On October 6, Discotek announced that they would release two Go Nagai titles in North America. Mazinger Z and Cutey Honey (1973) will join the company’s lineup of classic anime, which includes titles like Fist of the North Star, Lupin III, and Project A-Ko. Both titles will hit stores beginning in 2013.
“You’re a bit late to the party on this one, aren’t you?”
That I am, dear reader. I blame my policy of not writing over the weekends, combined with other obligations. Either way, it’s my fault.
However, late as this may be, it doesn’t discount the general interest in these licenses. In particular, they’re a pair of titles that would have been largely written off by much of the market (and the entirety of the industry) just a couple of years ago. There are a few things about both the Cutey Honey and Mazinger Z properties that we can see as obvious:
- Both are influential titles
- Both have a vintage of the mid-1970s
- Both were created by Go Nagai
Points two and three in this list are of particular interest, though. Through much of the past, anime was seen as something of a disposable commodity. Th enewest roducts were regarded as the echelons of the medium, while older shows were discarded as curious trifles of the past. Older titles, it was argued, were too expensive and sold far too few units to be profitable for a business.
Of course, it didn’t help that many of the “older titles” were releases that fell into specific groups:
- Shows like Aura Battler Dunbine or GPX Cyber Formula, which had no real demand attached to them
- Shows like Prefectural Earth Defense Force or City Hunter, which were produced in limited quantities, with little fanfare from the market or the press
- Shows like Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, which were put up against the biggest, newest sellers and faded from view.
There has always been a constituency that buys older titles: Sailor Moon, Utena, and Ah! My Goddess never had trouble finding buyers over the years. However, there was never a large enough stream of quality content released (and promoted) to cultivate a market for classic anime.
In recent years, both Discotek and Nozomi Entertainment have been focusing a large amount of attention on this particular niche. With Nozomi releasing collector-grade sets of shows like Dirty Pair and Captain Tylor and Discotek pushing out lower-priced seasons, they’ve managed to build a loyal set of customers that will not only buy their products, but also anticipate and actively promote them. The two companies managed to find a Blue Ocean of customers that were starving for these shows, which were once thought to be relics of the past, and passing trifles that wouldn’t recoup their investment. Properties like Lupin III, which met an incredibly frosty reception in its Geneon release, are gaining new life and climbing the sales charts. They don’t sell to the level of Fullmetal Alchemist or Steins;Gate, but the releases are profitable enough to justify further investments into older product.
Timing to market is discounted to this group, since it’s clear that this audience will buy content that appeals to them regardless of the new items put to market. Their buying patterns don’t necessarily fit the same cycles that the core market follows. Because of this, content is indeed king, and will be a factor in a show’s success.
What’s particularly interesting, though, is the fact that Discotek would jump in with not one, but two Go Nagai shows.
“What’s so shocking about that?”
Well, dear reader, let me be blunt. Go Nagai has never been a major seller in America. Nearly every title by him that’s been released in America has gone on to become a spectactular failure:
- Black Lion
- Demon Lord Dante
- Devil Lady
- Iron Virgin Jun
- Kekko Kamen
- New Getter Robo
His unique mixture of boobs, gore, and strange humor never really resonated with the greater market, which led to poor sales, and a general avoidance of Nagai’s titles as a whole. To see Discotek jump in with both Cutey Honey and Mazinger, therefore, comes as a surprise. Go Nagai is unproven with their current cultivated market, and could easily turn into boondoggles, depending on their licensing costs.
Cutey Honey and Mazinger may be the exceptions to this rule, though. They’re both landmark titles that influenced their genres for years, and may be able to reach outside of the stereotype. Previously, this was only managed by two titles: Shin Cutey Honey, which was released to America in 1996 and was fairly new at the time, and Devilman, which became a cult hit than a sales smash. With both titles slated for a 2013 release, we have some time to see how they’ll actually perform in the market. However, I will be keeping an eye on the series as the release grows nearer.