Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in Review

This is not a summary of my views on 2014's anime; why should you care? I didn't watch many shows. Instead, I was mostly working on editing projects, with a sideline of typesetting. Highlights included:

Orphan Fansubs

Without laalg, the team's prolific translator, the pace of work slowed. The group did more resubbing projects and fewer original translations. Still, Orphan completed twelve projects this year.
  • Rain Boy, Lunn Flies into the Wind, Yamataro Comes Back, Adachigahara, Akuemon. Thanks to outstanding translation help from convexity and Moho Kareshi, we finished off Tezuka Osamu's Lion Book series. The shows range from sentimental fables (Rain Boy) to horror (Adachigahara) and illustrate the range of Tezuka Osamu's interests and talents. Along the way, I learned the basics of motion-capture typesetting, so the typesetting for the last four is better than for the first two, although it's still amateurish.
  • Maze TV special. The notorious fanservice episode, subtitled in English for the first time as a public service to Maze devotees and anime connoisseurs alike.
  • Yamato 2520. The notorious (for a different reason) incomplete sequel to the Yamato franchise, abandoned after three episodes. This was the first fully translated version in English.
  • Sei Michaela Gakuen Hyouruuki. The token h-anime for the year (under the Orphan label, at least), distinguished by its mild content and wildly improbable and convoluted plot.
  • The Adventures of Horus, Prince of the Sun. A resub project using neo1024's excellent subtitles and tipota's BluRay encode. A highly enjoyable family film, in the old-school tradition.
  • Maroko. The baffling summary movie of the equally baffling OVA series, Gosenzosama Banbanzai! A resub project using Frostii/Ureshii subtitles and a sterling new encode by Skr.
  • Amatsuki. A resub project using Ureshii subtitles and DVD encodes.
  • Ranma 1/2 Live Action. Intended as a follow up to the very successful Usagi Drop live action project, it served to illustrate how variable the quality of Japanese live-action films can be - in this case, how bad the quality can be.
Orphan also established a formal h-anime sub-brand, Okizari, to allow for clearer labeling of h-anime releases; and at least one of the releases (Kunoichi Bakamatsu Kitan) was actually worth the effort.

The team has expanded a bit. It now includes three translators or translation checkers (convexity,  Moho Kareshi, and kokujin-kun), three timers (archdeco, ninjacloud, and Eternal_Blizzard), two typesetters (Juggen and me), four QCs (CP, Saji, konnakude, and Calyrica), and one editor (me). MrMew times the h-anime releases. macros74 pitches in on projects as well. Everyone has other commitments, but it's a fun group to work with.

Work for Other Groups
  • Kiteseekers finished the first English translation of Limeiro Ryuukitan X, as well as the BluRay version of Hanaukyo Maid Tai, which turned out very well in my estimation.
  • C1. My very first group has come back from beyond the grave, and I'm editing Kakyuusei 1999 for them. It's going slowly, as most back catalog projects do, but it got a pleasant boost when doll_licca was able to provide a DVD source for the series.
  • FFF. I continue to work on TV resubs and BDs. TV shows included the utterly forgettable Golden Time and Seikoku no Dragonar and the far better Hoozuki no Reitetsu and Akatsuki no Yona. BDs included Hyakka Samurai Bride and Walkure Romanze, both guilty pleasures.
  • WhyNot? I finished editing several incomplete series for the group, but they have not yet been released.
  • FroZen-EviL finished Miyuki (and there was much rejoicing). Yawara! Blurays are next.
  • Saizen roped me into Laughing Salesman and Psycho-Armor Govarian. On some of these shows, it's hard to tell the boundaries between Saizen, Live-EviL, Soldado, C1, and Orphan; the staffs overlap almost completely.
  • m74. I edited a few shows for macros74 as he explored the back catalog through European releases and translations.
  • ray=out. I finished editing Hiatari Ryoukou, but the show continues to roll out very slowly.
  • Magai. I helped polish up Morellet's version of the charming The Rose and Joe.
I'm almost always willing to help out teams that need a hand... but I've become more particular about the kind of material I'll work on. Extremes of violence and moe are out of scope now, but sci-fi, slice of life, and cats never get old.

Looking Ahead

Next year's, Orphan will finish up D4 Princess and Tokimeki Tonight.  Beyond that, projects will be based on the team's interests and on the availability of raw materials. We'd all like to do more Tezuka Osamu, if raws are available. I'm working with LaserDisc encoders to see if we can get raws for series or OVAs that never made it to DVD or are only available as low-quality Internet raws. And I really want to do BluRay versions of Polar Bear Cafe and the Cosprayers trilogy; a different team is already working on Nodame Cantabile.

