Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Media: The State of Play

Orphan gets its original media from both digital and analog sources. Digital media - DVDs, Blu-rays, streaming - are straightforward but rare for our sorts of shows. Most of our sources are analog - VHS tapes or LaserDiscs. Both present knotty problems. This blog entry provides a snapshot of the "state of play" in Orphan's media processing.

LaserDiscs

Until quite recently, all our LaserDiscs came were ripped by private collectors. The most prolific and helpful has been Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions. Erik has an extensive collection, an excellent capture capability, and deep knowledge of the encoding issues in LaserDiscs. ics- has also contributed some captures, which M74 has encoded. And finally, an anonymous friend of a friend has provided a few rare discs.

All the LaserDiscs collectors are at the mercy of the analog electronics in their players and in their capture cards. This can introduce some pretty ugly problems. LaserDisc players have been out of production for twenty years, and their electronics are, well, old. Most capture cards introduce some form of compression, which complicates software filtering of the many artifacts in the sources. Lossless capture has required insanely expensive (professional) equipment  or insanely arcane (Windows XP era) hardware and software... until now.

The Domesday86 project, which I've written about before, seeks to bypass the main sources of introduced error in LaserDisc rips by capturing the RF output of the laser directly and post-processing the results entirely in software. This sounds so promising that Orphan has created a Domesday Duplicator setup in Japan - LaserDisc player, special hardware, and software. It's been a long, frustrating, and expensive saga. Japanese anime LaserDiscs had many attributes that the Domesday project team had never seen. It's taken months to get the decoding software into usable shape. With the release of v4 of ld-decode, the project is just about there and produces usable lossless captures. ld-decode still can't handle the digital audio tracks, but those can be captured directly.

The first LaserDisc to be processed through Orphan's Domesday Duplicator will be Boyfriend. The Duplicator lossless decode still needs to be encoded down to reasonable size, but at least that's a tractable problem. Further, as ld-decode improves, the RF captures can be processed again, if the improvement in quality is sufficient.

Props to gamnark for championing the project, assembling the hardware, and doing all the hard work of capturing and decoding numerous test cases both for Orphan and for the ld-decode team. The team provided financial support for the equipment.

VHS Tapes

Tapes have been an even more frustrating story than LaserDiscs. The initial attempt at capture in Japan involved an inexpensive USB capture device and a standard S-VHS deck. The results were hit or miss, mostly miss, with dropped frames and video/audio sync problems galore. The cause of the problems varied, but one might be the presence of copy protection on some tapes. LaserDiscs couldn't be duplicated easily and had no copy protection. VHS tapes could be duped (with significant quality loss, of course), and copy protection was sometimes employed.

The next attempt was to buy a much better deck, a D-VHS deck with a built-in Time Base Correction (TBC) and digital (Firewire) output. This produced better results, but the digital output had MPEG2 compression that couldn't be bypassed. The compression tended to blend frames and muck up deinterlacing. The TBC handles only part of the dropped frame and lost sync problems, so the results were still hit or miss.

The current plan is to do lossless capture of the standard S-video output and try to clean up the results in software. This requires an ancient, XP-era AGP PC and specific versions of old ATI All in Wonder cards. The first card gamnark bought was damaged in shipment and didn't work. The second one lost its heat sink within five minutes and may be burned out. I'm acquiring some additional cards right now. Whether this approach will work is tbd. An external TBC might still be needed.

Ultimately, we'd like to see something like a Domesday-for-tapes: a way to capture the output of the helical scan read head directly, bypassing everything else in the VHS deck. However, that's a complex problem, both in hardware and in software, and it's not clear that VHS decks have a maintenance access point for capturing the data.

gamnark is once again doing all the heavy lifting on this project, with financial support from the team and its anonymous benefactor.

Tl;dr

Orphan's Domesday Duplicator for LaserDiscs is up and running, and the first encodes will show up in projects this year. VHS tapes remain a work-in-progress, and the light at the end of the tunnel is still fairly dim.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Fukuyama Gekijou - Natsu no Himitsu

Here's a lost charmer from 1990, the all-ages OVA Fukuyama Gekijou - Natsu no Himitsu (Fukuyama Theater - Summer Secret). It's based on manga by Fukuyama Keiko, who also wrote Apfelland Monogatari. This is the first release with English subtitles, and it's a delight.

