Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How Orphan Chooses Projects

Orphan doesn't get a lot of comments on its releases, but along with the "thank yous" (always appreciated) are invariably requests of the form, "Can you translate XYZ?" Just as invariably, the answer is no, so perhaps I should explain how Orphan selects projects to work on. The process is different for original translations versus resubs, so I'll describe them separately. 

Original Translations 

Orphan was formed to translate abandoned series, OVAs, and movies - shows that were abandoned by other fansub groups or abandoned on obsolete media like VHS tape or Laserdiscs. That remains the group's core mission. However, it's not possible to do every incomplete or untranslated show. A couple of severe filters get applied to any project idea.

The most important factor is the interest and availability of a translator. While translators can sometimes be coaxed into taking on other people's ideas, mostly they want to work on what interests them. The Orphan team includes a number of translators, but they all have real life commitments as well as projects they want to do. Like everyone on the team, they are volunteers, and like everyone on the team, their time is precious.

A second factor is the availability of source material. Some shows simply have no original source or existing encodes. Over the years, I've become more finicky about the quality of Orphan's encodes, so there's more emphasis on original encodes from primary sources, like LaserDiscs, DVDs, or BluRays. (We hope to get VHS transcription capability Real Soon.) But a viable source is no guarantee that a project can get done; Dokushin Apartment has been languishing for more than a year, despite the availability of a primary source. Ecchi is a hard sell.

A third factor is the interest of the team as a whole. If the team is not interested in a particular project, that project is unlikely to get finished in a timely fashion, if ever. And if I'm not interested, well… you can imagine.


While translation is much less of a factor in resub projects, it still matters. Wherever the subtitles came from, they need to be checked. For fansubs, translation checking looks for errors in the original subtitles. For commercial sources, the focus is on overly clever localization or script simplification. Sanctuary, Hashire Melos, and Chameleon illustrate the sort of problems translation checking will catch in R1 subs.

Source material is perhaps more important in resubs than in original translations. After all, there already is a subbed version; a new version needs to improve not just on the subtitles but also, if possible, on the video and audio quality. I'd be very reluctant to base a resub project on random Internet raws. This has led to some strange and expensive quests for rare LaserDiscs or DVD sets.

In addition, there has to be a compelling reason to do a resub. For Next Senki Ehrgeiz and Sanctuary, it was to improve the video and subtitle quality (LaserDisc softsub vs VHS hardsub). For Nagasarete Airantou, it was to have subtitles that were actually readable. For Yume Tsukai, it was to have a full resolution softsub version of a show that only aired on TV.

Also, the show has to interest me (or another project leader). I like comedy, slice-of-slice, historical, sci-fi, seinen, josei, shoujo, and cats. I don't like sports, mecha, or shounen. And I don't have the patience for really long series anymore.

Finally, Orphan will not resub shows that have active licenses in English-speaking countries.

Orphans and Orphan Fansubs 

I'll close by reminding my readers that the original purpose of Orphan Fansubs was to finish orphaned projects. These projects often mix resubs (the episodes that were completed) with original translations (the episodes that were never finished). True orphans must satisfy the criteria for both types of projects: a translator must be interested; there has to be source material (at least for the unfinished episodes); the team as a whole has to want to work on the show; and there has to be a compelling reason to complete the series. And there's one other critical factor: the project needs to have been formally abandoned by the original group, or the original group must have disbanded.

Many orphan series fail on one or more of these criteria. For example, Sanada 10 has source material but no translator for its three unfinished episodes. Hidamari no Ki has caught a translator's eye, but there's no decent source material. MapleStory doesn't interest the team very much. And Hiatari Ryouko has not been formally abandoned, even though the group subbing it has not released a new episode in more than two years.

[Revised 11-Apr-2017]

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Here's another project with a BakaBT connection, the 1985 sci-fi OVA Nora. I first learned about Nora in the long (and mostly unanswered) thread called "Old Anime for Subbing." It was one of the few shows listed that had a decent and accessible raw, so I downloaded it and eventually persuaded the Orphan translators to work on it. Iri did the bulk of the translation, but both gamnark and skypilot helped out in places. Accordingly, they decided that all three should be listed as translators. ninjacloud timed, I edited and typeset (the signs are minimal), and Redac and I did the QC. Rather late in the game, Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions made a new encode from his own LaserDisc, with much better color fidelity than the original raw, and that's what has been used in this release. 

Nora is very much a creature of its time. It is set on a space station named Frontier Spaceport. In the forgotten depths of its service areas, a disgruntled scientist, Professor Dohati (formerly of MIT, natch), programs an AI called Artifiend, or Artie for short, to think of itself as the demon king. He directs it to conquer the world, which it does by infiltrating every computer system on Earth and in space and threatening to set off a nuclear war.  (Is it a coincidence that Artifiend visually resembles WHOPPR, the AI at the heart of 1983's War Games?) Dohati and Artifiend are opposed by another scientist, Professor Zachariasen, and his chance acquaintance, a teenaged girl named Nora Scholar. As might be expected, high-speed computational ability and pure logic prove no match for a teenaged girl's randomness, and the world is saved after suitably hazardous but completely PG adventures. 

Despite its Doomsday sci-fi plot, Nora is essentially a comedy. Nora sees everything that happens – from the freak accidents caused as Artie seizes control of the space station's computers to the booby-trapped journey to find Dohati's basement lair – as a grand adventure. She assumes that Artie is basically a teenaged boy whom she can wrap around her little finger, as she has already done with Professor Zachariasen. And the threat of nuclear Armageddon doesn't faze her in the least; to her it's just the tantrum of a lonely boy who needs some loving. She fixes everything in a breezy and offhand manner, alternating MacGuyver-like ingenuity with adolescent illogic, and then returns home. It's a fun ride and a ringing endorsement of Grrrl Power in an entirely 80s sexist way. 