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season and a joyous 2015. Thanks for reading, or watching, or both.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Miyuki, Complete (with Spoilers)

'Twas the night before Christmas...

FroZen(-Evil) has released the 37th and final episode of Miyuki. It's taken close to two years to do 37 episodes, or roughly an episode every three weeks. The team has stayed remarkably constant from start to finish:
  • Translation: laalg
  • Translation check: Tsubasa (1-30), kokujin-kun (30-37)
  • Timing: Juggen (mostly), limpakos, Skr
  • Karaokes: Juggen
  • Editing: Collectr
  • Typesetting: kokujin-kun
  • QC: CP (all), Saji, sangofe, getfresh, limpakos, konnakude
  • RC: Juggen
  • Encoding: Skr
  • Raw provider: CP (R2J DVDs)
Special thanks to getfresh for providing the original Miyuki no Tamari fansub scripts as a starting point for episodes 1-8, and to laalg for translating all 37 episodes in less than two months in the winter of 2013. The name change from FroZen-EviL to FroZen was due to some unimportant "dorama" in the team; Live-Evil staffers participated throughout. I've already discussed why Miyuki proceeded more slowly than Yawara! Given that the show aired in 1983, I don't think the delay matters all that much.

Perhaps of greater concern to viewers is that the series simply stops, with everything up in the air. The protagonist, Wakamatsu Masato, is still torn between the two Miyukis, although there's a hint about his ultimate direction. His sister is still being pursued by a host of inappropriate suitors. At least Kashima Miyuki is no longer slapping him every episode.

It's not surprising that Miyuki seemed to peter out. The anime didn't have a linear story line and adapted chapters from the manga sort of randomly. By the end of its third season, the TV series had plundered the first nine volumes more or less completely and run out of material. Rather than tack on an "anime-original" ending, the TV series just stopped. Perhaps the creators hoped to do a fourth season when the manga completed its run. It didn't happen.

So as a public service, I hereby present some Official Miyuki Spoilers! Yes, dear viewer, you don't have to be left in suspense any longer. In volume 11, an old friend of Masato, a talented soccer player named Sawada Yuuichi, returns to Japan and ends up staying in the Wakamatsu household. He falls in love with Wakamatsu Miyuki and proposes to her. She agrees to marry him, and her brother gives his consent. However, at the wedding ceremony, Kashima Miyuki learns that the Wakamatsu siblings are not related by blood and goes to Hokkaido to sort out her feelings. Then Masato breaks down and confesses his love for his stepsister. They run off together, eventually getting married in the Philippines, where his father is living. In Hokkaido, Kashima Miyuki encounters Sawada Yuuichi. The implication is that Kashima and Sawada will eventually pair up. And everyone lives happily ever after, I guess. Your mileage may vary.

In a previous blog entry, I was rather hard on the show, because I was suffering from "Adachi Mitsuri overload" as well as frustration about how long both Miyuki and Hiatari Ryoukou were taking to get done. In retrospect, Miyuki turns out to be a fun slice-of-life comedy, typical of the more innocent era in which it aired. The characters are engaging, the comedy is broad and straightforward, and the Serious Development is confined to the very last episode. There are are certainly elements I find questionable - such as the various adult men who lust after Wakamatsu Miyuki - but I can chalk that up to the times and to Japanese culture. I'm glad that Miyuki is available to an English-speaking audience at last.

FroZen-EviL isn't done (we're not quite dead yet). We're slowly gearing up for the Yawara! BluRays. We'll keep the joint venture name, even though Frostii is moribund, and the boundaries between Saizen, Orphan, Live-eviL, Soldado, and several other "back catalog" groups are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Whatever their official homes, this team is a great crew to work with, and I hope we can keep our winning streak going.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lunn wa Kaze no Naka (Lunn Flies into the Wind)

Lunn wa Kaze no Naka (in English, Lunn Flies into the Wind) is the third installment of a Tezuka Osamu anthology series called "The Lion Book Series." It consists of six standalone episodes:

1 The Green Cat 1983
2 Rain Boy 1983
3 Lunn Flies into the Wind 1985
4 Yamataro Comes Back 1986
5 Adachigahara 1991
6 Akuemon 1993

Orphan has already released The Green Cat, Rain Boy, Adachigahara, Akuemon, and Yamataro Comes Back. With this release of Lunn, we have finished all the Lion Books.

