Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Yawara! Sore Yuke Koshinuke Kids!! (HD)

FroZen-EviL just released the 1992 Yawara movie, Yawara! Sore Yuke Koshinuke Kids!!, loosely translated as Yawara! Go Get 'Em, Wimpy Kids!!, in glorious high-definition. (The last word in the title is often misrendered as Kiss, by the way, which puts a wholly incorrect spin on the content.) This is a side story that occurs somewhere in the middle of the TV series. Hanazono asks Yawara for help coaching a pickup team of judo losers who are up against an elite judo club sponsored by none other than arch oujo-sama Honami. The plot follows almost the same arc as the one of the Mitsuba Women's Junior College matches in the TV series, but Yawara! has never been known for the originality of its plot arcs. However, the spotlight is very much on the wimpy kids and their dysfunctional families, rather than Yawara-chan and her friends and her dysfunctional family.

When I first worked on Wimpy Kids!!, I was somewhat disappointed, because it all seemed so familiar. It's a traditional sports movie: a team of losers, up against a superior foe, decide to fight back and triumph after a lot of hard work. Now, I find its standard story arc endearing. The wimpy kids are well characterized, their struggles are given proper weight, and the ultimate fight is suspenseful. Yawara and the rest of the main cast play a subordinate role; this is very much a movie about the kids. It moves along quickly and doesn't overstay its welcome.

This version was done directly from the remastered Blu-Ray box set, and it looks glorious. The script is not much changed from the original VHS-based release, but I have excised a few more exclamation points. The incomparable kokujin-kun did the original translation and timing; he also found and added the insert song lyrics for this version. ninjacloud retimed for the new encode. I edited both versions and added actual typesetting; kokujin-kun fixed up my mistakes. The original QC team included CP, kokujin-kun, Juggen, sangofe, Saji, and Skr; Mizu no Kamo and I QCed the new release. Suzaku encoded from the Blu-Ray box set, which was obtained by our late colleague, CP. As always, we miss him very much.

So enjoy this new version of Yawara! Sore Yuke Koshinuke Kids!! Even if you have the previous version, I recommend this one for its superior visuals, improved typesetting, and additional song translation. I hope there will be more Blu-Ray Yawara in the near future.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Stop!! Hibari-kun! 1-6


Orphan Fansubs is releasing Stop!! Hibari-kun!, which aired in 1983-1984. The only attempt to fansub the show was abandoned after five or six episodes, making it a true orphan. Stop!! Hibari-kun! is 35 episodes, so we'll be releasing it in batches, as translation checking is completed.

Stop!! Hibari-kun! is nominally the story of an orphaned teenager named Sakamoto Kosaku, who moves in with the family of a "friend" of his mother. This friend, Ozora Ibari, just happens to be the head of a Tokyo-area yakuza group. The actual Ozora family, as opposed to the mob family, consists of three daughters (Tsugumi, Tsubame, and Suzume) and a cross-dressing son, Hibari, who is the best-looking of them all. Kosaku is initially smitten with Hibari but tries to draw back when he finds out that Hibari is actually a boy. Comedic mayhem ensues.

This description makes the show sound like a madcap anime comedy with a "trap" lead character. Cross-dressing boys (or traps) are fairly common in anime and manga (BakaBT has more than 300 entries with the trap label). However, Stop!! Hibari-kun differs in a couple of respects. First, it is quite clear than Hibari is not cross-dressing for fun but really wants to be a girl ("identifies as female" in the current jargon); that is, Hibari is transgender. Second, Hibari's sexual identity is played straight. She is not an object of ridicule. The comedy arises from the reactions of the people around her, from her apoplectic father to her irritated sisters to the utterly confused Kosaku, who is increasingly attracted to Hibari even though she is physically a male.

I don't want to make Stop!! Hibari-kun sound like some politically correct precursor to modern gender attitudes. It often falls in with Japanese stereotypes about gay and transgender characters, as can be seen in chapter 21 of the manga (animated in episode 22). However, Hibari-kun herself is presented respectfully. This treatment of a transgender character is rare in Japanese anime and manga, outside of serious stories about gender dysphoria such as Hourou Musuko. For example, the 1994 OVA Otaku no Seiza also features a transgender character, Jonjon. She is presented as useless, and her ultimate fate – getting gang-raped by three effeminate bodybuilders – is treated as a joke. In contrast, Hibari is shown as a superb athlete, a capable martial artist, a good singer, an A student, and an excellent planner. She's also rather proficient with firearms. At the same time, she's a more or less typical teenaged girl, worried about her body, crushing on Kosaku, and exchanging clothes with her sisters.

