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!