This version of Lunn features a heavily-modified version of Viki's English subtitles paired with ARR's encode. Lunn is sometimes described as a "low-key" look at adolescent first love. While it certainly lies on the sentimental end of the Lion Book spectrum, there's more to the show than teen romance. The hero, Akira, is a loner and underachiever, bullied at school by both his fellow students and his teacher. He finds an imaginary friend in the picture of a beautiful girl on a coffee advertising poster. He names her Lunn. She becomes his companion and consolation, but he regards his situation as so desperate that he almost kills himself twice - hardly "low-key" children's fare. Eventually, he becomes strong enough to formulate a goal and a dream for himself. By the end of the show, he is on his way to his first real friendship.

convexity redid the original Viki translation, and the changes are extensive. Eternal_Blizzard did the timing, I did the editing and typesetting, and CP, Calyrica, and konnakude did QC. (The typesetting was a pain in the butt, because of all the coffee posters.) The raw is from ARR.

This concludes Orphan's Lion Book project. We're on the lookout for raws of additional untranslated Tezuka Osamu shows, notably Hidimari no Ki. In the meantime, enjoy this final Lion Book episode.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yamataro Kaeru (Yamataro Comes Back)

Yamataro Kaeru (Yamataro Comes Back) is the fourth installment of a Tezuka Osamu anthology series called "The Lion Book Series." It consists of six standalone episodes:

1 The Green Cat 1983
2 Rain Boy 1983
3 Lunn Flies into the Wind 1985
4 Yamataro Comes Back 1986
5 Adachigahara 1991
6 Akuemon 1993

Orphan has already released The Green Cat, Rain Boy, Adachigahara, and Akuemon. With this release, only Lunn Flies into the Wind remains.

This version of Yamataro features an original English translation paired with ARR's dual audio encode, which had only Japanese subtitles. Yamataro is a sentimental and slightly weird take on friendship, in this case between a brown bear cub rescued from an ice flow and a class C62 steam locomotive. The steam engine teaches the bear cub how to be strong and break free from his human masters and then returns the cub to the wild. They have another, fateful encounter when Yamataro has become an adult.

Moho Kareshi did the translation, and convexity the translation checking. Eternal_Blizzard did the timing, I did the editing and typesetting, and CP, Calyrica, and konnakude did the checking.

Our last remaining Lion Book project is Lunn Flies into the Wind, which needs a new translation. In the meantime, enjoy this newly subtitled Tezuka Osamu episode.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Akuemon is the sixth and last installment of a Tezuka Osamu anthology series called "The Lion Book Series." It consists of six standalone episodes:

1 The Green Cat 1983
2 Rain Boy 1983
3 Lunn Flies into the Wind 1985
4 Yamataro Comes Back 1986
5 Adachigahara 1991
6 Akuemon 1993

Orphan has already released The Green Cat, Rain Boy, and Adachigahara. With Akuemon, we're on the home stretch.

Like Adachigarara, this version of Akuemon features an original translation and an original encode. And like Adachigahara, Akuemon is a departure from the rather light-hearted and sentimental content of the first four episodes. It's a parable on the cost of violence, the need to make reparations, and the possibility of redemption. The protagonist, Akuemon, is a violent ruffian raised to a position of power by the local governor. His mission is to kill a thousand foxes, in order to fulfill a prophecy about the governor becoming the ruler of the land. Akuemon's thoughtless violence ultimately rebounds on him and his family, and he is forced to face the consequences of his acts. The end is uplifting in some ways, but it's redemption in societal terms: Akuemon must pay the price for his actions.

convexity did the translation, and as usual, it's fluid and accurate. Eternal_Blizzard did the timing, I did the editing and typesetting, and CP, Calyrica, and konnakude did the checking. Last, but hardly least, my colleague Skr from the Yawara! project did the encode. Whether this reflects the quality of the DVD or his use of stabilization technology, the encode shows much less frame-to-frame jitter than the first four episodes.

