Property: Tenchi Muyo!
Owner: Jointly by Japan’s Pioneer Entertainment and AIC
U.S. Distributor: Pioneer Video
Description: Stars a high school teen in the center of an unwelcome love scenario in which he wards off wooing attempts by comely aliens, unified in their love for Tenchi.
Demo: Boys, ages nine to 14
Concept: Began as a direct-to-video release in 1994
The latest: The show (in a set of three separate but related series with the same characters) will begin airing with 13 eps July 3 on Cartoon Network, followed by 26 eps of Tenchi Universe, and after that, 26 eps of Tenchi in Tokyo. Programming execs are still fiddling with a time slot, saying it will hit sometime between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., perhaps forming a bridge between Sailor Moon and Gundam Wing or closing the Toonami block. Cartoon has ordered a total of 66 eps.
Todd McFarlane has signed on to do an action figure based on the Tenchi character. Pioneer is releasing a DVD this summer.
Sean Akins, Toonami creative director, says the potential of Tenchi was apparent by the number of posters and videos in Japan, and if it has hit the big time there, that piques his interest in bringing it here. Roughly translated to mean ‘Reluctant Hero,’ Tenchi Muyo! may appeal to a secondary girl demo because half the show focuses on romance and the other half is more action-adventure, says Akins.
Akins says he didn’t pick Tenchi because it was anime, but because the quality of the show was ‘stunning, totally beautiful.’ As well, he thinks it will lure older kid viewers than other Toonami series.
Akins says other merch, including a T-shirt deal, is pending, and a version of a Japanese electronic Tenchi dating game (where the goal is to get a date with Tenchi), popular in Japan, may be attempted here. As well, there are enough characters to make a role-playing game a possibility.
Market Reality Check:
Desiree Collazo-Soto, a licensing executive with New Jersey-based Bradford Licensing, which has recently glommed onto another Japanese property called Panshel (being rendered into a TV series by Mike Young Productions), says the buzz in the industry is that Japanese properties are still a good bet for licensing.
‘I think Americans in general are just reaching out for new animation and ideas. Japan has cornered the market.’ Although she has seen the popularity of Pokémon start to wane, Collazo-Soto says the success of other anime offerings like Digimon show that the genre is still going strong.
One To Watch:
JAKKS Pacific recently signed on as master toy licensee for Fox Family Channel’s newest anime offering, Flint the Time Detective, produced by TV Tokyo and Sanrio in Japan and Saban Entertainment for the English version.