Fukuyama Gekijou is an anthology of short stories and animated music videos. It uses a framing device of a mouse family looking at bedtime stories to prepare for sleep. The eight chapters are:
  1. The Rabbit's Siblings. A large clan of rabbits sing about the joys of eating carrots and outwitting a silly wolf.
  2. Summer Secret. A young girl at the beach saves a miniature mermaid from a hungry fish and receives a secret reward.
  3. The Mysterious Fairy. Miss Strawberry and her fairy perform a song about the desert.
  4. Henoheno. The longest segment. It tells the story of Henoheno, a struggling caveman artist, who makes a breakthrough thanks to his friends and the accidental intervention of a prehistoric ramen chef.
  5. Kuro. A black dog sings of his wish to be loved.
  6. The Punk Rabbit's Dance. Entertainment at a kindergarten class talent show.
  7. End-of-Semester Cleaning Contest. A slacker grade-school boy is coerced into doing his classroom cleaning chores by a gang of know-it-all mice, with unexpected results.
  8. The Origami Princess. A folded-paper princess floats downstream on a leaf in order to reach the sea, accompanied by a telescope goldfish.
Some of the segments are very silly, like Henoheno, and some are very poignant, like The Origami Princess, but they're all quite entertaining and totally family friendly.


The voice cast consists of veteran seiyuu from the era. In alphabetical order:
  • Amano Yuri played the title role in The Legend of Snow White, Julia in Daddy Long Legs, Kiyone in the Tenchi Muyo franchise, and Moemi in Video Girl Ai. She appeared as Kuzunoha in Akuemon, Angie in Condition Green, Elthena in Eien no Filena, Kitagawa in Nozomi Witches, Noriko in Singles, and Yuko in St. Michaela Gakuen Hyouryuuki, all Orphan releases. 
  • Fujieda Nariko played featured roles in Miracle Girls and one of the GeGeGe no Kitarou movies. She appeared as the young Lihua in Sangokushi 2 (1986), an Orphan release.
  • Futamata Issei is best known for his roles as Godai Yuusaku in Maison Ikkoku, Akira (Chibi) in Urusei Yatsura, and Saburo in Sazae-san. He played the main character, Yoshio, in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou and the psychopathic brother, Cross, in Hi-Speed Jecy, both Orphan releases.
  • Hara Eriko starred as Ranze Etou in Tokimeki Tonight, an Orphan release. She also played numerous featured roles, including Pyonkichi in the Soreike! Anpanman franchise and Hikaru in the Kimagure Orange Road properties.
  • Kikuchi Masami played the okama JonJon in Otaku no Seiza. He went on to star as the male leads in the Tenchi Muyo, Aa! Megami-sama!, and Comic Party franchises. He played the male lead, Makoto, in Doukyuusei 2, an Orphan release.
  • Matsumoto Yasunori starred as Johnny in Starship Troopers, Kaname in Singles, and Tooru in Every Day Is Sunday, all Orphan releases. He was in numerous OVAs in the 1990s, including Seikimatsu: Humane Society and Al Caral no Isan, both Orphan releases. Among his notable roles were Wataru Akiyama in Initial D, Jean Havoc in Fullmetal Alchemist, Gourry Gabriev in Slayers, Ryou in Sonic Soldier Borgman, and a personal favorite, Dick Saucer in Dragon Half.
  • Matsuno Tatsuya played the lead role in the second Kindaichi movie (an Orphan release) and every subsequent show in the franchise.
  • Shimada Bin played Asatori Kurou in Tomoe ga Yuko and also appeared in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou and Sangokushi, all Orphan releases. He played Ken Nakajima in the You're Under Arrest franchise and numerous other roles.
  • Takamori Yoshino played the arch oujo-sama Sayaka in Yawara! and the twin roles of Juliet Douglas and Sloth in Full Metal Alchemist. She also appeared as the romantic rival Shouko in POPS, and in Yousei Ou and the What's Michael? OVAs, all Orphan releases.
  • Totani Kouji has played hundreds of roles. He appeared in Bavi Stock, Haguregumo, Nora, and Mitsume ga Tooru, all Orphan releases.
  • Touma Yumi played the title roles in Emma: A Victorian Romance and Baby Felix. She has appeared in numerous shows, including Boyfriend, Condition Green, and Eguchi Hisashi no Nantoko Nareudesho, all Orphan releases.
The director, Sakurai Michiyo, also did the storyboards, character design, and some key animation.

