Friday, June 30, 2017

Fire Emblem

Here's another show that, like Wolf Guy, starts in the middle and ends without a conclusion. Released in 1996, Fire Emblem is a two episode OVA based on the popular Nintendo game series of the same name - specifically on the first game, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light. It sets up a complicated backstory about warring nations on the mythical continent of Akaneia. The evil sorcerer Garnef of Khadin has resurrected the Dragon of Darkness, Medeus of Duhrua. Together, they intend to Conquer the World. (What else would an evil sorcerer and a dragon of darkness do, anyway?) Their forces overrun Aritia and kill its king, Cornelius, bearer of the mystic sword Falcion, which is lost. The king's son, Mars, is forced into exile with a few surviving soldiers in the country of Talis. And all this happens in the prologue!

With such a rapid exposition of events, one might expect the story to move briskly towards the quest to recover Falcion, followed by a climactic confrontation between the Aritian exiles and the Big Bads, Garnef and Medeus. Instead, we get two side stories. In the first episode, Mars and the Aritians (sounds like a boy band, doesn't it?) save Talis' main port from an infestation of pirates. In the second episode, they rescue a healer, a nun named Lena, from local bandits. Only at the end of episode two, as the music is building towards the end credits, do Mars and his friends turn their sites on freeing their country. The climax is many turns - um, episodes - away, but the story is over. You can read how it all turns out, in the game at least, here.

After working on several OVA series that seem to go nowhere, I've concluded that they're intended as teasers for other media properties, kind of like the OADs that are bundled in manga volumes nowadays. If the OVAs actually resolved the story, the viewer would have no incentive to read the manga (Wolf Guy) or play the game (Fire Emblem and Cosmic Fantasy). But any viewer hooked by the OVAs would be forced to spend more money to learn how things turn out. Of course, if you don't read/speak/understand Japanese, that strategy doesn't really work, and the viewer is, as we say in English, SOOL.

In the voice cast, Mars is played by Midorikawa Hikaru. He's a sort of Renaissance man. In addition to starring in anime series such as Fushigi Yuugi and Gundam Wing and appearing in dozens of others, he's done numerous voices for video games and drama CDs, sung in several music groups, and written manga. Tange Sakura, who plays Sheeda of Talis, has had a long career, ranging from Princess Milli in Maze to one of the Chaika's in the recent series of the same name. The career of the director, Misawa Shin, spans thirty years, from High School Kinengumi in the mid 80s to the recent TV series Gingitsune. Kouzu Hiroyuki's music fits but doesn't stand out.

Orphan's release of Fire Emblem is the first English version from a Laserdisc source; all other releases have been based on the US or Italian VHS tapes. The release has its own complicated backstory. A colleague in another group had a friend who really liked Fire Emblem and bought the laserdiscs in Japan. Unable to rip them himself, the friend sent the discs to Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions for encoding. However, the original buyer really only wanted the raws, so he allowed Orphan to make a new English-subtitled version.

The subs are from the US VHS release, specifically from Exiled-Destiny's softsub version. We didn't bother to check the subs; based on the English audio track, they're a real translation and not dubtitles. There's no agreement about how the names should be spelled across multiple sources, so we've gone with official romanizations, where they exist. M74 did the timing, and I edited. Nemesis, Mizu no Kamo, and Xenath3297 did QC, and Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded the laserdiscs. The result looks pretty decent.

So here's Fire Emblem with about as good an encode as we're going to see without a digital remaster. The show may leave you scratching your head, but it won't leave you tearing out your hair. As usual, you can get it from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #news or #nibl on irc.rizon.net, from the usual torrent sites, or via this magnet link.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Junod

Marcel Junod (1904-1961), a Swiss doctor, was a field representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during some of the most tumultuous times of the 20th century - the 1930s and 1940s. He worked tirelessly to ease the suffering of victims of violence, first in the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935-36, then the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, and ultimately in World War II. By happenstance, he arrived in Japan just after the atomic bombs had been dropped. He was the first non-Japanese doctor to visit Hiroshima, where he delivered 15 tons of badly needed medical supplies. His life story is documented in a 2010 Japanese educational anime entitled, simply, Junod.

