Monday, February 29, 2016

Saiyuuki (1960)

Here is the first English-subtitled version of the 1960 Japanese animated movie Saiyuuki. Up until now, the only available English version has been the 1961 dub Alakazam the Great. As was often the case back then, the script for the dub bears little or no relation to the original Japanese script. The changes in Alakazam the Great were quite extensive: all the Buddhist and Taoist elements were eliminated; the movie was shortened by several minutes; the musical score and songs were redone completely. Despite the attempt to reshape Saiyuuki into generic Disney fare, the movie was a commercial failure in the US.

Saiyuuki was based on Tezuka Osamu's highly popular manga of the same name, which in turn was based on the Chinese classic Journey to the West. Osamu's name was used prominently in promoting the film, although he always denied active involvement in the production. According to some sources, he was displeased with the film's happy ending, and that spurred him to form his own anime company, Mushi Productions.

Saiyuuki is set in China and recounts the adventures of Son Gokuu, a monkey king. Son Gokuu is both powerful and willful. In his arrogance, he challenges heaven itself and is punished by exile to Mount Gogyou. He is eventually released on condition that he accompany a monk named Sanzou to India in order to receive the Buddhist sutras. Along the way he defeats and then befriends the pig-man Cho Hokkai and the ogre Sa Gajou. Together, they must confront and defeat the terrible bull demon Gyuumaou before Sanzou can accomplish his mission. The core cast is supplemented by Rin Rin, a love interest for Son Gokuu, and Shouryuu, a mischievous imp whose head horn doubles as an antenna for a 1960s mobile phone.

Like the original manga, Saiyuuki is a mishmash of styles, with plenty of anachronistic elements. Broad comedy is mixed in with action and chase sequences. Western influences coexist with Asian styling and thought. For example, the gods are depicted with angelic halos, and some of its denizens are from Greek mythology. When Cho Hakkai is trying to impress his bride-to-be (actually Son Gokuu in disguise), he appears successively in formal Western attire, then a Russian Cossack costume, then as an Indian chief, and then as a hula dancer. Still, Saiyuuki is recognizably a children's film in the 1950s Disney mold. Action sequences alternate with slower sections to allow kids to "cool off." Songs are used to underline the characters or delineate chapters. And despite trials and tribulations, the good guys triumph.

Saiyuuki was Toei Douga's third color animated film. The animation is fluid and represents a real advance over the studio's previous animated movies. Despite that, I find it a bit bland. There's really nothing to engage an adult, and there's a lot of padding. I prefer Takahata Isao's Horus: Prince of the Sun, which shows signs of his unique directorial sensibility, even though it too is a G-rated children's movie. Horus is lively, while Saiyuuki is frenetic. However, Saiyuuki was a greater commercial success in Japan.

This is Orphan's second Journey to the West-themed project, after Tezuka Osamu Monogatari in 2014. Both projects originated with Al_Sleeper in the BakaBT community. For Saiyuuki, he provided the encoded raw and a very rough English translation as a starting point. Magistral (also from the BakaBT community) redid the translation and filled in some of the rough spots; then convexity gave the script a complete going over and translated the signs and the songs. M74 timed, I edited and typeset, and Calyrica and konnakude QCed. The raw is from ARR, minus their Russian voice-over track and subtitles. The encode is serviceable, but the source suffers from jitter and transcription problems. The film really needs restoration and a Blu-Ray release, but that seems unlikely.

 A few translation notes:
  •  ri is an old unit of distance, equal to 3.927 kilometers.
  • Gogyuu, the mountain where Gokuu is imprisoned, takes its name from the five elements of Chinese medicine: earth, wood, metal, fire, and water.
So even though it's Tezuka Osamu at one remove, enjoy Saiyuuki!