Moho Kareshi translated. laalg translation checked and redid some of the songs. ninjacloud timed. I edited and typeset. BeeBee and Nemesis QCed. The encode is from Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions, ripped from a Japanese laserdisc that Iri acquired in Japan.

So if you need a break from this dreary world of ours, I highly recommend Fukuyama Gekijou. It's mostly light and airy, with just a touch of Japanese mono no aware. You can find the show on the usual torrent site or download it from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Bonbon

As dedicated readers of the blog know, I'm a fan of the Maze Megaburst Space series. It's dumb, ecchi fun. It's also becoming harder and harder to find. The original bonus episode ("the fanservice episode") was never released on laserdisc or DVD. The movie was never released on home video at all. And now, the TV series and OVAs are no longer available on home video.

There's no real explanation for Maze's gradual disappearance. The US license has been allowed to lapse, and the R1 DVDs used the censored VHS version of the show anyway. There never was a Japanese DVD release; the master source material is probably lost. As for the movie, a YouTube video hypothesizes that after it bombed at the box office, the franchise was declared dead, and the master source was thrown away. We will probably never know for sure, and we will probably never see a home video release of the movie. So Orphan is happy to bring you the only currently available fragment: a teaser for the movie that was included in the laserdisc release of Maze.

With a running time of less than a minute, the promo can't convey very much about the movie. There are comments from Akahori promising that the movie will be very naughty, and the brief included scenes, though brief, bear that out.



The movie was released in April, 1998 (for Golden Week, apparently) and had a running time of 42 minutes, on a twin bill with the aggregated omake from Record of the Lodoss War. That's really all we can learn, beyond the title - Maze Bakunetsu Jikuu: Tenpen Kyoui no Giant (Maze Megaburst Space: The Calamitous Giant).

convexity, who translated the Maze bonus episode, translated this as well. I timed, edited, and typeset. Nemesis QCed. The raw is from DmonHiro's laserdisc release, which is by far the best (that is, least censored) subtitled version available.

So here's a little amuse-bouche to tide you over until the next Orphan release: the teaser trailer for the Maze movie. You can get it from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.




Saturday, February 2, 2019

DAYS: Touin Gakuensen

I've been fairly clear in this blog about my lack of enthusiasm for shounen shows in general and shounen sports shows in particular. I've never had much interest even in exemplars of the genre like Ace of the Diamond, Yowamusha Pedal, or Kuroko's Basketball, to name just a few recent monster hits. Yet Orphan is now releasing the three-episode soccer OVA DAYS: Touin Gakuensen (DAYS: Touin Academy Battle). Accordingly, you're entitled to ask "Why?" The answer is, Sunachan loved the show, bought the DVDs, and translated them, and at Orphan Fansubs (and every other original-translation fansubbing group I've worked with), translators rule.

If you're not familiar with DAYS, it's a 24-episode series broadcast in 2016 and streamed by CrunchyRoll. It tells the story of the Seiseki High School team in general and of Tsukamoto Tsukushi in particular. Tsukushi is weak and shy, a target for bullies, but he falls in with eccentric soccer genius Kazama Jin and decides to join the Seiseki soccer team. Despite his lack of talent, his dogged determination and overwhelming energy help propel the team to a winning season. Following the TV series, there have been two sets of OVAs. The 2017 OVAs were side stories. 2018's Touin Gakuensen continues the main storyline, presenting Seiseki's match against the favored Touin Academy in the finals of the National Tournament preliminaries.