Two translation notes:
  • In the Japanese language, the word "shu" (酒, "liquor", pronounced shu) generally refers to any alcoholic drink, and that's what's shown in the sign onscreen.  The beverage called "sake" in English is usually termed nihonshu (日本酒, "Japanese liquor"), or sometimes seishu (清酒, "clear liquor"). Sake was not the only alcoholic beverage available in Heian Japan.
  • The provincial governor is called a "general" because that's the word used and because it's a position in the military.
As I've said before, Orphan is doing the remaining two episodes. Yamataro is in QC, Lunn in translation. In the meantime, enjoy this never-before-translated Tezuka Osamu episode.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Security Essentials for Fansub Teams

This is not a blog I wanted to write. Fansubbing is a volunteer activity, and I would like to believe that my fellow volunteers are trustworthy. However, there have been a number of attacks on fansub teams' archives and servers - not a huge number, but more than just one or two. These attacks have all been inside jobs. A disgruntled fansubber uses his or her credentials or a leaked password to get into a file repository and then proceeds to delete everything in sight, for the "lulz." The damage is severe, immediate, and often irreperable. For example, several years ago the Frostii archive was wiped by a smart-ass (who even boasted about it), and many of the scripts have never been recovered. Another major attack occurred just recently, impacting multiple groups.

Therefore, I reluctantly conclude that fansubbing, like any Internet-accessible project these days, must be run on a "zero trust" model. Today, fansub team repositories are typically wide open. For example, if an FTP server is used, everyone on the team uses the same login and password and has full read-write-delete access to everything. If DropBox is used, anyone on the shared folders can read or delete anything. (DropBox logs all actions, though, and allows the DropBox owner to undo spurious or unintended deletes.) Instead, a team's shared data repositories have to be treated like critical business data and protected from both outside and inside attacks. This is going to increase the administrative burden on the repository keepers, just as it does in the business world. The result will be that less fansubbing gets done, but I don't see an alternative.

So here are some tips for better security in fansubbing.
  • Backup, backup, backup. As in business, there's no better palliative for a data disaster than having multiple copies. Ideally, the repository provider should have a backup service. If that's not feasible, fansub teams should designate multiple team members to keep local copies of scripts, work raws, and if need be, ISOs or BDMVs. This can run to terabytes of data, so splitting the work among multiple people helps. It's also possible to backup to public clouds like Amazon Web Services, usually at fairly low cost.
  • Avoid common credentials. DropBox already requires individual logins. An FTP should have individual logins for each team member. In the worst case, this will identify (after the fact, alas) who misbehaved.
  • Use access controls. Individual FTP users should have write/delete access only where needed. Archives should be read-only except for the FTP administrator. DropBox doesn't have access controls, but at least the DropBox owner can undo a mass delete.
  • Consider using a source management system for scripts. Source control systems, like GitHub, allow illegitimate changes (including deletes) to be rolled back. They also support individual rather than common credentials.
  • Keep your repository server up to date. Even though Linux is less subject to attack than Windows, it's just as vulnerable, as recent security issues such as ShellShock and BASHed demonstrate.
In short, as Herod said to the Emperor in the I, Claudius TV show, "Trust no one, my friend. No one." This has now become necessary, even among "friends."

Friday, November 28, 2014

In the Queue at Orphan Fansubs

Time for an update:
  • D4 Princess. This utterly forgettable short (8 minutes per episode) series has been abandoned several times, and the existing subs are not very accurate. The Orphan version will include a checked translation of the first six episodes, and new translations of the others. It will use tipota's excellent encodes. Status: Previews translated; all episodes translation-checked, edited, typeset, and into QC.
  • Lunn Flies into the Wind. The third Lion Book. Checked translation, ARR encode. Status: at TLC.
  • Tokimeki Tonight. A joint project with Saitei to finish the last eight episodes of this series. All episodes are translated. Status: 27-28 at QC; 29-31 at TLC; 32-34 at editing.
I'm still looking for raws for Hidamari no Ki, and I wouldn't mind getting my hands on BDMVs for the Cosprayers trilogy. Meanwhile, DVDs for Gosenzosama Banbanzai have surfaced, and we're looking at redoing the Ureshii-Frostii version on modern encodes.

[Updated 12-Dec-2014]

Friday, October 31, 2014

Kunoichi Bakumatsu Kitan

Kunoichi Bakumatsu Kitan (The Bakumatsu Ninja Mystery, but known in North America as The Last Kunoichi) is a 2003-2004 hentai anime. It was licensed by Adult Source Media, but only the first episode (of two) was released. The second episode has never been subtitled in English, until now.

