Thursday, March 21, 2019

Manxmouse

Paul Gallico was an American-born author who lived in England (and other parts of the world) and wrote popular fiction for both adults and children. His best known works include Mrs. 'arris Goes to Paris and its sequels, The Snow Goose, Love of Seven Dolls, and The Poseidon Adventure. The last two were adapted into smash movies, namely, Lili (1953) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). He wrote several very popular stories about cats, including The Silent Miaow and Thomasina, The Cat Who Thought She Was God, which was also made into a a movie. His 1968 children's novel, Manxmouse, was a childhood favorite of J. K. Rowling. It was adapted in 1979 as a Nippon Animation TV special with the title Tondemo Nezumi Daikatsuyaku (The Great Adventures of an Outlandish Mouse), or more simply, Manxmouse. It was dubbed into English, with different songs and a somewhat altered script. This is the first subtitled version in English.

Manxmouse tells the story of a ceramic mouse created by a tipsy potter. The mouse has no tail, long ears, and powerful hindquarters. Hence, its creator calls it a Manx Mouse, by analogy with a Manx Cat. At some point, the mouse comes to life. Because it was created rather than born, it has no mouse-like instincts; in particular, it has no fear. During its travels, the mouse meets many creatures and people, including a shape-shifting ghost that is baffled by a creature without fear; a hawk that thinks it's an airplane pilot; a young schoolgirl, who gives the mouse a formal name (Harrison G. Manxmouse); a runaway circus tiger named Burra Khan; an unscrupulous pet shop owner, who wants to sell Manxmouse for a fortune; and finally the legendary Manx Cat himself, which, according to the Book of Doom, is destined to eat Manxmouse in a single bite.


Needless to say, all ends happily, as is only proper in a G-rated children's cartoon.

Manxmouse presented unusual translation issues, most of which can be summed up in a single question: where the Japanese dialog and the original English text differ, which should be followed? For better or worse, most of the Japanese dialog is translated as is, with one significant exception: the name of the main character. In Japanese, the mouse is called Tondemo Nezumi (Outrageous Mouse). I've stuck with Manxmouse; the Japanese localization obscures the main joke (a tailless mouse is a Manx Mouse). Otherwise, the Japanese dialog prevails.
  • In the book, the mouse starts life in the village of Buntingdowndale. In the movie, this became Tanizoko-don, translated as Gorgebottom. (The dub uses Dondowndale.)
  • In the book, the shape-shifting ghost is called a Clutterbumph. In the movie, it has a name, Dororon, simply transliterated.
  • In the book, neither the potter nor Burra Khan's trainer have names, and the greedy pet shop proprietor is Smeaton rather than Benten.
When the mouse is being referenced as an instance of the mythical breed or species of tailless mice, it is called a Manx Mouse. When it is addressed by name, it is Manxmouse. On the other hand, a Manx Cat is always Manx Cat, whether general or the specific individual Thomas R. Manx Cat. That's how the book does it; go figure.

The voice actors mostly predate current anime.
  • Masako Nozawa (Manxmouse) is a legend. She played the leads in 30000 Miles Under the Sea, The Adventures of Gamba, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry no Bouken, Billy Inu nan demo Shoukai, and Hey! Bumboo. She was Enma-kun in the original Dororon Enma-kun, Son Goku in the original Dragonball, and Kitarou in the original 1968 and 1971 versions of GeGeGe no Kitarou as well as Hakaba Kitarou. Even though her first role was in 1965, she is still active, appearing as Obaba in Ping Pong the Animation, Madame Curie in Marie & Gali, and of course, Medama Oyaji in current the version of GeGeGe no Kitarou. She won a lifetime achievement award in 1997.
  • Ryuji Saikachi (Meyer the tipsy potter) played Nurarihyon in the 1968 and 1971 versions of GeGeGe no Kitarou. He also appeared in Sangokushi 2 (1986), an Orphan release.
  • Nagai Ichirou (Dororon) starred in numerous shows, playing grandfather Jigoro in Yawara!, the off-the-wall narrator in Gosenzosama Banbanzai!, Professor Hajime in Queen Millennia, and Happosai in the Ranma 1/2 franchise. He appeared in Nora, Hidamari no Ki, Yuukan Club, and Yamato 2520, all Orphan releases.
  • Kazuko Sugiyama (the school girl, Wendy H. Troy) played Heidi in Heidi, Girl of the Alps, Akane in the Dr. Slump franchise, Maria in The Royal Tutor, and Ten in Urusei Yatsura.
  • Teiji Oomiya (the tiger, Burra Khan) appeared in both Speed Racer and the original Doraemon.
  • Kihara Shoujirou (Captain Hawk) had featured roles in Perrine, Space Runaway Ideon, and the City Hunter franchise.
  • Kazuo Kumakura (Thomas R. Manx Cat) appeared in both the 1963 and 1980 versions of Astro Boy. He played Papa Panda in Panda Gopanda, Oz in The Wizard of Oz movie, Sima Hui in Sangokushi, and Inspector Unmei in Akuma Tou no Prince: Mitsume ga Tooru; the last two are Orphan releases.
  • Ishizaka Kouji (Narrator) also provided the narration for Gallery Fake.
The director, Saitou Hiroshi, directed many World Masterpiece Theater series, including Heidi, Girls of the Alps, Katry, the Cow Girl, Lucy-May of the Southern Rainbow, and the first half of Perrine. The music and songs are forgettable faux-Disney.

