Anime Review Roundup

1, 2, Knockout Punch for the UK Anime Import Scene

It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks if you’re a UK anime fan. It doesn’t take long after buying your first Blu-ray for you to learn that we in the UK only get a fraction of the titles that are released in the US or Australia. Then the import fever starts, as you realise that your favourite shows are available on disc, if only you pay in dollars and not pounds. A quick upgrade to a multiregion player, and the floodgates open. Then the customs fee roulette begins.

But there is, or rather was one option if you wanted to avoid that particular pitfall. United Publications is a UK mail-order/online retailer who do the hard work of importing, so you don’t have to. A whole lot of anime has come into the UK that way, and UP1 has been ever present in my browser bookmarks since I first discovered them. Only last week, thanks to a little note being slipped inside recent packages, it transpires that they are ceasing their retail operations at the end of the year.

A couple of days ago, one possible reason why became apparent. United Publications have used Right Stuf; the speciality US anime/manga/merchandise retailer as a source of their import stock. And now Right Stuf is ceasing operations at the end of October and being folded into the Crunchyroll store. Until last year, Right Stuf was independent, but they were bought out by Sony/Crunchyroll. Early on, when their postage rates were more reasonable for impulse purchases, I bought a lot of anime from Right Stuf; their customer service was excellent, and their prices competitive.

Having seen what has happened to Crunchyroll’s acquisitions like Manga Entertainment, and Madman, the writing was on the wall. Crunchyroll say that they’ll offer the same kind of stock in their webstore, but if you read their FAQ, you’ll see that they won’t sell Crunchyroll home video titles outside of the US and Canada, and they are pointedly not migrating customer accounts from outside those regions from Right Stuf to Crunchyroll, although existing pre-orders and kickstarters will be honoured. How long companies like Discotek and Sentai will allow rival Crunchyroll to sell their product is anyone’s guess.

So that leaves Amazon, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, WowHD and if you want to import anime; and given that use Right Stuf the way United Publications do, they’ll be facing the same issues when Right Stuf goes away.

Gotta love a monopoly!

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With the first review of the week, the question arises if you can have too much of a good thing. I love slice of life anime, the ‘iyashikei’ healing genre that makes you feel better about yourself while watching its inconsequential character interactions. Flying Witch is a rural slice of life show with a magical bent, as a teenage witch moves to her cousins’ family farm in the country to train and attend high school. This is usually my genre of choice, but Flying Witch might just be a little too easygoing...

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I had no expectations with Flying Witch, but I’ve had 20 years of hyperbole when it comes to Revolutionary Girl Utena, and a genuine love for the Adolescence of Utena feature film spin-off. But I’ve been working my way through the Collector’s Edition releases, and the disappointment is real. Watching Revolutionary Girl Utena Part 3 only caps that experience. One thing is that I’ve probably outgrown the target audience demographic while waiting to watch it. The second thing is that I’m not a fan of the cyclical, repetitive storytelling style upon which this series depends. Way back when this show was made, it was on film, so anything to save on animation was always a time saver on a weekly release schedule. But we no longer watch these things on weekly schedules. The one saving grace of this collection is that it has that aforementioned feature film spin-off on Blu-ray!

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At least Princess Jellyfish put a smile on my face. It’s my third time reviewing this show, and despite the last one being for Funimation’s DVD/BD combo, this is the first time I actually watched it on Blu-ray. Region coding is such a pain! This collector’s edition comes with a pretty artcase, and with a really neat booklet, but the show itself is the peach. There are quite a few shows about nerd culture, but this is a rare one where the geeks are girls, NEETs who shelter in their apartment complex, until a stylish young crossdresser sashays into their world and turns it upside down. You don’t get writing this good every day!

This Week I’ve Been Mostly Rewatching...

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Ah My Buddha. Talk about Right Stuf bargains! Back when whole series were being put out on DVD for $20, the exchange rate was close to $2 to £1, the customs threshold was £18, and Right Stuf’s international postage was reasonable, I was importing DVDs like there was no tomorrow. It turns out there actually is no tomorrow for Right Stuf, but Ah My Buddha was an easy blind buy at that kind of price. It turned out to be a saucy harem comedy, set in a temple full of nuns, with one, solitary trainee monk. Their speciality is exorcism, but the boy’s spiritual power is only activated when he reaches peak perversion; at which point he’s beaten into oblivion by one or more offended nuns.

I eventually tired of this genre, especially as later entries got a little nasty, but Ah My Buddha (a US rename cashing in on Ah My Goddess) is still enjoyable fun. It went through the usual process of individual volumes and collections, but this Media Blasters collection was released in 2012. Here’s my review of that. Would you believe that it was rescued by Right Stuf a few years on? DVDs are getting scarce, but you can import both Media Blasters and Right Stuf collections although you’ll have to go searching (United Publications have it at a bargain price right now). Right Stuf also gave the show an upscale and released it on Region A Blu-ray, and that is easier to find at this juncture.

MVM will release the Flying Witch Collector’s Edition Blu-ray on October 9th. All the Anime released Revolutionary Girl Utena Collector’s Edition Part 3 way back in 2020. There have been subsequent standard edition releases, and more recently a complete series Collector’s Edition. All the Anime also released the Princess Jellyfish Collector’s Edition on June 12th this year.

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