The cast is a who's who of contemporary voice actors:
  • Yoshinaga Takuto (Tsukushi) starred in Beatless and is currently appearing as Kariya in Hinomaru Sumo.
  • Matsuoka Ysohtsugu (Jin) starred as Souma in all the Shokugeki no Souma franchise, the hero Bell in the Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru properties, the male lead Sorato in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, and numerous other leading roles.
  • Namikawa Daisuke (Mizuki, the Seiseki captain) played Takeru in the Freedom OVAs, Tokunaga in the just-completed Gurazeni, Tooru in Haikyuu!!, Italy in the Hetalia franchise, Hisoka in Hunter x Hunter (2011), and my personal favorite, the demon-summoning detective Akutabe in the Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san franchise. He also appeared in Sangokushi 2 and Cosprayers, both Orphan releases.
  • Ise Mariya (Ubukata, the Seiseki manager and strategist) started as Killua in Hunter x Hunter (2011), Reg in Made in Abyss, Stocking in Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, and Eco the dragon girl in Dragonar Academy, among many other leading roles.
  • Nakamura Yuichi (Hoshina, Touin's captain) starred as Shinkaku in the just-completed Bakumatsu, Tada in Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai, Kyousuke in Ore no Imouto, Hotarou in Hyouka, and Okitsu in DIVE!!, to name just a few of his star turns. He showed his comedic flair as Grizzly-san in Shirokuma Cafe, an Orphan release.
  • Ono Daisuke (Kimishita, a Seiseki midfielder) is one of the most famous current seiyuu. He has starred as Erwin in the Shingeki no Kyoujin franchise, Handa in Barakomon, the demonic butler Sebastian in the Kuroshitsuji franchise, Kyouma in Dimension W, Midorima in the Kuroko's Basketball properties, Sinbad in the Magi properties, and too many other roles to mention. He was wonderful as Llama in Shirokuma Cafe, an Orphan release; you should listen to his ending song, Lamambo (Llama Mambo).
  • Miyano Mamoru (Ooshiba, the goofy Seiseki forward) seems to be everywhere in modern anime. He starred as Light in Death Note, Kei in Ajin, Eiji in Antique Bakery, Osamu Dazai in Bungou Stray Dogs, Rin in the Free! franchise, Reinhard von Lohengramm in the recent TV version of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Shotaro in Skip Beat, the hero Riku in Tokimeki Memorial ~Only Love~, and many more. And he played Crested Porcupine and Alpaca in Shirokuma Cafe.
  • Sakurai Takahiro (Usui, Seiseki's co-captain) starred as Mitsuya in the marvelous Fune wo Amu, the unfortunate Kazuhito in Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou, Misaski in the Junjou Romantica franchise, Reigen in Mob Psycho 100, and of course, Polar Bear himself in Shirokuma Cafe. (His ending song is also not to be missed). He played Atsumu in AnoHana, Suzaku in the Code Geass franchise, Yu Kanda in D.grayman, Guice in the Zero no Tsukaima properties, Bernhard in Maria the Virgin Witch, and many other great roles.
  • Yasumoto Hiroki (Inohora, Seiseki's goalkeeper) starred as Hoozuki in the Hoozuki no Reitetsu series, Germany in the Hetalia franchise, and the bear in Kumamiko.  He played the hero's wingman Bonba in the Himouto shows, the antagonist Yuuri in Megalo Box, Kinjo in the Yowamushi Pedal franchise, and many other roles.
  • Oosaka Ryota (Isurugi, Touin's goalkeeper) starred as Eijun in the Ace of the Diamond franchise, Mutsumi in All Out!, Staz in Blood Lad, Satan in Hataraku Maou-sama!, Lucifier in the High School DxD shows, Montmorcey in the just completed Ulysses, and other roles too numerous to list.
  • Konishi Katsuyuki (Nakazawa, Seiseki's coach) is an industry veteran. He starred as Kamina in Tengen Toppan Gurren Lagann and Ren Tsuruga in Skip Beat. He played America in the Hetalia franchise, Haji in Blood+, Beelzebub in Hoozuki no Reitetsu, and many other featured roles. He played Full Time Panda (and Adélie Penguin) in Shirokuma Cafe.
It's almost as if the casting director said, "I need voices for a dozen bishounen; round up the usual suspects!" The director, Uda Kounosuke, helmed another soccer series, Ginga e Kickoff, and is currently directing Hinomaru Sumo, which is about as canonical a shounen sports show as you can imagine.

