Monday, December 19, 2016

Back to the Shadows Again (Kage)

Compiling an official list of Orphan's releases made me realize that the name is older than I thought. It dates back to 2007, when I had been fansubbing only a little more than a year. I had already become obsessed with finishing series that had been abandoned (as documented in this blog entry); and one of the first series I focused on was a four-episode h-anime from 2004 called Kage (Shadow). Shinsen Subs, the 800-pound gorilla of fansub groups when I took up the hobby in 2006, subbed the first two episodes, and then they stopped. I was quite chagrined that Kage had been abandoned and was determined to see the series completed. Somehow, I found a translator for the last two episodes and timed them myself to random Internet raws. With no typesetting or translation checking, and very little QC, they were released in late 2007 and early 2008 under the label "Orphan Fansubs." Orphan was basically intended as a one-shot; no further releases were planned.

That began to change in late 2010. I began experimenting with resubbing shows that had serious defects in editing, timing, styling, or typesetting. The second release under the Orphan label (and the first one with a real process behind it) was Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 3: Owarinaki Unmei, which had been hardsubbed by a group called EPIC. I transcribed, retimed, re-edited, and restyled, and used a much better raw from HQR to create a softsubbed release. The next project was Hand Maid Mai, an ecchi comedy with the usual terrible R1 DVD subs. Here the focus was on getting at least passable timing and typesetting. And with a couple of projects under my belt, my thoughts returned to Kage.

Kage is an unusual h-anime in several respects. First, the artwork is gorgeous - the character designs, the backgrounds, the fluidity of the action and sex scenes. Second, the characters are well-defined and not merely cliches. Third, the plot is dense and complicated, particularly for an h-anime. Set in the late Bakumatsu, it tells the story of female ninjas who use their sexual and fighting skills to seduce and assassinate men in various factions. The protagonist is Karyu, a reluctant assassin who has known no other life. At times, she is aided by Gisuke, a samurai who has his own secrets. Her antagonist is Uzume, a violet-eyed beauty who revels in blood and murder. Their frequent encounters and ultimate confrontation are the core of the story. Only one can survive.

I felt that Kage deserved better treatment than the cursory subs and random Internet raws I had used in 2007. Fortunately, some of my colleagues at the time agreed, and we decided to redo the whole show - revised translations, new encodes, etc. The encoder imported the R2J DVDs from Japan (at exorbitant cost) and encoded them at high bit rates to preserve the details. The translator went over not only the original Orphan scripts but the Shinsen Subs scripts and made significant corrections. The episodes received several rounds of QC from team members. (I'm being vague about the names because some fansubbers don't want credit for working on h-anime.) And there was actual typesetting. The typesetting caused a major delay, though. The logo was hardsubbed, and the typesetter who created it was dyslexic and misspelled Orphan.

Natsuki Rio (Karyu) has had an active voice-acting career, mostly outside of h-anime. She has had featured roles in the El Hazard and Macross 7 shows, as well as in Tactical Roar, Techni Muyo, To Heart 2, and Tokko, to mention just the Ts. Adachi Mari (Uzume) is less well known; she appeared in both Doukyuusei 2 and Sotsugyusei. The director, Abe Masashi, was an industry veteran; he did the seminal sci-fi series Blue Gender. The animation director and character designer, Takahashi Shinya, had done designs for Photon and Kurogane Communication.

Kage looks as good now as it did when it was released it almost six years ago. It is, not surprisingly, the most frequently downloaded Orphan show on BakaBT, by a very wide margin. Well, we all know what anime viewers really like.