Moho Kareshi did the original translation. laalg checked the dialog and translated the songs. ninjacloud timed. I edited and typeset (very little to do there). BeeBee and Nemesis QCed. Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded from a Japanese laserdisc that Iri purchased in Japan. The source isn't great, but it seems fairly unlikely that Manxmouse will get a digital release.

Manxmouse is episodic and doesn't have much in the way of dramatic tension, but it is competently made and far less twee than the original book. You can pass a pleasant afternoon with Harrison G. Manxmouse and his friends, knowing that there will be lots of good company as well as tea and cookies. You can get Manxmouse from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

This is the last of our "creature features" for a while; no dogs, cats, or other critters in the backlog at the moment. You'll just have to make do with people.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Al Caral no Isan v2

Al Caral no Isan (The Legacy of Al Caral) is a 1992 science-fiction OVA. It is based on a one-volume manga by Michihara Katsumi, who also wrote Joker: Marginal City. Orphan released the first English version of the OVA in 2017. At that time, I wrote "The raw is from the Internet and could be better. If anyone has an original Japanese laserdisc (Al Caral was never released on DVD), please let us know." Eventually, the laserdisc turned up on the second hand market in Japan. I bought it, and after a series of lengthy delays, it reached Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions. He made a new encode, and Orphan is now releasing an updated version based on his encode.


As usual, I won't rehash my comments from the original blog post. Back then, I thought Al Caral no Isan was an interesting take on the First Contact theme. Watching it again, I enjoyed it even more. I particularly like the way it steers clear of both the alien superiority and the human triumphalism tropes. Instead, it shows how arrogance, misunderstandings, and lack of empathy can come fatally close to undermining the best of intentions.

As I said in the original post, the voice cast is stellar.
  • Hisakawa Aya (Shana) has had a prolific career. She played the title roles in Mamono Hunter Youko, Voogie's Angel, and Iria: Zeiram, Skuld in the Ah! My Goddess franchise, Cerberus in Card Captor Sakura, Sailor Mercury in the Sailor Moon franchise, Yuki in Fruits Basket, Haruka in RahXephon, Youko in The Twelve Kingdoms,and Storm in X-Men. She starred as Mishima Misako in Yume Tsukai and Koneko in Ear of the Golden Dragon, both Orphan projects.
  • Tanaka Hideyuki (Harmer) has also had a long career, including featured roles as Jarvis in Daddy Long Legs, Terryman in the Kinnikuman franchise, and Rayearth in Magic Knight Rayearth. He also played Sammy in Bavi Stock, Katze in Ai no Kusabi, and Sawamura in Nozomi Witches, all Orphan projects. He will be appearing in the forthcoming Ultraman series.
  • Orikasa Ai (Toryune) made her debut in Shoukoushi Cedie. She played the title role in Romeo no Aoi Sora, Sara in Eien no Filena (an Orphan project), Fee in Planetes, Seguchi Touma (the record company president) in Gravitation, Quatre in Gundam Wing, and Ryouko in the Tenchi Muyo franchise.
  • Hori Hideyuki (Zach Isedo) played Sid in Ai no Kusabi, Falk Green in Hi-Speed Jecy, and Baraba in Eien no Filena, all Orphan projects. He played the title role in Baoh, Phoenix in the Saint Seiya franchise, and the Tezuka Osamu himself in the Black Jack TV series.
  • Satou Masaharu (the villainous Prof Jason) played numerous features roles in the Dragonball, Dr. Slump, and Transformers franchises. He recently appeared in the current version of GeGeGe no Kitarou.
  • Fujimoto Yuzuru (the sympathetic Prof Hanagi) played numerous featured roles over a career that spanned 50 years.
  • Yamada Eiko (Vee) played Tarou in the Captain Tsubasa franchise as well as numerous other featured roles.
The music, by synthesizer player Kotaki Mitsuru, is repetitive and hypnotic.