Both the manga and the anime peter out without resolution. The mangaka, Eguchi Hisashi, said that he ran out of ideas. This becomes quite obvious as the anime series progresses. The same jokes are recycled over and over, particularly how men of all ages are smitten with Hibari at first sight. The mangaka couldn't fashion an actual plotline, because the passage of time would create increasingly intractable problems for Hibari as her body matured and changed; so the manga just stops. After episode 22, the anime stumbles on with anime-original filler episodes that push Hibari aside in favor of other comic clich├ęs and tropes. The series really should have been half as long.

Kosaku was played by Furuya Tohru, a well-known voice actor of that era. He also played the lead male roles in Kimagure Orange Road and Sailor Moon. Hibari was voiced by a female seiyuu, Majima Satomi, as might be expected. Satomi married Tohru, and after that she retired, a happier ending than Kosaku and Hibari were allowed. Hirano Fumi, who played Tsugumi, went on to voice Lum in all the Urusei Yatsura properties, but none of the other featured players rose to prominence.

Stop!! Hibari-kun is an unusually difficult series. The dialog is fast-paced, the signs (all hand-drawn) are numerous, and the show is long. Moho Kareshi translated the entire series. Iri, Onibaba, and tenkenX6 did translation checking on these first six episodes. Yogicat timed, I edited and typeset, Juggen styled the OP and ED, and Nemesis, konnakude, and VigorousJammer QCed. M74 encoded from a remastered DVD box. The remastering did little to improve the film burn and jitter in the show, but it's better than the original DVD release.

Some translation notes:

Romanization. All the long Japanese vowels are transliterated as is, so Kosaku rather than Kohsaku or Kousaku. This causes some discordance with the English names shown in the ending song.

Wani. Under stress, Ozora Ibari sees "shiroi wani," white alligators. "Wani" can mean either crocodile or alligator. I've chosen alligator because the critters are drawn with rounded snouts, like alligators, rather than trapezoidal ones, like crocodiles.

Tsugumi, Tsubame, Hibari, Suzume. All the Ozora children are named for birds: thrush, swallow, skylark, and sparrow, respectively.

Ep01. "I’ll give you one of Nakamori Akina’s armpit hairs." Nakamori Akina was one of the most popular singers in Japan in the 1980s.

Ep02. Sparta Tatsugoro's name includes “tatsu” (dragon), so he's known as the Spartan Dragon.

Ep03. Ibari's farewell haiku uses the lyrics of the Japanese children's song Donguri korokoro. The song is featured in several other episodes.

Ep04.
  • "What's your name? Joe? Gen? Ryuji?" The heroes of boxing animes Ashita no Joe, Ganbare Genki, and Ring ni Kakeru, respectively.
  • Kujikuri Beach is a 60km beach north of Tokyo. The town of Kujikuri was one of two places transported into the future in Tezuka Osamu's Time Slip Ichimannen: Prime Rose.
Ep06. "Who am I, Pegira?" A monster that appeared in episode 5 of the Ultra Q TV series.

Orphan started on this series 18 months ago. All of the episodes are done, except for translation checking. It has proven difficult to keep a translation checker engaged; three different people worked on the first six episodes. If you're an experienced translator and want to give the dialog a thorough review, please let me know ASAP. Maybe we can get the next batch of episodes out a little faster.

Meanwhile, enjoy Stop!! Hibari-kun! and forgive its numerous trespasses. You can get it from the Orphan|Arutha bot on irc.rizon.net in #news or #nibl or from the usual torrent sites.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Scoopers

I try not to criticize other fansubbers. After more than a decade working on fansubs, I know just how hard, tedious, and time-consuming the process is. It's easy to make mistakes, through inexperience, carelessness, or both. Leechers and blogging critics can be merciless. Mostly, I abide by Thumper's rule: "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." But every now and then, a fansub appears that simply drives me up a wall.

Scoopers, a 1987 OVA, had been on my list of possibilities ever since it appeared in an endless BakaBT forum topic about old shows needing subtitles. I had banked the raw for future use. Then, a group called Kingmenu offered a version with English subtitles, and it showed up as an offer on BakaBT. I eagerly downloaded their version and started to watch. Then I started throwing things at the screen.

Kids, I'd like to offer a few simple rules if you're thinking about fansubbing an old show into English.
  1. Don't upscale your source, particularly if the source is bad, like a VHS or Laserdisc rip. Enlarging a bad source makes it look worse. Artifacts look 100% worse when they've been upscaled by 50%.
  2. If your source is an encode and not an original VHS tape or Laserdisc, don't re-encode it. Whenever you re-encode, you make the source worse. There's no more information available than what's in the original source. This implies that with a pre-existing encode, you should use softsubs and not re-encode it to add hardsubs.
  3. Don't subtitle random noises and grunts. "Arak" and "Ook" are not English words (although they might be Unix commands, for all I know), and they don't add value to the translation.
  4. Don't use different font sizes as a way of conveying loudness or forcefulness. That's what punctuation like exclamation marks, and typographic conventions like italics, are for.
  5. Make sure there's someone on the team who actually speaks and writes passable English.
You get the picture.

Had Scoopers been Kingmenu's first offense, I could have written it off to inexperience, but it's just one of a series of terrible subtitled offerings. Among the more bizarre was a 112p re-encode of Orphan's Adachigahara - the opening typesetting is a dead giveaway to where it came from. The world is indeed full of really, really bad fansubs. I know I can't fix all of them, but in this case, M74 and I felt compelled to try.

I OCRed the Kingmenu subs and eliminated the random noises. M74 retimed the show. Iri translation-checked (close to half the dialog was changed). I edited and styled, and Calyrica and M74 QCed. M74 tried to make better encodes from both a VHS tape and a VHD optical disk, but they turned out to be no better than the Internet raw: barely passable. Nonetheless, this version's subtitles are an improvement in every respect.

Scoopers is a fairly standard sci-fi action OVA about two newspaper reporters, Yoko and Beat, a beautiful woman and an android, respectively. They're out to expose the identity of an international gangster and terrorist who calls himself Mister X. (This name would not pass muster in a James Bond movie.) They trace Mister X to his hi-tech amusement park, Techno Land, where they must escape from roller coasters that end in mid-air, withstand the wiles of robotic Valkyries, and infiltrate Mister X's all-powerful AI, Baudelaire. Needless to say, not one second of this can be taken seriously, but it's a decent if nonsensical thrill ride. It has the usual violence and nudity of 80s OVAs, but there's not much sense of real menace, perhaps reflecting its origins as a Monkey Punch manga.

I'd like to offer hope for better versions of other Kingmenu releases, but as I said before, the world is full of bad fansubs, and life is too short to fix them. If other subbers want to take up the challenge, I'll be happy to cheer from the sidelines.

Update (20-May-2017): Scoopers is now available at the usual torrent sites.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Chameleon 2

Well, he's back.

Yes, Yazawa Eisaku, pint-sized wannabe delinquent, returns in the second episode of Chameleon for another round of hi-jinks, braggadocio, and narrow escapes from doom and his cross-dressing would-be girl(boy)friend. Having won the reluctant admiration of the hoods at Narita Minami High, he becomes the target of gangs at Kasu High, who hope to establish their reputation as "bad hombres" by taking down the formidable (and did they but know, cowardly) Yazawa. Fortunately or unfortunately, he's rescued by Kyuuko Akio, a bullied student turned psychopathic fighter. Kyuu, as he's known, "adopts" Yazawa as his brother and defends him against all comers - including Yazawa's friends. While Yazawa likes having protection, he's increasingly uneasy about the ferocity of Kyuu's temper and the over-the-top aggressiveness of Kyuu's responses. He tries to reign his protector in, but that makes Kyuu suspicious. They end up in a confrontation, and Yazawa ends up back in the hospital.

I liked this episode of Chameleon considerably better than the first. There's far less gross-out gags and toilet jokes. The humor seems to flow more organically from the story, and there's an actual plot. The songs are good, particularly the doo-wop pastiche used as the OP and ED. And the voice actor for Kyuu (Nakao Ryuusei) is outstanding, with an idiosyncratic delivery that can change from comic to menacing in a heartbeat. Nakao has been a voice actor for more than fifty years, starting in 1965. He's had recurring roles in Dragonball and One Piece. His most recent role was King Falke II in this year's ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka.

