Hey ho. Your regular anime expert Céire is indisposed today leaving everything wide open for this old fart to chat about the wonders of, what was once called, Japanination. Why am I using that dated and vulgar term only a fraction of people remember? Because that’s exactly what I’m going to write about; an old and ugly aspect of anime many are too young to recollect or too dignified to acknowledge. I am of course referring to Manga Entertainment on VHS, specifically the trailers.
Throughout the late 90’s they released dozens anime titles, all of them violent with lots of swearing and nudity. It was their manifesto. Each video came with a pamphlet describing the word manga as Japanese for “irresponsible pictures”. That’s how they advertised themselves and, intentionally or not, the entire institution of anime. But the flyer pales in comparison to the trailer reel at the beginning of each Manga video. Thanks to YouTube I found the adverts from the beginning of the Street Fighter II video. It proceeds thus.
Every single Manga video began with this clip. An alternative metal riff over a montage of clips from Akira, Dominion Tank Police, Fist of the North Star and others. This is what Japanese cartoons are all about; explosions, monsters, robots, boobies and more explosions. Alas, that’s what many believed because of Manga Entertainment. I don’t think that was their intent but when you are the only exclusively anime based video company around and this clip, awesome as it is, represents the tone of your entire output it’s not going to win you a variety of fans. Still, it gives me a little thrill every time I see it. As a blossoming nu metal kid it somehow spoke to me.
Now we move on to the trailers and more importantly, that voice. For us youngsters that nasally mid Atlantic and slightly geriatric accent represented all things hilariously lame. This guy sounds like your dad trying to be cool. Not only that, the copy he’s reading from is awful. Take the first trailer for example. He calls Patlabor 2 “the sequel to the first film”. Well, obviously it is. After describing this gripping detective/espionage story movie like it’s an action flick he also, in a bizarre move, gives us the expectations of the film. Utilising some very Shatner-esque pauses, Trailer Guy says “this should be as. If not more. Popular than the first film”. Very odd but also extremely funny. It stuck with me and my small circle of manga heads for a very long time and even to this day can’t describe Patlabor 2 without clarifying that it is indeed the sequel to the first film.
The second part of the trailer reel is an advertisement for Manga Books. Aren’t all manga books I hear you ask? Yes they are, but thanks to Manga Entertainment, the definition of the word began to mean Anime. This is why the amine section in dvd shops still label it as Manga. To confuse things more, they briefly released a series of comic books based on the anime called Manga Comics and this time their advertising a series of illustrated novels. Insanity. And as if this were not enough, Dodgy Voice Man describes them as “happening”. Do you remember anyone ever using that phrase? Literally the only time I’ve ever heard it used out loud is in this trailer. I guess it means something positive.
Ghost in the Shell
Of course it wasn’t all just videos and books they advertised. On a very rare occasion when a particular anime was seen as a very important one it would get a cinema release. Where better to have a trailer then on a manga video. Ghost in the Shell was obviously a big deal and the trailer we saw on this video blew us away. We were misled though as nobody who has seen the film would call it a “non stop action packed fight”. Hilarious Trailer Guy is on fine form, even referring to Akira, a film which has little if anything to do with Ghost in the Shell but hey, lets mention it anyway. He is also followed by another weirdo announcing the release date in a strange, “Resident Evil… Chew” kinda way. A remarkable movie could not have asked for a more shallow trailer.
The Cyberpunk Collection
The Cyberpunk Collection was a box set of three OVA’s mixing high tech with low lives. GenoCyber has little in the way of redeeming features. The only two words Funny Ad Fella can use to describe it are “weird” and “unbelievable”. Says it all. Cyber City Oedo 808 is actually pretty good and really is, as described, action all the way. AD Police is a dark and atmospheric three part anthology. Although it can be quite disturbing it’s mesmerizing in its intensity and even, like all good science fiction, takes the time to reflect on the nature of humanity. A far cry from the shootouts and hookers we see in the trailer but that’s Manga Entertainment for you. It’s probably the first time anyone ever heard someone recommend us to “download” something we can own ourselves and yer man says it like he genuinely has never said that word before.
I’m probably being a little harsh on Manga Entertainment’s video releases in the 90’s. Yes, they alienated a lot of people with their adolescent output and this is undoubtedly a crime against anime. They would deem the repugnant tentacle rape series Urotsukidoji more worthy than the legendary masterpiece that is My Neighbour Totoro. That being said, they certainly got more people interested in Japanese animation than ever before. They also did release a number of bona-fide classics like Ninja Scroll, the aforementioned Akira and, of course, Street Fighter II. The trailers may be hokey, pandering and misleading but if they helped get at least some people interested then I guess I can’t fault them. And it’s all thanks to that Trailer Voice Dude, who shall forever be a hilariously lame benchmark among our generation of anime fans. Describing a movie as “Kick Ass?” That just sounds wrong!