Nora was played by the voice actress Yamamoto Yuriko, who also had the title roles in Lady Georgie, Mahoutsukai Sally, and Hello Sandybell. She sang the ending song in Nora as well as other shows. (Orphan fans may know her as the voice of Tomoe in Tomoe ga Yuku! or Telenne in Hi-Speed Jecy.) Professor Dohati was played by the late Nagai Ichigrou, a go-to voice actor for elderly, if slightly off-kilter, authority figures. He dubbed the voice of Dumbledore in the Japanese versions of the Harry Potter movies and Yoda in the Star Wars prequels. In anime, he showed a more manic and comic side as Happousai in Ranma ½ and Inokuma Jigoro in Yawara! Orphan fans may know him as the crazed narrator in Maroko/Gosenzosama Banbanzai! or the voice of Shima Togo in Yamato 2520. Professor Zachariasen was played by the late Utsumi Kenji, who also had a highly varied career. He dubbed Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies and Gimli the Dwarf in Lord of the Rings. In anime, he voiced the title role in Don Dracula, Alex Louis Armstrong in Fullmetal Alchemist, and Norimaki Senbei in the Dr. Slump & Arale-chan franchise, as well as many other roles. He appeared in Bavi Stock as well, but I don't know as which character.)

Romanization of the "Engrish" names caused endless problems. Dohati should be Dougherty, but it's spelled out in a sign. Zachariasen is listed in the ANN credits as Zakariasen, and Artifiend as Artifind. Only Nora's name is without controversy. And when Nora calls Artie a "memekurage," it's a fictional jellyfish due to an editor's misreading of xxクラゲ (xx kurage, or random jellyfish) as メメクラゲ (memekurage). 

So enjoy this early OVA, now finally subbed in English. We'll do the sequel, Twinkle Twinkle Nora Rock Me, if the translators feel like taking another dip in the pool.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro

Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro (The Murder Ticket Is Heart-Colored) is a 1990 standalone OVA based on a series of young adult novels for women by Yamaura Hiroyasu. Iri translated the show and did the initial timing. Yogicat did the detailed timing, I edited and typeset, and Redac and Xenath3297 did QC. The raw is an anonymous Internet rip from a Laserdisc and is pretty good, with excellent image stability and relatively little frame-blending. 

Satsujin Kippu tells the story of Nagare Seiko, a teenaged girl who has been temporarily suspended from her private high school in Tokyo for defending a friend from bullies. She decides to take advantage of this involuntary vacation by taking a trip to Nagasaki with her black-and-white cat, Gonbei. On the train down, she meets a handsome young man, a guitarist name Takano Kyouichirou, only to learn that he had apparently been murdered days earlier. She also encounters Misora Chuuta, a brash youngster who is clearly interested in her – an interest she doesn't reciprocate – and an older man, unnamed, who helps her when she's in trouble. Seiko repeatedly crosses paths with Chuuta as she tours Nagasaki, despite repeated attempts to give him the brush off. Eventually, Seiko gets involved in a murder mystery concerning a prominent local family, the Totsugawas. Reluctantly accepting Chuuta's help, she works to unravel the twin mysteries of the ghostly guitarist and the Totsugawa family. 

Satsujin Kippu is not a particularly deep mystery, and the solution comes out of left field, but it observes the rules of classical mystery fiction. (This allows the viewer to guess who the criminal is long before the main characters do.) Seiko makes a spunky heroine, never falling into tropes such as the maiden in distress or the tsundere. Chuuta is sufficiently eccentric to make him both interesting and suspicious. There's a lot more comedy and ghostly doings than clues and gore, so the result is a pleasant diversion for all ages (one brief nude scene aside). And besides, it has Gonbei, a cat that's rather talented: at one point, he gives Chuuta the traditional Japanese raspberry, the akanbe (pulling down one's lower eyelid and sticking out one's tongue).

The director, Sugiyama Taku, started at Tezuka Osamu's Mushi Productions, where he was Art Director for Sen'ya Ichiya Monogatari. He directed a number of other movies and TV series, including Hi no Tori 2772 and Bosco Daibouken. Toshihiko Seki, who played Misora Chuuta, has an extensive voice acting and stage resume, including Alexander in Reign: The Conquerer and Matsuda Kousaku in the Yawara properties. Matsuoka Miyuki, who played Nagare Seiko, has a more modest resume, including Fa Yuiry in the Gundam franchise.

Some translation notes:
  • 3-kyu in Aikido. Aikido has two basic skill levels, kyu and dan. Within each level are grades, expressed by numbers. Kyu and dan are sometimes referred to as white belt and black belt, but other colors are used as well.
  • Urakami Cathedral (St. Mary's Cathedral in Urakami) was built in 1895, when the long-standing ban against Christianity in Japan was lifted. It was completely destroyed in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945 and rebuilt in 1959 on its original site.
  • The Nagasaki Peace Park abuts Urakami Cathedral. It contains a 10-meter tall sculpture, pictured in the anime, by local sculptor Seito Kitamura.
  • The Dutch Slope (oranda-zaka) is a hillside residential area of Nagasaki where Dutch merchants settled in the second half of the 19th century.
  • Hinoki cypress bath. Hinoki cypress is a slow-growing Japanese tree. Its high quality wood is lemon-scented, light pinkish-brown, with a rich, straight grain, and is highly rot-resistant.
  • Sannomaru means "third enclosure."
Enjoy this vintage mystery OVA.