Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Review

2016 has been a momentous year and a source of great hope and anxiety for many people. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. (Let's hear it for the good guys!) Donald Trump won the presidency. (Let's hear it for the bad guys!) And then there was anime...

Orphan Fansubs

This was a banner year for Orphan, thanks to an infusion of new staff members, including translators (Iri, skypilot, gamnark, and Kou) and QCers (Xenath3297, Redac, and Nemesis). In addition, the continuing fade-out of mainstream fansubbing in the face of simultaneous streaming reduced the amount of time I spent with other teams. As a result, Orphan released a record number of projects in 2016:
  1. Next Senki Ehrgeiz. This mecha series was surprising enjoyable. A resub project using new Laserdisc rips from Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions.
  2. Minna Atsumare! Falcom Gakuen SC. The group's first foray into contemporary anime and the short-episode form. A gag-a-second send-up of the Falcom universe. Joint with Migoto.
  3. Code:Breaker OVAs. Not the story completion I was hoping for, but a series of comedic and ecchi sketches featuring the main characters from the series.
  4. Joker: Marginal City. A sci-fi OVA using a new Laserdisc rip. Like the Sanctuary and Meisou-Ou Border OVAs, it is one small episode from a much larger manga canvas.
  5. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. A minimalist resubbing of Takahato Isao's minimalist masterpiece. Maybe someday we'll sub the hentai version. ;)
  6. Saiyuuki (1960). The first accurate translation of the 1960 film known in the West as Alakazam the Great. Based on a manga by Tezuka Osamu.
  7. Chuumon no Ooi Ryouriten. The third anime instantiation of Miyazawa Kenji's classic spooky tale. We're still not sure if this was made in 1993, 1994, or 2003, as there are many different dates on the Web. A better raw is needed for this.
  8. Ear of the Golden Dragon. A preposterous 90s mix of magic, sex, and violence, and way more entertaining than it should be. Encoded from more of Erik's Laserdiscs.
  9. Samurai Spirits. Yet another riff on the Shimabara Rebellion and its leader, Amakusa Shirou. Orphan's raw-finder-in-chief and timer ninjacloud led this project.
  10. Kuroi Ame ni Utarete. This bitter and unremitting look at the consequences of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima angers and disturbs in equal measure.
  11. Tenkousei. Our token foray into soft-core hentai, Tenkousei is the last in a series that included Doukyuusei and Kakysuusei. It lacks both energy and originality.
  12. Hashire Melos. A softsubbed version of the 1992 movie, from a Laserdisc rip. It required a thorough translation check of the R1 subs.
  13. Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet. A new version of the Tezuka Osamu TV special. Itdemonstrates his special gifts and talents. Not to be missed.
  14. Satsujin Kippu wo Heart-iro. This light-hearted mystery set in Nagasaki features a plucky heroine and an extremely capable cat.
  15. Nora. A legendary OVA about a scatterbrained teenage girl who saves the world from a lonely AI run amok. Encoded from one of Erik's Laserdiscs.
  16. Kaze no Matasaburou (2016). An episode from Anime Tamago 2016, based on another Miyazawa Kenji story. Airy, slight, and beautiful.
  17. Utopa. Another episode from Anime Tamago 2016, a sci-fi tale about three human-animal hybrids trying to explore an ecologically transformed Earth.
  18. A-Girl. A "silent movie"/music video about a girl involved with a handsome but inconstant model. The raw is undersized and lacks the ending song.
  19. Yume Tsukai. A new softsub version of the 2006 contemporary fantasy, encoded from R2J DVDs. One of my favorite series of this century.
  20. Meisou-Ou Border. A tantalizing glimpse of a 14 volume seinen manga that has not been translated, about two vagabonds on the "border" of conventional society.
  21. Twinkle Nora Rock Me! A sequel to Nora and nowhere near as good. A random plot and incompetent animation make this a serious disappointment.
  22. Dragon Fist. An OVA that crosses mystical Chinese martial arts with a sci-fi plot involving cloning.
  23. Neko Nanka Yondemo Konai. A recent comedy with ultra-short episodes. It features cute kittens conquering their hapless human "master." It was my therapy series for election season.
  24. Kuro ga Ita Natsu. Orphan's second release this year of a Nakazawa Kenji anime about the bombing of Hiroshima.
  25. Wolf Guy. An action sci-fi OVA about immortal wolf-men (and tiger-women) battling a Heinous Conspiracy. Very enjoyable.
  26. GR ~Giant Robo~ Special. The pilot for the 2007 TV series. We're not doing the actual show, so don't ask. ;)
That's 26 projects this year, far more than Orphan has ever done before. Congratulations, and many thanks, to everyone who helped out.

