Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 in Review

This year, I've tried to bury my anxieties by avoiding the news and doubling down on my hobbies. I don't know if it works as therapy, but it sure has resulted in Orphan releasing a lot of shows in 2017.

Orphan Fansubs

I called 2016 a "banner year" for Orphan Fansubs, but 2017 has been even more amazing. There have been three important factors in the explosion of releases this year:
  1. New staff, particularly an additional translator (Sunachan) and translation checker (tenkenX6).
  2. The increasing availability of back-catalog media, both physical and streaming.
  3. The hard work of core staff members in all disciplines: translation, timing, QC, and encoding.
As a result, Orphan released a record number of new projects in 2017:
  1. Yousei Ou. A high fantasy OVA about fairies, witches, and elves, with shounen-ai undertones. DVD encode.
  2. Chameleon. The first two episodes of a "Yankee" comedy OVA about a wannabe juvenile delinquent and his misadventures. Episode 1; episode 2.
  3. Cosprayers. The foundation series for Smash Hit and Love Love?, both of which are considerably better. DVD encode.
  4. A Penguin's Memories. A moving story about the tribulations of veterans returning from a war (presumably Vietnam), told with penguin instead of human characters. Laserdisc encode.
  5. Neko Neko Fantasia. A fantasy OVA about a kitten that wishes to be human so she can participate in Christmas. Laserdisc encode.
  6. Tsuki ga Noboru made ni. A Japanese boy's memories of country life during World War II, told retrospectively to a skeptical city girl and her father. A wonderful, one-shot OVA.
  7. Stop!! Hibari-kun. A comedy series about a cross-dressing boy who wreaks havoc by being the best-looking girl in the family and in school. Episodes 01-06. DVD encode.
  8. Grim Douwa - Kin no Tori. A fantasy movie from Toei, based on the Brothers Grimm story "The Golden Bird." It features outstanding animation and voice acting. High-definition TV encode.
  9. Junod. An inspirational biographical movie of Doctor Marcel Junod, who worked for the International Red Cross prior to and during World War II. High-definition TV encode.
  10. Fire Emblem. A fantasy OVA based on a video game. Laserdisc encode.
  11. Cosmic Fantasy. A sci-fi adventure/comedy OVA based on a video game. Laserdisc encode.
  12. Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo movie 1. The first big screen adventure of Kindaichi Hajime, teen detective. The plot revolves around a locked-room murder during a production of The Phantom of the Opera. Letterboxed laserdisc and subsequent "full 480p" encode.
  13. Daishizen no Majuu Bagi. A Tezuka Osamu TV special, about a human-feline hybrid trying to find her place in the world. High-definition BD encode.
  14. Eien no Filena. A sci-fi fantasy OVA based on a series of light novels.
  15. Yuukan Club. A comedy OVA about rich private school students with a mind for mischief and too much time on their hands. Laserdisc encode.
  16. Nozomi Witches. An OVA about an ordinary high-school boy who is encouraged by a bewitching classmate to become a champion boxer. Laserdisc encode.
  17. Alice in Dreamland. A recent movie retelling of Alice in Wonderland, using dolls. DVD encode.
  18. Aoki Honoo. A dark OVA about a young man's ruthless pursuit of success. VHS encode.
  19. Fumoon. Another Tezuka Osamu TV special, about the rise of an alien species brought about by human environmental devastation. High-definition BD encode.
  20. Akai Hayate. An original OVA about a civil war within a secretive ninja clan. Laserdisc encode.
  21. Wan Wan Chuushingura. A comedy/adventure movie about a plucky dog name Rock and his battles against an evil tiger and a clever fox. High-definition streaming encode.
  22. Seikima II - Humane Society. An OVA that purports to tell the "true" backstory of the death metal rock-and-roll band Seikima II. DVD encode.
  23. Okane ga nai extras. Four omake from the Okane ga nai OVA series. DVD encode.
  24. Al Caral no Isan. A science fiction OVA about mankind's "first contact" with extraterrestrials, who are much more than they appear to be.
  25. Cathexis. An anime music video, supposedly of songs by Nanjo Kouji, the lead character of Zetsuai 1989. Laserdisc encode.
  26. Hyakumannen Chikyuu no Tabi: Bander Book. The first Tezuka Osamu TV special, about a human boy orphaned in space and his struggle to discover his identity and his destiny. High-definition BD encode.
  27. What's Michael? OVA (1985). Short sketches about an orange tiger cat named Michael and his human and feline companions. Laserdisc encode.
  28. Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo movie 2. The second movie about Kindaichi Hajime. The plot revolves around a terrorist takeover of an isolated resort hotel. Laserdisc encode and "full 480p" encode.
  29. Shiroi Kiba: White Fang Monogatari. Jack London's classic tale of canine survival and bonding, set in Alaska.
  30. Rainbow Signal: Hi-Fi Set. An anime music video of songs by HiFi Set, a Japanese vocal group. It tells the tale of a pair of cute dragons in a futuristic city. Laserdisc encode.
  31. Hoshi Neko Full House. A rollicking sci-fi/comedy OVA, featuring a smuggler boy, a lecherous robot, three rich high-school girls, an alien lizard, and a flying star cat, who must save the world from a revolt by the supercomputer Eterna.
  32. What's Michael? OVA 2 (1988). More skits from Michael and friends, including a three-part parody of The Fugitive. Laserdisc encode.
  33. Oishinbo Ultimate vs Supreme: Dishes for Longevity!! Ultimate Menu and Supreme Menu battle over dishes intended to promote long life. Modified Yoroshiku subs; 720p BD encode. 
  34. Kaitei Choutokkyuu Marine Express. The second Tezuka Osamu TV special, about conspiracy and high adventure aboard an undersea express train. High-definition BD encode.
Not counted in this tally were two new versions of A-Girl, based on a complete raw; a new version of Dragon Fist, based on a laserdisc encode; a new version of Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet, based on a high-definition BD encode; a new version of Tezuka Osamu Monogatari: I Am Son Gokuu, also based on a high-definition BD encode; and the "full 480p" versions of Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo movies 1 and 2. That's more than 40 distinct projects this year, with not a dud in the bunch. Congratulations, and many thanks, to the whole Orphan team.

