Thursday, January 28, 2016

Falcom Gakuen S2

Here's an unusual (for Orphan) foray into near-contemporary anime: Minna Atsumare! Falcom Gakuen SC (or more simply, season 2 of Falcom Gakuen), which aired less than a year ago. This is also the team's first foray into the ultra-short episode format: each episode is just under two minutes.

I liked the first season of Falcom Gakuen, which was subbed by Migoto, for its sheer absurdity. Even though I knew nothing about the underlying games, it was clear that the characters had been morphed beyond recognition for comic effect. However, season 2 came and went without subtitles. When raws became available, I decided to sub the show. Because all twelve episodes had less dialog than one standard anime episode, it didn't seem like heavy lifting. Nonetheless, I decided to invite RTM, the leader of Migoto, to join the team, creating an Orphan-Migoto joint project... and I'm very glad I did.

Falcom Gakuen SC proved much harder that I thought it would be. Despite the short episode length, there were more signs in 90 seconds than in most standard anime episodes. The breakneck dialog included a great many puns and references that most of us missed entirely. Fortunately, RTM knew the Falcom ouvre very well. His thorough checks and astute suggestions ensured than the subs incorporated as much of the Falcom lore as possible.

Moho Kareshi translated the episodes, and convexity checked the translation. ninjacloud timed, I edited and typeset, and Calyrica and konnakude did QC. RTM both checked the scripts and encoded the raws. The typesetting, including the "opening song," draws heavily on Migoto's subs of the first season.

There's not much I can say about Falcom Gakuen SC as a series. The jokes fly fast and furious. Some of them hit; some of them don't. I suspect more would hit if I knew the underlying games, but even so, there's enough breakneck humor to keep me smiling. I hope that will be true for you as well. A few notes:
  • In episode 5, one of the characters says that Rapp and Angelica sound alike, which they deny. Both are played by the same voice actress, Shindo Naomi.
  • In episode 6, Dark collapses on hearing the name of Legendary Assassin Yin, because he mishears it as Gin (silver), his weakness.
In the meantime, quoting the show's two-word motto (and opening song): Go Fight!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Next Senki Ehrgeiz

Here's another from Erik's Pile of Laserdisc Goodness: Next Senki Ehrgeiz, also known as just plain Ehrgeiz, probably to maximize confusion with the fighting game of the same name and year. This 1997 series was one of the first mecha shows on late night anime. It was licensed in the US by AnimeVillage (the predecessor of Bandai USA) and released with subtitles on six VHS tapes. After that, it slipped through the cracks. The show was released in Japan on Laserdisc, and a DVD version was promised, but nothing happened. If people know the show at all, they know it from the mrips encode of the US VHS tapes.

Next Senki Ehrgeiz draws its plot straight from the Gundam cookbook, with the Earth government embroiled in a war against the Next space colonies, using mechas called Metal Vehicles or MVs. Complicating matters are a party of Earth revolutionaries, known as Terra, who want to create peace by waging war against the Earth government; and a band of outlaws living in an abandoned space colony, Next 7. All are catalyzed into action (although the Earth government disappears from the story early in the show) by the appearance, or reappearance, of a super-mecha with a mind of its own, the System with Absolute Consciousness, called SAC, or S for short. For a more elaborate exegesis of the plot, I refer you to this review.

I don't usually like mecha anime or work on it; the last one I remember before this was Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and that was only because of Youko. Nonetheless, I found Next Senki Ehrgeiz a pretty good ride, despite its lack of originality. Each faction has compelling characters to capture the viewers attention. For Next, it's the ambitious Captain Akane Aoi and the mysterious cyborg Mr. Arnold; for Terra, their psychic leader Hal and his loyal lieutenant Galbraith; for the outlaws, the energetic free spirit Jay and the veteran warrior Balzak. The show spins the parallel stories of the Next military, the Terra revolutionaries, and the outlaws together to provide narrative momentum. The central mystery of the nature and intentions of S remains unknown until almost the end of the show. And there are LOTS of explosions. What else do you need?

Well, one thing I don't need quite so much of is the Next 7 orphans, Ken and Ann. They're used too often as plot crutches. For example, an early episode revolves around getting critical medicine for Ann, while a later one is about getting critical medicine for Ken. They're fine in small doses, but they're nowhere near as interesting as the Next 7 adults (sorry, kids).

