bell, and long distance was horribly expensive) took place in 1979.

1979, bitches. That’s how long I’ve been a formal part of this nutty hobby/business. Thirty-three years. Sweet fancy Moses, I’m old.

But of course I was informally involved with anime and manga long before that. I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by anime and manga, courtesy of my dear aunt C, who was and is a wonderful Japanese lady and the mother of three of my cousins, at whose house I practically lived during the 1970s. Every year she’d go to Japan on the big, white JAL 747 to see the folks, and every year upon returning she would shower her boys (and me) with the mysterious treasures of far Zipang. Matsumoto’s Senjo Manga! weird, waxy-tasting Fujiya “Milky” brand candy with Paaman and Kaibutsu-kun collectible cards in every pack!! Complete, catalog-thick color Ultraman guidebooks! Obake no Q-taro! Supreme Commander Hell Deathbird of the Ocean Empire! Heck, I even remember the summer of 1975, when my cousins found my aunt’s World Exposition memorabilia stash. They plastered every square inch of flat surface in that house with the tri-wave EXPO ‘75 decals she’d brought back. (They never did find her Expo ‘70 “Tower of the Sun” miniature. I’d like to see that again myself.) Some of those stickers were still visible up until the late 1980s, when my aunt and uncle remodeled.

And, like those stickers, it is sometimes the case thatcertain menories can cling for too long. Sure, it’s the laughter we’ll remember whenever we remember the way we were, but let’s not lose sight of the good things going on right now. The anime culture we knew and loved was magical in its time, but it’s as dead as cool jazz now. Yet even so there’s still lots going on, lots of tuff sides still to be played, if we just listen for them.

And who’s to say that our favorites from the past won’t return with something new and cool?. After all, Sonny Rollins and Brubeck are still with us, still making music. Matsumoto is kicking ass lately, too, in my opinion. Who knows ? Maybe Matsumoto will live long enough to fly into space on a steam train or actually meet a thin, blonde sexaroid!

Mono no aware is a bittersweet liqueur, my friends. Indulge from time to time, but don’t forget to look through the bottom of the glass when you’ve had your fill. That’s the real world out there, and you’d best savor it. It, too, will soon pass away.

02/02/12 @ 00:46

Comment from: Aspie Idiot [Visitor]

“aside from Osamu Tezuka’s Jumping…”

Jumping has been released on DVD in the US:

http://www.kino.com/video/item.php?film_id=985

And in Australia:

http://www.madman.com.au/catalogue/view/7289/the-experimental-films-of-osamu-tezuka

02/03/12 @ 00:02

Comment from: VF5SS [Visitor] · http://collectiondx.com/blog/vf5ss

“because they’ve all been hacked up and edited by assholes like Carl Macek who have no appreciation for real art.”

Boy you guys are really good at beating a dead anime dubber… I mean horse.

02/08/12 @ 14:25

Comment from: Yanki My Chain [Visitor]

Yeah, really, why the hate for Macek? It’s not like he 4Kids’ed anime.

02/08/12 @ 22:43

Comment from: Erik [Visitor]

@Yanki My Chain: What are you talking about? He totally rewrote the entire plot of Windaria. I swore if I ever met him I’d punch him in the face as hard as I could for that crime alone.

02/09/12 @ 11:58

Comment from: Superdeformed [Visitor] · http://deephurting.com

Jesus Christ is this an ANN forum thread?

02/14/12 @ 11:52

Comment from: Zump [Visitor]

“What are you talking about? He totally rewrote the entire plot of Windaria. I swore if I ever met him I’d punch him in the face as hard as I could for that crime alone.”

Uh, you do realize Macek was COMMISSIONED to localize Windaria, right? If you had listen to the ANNCast in which he was interviewed, you would have known that. Besides, he’s been dead for about 2 years, so your lifelong dream has been forever crushed.

02/14/12 @ 13:57

Comment from: Steve Harrison [Visitor] · http://tochiro998.livejournal.com/

Zump:

OK, so Macek was commissioned to localize Windaria. How does that change the unpleasantness of the final product?

I can hear you now: “Well, well, it’s what the Japanese WANTED. Macek only did what they told him to do!”

No no no. The Japanese didn’t micro-manage to that extent back then. What they DID was believe the action line that Macek was a genius at localization and he knew EXACTLY what America wanted. They hired him, he said “this is what has to be done” and they said “yay! We’ll make Star Wars money FOR SURE” and sent him on his way.

(the one thing that I come away with when there were various interviews back in the day, the Japanese were very very impressed by how much effort he took to achieve synch between dialog and lip flaps. They usually had no clue what the dialog actually WAS.)

And we still can punch Macek in the face. We just gotta dig up the body…

02/16/12 @ 12:04

Comment from: Yanki My Chain [Visitor]

Meh, the people who hate on Macek for Windaria seemed to have let Neil Gaiman slide on that godawful “donkey piss” line in the dubbed Princess Mononoke.

02/17/12 @ 06:46

Comment from: Cory Shwadlenak [Visitor] · http://otakumachinegun.blogspot.com

I have never understood why people get pissed off at Uncle Carl.
To be honest, love or hate him…he did contribute to what we call “anime fandom”
Even with my big ego, I have to admit I wouldn’t have cared about japtoon’s without his involvement.

02/19/12 @ 16:18

Comment from: Steve Harrison [Visitor] · http://tochiro998.livejournal.com/

I can’t speak for everyone, and I may be completely alone in this. My beef with Macek was that he honestly believed that what he did was the equal of the Japanese creators. One quote that stuck was something like “Oh, the Japanese don’t know how to do sound. I fixed that” in reference to his work on the early ’90s Babel II OVA.

That’s like the guy cleaning a famous painting thinking his work is just the same as Rembrandt’s work.

It’s not that it isn’t valuable, or useful, or important. It’s just not the SAME.

02/21/12 @ 16:41

Comment from: Prague Rock [Visitor]

It’s ok Erik, you can always dig him up and skull-fuck him while fanning yourself with a copy of Robotech Art 3

Kids these days.

02/22/12 @ 16:03

Comment from: Yanki My Chain [Visitor]

02/22/12 @ 21:53

Comment from: CMR [Visitor]

I don’t see how people can hate Carl for Windaria. It wasn’t that good to begin with otherwise someone would have redone it by now. Macek was a pioneer in this stuff. No one had ever really done anything in the extent that Macek had. And as bad as some of his suff was at least he had that excuse. There is stuff being done today that is just as bad as some of Macek’s worst. And there’s no excuse for that. I’ll even go so far as to say that a lot of what is coming out of Japan today could use some of Macek’s touch intentionally.

03/18/12 @ 13:46

Comment from: Yanki My Chain [Visitor]

03/26/12 @ 01:14

Comment from: roothands [Visitor]

I got some of those guides at Anime Expo ‘01 – someone (con staff?) was just giving boxfuls away to people in line at registration. I photocopied some of the lineart illustrations to use when I scrapbooked my con experience later (yes, LOL, I have scrapbooks of cosplay photography)

04/26/12 @ 18:05

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