Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hashire Melos (1992)

Hashire Melos (Run, Melos) is a Japanese short story published by Osamu Dazai in 1940. It is a tale of friendship tested and proven. It appeals strongly to the Japanese and has been made into an anime on multiple occasions:

  • 1979, episode 20 of Nihon Meisaku Douwa Series: Akai Tori no Kokoro.
  • 1981, as a TV special.
  • 1992, as movie (this release).
  • 2009, as episodes 9-10 of Aoi Bungaku.
Hashire Melos is based on a ballad by Frederick Schiller and draws on the Greek legend of Damon and Pythias. It tells the story of Melos, a shepherd who crosses (either deliberately or inadvertently) the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius the Younger (called Dionysius II in the movie), and is condemned to death. He requests time to return home and settle his affairs, but the king refuses, believing that Melos will run off and never return. Melos' friend Selinuntius volunteers to take Melos' place. The king agrees but warns Melos that Selinuntius will be executed if Melos fails to return in three days. After numerous trials, Melos returns in the nick of time. The king is so astonished by this display of true friendship that he releases both men.

This was supposed to be a straightforward project – a soft-subbed version of a Laserdisc source using the R1 VHS subtitles from the ACR (Anime Classics Review) release. Encode, transcribe, time, edit, QC, release – easy, right? Somehow, it didn't turn out that way. It has taken more than a year from receipt of the initial LaserDisc rip to release for, well… reasons.

Let's start with the encode. To quote the current US presidential campaign, it's YUUUUUUGE: 2.3GB for a 106 minute movie that's not even full 480p resolution. Further, it's in two parts, with a totally arbitrary dividing line at the 52 minute mark. Why, you ask? First, the two parts of the source have different resolutions, or, more accurately, different sized black borders. The first part is 682 x 370, the second, 696 x 370. The encoder refused to put them together and have vertical bars in the first part or excess cropping in the second part. Second, the source is from film stock, and rather than risk losing or distoring details with filters and compression, the encoder ultimately just threw bits at the encode: 2200 kbps in the first part, 3000 kbps in the second. 

While transcription, timing, and editing went quickly, it took a long time to get the R1 subs translation-checked, and they really needed them. For example, many of the names in the R1 script were incorrect (the queen's name is Phryne, not Flooney, for example). Then QC stalled as well. Both TLC and QC required new resources; I've documented Orphan's translation and QC woes in other posts. But we're finally done.

Was it worth it? I find this version of Hashire Melos overstretched. There isn't enough content in the original short story to justify 100+ minutes of screen time. The first 24 minutes of the movie are an "anime original" prologue that shows Melos as a country bumpkin visiting the big city and meeting Selinuntius for the first time. There's a lot of other padding too: the sequence of events that ensnare Melos in an accusation of treason, the nefarious plot to stop Melos from returning in time, the backstory about Selinuntius and his father, and so on. The garrulous old fart Calippus and the young prostitute Raisa aren't in the original story either. Finally, the movie draws a direct link between the story of Melos and Selinuntius and the fall of Dionysius the Younger. In the short story, Melos' determination helps the king overcome his paranoia and become a better ruler. 

On the positive side, I really like the "look" of the movie and its character designs. The main characters have distinctive faces and body types, with real noses and realistic eyes. Melos looks like an overgrown lunk of a shepherd, Dionysius has the "lean and hungry" demeanor of a habitual schemer, and Selinuntius has a balanced appearance befitting a classical sculptor. The animation is fluid, set against very detailed backdrops of the city of Syracuse and the Sicilian countryside. The voice actors are good too. Yamadera Kouichi, who plays Melos, has had a distinguished voice-acting career, including Spike in Cowboy Bebop, Togusa in the Ghost in the Shell franchise, and Ryoga in Ranma ½. The other seiyuu have mostly been in featured roles. Osami Misaki directed and also did the storyboards and the screenplay. Hashire Melos was one of his last projects. Kazumasa Oda composed all the music, including the excellent ending ballad. The background music is subtle and used sparingly. 

M74 transcribed the ACR subtitles and did the initial timing; ninjacloud did timing cleanup. Iri translation checked, I edited and typeset, Juggen created the ending karaoke, and Calyrica, konnakude, and new staff member Xenath3297 did QC. bananadoyouwanna encoded the LD source, and the experience proved so traumatic that he has sworn never to touch a non-progressive source again. The LD rip itself is from an anonymous source.

Please enjoy this new release of Hashire Melos.


  1. By the way, would you be interested in working on Kaze no Matasaburou from the latest Anime Mirai / Tamago? I have a half-translated, rough-timed version, and would like to translate the other half, too. I could release it on my own, but I know nothing about encoding and since English is not my native language, editing would certainly improve the quality. (That's also why I held back my version of Parol's Future Island I worked on ~2 years ago.)

    1. Not a translation really; just a thorough check on the R1 VHS subs.

      Unfortunately, Matasaburou has already been translated, edited, and typeset - just waiting for SQC - but I'd be happy to work on any of the other three.

    2. Oh, that's not unfortunate that's great. :) I haven't yet watched the others, so I can't promise anything since I only want to take on translation work I know I can handle. But I'll definitely look into them. (I'm not at home until the end of the month, so it'll take until early August). I'll contact you again once I can say more.

  2. It sounds like you guys went through a lot of work to bring this out. Thanks for the release.

  3. I remember this from the VHS fansub done many, many years ago by Odyssey Anime (probably the source of the ACR release). As I remember it, I found it curious, but not really that interesting.

  4. I have been looking at this work for a long time with Hashire Melos 走れメロス! 1981 Special Japanese version and I did not find it!!.
    Do you know any way I can get it? I will really appreciate it your help!!