Work for Other Groups

There seems to be less of this each year, particularly outside the "back catalog" kairetsu.

  • FFF. I'm editing the third season of Shokugeki no Souma. The Akatsuki no Yoma OVAs are all stuck at various points in the process.
  • Frozen-EviL. I continued to edit the slow-moving Blu-Ray version of Yawara!
  • Saizen. I continued to edit, and picked up typesetting, Laughing Salesman, and I QCed Psycho Armor Govarian.
  • C1. I edited and typeset the second half of Kakyuusei (1999) and project-managed the last few episodes to complete the series.
  • Soldado. I QCed this year's Ninku releases. I edited and QCed the Haguregumo movie.
  • M74. I edited and QCed the high-definition release of the Tezuka Osamu TV special Time Slip Ichimannen Prime Rose.
Laughing Salesman continues to be a pleasure; I find it's exceedingly dark humor appropriate for the times.

Favorites of 2017

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, cats), to 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:
  • ACCA 13-ku Kansatsu-ka. This cool and jazzy caper series hit the right spot for me.
  • Hoozuki no Reitetsu S2. A fiendishly funny series about life in Hell. This season provides more backstory about the main characters without losing comic focus.
  • Isekai Shoukudou. A comfort food series, combining fantasy and cooking in equal proportions.
  • Kappeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun. This year's outstanding zany comedy, with an equal-opportunity focus on its crazy side characters as well as its lead.
  • Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon. Much better than its hackneyed premise led me to expect. It turned out to be a comedy about family and the accommodations everyone has to make to get along.
  • Mahou Tsukai no Yome. Gorgeous and engaging. This series continues next year.
  • Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (S6). Even after six seasons, Natsume does not disappoint or grow stale. Its combination of hope and melancholy is unique.
  • Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi Hen. This sequel continues and broadens its characters' stories and provides a deep and satisfying conclusion.
  • Uchouten Kazoku S2. My favorite tanuki family returns for more adventures. Just as good as the first season, and open-ended enough to allow for a continuation.
  • Youkai Apartment no Yuuga na Nichijou. Another show with a supernatural theme. It combines great character comedy with supernatural adventure, but the former always takes precedence.
No sports, no mecha, no magical girls, no idols, no shounen (sorry, Boku no Hero Academia), and no violence against children (sorry, Made in Abyss). Among short series, I really liked Osake wa Fuufu ni Natte Kara (adult characters), and I'm heartened to see the return of Fireball, even if for only three episodes.

Looking Ahead

Orphan Fansubs is now more than seven years old. Since the group's inception, the team has finished more than a hundred official projects. I hope we'll be able to maintain a reasonable pace in 2018, but two long series projects are in the works, and they will take up a lot of time. So if you are an experienced fansubber, particularly a translator, typesetter, or QC — or even an editor, for that matter — 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.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Happy Holidays from Orphan Fansubs

On behalf of all the dogs and cats and other critters of Orphan Fansubs...



Here's wishing you a joyous, and safe, holiday season.

A-Girl v2

It's taken three tries, and fifteen months, but here at last is a complete and listenable version of the 1993 OVA A-Girl.

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.



The story of this release, however, is far from simple.

The first raw we found, back in September 2016, was defective: small (512 x 384) and missing the end credits. Apparently, it was stitched together from three pieces on YouTube. The second raw was based on a used VHS tape purchased in Japan.  It wasn't perfect either: tape stretch caused noticeable audio distortion in three places - but at least it was complete. This month, VHS ripper realized that the audio distortion could be overcome. He made a new audio track, and I spliced the new track over the old one in the three chapters that were broken. That brings us, at long last, to this "VHS v2" release.

 
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 bought the VHS tape for this release in Japan.He also translated and timed. I edited and typeset, Nemesis and Eternal_Blizzard did QC, gamnark ripped the VHS tape (and the replacement audio track), and M74 encoded it (and the replacement audio track).
 
As usual, you can get this version of A-Girl from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net. If you like the music, the soundtrack is available on BakaBT. If you already downloaded the previous version, you can get a patch to v2 here. It's rather large; the entire audio track gets replaced.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Stop!! Hibari-kun! Song Book

Just in time for Christmas, a digital version of the 1984 Stop!! Hibari-kun! Song Book - a collection of songs from the anime, including the opening, the ending, and various insert and character songs.


I like to find and release the soundtracks from the old shows that Orphan subs, but sometimes it's not easy. Like the shows themselves, the musical offerings are often stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide. Even when a CD version exists, it's usually out of print.

As with most of our analog media, this album comes from Yahoo Auctions in Japan. Skr bought it for me and photographed the album art and insert pages. (I bought the album to get the official lyrics for the insert songs.) Skr then shipped it to Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions as part of a massive shipment of laserdiscs. (It fits right in, format-wise.) Erik transshipped it to me. I ripped it on my vintage Panasonic SL-1200 turntable via a USB encoding gadget. Then I spent too much time figuring out how Audacity worked, separating the songs into tracks, adding metadata, and encoding the WAV files to FLAC and MP3. They're now released.

This is my first time ripping and encoding an LP, so please be gentle.

You can get the encoded versions, FLAC or MP3, from the usual torrent site. The torrent descriptions also include direct download links.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Marine Express

Orphan and M74 continue their high-definition survey of Tezuka Osamu's "Love Will Save the Earth" TV specials with the second show in the series, 1979's Kaitei Choutokkyuu Marine Express (Marine Express: Undersea Super Train, or just Marine Express for short). Like it's predecessor, Bander Book, it features time travel, a runaway computer, and a panoply of "stars" from past Tezuka Osamu works, including Black Jack, Ban Shunsaku, Duke Red, HamEgg, Rock Holmes, Atom, Don Dracula, Sharaku the Three-Eyed One, and even Leo the White Lion. Tezuka Osamu himself has a a cameo in one of the last scenes of the movie.


Marine Express' plot is so convoluted that it makes Bander Book look like a masterpiece of cohesion. Private detective Ban Shunsaku has been hired by the chairman of the Marine Express corporation, Scrooge Shylock, to investigate a possible arms smuggling plot. Before Ban can get started, the chairman is murdered and then vanishes before Ban's astonished eyes. Ban tackles the assassin but is badly injured. He is rescued by Black Jack, who save his life and then bills him five million yen for medical services. The penniless Ban notices that the murderer is boarding the inaugural run of the Marine Express, an undersea train that runs in an elastic tube from the US to Japan. Both he and Black Jack follow suit. The train is mostly populated with test dummies, but the live passengers include the corrupt American Secretary of State Credit and his daughter Milly, an equally corrupt Japanese prime minister and his aides, the Marine Express's embittered designer, Dr. Nasenkopf, and his two sons, Rock and Adam, and of course, Ban, Black Jack, and the assassins.

The train sets out on its run, with Rock at the helm, and almost immediately runs into trouble. An extinct undersea volcano erupts near the tracks. At the first stop, an altercation between Credit and Nasenkopf over Credit's nefarious schemes and the likelihood of the Marine Express creating oceanic pollution leads to Nasenkopf being seriously injured. Black Jack demands the train be delayed so he can operate, but the assassins force the train to start up again, in order to finish Nasenkopf off. The train is attacked by giant sharks. (Seriously? The train is traveling at 400km/hour. The top speed of a shark is 50km/hour. But facts never got in the way of a good story - just look at our President!) Meanwhile, Nasenkopf's younger son, Adam, who is actually a robot, has been programmed to blow up the train. He seizes control of the master computer and locks the controls. Everyone is hurtling towards DOOM when the train is suddenly diverted 10,000 years into the past, to the Mu Empire. And those are just a few of the highlights.

Tomita Kousei, who played Ban Shunsaku, voiced the same role in the TV special Fumoon, the 2001 movie Metropolis, and in several Astro Boy properties. He also played Watson in Sherlock Hound. Ohtsuki Chikao ("Duke Red" Credit) voiced the same role in Fumoon and  in the TV special Bremen 4. He also played Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Hound. Katsuta Hisashi (Dr. Nasenkopf) voiced the same role (as Professor Ochanomizu) in Astro Boy and Fumoon. He also played Louis XV in Rose of Versailles. Kimotsuki Kaneta (Sharaku) played the same role in Bander Book. She also had recurring roles in the Doraemon and Galaxy Express 999 franchises. The late Nozawa Nachi (Black Jack) played the same role in the TV special Bremen 4. He also appeared in Tezuka's ill-fated Cleopatra, as Octavian. The director and composer are also familiar names from Tezuka Productions.