Kunoichi Bakumatsu Kitan takes places during the late Bakumatsu, after the opening of Japan in the 1850s. The forces of the Tokugawa shogunate and its military bureaucracy, the bakafu, are struggling against a rising tide of revolt, triggered by the shogunate’s weak response to foreign intervention. To quell rebellion, they have formed an elite samurai police force, known as the Shinsengumi. On the other side are an assortment of rebels, including Imperial nationalists who want to expel the foreigners (known as the Ishin Shinshi), idealists, republicans, and others. It was a period of intrigue, bloodshed, assassinations, and the occasional pitched battle. It culminated in the defeat of the Shogunate and the restoration of Imperial power (the Meiji restoration).

The first volume of Kunoichi deals with events leading up to the Ikedeya incident, at which units of the Shinsengumi broke up a meeting of nationalists, killing several of them and driving others to suicide. The second volume deals with the assassination of Sakamoto Ryouma, which was never solved. Into these real events Kunoichi inserts a fictional female ninja team made up of Ayame, Kikyou, and Kaede. The series was meant to continue, but it breaks off abruptly at the end of the second volume.

Historical characters 

Masuya Yuasa Kiemon (aka Furutaka Shuntaro) was a samurai from Oumi. He was captured and brutally tortured by the Shinsengumi and revealed the location of the Ishin Shinshi meeting at Ikedaya.

Hijikata Toshizou was the Vice-Commander of the Shinsengumi.

Okita Souji was Captain of the First Unit of the Shinsengumi.

Yoshida Toshimaro of Choushu – Ayame’s lover in the anime – committed suicide in the aftermath of the Ikedaya incident.

Okada Izou was an assassin.

Shimado Sakon, regent in the Koujo clan, was killed during the Bakumatsu.

Sakamoto Ryouma – Kikyou’s lover in the anime – was a nationalist and an idealist. He hoped for a Japan without feudal distinctions. He was assassinated by unknown assailants.

Miyabe Tezou, a nationalist and an alleged ringleader of a plot to burn Kyoto, was killed in the Ikedaya incident.

Mochizuki Kameyata, a nationalist, committed suicide in the aftermath of the Ikedaya incident.

Yamanauchi Youda was daimyo of Tosa.

Goto Shoujirou was a nationalist in Tosa. He survived the Bakumatsu to become a prominent politician in post-restoration Japan.

Kondo Isami was the other Vice-Commander of the Shingengumi and the leader of the raid on Ikedaya.

Ito Kashitaro was a staff officer in the Shinsengumi.

Harada Sanosuke was Captain of the Tenth Unit of the Shinsengumi.

Yamazaki Susumu was an officer and spy in the Shinsengumi. 

Fictional characters 

Ayame, Kaede, Kikyou – female ninjas

Monday, September 22, 2014

S****kuma Cafe, An Overview (and DMCA Magnet)

(Update, 2017). I've had to rewrite this innocuous article twice because some automated robot is sending DCMA notices about it to Google. I have no clue what attracted the robot's notice, but I'm removing the Japanese title, any mention of where it was streamed, and so on, even though this is basically a review of the series. Baka!

S****kuma Cafe (Polar Bear Cafe) was one of the bright spots in anime for a full year (April 2012 to March 2013) and also one of the more neglected series of the time. It was streamed in English, but no fansub group picked it up. Fansubbers now hold the series in great affection, but at the time it aired, they were put off by its "family anime" status and by the formidable number of puns in the dialog, which seemed beyond localization. As a result, the streaming version remains the only subtitled version, and as usual, it has no song translations and primitive typesetting.

Why is S****kuma Cafe so good? First of all, it has great characters. The four leads (Polar Bear, Panda, Penguin, and the human waitress Sasako) are all well-characterized, idiosyncratic, and endearing. Polar Bear is a calm and level-headed café master who can troll with the best. Panda is the classic self-absorbed teenager.  Penguin is an endlessly talkative bore.  Sasako is sweet but a bit dim. They are supplemented by an entire menagerie of animal and human sidekicks who have recurring roles and are all voiced by brilliant seiryuu: Llama, Grizzly, Tortoise, Wolf, Tiger, Sloth, Panda Mama and Sister Mei Mei, Mr. Full-Time Panda, Hanada the zookeeper (who has a crush on Sasako), the seven female  penguins inadvertently courted by Penguin, Mr. Tree Kangaroo the master coffee roaster and his red squirrel assistants, and on and on.

