With the economy – and with it the world – sinking into an abysmal trench for the moment, we tend to get too tied up to be able to focus on what we would really prefer to do. The end of 2008 also saw the closing of yet another anime company in the U.S. as the industry shrinks yet again. Many of you probably didn’t know much about Broccoli and its passing probably didn’t really affect you either. Don’t worry, it isn’t a bad thing you probably didn’t know of them.
Broccoli USA, the US branch of the Japanese company Broccoli Co., Ltd., only lasted for seven years. Inside you found a small staff of hardworking — typically swamped — girls and guys publishing niche manga and running a retail store at the same time. Ever stopped by Anime Gamers USA in Los Angeles? It was a small — average by U.S. anime store standards — shop offering a variety of import and domestic anime goods. I still recall stopping by the store during Anime Expo 2003 and one lone girl — poor Shiz herself, if I remember correctly — was stuck in the shop missing the fun of the convention. Never have you seen someone so shocked or thrilled to hear a customer ask about and pronounce Di Gi Charat correctly. Keep in mind that Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat wasn’t even published in the U.S. until a year later and the original TV series was two years away.
When it came to anime, the Synch-Point line-up had a lot of heart, but not always the greatest execution. I’m Gonna Be An Angel! started and stopped a lot with two years between the first and second DVD alone — for the longest time you could only get the next few episodes beyond the first DVD on VHS. The series managed to scrap out a third disc eleven months later, but the fans had moved well beyond saving this show any more. Several of the voice actors have commented to me personally that they recorded lines for almost all of the episodes produced, but not every character seems to have been finished before the curtain finally closed.
As IGBAA! was delayed, another series managed to start coming out and ended up taking the full attention of the Broccoli staff whenever they weren’t putting together manga volumes: FLCL. As a Gainax series — a phrase which needs no explaination after this many years — FLCL did fairly well in sales and keeping a steady schedule of once every five months. However, if I had a nickel for every time I heard a fan complain about having to buy three DVDs to get six episodes, I could afford the overinflated prices the out-of-print Ultimate Box currently goes for. Crazy. The true blessing for this title, aside from Marc Handler stepping into the Director’s chair for once, was Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim airing the series in the Summer of 2003. Of course, the fact that they kept running the six episode series over and over and over again may have had some small negative effects in addition to all the good sales.
Silence. Several years of silence, actually. The Broccoli Books manga division took off working hard on as many manga titles as they could juggle while the DVD side of things quietly went to sleep. A brief stirring here and there as they worked with Bandai on Galaxy Angel, but for the most part the dreams of IGBAA! reaching completion were gone. The last bout from this DVD contender came in the form of three easy releases: Aquarian Age the Movie, Di Gi Charat, and Leave it to Piyoko!
Aquarian Age the Movie squeaked out in 2005 as ADV finished the TV series and a card game was expected to come to the U.S. Di Gi Charat, with Galaxy Angel right after, is Broccoli Co., Ltd.’s bread and butter. The U.S. arm needed to ensure a successful presentation of the company’s most beloved characters as Bandai prepared to release the follow-up series Di Gi Charat Nyo! Both DGC titles were well recieved, but Bandai delayed releasing the Nyo! TV series for two years in time to meet a slowly downsizing market and major brick-and-mortar store chains just starting to resist the idea of single DVDs over season collections. I can still name which local Best Buy store has volume 1 of Nyo! and never bothered to carry the further discs. At this point even Bandai has gone quiet as Nyo! remains incomplete since Sept. 2008 with only the first nine DVDs available.
Broccoli’s manga division kept licensing and releasing volumes until the very end. What the company lacked in producing DVDs as anime series kept rising in cost, they more than made up for in releasing a variety of manga titles in a sea of monthly TOKYOPOP and Viz releases. Between the store, volumes of manga, and dedication to making sure fans recieved their mail-in offers from dust jackets to t-shirts — this company deserves some praise and respect after seven years of hard work.
To me, Broccoli USA will always be a handful of fun loving girls and the occasional male slave managing to make a living working on something they loved while under the watchful eye of their Japanese parent. I’ll end this with a quote from Shizuki’s final mailing list newsletter. Many companies have ditched series without a passing word, but Shiz closes with some hope that someone in a better position may finish their initial work:
I’m really sorry that we won’t be able to complete the release of our titles such as KAMUI, E’S, sola, My Dearest Devil Princess and others. We hope that other US publishers will pick up the titles like Aurora Publishing did for Cigarette Kisses.
Thank you for the good times.