Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A-Girl v0

Here's a bluebird that happened by and flew through the release process in a flash: A-Girl, an OVA from 1993.

In 1992, Madhouse and Margaret Comics collaborated on an OVA of the shounen-ai romance Zetsuai 1989. This was successful, and in 1993, Madhouse issued six additional OVAs based on Margaret Comic properties:
  • Oshare Kozou wa Hanamaru
  • Singles
  • Pops
  • Oeda wa Nemurenai!
  • Kiss wa Hitomi ni Shite
  • A-Girl
Unfortunately, these additional OVAs were not successful and quickly sank into obscurity. None of them made it to Laserdisc, let alone DVD.

A-Girl is based on a 1984 shoujo romance manga by Fusako Kuramochi. It tells a very simple story: girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy. High-school student Mariko and her elder sister Mayu are forced out of their apartment by a fire and move in with their landlord. Mariko meets the landlord's handsome son, Natsume, who is also a model. They fall in love but break up when Mariko discovers that Natsume is seeing other girls. Eventually, they are reunited, and the end credits roll, except...

The raw we have - and the only one available - is defective: it is small (512 x 384) and is missing the end credits. Apparently, it was stitched together from three pieces on YouTube. Accordingly, we've labeled this release a "v0". If a better raw turns up - complete, and hopefully at 480p - we'll reissue the show.

A-Girl was the directorial debut of Kousaka Kitarou. (He also did the character designs.) He later worked for many years as an animation director and key animator on Ghibli films before achieving prominence as the director of the award-winning Nasu: Anadalusia no Natsu. For A-Girl, he chose a novel approach: he made a "silent movie." A-Girl has no dialog and is performed against a background of Japanese pop songs composed by Okada Tooru and sung (in English!) by SEIKA. Dialog placards provide continuity, like in old silent films. It works pretty well and doesn't interrupt the flow of the story.

Iri found the raw (after sitting on a dead torrent for a year) and then translated and timed it. I edited and typeset the captions, and Nemesis QCed.

So enjoy A-Girl in its truncated form. This will have to do, until a better source turns up. If you like the music, the soundtrack is available on BakaBT.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Utopa

Another show from Anime Tamago 2016, and probably Orphan's last. Utopa is a sci-fi offering from STUDIO4°C, a veteran company known for adventurous fare like Tekkon Kinkreet and Ani*Kuri 15 as well as utter sellouts like PES: Peace Eco Smile. (Gotta earn a living, I guess.)

Utopa is set in the far future, as a longish voice-over at the beginning explains. After ruining the Earth's surface with biological and nuclear war, mankind has retreated to cities in the sky. There, for no particularly compelling reason, they have crossbred with the surviving animals to produce intelligent hybrid species. When a seed drifts into the sky city, three youngsters - Kui, a dog boy, Hiruma, a cat girl, and Ruto, a lizard boy - venture down to the Earth's surface in search of more seeds and new adventures. The biosphere has indeed regenerated, in a new, almost alien way:



Giant jellyfish float through the air, zapping potential prey with bolts of electricity. And nothing seems to be edible (except for the three of them). Hiruma befriends or adopts an oversized caterpillar, which is promptly seized by a giant talking bird as food. The three friends challenge the bird to a contest, with the caterpillar as the prize. All's well that ends well, as you might expect.

Utopa reminds me a lot of last year's Parol no Miraijima. In that show too, three not-quite-human friends - two male, one female - set out on a voyage of discovery from a protected world into the great unknown, encounter many hazards, and eventually win out. I like Parol rather better than Utopa, I think - the characters are more engaging, and the animation more inventive and fluid. Utopa has an odd mix of character designs, as this shot of the bird with the three human hybrids shows:




Kui is played by rising voice actress Tanaka Aimi, probably best known as the titular little sister in Himouto! Umaru-chan. Hiruma is voiced by Ueda Reina, who has appeared in many recent series, including Bakuon and Dimension W. (Ruto is played by an actual child.) The unnamed bird is voiced by an industry veteran, Hoshino Takanori. The director, Tanaka Takahiro, has been a key animator on many projects and animation director on a few; this is his directorial debut.

Iri translated and ninjacloud timed. I edited, and Calyrica and Xenath3297 did QC. The raw is from Ohys and is an HDTV capture, not a Blu-Ray.

Enjoy another egg from Anime Tamago 2016!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Kaze no Matasaburou (2016)

Kaze no Matasaburou (2016) (Matasaburou of the Wind) is one of this year's Anime Tamago (formerly Anime Mirai, formerly Young Animator's Training Project) OVAs. It is based on Miyazawa Kenji's story of the same name and was already made into an experimental OVA back in 1988.

The plot is slight. A young girl from the city named Takada has to relocate to the country for a while, because her father is supervising a power project there, and her mother is away on a business trip. Her new home is so remote and rural that her school class is made up of a boy, a bear, a pig, a frog, a turtle, a cat, a deer, and a worm. Strong winds blow frequently, and all the students believe that this is due to Matasaburou of the Wind, a child of the wind god. Takada gets to experience the tranquil wonders of country life, make a new friend, and find out the truth about Matasaburou for herself. Then she goes back home to be with her mother in the city.

Matasaburou is quietly humorous slice-of-life comedy, but the animation is the real draw. The art style is simple and beautiful, employing watercolor-style fills on starkly drawn outlines. The country backgrounds are reminiscent of Miyazaki but are more impressionistic, like this waterfall:


There are frequent wonderful and whimsical touches too, like this shot of a cricket making his music as the clouds roll in.




Matasaburou is the product of a relatively new studio, Buemon, which has mostly done CGI work. This is their first venture in conventional (looking) animation.

The elementary school students are all voiced by children, a recent trend in Japanese anime that contributes to more realistic performances. The adult parts are voiced by veterans of the industry. For example, the deep-voiced Matasaburou is played by Tanaka Masahiko, who has worked in the industry since the second Astro Boy series in 1980. The music is spare and quiet, befitting the mood.

Iri translated and did initial timing; Yogicat did the detailed timing; I edited and typeset; and Calyrica and Xenath3297 did QC. The raw is from Ohys Raws.

Please enjoy this beautiful anime.