After the previous post, I wasn’t sure what I would write next. With zero Unico related news popping up, there had to be something to write about, right? I had several ideas in my head, but nothing felt right. Not going to lie, I was absolutely lost.
I mentioned my dilemma to my husband to hear his thoughts, and that’s when he suggested on writing about why Unico meant so much to me. What about Unico drives me to do what I do. At first I thought little of it. I’m not the only fan with memories of Unico in this world, so what makes my story interesting?
But then I realized something.
We all have our own Unico related tale to tell, and perhaps, if I make this post, it’ll reach those people who enjoyed the films or comics as children or adults, and they too can reminisce about Unico.
This post will serve as a timeline for not only my exposure, but for what led to the My Unico Fans website and its future.
Where to start?
Well, the obvious would be in the beginning. But everyone’s beginning is unique, right? Though my story could be like yours, I hope it’s still an enjoyable tale.
My family was stationed in Germany during the late 80s, and it was an enjoyable time. I played with my toys and ran around outside a lot because unlike today; we didn’t have computers, cellphones, and amazing gaming consoles back then to connect with people. There was only one local channel on base, the American Forces Network, that aired a handful of shows at specific times. I remember my brother and I waking up early to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and any other cartoon shows before it switched over to different programming. When the cartoons were over, that’s when you found something else to do, which sometimes included popping a VHS tape into the VCR for more cartoons.
If you weren’t around during the video rental days, you’d be surprised how important they were for entertainment. My family bought very little video tapes when I was younger, but this is because we moved every few years and the less stuff you have, the easier it is to get around — especially when overseas.
As a kid, I loved when my family went to rent movies, and remember there was a decent selection of children’s tapes to choose from. G.I. Joe, Transformers, My Little Pony, Fraggle Rock, Jem and the Holograms, The Last Unicorn, Serendipity the Pink Dragon, and more. As a huge fan of cats and adorable equines, I was always on the lookout for anything similar.
That’s when I spotted The Fantastic Adventures of Unico.
It was a white clamshell case with Unico and the other characters. The tape was on a shelf in the children’s section, and I immediately alerted one of my parents. When I got to hold the case, I couldn’t help but stare at Unico’s cute design. The art style differed from the American cartoons I was used to, but that may be why it caught my eye.
I made my selection, and my parents rented it as part of our weekend movie routine.
Once home, they popped the tape into the VCR (we had a giant top loader one), and immediately the colors, music, and unicorns grabbed my attention. Glued to the tv, I was enjoying the movie. Being only five or six, things affect you differently, so as the movie continued playing, it got closer to where Unico needed to save Katy a second time. Of course, she’s chained up on a conical roof and Unico attacks the Baron. As the Baron fell, I thought it’d be a Disney-like ending where you don’t actually see the villain dead. But nope! He gets impaled!
I remember immediately jumping up in horror and calling out to my mom because I was shocked. My mom thought the big demon on the screen frightened me, but no… just a handsome evil Baron dying by impalement on a spire.
Despite the shock, I enjoyed the movie and was happy the ending was bright. But not really, right? West Wind takes poor Unico away again, and that made me sad. There was something missing to Unico’s sad journey, and that was a happy ending. I wondered if he’d be able to have one.
This movie became a frequently rented tape while we lived in Germany. Each time the scene with the Baron was about to play, I had to look away and wait until I heard the demon form (you know the noise I’m referring to). Then it was all good.
But what happened after that?
We moved back to the states in the early 90s and a lot of the video stores did not have Unico at all. Of course, by then, my brother and I were busy watching Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and playing Super Nintendo. The songs from The Fantastic Adventure of Unico remained fully stored in my brain, though, and I think I’d still sing or hum the tunes. It wasn’t until my mom and I went to a nearby video store that I saw Unico again. It was around 1998, my interest in anime kicked into high gear, and each video store would have their own selection. Unlike today, where anime is easily accessible, you had to go searching for different series to watch. Your local video rental store, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and more were hot spots. Comic stores and conventions sometimes had fansubbed and raw anime you couldn’t find anywhere else. Yes, you could go to stores like Suncoast or Sam Goody to buy VHS tapes, but you were only getting between two to four episodes per tape for around $20 to $30 depending on if it was dubbed or subbed. Yikes!
Anyway, we went to the store and were browsing around. I found their small section of anime, which were random volumes of series like Record of Lodoss War, Patlabor, Heroic Legend of Arsland, and so on. While waiting for my mom and brother to make their selection, I wandered around to see what other movies they had. The moment I turned, there it was. The Fantastic Adventures of Unico in that white clamshell.
I was calm, but deep down I was extremely happy because it had been eight years since the last time I saw it. There it was again, staring at me like it did before. Pretty sure I pointed it out to my mom, as I knew she’d recognize it right away as the “movie you had us rent all the time when you were little.”
