[Be Kind, Rewind™] The Anchor Bay Godzilla Movie Collection (Anchor Bay Ent., 1997)

Historically speaking, the Toho Master Collection DVD series (blogged about here) wasn't the first time that the Godzilla films of Japan's Toho Studios were given the serious home video treatment in America. A decade earlier, a shelf stomping collection of six Godzilla films was unleashed upon an unsuspecting marketplace by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 1997. 

It was in wide-reaching association with home video license holders StarMaker Video, R&G Video, Golden Books and New World Video that Anchor Bay released its very handsomely packaged Godzilla film collection on VHS cassette. The films included in the series were Son of Godzilla (1967), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964), Godzilla 1985 (aka The Return of Godzilla, 1984), Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). 

At the tail end of the 1980s, several releases of the aforementioned films had already been made for the home video rental and retail markets by various distributors, including StarMaker. These regularly appeared on shelves at Blockbuster Video and in home entertainment specialty shops like Suncoast. But the presentment quality there often varied greatly. While some of the films came packaged in slipcases that were expertly designed using images lifted from the original Japanese promotional posters or production stills, others boasted amateurishly illustrated images that, while maybe having a kind of "shlock cinema" charm, only poured petrol on the pyre of associations made by people who equated Godzilla films with low quality Japanese movies made for children...and adults of dubious intellect.

The graphic treatment of Godzilla films in the Anchor Bay VHS releases, however, raised the bar to suggest that these imaginative and richly detailed sci-fi films made in Japan––yes, that featured actors in rubber suits, romping around on miniature landscapes––should be taken a bit more seriously. Perhaps to the point of simply seeing Godzilla films for what they were: an enduring global pop culture phenomenon and the longest running film franchise in history.

But there was a sizable profit incentive for Anchor Bay in making this series too. The release of this VHS tape collection hit the domestic marketplace the year before a new Godzilla film by New Line Cinema was scheduled for release in the summer of 1998. Anchor Bay's set was timed perfectly to coincide with the rekindled interest amongst old school Godzilla movie lovers, and the newly sparked interest in the next generation of "Big G" fans. 

In light of this timing, the Anchor Bay Godzilla film collection wasn't planned to be anything in the way of a definitive or chronologically sequenced set. But what the collection offered was a thoughtful, although somewhat random sampler, showcasing six of the fourteen Godzilla films made in Japan over a twenty-year span. The period in question streched from 1964––the middle of the Showa era of Godzilla films, which began in 1954––to 1984, the beginning of the Heisei era. And the effort put into this set by Anchor Bay made for an appealing collection that grabbed both the eyes and the retail dollars of home video shoppers. 

The fronts of the slipcases in Anchor Bay's Godzilla film collection boasted across the top portions of each "Gojira's" Americanized name, rendered in a style suggestive of the beautiful forms of Japanese brush writing. In the background appeared a recurring motif, comprised of a faded composite of Godzilla's head and torso and snippets of a Tokyo skyline culled from The Return of Godzilla production stills. Superimposed over the composite image on two of the six slipcases were two different images of Godzilla in the foreground, one of which also included Minilla (aka Son of Godzilla) for the film in which this character appeared. And superimposed over the composite on the covers of the other four releases were images of rival monsters Ghidorah, Megalon, Gigan, and Mechagodzilla.

Another motif worth focusing on in the slipcase design was the possibly overlooked phalanx of orange and red flames coming from the open mouth of the Godzilla figure on the cover of the Godzilla 1985 release. The flames were cleverly made to extend outwardly in east and west directions, along the bottoms of all six boxes, binding them together graphically with yet one more unifying design element. Appearing in a white typewriter font at the bottom of each slipcase was the title of each film. 

As is standard in slipcase design, the left side of the box prominently featured the title of each respective film. But the right side of the slipcase was reserved for something special. The right side of each box featured a de facto puzzle piece that, when lined up front to back with the other VHS tapes in the series, combined to form an impressive Godzilla 1985 poster-related display. 

With the advances in home entertainment since the late 1990s, when the Anchor Bay Godzilla movie collection was made, these films have since been released again in DVD format, all variously issued by different film license holders. But only one of the films included in the Anchor Bay collection, Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster, was also featured in Sony's 2008 Toho Master Collection DVD series. The overall absence of duplication by Sony benefited the owners the older Anchor Bay collection that may prefer still having at least some of their Godzilla flicks in analog format. Especially when, on the shelf to this day, they still make a rather smashing display.


[Personal Shoplifter™] Agent Aika Complete Collection (Bandai Anime Legends, 2008)

The 30-day Amazon Prime trial subscription initiated by this blogger some 29.9 days earlier [bats eyelashes innocently] was within minutes of expiring as he tossed the Agent Aika Complete Collection DVD into a cyber shopping cart and pimp strutted over to the virtual checkout aisle. He hadn't previously viewed any of this 7-episode OVA (original video animation) before, and was only vaguely familiar with Aika from having seen the cover of the 7th episode DVD on a store shelf a time or two. What had prompted this last minute impulse purchase, with free 2-day shipping, was the $4.90 list price on a 2-disc DVD set with an original SRP of $39.98!

