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 or from the usual torrent sites.

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