Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sangokushi (1985)

The Japanese are obsessed with chaotic parts of their history, like the Sengoku and the Bakumatsu, both of which have been the subject of numerous anime, movies, TV shows, manga, books, and games. However, they appear equally fascinated with a chaotic era in Chinese history, the fall of the Han dynasty, aka the Three Kingdoms period (184 AD to 280 AD). There have been numerous Japanese adaptations of the history of that period, Records of the Three Kingdoms, or of the famous novel based on it, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but none is as famous as the 60-volume manga Sangokushi by Yokoyama Mitsuteru. The manga in turned spawned two TV specials (OVAs) in the 1980s, and a 47-episode TV series and three movies in the 1990s. Orphan is proud to present the first of the two TV specials, Sangokushi (1985). We plan on releasing the second TV special,  Sangokushi 2 (1986), and the three movies. The TV series will have to wait for a group with more patience and stamina.

Sangokushi is set in the waning days of the Han dynasty. Central rule has disintegrated, and the land is controlled by multiple warlords. Wei is nominally ruled by the Han emperor, but power really belongs to his ambitious chancellor, Cao Cao Mengde. Wu, a state south of the Yangtze River, is ruled by Sun Quan Zhongmou. Liu Bei Xuande is a warrior from a small state. While Cao Cao is governed by ambition and Sun Quan by pride, Liu Bei aspires to build a just state and to serve the people. Clearly, he's the hero of the story.

This movie-length TV special opens with Liu Bei under attack by Cao Cao's forces and in danger of capture. His only hope is to find a strategist whose knowledge and wiles can offset Cao Cao's far superior military power. He eventually finds the sage he's looking for, Zhuge Liang Kongming. With the strategist's help, Liu Bei escapes Cao Cao's net and flees to Wu. There he proposes an alliance to Sun Quan. Kongming convinces Sun Quan that he and Liu Bei can defeat Cao Cao, despite their numerical disadvantage in troop strength. Aided by Sun Quan's sister Lihua, with whom Liu Bei has fallen in love, the allies prepare to confront Cao Cao at the Battle of Red Cliffs. And then... but that would be telling.

Like the live-action movie Red Cliffs, which covers many of the same events, Sangokushi is full of larger-than-life warriors who easily defeat tens, hundreds, or even thousands of enemies. These warriors - even the female ones - strike heroic, manly poses and declaim in heroic, manly dialog. There is no time for introspection, second thoughts, or character development. Liu Bei starts as saintly, Cao Cao as ambitious, and Sun Quan as irascible, and they remain exactly as they started. Well, it avoids confusion.

The anime has many exciting action scenes, both mass battles and individual duels, and they're beautifully done, with fluid animation and clear direction. The voice cast includes many familiar names:
  • Inoue Kazuhiko (Liu Bei Xuande) played Yamaoka Shirou in Oishinbo and Yuki Eiri in Gravitation, but I know and love him best as the irascible, sake-swilling Nyanko-sensei in the Natsume Yuujichou properties. He also played Ryousuke in Daishizen no Majuu Bagi and Kitten Smith in Starship Troopers, both Orphan releases.
  • The late Tomiyama Kei (Zhuge Liang Kongming) is another familiar name. His versatility landed him leading roles in Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet, Bremen 4, Grimm Douwa: Kin no Tori, and Yousei Ou, all Orphan releases.
  • Hirano Fumi (Princess Lihua) starred as Lum in the Urusei Yatsura franchise. She also played Tsugumi in Stop!! Hibari-kun, an Orphan release.
  • Ikeda Masaru (Sun Quan Zhongmou) starred in Yatterman and had numerous featured roles.
  • Yamada Eiko (Yu Jin, Cao Cao's stalwart woman warrior) played the title roles in Anne of Green Gables and Legend of Lemnear, as well as Jo in Little Women. She appeared in What's Michael? and Chameleon, both Orphan releases.
The actor who played Cao Cao seems to have no other credits. The director, Imazawa Tetsuo, helmed Coo of the Far Seas and Utso Miko. (He also directed the first Happy Science film, Hermes: the Winds of Love, but we'll overlook that one.) The music is by the late Watanabe Takeo, who also scored many 70s and 80s TV series, including Perrine, Heidi, Nobody's Boy Remi, Dog of Flanders, Lady Georgie, and the original Mobile Suit Gundam.

Sangokushi is Iri's brainchild; he's translating the TV specials and the movies. Sunachan checked the Chinese names and places. M74 timed the show. Lann094, a new member of the team, edited; I typeset. bananadoyouwanna, VigorousJammer, and I all did QC. (banana also styled the ending song.) Skr provided the raw, which is a direct 1080p webrip and looks quite nice, although it is probably upscaled. (This is Orphan's first 1080p release, I believe.) There is a brief bit of nudity - it's a 1980s OVA, after all - but by and large, it's SFW.

So buckle up for an exciting ride through ancient China, with the assurance that even more historical adventures are on the way. You can get Sangokushi (1985) from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on


  1. Quality is amazing. Thanks so much for subbing this

  2. Are you interested in taking on a project if I provide the source? I have the LD of Outlanders along with the VHS with the original dub, plus the DVD with subs and the new dub.

    LDDB says "It seems that this Laserdisc has a sharper picture than the DVD release which was remastered, perhaps, with too much DVNR to mask the natural grain from the film."

    Let me know, DragonQuest on ABTV