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Ani-Monday's Future

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One could say some critical things about SyFy channel. Its
recent change from the “Sci-Fi” name is seemingly just the latest
step in cable TV’s journey toward homogenization, as executives far and wide
chase the mirage of a TV channel that can be all things to all people, or at
least most. SF aficionados, I feel your pain. Animation fans can take heart in
this, though: so far anime has been left alone for the two hours that it has on
the Ani-Monday block, the product of a partnership with Manga Entertainment and
its parent company Starz. Even better than that, in fact, Ani-Monday has
continued to add new programming to complement Manga’s modest reserve of cult
favorites and Street Fighter animation.

After going through two runs of Gurren
Lagann
and both seasons of Gundam 00 from Bandai Entertainment, SyFy
and Viz Media are bringing the detective fiction series Monster to the
block. Considering
that its source material was a Seinen manga (a Japanese comic targeted toward
men aged 18-30) it could well be the block’s most adult offering yet. With its
length of 74 episodes, Monster is seemingly a proof positive sign that
Ani-Monday isn’t going anywhere.

At the same time, to an extent Ani-Monday still takes after the Saturday Anime
block that existed on Sci-Fi channel in the 1990′s. Just as Casshan: Robot
Hunter
, Record of Lodoss War, Dominion: Tank Police, and 8 Manonce inhabited Saturday mornings back then, Ani-Monday programming has ranged
from deserving underdogs like Noein, Macross Plus and Now and Then,
Here and There
to C-list clunkers like MD Geist and a badly scripted
dub of Rave Master. Indeed, Ani-Monday almost seems to follow a 50/50
rule. The first half, 11 PM to midnight, usually gets the high-profile
programming while the second half from midnight to 1 AM seems perpetually
experimental.

Case in point: as if to offset the news of Monster, we also have motion comics
for Voltron and Street Fighter courtesy of Eagle One Media. What’s a motion
comic? Well, Eagle One Video helpfully uploaded a short clip for Street Fighter
some time ago. Take a look.   

 

The “motion comic” term is quite apt, really. This
isn’t so much animation as it is a living picture book of sorts. I suppose I
should say that one’s mileage will vary, but my honest view is that this
doesn’t make much of an impression on me. Ever since Batman: The Animated
Series
we have seen that animation can truly bring comics to life, and with
the comic page you are asked to use your imagination to envision the vividly
illustrated world before your eyes. This feels like a compromise that doesn’t
offer the best of either world.

Is this a low for Ani-Monday? Well, no. After all this is
only for a handful of weeks, fans will have Monster for the first hour,
and quite frankly I still find this more appealing than a repeat of
one of Manga’s low tier properties. Still, whatever your opinion of motion
comics, I think most will agree with me when I say that they can do better than
this. Working relationships now clearly exist with Bandai and Viz at a minimum,
and with the Syfy rebrand there is clearly no good rationale for ruling out any
specific genre–not that Ani-Monday ever really did. Ani-Monday is also free to
air series that older viewers are willing to watch that Adult Swim just won’t
touch, as we’ve seen with series like Gurren Lagann and Now and Then,
Here and There
.

So, how could Ani-Monday realistically grow from here? For
starters, it may be time to think about tapping into nostalgia. There’s a
reason behind this statement: Robotech has recently been hosted on Youtube
Shows by Manga, and is also selling at its channel on iTunes in the company of
many other Ani-Monday shows. As those familiar with the property know Robotech is distributed on DVD by Section23 Films (formally ADV Films) and owned by
Harmony Gold, so clearly a deal has been made similar to the one made with
Bandai for Gurren Lagann. This is no guarantee that Robotech will
eventually return to television, but it’s a possibility worth speculating
about.

Now, as a fan, I would certainly prefer the English dub of
the classic Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, which Robotech merged together with two other series to create a generation-spanning saga. I
can understand how an anime fan of today would say that it was fine for the
1980′s but should now be put to bed. Still, whatever you think of it, there’s
no denying that Robotech has its fans. People grew up on it, the dub
generally holds up, and by now there may even be a generation of folks that
remember its premiere on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block in 1999. Helping
matters is that the Macross saga retains most of the Macross story, to its
credit. It is also arguably the more likely acquisition, given the fact that a
live-action Robotech movie is still in development and a possibility.
Getting the original series on television would be the obvious move for the
sake of generating interest.

Finally, Robotech could be the foundation of a
broader agreement with Section23 Films. All parties concerned would benefit. Section23
gains some exposure that it could certainly use after the troubles of the last
1-2 years killed the ADV label. SyFy and Ani-Monday get many more options for
its future programming. And obviously, viewers would get more premiers and
fewer repeats. Finally, this move would have Ani-Monday getting programming
from every major anime company besides FUNimation. The block needs that to stay
fresh, and there’s always the chance that such an arrangement will get
FUNimation interested in cutting deals for some of their titles as well. That’s
just a hope, but in any case it will soon be time for Ani-Monday to follow the
SyFy channel’s slogan and “imagine greater.”

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