Sunday, March 11, 2018

Senya Ichiya Monogatari (HD)

Tezuka Osamu's Animerama trilogy of "adult" anime - Senya Ichiya Monogatari (1969), Cleopatra (1970), and Kanashima no Belladonna (1973) - have long gotten a bum rap. They've been labelled as cartoon porn, derided as commercial failures, and generally ignored. That began to change with the 4K digital restoration and re-release of Belladonna. Now Senya Ichiya Monogatari and Cleopatra are getting Blu-ray releases, at least in the UK.

Nonetheless, the myths persist. The press stories on the forthcoming Blu-ray editions breathlessly repeat the same old half-truths:
  • They're hentai! No, they're not hentai, despite the attempt by the US distributor to call them "X-rated cartoons." There's a plethora of topless women. There is sex, but it's always portrayed symbolically or discretely. Not a frame would need to be censored under current Japanese censorship laws, and in the US, they'd be rated "R" without a second thought.
  • They were flops! Only in part. Senya Ichiya Monogatari was a commercial success in Japan and provided the money for Cleopatra. Cleopatra was not successful and bankrupted the fledgling Mushi Productions. Neither was successful in the US, and the English dubs are considered lost.
  • They've languished in obscurity for almost 50 years! The movies have been available on DVD for twenty years, and competent (fansub) translations have been around for five.
Now Senya and Cleopatra have shown up as 720p effective resolution Web streams (1280 x 544 when the extreme wide screen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is factored in ). In honor of that, Orphan Fansubs is releasing new versions of its DVD fansubs, starting with Senya.

When I first wrote about Senya and Cleopatra, I was pretty hard on them. I said that they were too long, the plots too discursive, the styles too variable. While those criticisms are valid, I feel more kindly about the films these days. Senya has the virtues and defects of later Tezuka Osamu "entertainments," like the annual NTV telethon specials, just with more fanservice. Yes, the plots meander all over the place, and the shows could have been shortened without much loss. However, the stylistic variability helps to keep them visually interesting. The individual set pieces are usually engaging. And there are frequent "easter eggs" to reward the movie buff. For example, in Senya, the titanic confrontation between the three-eyed giant and the equally gigantic bird Loplop is a direct tribute to the fight between King Kong and a pterodactyl in the original 1933 movie. Forbidden Planet's Id Monster makes a cameo appearance in Bander Book, as does Mr. Spock in Prime Rose.

This time around, I treated Senya Ichiya Monogatari more like a chapter book, taking it in small doses. (This makes sense, because the source material, 1001 Nights, is a set of stories set in a common frame rather than a novel with a continuous plot.) This helps to tame its extreme length and makes it possible to appreciate the scenes and set pieces individually.

VigorousJammer did a release check on the new script. Skr obtained the raw. I did the editing and typesetting updates, which were minor. Long lines have been broken up to minimize eye strain. The dialog font has been changed for improved readability. Although the resolution of the new release is not much greater than the DVD release, the DVD release was an upscale, albeit a good one. Your eyes may like this release better. Then again, they might not.

You can get this release from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on