Sunachan bought the DVDs and translated the show. ninjacloud timed. I edited and typeset (typesetting is minimal, except for the damned whiteboard diagrams). BeeBee and Topper3000 QCed. bananadoyouwanna encoded from Sunachan's DVDs. I must give a special shout-out to my editing colleague, FD. He did a thorough technical check on the soccer jargon in the episodes; without his help, the show would have sounded like basketball rather than soccer. However, I must emphasize that any remaining errors are my own.

So if you liked DAYS, or if you like shows about soccer, or if you like sports anime in general, then DAYS: Touin Gakuensen is for you. You can get the OVAs from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

To Err Is Human

After issuing v2's for two of the first three releases this year (Eguchi Hisashi no Nantoko Narudesho!, Majo demo Steady), I began to wonder if there was a systemic flaw in Orphan's processes. So I've done what I used to do at the conclusion of a large engineering project - analyzed all the "bugs" in Orphan's releases that led to v2's, to see if there were causal commonalities.

Orphan has released 149 official projects as of today. 15 have received v2's, a detected error rate of around 10%. (What's the undetected error rate? Probably much higher.) Sorting into descending numerical order:
  • New sources: Tokimeki Tonight, A-Girl, Sei Michael Gakuen, Kakyuusei 1995, Dragon Fist. This isn't really a bug. Orphan will almost always reissue a show if a better source becomes available. Additional shows (the Kindaichi movies, Ultra Nyan, Tezuka Osamu Monogatari, etc.) have received multiple releases as different sources (laserdisc, streaming release, DVD, Blu-ray) are found or purchased.
  • Credit mistakes: Alice in Dreamland, Mahoutsukai Tai vs Shamanic Princess, Yousei-Ou. I often forget who timed a show, particularly if the subbing process takes a long time. I understand now why most fansub groups have stopped putting in credits.
  • Batch fixes: Stop!! Hibari-kun!, Hidamari no Ki. Long series often accumulate defects of process or consistency along the way, as later episodes change the translation or interpretation of earlier episodes.
  • Source problems: Tomoe ga Yuko, Majo demo Steady. Tomoe was a 29.97 fps avi source. Aegisub and mkvmerge calculate timing at this frame rate slightly differently; one must supply an explicit timecodes track during muxing. Majo demo Steady was missing an audio channel, a problem I can't hear on my tiny computer speakers spaced eight inches apart.
  • Subtitle issues: Space Neko Theater, Eguchi Hisashi no Nantoko Narudesho!. Space Neko Theater received a new translation to replace a suspect v1. EHnNND was so repulsive that all the checking, including mine, was too superficial.
  • Typesetting issues: Shirokuma Cafe. Fonts were compressed mid-series, causing issues.
So what has been learned?
  1. Use reliable translators. Space Neko Theater v1 was a paid translation, and it was wrong.
  2. 29.97 fps sources should be avoided; if used, they require special handling. As far as I know, the discrepancy between Aegisub and mkvmerge has not been fixed.
  3. If using compressed fonts, compress them all upfront. This newbie's typesetting error accounted for most of the v2's in Shirokuma Cafe.
  4. Test the audio. AniDB is not totally reliable. For example, it identified the missing channel in many ARR VHS tape encodes but did not in Macross2012's laserdisc encode.
  5. Track the contributors. I now use a spreadsheet to fill in who's done what. Dropping credits altogether would be simpler, but I'm old-fashioned about that.
  6. Use primary media. Probably the biggest change in the last five years in that Orphan has gone from using mostly second-hand sources to using most primary source media. This has proved expensive at times, and the team's ability to pay for media out-of-pocket is finite.
These lessons will make Orphan's releases better, but as the projects so far this year illustrate, to err is human. Or to paraphrase Savielly Tartakower's aphorism about chess,
the mistakes are all there, waiting to be made.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Tezuka Osamu's Tales from the Old Testament, Ep 1-3

Orphan has a lot of Tezuka Osamu fans, me included. The team has provided quality (I hope) subs for many of his neglected works, including Hidamari no Ki, the Lion Book OVAs, Cleopatra, and Senya Ichiya Monogatari. We've also done high-definition versions of all of his NTV "Love Will Save the Earth" specials. So when Skr saw a limited-edition DVD box set of Tezuka Osamu no Kyuuyaku Seisho Monogatari: In the Beginning (Tezuka Osamu's Tales from the Old Testament: In the Beginning), he jumped at it, despite the rather exorbitant cost.I wasn't planning on another long series so soon after Hidamari no Ki and Stop!! Hibari-kun, but Tezuka Osamu is impossible to resist. Orphan will be releasing the 26-episode series a DVD at a time, so eight minibatches of three episodes, and a final minibatch of two, on a leisurely release schedule.