Sunachan, the original translator, used this opportunity to punch up a few lines, and I fixed a few errors. Yogicat tweaked the timing for the new raw. I reset the signs and avoided editor's remorse as much as I could. BeeBee did QC for this version. The raw, encoded by Erik of Piyo Piyo productions from a Japanese laserdisc, is a significant improvement over the original, which had been given too much gamma correction and was washed out in bright scenes.

If you've already downloaded and watched Al Caral no Isan, this version is the one to archive. If not, I urge you to get to get it and immerse yourself in the story of the fateful first encounter between humankind and the Saanan. You can get Al Caral no Isan v2 from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #new on irc.rizon.net.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Akatsuki no Yona OADs

This release is a double pleasure: it completes an orphan series, and it allows me to revisit one of my favorite shows of all time, Akatsuki no Yona (Yona of the Dawn). I'm really pleased to announce the completion of the Akatsuki no Yona OADs (original animation discs). This project started in FFF (a terrific fansubbing group) but was shelved when the group went semi-comatose, with the first episode released, the second episode QC-ready, and the third fully translated. I was really unhappy about this because I had edited both the series and the OADs, and I had bought the OADs themselves out of pocket. When more than a year had passed with no activity, I asked the former leader of FFF for permission to finish the OADs in Orphan and release them. He graciously agreed, so now here they are, at last.


If you're not familiar with Akatsuki no Yona, then go watch the series first, because the OADs assume you know the characters and the story. (You can read my blog post on the original series as a cheat, but it's really not sufficient). The first OAD is a side story adapted from a pair of chapters in volume 12 of the manga, "On That Back" and "Ki-ja." It tells some of the backstory for Ki-ja, the current White Dragon. The second and third OAD are a summary of volumes 21 and 22 of the manga and tell the backstory of Zeno, the Yellow Dragon, who was only introduced in the last episode of the TV series. The first is humorous and shows off the camaraderie of Yona's little band, but the second and third epitomize the traits that made the series itself such a standout: complex characters, power politics, and  an overarching, compassionate humanity.

A brief note on staffing.
  • Translation: deltakei (all)
  • Timing: Naine (ep1, ep2), Yogicat (ep3)
  • Editing: Collectr (all)
  • Typesetting: Eien (ep1), kme (ep2), kme and Collectr (ep3 - kme did the hard stuff)
  • QC: FFF (ep1), BeeBee (all), Nemesis (ep2, ep3)
  • Encoding: Eien (all)
  • Raw acquisition: Skr (all)
Ep1 is basically the original FFF release with a few minor tweaks; ep2 was QCed in Orphan; ep3 was finished in Orphan from timing onward. Apportioning credit (or blame) is too complicated, so all three are joint FFF and Orphan releases. I want to thank everyone involved from both groups for bringing the project to fruition.