Yogicat transcribed the subtitles, which were professionally done, and M74 timed them. I edited and typeset, and Calyrica, Nemesis, and M74 did QC. M74 encoded from a BDMV graciously provided by Beatrice Raws. This is a joint Orphan-M74 release. The encode has an odd aspect ratio: 1040 x 720 instead of 960 x 720, as one would expect. Comparing against the 640 x 480 DVD release, it's clear that the DVD was clipped horizontally to make it fit in a square frame. Still, I find it hard to believe that the show was animated at a non-standard resolution. Was there a mastering error in the transfer to digital format? Perhaps we'll never know. You can force playback at a 4:3 aspect ratio if it bothers you.


Marine Express was the apotheosis of the Tezuka Osamu star system and also an exemplar of his tendency to let his plots wander seemingly at random. Still, it's entertaining. You can get this release from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo movie 2 ("full 480p")

Shortly after Orphan finished the second Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo movie, heponeko returned to the web and uploaded a 480p encode of an Animax hi-def broadcast of the show. After weeks of painful rework, we're pleased to bring you the movie in "full 480p."

This version has several advantages over the original, laserdisc-based release:
  1. It's not letterboxed.
  2. The colors are more vivid.
  3. There's much less frame-blending and blurring.
Look at how clear the lettering is here, for example...😁


It has some disadvantages as well:
  1. The wonderful trailer isn't included.
  2. The Animax logo is visible in the corner throughout.
On the whole, I think this version is an improvement, but I sure would like to see Blu-ray releases of both movies. I don't plan on doing any further work on the Kindaichi movies for a while; the typesetting it too much of a PITA unless the encode has been image-stablized.

I won't rehash the movie or the voice cast; read the original blog entry for those details. Yogicat transposed the timing of the original script; I did all the rest. There have been a few tweaks to the scripts, because the letterbox margins are no longer available for the subtitles. A couple of additional signs have been typeset. Otherwise, it's the same convoluted story you loved before.

You can get this release from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.





Friday, December 15, 2017

Oishinbo Special: Ultimate vs Supreme

After years of languishing in limbo, Oishinbo seems to be getting its moment in the sun. The entire series and its two TV specials have been remastered in high-definition and released on Blu-ray. An ambitious translator (Moho Kareshi) worked through all 136 TV episodes and allowed his translations to be released for general use. The remastered episodes are streaming on Japanese web sites, with closed captions, which can help with translation checking.

If you're not familiar with Oishinbo, it tells the story of a competition between two Japanese newspapers for supremacy in the food world. On one side is Supreme Menu, led by Kaibara Yuuzan, traditionalist, potter, sculptor, and cultural arbiter. On the other side is Ultimate Menu, headed by his estranged son, Yamaoka Shirou, a lazy reporter with a strong competitive streak, and his long-suffering co-editor, Kurita Yuuko. Father and son butt heads about what is important in cuisine, while their despairing friends try to patch up their broken relationship. Stir and repeat for 136 episodes and two TV specials.

Orphan plans to release the two TV specials (only), as translated by Yoroshiku Fansubs, in high-definition. First up is Ultimate vs Supreme: Dishes for Longevity. This 1992 TV special documents a single match between Ultimate Menu and Supreme Menu, on the topic of dishes that promote long life. This gives the Ultimate Menu team an excuse for a field trip to Okinawa, whose inhabitants have some of the longest lifespans in the world. There they get to sample everything from aged awamori (distilled rice liquor) to irabu (sea snake), as they consult with gourmands, professors, and locals about what makes Okinawan cuisine special. They also get involved with local resistance to proposed development of a new airport on Ishigaki-jima, a small Okinawan out-island with a pristine coral reef. Then they must return to Japan for their showdown with Supreme Menu.


Inoue Kazuhiko played Yamaoka Shirou throughout the series. He is perhaps better known as Ryou, the hero of Tezuka Osamu's Bagi, Nyanko-sensei, the marvelously comic youkai cat in the Natsume Yuujinchou franchise, and Yuki Eiri, the seme in Gravitation. He is still active, appearing this year in ACCA and Isekai Shokudou. Shou Mayumi, who played Kurita Yuuko, appeared in Aoki Honoo and Hoshi Neko Full House, both of which Orphan translated. Otsukua Chikao, who played Kaibara Yuuzan, has had a lengthy career, starting back in 1963 in Astro Boy. He appeared in several Tezuka Osamu specials and played Captain Hook in Peter Pan no Bouken, among numerous other roles.

