Digital realm fills gap left in TV anime


POSTED: Monday, October 06, 2008

Several developments in recent weeks are changing the way fans can watch their anime.

The bad news: Toonami, the Cartoon Network block that once hosted English-dubbed versions of “;Gundam,”; “;Sailor Moon,”; “;Dragon Ball Z,”; “;Outlaw Star,”; “;Naruto”; and numerous other anime since it began in 1997, is no more as of Sept. 20. The final signoff featured the robot Tom, voiced by Steve Blum, saying “;bang”; as he flew off—a nod to anime fans, as another Blum-voiced character, Spike Spiegel in “;Cowboy Bebop,”; also said “;bang”; as his final word in that series.

The move is the latest in a trend of anime shuffling on the network—“;Shin Chan”; and “;Inuyasha”; have been pulled from the Adult Swim lineup, “;Fullmetal Alchemist”; has returned, and “;Bleach,”; “;Code Geass”; and “;Moribito—Guardian of the Spirit”; have seen time shifts.

With TV exposure becoming a more hit-and-miss proposition as of late, anime publishers are turning more to digital distribution, either selling episodes online or giving them away outright. Over the span of a week, four such ventures went online:

» Manga Entertainment started selling episodes and movies from its catalog in an alliance with Jaman (www.jaman.com); included are the “;Ghost in the Shell”; movie and TV series,

» Hulu (www.hulu.com) is offering free, English-subtitled streaming episodes of anime from Viz and Funimation. “;Naruto,”; “;Death Note”; and “;Mushi-shi”; as debut titles on the service, with the promise of more to come. Sure, viewers have to put up with advertising during programming, but hey, it's free and legal, so don't complain.

» “;Naruto”; and “;Death Note”; are also among the debut titles on Joost (www.joost.com), which rolled out its anime offerings on the same day that Hulu made its announcement. English-dubbed episodes of Viz's “;Blue Dragon,”; “;Zatch Bell”; and “;MAR”; are also available, as are the 2003 “;Astro Boy”; series from Sony and a few other anime.

» Finally, Crunchyroll (www.crunchyroll.com), which made a splash several months ago by debuting subtitled anime direct from Japanese animation studio Gonzo, announced it would be the online home for the computer-animated, English-dubbed “;Catblue: Dynamite”; and the subtitled series “;Time of Eve.”;

“;Catblue: Dynamite”; is about a catgirl, Blue, who uses her ability to see ghosts to help two drug couriers who get mixed up with the mob when they get a Frank Sinatra tape with more than just music on it. “;Time of Eve”; follows Rikuo, a boy trying to figure out why his home android, Sammy, is acting strangely ...


Meeting roll call

» MangaBento: Remaining meetings this month for this group of anime- and manga-inspired artists are 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday and Oct. 26 at the Academy Art Center, 1111 Victoria St., Room 200. For more information, visit www.manga-bento.com.

As a reminder, you also have a few more weeks to work on artwork for MangaBento's art exhibit “;Okonomiyaki,”; scheduled to open in mid-December; for a refresher on that, visit tinyurl.com/3ty4h3 ...