Monday, April 30, 2018

Bremen 4 (Blu-ray)

With the release of the 1981 TV special Bremen 4, Orphan and M74 have completed their high-definition survey of Tezuka Osamu's feature length anime movies for NTV's annual telethon. The eight Tezuka Production specials were:

1978: Hyakumannen Chikyuu no Tabi: Bander Book
1979: Kaitei Choutokkyuu Marine Express
1980: Fumoon
1981: Bremen 4 
1983: Time Slip Ichimannen Prime Rose
1984: Daishizen no Majuu Bagi
1986: Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet
1989: Tezuka Osamu Monogatari: Boku wa Songoku

The 1985 special, Akuma Shima no Prince – Mitsume ga Touru, was based on a Tezuka Osamu character but was produced by Toei Animation. It has not been released in high-definition. Maybe someday...

Bremen 4 seems to have an official subtitle, Angels in Hell, although that does not appear in the anime itself. It tells the story of four animals - a cat named Coda, a donkey named Largo, a dog named Allegro, and a chicken named Minuet. 

(That's either a very big cat or a really small donkey.) The four are stranded or abandoned when their peaceful country is conquered by ruthless, Nazi-like invaders. Wandering the countryside, the animals save the life of a visiting alien, Rondo. In return, she gives them devices that transform them into humans. In this form, they become musicians, bringing some joy to their war-ravaged land. Eventually, they come to the attention of the invader's commander, Karl Presto. He falls in love with Coda in her human form, but she and her friends reject his overtures and, returning to animal form, help the resistance to fight the invaders. Eventually, the villains are defeated and peace returns.

Bremen 4 was the last of the TV specials that made heavy use of Tezuka's Star System, although the stars made cameo appearances in the later specials. The villainous, Wagner-loving commander, Karl Presto, is Rock Holmes, returning to his usual role as a heavy. Presto's father, an even more heinous warmonger, is Lamp, the guy with the candle on his head. Duke Red plays Count Lento, the hapless (and soon posthumous) leader of the invaded country. Ban Shunsaku is Adagio, the manager of a puppet theater who also leads the resistance. Black Jack is a mysterious figure who cares for the orphans of war. Astro Boy appears in a musical sequence, Don Dracula is an announcer at a concert, and Unico and Leo have cameos in the final triumphant march of the animals.

Okamoto Mari (Coda the Cat) played the female leads in Fumoon, Prime Rose, and The Wizard of Oz movie. The incomparable and now sadly deceased Tomiyama Kei (Largo the Donkey) stole the show as the wicked witch in Grim Douwa: Kin no Tori, an Orphan release. Kyouda Hisako (Minuet the chicken) has had a long career, with some unusual roles, such as the father in Shouwa Monogatari. Ishimaru Hiroya gave a bravura performance as the "interpreter" dog Allegro, speaking Donkey, Chicken, or Cat as required. He also played as Rodimus Prime in the various Transformer TV shows. Tomita Kousei and Nozawa Nachi reprised their roles as Ban Shunsaku and Black Jack, respectively, from Marine Express.

The eight specials exemplify Tezuka Osamu's style - the wandering plots, the use of anachronisms for humor, the obvious fanservice (in Bremen 4, Rondo's cleavage defies gravity). I think the later specials were better, with tighter plots and less overt preaching, but they're all very watchable. (Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet remains my favorite.) They also make me more forgiving of Tezuka's earlier Mushi Production movies, the so-called adult cartoons Cleopatra and Sen'ya Ichiya Monogatari. There's a lot of continuity between the Animerama releases and the later specials; the former just have a lot more fanservice. While Tezuka Osamu could work in a much more serious vein (Hidamari no Ki, Hi no Tori), he reveled in the possibilities that his lighter works allowed.

This subtitles for this release were professionally translated. Yogicat transcribed them, and M74 timed them. I edited and typeset (not much). Nemesis and Calyrica did QC. M74 encoded from a BDMV provided by Beatrice Raws. I'm truly grateful to them for sharing their source material. The source material has a a variety of video mistakes. In one scene, the background disappears; in another, the foreground characters. Transitions are rough, and mouth movements are sometimes poorly animated. Still, this is the best source out there.

You can get Bremen 4, and all the other Orphan (or M74) HD releases of the Tezuka Production TV specials, from the usual torrent sources or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on

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