I have very fond memories of Yoroshiku Fansubs, which was my earliest training ground (along with C1) in the craft of fansub editing and QC. Their releases have withstood the test of time, and I see no reason to redo them unless better source material comes along, as is the case with the Oishinbo specials. For this release, the Yoroshiku subs have been used with some changes. The word "savoriness" has been replaced with "umami," now that the latter has passed into general use. Lines have been broken up for easier reading in high definition. In addition, more signs are translated, and the signs are fully typeset. As a result, the new script is ten times longer than the original.

laalg (who later worked with Orphan) did the original translation; izam translated the OP and ED. Yogicat retimed the subs for the Blu-ray encode; the original OP/ED timing, by Nanne, was retained. I edited and typeset both the original Yoroshiku release and this new one. Saji and MisterK did QC on the original release, Calyrica on the new one. Skr did the encode, from a BDMV.

With the passage of 25 years, we now know the end of the Ishigaki-jima airport saga. Local resistance did stop construction of the new airport at the site extending into the Sea of Shiraho. However, a new plan was devised around a site further inland, and construction began in 2006. The new airport opened in 2013. Ishigaki-jima is still a prime scuba diving destination in Okinawa, but climate change and invasive fishing techniques have decimated the coral coverage on the reef.

Oishinbo is from a different era than today's anime. (For one thing, it uses real company names, like ANA and Southwest Airlines, instead of today's "off by one letter" substitutes.) Although nominally about cooking competitions, like today's Shokugeki no Souma, Oishinbo has none of Souma's frantic shounen trappings or knockabout comedy. Depending on your tastes, you may find Oishinbo soothing or boring. Either way, you can get this release from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

What's Michael? OVA 2

Michael the orange tiger cat returns for another 40+ minutes of vignettes and parodies in the 1988 sequel, What's Michael? OVA 2. This OVA actually came out in the middle of the What's Michael? TV series but is apparently unrelated: the OVAs use a different voice actor for Michael than the series.

The sketches this time include a three-part sendup of The Fugitive, the famous 1960's TV show (the movie didn't come out until 1993).


Richard Kimble is now a veterinarian on the lam (lamb?), running from a false conviction for a murder committed by "a man with overbite." Despite the omnipresent danger, he must stoop and intervene whenever he sees a cat (always Michael) suffering; after treating the patient, he plays a trick on the cat and runs away. (He's a fugitive, after all.) Another sketch draws parallels between wandering husbands and wandering housecats, who seem to have similar proclivities. Two more point out what happens when a cat's instincts run up against the requirements of baseball or pro wrestling. (You can guess which side loses.) Once again, there's no continuity or plot, but the skits are pretty funny.

Iri translated, Yogicat timed, I edited and typeset, and Nemesis and VigorousJammer did QC. Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded from his own Japanese laserdisc. As with the first OVA, there were a fiendishly large number of signs, many requiring seemingly endless hand clipping and typesetting. (There's one sign I couldn't do. You'll know why when you see it.) Still, the quality of the laserdisc was better this time around, and the encode clearly demonstrates that.

So this ends our cat-centric endeavors, at least for a while. If you want to see more of Michael, he's hanging around on the usual torrent sites. He can also be downloaded from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hoshi Neko Full House

Here's an example of what might be called the "Wide Screen Baroque" school of sci-fi, the 1989 four-episode OVA Hoshi Neko Full House (Star Cat Full House). This comedy-adventure is filled with colorful characters, improbable coincidences, and unbelievable developments, all presented with a straight face and considerable aplomb. It's a hoot from start to finish.

As the show opens, young space smuggler Seitarou Yaoi, captain of the Iron Goblin, is idling along, listening to a dirty story told by his lecherous robot companion, Chiraku. Seitarou is leading a lonely and boring existence, smuggling porn and sex toys to desperate men on the frontiers of the solar system, when suddenly the all-powerful Earth supercomputer Eterna (shades of Bander Books's Mother) shuts down power to everything that lacks independent means of propulsion. Seitarou's smuggling ship was never registered officially, so it is one of the few vessels that can still move.

He receives a desperate call for help from three schoolgirls, who are stranded in space. They are from the Moon's Lunar Ferris Academy and are daughters of Earth's elite. Seitarou comes to their aid and finds he's picked up a lot more than he bargained for: Mayfa is the daughter of Eterna's designer; Jojo is the daughter of the CEO of a large aerospace company; and Lyla is the daughter of Earth's president! The four humans and Chiraku, aided by an alien lizard-creature and a winged star cat, must then figure out how to get to Earth, defeat Eterna, and save mankind, while having a rollicking good time in the bargain.


Hoshi Neko Full House was the brainchild of the late Ishiguro Noboru, who also directed the show. An industry veteran, Ishiguro directed Aoki Honoo (an Orphan project) as well as such science-fiction classics as Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Megazone 23, and Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. He also directed several episodes of the Anime Classics of Japanese Literature series. His last directing project was Tytania.