In the OADs, the core voice actors all have their moments to shine.
  • Saito Chiwa (Yona) played leads roles in the Aria franchise, the Broken Blade franchise, Kokoro Toshokon, Read or Die (TV), Dears, Midori no Hibi, Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase, Sunabouzu, Brave Story, and the -monogatari properties, among numerous other roles.
  • Maeno Tomoaki (Hak) played Abeno in both seasons of Fukijen no Mononokean, Saku in Sora no Manimani, Junichi in the Amagami SS properties, Touya in White Album, and Camus in the Uta no Prince-sama franchise. He appeared in Super Lovers, Sousei no Onmyouji, ACCA, Gakuen Babysitters, and many other recent series.
  • Suwabe Junichi (Jae-ha, the Green Dragon) played Fuuma in the later X properties, Archer in the Fate Stay/Night franchise, Ren in the Uta no Prince-sama franchise, the titles roles in Cuticle Detective Inaba and Space Dandy, Yaichirou in Uchouten Kazoku, Worick in Gangsta, Hayama in the Shokugeki no Souma franchise, and Bonten in Amatsuki (an Orphan release), among many appearances.
  • Morita Masakazu (Ki-ja, the White Dragon) played Ryuuji in the Ring ni Kakero properties, Keiji Maeda in the Sangoku Basara franchise, Barnaby in Tiger and Bunny, Tennouji in Rewrite, Satou in the Major franchise, and many other roles.
  • Okamoto Nobuhiko (Sin-ha, the Blue Dragon) played the male lead in Persona: Trinity Soul, Asu no Yoichi, Yumekui Merry, Mayo Neko Overrun, Sekaichi Hatsukoi, the Ao no Exorcist franchise, Acchi Kochi, Hagure Yuusha no Aesthetica, Code: Breaker, and many other shows.
  • Shimono Hiro (Zero, the Yellow Dragon) starred as Hiro in ef: A Tale of Memories, Jin in Kannagi, Tetsu in Cencoroll,  Haruka in Yosuga no Sora, Ryuuji in Dragon Crisis, Hayao in 30-sai no Hoken Taiiku, You in Ben-tou, Seki in Tonari no Seki-kun, Jirou in DAYS, Jean in ACCA, Popuko in Pop Team Epic, and numerous other show.
  • Minagawa Junko (Yun) starred as Shingo in Uninhabited Planet Survive, Thoma in Fantastic Children, Ritsuka in Loveless, Ryouma in the Prince of Tennis franchise, Ren in Super Lovers, and lots of other roles.
  • Kobayashi Yuusuke (Su-won) only appears briefly in the epilogue. He starred in Selector Infected WIXOSS, Nozo x Kimi, Shimoneta to Iu Gainen, Comet Lucifer, Witch Craft Works, Arslan Senki (2016), Bubuki Buranki, Imouto sea Ireba Ii, Re: Zero, Gundam Build Divers, and many other recent series.
The director, Yoneda Kazuhiro, also directed the most recent Hoozuki no Reitetsu series. The spare and sometimes haunting background music is by Ryou Kunihiko, who wrote the scores for other fantasy epics, including The Twelve Kingdoms, Saiunkoku Monogatari, and Tegami Bachi.

One translation note: the ending song in episode 2 includes a brief prelude, first heard in episode 24 of the TV series. It is not in Japanese. Some online sources believe it is Chinese and have provided a translation on that basis, but Mandarin speakers I've consulted are uncertain. So the prelude has been left untranslated, just as in the TV series.

Is this the (anime) end for Yona and her merry band? I'm very much afraid that it is. There's more than enough manga material for another 24 episodes, but there's no sign of a sequel. Shoujo epics are out of fashion, I guess. Meanwhile, you can get the Akatsuki no Yona OADs from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.



Thursday, February 28, 2019

Tsuki ga Noboru made ni v2 (Laserdisc)

It's been not quite two years since Orphan's initial release of the wonderful 1991 OVA, Tsuki ga Noboru made ni (By the Time the Moon Rises). That version used a VHS source. At the time, I wrote,  "If we manage to find [the laserdisc version], we'll release a v2 with a new encode." We did, and we are.

Tsuki ga Noboru made ni was and is one of the best OVAs Orphan has released - a deceptively simple and very moving story about the power of stories, compassion, and forgiveness in our lives. I won't repeat everything I wrote about the original release; see the original blog entry for more details about the show.

The visual differences between the original version (VHS) and this one (laserdisc) are fairly obvious: less blurring, more vivid colors. The audio differences are equally striking. The VHS rip is noticeably longer, and its audio is a bit deeper in tone than the laserdisc rip. We've verified that the LD player is correctly calibrated for speed, so it's likely that the VHS player was running slow, but you never know with analog sources.


The audio differences completely gummed up the automated retiming tool called sushi (the first time that's ever happened), so the show was retimed by hand. Yogicat did both the original timing and the revised timing. The more vibrant colors required me to redo the typesetting. BeeBee did a release check on the new version. Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded from a laserdisc I bought off Ebay. Iri's original translation, my edit, and Calyrica's and Nemesis' QC are pretty much unchanged, except for a few added line breaks and a timing fix.