As before, Moho Kareshi did the initial translation. convexity checked the dialog translation and translated the songs, which are just great. ninjacloud timed, I edited and typeset, and Vigorousjammer and konnakude did QC. The raw is from the Internet.

A few translation notes:
  • When Yazawa is released from the hospital, he says, "It's so bright out here in the free world." He's trying to act like a yakuza released from jail.
  • "Stop multiplying like Matsudaira Ken in a Konaka ad!" The ad is online here.
  • Short Peace in the OP/ED refers to the 70mm length version of Peace cigarettes.
When will episode 3 be ready? I don't know. Because the episodes are double length, each one requires a substantial block of the translation checker's time, which is at a premium right now. So enjoy this dose of Chameleon. Maybe there will be more, someday. Meanwhile, get it from Orphan|Arutha in #news or #nibl on irc.rizon.net or from your friendly local torrent site.




Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tsuki ga Noboru made ni

Here's a deceptively simple story about the power of stories, the 1991 OVA Tsuki ga Noboru made ni (By the Time the Moon Rises). A father decides to take his young daughter into the country to see the full moon, which he claims will be unbelievably large there. His daughter, a city girl to her fingertips, is decidedly unimpressed. She knows that the moon is the same size everywhere. When father and daughter reach their destination, they encounter an old man. He offers her some silver-wrapped chocolates (Americans would call them Hershey's kisses). Again, she is unimpressed. While the three of them wait for the moon to rise, the old man tells the girl a story of his childhood. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

The old man describes his life as a boy in the local village, which is notable only for a nearby iron mine, during the Second World War. The ongoing deprivation and loss of manpower in the countryside has made it difficult to keep the mine running. At first, the military tries to use "volunteer" schoolgirls from Tokyo. However, they are clearly unsuited to the work, so the military brings in captured American pilots as slave labor. Working conditions are brutal, and many of the pilots die within a few months. (This is shown with great restraint in a wordless montage that occasionally cuts to the ever-growing number of crosses in a makeshift cemetery.) Nonetheless, when the boy — that is, the old man telling the story — almost drowns in the local river, one of the pilots rescues him, at great personal risk. Out of gratitude, the boy floats food down to the starving pilots, including watermelons that he steals from his grandfather's field. Then the war is over, and the pilots are repatriated. A few months later, American fighter planes suddenly appear over the village. The locals are terrified that the pilots intend to take revenge for their treatment as slave laborers. Instead, the planes drop silver-wrapped chocolates and cans of fruits that the villagers have never seen. The boy's kindness has been repaid.

The old man's tale is over. The young girl has come to appreciate the significance of something as simple as silver-wrapped chocolates and gratefully accepts them. The moon rises, as big as her father promised, but the night sky, free of the city's light pollution, is even more impressive. End of story (and spoilers).

Tsuki ga Noboru made ni was based on the concert performances of Takeda Tetsuya, a Japanese actor, composer, and singer who was actually born after the war. He also voiced the principal role of the nameless old man. The OVA was directed by Yamamoto Eiichi, Tezuka Osamu's collaborator at Mushi Productions. He directed many notable works, including Jungle Emperor Leo (1966), Cleopatra, Senya Ichi Monogatari, Belladonna, Odin, and Oshin. His veteran touch is clear in the steady pacing and straightforward camera work. The spare and effective background music is by Watanable Toshiyuki, whose long career spans the late 80s (Peter Pan no Bouken) to the present day (Space Brothers #0 movie).

I find it puzzling that such a beautiful story never made it to DVD or Blu-Ray. One factor might be its non-conforming attitude to Japan's role in the Second World War. Japan is matter-of-factly portrayed as the aggressor. One sign says "1937: Japan Invaded China." There's no euphemistic obfuscation like "the China Incident." The brutal Japanese treatment of POWs isn't whitewashed or viewed approvingly. When the boy steals the watermelons for the prisoners, his grandfather remarks that the boy isn't much of a Japanese patriot, but he's a respectable human being.

These kinds of attitudes were not popular in post-war Japan, where the crimes of the Second World War were conveniently forgotten, by the Japanese and their new American allies alike. These include the rape of Nanking (now Nanjing), where Japanese troops slaughtered up to 300,000 Chinese civilians; the abduction of Korean women as sex slaves ("comfort women") for military brothels; the human medical experiments performed by the notorious Unit 731; the Bataan Death March; and many others. The Japanese government has neither acknowledged nor apologized for most of these atrocities. Today's increasingly nationalistic governments are less and less likely to do so, despite the tensions this introduces in Japan's relationships with China and South Korea. Perhaps a show that so explicitly contradicts the official attitudes to the war was doomed to be "left behind" in analog limbo. Or perhaps it's something much simpler, like tangled intellectual property rights, poor sales of the original release, or loss of the original film masters.