Seki Toshihiko, who played the nominal hero, Seitarou, should be a familiar name to readers of this blog, having appeared as fighter Nagase Jun in Akai Hayate, as well as Riki in Ai no Kusabi, Sanzo in all the Saiyuuki TV series, and the title roles in Alexander (Reign the Conqueror) and Kaiketsu Zorro. Takada Yumi, who voiced Seitarou's virtual girlfriend Purinpurin, played Saya and Monmo in Cosmic Fantasy, Yoshinaga-sensei in many of the Crayon Shin-chan movies, and Ayeka in the Tenchi Muyo franchise. She has also appeared in many classic h-animes, including Karakuri Ninja Girl, one of my favorites. But in my opinion, Kamiya Akira, in the supporting role of Chiraku the robot, steals the show. He's had many other major roles, including the lecherous judo coach Kazamatsuri in Yawara!, the lead characters in the City Hunter and Kinnikuman franchises, and featured roles in the Case Closed and Urusei Yatsura franchises. Demonstrating his versatility, he even played the seductive temptress Indra in Otaku no Seiza.

Curiously, the actresses who played the three schoolgirls have no other credits to their names and no biographical details. They are probably the members of the singing group LISP, which did the vocals for the songs. (This LISP should not be confused with the current seiryuu singing group LISP, which was formed in 2010. Its members were babies when Hoshi Neko Full House was released.) LISP gets a musical number in each episode, for no particularly good reason, but that's true of most musical numbers in anime.

Iri found the raws, which are fairly good and claim to be laserdisc rips. He convinced Sunachan to take on the translation. Yogicat timed (it has cats, after all), I edited and typeset, and Calyrica and VigorousJammer did QC. The translation is straightforward, but Chiraku's grammar is often strange or broken, which we've tried to convey in his English dialog as well.

So if you like the idea of saving the Earth in the company of a bunch of teenagers, a pervy robot, an alien, and a star cat, you can pick up Hoshi Neko Full House from the usual torrent sites or download it from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Haguregumo

In spite of the torrid pace of Orphan releases this year, I do find time to work on other projects, usually within the back-catalog space. Here's one that's been gestating for a while: Toei's 1982 movie Haguregumo, from Soldado and Saizen (aka SolZen). It's been in the works for more than 18 months, starting as a DVD encode and finishing as a 1080p release encoded from an HDTV broadcast.

Haguregumo is set in the Bakumatsu, the turbulent period at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, after the "opening" of Japan in 1854. The country was being torn apart by competing factions - modernizers trying to apply Western technology and ideas to Japanese society; Imperial loyalists, trying to reassert to the ascendancy of the Emperor; and the forces of the Shogunate, trying to defend the military bureaucracy (bakufu) against all comers. The bakufu organized special police squads, notably the Shinsengumi and the Mimawarigumi, to "defend public order" and assassinate opponents. (In popular culture, they are all lumped together as the Shinsengumi.) Covert violence and even open warfare were commonplace.

The movie covers 1866 and 1867. It tells the story of a retired samurai, Kumosuke (or Kumo, for short), who is living quietly, not to say idly, in Edo (old Tokyo) with his wife and two children, a young boy named Shinnosuke and an infant girl, Ohana. While he nominally runs a courier business to earn a living, he seems to spend most of his time smoking his pipe, drinking sake, and chasing women. The arrival of a Shinsengumi squad led by a young swordswman, Ichimonji Hyougo, disrupts this peaceful routine. Kumo is forced to use his still-sharp sword skills to defend himself, but he'd basically prefer to stay out of the treacherous political currents. Nonetheless, he ends up saving Ryouma Sakamoto (a famous Westernizer) from the Shinsengumi and teaching Ichimonji the futility of the warrior way.

Despite the overlay of dramatic historical events, Haguregumo is basically a comedy about family. The central theme is the struggle of Kumo's son, Shinnosuke, to understand what it means to grow up and be a man in such a turbulent world. Kumo seems like an odd and neglectful father - cheating at chess, letting his son take a real samurai sword to a kids' fight - but in fact, he's trying to steer Shinnosuke through the crises of childhood without being overly constraining or prescriptive. He wants Shinnosuke to define his own path in life. Interactions with friends, a confrontation with bullies, a chance meeting with Ryouma, Ryouma's eventual assassination - all these mundane and extraordinary events help Shinnosuke understand the possibilities and perils of the future, as well as the need to be a child for a while longer.

The comedy often takes a bawdy turn. Aside from Kumo's womanizing (he's an inveterate butt-groper), there's an ongoing gag about his wife Okiyo's desire for a share of his amorous attentions:


Kumo is willing enough, but their trysts are perpetually interrupted by everyday life: children in crisis, children wanting attention, nosy friends, and so on. At one point, when Okiyo suggests a daytime "date," Kumo casually asks if they can try matsubakuzushi (translated as "the cross"), one of the classic 48 sex positions. This did not get an onscreen translation note...