According to the official Tezuka Osamu website, in the late 1980s the Italian National Broadcasting Network forwarded an urgent request from the Vatican to Tezuka Osamu, asking him to depict the Bible in animated form. Tezuka accepted the request and spent two years working on a pilot film about Noah's ark (episode 3). He not only wrote the scenario but also drew for it himself. Unfortunately, he passed away during production. Director Dezaki Osamu took over the project, and it was completed it in 1992. The series was shown in Italy, Spain, and Germany. It was finally shown in Japan in 1997. It was also dubbed into English and shown on religious TV in the US, in cut form.


The episodes are, in many ways, vintage Tezuka Osamu. There are cute animals (Rocco the fox appears throughout). There is comedy. There is fanservice. In general, though, the stories are respectful of the original, adding filler when the Biblical text is too short for the required 20 minutes. Still, some of the add-ons were too much for religious TV, and both Rocco the fox and the boobs were deleted from the English release.

The first DVD covers well-known episodes from Genesis:
  1. Creation. The creation story is filled out with montages of Adam and Eve romping in the Garden before the fall and coping with hardship afterward. Rocco the fox is one of the many creatures that enjoys the Garden's bounty.
  2. Cain and Abel. Cain's murderous rage against Abel is given a backstory. Cain is jealous of his younger brother, and his unfilial anger leads God to reject Cain's sacrifice. Rocco appears as the first family's sort-of dog.
  3. Noah's Ark. The wickedness of man, cited as justification for the flood, is given a rather tame treatment, especially compared to what Tezuka Osamu showed in Kanashimi no Belladonna or even the time travel sequence of Bander Book. Rocco has a substantial side-story as a sly creature who sneaks on board the ark in hopes of feasting on the small herbivores.
None of the additions really distract from the stories.

As an episodic show, Tales from the Old Testament has an enormous cast of industry veterans. Episodes 1-3 include:
  • Shibata Hidekatsu (voice of God) is is best known for Baron Ashura in Mazinger Z, Kenzou Kabuto in Great Mazinger, King Bradley in both versions of Fullmetal Alchemist, and the Third Hokage in Naruto. He played the hero's father in Dragon Fist, an Orphan release.
  • Tanaka Mayumi (Rocco the fox) made her debut at age 10 in Kimba the White Lion. She's probably best known for her roles as Pazu in Castle in the Sky, Giovanni in Night on the Galactic Railway, and of course, Monkey D. Luffy in every incarnation of One Piece. She also played Mit-sah in White Fang and Son Gokuu in Tezuka Osamu Monogatari, both Orphan projects.
  • Arimoto Kinryuu (Adam) may be best known for the roles of Whitebeard in One Piece and Chief Karazuka in Elfen Lied. He played Dr. Ogata in Hidamari no Ki, an Orphan release.
  • Terauchi Yorie (Eve) has played Fune in Sazae-san, the longest running anime ever, since 2015.
  • Fujimoto Yuzuru (Noah) played Hiyoshi in both reasons of Moyashimon. He voiced the nameless Aoba gang boss in Kasei Yakyoku and the nameless police chief in Twinkle Nora Rock Me, both Orphan releases.
The series was directed by the late Dezaki Osamu, younger brother of Dezaki Satoshi. Fittingly enough, Osamu got his start at Tezuka Osamu's Mushi productions and went on to direct many famous shows, including Ashita no Joe and its sequel, Ace wo Nerae and its sequel, the Black Jack OVAs and movie, half a dozen Lupin III TV specials, and Kasei Yakyoku, an Orphan release. The music is by Hattori Katsuhisa, a classical composer who created some well known anime soundtracks, include Argentosoma, Crest of the Stars and its sequels, and Infinite Ryvius. It is portentous, in the Hollywood Bibilical epic vein.

