While many anime titles new and old are regularly released on DVD and Blu-Ray, there are some from yester-year that lay under the radar for current distributors or are preferred over the DVD release, thus the only means of getting enjoyment out of them legally are through dusting off your VCR and tracking down the VHS releases of said titles online. Some of these I personally own in my collection, so pictures I have of them will be posted to accompany the titles I discuss while others are whatever I could dig up from online. Whether due to censorship or lack of popularity or licensor interest, these are seven titles that would be worth looking into on the VHS format that haven't had a release in the American market in years.
Central Park Media picked up this bizarre 1988 anime comedy in the mid-90s for subbed and dubbed VHS release focused on the female leader of a gang of delinquents named Hinako going up against her school's eccentric and genetically engineered new teacher, Ganpachi. Much of the comedy of this hidden gem comes from the bizarre antics of Ganpachi to "correct" the behavior of his students and trying to counteract Hinako's efforts to take him out of commission. The series has great comedic timing in the delivery of its gags and is worth a look if you don't mind bizarre and mindless comedies. Do be warned though that this baby is becoming harder to find online as tapes of the series are selling anywhere from $30 to $50 online as of this posting.
a pair of OVA titles were made in the early 1990s that adapted story arcs from the manga series with both later getting VHS releases in the mid 1990s by different American distributors with Central Park Media getting Mermaid Forest and Viz Media getting Mermaid's Scar. On their own merits, both OVAs decently adapt the story arcs they follow and have smoother animated details on character designs compared to the 2003 TV anime's rough look, though both have a setback in that you don't learn much about Mana and how she met up with Yuta. There are a fair number of copies you can find of both titles online and you can likely get copies for less than $10 depending on their condition and what site you get it from, with Mermaid's Scar usually being the more slightly expensive title of the two.
This 1988 film anthology with a robot theme was a collaboration between well-known animators of the time period like Katsuhiro Otomo and Yasuomi Umetsu, offering some of the best animation you can find of a 1980s anime title. The film features several shorts of differing moods and direction from the makers who did them such as the over-the-top opening of a mechanical carnival showcase tearing havoc on a village in , a man's efforts to make a robotic companion take a twisted turn in "Presence" and a fun parody of chambara and super robot anime with "A Tale of Two Robots Part 3: Foreign Invasion". Streamline Pictures picked up the film for VHS release in the early 1990s and is dubbed only, considering the company's reputation for rarely releasing subbed releases of their acquired titles during the time period. Prices for the VHS release vary quite heavily from sellers depending on their condition, selling anywhere from as low as $10 to as high as near $100.
This 1978 children's film from Sanrio is notable for how dark it gets in its later developments with the lamb, Chirin, seeking revenge on a wolf that killed his mother. While seemingly light-hearted with the cute-looking character designs of Chirin and the sheep he live with, the movie quickly turns into a cautionary tale that explores the ramifications of running away from home, seeking revenge and nonconformity through Chirin's interactions with the wolf. RCA/ Columbus Pictures had a VHS release of the film in 1990 that was English dubbed and surprisingly faithful to the Japanese script with no censorship and only altering the final song of the movie to give it English lyrics. However, it is becoming difficult and expensive to acquire copies of the movie legally as VHS tapes for Ringing Bell sell for close to $100.
This 1993 film anthology is an adaptation of a collection of war stories written by acclaimed creator of Captain Harlock, Leiji Matsumoto. The film depicts three different tragic stories focused on soldiers facing some sort of dilemma during events that take place in World War II with one focused on Nazi Germany (Slipstream) and two on Japanese soldiers (Sonic Boom Squadron and Knight of the Iron Dragon). Slipstream focuses on a German soldier forced to choose between loyalty to his country or following what he believes is morally right. Sonic Boom Squadron offers a unique perspective on how Americans and the Japanese view the act of kamikaze piloting during a heated battle at sea. Knight of the Iron Dragon focuses on a pair of soldiers trying to return to their air base, unaware that it has been taken over by American soldiers. The Cockpit offers a great visual presentation for an early 90s anime with a great amount of detail put into scenery and plane designs, with nicely animated aerial dogfights that offered fluid movement of planes and a diversity of camera shots like first-person POV shots from within the plane's cockpit. Character designs are drawn in Matsumoto's style, so do expect some crude-looking and deformed characters in comparison to others here. Urban Vision released the movie in subbed and dubbed formats on VHS in the mid-1990s, with online sellers offering it anywhere from $25 to $50 depending on condition.
There have been a number of live-action adaptations of the 1872 children's novel that are known to either tone down or sugarcoat the novel's tragic tale involving poor child Nello and his dog Patrasche. Fortunately for this 1997 animated film adaptation, The Dog of Flanders shows no restraint in depicting the tragic circumstances faced by Nello and Patrasche. The boy and his loyal dog go through plenty of hardships throughout the film that push Nello's optimistic outlook to the breaking point as whatever he is directly or indirectly connected to negatively affects him in some form, showing that hard work, optimism and perseverance don't always get you what you want. It is a believable depiction of life in 19th century rural Belgium showing the large divide and prejudices between social classes, as well as the daily struggles faced by the peasant class. This adaptation is quite memorable for the sad ending it depicts with Nello and Patrasche, implementing some solid use of CG animation despite the simple details shown with the title's scenery and character designs.
