Funimation, the American license-holder for Dragonball Z, has announced the acquisition of two new anime titles--Yu Yu Hakusho and Blue Gender. Funimation's new offerings will have a difficult time replacing the hugely popular DBZ, which has finally taken hold here in the US, doing well in cable ratings as the anchor of the Cartoon Network's Toonami block and consistently hovering near the top spot in Internet search engine reports (see 'Internet Users Looking for Anime'). Fortunately for Funimation there are hundreds of DBZ episodes, so there should be plenty of time for the two new series to gain momentum before Son Goku heads off into the sunset.
Yu Yu Hakusho did face off with DBZ in Japan during the 90s -- and the series managed to hold its own against Goku & company. Yu Yu Hakusho concerns the plight of 14-year old Yusuke, who possesses enormous spiritual power, which he must use to ward off evil forces threatening the earth. What makes the series special is the careful delineation of character -- Yusuke and his posse of teenaged buddies are firmly grounded in the foibles and follies of real life. It's the execution rather than the concept that made this series a hit in Japan. If American kids can get into the characters, Yu Yu Hakusho should do well here as well. Fans who want to preview the series can check out the Yu Yu Hakusho feature length anime just released by Media Blasters.
The second new series, Blue Gender, represents a departure for Funimation. Blue Gender contains scenes of such graphic violence that even Funimation acknowledges that the series 'is only for viewers over the age of 13.' So far Funimation has not announced how they are going to deal with the more violent content of Blue Gender, but it is clear that this science fiction anime has great potential. Its hero, Yuji, has been frozen for over twenty years when he awakens to find the earth now controlled by a bug-like creature known as 'blue.' With the full panoply of post-apocalyptic visual and plot devices at its disposal, Blue Gender has a real chance to connect with science fiction fans.
The problem for Funimation will be finding the right venue for these properties, especially Blue Gender. The American anime fans are already upset at the changes that network television has forced on cutting edge anime like Outlaw Star (see 'Outlaw Star Rising Fast'). If Americans are going to be able to experience anything like the full range of anime, the shows will have to escape the ghetto of children's TV with its rampant anti-violence crusaders and absolute abhorrence of anything sexual. Like the comic book, the animated cartoon suffers from the popular misconception that these art forms are somehow, by their very nature, exclusively for children. What Funimation does with Blue Gender could have a major impact on whether US television audiences will get to see more 'adult' (with a small 'a'--not hentai) anime without the insulting bowdlerization foisted on shows like Outlaw Star (where, for example, 'I'm going to 'kill' you,' is replaced with 'I am going to 'hurt' you.').