Second, the humor and the stories are all character-driven. The characters bounce off each other in endless combinations. While there are themes (Panda’s desire to find a job with no work; Penguin’s disastrous quest for a mate), there is no plot to speak of. If I have a sneaking fondness for the episodes set at Grizzly’s Bar (known, of course, as Bar Grizzly) and its carnivorous habitués, those are just some of the many fine sketches that the show offers.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to do a BluRay version of S****kuma Cafe. Ruell has done a decent set of encodes for that. However, there are still formidable obstacles. To me, the problem is not the puns – I thought streaming version handled them the right way, with no attempt at localization – but the scale of the project. All fifty episodes need to be retimed and then typeset.  There are three OPs and twelve EDs to be translated, as well as a special. That’s as many episodes as Orphan has done in the last three years.

So in truth, this blog entry is a recruiting ad. If you loved S****kuma Cafe as much as I did, would like to see a subtitled BluRay version, and can help with the key work items (particularly retiming the episodes), drop me a note or contact me on IRC. Polar Bear, Penguin, Panda and the whole menagerie need your help.  You’ll get a chance to revisit one of the best anime comedies of the past few years, do a good deed, and brush up your coffee-making skills too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adachi Mitsuru Overload

I've been working on Adachi Mitsuri series for a long time, seemingly forever. Hiatari Ryoukou started up more than two-and-a-half years ago; Miyuki, more than 18 months ago. Frankly, I didn't expect them to take all that long, based on Yawara, but for "reasons," the projects have stalled out repeatedly. Working on them in parallel has introduced a sense of perpetual deja vu, because one Adachi series looks very much like another, and nowhere is this more true than Hiatari Ryoukou and Miyuki.

Both shows are slice-of-life comedies, at the center of which is a love triangle. In Hiatari Ryoukou, the heroine, Kishimoto Kasumi, is torn between her long-term boyfriend, Muraki Katsuhiko, now a college student, and a boy who lives at her boarding house and attends her high school, Takasugi Yuusaku. In Miyuki, the hero, Wakamatsu Masoto, is torn between his high-school crush, Kashima Miyuki, and his newly returned step-sister, Wakamatsu Miyuki, to whom he is conveniently not related by blood. The character designs are interchangeable, with Yuusaku a dead ringer for Masoto, and Kasumi a dead ringer for Wakamatsu Miyuki. (That's a big spoiler for who will end up with whom, by the way.) Both shows feature some amount of high-school baseball, Hiatari Ryoukou fairly seriously, Miyuki just as incidental color. In both shows, the comic sidekick (Mikimoto Shin in Hiatari, Muraki Yoshio in Miyuki) is played by the same seiryuu, Shiozata Kaneto. Hiatari even makes a cameo appearance on a TV screen in episode 30 of Miyuki. See why I'm confused? By the way, so is the mangaka: in a recent interview, Adachi was unable to tell his own heroes apart.

One difference is that Hiatari Ryoukou is actually a complete version of the manga (when the movie is thrown in), but Miyuki stops about two-thirds of the way through. (The manga is completely scanlated, if you want to find out how it all ends.) Perhaps the 1983 audience wouldn't support five cours of Adachi Mitsuri, but after the smashing success of Touch in 1985, there was enough interest to see Hiatari Ryoukou through until the end. Besides, the characters in Hiatari are indistinguishable visually from the characters in Touch, so perhaps the audience thought they were watching the same show. Adachi would revisit the themes of baseball and a love triangle in Slow Step and H2, before moving on to other patterns.

I'd like to move on as well; I've had enough of Adachi for a while. (No, I'm not going to marathon Touch any time soon.) For one thing, Yawara! is out on BluRay, an event which cries out for a pristine new version. If I have to spend close to three years on a series, I'd rather spend it with Yawara-chan and Jigoro, Sayaka and Shinnosuke, Jody, Fujiko, Matsuda and the rest than a cast of characters neither I nor the author can tell apart. I'm sure both Hiatari and Miyuki are enjoyable in their own way, but long acquaintance has stamped out all the fun for me.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Horus (BluRay)

After expounding at some length on why I'd never give credit to more than two groups in a file name, how do I explain [tubesoda&neo1024-tipota-Orphan] Taiyou no Ouji -Horus no Daibouken-? All I can say in my defense is that every rule has exceptions, and this needs to be one.

First, though, the movie. Horus no Daibouken (The Great Adventures of Horus, Prince of the Sun, 1968) is one of the early great anime movies from Japan. Directed by the legendary Takahata Isao, it took more than three years to complete and launched the career of Miyazaki Hayao, among others. The project ran so late and so far over budget that the production studio, Toei, allowed it to play in theaters for only ten days and demoted Takahata from directing. He left Toei, as did Miyazaki. After some years working on World Masterpiece Theater adaptations, Takahata joined Ghibli, where he directed the classic Grave of the Fireflies, as well as Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, and My Neighbors the Yamadas. His latest film, Kaguya Hime no Monogatari, has not been subtitled in English.

