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.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Adachigahara

Adachigahara is the fifth part 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 and Rain Boy. With Adachigahara, we've reached the halfway mark in this series.

This version of Adachigara is the first translation in English. It's also the first Orphan project with an original encode since Kage. I bought a used DVD in Japan, and a colleague over there kindly encoded it. We'll do the same for other projects, occasionally, as funds and friends allow.

Adachigahara is a departure from the tenor of The Green Cat and Rain Boy. Rather than a gentle fable about friendship and growing up, it's a dark tale of betrayal and death, with deliberate horror overtones. The hero, agent fourth class Yuukei, is a former revolutionary turned professional assassin for the revolutionary government. He's sent to a desolate planet to kill a "witch" who has supposedly been luring spaceships to their doom and eating the crew. He does indeed find the witch, wrecked spaceships, and human remains, but the surface appearances hide a dark truth about Yuukei's past and present. Indeed, you can sum up the theme with a line from The Who: "Meet the new boss... Same as the old boss."

convexity did the translation, and as usual, it's fluid and accurate. archdeco did the timing, I did the editing and typesetting, and CP and Calyrica 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 Green Cat and Rain Boy.

As I've said before, Orphan will do the remaining three shows, but real-life commitments by the team members make the schedule uncertain. In the meantime, enjoy this never-before-translated Tezuka Osamu episode.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Confession



Yes, I admit it. I put all the Happy Science videos up on BakaBT as a troll. Not of the films themselves, I hasten to add. The films have been left pretty much alone, except for minor fixes to the subtitles for timing, wording, and mistranslations. Rather, I offered these films to troll the BakaBT moderators.

It all started innocently enough. I found Medgirl’s rip of the first Happy Science film, Hermes: Winds of Love, on a different tracker, and I uploaded it to BakaBT because it wasn’t there. I hadn’t actually watched the movie, but I did carefully note the negative reviews and Happy Science connection in my offer. Next I put together a version of QTS’s The Rebirth of Buddha by lightly massaging the subtitles for timing, styling, and wording. Then the completionist in me led me to track down two more Happy Science videos and offer them, in whatever state they existed, with copious warnings.
If you’re not familiar with Happy Science, formally known as Kyoufuku no Kagaku (幸福の科学, or The Institute for Research in Human Happiness), it’s a Japanese religious cult. It is often compared to Scientology, because its cosmology is as much based on popular science fiction as it is on religion, but most authorities regard it as harmless enough. It doesn’t advocate violence or attack its detractors. Indeed, the head of the cult, Owaka Ryuho, was the target of a failed assassination attempt by the terrorist group Aum Shinrikyo in January 1995.
 
There have been six Happy Science films so far, one every three years:

                Hermes: Winds of Love (1997)
                The Laws of the Sun (2000)
                The Golden Laws (2003)
                The Laws of Eternity (2006)
                The Rebirth of Buddha (2009)
                The Mystical Laws (2012)

The films always do well at the box office. To each his own.

I began to have more sinister thoughts about these films when the BakaBT mods removed the Orphan Fansubs version of Space Neko Theater. The decision was, I thought, completely arbitrary: all "self-produced" anime was verboten, unless the creator was "well known." I’m particularly fond of Space Neko Theater, because it’s about cats, it’s really funny, and I went through a lot of trouble to get it right. As a result, I took this decision rather hard. If BakaBT wouldn’t take a wonderful comic short, then what truly terrible "legitimate" anime could I upload instead?

I’d been sitting on the QTS DVD rips of the second, third, and fourth Happy Science movies for some time when a request was made to offer QTS’s The Mystical Laws. Here was the perfect opportunity to hoist BakaBT on its own "we only offer the best version of legitimate anime" petard. I would create the "best" versions not only of The Mystical Laws but of The Laws of the Sun, The Golden Laws, and The Laws of Eternity. With full video resolution, dual Japanese and English audio, proper timing, and correctly edited subtitles, they’d be impossible to turn down. And so it proved. Mystical went up first, then Sun, the Golden, and finally Eternity. While some offers sit in limbo for months or even years, these were promptly accepted.

I tried to play fair with the BakaBT leechers. Each offer contained pointers to reviews (mostly negative), as well as copious remarks about the nature of the films as religious propaganda. Despite that, the member comments quickly filled up with howls of outrage about the films and how terrible they were. Even as my warnings became stronger, the outrage grew. I could only conclude that many BakaBT leechers don’t read (the offers). Caveat emptor.

So now I can rest from my labors, replete in the satisfaction of a job well done. BakaBT has what it claims to want: the "best" versions of six "legitimate" anime films. Are the Happy Science films a good tradeoff for expelling Space Neko Theater? I’ll let you be the judge. And was this project a good troll on BakaBT? Or was I the one trolled for putting in all those hours fixing up what’s basically religious propaganda? I’ll let you be the judge of that too.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Credit Where Credit Is Due



Over at BakaBT, the moderators in their wisdom have decided not to accept offers for recent TV anime series but instead wait for the inevitable BluRay resubs. The discussion of this change has veered all over the map, but one thread struck a nerve. The leader of a fansub team pointed out that this decision would end up excluding TV fansub teams and depriving them of publicity and representation on the tracker, because BluRay releases are invariably labeled with just the name of the encoder. At first, I felt some sympathy for the team leader’s complaint. When Iznie Bijznie used Orphan’s scripts for its BluRay release of Blazing Transfer Student, without credit other than as a footnote in the torrent offer, I felt a spasm of irritation. (That was mostly because I didn’t like the new styling.) But on further reflection, I realized, in the immortal words of Rhett Butler, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Publicity doesn’t matter to me. Orphan has no IRC channel looking for lurkers, no web site looking for page views. This blog has three whole followers, and that's fine with me. I don’t care if the only people who watch our releases are our team members. I do this for fun, not for ego.