Princess Kaguya

Here is Takahato Isao's The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Kaguya-hime no Monogatari). It is a fitting capstone to his long and illustrious directing career, which began with Horus: Prince of the Sun. This release has one purpose, and one purpose only: to provide a watchable set of English subtitles. We started from Fussoir's rip of the Japanese Blu-Ray and its official English subtitles. The missing lines have been filled in. The timing has been fixed. Language and grammar have been tweaked. The credits have been subtitled. And that's it. Call it Minimally Invasive Fansubbing.

Now, I don't agree with every decision that the creators took about the subtitles. There are no honorifics for example, which seems to be Ghibli's standard practice. I don't mind most of the time, but for a movie set in 10th century Japan, lack of honorifics, and the insight they provide to subtleties of class and role, is a loss. Localizing Kaguya's childhood nickname as "Lil' Bamboo" sticks in my craw because of my general distaste for using American dialect as a substitute for Japanese dialect. The dialog seems highly compressed, perhaps to allow for slow readers. But I suspect most Western audiences would listen to a dub anyway.

ninjacloud retimed the official subtitles. Skr filled in the missing lines; he made no other revisions to the original script. I edited and typeset. Calyrica and konnakude did QC. The raw is from fussoir. Of the many audio and subtitle tracks in the original, only the English and Japanese sets have been retained. The dub is fine, as dubs of Ghibli movies usually are. In fact, it's wordier than the subtitles.

Some viewers may disagree with the removal of the other audio and subtitle tracks and may want a version with French or Chinese audio or subs. For that, Fussoir's original release is just fine. This version is strictly for an English-speaking audience. If you prefer the original release but want to use these subtitles, a package with the script and fonts can be found here.

As for the movie itself: it is stunning in every respect. Its leisurely tempo and simple artwork belie the complexity of its themes and the cumulative emotional impact of the story. It distills the Japanese sense of mono no aware - the impermanence of life - more simply and elegantly than any Japanese movie I have seen. For me, what lingers is Kaguya's heartbroken reaction to the loss of the world she has known and come to love. Takahato is a poet of loss, as he first demonstrated in Grave of the Fireflies. His work here is more understated but no less impactful.

Kaguya can be seen as a tragedy in three acts. The first covers Kaguya-hime's miraculous discovery by a rural bamboo cutter and her joyful childhood in the country. The second and longest section is about her time in the capital and her increasing unhappiness at all the restrictions placed on her in her assigned role as a "noble princess." The last and shortest shows her grief and despair as her time on Earth comes to its end. The first section is joyful, and the third is tragic. The second is in many ways infuriating, but it is also a deep examination of the conflicting requirements of self, family, society, and custom. Some critics have described the middle section as an indictment of unthinking patriarchy, but I doubt that Takahata would agree (just as he has stated, quite firmly, that Grave of the Fireflies is not an anti-war movie). He portrays his characters and their situation, he observes events and interactions, and he lets viewers draw their own conclusions.

The voice actors are drawn from the world of film rather than anime and are thus mostly unknown to a Western anime audience. For example, Miyamoto Nobuko, who plays Kaguya's mother and also narrates, has been nominated for Best Actress at Japan's Academy Awards eight times, but she has never appeared in an anime before. (I saw her in 1987's Tampopo, which is well worth watching.) Takeo Chii, who plays Kaguya's father, appeared in more than 70 films before he died in 2012; Kaguya was his last role, and some extra dialog was recorded by Miyaki Yuji. Kaguya is played by Asakura Aki, a young film actress. The music is by Miyazaki's "house composer" Joe Hisaishi and is wonderfully appropriate and subtle.

The artwork reflects the pared-to-the-bone simplicity of Takahata's later works, first evident in My Neighbor the Yamadas. At times it has the beauty of watercolors, at others the simplicity of children's drawings. It always serves the story. Consider, for example, the dream(?) sequence during Kaguya's naming banquet, when she flees the crass coarseness of the party-goers. The artwork changes from rough and almost ugly as she hears their crude gossip, to the headlong velocity of charcoal drawing as she flees, and then to dreamy watercolors when she arrives back at her country home. The drawing styles reflect Kaguya's feelings and her shifting moods of anger, panic, homesickness, and resignation with little or no recourse to dialog. It's a beautiful, incredibly sad sequence.

