Pioneer – A Japanese anime company that started releasing its own titles in western territories, and did quite a good job of it too. They sported dubs that were considered the best of their time (they often dubbed the songs too) and their modern style fared well compared the creakier looking titles other companies were putting. Pioneer were onto a very good thing for a while, but ran out of good material over time and eventually had the plug pulled on them.
Recommended titles: Tenchi Muyo, El Hazard, Armitage III.
ADV Films – The UK arm of the US company that was then booming like no anime company had boomed before. ADV stood out for supplying a constant stream of anime during a time when Manga had gone into silent running mode. They also advanced the market to make releasing TV series an acceptable business practice. They had a very successful run to the point that it had the power to commission a dub for Street Fighter V exclusive to the UK and was also able to license the odd title completely independent from its American parent. It survived well into the DVD era, and deservedly so.
Recommended titles: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Martian Successor Nadesico, Dragon Half.
MVM – Functioning initially as a home delivery service for general sci-fi goods, MVM saw a good thing going and stepped up from distributor to specialised anime licensor. Starting out with AnimEigo titles (as Anime Projects had been dead for a while by this point), MVM built itself its own little corner of the market, and still does today. Yay!
Recommended titles: Kimagure Orange Road, You’re Under Arrest, Urusei Yatsura OVAs.
East2West – Big things were promised form these guys, with mixed results. They did somehow manage to organise a campaign from fans sufficient enough that the BBFC overturned its ruling to ban Kekko Kamen, but otherwise it was a brief affair with few released titles to their name.
Recommended titles: Kekko Kamen, 8 Man After, Babel II. (not so much a recommendations list - this is everything they released!).
Anime UK –Anime UK started out as a fanzine that graduated into a glossy magazine over the years. They dubbed one 3-episode tape of K.O. Century Beast Warriors, before moving on and essentially forming anime journalism in this country as we known it.
Crusader – An attempt to release anime suitable for younger audiences in a world where ‘Manga videos’ meant blood, guts and f-bombs. Catgirl Nuku Nuku was the one release, and they even dubbed the song.
Animania – To be perfectly honest I have no idea what happened with these guys. One release, then gone. Theirs was the ADV-dubbed version of Guy: Awakening of the Devil (a.k.a. Double Target) over here, minus whatever the censors cut out of it.
And that's it! As far as I'm aware, only two of the 12 companies I've mentioned are still 100% active (Manga and MVM). Everyone else either collapsed or were rebranded into new things. Quite a scary thought in all honesty, although the current DVD/Blu-Ray/digital market today is more of the same. One day we'll look back and reminisce on it all, most likely in a blog much like this one I'm sure.