For those of us that came of age during the early anime period of the 1990s, 3×3 Eyes is a name many will recognize on the old fansub VHSes passed around among friends and local anime clubs. Based on the manga of the same name, the anime consisted of seven episodes of an OVA that crammed in about five volumes of manga. In it, Pai, a girl of a mysterious three-eyed race, seeks out the help of an ordinary boy, Yakumo, in her quest to become human. And, uh, sort of kills him early on. Not to worry, she only needs to suck out his soul and turn him into an undead bodyguard! He’s totally fine now. When Yakumo objects to this situation, he’s given an easy solution: get through all the hordes of supernatural creatures that want Pai dead and/or her power for themselves, and make Pai human. The way’s got to be out there somewhere…
If you enjoyed those seven episodes of anime, fear not! Around the same time, Dark Horse released the manga and published eight volumes by 2004, covering about four volumes of the original manga, and sadly, that was where it ended. Dark Horse discontinued the series after volume eight, despite the plethora of original Japanese volumes left to translate, without any easily-findable-on-Google explanation. For those that don’t read Japanese (or read it well; it’s pretty kanji-heavy), this is a fucking tragedy. Sure, there are a lot of stories that didn’t get a fair shake, series that got canceled either here or in Japan, but we literally only got a tenth of the story.
3×3 Eyes’s original run was 40 volumes (24 in its re-release in Japan in the late 2000s). But it’s 2017 now, which means it’s time for Dark Horse to finish the job and bring the rest of it to the English-speaking world. Here’s why:
- The market is not the same as it was 20 years ago. Back when Dark Horse first started releasing 3×3 Eyes in 1994, the anime and manga market was still pretty niche, mostly popping up in nerd specialty stores or a single row in bookstores. Not the case anymore. Anime is mainstream now. Anime-focused online groups, streaming sites, mainstream manga magazines, and TV blocks offer market reach that just didn’t exist years ago. In addition, English distributors have had years to improve their workflows and processes, making them cheaper and more efficient. Finally, as the market has expanded and the audience has aged, adult content is more acceptable and less likely to be censored. Which is good because 3×3 Eyes has nudity, non-consensual sex, eviscerations, gore, and a boy splattering across a police windshield…and that’s what did get released in English!
- What’s old is new again. From reboots of Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z to re-releases and new adaptations like Ushio and Tora and Hunter x Hunter, the anime and manga of the 1990s is seeing a revival. There’s never been a better time to make a buck off this IP. While the adult content does knock out the younger anime market, 3×3 Eyes, with its supernatural and fighting elements, can tap into the highly-popular shonen genre. Ushio and Tora, with the steeping of mythology and occasionally dark elements, strikes me as a pretty good match in tone and content (although, not in rating).
- They still have the license, don’t they? Okay, so maybe they don’t (it would explain the cancellation if the license had expired), but Dark Horse isn’t starting from scratch here. It’s a property that the copyright holders were clearly willing to have licensed and clearly willing to have licensed to Dark Horse specifically. If they kept their old records, they already have a head start on producing and translating the beginning of the series. And speaking of series…
- Did you know there’s more of it? The author wrote a sequel manga in 2014 and just started another last year. Depending on how standalone they are, Dark Horse could even take a Gundam Wing approach and try licensing the newer series before re-releasing the old. The 2014 manga is also only four volumes, so it’s a significantly smaller risk than a 40/24 volume series. Also, there are whispers of a possible new 3×3 Eyes anime.
- Stuff would finally make sense! The eight volumes released left a lot of open questions with the immediate arc, let alone the overall story. Not only do we find out the immediate questions of what happened with Pai when she disappeared and why she lost her memory (the cliffhanger the English release leaves off on), we find out about Pai’s past as a Sanjiyan (three-eyed person), her homeland’s fate, why the villain–Kaiyan Wang–is hunting her specifically, and what exactly the MacGuffin that’s supposed to turn her human does. (Hint: It’s not as simple as “turning her human”.)
- We never got to see Amara. C’mon. Look at this guy.
He already looks badass. And then you find out that, in order to protect his three-eyed master inside a void, he basically dies over and over again until he’s got enough corpse-material to make a motherfucking planet.
- Or Sanjiyan. Pai’s personality doesn’t just change when her third eye opens. Her third-eyed self is a whole separate personality with her own motivations, secrets, and feelings about Yakumo. Because her alter self is initially sleeping/suppressed, the volumes in English barely touch on it. This not only deprives us of a very important character, but the relationship between Pai and Sanjiyan is a bit reminiscent of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which so rarely gets a positive take.
- We never got to see a lot of characters, actually. Being a 40-volume shonen-esque manga, there are understandably a lot of characters populating it–heroes, villains, bystanders, and people we’re not really sure about. Balancing a lot of characters à la Game of Thrones is always a tricky task, so any shonen manga that makes me care about its minors, as much as its mains, gets to shut up and take my money. And hey, less of them die in 3×3 Eyes!
- Haan’s entire fucking plot arc. Okay, serious spoiler time. Haan is a magical item merchant who initially just shows up to explain where Yakumo is getting his mystical beasts, but who soon gets tied up in the whole Pai/Yakumo versus Kaiyan Wang thing, partly because he has a crush on one of the regulars, but partly because he’s a standup guy that helps his friends, even if he doesn’t have their levels of power. Things go wrong during one such encounter with Kaiyan Wang, so Haan sends his friends ahead and stays behind…and never returns. If sacrificing yourself for your friends isn’t enough of a kick in the feels for you, it’s not over. During a later arc involving some clones running around (this is during the made a motherfucking planet bit), a clone of Haan pops up. Of course, he doesn’t know the cast, but they know him. Clone!Haan’s arc revolves around trying to deal with being in the shadow of his original self and having feelings for the same girl Original!Haan did, with commentary about Clone!Haan not being a clone in soul to the original, but not quite unconnected. And if that isn’t enough of a kick in the feels, turns out Original!Haan isn’t quite dead. The two meet. And decide to combine their powers to protect the girl they love. Excuse me, I’ll be over here for a minute, making incoherent noises.
- Because we deserve nice things, dammit. Look, it’s 2017. The world is on fire, sometimes literally. But you, my audience of at least four, are wonderful, and you deserve nice things. I just want you to have a slow-burn love story between a zombie boy and the three-eyed girl that killed him, filled with all the violence and mayhem, and Indian mythology you can stand. So come on, Dark Horse. Let us give you our money.