Did we rent it?
Not that day, but knowing it was there waiting for me whenever I dropped by was a great feeling. I could relive my younger childhood memories and still enjoy anime. And no, the Baron falling didn’t make me upset anymore. It ended up more comical because I never realized how easily he fell.
While happy to see Unico again by the end of the 90s, I didn’t have anyone else to talk to about the movie. In fact, I still had no clue Unico in the Island of Magic existed. The video stores I went to never had the other film, and I missed The Disney Channel airing both movies during the 80s because I was in Germany.
As my thirst for anime (sometimes referred to as Japanimation in those days, haha) grew, I started picking up magazines like MixxZine and Animerica which featured all kinds of comics and anime series. As I didn’t have a computer, this was a great way to find pen pals who enjoyed the same anime as me. In fact, I sent a letter in to Animerica about Sailor Moon and they actually published it. Since I was okay with them sharing my address, I started receiving a ton of letters. People from all over were reaching out to talk to me about Sailor Moon, and it was fun to keep in touch with them. Unfortunately, still no one to talk to about Unico.
Then Technology Changed
The late 90s and early 00s had an explosion of ways to connect with people. Websites like DeviantArt, Livejournal, Myspace, and Yahoo! Groups were popular places to find others who enjoyed specific fandoms. If it didn’t exist, you could make your own! Other places frequented were BBS (bulletin boards), chatrooms, forums, mIRC, mailing lists, webrings, etc.
But I wasn’t able to do any of that yet. I didn’t have a computer!
I ended up moving once again in 2001, and this time I was starting my senior year at a new school. I didn’t know anyone, yet somehow, a group of juniors noticed me as the odd new kid and pulled me into their little tribe. This was a relief because I honestly did not know how I’d be able to make friends. While I was used to moving and having to make new friends every few years, it felt harder to do as I got older.
While outside chatting with the group, I noticed a girl named Jackie had a sticker of a familiar character and I gasped. Yep, you guessed it! It was Unico!
Again, I was surprised. Is Unico following me? After years of feeling like the only one who remembered the little unicorn, it was the first day of school and here was a group of people who knew! I couldn’t believe it. She even had extra stickers, which I lovingly placed on my temporary school ID. Now Unico would always be with me!
Needless to say, I was happy the group let me sit with them and become friends. It was also thanks to Jackie — who totally had her own fansite titled My Unico Hole-in-the-Wall — I learned about popular Unico related places online. I joined DeviantArt, Livejournal, Yahoo! Groups and other sites to chat with others. There were people uploading fanart and talking about Unico, and it was like hitting the jackpot. I was getting exposed to more and more information, and it inspired me to learn more about Unico’s origins. Until then, it hadn’t clicked that Osamu Tezuka was Unico’s creator. Sure, I saw his name in the credits, but I was just a kid and didn’t put two and two together. These other fans knew, and I was like a newborn arriving late to the Unico fandom world.
Thanks to Jackie, I finally watched Unico in the Island of Magic as she had the VHS tape. I was surprised to see it after all those years. While happy to see Unico on another adventure, he was taken away again. Why couldn’t Unico be happy? Ugh, poor little guy.
Fansite and Importing From Japan
After graduating high school and shuffling into college, I found myself in Multimedia Graphic Design courses. While I made goofy anime fansites and shrines using basic HTML on hosts like Angelfire and Geocities in the 90s, I was now learning to use programs like Photoshop and Dreamweaver to design websites. This helped me with graphic design, but I really didn’t want to be a web designer. Instead, I used my new skills to create my first Unico fansite called Kawaii Unico in 2007 (totally later than all the other sites lol). Similar to sites back then, I wanted it to be informative, and that’s when my researching began.
But I live in the US, how could I get my hands on Japanese goods?
This is when I learned about proxy services. In the past, I had to buy items on eBay, Yahoo! Auctions (shut down in 2003), YesAsia, CDJapan, and other websites. Thanks to learning some Japanese in high school, and taking two semesters in college, that beginner level of Japanese helped me find Unico related books and items from Japanese websites. Now I was getting material I could use for my site and also creating a collection.
Japan had released both films and pilot episode on DVD in the early 00s, and while I had to change my computer’s region settings to view the DVDs, it was the first time watching the movies in better quality. Thanks to torrents, I downloaded The Fantastic Adventures of Unico because I didn’t have it on VHS and there were no signs of anyone picking it up. This is around the time I made my video edits using the footage from the Japanese DVDs and the dubbed audio from VHS quality downloads. Suddenly I had the movie in DVD quality with the English dub.
Thankfully, it was only a few years later that Discotek announced both movies and pilot episode were coming to DVD with both English and Japanese languages. No longer would I have to watch my digital copies! I could just pop in the DVDs!
