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.

4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Released publicly today. Check the usual torrent sites or use the just-posted magnet link.

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  2. Great work. Thank you very much :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for your hard work. I love old school anime. Greetings from Austria, Vienna!

    ReplyDelete