Ocean’s Legend of the Galactic Heroes pilot dub surfaces over 20 years later

Legend of the Galactic Heroes is one of Japan’s beloved science fiction epics. Penned by Yoshiki Tanaka and published by Tokuma Shoten, the novel series ran between 1982 and 1987. It quickly inspired multiple anime adaptations, with the longest-running being the 110-episode direct-to-video series produced by Kitty Films from 1988 to 1997. Its unique mix of political intrigue, serialized storytelling and engaging cast of characters winning fans all over – even in markets where the franchise had been relegated to unofficial fan translations for decades.

The English-speaking world was one of those markets, though it wasn’t meant to be.

In 1999, Tokuma Shoten enlisted Outis Productions to find a suitable home for the series in the United States. To better entice potential partners, the company commissioned Vancouver’s Ocean Studios to record a pilot. Consisting of episodes 51 and 52, “Death Match at Vermillion,” it was screened to hopeful licensors and to fans at conventions like Anime Expo 99, Sakuracon 2000 and Anime Central 2000.

Maybe the show was too boring or old for television execs and too lengthy for a home-video market whose business model relied on 4-episode VHS tapes. Perhaps the Japanese rights holders were difficult to deal with. At that Anime Expo 99 panel, producer Yukio Kikukawa said there was interest from one undisclosed company, but that they felt it wasn’t a serious offer. Whatever the reason, the dub wasn’t picked up.

In 2003, Wright Staff (who manages Tanaka’s work in Japan) attempted a sub-only release of the series in the United States on DVD. Commanding a hefty US$1700 (that’s US$2368/CAD$3314 today) price tag, the company would only produce the set if they could get at least 1500 people interested in buying it. While they were confident that goal would be met, the release never materialized. It seemed as though Legend of the Galactic Heroes would forever be relegated to that small community trading fan translations.

Things changed in 2015. At that July’s Anime Expo, Viz Media announced that they would publish the first official English translation of Tanaka’s novels, with Sentai Filmworks confirming plans for a release of the anime adaptation that same day. In the years that followed, the show would become officially available for streaming and a new anime adaptation would be simulcasted by Crunchyroll with a dub from Funimation. Legend of the Galactic Heroes had finally arrived (officially) in North America.

Ocean’s pilot of the original anime, however, seemed to have been forgotten. While some clips made their way onto YouTube, it was never clear if the full thing would ever be seen. The official channels were a dead-end. Sentai’s lavish release of the series didn’t include them – or any dub whatsoever, claiming that the music and effects track no longer exists, preventing a modern one from happening.

As is often the case with these sorts of things, it showed up unannounced.

Last Friday, an anonymous user of 4chan’s Mecha board appears to have uploaded both episodes onto Veoh as “GalacticPageTurner.” More than 20 years after it was recorded, the pilot can finally be viewed by the general public.

Surprisingly, the episodes credit those involved with the production. Directed by the prolific Karl Willems, it features a cast consisting of Ari Solomon, Brad Swaile, David Kaye, Don Brown, John Payne, Michael Dobson, Michael Kopsa, Nicole Oliver, Paul Dobson, Richard Newman, Scott McNeil, Ewan “Sudsy” Clark, Ted Cole and Ward Perry. The music is retained from the Japanese version.

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