The 2014 Anime Blizzard

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Back in 2012 I took one of my occasional asides into anime territory just to talk about all the anime that was coming to DVD and Blu-Ray that fall and winter. It’s kind of happening again this year. Among this year’s deluge are a few notable releases I’ve been waiting to see for a long time. What’s even better is that, for the most part, they’re all being released at very reasonable prices.

A disclaimer here: This isn’t even close to every notable anime being released on video this year. I really just handpicked a few that I’m likely to try to buy and thus give my recommendation. If you want to check out more, you should probably look at a release list on Blu-Ray.com or Anime News Network. Also, this list pretty much strictly applies to North America. I’m pretty sure dates are different for places like Europe and Australia. Anyway, here it is.

Ghost in the Shell (25th Anniversary Edition) — Available Now
Ghost in the Shell ARISE Part 1 & 2 — October 21st

For years one of my biggest complaints regarding anime retail has been the absence of proper Ghost in the Shell releases on Blu-Ray. With the exception of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and Solid State Society we’ve basically had no real Blu-Ray releases of this franchise until September and when Funimation grabbed that new miniseries.

The only version of the original movie we could get on Blu-Ray was 2.0 — the version with all the added CGI, re-recorded audio, and altered color palette. Japan has had the original version of the film on Blu-Ray for years and all we got of it was a transfer from the laser disc version bundled with 2.0. Oh that Japanese version is compatible with US Blu-Ray players and I think it even has the dub on it, but it’s something like $80 last I checked.

Then there’s the series Stand Alone Complex. The only US-released Blu-Rays of those as of now are in compressed miniseries form. The full series Blu-Rays have been out in Japan for years as well, but at the insane prices at which domestic distributors gouge hardcore otakus to keep the industry afloat. Right now I think the two seasons are $200 each — each being 26 episodes, but were originally double that. Things might be starting to change though.

We just got a 25th anniversary edition of the original movie on Blu-Ray for $25. It’s in a no-frills package, and it’d be nice if they could re-record the English dub, but I’ll take what I can get at this point. Before all this I was about ready to try out the digital HD releases of the series but the recent developments have renewed my hope for Blu-Rays. Those developments include Funimation’s releases of the new ARISE miniseries. Earlier this year Funimation released import Blu-Rays (and put it on Netflix) to stay timely with Japanese releases but has the dub (which I prefer for this franchise) ready for the end of this month in a set combining the first two parts of this four-part series. Maybe, just maybe, Fumination can one day rescue SAC.

Hellsing Ultimate Parts 9 & 10 — October 28th

My 2012 post included the Hellsing set of episodes 5-8 of this miniseries. Now it looks like they’re finally ready to cap the thing off with the final two. I haven’t paid extremely close attention to Ultimate but I’m pretty sure this series ended in Japan a few years ago.

Still, I’m not really in an extreme hurry, just glad to see this whole thing finally released in English in high definition after all this time. I still remember how uncertain everything was when Geneon collapsed after only doing the first four episodes. I was at Funimation’s Otakon panel when they announced that after rescuing the license they were bringing back the voice actors that made the English dub so highly-regarded.

The thing is, I’ve actually had the entire manga sitting on my shelf unread for a few years now. If I do find myself in a position to get these Blu-Rays that might be the push I need to finally get on the manga, which Ultimate is supposed to follow more closely than the original Hellsing anime. Then there’s that whole Hellsing Dawn thing I don’t really know about.

Lastly I want to bring up Hellsing: Abridged from Dragon Ball Z Abridged’s Team Four Star. Abridged fan-dubs are a big thing on YouTube these days. On my Otakon blog I even mentioned how professional groups like TFS have gotten, at least one member getting into actual professional voice acting. They actually started their Hellsing fan dub series years ago but released a new episode last year and I think it takes to its source material as well as DBZA does, which by the way is also still going strong.

Princess Mononoke — November 18th

Studio Ghibli titles have been coming out on Blu-Ray in the US and Japan at rapid fire for at least two or three years now. When GameFly started doing movie rentals I used that chance to catch up on all the Ghibli movies I’d missed. Through all that time though I’ve waited for one title in particular to hit Blu-Ray over here — Princess Mononoke.

I don’t know why that seems to be basically the last classic Ghibli picture to make it across the pond in HD, as if they knew that was the one I was waiting for. On the same day we also get The Wind Rises. I haven’t seen this movie and actually don’t know much about it beyond the basic premise, but its accolades (including that Oscar nomination I believe) are enough to at least make me consider a rental in November.

Cowboy Bebop — December 16th

This is the big one, the one a lot of people have been waiting for ever since the Japanese Blu-Rays came out last year.

I remember pouncing on the $40 DVD set that came out way back. Even after continually watching the show on Cartoon Network, those DVDs proved to me that Bebop is one of the most re-watchable anime shows of recent times. I could just pick an episode and throw it in. That’s probably why it stayed on TV for so long. And from what I’ve heard the transfer on these Blu-Rays is much better, and not just by virtue of being in HD. Color and contrast comparisons show a night-and-day difference.

I was very much ready to settle for the $90 price of the Amazon Premium Edition when I didn’t know there will also be a $50 standard edition. Both of these will include all 26 episodes together in one package, which is a bit of a surprise when Funimation is splitting series of similar size into two-parters to double the price. If I get only one thing on Blu-Ray this fall, it’ll be this.

BULLETS:

  • For Halloween this year I’m probably going to watch Alien and Aliens for the first time. That new game Isolation seems pretty hot and I’ve had the Blu-Rays sitting around for a while.
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