This release uses the R1 subtitles from the VHS release. They seem pretty good (aside from a few obvious clunkers that have been fixed). macros74 transcribed and timed the subtitles; OCR didn't work on the sickly green VHS subtitles. deltakei translated the signs in the specials. I edited and typeset; Juggen did the karaokes; Calyrica and konnakude did QC; and Erik encoded from his own Japanese Laserdiscs. The result is notably better video and more readable subtitles than in the VHS version.

Speaking of karaokes, the opening song, Dream Jack, is a knockout, a hard rocker by Humming Bird that's perfect for a mecha show. The ending song, One Voice for Ehrgeiz by Mariko Fukui, is a soothing slow number for decompressing after the action. The background music is serviceable and appropriate. The original soundtrack hasn't turned up on the Interwebs yet.

The lead seiyuu were all veterans. While Iwata Mitsuo (voice of Jay) had lead roles in Akira and Onegai Teacher, Sasaki Nozomu (voice of Hal) and Ichijo Miyuki (voice of Aoi) mostly had featured roles; for example, Miyuki provided the voice of Jody Rockwell, the Canadian heavyweight judo player in Yawara! The voice cast is uniformly good.

This release also includes the six specials that were included with the even-numbered episodes. These specials use footage from the main episodes; there's nothing new. The first special, in episode 2, acts as a teaser and combines scenes from many different episodes. Later specials are basically just recaps. The episodes are chaptered, so it's easy to get to (or skip over) the specials.

So here's Next Senki Ehrgeiz in as nice a version as we're going to get unless some Immense Power (as S is referred to) decided to rescue it from oblivion and make a remastered DVD release. Hope you like it!

Checking a Release

Orphan's a small group, and the task of assembling a release and readying it for distribution usually falls to me. Over time, my release flow has become more and more elaborate, but every step plays a part in assuring a decent (though hardly flawless) result.
  1. Create a backup copy of the script for later comparisons.
  2. Apply any remaining quality control (QC) reports.
  3. Create chapters. (I use the chapter editor in mkvmerge.)
  4. In Aegisub, check the signs, the OP, and the ED. These are areas where subtle mistakes may have occurred and been overlooked during QC. In particular, check that signs are timed correctly, and (in a multi-episode series) that the first and last lines of the OP and ED haven't been clipped off by a cut-and-paste error.
  5. In Aegisub, run a final spell check.
  6. In Aegisub, collect the fonts for muxing. Pay attention to errors about missing glyphs. While CCCP on Windows makes reasonable choices about substituting other fonts, VLC or non-Windows systems may not.
  7. Mux the release with mkvmerge, and save the mkvmerge settings in case you need to revisit the result. I tend to label tracks as well as language-code them (except the video), and I fill in the "global" segment field with the file name, because VLC displays it.
  8. Check the muxed file with "mkvmerge -i file.mkv". This will show whether all parts are present, including the chapter file, and whether all fonts have the right MIME type (x-truetype-font).
  9. Play the release and verify the track names.
  10. Verify the chapter navigation points.
  11. Watch the release from end to end. This is the only way to catch any missed lines, encoding glitches, and other faults that can be overlooked in Aegisub. Apply corrections as needed.
  12. Using Aegisub, export the revised subs, without tags, as a plain text file. Use a text editor to join lines that were split and remove \N, multiple spaces, signs, songs, etc.
  13. Open the exported, fixed subs in Word and run the grammar checker. This also acts as a final spelling check. Apply corrections to the script in Aegisub as needed. The Word grammar checker isn't perfect, but it will help find homonym errors (your/you're, there/their).
  14. Check the differences between the final script and the initial script with a graphical difference checker, like WinDiff. This is to make sure that all corrections were applied properly and not fat-fingered.
  15. Remux the release with the final script, using the saved settings.
  16. Spot check by verifying that key differences highlighted by the difference checker are in the final file.
  17. Calculate a CRC32 for the final file. (I use a command line utility called fsum.)
  18. Rename the multiplexed file to [group] series - nn [CRC32].mkv (or your favorite convention).
  19. Create a patch file that will patch the raw to the final release. This allows team members with the raw to create the final release for seeding. (I use a tool called PatchCreator.)
  20. Create a torrent for the released file. (I use uTorrent.)
  21. Create a SFV (CRC32 checking file) for the released file. (I use QuickSFV, but it's got compatibility problems with Windows 7.)
  22. Upload the torrent to your favorite tracker.
  23. Announce the torrent on your favorite sites.
  24. Profit!
I know it seems like a lot of work - it is a lot of work, in fact - but I've added all these steps over time to address problems that got through simpler flows.