When my oldest daughter was born, I made family my focus and stepped back from Unico and other anime related things. Since I wasn’t able to devote time to my fansite, I let it expire. Looking back at my old website, I can see my early attempts at researching and trying to share my findings. For that, I have to pat my old self on the back because I really tried with limited resources. My Unico Fans has much more information now, but I can’t ignore those early stages.
Returning to Unico
Because of my long hiatus, I had a lot of catching up to do regarding news and information involving Unico. Thanks to social media changing the way the world communicated, a lot of sites had closed down because of inactivity. Yahoo! announced they were closing Yahoo! Groups by January 2021, and so that meant groups like Unico Fans Unite! would disappear for good because no one used the services. I also missed the Kickstarter for the English translated version of the Unico manga, and all the limited goodies coming out in Japan. It wasn’t until coronavirus and my kids getting older that I had more time to devote to something again. My work moved most of us into remote positions, so I was home more. Not being able to go out much made it harder to do things, though. I needed another focus besides the everyday mom’s life.
That’s when that rapscallion Unico popped up again.
While looking through a hard drive for something unrelated, I saw a folder with my old website’s files and clicked through it. A wave of nostalgia hit me, and I saw all the images I had saved from websites over the years. My old information and files were all there, as if waiting for my return.
During that time, I was helping my friend Jarod with his vintage anime group on Facebook, so I was heavily into older series, their creators, history, and more. Unico easily fit into that category and so out of curiosity, I casually started looking up things again. There were a couple of books that I had never picked up, so I looked at a few websites and bam! There they were! I felt like I won the lottery, and without hesitating, I quickly snagged the books and a few other items.
When they arrived, I was giddy. The last time I had thought about buying something Unico related was before my daughters were born, so it felt nice to buy those items for myself again.
A New Website!
I flip-flopped with the idea of creating a website. Sure, I could just sit on my butt and collect Unico things, but there was a ton of information not translated into English or any other language from what I could see. Then I thought about it. Nobody made fansites anymore. With websites like Wikipedia and Anime News Network, you don’t have to go far to get information and news all in one spot. No one will care my site exists. But despite that, I love diving deep into research and archiving information. The itch to create a site was definitely in the back of my mind. Maybe the universe was trying to tell me to do it.
Strangely, that’s when I discovered someone had purchased my old website’s URL and reused the design I had created. This isn’t uncommon, and it’s my fault I let it expire, but it was now being used as a blog site for ads. If I wanted to create a website, I would need to come up with a new name.
During the 80s, the Unico products they released often had “My Unico” in English on them. It was a very cute and Sanrio way of promoting products, and one I really enjoyed. Since I was a fan of My Unico items, I figured other people were as well. We are fans of Unico, My Unico Fans. Out of my ideas, that was the name that stuck.
Getting Started Again
On July 2021, I finally had the courage to create the website and started putting information on it. In the beginning, I mainly focused on translating and keeping up with news from Japan. Then I branched out into areas where there was a lack of information in English. The First Grader version of Unico needed more love, so I started there. The same month I made the post about the missing chapters (April 2022), news about the Kickstarter for Gurihiru and Samuel Sattin’s Unico: Awakening was spreading. This was an amazing moment, and the timing couldn’t have been better as I launched my website a few months prior.
While Unico is well known and loved in Japan, he’s deeply influenced people in the US and other countries over the years. There are so many regular people like me, and talented people out there who were influenced by the little unicorn and his friends. When I see references to Unico, like Sir Slicer in Adventure Time, it makes me smile because someone obviously read the comics or watched the movies.
I’ve continued updating the website, and it’ll be two years old this July 16. My goals haven’t changed, and the focus is still to provide information and news to those who are seeking a more in-depth look at Osamu Tezuka’s Unico series. I feel Unico is an important part of Tezuka’s legacy, and truly needs more love and appreciation.
I absolutely appreciate all those who visit this website, whether it’s because you’re looking for information or to see the latest news. Personally, I enjoy researching and writing, so this site has given me the perfect outlet to do that. I’m excited to share the latest information I’ve been able to get my hands on, but it will take some time to translate and compile everything. Once Unico: Awakening is released, you bet I’ll update the site as well.
At this point, I have little else to say, except thank you. I hope you’ll continue to visit now and then.
– The two animated gifs used for this post are from FABLE: Unico Shrine. They were a part of the website’s Unico Adoption Agency that allowed others to adopt and display a character on their own website. The page is still up, and you can look through all the other images. I remember checking out other websites and them having a few characters from FABLE. Bit of a warning: Angelfire hasn’t changed at all, so you’ll be met with ad bars.
– When Livejournal was popular, We Love Unico! was the community I was familiar with. It still exists, but hasn’t been updated in 13 years. It’s quite entertaining to go back and read. Most of us moved on to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and so on.