Horus no Daibouken is an "all-ages" adventure tale set in Scandinavia. The young hero, Horus (anglicized as Hols in some translations), leaves his adopted home and returns to the village of his people to confront the evil demon Grunwald, who is determined to wipe the population from the face of the earth. Horus encounters people good and bad, as well as an enigmatic young girl named Hilda, (spoilers ahead) who despite her beautiful singing is a lot more dangerous than she appears. After thrilling adventures, Horus redeems Hilda, unites the village population to face danger head on, and leads the good guys to victory.

Horus is very much a film of its time. The hero is plucky, brave, and one dimensional. He has a comic animal sidekick. The villain is a black-and-white baddie (literally). There are lots of adorably cute children and lots of songs. Even so, it's terrific. The plot moves along briskly, the action sequences are very well animated, and the musical interludes (like the fish harvest and the wedding celebration) burst with energy. Hilda's songs are beautiful, sad, and more than a touch ambiguous. The ultimate message ("united we stand") is inoffensive and not thrown in the audience's face, but it resonated with the young Japanese of the era. Miyazaki is often called "the Walt Disney of Japan," but that's more about his towering stature in the animation scene than about his style. Horus no Daibouken feels like a classic Disney film, and it leaves you smiling the same way. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Now, back to the file naming. The DVD version of Horus no Daibouken was encoded and subtitled with great care by neo1024 and tubesoda. (Information on the DVD edition, along with a lot of background about the film itself, can be found in the BakaBT torrent.) The subtitles from that version have been used here. tipota encoded the newly-released BluRay. That encode is used here. Orphan retimed the subtitles completely, restyled them, retypeset them (particularly the trailer), and did additional QC. So how can any of these groups be omitted? tubesoda&neo1024's subtitles needed very little work. A few missing lines have been added, and the grammar tweaked here and there, but no more than 30 lines have been modified. tipota's encode is unchanged. On the Orphan side, convexity filled in the few missing lines, I retimed the script, Eternal_Blizzard and I did the typsetting, and CP and Saji provided additional QC. So [tubesoda&neo1024-tipota-Orphan] it is. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Or would you prefer [mashup]?

Enjoy Horus no Daibouken in this beautiful BluRay edition!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Maroko, or, Gosenzosama Banbanzai the Movie

Gosenzosama Banbanzai was a six episode OVA that started in Ureshii and finished in Frostii, after Froth-Bite and Ureshii merged. It's a deadpan send-up of the "family dramas" of the 1980s, highly stylized and very dry. The show consists of long set-piece scenes, filled with meandering dialogues, posturing soliloquies, asides to the audience, and pointless songs, punctuated (occasionally) by a great punchline. The intricate long lines, rarely broken by pauses, made editing this show one of the most challenging and difficult tasks of my early fansubbing days. I'm still very fond of it, although I can't watch it end to end. It's simply too bizarre.

As was often the case for OVAs and TV series, Gosenzosama was condensed and released as a movie, Maroko, now brought to you by Orphan Fansubs. Every line of dialog is from the original OVAs; only the additional signs required translation. I've tried to make as few changes as possible. The dialog font is larger, with better margins, and that required condensing or splitting a few lines. The original timing was off in a few places and has been corrected. The QC team turned up a number of mistakes that were missed in the original episodes. If you've seen Gosenzosama, there's not much point in watching Maroko, although the movie raw, encoded directly from a DVD reissue, looks much better than the DivX5 raws that were available to Ureshii and Frostii.

On the other hand, if you only watch Maroko, you're going to miss some of the very best bits in Gosenzosama. In particular, every episode of the OVAs begins with a long disquisition on a bird species and how its habits (sort of) relate to the human behavior in the episode. These standalone vignettes are hilarious and set the tone for the episode. There's no time for them in a 90 minute movie, but they're a serious loss.

This project has been gestating for a long time, primarily because of issues with available sources. The most common Internet source is from a LaserDisc and is corrupted in at least five places. An existing encode of the DVD proved to be bit-starved and improperly de-interlaced. Ultimately, a colleague bought a used DVD in Japan, which allowed a proper 10-bit H.264 encode to be made. I'd like to thank convexity, for supplying any missing signs and translation; Eternal_Blizzard for retiming and encoding; CP and Eternal_Blizzard for sitting through the whole thing and QCing; and Skr for obtaining the DVD source.