Dr. Junod's story was indeed remarkable. He was a first-hand witness to Italy's use of poison gas and its indiscriminate bombing of civilians in the war with Ethiopia. In Spain, he successfully brokered prisoner exchanges, even though the ICRC had no legal standing in a civil war. Eventually, his tireless work on behalf of prisoners of war brought him into contact with two of the most prominent Allied prisoners held by the Japanese: Lt. General Jonathan Wainwright (US) and Lt. General Arthur Percival (UK). Although there was little he could do for them, his refusal to knuckle under to the Japanese prison camp commander earned their respect. Following Japan's surrender, Wainwright and Percival were flown to Japan for the signing of the formal surrender documents. There, they met Junod as he was attempting to organize a relief mission to Hiroshima. Their influence with Douglas MacArthur led to the release of 15 tons of badly-needed medical supplies for Junod's work. After the war, Junod became a prominent activist in UNICEF, continued his work at the ICRC, and worked as a surgeon, until felled by a heart attack at the relatively young age of 57.

Dr. Junod's life deserves commemoration, and this film covers the highlights. However, it could have been stronger. For example, the film uses a framing device to make the story more accessible to children. Two middle school students named Yuu and Mii (ho ho) revisit scenes from Junod's career via a time-travel dream during a school trip to Hiroshima. The lesson they draw (and the film draws) - that one must stand up to school bullies and not just stand by - is a pretty small-scale conclusion for such dramatic events. A simpler, more documentary focus would have worked better and had greater impact, I believe.

As a historian, I would have liked more attention paid to the ambiguities of Junod's situation. The ICRC was constrained both legally and politically. Legally, the only treaties it could rely on were the Geneva Conventions about the treatment of the wounded and of military prisoners. (Treatment of civilians would not be addressed until after World War II.) Politically, it was constrained by Swiss neutrality and the geographic reality of being surrounded by Axis military might. As a result, the ICRC turned a blind eye to German atrocities against civilians, even though it had detailed information about the Holocaust by the end of 1942. (The Allied governments and the Vatican had the same information and kept silent as well.) Did Junod know? When he went to visit Japan in 1945, was he aware of the extent of Japanese crimes against Chinese civilians and Allied prisoners? The film does not address these questions.

This release uses an HDTV capture; the raw is badly marred with both logos. Iri translated, Yogicat timed, I edited and typeset, and Nemesis, M74, and bananadoyouwanna QCed. The encode is by tipota and is as good as the source material allows. (The animation is fairly low-grade.) There is no Blu-Ray release of the film, and even DVDs are only available to charitable and educational institutions.

One translation note: the film refers to the two sides in the Spanish Civil War as Republicans (supporters of the Spanish Republic) and Francoists (supporters of the military insurrection led by General Franco). The insurrectionists never used that term, referring to themselves instead as Nationalists. I have used "Nationalists" in the dialog.

Despite its flaws as a movie, Junod is a timely reminder of the need for good men to do good work in the face of evil. Its lessons seems particularly apropos these days. You can get it from the usual torrent sources, from Orphan|Arutha in channels #news or #nibl or irc.rizon.net, or from this magnet link.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Time Slip Ichimannen Prime Rose

From 1978 to 1989, NHK's annual 24-hour telethon, "Love Will Save the World," frequently featured an animated special from Tezuka Productions. Over the next decade, eight of them were broadcast:
  • 1978 - Hyakumannen Chikyuu no Tabi Bander Book (One Million Year Trip: Bander Book)
  • 1979 - Marine Express
  • 1980 - Fumoon
  • 1981 - Bremen 4: Jigoku no Naka no Tenshi-tachi (Bremen 4: Angels in Hell)
  • 1983 - Time Slip Ichimannen Prime Rose (A Time Slip of 10,000 Years: Prime Rose)
  • 1984 - Daishizen no Majuu Bagi (Baggy)
  • 1986 - Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet (Galaxy Investigation 2100: Border Planet)
  • 1989 - Tezuka Osamu Monogatari: Boku wa Son Gokuu (Tezuka Osamu Story: I Am Son Goku)
(The 1985 special, Akuma Tou no Prince: Mitsume ga Tooru, was derived from a Tezuka Osamu manga but was produced by Toei without his involvement.)

All eight special have, at various times, been released on DVD and translated, the last two by Orphan. Recently, all of them have been collected in a pair of Blu-Ray box sets. M74 has now released a 720p high-definition encode of the fifth, Time Slip Ichimannen Prime Rose.

After the failure of Mushi Production's attempts to create "anime for adults" (as opposed to adult or h-anime), Osamu repaired his reputation by returning to manga. Eventually, he started Tezuka Productions and began working on feature length anime again. Unlike the ill-fated Anirama series, Tezuka Production's feature length films were intended to appeal to a broader viewing demographic, although there were certainly some elements not intended for children.

