Macross

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Something interesting happened with the two series Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years and Robotech. For the United States, a cartoon was generally released with enough episodes to run indefinitely in syndication. For the two aforementioned series, American companies felt on their own they lacked enough episodes for this and so multiple series were edited together by Harmony Gold under Carl Macek to make them longer. Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years was cut from the legendary Leiji Matsumoto’s Captain Harlock and Queen Millennia. Robotech was cut from Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, Genesis Climber Mospeada, and the much beloved Super Dimension Fortress Macross. While the Harlock series went fairly unnoticed, Robotech was very popular (including its toyline from Matchbox) and prompted further development. One attempt was to edit an Original Animated Video (OAV) named Megazone 23 into a feature film shown in theaters called Robotech: the Movie. Unfortunately, reception from test audiences was unequivocally negative and the release was scrapped. A 65-episode sequel series named Robotech II: The Sentinels was ordered from Tatsunoko Production by Harmony Gold with Matchbox backing the project financially in order to expand the toyline. Taking place between the first and second chapter of the American edited series, Sentinels was suppose to bridge several gaps in Robotech caused by editing together three unrelated series. However, the production was wrought with problems. The first was how the American writers failed to take into account how loyal the Japanese animators were to Macross, altering the script in order to increase screen time of the story’s characters. This would prove an ongoing struggle between both companies in trying to complete the project. A chunk of the series, however, was complete but the process took so long that over the span of production, the dollar/yen rate changed so much so Matchbox simply couldn’t afford to finish work on it. The final nail in the coffin for Sentinels came when a fire struck the storage facility that housed the series animation. Only several of the first few episodes of the series that were copied elsewhere survived the tragedy. These episodes would eventually be cut together for a direct-to-video feature film.

Ultraman USA

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Robotech II: The Sentinels would be an early progenitor of a developing trend of American companies ordering anime for Americans by Japanese. Another early example was Ultraman: The Adventure Begins (1987), known in Japan as Ultraman USA, featuring Tsuburaya Productions’ famous Ultraman franchise animated by Ashi Productions for Hanna-Barbera as a pilot for a series that never materialized. Other such American-Japanese projects included the Animatrix (2003), Street Fighter Alpha: Generations (2005), Batman: Gotham Knight (2008), Afro Samurai: Resurrection (2009), and Halo Legends (2010). Disney would buy the future international distribution rights to the works produced by Studio Ghibli (co-founded by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki) beginning with Howl’s Moving Castle (and snatching up past works Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away), in a way making the company an imprint of Disney but lack any ability to control any part of the creative process or treatment of the product in Japan.

Interestingly enough, with the advent of video games which was popular in both America and Japan (though arguably to more effect in the latter), there was a phenomenon where games came from Japan to America and American companies had animated series made based on those games for Americans and had Japanese and Korean studios animate them. Some examples are Pole Position (Visual 80), Saturday Supercade (Dong Seo), Captain N: The Game Master (Spectrum), Legend of Zelda (Sei Young), and Super Mario Bros. Super Show (Sei Young). Sega’s central character Sonic the Hedgehog had two concurrent (yet separate) series in 1993 in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (TMS) and Sonic the Hedgehog (Saerom).

Dragon Ball Z

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In the 1990s, Japanese animation would go from trickling onto American television to begin dominating it by the decade’s end. One series that helped blaze this trail was Sailor Moon, which was an action-adventure series that appealed to boys and girls. However, undoubtedly the series that changed everything was Dragon Ball Z. A popular franchise in Japan in the early 1990s, American children were exposed to the series in the mid-1990s and largely developed the marketability of anime in the United States. And yet, it was another franchise that took this to another level in Nintendo’s Pokemon. A popular animated series, comic book, video game, and collectible card game, Pokemon largely altered the surface of selling a product to American children. Also, I would be remiss without mentioning a live action series that also derived from Japan and became its own phenomenon in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. A series that started in America in 1993 it has been on air almost every year since up to (and likely beyond) today. Based on a series of super sentai shows, it opened the door to other tokusatsu series in America through its success including Metal Hero (VR Troopers and Big Bad Beetleborgs), Kamen Rider (Masked Rider and Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight), Ultraman Tiga, and Denkou Choujin Gridman (Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad). American companies even produced its own similar series like Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog, Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, and Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills.