Dream (Level 21)

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There are many anime titles that are accessible to fans here in America and the more well-known and popular titles tend to get regularly re-released or milked for as much profit as possible from anime distributors whether it is a distributor's flagship title, a major shounen anime craze, or fan demand is high enough where distributors continue to provide said title to the fans. However, there are a fair number of anime titles here in the states that have been out of print for a number of years now for one reason or another and are still talked about by fans who seen them back when they were still being released. Whether distribution rights to the show expired, left unprinted after so many years, or the company went out of business, these ten titles I list below in no particular order show a number of anime titles that I believe are worth your time to see provided you're prepared to either go on a tricky money hunt if you choose to hunt a title legally or going the not-so-legal route of getting fansubs or DVD rips.
 

1. Great Teacher Onizuka
It might be surprising to those of you who get manga from Tokyopop, but there was a time where the manga distributor was releasing anime on DVD and Great Teacher Onizuka just happened to be one of those titles picked up by Tokyopop. This is a fun 43 episode comedy-drama focused on former biker gang member Eikichi Onizuka becoming a teacher to a troublesome class of middle school students. The anime's memorable for the comedic antics and great measures done by Onizuka to get his class in line and dealing with corrupt school officials who are working at trying to get him fired. He isn't exactly a conventional teacher either as the guy's a pervert, cusses, is below-average with knowing school subjects, skilled in martial arts, still has ties to some biker gangs and will often subject any students causing trouble in his class to humiliating or life-threatening situations to set them straight. Even with focus on his antics, the students and school staff still get fleshed out enough where you get enough sense of how they think of one another and why they behave as they do, especially as the students come to accept Onizuka and change their ways. Sadly, it looks like Tokyopop ditched their distribution of anime a while back so this title's been out of print for a number of years now. If you are looking for a fun school dramedy where you can see things like the vice-principal getting a German suplex or forcing a troublesome student to bungee jump off a bridge, then Great Teacher Onizuka's well worth your time to look into.
 
2. Card Captor Sakura
Long before One Piece fans were pissed at 4Kids' heavy editing to the show and later rejoicing when Funimation picked it up, this popular mahou shoujo title from the late 1990s went through a similar event with Nelvana heavily editing it and the fans rejoicing when Pioneer/ Geneon picked up the show and released it uncut on DVD. Card Captor Sakura has quite a bit of charm where it creates a refreshing twist on standard mahou shoujo plot formulas for the time and mixes it with plot elements you would find in other shoujo anime titles like relationship developments (which this show is quite infamous for amongst its fandom) and dealing with themes such as personal loss and unrequited love. The series does feature a number of likable characters from Sakura's camera-tooting best friend Tomoyo to crush Yukito to gluttonous Clow Card guardian Kero, as well as bending around mahou shoujo plot formulas as Tomoyo frequently makes mention of Sakura's status as a magical girl and makes her battle costumes, there are no actual antagonists in the series and no transformation sequences as the only sequences in this anime involve Sakura summoning her wand and any Clow Card she draws power from. Ever since Geneon closed up shop in America back in 2007, Card Captor Sakura has been out of print and is one of a handful of Geneon titles that has yet to be license rescued. If you do have interest in trying to get the DVDs, that would be a lofty goal in itself as the series is 70 episodes long and spread across 18 DVD volumes. Plus, don't go expecting an English dub as CCS was one of the few anime titles from Pioneer released only in Japanese with only the second movie to the series receiving a proper English dub from the distributor. 
 
3. Saikano
First appearances can be deceiving if one goes into watching this show without looking up info on it beforehand. What seems to be your run-of-the-mill high school romance anime quickly turns into what is perhaps one of the most depressing anime titles you'll ever come across. Saikano tackles the tragedies of war as it focuses on two high school students struggling to make their relationship work in the form of Chise and Shuji as Chise has been made into a cyborg to fight a global war for Japan and finds herself slowly losing her humanity as her power increases while Shuji struggles in accepting the fact his girlfriend isn't so normal and finds himself attracted to an old love interest that complicates his relationship with Chise. The show retains a bleak and tragic tone throughout its run as many prominent characters die and you get a sense of what they believe in as they either fight a losing war, try retaining whatever normalcy they can in their lives or deal with unrequited love. Viz Media picked up Saikano for North American release back in 2004 and like a good number of titles not a shounen anime franchise they've picked up, the show has been out of print for several years now. If you don't mind depressing and tragic anime titles, then Saikano is well worth your time to look into.
 
4. Kimagure Orange Road
One of the big hit romantic comedies of the 1980s alongside Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku, KOR is well-known for the love triangle involving teen esper Kyosuke Kasuga and former delinquent girls Madoka Ayukawa and Hikaru Hiyama. Sometimes touching and sometimes funny, this show deals with Kyosuke's everyday interactions with the two girls as he is attracted to Madoka yet with Hikaru also fawning for him, he can't bring himself to ward off Hikaru's advances and this complicates any developments that would push along his potential relationship with Madoka. The show's occasional laughs come from when Kyosuke tries making use of his esper power to make things easier in settling his relationship developments yet these efforts backfire and he finds himself having to mend any messes he created with his powers. The show does also do some parody with nods to popular 1980s movies like the Terminator and episodic cameo appearances from Umao and Ushiko quoting lines from Romeo and Juliet before they are shoved aside from the antics of the major cast of the series. Kimagure Orange Road was originally licensed by AnimEigo where they released the entire series subbed on DVD back in the mid 2000s. However, AnimEigo allowed their distribution rights to the series to expire in 2006 which has led to this anime being out of print and is currently unlicensed. It's quite easy to track down fansubs of the show, though getting it on DVD would be a whole different matter as entire box sets of the series have been known to be selling close to or over $1,000 on sites like Amazon and E-Bay.
 
