The classic anime Galactic Patrol Lensman will NEVER get a re-release. Is this anime lost media? If so, why?
There are some anime that go out of print due to legal reasons, but some anime are effectively lost pieces of media, available only on VHS or laserdisc. Such is the case of Galactic Patrol Lensman, which came out in 1984 and will never be re-released on digital or home media. Only the first six episodes and the movie were released on Laserdisc in Japan. The movie aired on The Sci-Fi Channel’s anime block in the ’90s, while the first four episodes of the TV series were edited into another movie by Harmony Gold USA, best known for releasing Robotech. So why are the Lensman anime, both the series and the movie, so hard to find these days?
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What is Galactic Patrol Lensman About?
Galactic Patrol Lensman is a sci-fi anime centered around Lensman — a form of space law enforcement that traverses the galaxy to stop crime. Like the Judges from Judge Dredd, they can execute criminals on the spot. However, only a select few are skilled enough to qualify as a Lensman. Their weapons are the “lens,” which can allow them to manipulate the world around them, generating weaponry and defense, communicate with alien life forms and other such abilities.
The series follows the adventures of one particular Lensman, Kimball Kinnison, who joins the force after another Lensman crashes into his farm. In his last moments alive, the pilot of this ship gives Kinnison the Lens, which grafts itself onto Kinnison’s hand. From there, he’s compelled into a great epic battle against an evil empire and various criminals across the world.
The Lensman film takes place in a separate continuity from the TV anime that draws from the same general story but stands on its own. The movie is notable for being one of the first anime to incorporate CG animation. While the effects are incredibly dated, it was ahead of its time.
Why Was Galactic Patrol Lensman Never Re-Released?
Galactic Patrol Lensman is based on a series by iconic sci-fi writer E. E. “Doc” Smith, written back in the 1920s and ’30s. The novels proved to be a gigantic influence on future science fiction, especially on Green Lantern and Star Wars. The book created several of the hard sci-fi space opera tropes used to this day. The anime drew controversy from long-time sci-fi buffs for oversimplifying Doc Smith’s hard scientific writing.
Though the Smith estate did sell off the rights to adapt Lensman, Smith’s daughter insisted that the film was produced illegally. Ultimately, the Smith Estate was incredibly disappointed with the final product.
While it is hard to determine exactly why Galactic Patrol Lensman was never re-released after the ’90s, many people speculate the core reason has to do with the Smith Estate refusing to allow it to be re-released. Currently, all rights to all Lensman franchises are held by the Smith Estate. This means that, if they chose to, they could push for a rerelease. Their inertia on reviving Lensman is evidence that they are at least an obstacle to a rerelease.
The Lensman anime is now considered lost media, due to there being no modern re-release of the series. This is a shame since so many old anime are finding renewed life on streaming services. Anime like Violence Jack and Lily Cat, which for years lacked rereleases, are now available for free on services like Retro Crush. It seems unusual that Galactic Patrol Lensman remains so hidden in obscurity. If the Smith Estate is responsible for keeping this anime under wraps, that would be an incredibly disappointing but difficult to overturn obstacle keeping fans from discovering this classic ’80s anime.
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