Ask John: Will Windy Tales Reach America This Year?
It’s going on 5 years now. Do you think Windy Tales has a chance of an American release this year? I don’t know if it makes a difference to licensors, but Production I.G usually sell well when they’re released, and everything Junji Nishimura has done in the past has been very popular. It’s no Magical Girl Show #63, but the animation and story are genuinely unique and original enough, and an anime about wind might be relaxing for the upcoming summer months.
I’d very much like to see an official American release of the widely overlooked 2004 Fujin Monogatari television series myself, but I believe there are reasons why the show hasn’t been released in America. And regrettably I suspect that the possibility of a future American release is even less than it’s had up until now. Fujin Monogatari, or “Windy Tales” is a 13 episode series with an unconventional art design and a very placid tone. Both of those characteristics make the series unappealing to a large number of American viewers that are attracted to the more characteristic visual style of conventional anime, and attracted to the more energetic pacing, humor, and action of conventional anime. Anime productions with unique art design, such as Dead Leaves and Alexander, have reached American DVD, meeting limited success. The calming light drama anime Aria the Animation have likewise reached American DVD but has reached only a very niche audience. Combining both unconventional art design and a slow pace seems guaranteed to assure a very small American audience. And in today’s environment of reduced anime licensing and domestic licensors concentrating on titles with significant audience breakthrough potential, Windy Tales is the type of show that’s likely to be passed over for licensing consideration.
Unlike Gonzo, Studio Pierrot, and Toei – Japanese anime production studios that have made efforts to distribute their anime productions in America themselves – Production I.G has yet to release any of its anime works in America itself. Every Production I.G anime to reach America so far has been licensed and distributed by an American distributor. If American distributors are hesitant to license Windy Tales and Production I.G doesn’t take inititive to distribute the series in America itself, it’s just not going to make it to America. It’s arguably true that many of Junji Nishimura’s directorial efforts, including Ranma 1/2, Kyo Kara Maoh, Samurai Deeper Kyo, Zenki, and Simoun have received American DVD releases and varying degrees of success. But unfortunately two of his most outstanding directorial works, Windy Tales and the Violinst of Hameln television series, are unlikely to ever see official American release because they just don’t have strong American commercial potential. Windy Tales is an engaging, heartwarming, artistic series that deserves respect and praise, but the majority of American consumers, and even a large number of America’s avid anime viewers, aren’t interested in anime artistry and creativity, regardless of what they may claim otherwise. (I’m not trying to position myself as some sort of viewer elite. While I do have a tremendous appreciation for uniquely creative anime, I’m also just as big a fan of average, conventional anime.)
In years past, when the American anime distribution industry was able to sustain unusual, unconventional, and niche releases like Alexander, Dead Leaves, Spirit of Wonder, Risky Safety, Bottle Fairy, To Heart, and Someday’s Dreamers, Windy Tales may have been a viable potential American release. However, in the present American market in which even exceptional and popular titles like Lucky Star, One Piece, and Moribito are getting lessened exposure and releases delayed or canceled, there’s not much opportunity for anime with tremendously smaller audience potential, regardless of its quality. I can’t say that a domestic release for Windy Tales is impossible. The recent American distribution of titles like Aria and Tweeny Witches demonstrates that the pool of artistic and niche anime on American DVD hasn’t evaporated entirely. The possibility also exists for Production I.G to follow in the footsteps of other Japanese production houses and take a greater initiative toward presenting anime to an international audience.
It’s unfortunate that the steep downturn in audience and consumer support for anime in America is resulting in, among other effects, fewer experimental and unconventional anime titles reaching America. It’s also unfortunate that this trend may not reverse because the relative obscurity of Windy Tales demonstrates that the majority of America’s anime viewers don’t mind the absence of unique, unusual, and unconventional anime. I can’t confidently predict that Windy Tales will see an American release this year. In fact, I’m more inclined to predict that Windy Tales is one of many shows that’s only viable in the Japanese market where audience support and interest in anime is stronger than it is in America.