Work for Other Groups
  • FFF. I edited the second season of Shokugeki no Souma. I edited or QCed the three Hoozuki no Reitetsu OVAs. I QCed the Blu-Ray releases of Walkure Romanze and Yuushibu.
  • Frozen-EviL. I continued to edit the slow-moving Blu-Ray version of Yawara!
  • Saizen. I continued to edit the slow-moving releases of Laughing Salesman and Psycho Armor Govarian; I also took over typesetting for Salesman.
  • C1. I continued to edit the slow-moving release of Kakyuusei (1999). See a pattern here?
  • Kiteseekers. I typeset all thirty episodes of Mari & Gali 2.0, as well as episodes 30-35 of Idol Densetsu Eriko and 40-41 of Pretty Rhythm Dear My Future.
  • Magai. I edited or QCed some of the group's short releases. 
I probably liked working on Hoozuki no Reitetsu the best - it appeals to my warped sense of humor. In general, I find current anime uninteresting, but you know that already. Still, I'm usually willing to help other teams out, particularly if I can get something in return, like translation help. However, opportunities seem to be dwindling, as fewer and fewer shows get fansubbed these days.

Favorites of 2016

I'm not an anime critic, and I don't play one on the Internet, so I no longer try to compile a "best of" list for the anime year. These days, I don't watch enough anime, outside of the genres I like (slice-of-life, comedy, sci-fi, seinen, josei), to even be knowledgeable enough to make a "Top 10" list. Instead, I'm listing my favorites of the year and why they kept me interested all the way through.

In alphabetical order:
  • Amaama to Inazuma (slice-of-life). Any show with an adult protagonist starts out with an advantage, and centering the plot on parenting is an additional edge. This comedy about a single parent struggling to master the art of cooking for his kindergarten-age daughter never set a foot wrong. Yes, the child was preternaturally cute, but so are my grandchildren. The plot situations (it's hard to call them complications) were realistic: small-scale issues and daily life.
  • Boku no Hero Academia (shounen). My shounen for the year, although it was a close call with Mob Psycho. This show plays it very straight and earnest yet avoids the repetition cliches of most shounen shows.
  • Fune wo Amu (seinen). A serious look at eccentric but passionate adults and their struggles both in work and in life. A show about and for grown-ups. I found it consistently engaging and ultimately quite moving. 
  • Joker Game (seinen). This series started well but then failed to deliver on its premise of a revisionist look at Japanese history. Nonetheless, it is quite interesting, at least to me, because I studied the interwar period as a history major.
  • Natsume Yuujinchou Go (slice-of-life). I have loved this series in all its incarnations. This season continues to blend human and youkai stories in a moving way and showed no signs of going stale. Nyanko-sensei is one of the great characters in all of anime.
  • Shounen Maid (slice-of-life). No, not the h-anime, but a gentle comedy that unfortunately shares the same title. Like several other shows on this list, it focuses on the question, "What is family?", in all its complexities.
  • Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (seinen). The other great seinen drama this year. It delves as deeply into the human condition as any anime of recent times. Why didn't it get a decent fansub release?
  • Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge (comedy). My favorite comedy this year, although both Sakamoto desu ga? and Daigashi Kashi were strong contenders as well.
  • Udon no Kuni no Kin'iro Kemari (slice-of-life). The list closes with another show about a single parent, a young child, and food, but this one took a supernatural approach: the child is actually a tanuki shapeshifter. Despite the improbable premise, the show has emotional depth and probes universal issues: the gap between parents and children, the losses we experience in life and cannot repair, and the fundamental bedrock of familial love.
No sports, no mecha, no magical girls, and no excessive violence, so Haikyuu!! S3, Yuri on Ice! and 91 Days, which others have strongly praised, aren't on my list. Perhaps I'll get to them Some Day, along with the other 15TB of unwatched anime I have stashed away.

Short series seem to be falling to a predictable pattern of extremely fast talking and obvious gags. It was original once but doesn't feel that way anymore. I watched Nobunaga no Shinobi, but none of this year's short series really stood out for me.

Looking Ahead

Orphan Fansubs is now more than six years old: its first official release was Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3: Owarinaki Unmei in September, 2010. Since then, the team has finished more than seventy projects (that we'll admit to). I hope the group will be able to maintain a reasonable pace in 2017, but team members leave or retire all the time. So if you are an experienced fansubber, particularly a translator, typesetter, or QC, and would like to join Orphan in exploring the highways and byways of the anime past, please drop me a PM on IRC or leave a comment on the blog.

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