Update: TMS has disabled embedding for the Sherlock Hound episodes. Sigh. It's always two steps forward, one step back, isn't it? Alright, class, repeat after me - embedding! is! good!
Excellent news for Ghibli Freaks and animation lovers everywhere. Japan's Telecom studio, aka TMS, is releasing Sherlock Hound, the entire series, on YouTube.
TMS has begun by releasing the original six episodes from 1981 - the Hayao Miyazaki-directed episodes. Wise move, very wise move. For anime fans, these are the shows to watch, the pure gold. When the series was revived a few years later, the original production team was long gone, most of them following Miyazaki to the newly-formed Studio Ghibli.
Unless I'm mistaken, the Pioneer DVD set is now out of print. So either you'd have to track those discs down - and the Miyazaki episodes are scattered across three DVDs - or hunt around the internet for fansubs. Now Telecom has delivered the goods in a major way.
The next step for Telecom, obviously, is to release Sherlock Hound on iTunes. This is something that I've been shouting about for some time, and I've devoted a number of blog posts to the idea. I think this is way for independent animation to find its audience - by taking advantage of the digital distribution channels of the internet.
For anime fans, this really is the future. Manufacturing and production costs for DVD sets are enormously expensive, and most of these classic series and movies are too obscure, or fit outside the acceptable "anime cliques," to ever sell. The internet is the key to finding those audiences. Digital distribution is essential, and YouTube must be seen as an ally, not a rival. Building loyalty and word-of-mouth is essential to any sort of future.
For taking these early steps, TMS should be congratulated. Sherlock Hound will now find an audience. That's much better than clinging to antiquated copyright law. I hope they can find a way to make this work.