The voice cast of Haguregumo belongs to an earlier era. Yamashiro Shingo, who played Kumo, has few modern credits. Kawashima Chiyoko, who played his wife, is best known to me as the ballet-dancer-turned-judo-practitioner Fujiko in Yawara! from the late 1980s. On the other hand, Furuya Tohru, who had the supporting role of Ichimonji, should be well known to Orphan's fans as Kosaku in Stop!! Hibari-kun and Bavi Stock in Bavi Stock. He's better known, of course, for playing the lead male roles in Kimagure Orange Road and Sailor Moon. Inoue Makio, who had a supporting role as Ryouma, went on to play Captain Harlock in many of the Galaxy Express properties and Goemon in the Lupin III movies and the first two TV series. The director, Masaki Mori, was a veteran of Tezuka Osamu's Mushi Productions. He also directed Barefoot Gen and Toki no Tabibito: Time Stranger.

I quite enjoyed Haguregumo. You can get it from the usual torrent sources and, eventually, from the Saizen IRC bot on irc.rizon.net.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Rainbow Signal: Hi-Fi Set

Here's a rarity: 1985's Rainbow Signal: Hi-Fi Set. These are six or seven loosely-related anime/live-action music videos from the Japanese singing group Hi-Fi Set. This show was released in 1985, right in the middle of Hi-Fi Set's career (1974-1994), and features songs from their 1984 and 1985 albums Pasadena Park and Indigo. (Information summarized from MyAnimeList.) It was never released on DVD and did not appear in either AniDB or AnimeNewsNetwork until we added it.

The story revolves around two cute dragons in a future high-tech city.


The plot doesn't venture any deeper than boy (dragon) meets girl (dragon), boy (dragon) loses girl (dragon), boy (dragon) gets girl (dragon), but it's hard to fashion a complex plot without dialog. (Actually, there is one line of dialog, or at least we think there is. It might be just a random exclamation.) Hi-Fi Set's song are harmonious ballads and pop songs - no angsty rock or heavy metal. And all ends happily.

Maho Kareshi, finally done with translating the entire Oishinbo TV series (136 episodes!), translated the songs from official lyrics, and Sunachan checked the translation. Yogicat timed, I edited and styled (no signs), and Nemesis and Calyrica did QC. Nemesis also corrected the romaji and added the background lines in the songs. Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded from the Japanese laserdisc. We hope to subtitle other AMV rarities from Erik's collection sometime in the future.

So settle in to listen to some Japanese pop from the mid-80s and watch Ms. Red Dragon and Mr. Green Dragon find their way to reptilian happiness. You can get Rainbow Signal from the usual torrent sources or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.



White Fang (100th Release)

After a run of cat-themed shows (Neko Neko Fantasia, Neko Nanka Yondemo Nakai, Space Neko Theater, What's Michael? etc), Orphan Fansubs is going to the dogs, following up our earlier release of Wan Wan Chuushingura with the 1982 TV special, Shiroi Kiba: White Fang Monogatari (White Fang). Based on Jack London's 1906 adventure novel, White Fang tells the story of an Alaskan wolf-dog adopted by an Inuit boy, Mit-sah. After encountering and surviving all kinds of hardships, some natural and some man-made, White Fang eventually finds peace, contentment, and warm weather with the family of wealthy mine-owner Weedon Scott in northern California. This is Orphan's 100th release, counting by titles rather than files.

White Fang was a kind of sequel to London's 1903 book, Call of the Wild. The latter told the story of a domesticated dog that is forced into the wilderness and has to get in touch with its inner wolf in order to survive. White Fang told the reverse tale: a wild wolf-dog is gradually tamed and brought into civilized society by the power of friendship and love. (London thought of it as an allegory of his own life's arc, from teen-aged hoodlum to middle-class successful writer.) Both books were wildly popular in their day and have remained in print ever since. Although accused of portraying the natural world in an overly sentimental light by President Theodore Roosevelt, no less, London studiously avoided attributing thought and motivation to his animals, and he included the seamy and violent side of life on the frontier in the books.

The anime adaptation of White Fang is more overtly intended for a younger audience and provides more character continuity to simplify the plot. For example, the young Inuit who first finds White Fang, Mit-sah, remains the central character throughout the story. In the book, he drops out part way through. The villainous dog trainer Beauty Smith, who tries to turn White Fang into a fighting machine, follows Weedon Scott to California to provide the antagonist for the final segment. In the book, it's an entirely different character. Mit-sah's father, Grey Beaver, is almost a parody of the noble native. In the book, he's more rough-hewn, losing White Fang in a drunken gambling game. Nonetheless, the anime is reasonably faithful to the structure and major incidents of the book. Although White Fang has a few too many facial expressions for my taste, he's never portrayed as a Disney-esque anthropomorphic hero.