Another significant selling point was that fact that the Agent Aika Complete Collection was produced under the Anime Legends line of the dearly defunct Bandai Entertainment (1998-2012). Anyone who owns any of the other Anime Legends releases––the Cowboy Bebop Remix Complete Collection, Ghost in the Shell 2nd Gig Complete Collection, and Gurran Lagann Complete Collection among them––knows the level of geek friendly care that was lavished upon these sets. And the Agent Aika Complete Collection lives up the Anime Legends reputation admirably, as there are oodles of cool extras packed into this 2-disc set!

Now regarding the actual anime itself? Well, let's just say that Aika offers viewers gratuitous levels of 'fan service' that may catch the uninitiated (yours truly included) a bit off guard. But it's really all in good, clean...ok, almost dirty fun. But it's also deftly illustrated and beautifully animated. In fact, in terms of execution, I'd put Aika up against any of the best anime titles produced in the '90s, including Giant Robo and Neon Genesis Evangelion. It's that well done. And still priced at $4.90 at the time of this post (buy here), this one is a real steal of a deal™.


[Flashback] Japanese Cartoon – In the Jaws of the Lords of Death*

*Previously on YKFS blog in September 2010

The year after Kanye West blind-sided pop music by freeing his inner torch singer on the critically acclaimed 808s & Heartbreaks, his West Side connection, Lupe Fiasco, let loose his inner punk rocker on the even more unpredictable In the Jaws of the Lords of Death. But, in direct contrast to Ye's clearly branded tunes, Lupe's guitar-grinding post-punk music was clandestinely leaked to the web under the unknown band name Japanese Cartoon. For weeks after the release of the first singles––which featured Lupe singing in a faux British brogue––the rapper feigned as if he had nothing at all to do with the tracks. And though he wasn't exactly foolin' anybody, Lupe had managed to impress nearly everyone. In the Jaws of the Lords of Death gave new and old Lupe fans a splendid set of '80s flavored rock. It was cool music from a mysterious punk band with a famed frontman whose primary Grammy-grabbing forte is hip-hop. And yet, despite that successful genre-jumping accomplishment, accompanied by the promise of more to come, Japanese Cartoon has thus far turned out to be little more than a clever experiment by a brilliant rap artist who seems to bore quickly and who threatens to retire from hip-hop often. Still, the project provided Lupe Fiasco (aka Lupin III) with a much-wanted opportunity to flex his creative muscles. It also gave listeners a chance to hear and see that when it comes to making music, Lupe is an Akira-like force to be reckoned with. – SP



[Personal Shoplifter™] Astro Boy: The Complete Series DVD Collection (Sony Pictures, 2003)

In July of this year, Mill Creek Entertainment re-released the 50-episode Astro Boy animated TV series (2003), amazingly priced at under $10 dollars! And although this blogger is an unabashed fan of the Japanese film and TV import releases of Mill Creek, he has decided against getting this particular Mill Creek release in favor of the now-super-duper-low-priced 2005 edition from Sony Pictures. Back when the Sony release first hit the marketplace, it carried an SRP (suggested retail price) of $39.99. But today, due to the atom smashing price on the Mill Creek set –– oh, and those pricing algorithms that internet vendors love to use –– the price has dropped big time! On Ebay, DVD-Closeouts has the Sony set for $10.75––with free shipping. In aggressive, algorithmic response, the price has dropped on it at Amazon, as of this writing, to $8.05!

Now, the main reason this blogger leans toward the Sony set is 'cuz he's a big, fat geek when it come to original releases. Not in all cases, but in some––like this one. And Mill Creek has been known to load all of the discs in a multi-disc set (4 in this one) on a single spindle inside one DVD keep case to keep costs down. And that's all fine and good when no comparable product exists. But the Sony set has 5 discs (ten episodes per) in separate slim cases with full-color cover inserts, and all housed together in a glossy black slipcase with embossed logo lettering on the face and spine.

With the holiday shopping season just around the corner (this is a great stocking stuffer for youngsters and the young-at-heart, by the way) whether you go with the Sony or the Mill Creek release, you're getting a steal of a deal™. But, for geekish collector with other Sony releases like TekkonkinkreetSteamboy and Cowboy Bepop: The Movie on the anime shelf, the 2005 Astro Boy: The Complete Series has something of an edge. Well, at least while the price is still right.


Betcha' didn't know who voiced Dr. Tenma on the Astro Boy animated TV series...

That's right, you super cool otaku, you––actor Dorian Harewood! You probably also knew that this longtime presence on the American stage and screen has used his velvety voice to breath life into a variety of characters in other animated film and TV productions over the decades. Included amongst this notable list are: Spectacular Spider-Man (2008), The Land Before Time (2007), Static Shock (2000), Godzilla: The Series (1998), Sonic the Hedgehog (1993), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) and many, many more.