Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Nozomi Witches

Nozomi Witches is 1992 three-part OVA about the astonishing rise of Shiba Ryoutarou from happy-go-lucky first-year high school student to championship boxer. It is based on a 48-volume (!) manga by Nobe Toshio and was released before the mid-point of the manga's ten year run. Drawing on the early volumes, the OVA tells a complete story, through the conclusion of the Olympic tryouts. It's not just a teaser for the manga.

When Shiba moves into a new housing development, his next door neighbor is another high-school student, Egawa Nozomi, who has just returned to Japan from New Zealand. She spots potential in Shiba that no one else, including Shiba himself, sees and tricks him into taking up boxing. Before long, Shiba is winning fights, always by a knock-out, and attracting the attention of professional trainers and scouts. His rise is so fast and so unexpected that he half-believes Nozomi has bewitched him. In a way she has; before every fight, she gives Shiba her "good luck charm" in the form of a classic shounen mantra: "Don't worry. Have confidence. If you set your mind to it, you can do anything." Shiba fights for her and her dream as much as anything else.

The title, Nozomi Witches, is an unfortunate bit of Engrish. At first glance, it appears to be an adjective and a plural noun, but that can't be right, because Nozomi is a name. Actually, "witches" is being used as a verb, in the archaic meaning of "casts a spell." Modern English would use "bewitches," and indeed, the first translator of the show titled it Bewitching Nozomi. I've stayed with the usual title because the show is listed as Nozomi Witches in all the anime databases.

When I started on the show, I thought Nozomi was an Adachi Mitsuri work, because of the similarity of the character designs to Hiatari Ryoukou:


This is not a coincidence. Nozomi Witches has the same director, composer, character designer, art designer, and production company as Hiatari Ryoukou.

Although Nozomi adheres closely to classic sports shounen tropes, it's a very enjoyable show, with appealing characters, a lot of comedy, and some modest rom-com undertones. I'm rather skeptical about Shiba's ability to "power up" and find some new punch or counter just when he needs it, but shounen is shounen. Also, many of Shiba's opponents look too big and heavily muscled. In 1992, the weight spread in the Olympic lightweight boxing division was only four kilograms (nine pounds). However, these are minor quibbles.

Shiba was played by Hayashi Nobutoshi, whose best known role was Guts in Berserk. He also played the title role in Generator Gawl and the antagonist Nanbara in Hand Maid May. Nozomi was played by Tsuru Hiromi, whose storied career includes the title roles in Ghost Sweeper Mikami and Perrine Monogatari, Kajima Miyuki in Miyuki and Keiko in Hiatari Ryoukou (both Adachi Mitsuri shows), as well as Madoka in Kimagure Orange Road. Morikawa Toshiyuki (Nanjou) played the lead role in Gallery Fake and Inugami Akira in Wolf Guy, which Orphan translated. He has also appeared in hundreds of video games. The late Miyauchi Kohei (Eddie) played the grandfather in Tsuki ga Noboru made ni, which Orphan translated. The director, Sugii Gisaburou, started as an animator on the first color Japanese cartoon, Hakujaden, worked on all of Tezuka Osamu's Animerama movies, and went on to direct such classics as Night on the Galactic Railway.

The impetus for the project came from Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions. Back in the VHS-fansubbing era, Erik had worked on one of the early subtitled version of Nozomi Witches, created by Lupin Gang Anime. He had always hankered for a better version. Fortunately, he had the original scripts, the laserdiscs, and the Orphan team. Iri checked the dialog, and convexity translated the songs from official lyrics. ninjacloud retimed the dialog, and Yogicat did the songs. I edited and typeset, and Juggen styled the OP and ED, which are terrific. banandoyouwanna and Nemesis did QC. Erik encoded from his own laserdiscs.

Orphan is quite proud to present this version of Nozomi Witches. Sports anime is not my thing, and neither is shounen, but I enjoyed the show from start to finish. I hope you will too. You can get it from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net. We'll be uploading the original soundtrack as well.


1 comment:

  1. Technically, LGA's version wasn't the first. I learned of the series because NT-Anime had released the first episode, but not the other two. I obtained the laserdiscs a few years later, and NT-Anime's translator got wind I was going to do the entire series, so he sent me timed scripts for all three episodes. NT never released 2 and 3 because they didn't have the laserdiscs, they were timed off of an SVHS copy.

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