Gosenzosama Banbanzai and Maroko are lesser known works from the fertile mind of Oshii Mamoru, one of the lions of Japanese anime. The 1980s and 1990s were a period of great experimental creativity for him, starting with Dallos in 1983 and Angel's Egg in 1985 and culminating in the ground-breaking Ghost in the Shell in 1995. He remains an active force in Japanese popular culture, creating anime, live-action movies, and radio dramas; The Sky Crawlers (2008) is his most recent full-length anime work.

If anyone has ISOs of the recent Gosenzosama Banbanzai reissue on DVD, perhaps Orphan could redo the original OVAs. On the other hand, considering the content, maybe not. Meanwhile, enjoy Maroko.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sei Michaela Gakuen Hyouryuuki

This one's a little hard to explain.

Sei Michela Gakuen Hyouryuuki (St. Michaela's School Drifting Story, to use the common English title) is a set of two 18+ OVAs, each with two episodes. The second set was released on DVD; in North America, the title was changed to Sins of the Sisters. The first set was never released on DVD anywhere and never translated: an orphan.

The difference in treatment has always intrigued me, because the story in the second set is impossible to understand without the first set. (It's difficult to understand even with the first set, but I'll get to that.) Neither is particularly hardcore. The sex scenes are few, and in the first set, no pixellation is needed at all. If released today, the first OVA set would not considered hentai. The story dominates.

And what a peculiar story it is. It centers on the mythology of the 13th century Children's Crusade. According to legend, a devout band of children attempted to march to the Holy Land and free it by faith alone, only to be betrayed and sold into slavery by treacherous merchants. (Most of this appears to be apocryphal.) Sei Michaela Gakuen Hyouryuuki takes this further by making the chief betrayer the Pope himself. The leader of the ruined Crusade, Hans Heilner, dies and becomes an angel. However, he renounces his status to pursue revenge against the Church and God. He reincarnates as a young woman, Mimura Aiko, at a Japanese all-girls Catholic school, St. Michaela Academy, during World War II.

It seems a Sinister Plot is underway at St. Michaela. The students, known collectively as the Girls' Crusade, are undergoing training in singing and dancing, but also martial arts and swordsmanship. The girls think they are preparing to be performers in the Takarazuka Review, an all-female musical variety troupe, but in fact they are destined to become comfort women (Sins of the Sisters calls them sex slaves) for the Japanese Army. The sacrifice of their collective virginity will re-energize the soldiers and enable Japan to win the war. Still with me?

Meanwhile, a band of soldiers from the 17th century's Shimabara Rebellion has also traveled back in time, hoping to bring the girls and their military (rather than sexual) prowess to aid the rebellion and enable it to triumph over the still shaky Tokugawa Shogunate. Mimura Aiko is determined to defeat all these plots - both the Japanese military's and the Shimabara Rebellion's - and lead the Girls' Crusade on a direct attack against the Church and God himself. Mayhem and sexual shenanigans ensue. At the end, Aiko appears to have triumphed, and both the Church and war itself have been abolished, but various characters continue to be haunted by events that occurred on the original (historical) timeline. That sets the stage for Sins of the Sisters, which also involves the Children's Crusade, time travel, characters from the original timeline who apparently died, and many other complications. It's little wonder that descriptions of the two OVA sets hopelessly confuse the plot lines.

I'm still puzzled about why Sins of the Sisters was released on DVD and then licensed in North America, while Sei Michaela was never released on DVD at all. Both are quite strongly anti-Catholic, a common enough theme in Japanese anime. Is it that Sei Michaela is also violently anti-nationalist, attacking both the Tokugawa Shogunate and the World War II Japanese military? (The scene in which Japanese soldiers line up to gangbang the schoolgirls would not play well in today's Japan.) I can't find anything about this in English sources.

Because Sei Michaela was only released on LaserDisc, sources are rare, and the only Internet source I was able to find is downright terrible. It's a mess of blended frames and ghosting. Further, it combines the two episodes into one. If a better source turns up, I'll release a new version.The translation is from an anonymous source, checked in a few places by convexity. Eternal_Blizzard did the timing, I edited and did the typesetting. Calyrica and CP checked the result.

So here's another rarity rescued from well-deserved obscurity. If you're looking for standard hentai material, skip this. But if you're intrigued by odd, hidden corners of the anime world, Sei Michaela might be of interest.