Thursday, April 24, 2014

Yamato 2520: An Unfinished Tale

Here is the incomplete OVA Yamato 2520. Dating from 1994, Yamato 2520 was Yoshinobu Nishizaki's attempt to create a new sequel to Space Battleship Yamato, but he fell out with Yamato's creator, the legendary Leiji Matsumoto, and the show was abandoned after three episodes. It was never released on DVD and never fully translated into English.

Yamato 2520 has been on my orphans list for years, ever since NT-Anime subbed episode 1 and abandoned the show, and DOMO subbed episodes 1 and 2 and abandoned the show. Erik Jiken, a LaserDISC collector, had all the Yamato 2520 LDs and was willing to make new, pristine rips. I edited the existing NT-Anime/DOMO subs of episodes 1 and 2, and laalg supplied an original translation for episode 3. convexity translation checked all the episodes, archdeco retimed them to the new raws, and CP and Saji checked the results. As an added bonus, Tofusensei of Live-Evil found an English-language document describing what the missing episodes might have been like (not all script decisions had been made at the time).

Yamato 2520 was certainly ambitious. It featured mechanical designs by the famous futurist Syd Mead and a musical score by David Matthews (the jazz musician, not the pop star). Despite all the famous names, the show turns out to be a typical representative of 90s OVA animation: cheesy plot, cheesy animation, cheesy music, and a battleship-sized cargo of cliches. (As one reviewer said, "In the 1980s, Yoshinobu Nishizaki wanted to sequelize Space Battleship Yamato in the worst way. In 1994, that’s just what he did.") At times I felt I was watching a Stars Wars ripoff, with the evil Emperor Brone substituting for the evil Emperor Palpatine; a Dallos ripoff, with the Gorda ruins on planet Rococo substituting for the Dallos ruins on the Moon; and a Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney 1930s movie ripoff, with all the young kids rallying to say, "Let's get together and put on a battleship!" instead of a musical.

The translation posed a number of issues, primarily with transliteration of names. We've mostly followed the transliteration from the English-language treatment, although it's inconsistent in places. So planets Rinbus and Rococo rather than Rinbos and Rokoko; Salene Federation rather than Seiren; Brone rather than Blone; and so on. On the other hand, the heroine is Marcie, not Mercie; the "a" sound is fairly distinct in the sountrack. And the ancient civilization at the heart of the plot is Gorda, rather than Gouda as in the treatment. There's enough cheese already without confusing an ancient alien civilization with a Dutch food product. Between episodes 2 and 3, the unit of measurement switched from grues, whatever those were, to space kilos, whatever those are. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, after all.

The raws are very good, as you'd expect of a direct LaserDisc rip. Episode 2 includes a curiosity at the end: an AMV of the "Theme of Amesis," sung by Caroline Reinhart. (She was also the inspiration for Amesis' character design; see the article "The Rise and Fall of Yamato 2520.") The song is in English, so no translation is necessary. The music is by David Matthews, the lyrics by Mattie Matthews.

This is my first exposure to the Yamato franchise. As an historian by training, I find the Japanese worship of battleship Yamato to be fascinating, mysterious, and a bit repellant. Yamato was indeed the largest battleship in the world during World War II, but neither she nor her sister ship Musashi made any useful contribution to the Japanese war effort. After seeing little or no combat, Yamato eventually perished in a futile, one-way suicide mission against the American forces invading Okinawa. I would recommend Russell Spurr's "A Glorious Way to Die: The Kamikaze Mission of the Battleship Yamato, April, 1945," as a useful supplement for putting the Yamato anime franchise in perspective.

Enough seriousness. Bring on the 2-D explosions and the 2-D characters. Enjoy Yamato 2520!

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Things have been slack lately at Orphan Fansubs, ever since our full-time translator was pulled back into real-life. All of our projects are moving slowly, because the staff is both small and fully committed on other projects or in real-life. My work for other groups on two Adachi series, Hiatari Ryoukou and Miyuki, is also stalled for various reasons, so I don't have much to do.

As a result, I've worked on a bunch of recent shows, mostly to trade favors. For example, I "edited" Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai from Crunchyroll scripts, despite its moronic premise (singing idols become pro wrestlers? seriously?), because Orphan's timer is partial to anime eye candy. Little did he (or I) know that the TV broadcast would be heavily censored as well as witless. Perhaps someone will slap the scripts on BluRay encodes, thereby at least fulfilling the original intent of the project.

Another example is the current Seikoku no Dragonar. I'm "editing" that show to get the group lead to finish batching numerous BluRay encodes that are done and have been sitting on the shelf, some for as long as a year. For each BluRay batch released, I'll work on an episode. (He's two behind at the moment.) Otherwise, there's no excuse for this series, which shamelessly rips off both Dragon Crisis and Zero no Tsukaima without originality or added value.

[If I may digress for a moment... Groups that have inconsistent policies on batches really tick me off. I don't mind if a group never batches. I really like groups that batch promptly or provide updates on status, like Vivid. But groups that sometimes batch and sometimes don't, or batch after endless delays, irritate me no end. I want to get series off my hard drives and onto archival media when they're finished. That requires a definitive indication that  a series is in its final form.]

The only recent series I "edited" out of sincere interest was Golden Time, and what a disaster it turned out to be. I'd hoped that a show about college students rather than high school students might provide greater scope for characterization and real-life incidents. Instead, it was a textbook example of what might be called Light Novel Syndrome. Light Novels seem to substitute bizarre premises and arbitrary plot twists for organic development of characters and story. Sometimes, as with the current One Week Friends, the show can overcome these handicaps and provide a genuinely interesting experience. Golden Time did not. The male lead, Tada Banri, was totally generic, and his plight (memory loss and memory reloss) uninvolving and unconvincing. The female lead, Kaga Kouko, had no redeeming characteristics beyond her looks, yet she won out in the end, as foreshadowed in the OP and ED all along. The supporting characters were moved and paired in totally arbitrary ways. And it meandered for 24 episodes, prolonging the agony beyond all reasonable measure.

You will notice that I've put "editing" in quotes, because I don't consider the work I do on simulcast scripts to be real editing. It's more like QC. Partly this is because the shows are already edited, but it's also partly because frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. Dark Sage pointed out that the first couple of scripts for Golden Time were only lightly altered. He was correct, because those initial scripts were quite well done and needed only a small amount of touching up. Others have commented that the later scripts contain careless errors. They're right too, because by then the Crunchyroll script quality had deteriorated, but I'd lost all interest in the show. I only continued with it out of a sense of obligation. The same applies to Sekai and Dragonar. It's really difficult to put in a sustained effort on uninteresting scripts. In short, these lousy shows are turning me into a lazy editor. That's not why I got into fansubbing.

So I need help. Orphan Fansubs has a backlog of interesting projects stalled for lack of staff. If you're a translator, a timer, or a QC and would like to work on shows that are different (although not necessarily better) than the current otaku and fujoshi fodder, please give me a shout. Your help will be sincerely appreciated, and you'll be saving an editor from the deadly Sin of Laziness.