Iri translated the show, Yogicat timed it, I edited it, and Calyrica and Nemesis did QC. The raw is a VHS tape rip by NNK. The video is blurry but serviceable. Nemesis denoised the audio track for improved clarity, but there are still occasional pops and clicks. The show was also released on Laserdisc. If we manage to find it, we'll release a v2 with a new encode. Meanwhile, Orphan is proud to bring you Tsuki ga Noboru made ni. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Get it from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in #news or #nibl on irc.rizon.net or the usual torrent sites.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Neko Neko Fantasia

Here's a piece of whimsy for the cat lovers out there: the 1991 OVA Neko Neko Fantasia (Cat Cat Fantasia). Yes, I know the English title sounds awkward, so it's often rendered as Kitty Cat Fantasia, but the awkward English appears right on the Japanese manga covers:



Neko Neko Fantasia is set during the Christmas holiday season. The main character is a black kitten named Shiro (which means white in Japanese), who belongs to Satoko, a high-school girl. Satoko is preoccupied with knitting a hand-made scarf for her crush, Kagawa. Her parents are preoccupied with other aspects of Christmas, such as choosing appropriate presents and figuring out how to pay for them. Shiro is feeling both ignored and left out. She wishes to the moon that she could participate too. As a result, she is transformed into a small human girl. Mayhem ensues.

Neko Neko Fantasia is based on a manga by Takada Emi. Depending on how you feel about whimsical fantasy, the show may strike you as quite sweet or incredibly saccharine. I tend more towards the latter, but perhaps I've forgotten how kittens behave, as opposed to grown-up cats. You have an adorable kitten for three or four months; you live with a mature cat, self-centered and aloof, for years.

One translation note: when Shiro disappears, Satoko's father jokes that perhaps someone made a shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese instrument) out of the kitten. Traditionally, shamisen's were covered in dog- or cat-skin, but modern attitudes have made it almost impossible to harvest dogs or cats for their skins (see this article, for example).

The OVA is encoded from a Japanese laserdisc, another of the treasure trove that yielded A Penguin's Memory. Iri translated, Yogicat timed, I edited and typeset, Nemesis and konnakude QCed, and Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded. More shows from this laserdisc haul are in the works. The release uses ordered chapters in order to isolate an unrelated bonus at the end - a preview for the OVA Yuukan Club (Leisure Club), which is not translated. If your player supports ordered chapters, it will play only Neko Neko Fantasia; you can access the Yuukan Club preview as the second "edition" in the file. If your player does not support ordered chapters, it will play the main OVA followed by the preview, without a break.

Enjoy this purr-fect release from Orphan. You can get it via IRC XDCC from Orphan|Arutha in #news or #nibl on irc.rizon.set or the usual torrent sites.



Panic in Anime Park

In the past couple of weeks, nyaatorrents - the most popular Japanese media torrent site - has disappeared, apparently taken down by its owner. BakaBT - the best archiving torrent site for translated anime - has gone private. Further, it is down for maintenance right now. As a result, all of Orphan's releases are currently unavailable.

The fansubbing community is still trying to adjust to this new reality. Some teams are hoping for a "nyaa replacement." Others have moved to other torrent sites. Because of the uncertainty, I don't intend to retorrent Orphan's releases until the situation is clearer. You can find magnet links to prior Orphan releases at the so-called nyaa archive, but they may or may not be seeded.

However, all is not lost. Thanks to the generous help of net colleagues, Orphan, for the first time, has an archive bot on IRC, in irc.rizon.net. The bot is called Orphan|Arutha, and it can be found in channels #news and #nibl. As of 07-May-2017, the bot is fully populated. New releases will also be put there. While the nyaa situation sorts itself, we'll create torrents on an alternate tracker (minglong for now) and list them on TokyoTosho as well.

The whole episode shows just how rickety and fragile the digital fansub distribution infrastructure actually was. Let's hope the community remembers this lesson going forward.

In the meantime, you can fire up your IRC client and head on over to #news or #nibl on irc.rizon.net to get your Orphan anime fix.