Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Imai Files



I think this one actually came in on the 12th Day of Christmas, too! Of course, I'm just getting to it now....

Roger Harkavy and his anonymous friend will go down in Otaku history as two of the coolest archivists on earth for bringing the rest of us this small treasure trove of pre-production and concept sketches from the clssic anime series "Mospeada" and "Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross." By now, one wouldn't be a well informed fan of anime if one didn't recognize these titles as the basis for the second and third installments of the classic localization "ROBOTECH"



These files were once the property of toy/ model maker Imai, and are the product of the design firm ARTMIC, two names synonymous with 80's anime. Apparently, Harkavy and Mr.? couldn't find a publisher willing to take on the project, so they simply created a detailed pdf file complete with notes and translation, and sent it off into the internet void for us to enjoy free of charge. The resulting Imai Files is a 108 page look back at two of the most influential chapters in anime's early bid for an American audience, that also manages to somehow capture that moment in time during the shift from "Super Robots" to "Real Robots." Bravo!



In another sense, the arrival of this electronic file (instead of a book) speaks volumes on the state of the anime industry. That no one would pick this up as a property probably has more to do with Imai and ARTMIC being long gone and legally obtuse organizations, rather than any lack of interest on the part of fans. I wonder if they approached Harmony Gold with this idea. If the rights to these illustrations are anything like what's going on with "Macross" then this production is more than we could expect. This would have sold as a book, and in fact there is a new book covering "Mospeada" just published within the last year, however, maybe it's not selling well enough. It also can't help that "SDCSC" really only has a fan base as "ROBOTECH: The Masters," but then again, that doomed program is only reflected in ten or so pages, compared to the hundred+ sketches of Ride Armor and Legioss. Frankly, the nature of this material is of highly specific interest, and getting a licensed publication in the rights hands in the current anime climate would've been a tall order. After all, robots don't sell as well these days. Maybe if it were a bunch of sketches of Rook, Mylene, and Annie...








Whatever your position on "scanslations" may be, with the advent of "The Imai Files" it becomes a more legitimate practice. Now, when money hungry U.S. Licensees finally back off completely and the anime/manga industry reverts back to it's original, Japan-centric mission statement (i.e. becomes interesting again,) Western fans will have a sturdy model by which to continue the decimation and enjoyment of the form. The future of the hobby has just begun thanks to a healthy dose of the past.


*****
Update 2/23 Thanks to Roger for chiming in and clarifying my wild speculations. See his comment for tremendous insight into this great project. Thanks again Roger!

1 comment:

Rogzilla said...

Hi, MZ, I recognized you from Skullbrain. Thanks for posting about the PDF!

A couple of answers for you...

"That no one would pick this up as a property probably has more to do with Imai and ARTMIC being long gone and legally obtuse organizations, rather than any lack of interest on the part of fans."

From my understanding, there are no issues regarding the legal status of this material related to the demise of Imai and Artmic, but one of the hurdles I did encounter was proving to my Japanese friend, the owner of the materials, that there was an entity in America that was properly authorized by Tatsunoko to license a MOSPEADA or Southern Cross-related product for sale here.

Eventually I got the right parties in Japan talking with one another and everyone was reassured, but I understood his concern that there might be some sort of legal repercussions for him if I published this stuff in the US and someone in Japan got mad about it. Intellectual property is handled extremely carefully over there and some crazy stuff happens sometimes.

"I wonder if they approached Harmony Gold with this idea."

I was in contact with Harmony Gold before I retrieved the materials from Japan. Afterwards, my contact at HG said he was was trying to get a couple of book projects together but nothing ever materialized. Later on, another contact at HG was helpful in getting me in touch with two publishers and talking up the idea of an art book to them, but nothing came of that, either.

In March of last year, a third publisher contacted me about using the material and seemed interested in incorporating it into a book they had planned, but the conversation abruptly ended once I mentioned that I was interested in being compensated (asking just $1,000 for my scanning and additional travel costs, and time spent organizing and translating the material and writing it all up).

At that point, I realized after having this stuff for five years, a book was not in the cards. So I gave myself a deadline of December 31 to collate the material, got permission from the owner of the the materials to put them out on the internet, and that led to the creation of the PDF. I'm happy with the end result.

"This would have sold as a book, and in fact there is a new book covering 'Mospeada' just published within the last year, however, maybe it's not selling well enough."

I don't know how well that book sold. I was in touch with Aramaki-san (who did the cover illustrations for it as well as an interview) and I know that there were many delays in publishing it, but I don't know if that was related to pre-order sales.

I told Aramaki-san that if they were interested in the pre-production material I could get them in touch with my friend, but they never bit. The book is very good, and I think it goes way beyond what a mostly forgotten show like MOSPEADA warrants.

- Roger H.