Without further ado, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Joker: Marginal City

Here's another lost 90s OVA, Joker: Marginal City from 1992. Based on a manga by artist Michihara Kasumi and writer Maki Yuu, it's a sci-fi thriller set in Blade Runner country, where it rains all the time and androids (but not cell phones) have been created. The story opens with a string of serial killing involving young women, whose hearts have been removed. On the trail of the killer are a Special Agent named Joker (a cyborg, not an android), who is allowed to be cop, judge, and executioner all at once, and a young policeman, Rikudo Rin.The trail leads to the mysterious Dr. Bayfarm and to one of Bayfarm's creations, an android named Saki. After suitable action sequences, and a pulled-out-of-nowhere plot twist that has the sole purpose of extending the action, the situation is partially resolved, and the episode ends. If it's not Oz-class sci-fi, it's not Bavi Stock-class junk either.

What distinguishes Joker from other 90s noir sci-fi OVAs is Joker's special ability: the cyborg can assume male or female form at will. As a man, Joker is a superhero, fast, lean, and deadly. As a woman, Joker is a "typical girl," pretty and interested in clothes, dating, and romance. Rin and Joker are in love. Joker is affectionate in both forms, but Rin will only reciprocate when Joker appears a a woman. This isn't a deep exploration of the implications of androgyny (read Ursula Le Guinn's The Left Hand of Darkness if you want that), and its deprecation of a male-male relationship is pretty typical for non-BL anime.

Moho Kareshi translated the episode and the songs. M74 timed the dialog, Juggen styled the songs, I edited and typeset, and Calyrica and Juggen did QC. Originally, we were going to use ARR's raw, but Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions agreed to rip and encode his Japanese laserdisc. The resulting raw has less jitter. The laserdisc picture is not quite 4:3, due to black bars in the original source.

The dialog is not complicated but it is very sparse on names. Rin's superior officer is given neither name or rank; Rin calls him "senpai" (senior). I have used his rank from the manga (inspector), because "senpai" made the dialog feel like it came out of a high-school slice-of-life dramedy. Other honorifics were removed as well, but they were few.

The voice actors were industry veterans who are active to this day. Hayami Sho (male Joker) played Hojo Akira in Sanctuary, a 90s OVA, but he is also working in the current Assassination Classroom. Tomizawa Michie (female Joker) was Latina Ascot in Hi-Speed Jecy, another 90s OVA, and C-Ko in the Project A-Ko series, but she also worked in the recent Magic Kaito 1412. Matsumoto Yasunori (Rin) was Muto in Oz, still another 90s OVA, but he has also appeared in recent shows like the second season of Magi. It's a coincidence of course, but Orphan has released all of the 90s OVAs I mentioned (Sanctuary, Hi-Speed Jecy, and Oz), and they're all worth watching.

I want to thank Crisisi on the FFShrine forum for scanning the booklets for the Joker CD albums. The booklets contained official lyrics for the insert song and the ending song, which facilitated translations. The insert song is an upbeat J-pop song covering a montage of a date between Rin and (female) Joker. It doesn't do much for the story - we already know that Rin and Joker are in love - but it does heighten the contrast between Joker's male and female personalities.

As with Sanctuary, there's a lot more in the manga than in this one-shot OVA, but unlike Sanctuary, the Joker manga has not been translated into English.

As nyaa continues to be unstable, here is a magnet torrent for the show. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Uncle C Needs You! (Recruiting)

Orphan Fansubs has always been a small group. It started as a one-man shop (me) and gradually expanded to a core staff of half-a-dozen regulars. However, a combination of bountiful sources and the natural ebb and flow of team members (mostly ebb, alas) has now reached a critical state. Most of our projects are stalled for lack of resources, while the availability of interesting raws has continued to increase.

I am looking for one or more translators/translation checkers and one or more QCs. For the moment, resources for timing, editing, typesetting, and encoding are sufficient.