The movie isn't a sanitized G-rated adventure, either. It has graphic scenes of fighting, bloodshed, death, and animal abuse.

Tanaka Mayumi provided the voice of Mit-sah. She made her debut at age 10 in Kimba the White Lion. She's probably best known for her roles as Pazu in Castle in the Sky, Giovanni in Night on the Galactic Railway, and of course, Monkey D. Luffy in every incarnation of One Piece. She also played Son Gokuu in Tezuka Osamu Monogatari, an Orphan project. The late Naya Goro (Weedon Scott) played Inspector Zenigata in the Lupin III properties prior to this death. The director, Yoshikawa Souji, has a number of other credits, including Garon and Space Oz no Bouken.

Iri was inspired to translate White Fang after finding a 576p raw of a hi-def TV broadcast. (The TV logos are not intrusive.) M74 timed, I edited and typeset (very few signs), and bananadoyouwanna and Nemesis did QC. The encode is from heponeko. Given its age, White Fang must be cel-based and is thus a candidate for a true HD remaster, but it's probably not popular enough for that.

So let's go "North to Alaska" with Mit-sah, White Fang, and London's other colorful characters. You can get White Fang from the usual torrent sources or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #new on irc.rizon.net.




Friday, November 17, 2017

Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo movie 2

Kindaichi Hajime, teen detective, returns for his second big-screen adventure in 1999's Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo 2: Satsuriku no Deep Blue (The Young Kindaichi's Case Files: Massacre at Deep Blue). Unlike the first movie, which harked back to the locked room mysteries of the 1920s and 1930s, this one seems much more prescient, with terrorists recruited through the Internet holding innocent people hostage and threatening a massacre.

The movie is set at the Aizawa Group's brand new resort hotel, Hotel Deep Blue, on Konpeki Island. Its main attraction is a mysterious undersea ruined city that is just visible through the clear water. The chairman of the Aizawa Group, Aizawa Shuuchirou, has invited his executives and family to the opening of the hotel, despite an anonymous letter threatening destruction. His daughter Akane is worried and invites Kindaichi to the hotel through their mutual friend Miyuki. Just as Kindaichi's group is arriving, the Tokyo and Hakata offices of the Aizawa group are bombed, and the second Aizawa son is killed. Shortly thereafter, a group of five terrorists, who claim allegiance to an unknown "King Caesar," take over the hotel and announce their intention to kill everyone inside. While Kindaichi tries desperately to figure out an escape route, more members of the Aizawa group are killed, under mysterious or impossible circumstances. The young detective must figure out what is going on, who this "King Caesar" is, and how to stop the terrorists. Eventually, "all of the mysteries are solved," although it requires the usual twenty minutes of non-stop exposition to explain everything.


Meanwhile, there are lots of shiny explosions, traded accusations among desperate hostages, and state-of-the-art computer hacking using a blue PowerMac G4 with a Zip drive. Woohoo!
 
Starting with this movie, Matsuno Taiki took over the role of Kindaichi Hajime and played the character in all subsequent versions, including both TV series. The other characters from the first movie were unchanged, but several new characters were introduced who became regulars in the TV series. Morikawa Toshiyuki, who played Superintendent Akechi Kengo, was of course Panda Mama in Polar Bear Cafe, as well as Inugami Akira in Wolf Guy and Nanjou in Nozomi Witches, all Orphan projects. Ikezawa Haruna (Fumi) appeared in Gravitation, Daa! Daa! Daa!, and numerous other shows. The director, Nishio Daisuke, also did the first movie.

The movie is a laserdisc encode, one of many that various team members purchased in Japan. The translation was started by Iri and finished by Sunachan. M74 timed; I edited and typeset; bananadoyouwanna, Nemesis, and VigorousJammer did QC. The raw was encoded by Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions from his own Japanese laserdisc. The movie is widescreen, a format laserdisc doesn't support. Therefore, the release was letterboxed. Erik chose to leave the horizontal bars in. This keeps the subtitles out of the limited viewing area, but some viewers may find it distracting.

The movie has a large number of moving signs, but unfortunately, the laserdisc was poorly mastered and is a mess of blended frames. Therefore, some of the signs couldn't be tracked, and motion had to be approximated using linear moves. This looks rather blah. There's a 90-second promotion for the movie at the beginning of the laserdisc. (It required 1/3 of all the typesetting in the script.) I've used ordered chapters to move it to the end. If your player doesn't support ordered chapters, the promo will play first.

In any case, Kindaichi is on the job again, cracking a complex case under enormous pressure, with his life, and the lives of his friends, on the line. If you'd like to see how it all turns out, you can get the release from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.