In the original release note, I neglected to discuss the voice cast, other than Takeda Tetsuya, who created the show and played the nameless old man who narrates the inner story.  Some of the other actors were:
  • Miyauchi Kouhei (grandfather in the inner story) usually played elderly men or authority figures. He appeared in many Orphan releases, including Condition Green, Grimm Douwa: Kin no Tori (King Kaiser), Nozomi Witches (Eddie), Sangokushi 2 (1986), Stop!! Hibari-kun, and Techno Police 21C (Brigadier Hamilton). He had a recurring role as Kame Sennin in the Dragon Ball franchise.
  • Suzuki Reiko (grandmother in the inner story) usually played elderly women. She appeared as Matsuda's mother in Yawara!, Megabaa in Dennou Coil, Jakotsu-baba in the 2007 version of GeGeGe no Kitarou, Kyousuke's grandmother in the Kimagure Orange Road franchise, and old lady Honke in My Neighbor Totoro. She also appeared in Eguchi Hisashi no Nantoko Narudesho!, an Orphan release.
  • Matsuoka Youko (boy in the inner story) played the title role in the 1990's incarnation of GeGeGe no Kitarou, among many other roles. She played Ralph in Eguchi Hisashi no Kotobuki Gorou Show, an Orphan release.
  • Michihiro Ikemizu (father in the framing story) had many featured roles, appearing in Ginga Nagareboshi Gin, Gunsmith Cats, Judo Sanka, Justy, and Urusei Yatsura.
Yamamoto Eiichi's direction continues to impress me with its simplicity and assuredness. The music, by Watanabe Toshiyuki, is unobtrusive and complements the show well. Watanable also wrote the scores for two other Orphan releases, Fukuyama Gekijou and The Girl from Phantasia

Some translation notes.
  • The sign over the mine is fokoku kyouhei (Enrich the state, strengthen the military). It was adopted as the state slogan in the Meiji era to replace sonnou joui (Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians). Both are yojijukugo: phrases or memes consisting of four kanji characters. In Meiji times, the slogan was a rallying cry for the new regime. In the OVA, it carries a more sinister connotation, like Arbeit Macht Frei over the gates of Nazi concentration camps.
  • The Emperor's surrender rescript, broadcast on August 15, is known as the Jewel Voice Recording, because the Emperor spoke in classical Japanese that few could understand. He never said explicitly than Japan was surrendering, and a radio announcer had to add a clarification to that effect.
If you've already watched Tsuki ga Noboru made ni, here's a chance to renew your acquaintance with this excellent show. If you haven't, you're in for a treat. You can get the OVA from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Oedo wa Nemurenai!

The Margaret video series was a set of six shoujo OVAs released at monthly intervals in 1993. They were based on manga published in Margaret magazine and animated by Madhouse. In chronological order, they were:
Orphan has released A-Girl, Kisa wa Me ni Shite, POPS, Singles, and Oshare Kozou wa Hanamaru. We're pleased to bring you the last of the six, Oedo wa Nemurenai! (Oedo Never Sleeps!). It's based on Honda Keiko's five-volume manga, which has been completely scanlated into English.

All the Margaret OVAs until now have focused on the romantic tribulations of young women in modern settings. Oedo wa Nemurenai! is a departure. It's set in historical Edo (old Tokyo) during the 18th century. It borrows a character and some of its style from a famous kabuki play. It contains supernatural elements. And finally, the heroine is a young courtesan in the Yoshiwara red-light district. It's shoujo, for sure, but not the routine shoujo of the other five OVAs.

The story focuses on three principal characters: Usugumo, the "number one girl" at Miura-ya, a Yoshiwara brothel, and still a virgin at 14; Aoto Touichirou, nominally a western doctor but really a secret agent; and Bentenkozou Kikunosuke, a chivalrous thief. Usugumo is actually the daughter of the Shogun and a Christian courtesan; Aoto has been assigned to protect her. Usugomo attracts the unwanted attention of the heir to the Kaga clan, who wants to ravish her, and of court assassins, who want to bury the Shogun's secret forever. The two men in her life must protect her life and future.


