If you read Anime News Network (and there’s a pretty good chance you do), you know that they have a new column called “Tales of the Industry.” The idea behind the column is for people who have worked in the anime industry to share their horror stories and give fans a glimpse at what it REALLY looks like to work in the anime industry sometimes! The articles are written anonymously and certain details are changed, but otherwise the stories are true. Sometimes this includes masking the identity of a show the person worked on, as is the case with the latest installment called “They Shoot Their Hostages, Don’t They?” (a clever pun of the movie title “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”).
In this article the author – “Brad” – discusses a horror story about how dealing with a stubborn Japanese marketer brought down the sales of a show they had licensed (which ultimately led to the show being canceled in America) called “Mechanical Godless RINNA-CHAN.” However, if you search this title on Google you won’t find any information on this show, because this is not the name of the show. Go to the ANN message boards and you cannot speculate who the person is, who the company is, or what the show is. Your messages will be deleted. I understand this policy as the columns don’t work unless the identities are kept safe, however I am beholden to no such rules, and I have an investigative journalism degree that I have used far, far too little in my career.
So I am going to revel here what the show is. I recommend you read the article first because it is an interesting article and gives you full context of what I am talking about, but ultimately I think I have a very good idea what show “Brad” is talking about, and I will use the evidence to make my case. The first thing we know is that the show was released in Japan in the mid-nineties. It became a cult hit on the fansub scene despite being fast past-paced, full of practically untranslatable Japanese puns, and was a little girly to boot. This show was so hard to translate, that the people who worked on the English translation hated their life (this one isn’t a clue per se, but I think its fun to enforce because it will make my case much stronger).
When the show was picked up for distribution in America it was during the anime boom where DVD’s were still three to four episodes per disk and you could sell almost anything (this puts the show’s release somewhere between 1999 and 2008 in my estimation). The first disk would come with a box for later volume as well as a toy (this doesn’t narrow things down too much since this was the norm at the time). The writer also mentioned that in regards to promotional artwork, there wasn’t much, so they would have to take blurry 33mm slides, scan them into Adobe Illustrator, and ray-trace over them (search the term if you aren’t familiar with it, but pretty much means they took screen captures of the show and used them for the DVD covers).
The final clue (and what got Brad into trouble) was the keychain goodie that was included in the first DVD, which apparently wasn’t the right shade of white. This is was the clue that helped me solve the mystery of the identity of the show. Hopefully you figured out what show I’m talking about at this point, because I’m about to share the answer, and you can no longer guess. Ready? Alright, the show is:
“Kodomo no Omocha.” Otherwise known as “Child’s Toy.” Or, “Kodocha,” as it was affectionately nicknamed by fans long before the American release.
This is the show the ANN article was discussing at length. The show premiered in 1996. Funimation released the first DVD in 2005. The DVD did NOT come with a keychain, as described in the article, but it DID come with a fanny pack that displayed the shows white mascot character Babbit. The DVD was recalled at one point, and replacement copies of the special edition were never sent back out to retailers (making this a very rare and expensive collector’s item on eBay). The show was a hit early on, but at one point ad’s stopped showing up and the show died before we never got the third (and final) season, OAV’s, or movie.
The article mentions that the studio didn’t want to have something like “godless” in the title, much like I’m calling it “Child’s Toy” would raise eyebrows on an anime cover (there’s that stigma you know). He mentioned fans never forgave them for not continuing the show, and the only anime fans who are as upset at their show not being finished (aside from “Case Closed” and “Hikaru no Go” fans) are “Kodocha” fans. So the mystery is solved: “Mechanical Godless RINNA-CHAN” is really “Kodocha: Child’s Toy.” So the next time you want to grill the company who distributed this for not continuing the show, give them a break, it sounds like things were really out of their hands (and if the rumors of how difficult the demands were to get the show licensed in the first place are true, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise).