Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review

Time to look back on 2015. At a personal level, there were quite a few changes: I retired after 50 years in the computer industry and also welcomed a third grandchild. And then there was anime...

Orphan Fansubs

This has been a year of staff changes as well. Orphan lost a wonderful colleague, CP, to illness; other staffers retired due to personal priorities. But the team also welcomed new members, including two Laserdisc collectors, ics- and Erik, who have provided pristine sources for rare OVAs; an encoder, bananadoyouwanna, who has created original encodes when source material is available; and a jack-of-all-trades, Skr, who has been my colleague in several groups.

Projects completed this year:
  • D4 Princess. This short-episode comedy series was no world-beater, but it deserved better than being abandoned three times.
  • Kakyuusei (1995). This soft-core hentai never made it to DVD, and only the first two episodes were ever subtitled in English. Later in the year, we were able to get better raws, ripped directly by ics- from his own laserdisc, and released a second version.
  • Tomoe ga Yuko. The first release based on Erik's collection. This early 90s OVA is a terrific example of the genre and a good watch.
  • Polar Bear Cafe. Orphan's "great white whale," a 50-episode Blu-Ray resub that required extensive typesetting. It remains as funny and sly as it was on first viewing in 2012.
  • Parol no Miraijima. This "orphan" of the Anime Mirai 2014 class is a charming and colorful OVA about innocent creatures confronted with human civilization in all its complexity. In addition to the 720p release based on an Internet raw, bananadoyouwanna encoded a 1080p release from a BDMV. A joint project with M74.
  • Sei Michaela Gakuen Hyouryuuki, version 2. This release was also based on Erik's laserdisc collection.
  • Oz. Yet another release based on Erik's collection. This unjustly neglected sci-fi OVA from the early 90s was one of the best shows I worked on this  year.
  • Hi-Speed Jecy. This orphan rescue featured new encodes directly from Erik's laserdiscs. It's a sci-fi OVA series set in a dark and violent universe and is another good watch.
  • Bavi Stock I and II. Orphan's luck with 80s and 90s OVAs ran out with this pair from the mid 80s. The less said by me, the better.
  • Tokimeki Tonight. The completion of this orphaned 80s comedy series took rather longer than expected, primarily in order to get better raws, but it's good, clean fun.
  • Sanctuary. This 1996 extremely noir OVA was also based on a new encode from Erik's laserdisc collection. It is a "must watch" for any fan of the genre.
So that's eleven projects finished - twelve if you count both versions of Kakyuusei. Not bad!

Work for Other Groups
  •  FFF. I edited Akatsuki no Yona (and its OAD), Juuou Mujin no Fafnir, Shokugeki no Souma, Ore Monogatari, the Hoozuki OADs, Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru, and Noragami Aragato. I QCd the Blu-Ray releases of Dakara Boku wa, H ga Dekinai and Petit Gargantia.
  • FroZen-Evil. I timed and typeset the Miyuki music video. I continued to edit Laughing Salesman and the Yawara! Blu-Rays and to QC Psycho Armor Govarian. I also did some fill-in typesetting. All these projects are on slow-roll.
  • Kiteseekers. I did some fill-in typesetting on Milky Holmes S4 and Eriko.
  • M74. I collaborated with M74 on Parol no Miraijima and High School Agent.
  • Magai. I QC'd several short films for Morellet's group.
  • Kaitou. I edited Young Black Jack.
  • C1. I continued to edit Kakyuusei (1999), which is moving slowly.
  • OddJob. I edited an as-yet-unreleased OVA series.
Akatsuki no Yona was, hands down, the best current series I worked on all year (although I like Noragami quite a lot). I hope for a second season, but I'm not holding my breath. In general, I find current anime uninteresting, but you know that already. Still, I'm usually willing to help other teams out - particularly if I can get some help in return.

Looking Ahead

There's no shortage of raws for unsubbed shows; I think I have more than 30 stashed away at the moment. Translation and translation checking are the greatest bottleneck, as it is for most groups, and then QC. So we'll continue to do a mixture of original translations and resubs, focusing on the obscure, the incomplete, and the neglected.

If you'd like to help, give me a shout. Please note, however, that experience is required.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sanctuary

Sanctuary is as close to the quintessential 90s OVA as you can get. It has yakuza, corrupt politicians, nudity, sex, and violence. It moves along at a breakneck pace for an hour, with nary a dull moment. That makes its fate inexplicable. The OVAs were abandoned after one episode, and the one that was released never made it to DVD.

Sanctuary is based on a ten-volume manga of the same name by Ichigami Ryouichi and Fumimura Sho. It chronicles the parallel stories of two Japanese school friends, Hojo Akira and Asami Chiaki, who as youngsters survived the killing fields of Cambodia. The two are determined to create a safe haven for themselves - the "sanctuary" of the title - in the treacherous terrain of late 20th century Japan. Based on a game of rock-paper-scissors, Hojo takes the "dark path" and becomes a yakuza, while Chiaki takes the "light path" and goes into politics. They covertly support each other as each attempts to rise to the top of his chosen field.

The OVA is unsparingly bleak in its portrait of Japanese society. Politicians are shown as thoroughly corrupt: reptilian old men only interested in money and much younger women. The yakuza don't fare any better: they're portrayed as greedy, cowardly, and backstabbing. Hojo and Chiaki are ruthless in their pursuit of their aims, manipulating others and themselves to acquire power. Only the Deputy Chief of Police, Ishihara Kyoko, seems to stand above the fray, but that changes in later volumes of the manga. The sex is explicit for a non-hentai anime, and the violence is quite graphic. This OVA is NSFW and most definitely not family-friendly.

The voice acting is very good. The leads are played by Hayami Sho (Hojo Akira) and Nakata Kazuhiro (Asami Chiaki), who are still active in the industry twenty years later. Tsuru Hiromi (Ishihara Kyoko) has had recurring roles in the Ranma and Dragon Ball franchises. The background music is a jazzy score well-suited to such a noir OVA. The ending song, A Baby's Born, is sung by American jazz vocalist Chris Connor. It suits the mood perfectly. The soundtrack is very rare; if anyone has it in digital form, please let me know.

Orphan's version of Sanctuary is technically a resub. The script is based on the original US VHS subtitle. It has been completely translation checked, because the original subs were a bit loose in places, retimed, and fully typest. In addition, the Laserdisc contains an extra and a few minutes of promotional material not present on the VHS version. The extra is an illustration gallery of Ichigami Ryouichi's color drawings and demonstrates the subtlety and vitality of his work on Sanctuary.

M74 transcribed the original subtitles from HansDampf's VHS rip and then timed them. kokujin-kun translation checked the whole show and translated the signs and promotional material. convexity translated the manga captions in the Image Gallery. I edited and typeset. Calyrica, Juggen, and Skr did QC. Erik encoded from his own Japanese Laserdisc. 
 
Is Sanctuary an example of a show discontinued because it was too critical of the Japanese establishment? It is unsparing in its portrait of Japanese politics and its criticism of the ruling LDP (lightly disguised as the DLP in the original Japanese). In this century, Japanese anime has tended to be much more indirect in its criticism or satire of Japanese society; the kind of direct critique featured in Sanctuary no longer happens. (Japan's press has been muzzled by restrictive laws in the last few years; Japan now ranks 61st on a world-wide index of press freedom.) While American cartoons have gained a biting edge with shows like The Simpsons and South Park, Japanese anime has lost its sting. The satiric intent may still be there, in shows like Un-Go and One-Punch Man, but it's disguised. It makes me nostalgic for shows like Sanctuary.






Saturday, December 12, 2015

High School Agent

Continuing our exploration of 1980s OVAs "left behind" on old media, here is M74's High School Agent. This cheerfully loopy action show features Kanamori Kosuke as a high school student who is dragooned by the UN into being a secret agent. Kosuke apparently made the mistake of hacking into the UN's network and accessing secret files, so they offered him a choice: be an agent or be killed. Now Kosuke spends his weekends taking orders from Ms. Ishii and pursuing criminals and terrorists world-wide, instead of going on a date to Tokyo Disneyland with his crush, Satonaka.

High School Agent never made it past VHS, and that's sort of understandable. The premise and plot are completely bonkers. In the first episode, Kosuke confronts an evil colonel who stole an ancient gypsy stone that possesses amazing properties (Temple of Doom, anyone?). The second is even more over-the-top, involving a dastardly plot by neo-Nazis in South America to seize power again. Nonetheless, the show is a hoot. The action moves along swiftly, there are satirical salutes to other shows, and Kosuke remains true to his adolescent self, constantly whining that he wants to be somewhere else even as he battles the bad guys and saves the day.

The translation was done by an anonymous contributor. M74 timed and QC'd, while I edited and typeset. The raws are from ARR and are about as good as a VHS source is likely to be.

Enjoy another forgotten OVA from the 1980s!


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tokimeki Tonight, Take 2

Eight months ago, I wrote:
Tokimeki Tonight has been on my list of orphan series for a long time, but I didn't think there was much chance to do anything about it. Then, in fairly short order, I found raws, a translator, and best of all, a member of the original Saitei team who had access to the scripts, karas, styles, etc. konnakude made it possible to revive this show, and Orphan is proud to present the next episode. It's an Orphan-Saitei joint project and has the approval of the Saitei group leader, who had to give up fansubbing due to real life issues.
Well, I was premature in thinking that Tokimeki Tonight would be finished quickly. It has taken far longer than I expected to complete the series. The tragic death of our colleague CP blew an irreparable hole in the QC team; Tokimeki is the last Orphan series he worked on. Then the project leader, konnakude, was out for several months between family vacation and real-life issues. Finally, the availability of new raws from the Animax rebroadcast led us to delay further work until September.

The new raws are a significant improvement on the Internet raws we had been using. They have more vibrant colors, better detail definition, and improved image stability. (Perhaps they presage a future remastered DVD or even Blu-Ray release? That certainly proved true for Yawara!) That in turn has led to some changes in the scripts. Eternal_Blizzard redid the karaokes for improved legibility and more accurate timing. The typesetting has been redone to match the colors and stability of the new raws. And of course, the additional time has allowed for further QC. The styling remains unchanged, to match the Saitei releases, although vertical and horizontal margins have been increased.

Tokimeki Tonight is a harmless early 80s comedy series about a high school girl, Ranze Eto, who happens to be the daughter of a vampire and a werewolf. She really just wants to be just a normal girl, pursue her high-school crush, Makabe-kun, and fend off her rival, Kamiya, who's from a yakuza family, but she has these powers - which are sometimes great to have and sometimes not so great. There's not much plot continuity, so each episode can be taken on its own, once you understand the basic premise.

This is the first Orphan project for which I was not the project leader and the editor. konnakude fulfilled both roles admirably. Moho Kareshi translated the scripts, and kokujin-kun graciously agreed to check them. Ephemere timed the first episode, ninjacloud the other seven. I did the typesetting and shared QC with CP, pheon18, and Eternal_Blizzard. Eternal_Blizzard redid the karaokes; Juggen timed the additional ending verses in episode 34. bananadoyouwanna encoded the raws from the Animax transport streams.

So at last Tokimeki Tonight is no longer an orphan series and can be appreciated in its complete and unadulterated silliness. Sit back, relax, and don't let the vampires bite.