The voice cast has many well-known seiyuu of the era:
  • Hidaka Noriko (Usugumo) played Satsuke in My Neighbor Totoro, Akane (the female lead) in Ranma 1/2, Peter in Peter Pan no Bouken, Mrs. Yamada (the mother) in the first two Chi anime series, Near in Death Note, and Kikyo in the Inuyasha franchise. She played Yuuki in Boyfriend and Noriko in Yuukan Club, both Orphan releases. She is still active and recently appeared in Little Witch Academia.
  • Tanaka Hideyuki (Aoto) has had a long career, including featured roles as Terryman in the Kinnikuman franchise and Rayearth in Magic Knight Rayearth, as well as Harmer in Al Caral no Isan, Sammy in Bavi Stock, Sawamura in Nozomi Witches, Ronron in Greed, and Katze in Ai no Kusabi, all Orphan releases. 
  • Yamadera Kouichi (Benten) played many leading roles, including Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop, Sukeroku in Shouwa Ginroku Rakugo Shinju, Ryouga in all the Ranma 1/2 properties, the nameless hero of Otaku no Seiza, Melos in Hashire Melos!, Happyaku in Wild 7, and of course, Ryouan in Hidamari no Ki. The last three are Orphan releases.
  • Kobayashi Yuuko (Benten in female guise) played Washu in the Tenchi Muyo franchise, Rapier in the Maze properties, and Rin in Otaku no Seiza.
  • Fujita Toshiko (Takao, Usugumo's friendly rival) played the title role in Ikkyu-san, Rui in Cat's Eye, and Yawara's mother in Yawara! She also starred as Sharaku in Akuma Tou no Prince: Mitsume ga Tooru and played Cyborg 1019 in Oz, both Orphan releases.
  • Miyuki Sanae (Usugumo's cat Kotetsu) starred as Lynn in Lady Lady! and played the Star Cat in Hoshi Neko Full House, an Orphan release. She had a recurring role as Botan in the Yu Yu Hakusho franchise.
  • The peerless Ogata Kenichi (lord of Kaga, narrator) played the put-upon father in Gosenzosama Banbanzai! and Maroko, as well as Smee in Peter Pan no Bouken and, most recently, Gran Torino in Boku no Hero Academia. He played the governor in Akuemon, the crooked casino boss in Okane ga Nai!, the Hong Kong chef in Yuukan Club, and the ruthless rival cyborg in Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki: Long Distance Call, all Orphan releases. However, he's best known to me as the voice of Ranma 1/2's Sataome Gemna, whose alter ego - the grumpy panda - is my avatar on most anime forums. He recently appeared in Radiant.
The director, Chigira Koichi, is an industry veteran who has worked as director, key animator, and storyboarder on numerous shows.

Because of its historical setting, Oedo wa Nemurenai! actually requires a few context and translation notes:
  • Bentenkozou Kikunosuke is one of five thieves in the nineteenth century Kabuki play
    白浪五人男. Here, he is portrayed as a chivalrous thief, robbing the rich to give to the poor. In the play, he's a devious villain, who kills without compunction. The opening scene, in which the three main characters remove their masks and reveal their identities, is styled after Act IV of the play.
  • Usugumo is a tayuu, the highest official rank for a courtesan. A tayuu was more of an entertainer than a prostitute, and she had the right to refuse to serve clients, as Usugumo does at the Kaga mansion.  The rank was retired in 1761.
  • Usugumo describes herself as "strong against evil but weak about emotions." These were said to be the traits of the typical Edokko or citizen of old Edo.
  • Usugumo's outburst at the Kaga heir is reminiscent of a stage performance, and the spectators respond with Nipponchi! (Best in Japan!), as they would for a good show.
  • Yoshiwara was the official red-light district of Edo. When Benten disguises himself as a courtesan, he says he is from Shimabara, the official red-light district of Kyoto. 
  • The Shogun was usually referred to as "the Lord of Edo Castle" or just "the Lord."
  • The closing remarks by the narrator do not, alas, point to a sequel but are typical of the conventions of a stage play.
Sunachan translated the show, finally giving in to my persistent whining about finishing the Margaret OVAs. M74 timed. I edited and typeset. BeeBee and Nemesis QCed. M74 encoded from gamnark's VHS rip. There are a lot of interlacing problems, but this version has better detail (and both audio channels) compared to the other available raw. Note that ordered chapters are used to chop off nine seconds of initial black leader. If your player doesn't support ordered chapters, just be a little bit patient at the start.

This completes Orphan's work on the Margaret video series. If gamnark can improve the VHS ripping setup, we'll probably re-release some of them, but unless or until, we're done. We hope you've enjoyed them.

You can get Oedo wa Nemurenai! from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Media: The State of Play

Orphan gets its original media from both digital and analog sources. Digital media - DVDs, Blu-rays, streaming - are straightforward but rare for our sorts of shows. Most of our sources are analog - VHS tapes or LaserDiscs. Both present knotty problems. This blog entry provides a snapshot of the "state of play" in Orphan's media processing.

