Sunday, February 5, 2017

Yousei Ou

Orphan's first release of 2017 is a 1988 OVA, Yousei Ou (The Fairy King). It's a bit of an amalgam, part high fantasy, part shounen-ai romance. Based on a five-volume manga by Yamagishi Ryouko, it freely borrows from many strands of European folklore, from Greek mythology to Shakespeare.

The story opens in Hokkaido, where a sickly high-school student named Jack is trying, unsuccessfully, to recuperate from a lingering illness. Just as he is about to succumb to the malevolent spirits around him, he is rescued by a knight on horseback, Cú Chulainn (from Irish mythology). The knight tells Jack that it is Midsummer's Night; Jack must come to the land of Nymphidia, where everyone is waiting for him. As instructed, Jack walks through a moon portal and emerges in the land of fairies, Nymphidia. There he is proclaimed as the new Fairy King, the spiritual descendant of Gwyn, son of Nudd (Gwyn ap Nudd from Welsh mythology). Supported by an Ezo deer spirit named Puck (seemingly plucked from A Midsummer Night's Dream), Jack must must face down harpies (Greek mythology), rescue a maiden in distress from the merrow (mermaid) Melusine (Irish mythology again), and ultimately confront Queen Mab (English folklore and Shakespeare again), the ruler of the dark elves. However, his greatest challenge is trusting Cú Chulainn, who was Gwyn's best friend but also, apparently, Queen Mab's lover.


Transliterating the names posed a number of problems.
  • The hero's name is written with the kanji 爵, so it could be pronouced "Jakku." Cú Chulainn mostly gets it right, but Puck always adds the "-ku."
  • Gwyn was originally spelled Guin, like the anime character; however, he is described as the son of King Nudd. This makes it clear he is Gwyn ap Nudd, the king of the Otherworld in Welsh mythology.
  • Puck's name is pronounced more like Pooku, but the context makes it clear that he's the character in English folklore, who also appears in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • The harpies are named Ocypete, Aello, and Celaeno. The first two are from Hesiod; the third was added by Virgil. Their "attributes," so typical of classical epic poetry, are taken directly from the poets' descriptions.
  • The merrow's (mermaid's) name is pronounced more like Meryjean, but the only creature that comes close to the description and the mythology is Melusine, although she is fresh-water creature, not a sea creature.
The artwork is quite nice, like in this example of Night spreading her cloak of stars across the heavens:


Another beautiful sequence is Jack's sylphid-aided flight to Lake Mashu. However, there are some oddities as well. The animation is deliberately jerky in spots (this is made clear in the Japanese Wikipedia article). In addition, the characters are drawn very tall and thin. A gallery of stills from the manga at the end of the OVA shows that the character designs follow the original manga.

The shounen-ai aspects are not very subtle. Jack loves Cú Chulainn, and his feelings are reciprocated:


Mab's half-brother Ihika also loves Cú Chulainn, but his love is not returned. At the end, Puck (clearly a male deer spirit, having grown a set of antlers), tells Jack, "I want to be with you always," before adding "as a friend." Jack shows a conspicuous lack of interest in the female characters, even though most of them are bare-breasted and rather fetching. But there's nothing overt, let alone explicit. It is, after all, a fantasy.

Veteran voice actor Mitsuya Yuji played Jack. He is best known to me as the lead in Hi-Speed Jecy, but he's appeared in many other shows, including Oz, Ranma 1/2, and the Stitch! franchise. Tomiyama Kei, who died rather young, voiced Cú Chulainn. He also played Subaru, the lead character in Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet. The director, Yamada Katsuhisa, directed some of my other favorite OVAs, including Junk Boy, Outlanders, and Oz. The score is by Nakamura Yuriko and makes effective use of her skills as a pianist. The animation is by Madhouse; it almost feels like a precursor to the Margaret shoujo OVAs of the 1990s.

The project was done by the usual Orphan gang. Iri translated, Yogicat timed, I edited, and Calyrica and Nemesis did QC. The encode presented unusual problems, even though the source was a DVD. M74 did the workraw, but real life interrupted, so Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions did the final encode. There are still quite a few blended frames, but this is about as good as its going to get.

Enjoy this rarity from the 80s.

Update: there's a mistake in the credits, fixed with this v2 patch.

7 comments:

  1. I like how this was directed. Thanks for the release.

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  2. Thanks for the release! I'm looking forward to watching it

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  5. Please, how can I suggest projects to you? If you have another means I would like to know, but if not, I would suggest here the ovas Cinderella Express and Bad Boys, the series Futari Gurashi, all have no translations but have raws available in Animebytes.

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    1. First, you can read this blog entry. (http://collectr.blogspot.com/2016/08/how-orphan-chooses-projects.html) Second, you can tell me what part of "the answer is no" you don't understand...

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