Sunday, November 17, 2013

Love, Actually (Usagi Drop Live Action)

Now here's an Orphan project I can recommend wholeheartedly: Usagi Drop, the live action movie. As readers of this blog know, I loved the anime and was fervently glad it stopped when it did. (Yes, that's a manga spoiler.) Then it was made into a live action movie and given an initial translation by zdzdz. I wasn't satisfied with that version, both because of the small video size (SD at 2:35:1 doesn't provide a lot of viewing area) and the usual suspects - translation, timing, and editing. So Orphan Fansubs has done a new, HD version, starting with the original translation. As usual, translation checking by laalg, with help from convexity; timing by archdeco; editing by Collectr; QC by CP. The song translations are crowd-sourced from the Internet. A big shout out of thanks to RHExcellion at Commie Fansubs, who graciously encoded the BDMV into a usable 720p raw. Commie declined the offer of joint credit, although I think "Orphan Commie" would have been a great addition to the collection of joint fansub group names. [He also made a 1080p raw, if someone with a lot of disk space wants to mux these subs into an even bigger version.]

Usagi Drop is a deceptively simple family story. The Kaga clan gathers at the funeral of their grandfather, only to find out that the old gent had secretly fathered (at age 73!) an illegitimate daughter, Rin, who is now six. Most of the family reacts in horror to this news and can only think of placing the girl in an orphanage or institution. This disgusts the bachelor grandson, Kawachi Daikichi, and he impulsively volunteers to take care of Rin. Only when he gets home and realizes how hopelessly unprepared he is to be a single parent does the enormity of his undertaking sink in.

Usagi Drop is not a dramatic story; indeed, it's more a comedy than anything else, albeit a gentle one. It's filled with the small events that by and large comprise parenthood: coping with the enormous drains on one's time; arranging for childcare; juggling parenting and work; dealing with bedwetting or illness; helping children adjust, make friends, and grow. There's nary a villain, superhero, mahou shoujo, loli, or teenager in sight. Even the initially cold reaction of the Kaga family warms over time, as they come to terms with Daikichi's decision and learn to support him.

The acting is good, and the child-actress playing Rin (Ashida Mana) is outstanding. Some viewers complain that Rin is preternaturally mature as well as overwhelmingly cute, but I think it's plausible that a child raised by a reclusive, elderly parent (more a grandparent, really) would be unusually reserved and self-reliant. The actor playing Daikichi (Matsuyama Kenichi) is conventionally good-looking but rather opaque; the script doesn't provide much insight into his thinking. (In fairness, the manga and anime didn't either.) Most of the other characters are merely sketched, but Rin's friend Kouki (Satou Roiki) and his mother (Nitani Yukari) both excel.

The film includes two musical numbers. The first is a fantasy interlude set to the hard-driving rhythms of "Die Konkurrenz" by the German rock group Wir Sind Helden. It doesn't seem very relevant to the film, except to prefigure Daikichi's eventual meeting with Kouki's mother, but it's a great song. The second is the ending credits, which use the full version of the Usagi Drop anime opening song, "Sweet Drops" by the Japanese duo Puffy. Be warned: it's an earworm, as so many J-pop songs are.

The film is not without flaws. According to Wikipedia, Max Schilling, the critic for The Japan Times, thought it relied too much on tear-jerking cliches. He's certainly right about the climactic scene, where Kouki and Rin run away from daycare to visit the grave of Kouki's father. This results in scenes of frantic searching through the streets, an encounter with an enigmatic young man on a bicycle, and other tension-heightening devices that are completely at variance with the tone of the film. Although it leads to an appropriate emotional catharsis, the payoff would, in fact, have been more impactful without the forced melodrama.

Still, that's a minor quibble. Usagi Drop is a live action film that doesn't look or play like a comic book or cartoon. It takes a positive but not Pollyana view of parents, children, and human nature. The ending is inconclusive, as it should be. Parenting doesn't stop with some conveniently climactic event. The story goes onward because, as the film concludes, "There are mothers and fathers everywhere. Actually, love is all around us."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

One Last "Hachiyoushou"

This has been in the back projects pile since March: the "special chapter" of the TV series Haruka Naru Toki no Nake de "Hachiyoushou". Back then, Orphan's translator, laalg, was on a roll and always looking for more episodes. I wanted to do this special as a way of putting C1's fansub version, which had been one of my earliest projects, on a modern encode. I found the R1 subs rather unsatisfactory, because they changed a lot of the names, titles, and mythology, but redoing all 26 episodes was, well, too much effort for an otome show. Subbing this special seemed like a happy compromise.

Alas, it didn't quite turn out that way. laalg's translation check showed that the original fansubs had issues, including consistency, phrasing, and in places, accuracy. I was able to use the C1 scripts as guides, but as often as not, I had to change the actual lines. This wasn't a case of what topf so pointedly called "editor's remorse": I didn't edit the original scripts, and I only got involved as a QC for the final third of the series. Rather, it's more a case of applying my current level of experience to older scripts. What passed muster in 2006 doesn't these days.

The "special chapter" is a recap of the first half of the TV series. It focuses on the heroine's (Akane's) first encounters with her eight guardians, the Hachiyou (i.e., the bishies). The original subs and karaokes are by C1. laalg checked the translation and translated any new dialog. I timed and edited, and CP did the QC. The encode is by ZaZa raws. As an added bonus, the torrent includes the no-credits OP. The DVD rip did not have a no-credits ED.

If you've watched the TV series, there's no need to watch this. Conversely, if you have some passing interest in the TV series, watching this will let you know if the series if for you, in 30 minutes instead of six hours.

This is my last gasp on Haruka Naru Toki no Nake de "Hachiyoushou". I had thought of redoing the remaining specials ("Ten" OVA, the eight alternative endings) in order to have a consistent set at DVD resolution, but the existing versions by Kuruizaki are good enough. The DVD rip has a number of other specials, including live-action cast interviews and a highlights reel for each Hachiyou, but no one is sufficiently interested (including me) to translate them.