LaserDiscs

Until quite recently, all our LaserDiscs came were ripped by private collectors. The most prolific and helpful has been Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions. Erik has an extensive collection, an excellent capture capability, and deep knowledge of the encoding issues in LaserDiscs. ics- has also contributed some captures, which M74 has encoded. And finally, an anonymous friend of a friend has provided a few rare discs.

All the LaserDiscs collectors are at the mercy of the analog electronics in their players and in their capture cards. This can introduce some pretty ugly problems. LaserDisc players have been out of production for twenty years, and their electronics are, well, old. Most capture cards introduce some form of compression, which complicates software filtering of the many artifacts in the sources. Lossless capture has required insanely expensive (professional) equipment  or insanely arcane (Windows XP era) hardware and software... until now.

The Domesday86 project, which I've written about before, seeks to bypass the main sources of introduced error in LaserDisc rips by capturing the RF output of the laser directly and post-processing the results entirely in software. This sounds so promising that Orphan has created a Domesday Duplicator setup in Japan - LaserDisc player, special hardware, and software. It's been a long, frustrating, and expensive saga. Japanese anime LaserDiscs had many attributes that the Domesday project team had never seen. It's taken months to get the decoding software into usable shape. With the release of v4 of ld-decode, the project is just about there and produces usable lossless captures. ld-decode still can't handle the digital audio tracks, but those can be captured directly.

The first LaserDisc to be processed through Orphan's Domesday Duplicator will be Boyfriend. The Duplicator lossless decode still needs to be encoded down to reasonable size, but at least that's a tractable problem. Further, as ld-decode improves, the RF captures can be processed again, if the improvement in quality is sufficient.

Props to gamnark for championing the project, assembling the hardware, and doing all the hard work of capturing and decoding numerous test cases both for Orphan and for the ld-decode team. The team provided financial support for the equipment.

VHS Tapes

Tapes have been an even more frustrating story than LaserDiscs. The initial attempt at capture in Japan involved an inexpensive USB capture device and a standard S-VHS deck. The results were hit or miss, mostly miss, with dropped frames and video/audio sync problems galore. The cause of the problems varied, but one might be the presence of copy protection on some tapes. LaserDiscs couldn't be duplicated easily and had no copy protection. VHS tapes could be duped (with significant quality loss, of course), and copy protection was sometimes employed.

The next attempt was to buy a much better deck, a D-VHS deck with a built-in Time Base Correction (TBC) and digital (Firewire) output. This produced better results, but the digital output had MPEG2 compression that couldn't be bypassed. The compression tended to blend frames and muck up deinterlacing. The TBC handles only part of the dropped frame and lost sync problems, so the results were still hit or miss.

The current plan is to do lossless capture of the standard S-video output and try to clean up the results in software. This requires an ancient, XP-era AGP PC and specific versions of old ATI All in Wonder cards. The first card gamnark bought was damaged in shipment and didn't work. The second one lost its heat sink within five minutes. Fortunately, the card seems to work once the heat sink was reattached. An external TBC might still be needed.

Ultimately, we'd like to see something like a Domesday-for-tapes: a way to capture the output of the helical scan read head directly, bypassing everything else in the VHS deck. However, that's a complex problem, both in hardware and in software, and it's not clear that VHS decks have a maintenance access point for capturing the RF data.

gamnark is once again doing all the heavy lifting on this project, with financial support from the team and its anonymous benefactor.

Tl;dr

Orphan's Domesday Duplicator for LaserDiscs is up and running, and the first encodes will show up in projects this year. VHS tapes remain a work-in-progress, and the light at the end of the tunnel is still fairly distant.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Fukuyama Gekijou - Natsu no Himitsu

Here's a lost charmer from 1990, the all-ages OVA Fukuyama Gekijou - Natsu no Himitsu (Fukuyama Theater - Summer Secret). It's based on manga by Fukuyama Keiko, who also wrote Apfelland Monogatari. This is the first release with English subtitles, and it's a delight.

