When I was in high school, anime didn’t occupy the corner of the media landscape it does today. It was certainly gaining a foothold thanks to weekly broadcasts of certain high profile direct to video features and movies on the Sci-Fi Channel and daily doses of Voltron, Robotech, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, but we were still firmly in the era of fansub tape trading and commercial releases carrying two, maybe three episodes of a TV series if you were lucky. I still vividly remember buying Neon Genesis Evangelion two episodes at a time for months on end, and buying it dubbed into English because those tapes were five to ten dollars cheaper.
There were a few other anime fans I knew in town, and one in particular who rode the same bus home that I did. He was a big, funny guy who had a vast library of anime series and films at his disposal, all duplicated in Extended Play from tapes he’d rented from our local anime shop. I can’t remember what all he loaned to me over the years; I’m fairly certain that’s how I first filled the gaps I had in the original Tenchi Muyo series, and I know that’s how I saw the first season of Ranma 1/2 and one of my all-time favorites, the first series of El Hazard: The Magnificent World. But next to El Hazard, one of my absolute favorite things he loaned me was The Heroic Legend of Arslan, a gorgeously animated fantasy adventure based on, I would later find out, a series of novels by Legend of the Galactic Heroes author Yoshiki Tanaka. I’m usually not drawn to fantasy stories, but the ornate armor stylings, lavishly garbed and beautiful character designs, and hauntingly lovely musical score enchanted me, and the English dubbed version by Manga UK was well cast and perfectly watchable. In those days most of what we were getting in the States were movies and short direct to video series, so when after four episodes (the last two of which were kind of shabby around the edges) it just sort of trailed off it was irritating but not unexpected. Two more episodes would make it to the states a few years later, but the animation had gotten worse, the English language cast had been replaced with lousy domestic sound-alikes with bad phony English accents, and the story still was far from resolved. Continue reading