The old adage “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” isn’t just a fancy song lyric. Media that didn’t set the world alight on release can gain appeal over time by being lost to time. Fans can only dream of a version of The Thief and the Cobbler that matched the one its creator, Richard Williams, envisioned. Classic horror fans would be over the moon if a fully intact version of the 1927 vampire film London After Midnight suddenly turned up in someone’s loft.
Anime has its own missing media that have tantalized fans young and old over the years. Some may be fake like the infamous Go for a Punch/Saki Sanobashi, while others were rediscovered curios like Super Mario’s Traffic Safety. These examples are still lost, and some might not have been completed, to begin with. Nevertheless, they remain some of the most sought-after anime around.
8/8 Akihabara @Deep
Based on Ira Ishida’s 2004 novel, Akihabara @Deep followed a group of outcasts as they tried to make a new AI-driven search engine to ‘troubleshoot’ problems around the Akihabara district in Tokyo. This interests the Digital Capital corporation, who want their technology for themselves.
It’s gained a few adaptations over the years, from the noticeably lighter 2005 manga, the darker 2006 film, and a TV drama that’s somewhere in between. It was going to be adapted into a CG anime by Nickelodeon and Polygon Pictures and retooled to attract kids. No one knows how far it went into production before it was shut down and moved over to another unfinished version by Radar Productions. At least character designer Ippei Gyōbu’s art stills can still be seen.
7/8 Crayon Shin-Chan Episode 93
Crayon Shin-Chan is a TV staple in Japan. Based on the manga by the late Yoshito Usui, the anime series has been running since 1992. It’s about a little boy called Shinnosuke ‘Shin’ Nohara and his family and friends. While it has a few mature jokes here and there, the show is for all ages. But Episode 93 was deemed to be for no one, as it hasn’t been shown again since its original 1994 airing.
It was never released on home video, nor on streaming websites. The episode wasn’t dubbed into any language either. However, according to the Spanish website ShinChaneros.net, the episode was finally discovered…but only the first of its 3 segments was made public on YouTube. No one is sure why the episode was locked up, but fans’ best guess was that its 3rd segment advertising Shin-chan’s 1994 film Treasures of the Buri-Buri Kingdom would’ve been considered ‘outdated’ past the film’s release.
6/8 Doozy Bots
Saban’s animated Sailor Moon pilot was perhaps the most notorious Western adaptation of an anime to be lost, until it was rediscovered in full by YouTuber Raven ‘Ray Mona’ Simone. Its odd mix of animation and live action probably wouldn’t have caught on if it got televised. But as a secret pilot, it’s a fascinating look at what could’ve been.
That leaves Doozy Bots as the next questionably holy grail to find. It was going to be a Western adaptation of SD Gundam by Sunrise Productions, where five attitude-possessing teenagers transfer their minds into Professor Doozy’s robots and defend the world. It would’ve been released in 1991 but disappeared without a trace. Some of it was used for the Superior Defender Gundam Force series, but otherwise, all that’s left of it is a low-quality trailer.
5/8 Ghost Stories: “Am I Beautiful? Kuchisake-Onna”
Fans might recognize Ghost Stories as the horror series where a bunch of kids takes on a different spooky creature of the week. Or for its insane English dub by ADV Films that added jokes and odd character traits, like secondary lead Momoko being a hardcore Christian. However, they weren’t able to work with the show’s 3rd episode. It would’ve been about lead character Satsuki and friends coming across the Kuchisake-Onna, “The Slit-Mouthed Woman.”
She was a famous urban legend who’d either kill passers-by or slice their mouth open, depending on how they answered her question: “Am I beautiful?” The episode was advertised, but it was never shown, dubbed, or released on DVD. The reason generally given was that parents complained it was attacking people with cleft palates and lip disorders. The episode’s script was released online, along with some concept art of the Kuchisake-Onna herself.
Doraemon makes Crayon Shin-Chan look niche by comparison. The late Fujiko F.Fujio’s manga about the titular time-traveling robot cat has inspired a wide range of media since its debut in 1969. Some of which have disappeared. Its first anime series adaptation in 1973 vanished after its studio, Nippon TeleMovie Productions, went bankrupt. It was briefly rebroadcast in 1981 but was taken off TV to avoid contesting the newer Shin-Ei Animation version.
There were also a few short films that have gone into the ether. Ken-chan’s Adventure was made for the International Year of the Disabled Persons in 1981. It was about Doraemon and Nobita helping a disabled boy called Ken catch butterflies. It was shown on TV once, then never again. A Thrilling Solar Car was made for cinemas in 1992 and was about Doraemon racing characters from Q-Taro and Perman. A 1983 Taiwanese bootleg short Doraemon: Robot War, had the robot-cat trying to save Nobita from an evil scientist and his own mechanized menace.
3/8 Fist Of The North Star Uncensored
When Buronson and Tetsuo Hara’s hyper-violent ode to Bruce Lee and Mad Max got a film adaptation in 1986, fans were excited. It would’ve been less restrained compared to its TV counterpart. Sure, the plot was more truncated to fit it within 90 minutes or so. But the blood and gore would be back…and covered over with funky, 1980s VHS effects. The film is still a grisly watch, though its bloodiest scenes now look like a serial killer’s music video.
It wasn’t always like that, though. The film’s trailers showed snippets of those scenes without the effects. An old Italian VHS release actually contained a few uncensored clips. They suggest that there were some master tapes of the film available without the neon blurs. If these made it out into the wild, people could see what a truly uncensored version of Fist of the North Star at its peak would look like.
2/8 Empress Chung
For most of the world, the Korean War ended in 1953. But it’s technically still going on as North and South Korea are still in conflict with each other. Hence, why the land and sea borders between the two nations are so guarded. But that doesn’t mean the two countries haven’t been able to work together. South Korea’s AKOM collaborated with North Korea’s SEK Studio to produce a feature-length animated film.
Empress Chung was an adaptation of a famous Korean fairy tale. In it, a princess must take drastic action to save her father’s eyesight. It got some critical acclaim in Korea on its 2005 release. But its box office returns were weak, which might be why it never got a DVD release. The only traces it left are a few trailers, screenshots, and children’s books, though there are rumors it got a DVD release in North Korea.
1/8 Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood
Before the 2012 TV series adaptation, APPP Co., LTD produced an OVA series based on Part 3 of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It was more abridged than the manga, yet it retained the part’s biggest moments, including the final fight against Dio and The World. The company followed up on its cult success by making an adaptation of Phantom Blood, Jojo’s first part.
The film came out in theaters in 2007, then disappeared after that. No home release, no follow-up, no nothing. No one knows the reason why it vanished for sure. When the film’s director was asked about it in 2022, he simply said “I don’t want you to see me angry and p***** off, so it is better if I don’t answer this question.” Fans can find trailers and a sound test animation for it on YouTube, but the full film remains in limbo.
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