Anime titles go in and out of print with disturbing fluidity, so it's always good news when titles of distinction that lapsed out of print in previous years are brought back to the land of the living. Here's our picks for the best reissues of 2012, presented in alphabetical order.
1. Black Lagoon
The meanest, violent-est, gun-blasting-est, foul-mouthed-est homage to the Hollywood and Hong Kong action-movie excesses of the 80s and 90s came back into print in 2012 in a major way -- on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Both the first and second seasons were included in the reprint, along with the (and @$#%&-ing awesome) English dub commissioned for the show's original release.
The riotous Dirty Pair -- the most dangerous galactic operatives you could ever deign to hire -- continued enjoying a DVD reissue through 2012. The original TV series had never seen a formal English-language release before, although Dirty Pair Flash (shown here), a reboot of the series that serves as a sort of origin story, had been issued before under ADV's auspices. All are great fun, and the feisty English dub on Flash (the one originally recorded for the show's domestic release) is a further bonus.
3. Ergo Proxy
This stylish, dark, and thoroughly unpredictable dystopian SF thriller grabbed audiences by the throat when it first appeared in 2006. Life in a perfectly-controlled, hermetically-sealed society is disrupted when the robot servants everyone depends on become infected with a computer virus that cause them to rebel -- but that's only the first of many, many twists in this most clever of shows. This 2012 reissue brings the show back into print after a sizable hiatus, although it's only the standard-definition version and not the Blu-ray Disc edition that's been only released in Japan so far. Still, to have it back at all is a blessing.
These two features deserve to be mentioned in the same breath, since they're both adaptations of "manga god" Osamu Tezuka's classic creation about a unicorn with the power to spread joy. Both were issued previously on VHS in very limited editions, but are now reissued on DVD for the first time. A great complement to the Studio Ghibli releases in one's collection.
Those used to Studio Ghibli's lighthearted and wistful stories are certain to be startled by this grim, gripping and ultimately unforgettable story -- based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka -- about a young man and his little sister striving to survive in Japan's countryside as the tragic last days of World War II unfold around them. It's hard not to watch scenes like the brilliantly-animated sequence of the firebombing of the boy's village and feel both admiration for the craftsmanship of the scene and revulsion for the events depicted. Among the finest animated productions ever made, regardless of language or country of origin, and well worth having back on both DVD and Blu-ray.
A girl awakens in a strange city where all the denizens are around her age and are adorned with charcoal-colored wings. Is this the afterlife, or something even stranger and more complex? This mysterious and beguiling show, like Lain, has been a source of endless fascination and theorization since its original release, but was out of print for years due to Geneon's collapse and restructuring.
Delayed repeatedly no thanks to production problems and the demise of distributor Geneon, the vampires-vs.-Nazis shoot-'em-up Hellsing Ultimate OVAhad become a latter-day Holy Grail for anime fans. FUNimation's dual-format (BD/DVD) reissue restores volumes 1 through 8 of this adaptation of Kouta Hirano's ultra-violent manga to the land of the living, and was well worth the wait. As a bonus goodie, we got a separate reissue of the TV series edition of the story, which had also lapsed from print. Now let's see the rest of the OVA sometime before the end of this decade, too.
Old-school fans were in for a treat this year when Discotek released the Lupin III TV series for the first time. Aside from being a classic title -- the (mis)adventures of Japan's most notorious thief -- the show comes with some pretty hefty credentials, as many of the episodes were directed by none other than Hayao Miyazaki himself.
A goofy science-fiction farce that takes the "teamwork!" and "heroism!" aesthetics of mecha and giant-robot anime and stands them on their heads. E.g.:the hero's a cook, not a pilot, but his very reluctance to be a fighter makes him even better for the job than he himself anticipates. Many jabs (albeit loving ones) at anime culture throughout make the show all the more enjoyable for experienced fans. The new Nozomi reissue contains the whole TV series, a bonus OVA, and the not-well-received motion picture Prince of Darkness; it's the show itself that's the main attraction here anyway. Bonus points awarded for including the splutteringly funny English dub.
10. Ninja Scroll
If there was one anime title that could be found in most any video rental store during the Nineties, it was (apart from Akira) Ninja Scroll. Violent, gory, disturbing, it was also an eye-opening example of how anime could offer possibilities to Western viewers they'd never beheld before. The 2012 DVD and BD reissue from Sentai Filmworks are made from an entirely new high-definition master and show off the film in better shape than ever.
Easily the ultimate cyberpunk anime (well, save possibly for Armitage III), Lain has fascinated, baffled, and enraged since it roared into the consciousness of both Eastern and Western fans back in 1998. Now it's been completely restored from all its original picture elements for a high-definition release -- a major undertaking detailed in the accompanying booklet -- and despite a few dated elements in the show's visual design, it's still just as loaded with ideas, meaning and possibilities as ever.
12. Tenchi Muyo!
Technically this isn't any one title, but rather the whole galaxy (pun intended) of titles pinioned by the general label Tenchi Muyo!: the original OVAs, the theatrical films, the Tenchi Universe TV series, and many more. A great slew of them came back into print thanks to FUNimation this year -- some even in genuine HD remasters, a major plus -- and all were welcome. This was one of the first shows to define the "harem anime" aesthetic, and it's still one of the best, thanks to its slapstick-meets-SF flavor, cheeky attitude, and sprawling cast.