5. Zoids
Normally if you see anime based off a popular toy line or card game, you might be expecting something mediocre or horrible as the whole plot to said series is mostly an excuse just to promote said toy or game. While Zoids is based on a toy line, it actually creates a worthwhile plot focused on an ongoing war and later on, events following the war as a new faction becomes a threat to both of the kingdoms that were involved in said war. The show is mostly focused on Van and Fiona as Van assists Fiona with trying to find details on her past and eventually becoming entangled in the conflict between Helic and Guylos. The show does a decent job fleshing out all the various elements to the world of the series and exploring the pasts of a number of prominent characters in the show like Raven and Reese. Zoids was licensed and distributed in an edited format through a partnership between Geneon and Viz Media in the mid 2000s, as well as being aired on Toonami. This partnership fizzled out when Geneon shut down in America and only individual volumes of the show were released before it went out of print. 
 
6. Koi Kaze
A controversial title, but one worth watching if you are open-minded enough for the subject matter. Koi Kaze gives a believable focus on exploring the increasingly forbidden relationship occurring between marriage consultant Koshiro and his younger sister in high school, Nanoka. The show sensibly and tastefully follows a tightrope in focusing on how Koshiro and Nanoka come to grips with their feelings for one another and depicting the different points in their lives with how they understand how society would regard their relationship as it follows a neutral mentality in exploring the developments as the series neither condones nor disapproves of Koshiro and Nanoka's taboo relationship. Koi Kaze was distributed by Geneon in 2005 before going out of print when the distributor shut down two years later. Like Card Captor Sakura, it is one of a handful of Geneon titles that have yet to be license rescued by any current distributor.
 
7. Video Girl Ai
Another victim of Viz Media sitting on a license while it goes out of print, Video Girl Ai has not had a new DVD release in nearly a decade and it's a shame considering this is a fun little romantic dramedy to check out. This 6-episode OAV series focuses around a complicated love square involving dateless high schooler Yota, his love interest Moemi, best friend Takeshi and the video girl Ai. It effectively mixes around comedy and drama with the comedy used out of Ai's character as she frequently causes mischief for Yota as her personality became altered thanks to his defective VCR and the drama coming off of the painful realities of unrequited love faced by three of the four involved in the love square. The final episode is well-known to a number of old-school fans in symbolically exploring the delicacy of being in love through one of Yota's painful ordeals when going after the girl he ultimately chooses to go with. Despite being out of print though, the series is fairly easy to obtain legally if you know where to look as all the OAV episodes are on a single DVD and I managed to snag it for just $10.
 
8. Key the Metal Idol
Another Viz title that has been out of print for years, Key the Metal Idol isn't really all that well-known to many anime fans I've come across and it's quite likely one of the most underrated titles I've had an opportunity of checking out. This dark drama explores a young girl named Tokiko "Key" Mima who believes herself to be a robot and must make over 30,000 friends to become "human" as a final request by her dying grandfather. This OAV series slowly unveils bits and pieces to the true nature of Key's character and the weapons manufacturer that considers her a threat in their moral-bending goals of perfecting their military robot technology that Key's grandfather was involved with. The series also introduces a number of other characters who serve to assist, encourage or deter Key in her goal and they are fleshed out enough where you know of their motives and personalities. Key the Metal Idol also has one of the most hauntingly powerful soundtracks I've seen in an anime featuring a subdued and tense mood which blends well with the somber mood given off by the series. 
 
9. Ayashi no Ceres
The fourth anime to be out of print from Viz on this list, Ayashi no Ceres is a tragic romantic drama focused on Aya Mikage dealing with the questionable actions of her family as she is banished upon learning that she is the reincarnation of the tennyo (celestial maiden) Ceres and discovers that some in the family are trying to exploit the power of the tennyo via physical and mental abuse from scientific means. The show does explore the backgrounds of many of the show's prominent characters allowing you to become familiar enough with why those hunting the tennyo are committed to their actions despite their lack of morality towards the celestial beings, as well as those aiding Aya in stopping the cruelty of her family. In addition, it explores some of the typical themes found in shoujo anime such as love, hate, defying fate and personal loss. This series does get quite intense and dramatic as the show presses on with some major characters getting killed off throughout the conflict and major sacrifices are made from both sides in this conflict. If you don't mind tragedy in your viewing of shoujo anime titles, then you might be tempted to give Ayashi no Ceres a shot.
 
10. Earth Girl Arjuna
Not too many anime I've come across have tackled themes of environmental awareness which I have seen from Studio Ghibli titles like Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke. Arjuna's an interesting title in the fact it blends themes of environmental awareness with exploring issues concerning human communication and mixing in elements related to Hinduism. It paints quite the shocking picture of the reality behind man's conveniences being a problem to the natural environment and the difficulty humanity has with relating their thoughts to one another because of different moralistic beliefs. It is sort of a mahou shoujo title as main heroine Juna finds herself tasked with preventing the beings known as Rajaa from destroying the planet via transforming into her Avatar state. It is hinted that there is far more going on than just a monster race trying to destroy the planet which brings some grey morality to the surface in Juna's quest. The presentation of this series is quite impressive featuring bright and vivid scenery, as well as fluid animation coming from Juna's battles with the Rajaa and while she is riding the motorcycle of her potential boyfriend Tokio. In addition, the show's soundtrack is composed by Yoko Kanno who offers up a mix of Indian musical pieces and otherworldly tracks that fit in perfectly with the mood of this series. Arjuna is one of the few anime titles from Bandai Entertainment that has been out of print for a while. However like Video Girl Ai, the series is fairly easy to get as single volumes and box sets of the series can be tracked down for sale from online sites at a fairly reasonable price.
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