Fukuyama Gekijou is an anthology of short stories and animated music videos. It uses a framing device of a mouse family looking at bedtime stories to prepare for sleep. The eight chapters are:
  1. The Rabbit's Siblings. A large clan of rabbits sing about the joys of eating carrots and outwitting a silly wolf.
  2. Summer Secret. A young girl at the beach saves a miniature mermaid from a hungry fish and receives a secret reward.
  3. The Mysterious Fairy. Miss Strawberry and her fairy perform a song about the desert.
  4. Henoheno. The longest segment. It tells the story of Henoheno, a struggling caveman artist, who makes a breakthrough thanks to his friends and the accidental intervention of a prehistoric ramen chef.
  5. Kuro. A black dog sings of his wish to be loved.
  6. The Punk Rabbit's Dance. Entertainment at a kindergarten class talent show.
  7. End-of-Semester Cleaning Contest. A slacker grade-school boy is coerced into doing his classroom cleaning chores by a gang of know-it-all mice, with unexpected results.
  8. The Origami Princess. A folded-paper princess floats downstream on a leaf in order to reach the sea, accompanied by a telescope goldfish.
Some of the segments are very silly, like Henoheno, and some are very poignant, like The Origami Princess, but they're all quite entertaining and totally family friendly.


The voice cast consists of veteran seiyuu from the era. In alphabetical order:
  • Amano Yuri played the title role in The Legend of Snow White, Julia in Daddy Long Legs, Kiyone in the Tenchi Muyo franchise, and Moemi in Video Girl Ai. She appeared as Kuzunoha in Akuemon, Angie in Condition Green, Elthena in Eien no Filena, Kitagawa in Nozomi Witches, Noriko in Singles, and Yuko in St. Michaela Gakuen Hyouryuuki, all Orphan releases. 
  • Fujieda Nariko played featured roles in Miracle Girls and one of the GeGeGe no Kitarou movies. She appeared as the young Lihua in Sangokushi 2 (1986), an Orphan release.
  • Futamata Issei is best known for his roles as Godai Yuusaku in Maison Ikkoku, Akira (Chibi) in Urusei Yatsura, and Saburo in Sazae-san. He played the main character, Yoshio, in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou and the psychopathic brother, Cross, in Hi-Speed Jecy, both Orphan releases.
  • Hara Eriko starred as Ranze Etou in Tokimeki Tonight, an Orphan release. She also played numerous featured roles, including Pyonkichi in the Soreike! Anpanman franchise and Hikaru in the Kimagure Orange Road properties.
  • Kikuchi Masami played the okama JonJon in Otaku no Seiza. He went on to star as the male leads in the Tenchi Muyo, Aa! Megami-sama!, and Comic Party franchises. He played the male lead, Makoto, in Doukyuusei 2, an Orphan release.
  • Matsumoto Yasunori starred as Johnny in Starship Troopers, Kaname in Singles, and Tooru in Every Day Is Sunday, all Orphan releases. He was in numerous OVAs in the 1990s, including Seikimatsu: Humane Society and Al Caral no Isan, both Orphan releases. Among his notable roles were Wataru Akiyama in Initial D, Jean Havoc in Fullmetal Alchemist, Gourry Gabriev in Slayers, Ryou in Sonic Soldier Borgman, and a personal favorite, Dick Saucer in Dragon Half.
  • Matsuno Tatsuya played the lead role in the second Kindaichi movie (an Orphan release) and every subsequent show in the franchise.
  • Shimada Bin played Asatori Kurou in Tomoe ga Yuko and also appeared in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou and Sangokushi, all Orphan releases. He played Ken Nakajima in the You're Under Arrest franchise and numerous other roles.
  • Takamori Yoshino played the arch oujo-sama Sayaka in Yawara! and the twin roles of Juliet Douglas and Sloth in Full Metal Alchemist. She also appeared as the romantic rival Shouko in POPS, and in Yousei Ou and the What's Michael? OVAs, all Orphan releases.
  • Totani Kouji has played hundreds of roles. He appeared in Bavi Stock, Haguregumo, Nora, and Mitsume ga Tooru, all Orphan releases.
  • Touma Yumi played the title roles in Emma: A Victorian Romance and Baby Felix. She has appeared in numerous shows, including Boyfriend, Condition Green, and Eguchi Hisashi no Nantoko Nareudesho, all Orphan releases.
The director, Sakurai Michiyo, also did the storyboards, character design, and some key animation.

Moho Kareshi translated. laalg translation checked and redid some of the songs. ninjacloud timed. I edited and typeset. BeeBee and Nemesis QCed. The encode is from Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions, ripped from a Japanese laserdisc that Iri acquired in Japan.

So if you need a break from this dreary world of ours, I highly recommend Fukuyama Gekijou. It's mostly light and airy, with just a touch of Japanese mono no aware. You can find the show on the usual torrent site or download it from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.