Akemi's Anime World

ADV Films Anime Company

A bit of info about ADV Films.

Company Overview

The late ADV Films (or A.D. Vision; they never did quite make up their mind, and it doesn't stand for anything) started small back in the early '90s, just as anime was starting to take off in popularity in the US. They rapidly grew into the 800-pound gorilla of the US anime industry, with prolific and popular titles galore. They for a while took a very active role in the production of anime, financing and co-producing movies like SiN: The Motion Picture. They also branched out into a variety of peripheral areas, from manga to broadcast TV to live-action videos, both Japanese and domestic.

It was something of a surprise, then, when the company shut down abruptly in 2009. As it turns out, they were more reborn than shut down; the company sold each of its divisions to a new company, effectively splitting itself up and rebranding into more focused separate companies. The one most of interest to anime fans is Section23 Films, the North American distributor of all their former anime titles (with the exception of a few that were bought by Funimation), with the licensor Sentai Filmworks handling the backroom end of things.

Their Catalog

ADV was originally known for fun but generally lowbrow titles--a definite focus on action with early releases like Sol Bianca, Devil Hunter Yohko, New Cutey Honey, and Burn Up. Their catalog broadened drastically after those early days, and the pinnacle of it was probably the ever-popular Neon Genesis Evangelion, which saw multiple re-releases an a number of formats though the years. At their peak they had the rights to a huge number of shows, both old and new.

There was also a brief stint with a division they rather inaccurately called "fansubs," that put out quick-and-dirty subtitled-only releases of somewhat obscure TV series with a fan following but not a lot of market potential. Though that effort died quickly, the concept was sound, as such releases from several companies have become much more common in the years since.

What Their Releases Are Like

With a couple of rare exceptions ADV always released subtitled versions even back in the VHS days, and depending on the market some longer TV series were subtitled-only even on DVD.

Despite this, their translations tended to add a lot of profanity and one-liners in the subtitles, and more notably some of their dubs took significant liberties with the story. Not quite the complete rewrites of the Saturday Morning cartoon days of old, but some dubbed versions are significantly different in both character and story details.

Even before DVDs, they were good about throwing in extras; in the early VHS days they usually included production art after the program. They were also very good about subtitling songs; their later releases often included both the Japanese sing-along and English translated lyrics in the subtitles.

In the days of LaserDisc, ADV usually released bilingual sets when the demand was high enough. They were quite slow in adopting DVD, and their first discs were rough, but the quality eventually stabilized.

Their standard pattern with DVD releases of TV series was somewhat annoying for purchasers. They first released the series one disc at a time on decent single volumes. Once the series was complete, they quickly released a box set at a drastically reduced price, sometimes with additional extras or in packaging that takes up less shelf space. The sets were great value for the money, but weren't a very good encouragement to buy individual volumes as they were released. They also had a tendency to re-release titles with additional special features periodically, most notably the three separate Evangelion DVD releases, each with some addition or improvement from the last.

The one plus side of their constant repackagings is more efficient case design; they were the first anime company to my knowledge to use the thinpak-style case for box sets, as well as a variety of fat, multi-flapped box designs prior to that.

Nearly everything still in print when the company shut down in 2009 was immediately picked up by Section23 Films and released in exactly the same form; from the buyer's perspective the only real change was the logo on the box.


Other Releases

The company was also involved in some way with releasing these anime, though they're not the primary company.