The film was picked up by Pioneer in 1999, who desired to release the film to video to coincide with the theatrical release of the American live-action film that year. While released to DVD in 2000, Pioneer had edited out some scenes in the film considered objectionable and slow-moving for American audiences and only included an English dub option for audio. Fortunately, they did release an uncut subbed version on VHS in 1999, which is the version that is mostly sought out by those interested in the film. The edited English dubbed version was also released to VHS, so one would have to be careful with what version they pick up. The version I own in the picture above is the uncut subbed release, while the edited version has different cover art. Regardless, all versions of the film are quite difficult to find online, with prices varying depending on condition and the version being offered for sale.
Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer is a three-episode action OVA series animated by JC Staff and is based on the fighting video game made by SNK for their Neo Geo game system in 1995. The series was animated from September 1996 to January 1997 and directed by Masami Ohbari. Gowcaizer was licensed for VHS and DVD release in America by Central Park Media in the late 1990s up to the company’s closing in 2009. Both releases are currently out of print.
In a post-apocalyptic future, Shizuru Ozaki is hatching a plan to obtain immortality from a powerful force called Omni Exist that desires to wipe out humanity. To thwart Ozaki’s plans, teenager Isato Kaiza is given a powerful gem called the Caizer Stone by his best friend Kash that gives him the power to transform into the armored superhero known as Gowcaizer.
Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer’s biggest flaws stem from the typical issues that arise from anime adaptations of video games and Ohbari’s direction of the series.
As you would expect from a bad anime adaptation of a video game, Gowcaizer offers up a barebones plot with enough anime clichés laid out and pumping out as many characters from the video game as possible who either barely get fleshed out or serve little purpose for the anime’s main plot. The events of the anime breeze by at a fast pace, preventing any time to be devoted for proper buildup or depth on its characters and elements. The series quite often has some sloppy moments of consistency and focus in its narration. While action scenes are somewhat engaging at points, it does get silly seeing characters call out the names of their attacks from the video game and the animation is on the subpar side with still shots, speed stripes and other shortcuts employed throughout the title’s run.
What makes Gowcaizer stick out particularly as a bad anime comes from the direction of Masami Ohbari, an animator who is quite infamous for offerings of fan service in his works. Character designs are drawn in a way where portions of their bodies look anatomically incorrect in proportions and the clothes they wear are quite over-the-top, usually having you question the sexuality of the male characters with wearing midriff-exposing shirts and tight shorts/ pants. There is quite a bit of emphasis on getting as much T&A and scantily-clad shots of major female cast members as possible throughout the course of Gowcaizer. The series also sports infamy for two of its antagonists being siblings in an incestuous relationship with one another, shown quite blatantly in an implied sex scene with the two in an early scene in the series.
Central Park Media’s dub for the series is also worth mention for how bad it is with Gowcaizer, consisting of flat emotional delivery from the voice actors and awkward delivery of lines coming from moments of bad scriptwriting.
Wolverine is the second of four anime titles animated by Madhouse that are based on a Marvel Comics superhero character, which aired in Japan from January 7 to March 25 of 2011. The anime is loosely based on a four-issue arc from Wolverine’s first comic series released by Marvel Comics from September to December of 1982. The series premiered as an English dub in America on the cable network, G4, on July 29, 2011 and was later released to DVD the following year.
Logan’s lover Mariko Yashida was abducted a year ago by thugs involved with the crime syndicate Kuzuryu. Learning that she is being forced into marriage with the leader of another syndicate, Logan arrives in Japan to fight his way through various criminals to free Mariko from the marriage.
Wolverine’s biggest problem is that the plot arc it adapts from the comics is loosely adapted and mostly serves as a backdrop for the various battles that Logan faces throughout the series. A number of characters in the series like Kikyo and Omega Red only exist to put Logan in various battle scenes to drag the plot out, a good number of whom you don’t really get to learn much about or have no relevance to the main plot of the series.
The series also suffers in that it relies on too many convenient moments to advance the plot. For example, Logan finds himself in trouble at several points in the series yet winds up being saved in the nick of time from characters that happen to conveniently be there at just the right moment. Plus, one certain character’s appearance in the middle of the show is only to toss a bone at fans of the comics and to help get Logan and Yukio to another point in the anime’s plot.
Unlike Iron Man, Wolverine also has its issues with animation, faithfulness to elements of the titular character and accessibility to mainstream fans. While the series retains its detailed scenery and character designs from Iron Man, Wolverine tended to cut corners quite a bit for its animation as still shots, speed stripes and other shortcuts were employed for battle scenes. This made battle scenes feel flat and not as engaging compared to Iron Man’s battles with robots and battle suits in his series.
