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Pokéman kicks off Asian run on U.S.

While Australia struggles to keep its head above water in the U.S., anime producers from Japan are hitting pay dirt with U.S. sell-through suppliers. Musicland, Blockbuster Video, Tower Records and Virgin have become huge clients of anime distributors....
July 1, 1999

While Australia struggles to keep its head above water in the U.S., anime producers from Japan are hitting pay dirt with U.S. sell-through suppliers. Musicland, Blockbuster Video, Tower Records and Virgin have become huge clients of anime distributors.

AD Vision, which has been in the distribution business since 1992, launched several new anime titles (Ushio & Tora, Legend of Crystania: Resurrection of the Gods’ King, Rail of the Star, and Bite Me! Chameleon) into the U.S. market earlier this year.

Japan’s Pioneer Electronics, a major laser disc distributor and animation producer, moved into the U.S. video distribution market two years ago, and has already taken the lion’s share.

‘We saw the market turn and grabbed on to Japanese product to catch the trend,’ says Rick Buehler, VP sales and marketing, Pioneer Entertainment in L.A.

In just two years, the company, which focuses on the PG-13 crowd, has caught up with distribution veterans ADV and Central Park Media. The average video sell-through of anime is 20,000 to 30,000 videos.

Japan-based ShoPro production Pokéman was a huge video breakthrough. Pioneer has sold one million videos since it launched the first series of videos two years ago. ‘Pokémon has opened new fans for anime,’ says Buehler. In fact, sales have been so brisk, Pioneer is moving ahead with at least two new Japanese co-productions. In addition to its co-production Armitage III Polymatrix, Pioneer is co-producing a series called Sol Bianca, to be released in August.

The company has also licensed several episodes of Dragon Ball Z, produced by Japan’s Toei Animation, for release in the U.S. home video market.

New York’s Central Park Media is a large distributor and anime wholesaler. This summer, the company is releasing some new video series for younger audiences, including Revolutionary Girl Utena (TV Tokyo/Yomiuri Advertising), The Slayers Next (TV Tokyo/SOFTX), and The Ping Pong Club (Gensho Tetsuo/Yamakawa Norio/Hatano Tsunemasa). The Ping Pong Club is aimed at the Beavis and Butt-Head market.

‘Unlike true foreign movies, like art films, which don’t play well outside of large metro areas, anime is popular in the deep South, in the far West and in the big cities-both in the high rises and the ghettos,’ says John O’Donnell, managing director of CPM.

While anime is selling well in the music and video stores, the mass market chains such as Wal-Mart and Kmart are still ‘afraid’ of anime, adds O’Donnell. But as it moves mainstream, maybe that will change as well. KM

Revolutionary Girl Utena

Original Japanese version, © 1997 B-Papas/Chiho Saito/Shogaku-kan/Shonen Iinkai/TV Tokyo. English subtitled & dubbed versions, © 1998 B-Papas/Chiho Saito/Shogaku-kan/Shonen Iinkai/TV Tokyo. English version, © 1999 Enoki Films USA, Inc.

The Slayers Next

Original Japanese version, © 1996 H. Kanzaka/R. Araizumi/Kadokawa/TV Tokyo/SOFTX. English version, © 1999 Enoki films USA, Inc.

The Ping Pong Club

Original Japanese version, © 1995 Minoru Furuya/Kodansha * Kitty Film * Tokyo Broadcasting System.

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