Prime Rose is pretty typical of the group. The story begins with a present-day catastrophe. A giant space fortress, shaped like a death mask, breaks apart, and the pieces crash into Kujikuri Beach in Japan and Dallas in the United States. Both cities are thrown 10,000 years into the future. Sometime later, time patroller Tanbara Gai is sent to discover what happened. He encounters a future where one future city (Groman) has enslaved the other (Kukritt). Aided by a runaway noblewomen, Emiya, who is actually the princess of Kukritt, Prime Rose; and hindered by the inconvenient presence of his little brother, Bunretsu; Gai must coach the Kukritten slaves into rebellion, defeat the Groman army, and confront the sinister force behind it all - the secret hidden within the original Death Mask space fortress. This is done with a maximum of action and humor and a minimum of common sense, as a hard sci-fi story evolves into a sword-and-sorcery fantasy.

Prime Rose is not all-ages entertainment. The show includes a fair amount of bloodshed and violence, including an on-screen execution and a flogging. There's also lots of fanservice:



(This doesn't strike me as the most practical costume for a swordswoman, but what do I know? And a later bathing scene poses interesting questions about how Prime Rose manages to fit in this outfit at all.) But mostly it's comedy and zany touches; for example, Tanbara Gai's superior officer is a dead ringer for Mr. Spock. In the end, good triumphs, the bad guys (and space fortresses) get their comeuppance, and the hero and heroine are ready for new adventures.

The basic script is a professional translation and has not been checked. M74 timed and encoded. I edited and QCed. Beatrice Raws provided the BDMV (thank you!). You can get in from the usual torrent sites, from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #news or #nibl on irc.rizon.net, or from this magnet link.

I hope that more of these specials will be released in high-definition in the future.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Grim Douwa - Kin no Tori

Here's a bluebird, or more accurately, a golden bird - the 1987 movie Grim Douwa - Kin no Tori (Grimm's Fairy Tales - The Golden Bird). Released as part of Toei's Manga Matsura series, it was actually animated by Madhouse and released after a three year delay. The delay earned it a reputation as a "lost masterpiece." That's a bit overstated, but it's a beautiful and comic cartoon "for all ages" - rather different from Toei's faux Disney fare in the 1960s. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As one of the QCs said, it's adorable.

Kin no Tori is based on a fairy tale (number 57) collected by the Brothers Grimm. As is often the case, the original tale includes grim elements - such as attempted fratricide - not considered suitable for modern audiences, so the anime is considerably toned down. In this version, a wicked witch sends out her tame golden bird to steal the golden apples of the king of Kaiser Castle. He sets this three sons to watch for the thief, but only the youngest, Hans, stays awake and sees the bird. He tries to shoot it and succeeds in dislodging a golden feather. The three brothers are sent to pursue the bird, but only Hans really takes the task seriously. After many adventures and hazards, Hans reaps his reward. And they all lived happily ever after... sort of.

The summary can't convey the movie's humor, its imaginative visuals, and its outstanding voice cast. Madhouse not only did the animation, but the head of the studio, Maruyama Masao, did the layout. Here are two examples of the visual imagery:





The voice actors are amazing, led by legendary seiyuu Tomiyama Kei's bravura (and cross-gender) performance as the wicked witch. Kei, who won a posthumous Special Achievement Award in 2007, appeared in numerous series and OVAs before his untimely death in 1995. Yanami Jougi gave a hilarious turn as the wine-loving Big Bird (no relation to Sesame Street). He's better known to me as Ozora Ibari in Stop!! Hibari-kun. Takiguchi Junpei, who played the villainous king of Kanemacchi Castle, and Miyauchi Kohei, who played the more virtuous king of Kaiser Castle, also each appeared in one episode of Stop!! Hibari-kun. The female seiyuu playing the children (male or female) are uniformly good as well. The music, by Kawachi Kuni, is mostly lighthearted and fits the mood well, and the songs are a lot of fun, particularly the witch's insert song. The director, Hirata Toshio, directed numerous other movies and TV shows.

Iri translated the movie. M74 did the pre-timing before translation, and ninjacloud did fine timing after translation. I edited and typeset (there are only two signs, although one of them accounts for 80% of the script). Nemesis and konnakude QCed. The raw is an HDTV encode from heponeko.

Enjoy this golden-age classic in beautiful high-definition! You can get the release at the usual torrent sites, bot Orphan|Arutha in IRC channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net, or from this magnet link.