In the Good Old Days, before simulcasting, credits were a simple matter. The value chain in fansubbing was pretty clear. Fansub teams had to translate their own scripts, then time, typeset and QC them, find a raw and encode it, and so on. No one else was involved, and the fansub team’s name in the finished file reflected its status as the sole creator. Nowadays, though, the value chain involves numerous parties, usually starting with a streaming simulcast. Should every party in the value chain be credited in the file name: the translation company, the streaming site, the original sub ripper, the fansub group, and the BluRay group?

Different resub teams have come up with different solutions. In the non BluRay-world, Jumongi-Giri always acknowledges the original fansub team in its file names; ReDone acknowledges them in the in-video credits. In the BluRay world, none of the groups credits the original team anywhere, from what I can tell. Orphan Fansubs, my own group, has been inconsistent. If another group provided a major part of the finished product, then they’ve usually, but not always, been credited in the file name, and every contributor (where known) is acknowledged in the in-video credits. However, as in Hollywood, not every contributor gets a title credit. For example, Orphan’s Nagasarete Airantou was labeled as Orphan-Polished, because it started from the Polished Fansubs release; but Polished used Ayako’s scripts and someone else’s raws to begin with. Should all the sources have been included in the file name? It doesn’t seem practical.

For the future, I’ll try to be consistently inclusive in naming files, because I think that people who have worked hard should be recognized. (That’s also the reason that Orphan releases always have staff credits, a practice that has fallen out of favor in most groups.) Accordingly, the recent release of Rain Boy was labeled as Orphan-OniDragon, because the latter provided the raw. However, I draw the line at more than two names, so when multiple groups are involved, there will be an arbitrary value judgment about which one other team made the most significant contribution. Thus, the recent release of Amatsuki is labeled as Orphan-Ureshii, rather than Orphan-DmzJ, because I feel that the Ureshii contribution - the original scripts - is more important than DmzJ's - the raws. (That's the editor in me, prioritizing words over visuals.) This sort of compromise won’t please everyone – hell, it may not please anyone – but it works for me.

As for Blazing Transfer Student, I'll either get over it or do my own BluRay version. If I choose the latter, it will be labeled Orphan-Bizjnie rather than just Orphan. Credit where credit is due.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Amatsuki Revisited

Amatsuki is  a favorite series that I've wanted to redo with better video sources. (I was the editor on Ureshii's original version.) Zalis of Redone Subs helped me obtain the DmzJ DVD rips, which are an improvement over the TV sources. Accordingly, I've rewatched the series and prepared scripts for a DVD re-release.

Amatsuki is set in a parallel Bakumatsu-era world where gods and spirits are real. The hero, Rikugou Toki, stumbles into this world when he crosses a bridge inside a virtual reality  historical exhibit. In a development worthy of The Worm Ouroboros, how Toki (and his high-school acquaintance, Kon) end up in another world is never explained; it's simply assumed. Toki, who starts out as a "get along, go along" type of anonymous teenager, slowly finds the skills not only to cope with his new environment but to influence events and indeed the fate of the parallel world.

The series has held up well, but it stops quite abruptly at the end of volume 4 of the manga. Were the creators expecting a renewal or a second season? It's hard to say. Given the short length, some of the creative decisions may seem difficult to understand. A couple of episodes are spent filling in back-stories on the major characters instead of advancing the plot. The second half is given over to a prolonged, seemingly irrelevant story about an inari (fox spirit), her violent quest for revenge for the destruction of her tree-spirit master, and her redemption through the hero's action. Nonetheless, I find the storytelling effective and affecting. For example, episode 8 provides the back story for Kuchiha, the girl fighter possessed by a dog spirit, and it is truly tragic. The inari's nihilistic quest provides the context for the revolt against Heaven that closes the show.
 
The subs have also held up pretty well, so I haven't had much occasion for Editor's Remorse, to use tophf's wonderful phrase. There are a few too many ellipses and a distressing tendency to separate compound clauses (as opposed to compound sentences) with a comma, but other than that, wording changes have been few. The timing was more problematic. Lead-ins and lead-outs are too short; too many pauses are turned into line breaks; and adjacent lines are not always joined, leading to unpleasant flashing. Finally, the complex typesetting was hardsubbed and has been reconstructed. In some cases, like the series logo, this hasn't been possible; and in other cases, reproducing the original AFX typesetting requires elaborate frame-by-frame typesetting. (Thank goodness for motion-tracking software.) The original, highly elaborate karaoke's were "hardwired" to the dimensions of the original encode and look a bit strange with the larger DVD encodes. They have been replaced by simple, line-timed translations. The original fansub credits have been preserved and augmented with the names of the Orphan team members. This may look a little clunky, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due.


I'd like to thank convexity for the occasional translation check and the wonderful typesetting in ep10; archdeco for retiming the episodes; CP and Saji for their usual thorough job of QC; and new team members Calyrica and Eternal_Blizzard for further checking. On the whole, this was much easier than the usual Orphan project, reflecting the quality of the original Ureshii scripts.

I enjoyed Amatsuki the second time around as much as I did the first time, and I hope you will too.