These projects use original scripts and are stalled on lack of translation checking (and sometimes, song translation):
  • Stop!! Hibari-kun. From DVD ISOs. 35 episodes.
  • Boyfriend. From laserdisc. 1 full-length movie.
  • Bite Me! Chameleon. From Internet raws. 6 episodes, double length.
  • Marginal Prince incomplete episodes (9-14). From Internet raws. 6 episodes.
These projects use existing subtitles and are stalled on lack of translation checking:
  • Gosenzosama Banbanzai DVD softsub. A check of episode 1 showed that the show needs a full translation check. 3 episodes (2-4; 5-6 were done by a different translator).
  • Yume Tsukai. From DVD ISOs. 12 episodes.
  • Cosprayers. From DVD ISOs. 16 half-length episodes.
These projects require original scripts and need a translator:
  • Techno Police 21C. From laserdisc. This has only been available as a VHS dub. 1 episode.
  • Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou. From laserdisc; ecchi. 3 episodes, double length.
  • Greed. From laserdisc. 1 full-length movie.
  • Condition Green. From laserdisc. 6 episodes.
  • Sanada 10 incomplete episodes (10-12). From DVD ISOs. 3 episodes.
  • Nora and Nora 2 (Twinkle Nora Rock Me). From laserdisc. 2 episodes.
There are even more possibilities, but I think you get the picture.

A translator/translation checker candidate needs to be proficient in spoken Japanese (old shows don't come with closed captions) and have an adequate command of English. A translator/translation checker does not need to be a native English speaker, although that doesn't hurt, of course. A QC candidate needs to have experience with fansubbing tools (particularly Aegisub) and to understand how to check not just dialog but timing, signs, and video quality.

If you're interested - even in just a subset of the projects - I'm on IRC almost all the time under my Collectr handle.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Code:Breaker OVAs

Returning to our original mission of completing unfinished shows, Orphan presents the second and third Code:Breaker OVAs. The first was subbed by Hatsuyuki Fansubs, although the release has a problem: some of the fonts weren't muxed in, notably the main dialog font. An unofficial patch to add the missing fonts can be found here.

Code:Breaker is a tense little series in which high-school martial arts heroine Sakurakouji Sakura suddenly finds herself in the midst of a secret society of superpowered vigilantes, the Code:Breakers, who in time-honored anime fashion use their powers to ruthlessly kill anyone they (or their superiors) regard as evil. Sakura becomes a cross between their warden and their mascot, and the show itself seems a bizarre hybrid between shounen and otome, with the Code:Breakers acting as both action heroes and Sakura's quasi-harem. It seemed to end inconclusively, in the time-honored shounen way, with the death of the apparent Boss leading to the discovery of the next Boss.

When the Code:Breaker OVAs were announced, I hoped that they would continue the main story and provide a greater degree of closure. Alas, it was not to be. The OVAs are collections of comic or ecchi vignettes. The Code:Breakers' superpowers are not used much, and the theme of battling evil disappears entirely. Instead, we get a Valentine's Day story, a White Day Story, a beach episode, a hanami (flower-viewing) story, a Christmas sketch, and a couple of mini-episodes about Nyanmaru as the hero of a children's show. It's all played for laughs and fanservice, with Sakura's and Ouji's assets prominently on display. In short, harmless fun - or mostly harmless.

Moho Kareshi translated both episodes, and Skr checked OVA 2. M74 timed the episodes, I edited and typeset, Juggen created new karaokes for the OP and ED, Calyrica and konnakude QCed, and bananadoyouwanna encoded from DVD ISOs.The OP and ED romanji are from the Hatsuyuki release, but the English translation is from the R1 DVDs. Hatsuyuki was also used for Nyanmaru's song and the styling of the chapter names in OVA 2.

Note: the nyaa torrent site is having chronic problems due to DDOS attacks. If you cannnot reach nyaa to download the torrent, here is a magnet link.