Logan’s character and appearance for this series also raise some red flags in how he is adapted in this series. While the series does retain his abilities from the comics and some of the history he has with certain characters, Madhouse’s design of the character is quite different from his Western counterpart looking like a bishounen and lacking the impressive physique he has from the comics. His restrained attitude in battle, habit of being conveniently saved in instances and the anime having some consistency issues with Wolverine’s abilities kills quite a bit of the badass vibe you would expect of the titular character.
Also depending on exposure, Wolverine’s accessibility may be a problem for fans not as familiar with the comics. While Iron Man made use of elements from its recent 2008 live-action film to give familiarity to casual viewers of it, Wolverine makes quite a number of nods to the comics involving certain characters, organizations and elements within them that would fly over the heads of those not as familiar with the source material.
Kampfer was a 12-episode action/ harem comedy TV anime aired from October 2 to December 17 of 2009 in Japan. The anime is based on a light novel series written by Toshihiko Tsukiji and illustrated by Senmu from November 24, 2006 to March 25, 2010. A manga adaptation of the series also written by Tsukiji and illustrated by Yu Tachibana is currently being published in the Japanese seinen magazine, Monthly Comic Alive, since April 2008. The TV anime is currently licensed in America by Sentai Filmworks and is available for purchase on DVD.
Ordinary high school student Natsuru Seno wakes up one day to discover he has transformed into a girl with a stuffed tiger called Harakiri Tiger telling him that he has been chosen to be a Kampfer, female fighters destined to fight each other. Natsuru comes to realize this problem when attacked by a mysterious Kampfer armed with a pistol while on his way to school.
If there are two words that come to mind with Kampfer, it would be wasted potential. While the series does have a somewhat unique premise with its battling schoolgirls story, the series rather quickly sets the premise aside to turn itself into yet another unwanted harem anime.
Natsuru plays out as your typical doormat to the perverted antics and misunderstandings he undergoes with the several girls who have interest in him and is ridiculously dense in knowing the affections of those not named Kaede Sakura. The gender-swapping element to his transformation into a Kampfer adds more mindlessness to the series as Natsuru finds herself (for lack of a better word) getting enough fangirls ogling for her and being subjected to varying degrees of sexual harassment and perverted antics from school club representatives and the female student body admiring her for outer beauty or using the attractiveness of her body to enhance club status. The main group of girls interested in Natsuru don't help matters either as they are mostly nothing more than archetypes that you would find in one form or another in other ecchi, harem, romantic comedy and/ or other high school-based anime.
The unwanted harem element to the series gets so bad that Kampfer is completely lacking a plot for much of its run. The series makes an attempt at a plot for three of its final four episodes regarding the origins of the Kampfer and another group of Kampfer that Natsuru and the girls encounter. But due to how rushed and poorly built up this plot element is and how the new characters get portrayed, the horrible plotting only adds to the mindlessness that Kampfer portrays throughout its run.
Violence Jack is actually a trilogy of three stand-alone OVA titles featuring the titular character adapted from a series of manga publications created by Go Nagai since the character’s debut in Weekly Shonen Magazine on July 22, 1973. The OVAs were released in Japan in June 1986 (Harem Bomber), December 1988 (Evil Town) and November 1990 (Hell’s Wind). The OVAs were licensed by Manga Entertainment in the mid-1990s for dubbed VHS release, which underwent varying degrees of censorship to remove the more graphic content found in the episodes. The Evil Town OVA has a degree of infamy to it in Australia where its large number of rape scenes towards women led it to be banned from release in the country. Right Stuf would claim video distribution rights to the OVAs later in the decade and release them completely unedited on VHS in subbed and dubbed formats. Both the Manga and Right Stuf versions of Violence Jack are out of print. Like Angel Cop and Mad Bull 34, Violence Jack is notable for its inclusion among Manga Entertainment’s infamous “Holy Trinity of Suck”.
Following a large earthquake that wiped out much of humanity’s population, the remaining populace is now divided between the strong and the weak with depraved gangs coming together to inflict varying degrees of suffering to the innocent. A mysterious giant of a man who calls himself Violence Jack is unearthed from the rubble of the earthquake who helps aid the weak against evil threats.
Violence Jack- A mysterious giant of a man who wields a large jack knife. Despite his seemingly evil and intimidating appearance, Jack fights to protect the weak in the post-apocalyptic world that he inhabits.
Violence Jack has a bare bones plot that is simply an excuse for the different OVAs to show off the various depraved acts committed by the gangs and the gory ways in which Jack dispatches each of their members. The depraved acts depicted throughout the OVAs include sadomasochism, rape, cannibalism and torture. Women that exist in the series wind up getting raped, beaten and tortured on a regular basis throughout the OVAs
Like many 1990s Manga Entertainment titles, Violence Jack’s English dub is peppered with profane language not found in the original Japanese version. The addition of it here seems rather pointless considering the graphic violence and rape scenes found throughout Violence Jack would be more than enough to make it appropriate only for older viewers despite any censorship of said scenes being done in Manga’s dub.