Skr is taking the leading role in this project. He is doing translation, timing, typesetting, and encoding. I edited this minibatch; Nemesis and Topper3000 did QC. There are no staff credits in the scripts themselves. The English dub has been included, although the Japanese audio and the English subtitles are the default.

You can get the first DVD of Tezuka Osamu's Tales from the Old Testament: In the Beginning from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Ultra Nyan (Theatrical Version)

When Orphan released Ultra Nyan: Hoshizora kara Maiorita Fushigi Neko, I thought that the encode looked a bit washed out. I asked the team to look for the laserdisc, in order to make a new encode. Eventually, it was found, purchased, shipped to the United States, and encoded. We've created a new release based on the new encode, only... it's letterboxed. And therein lies a tale.

When home video, in the form of VHS tape, first emerged in the 1970s, content providers found themselves with a dilemma. Television content worked fine on the 4:3 (640 x 480) TVs of the day, but widescreen movies could not be displayed in their theatrical aspect ratios. The industry came up with two solutions, neither satisfactory - letterboxing, in which the movie was displayed with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen; and pan-and-scan, in which the focus was moved around to put the "essential" part of a scene on the full TV screen. Letterboxing reduced the size of the image, sometimes unbearably; pan-and-scan created extraneous camera motion and deleted parts of the original scenes.

An alternate solution was Open Matte. Films were shot on 4:3 (standard 35mm) film stock, but the shots were framed for 1:85:1 projection. In theaters, the top and bottom were cropped out by mattes in the film projector, but for VHS (and later, laserdisc) release, the full frame could be used. This process introduced complexity into the film-making process, because the director and cinematographer had to ensure that nothing extraneous, like mics or cables, showed up in the full frame, but it facilitated home video releases without letterboxing and without loss of shot detail. Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List and James Cameron's Terminator 2 were made with Open Matte. Eventually, technology solved the problem. DVDs could display widescreen films (up to 1.85:1) without letterboxing. Large widescreen TVs became standard. Open Matte was no longer needed. The full-frame versions of Open Matte films were filed away, and only the widescreen,theatrical versions are available on digital home video or digital streaming.

While Open Matte was used in movies, I had never heard of it being used in anime... until now. Ultra Nyan, and its successor, Ultra Nyan 2, were shown in theaters on twin bills with widescreen, live action Ultraman movies. The Ultra Nyan cartoons were drawn for Open Matte. In their theatrical release, they were shown matted, in widescreen. For home video, though, Ultra Nyan was released in full-frame on VHS tape but widescreen on laserdisc.


The streaming version was full-frame too (that's the source for the original release). Ultra Nyan 2 was released in full-frame on all home video media. Why the inconsistency? I haven't the slightest idea.

All of this begs the question: which version is "right"? The answer is, they both are. The widescreen version is what theatergoers saw; the full-frame version is what was drawn. Obviously, there's more information in the full-frame release:



but the theatrical audience didn't know that. Personally, I like the full-frame version better, because it's consistent with Ultra Nyan 2, but the new, widescreen version has more vibrant colors and better cropping. Pick your poison.

For this release, I transposed the original script to the new raw, tweaked the timing, and redid the typesetting. I've eliminated some line breaks and split a few lines so that more lines fit in the letterbox area and don't overlap the video. Overlap lines have been moved to the letterbox area at the top. BeeBee did a quick release check, and of course, Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded from a Japanese laserdisc. For voice credits and the other staff credits, see the original release post.

Interestingly, the re-release of classic Japanese anime on Blu-ray has created a new version of the letterboxing debate. When 4:3 shows are remastered, the media creators have two choices. They can maintain the original aspect ratio, using vertical letterboxing or "pillarboxing" (black bars to the left and right of the frame); or they can crop the video to match the aspect ratio of a widescreen TV. The latter could be viewed as a modern form of Open Matte, except that the shows were not made with matting in mind. Cropping chops off parts of the screen that were intended to be seen. Most anime fans object very strongly to cropping, but some Japanese content companies continue to do it, so strong is their aversion to letterboxing.

So if you'd like to see anime Open Matte in action, you can get the widescreen (and the fullscreen) version of Ultra Nyan: Hoshizora kara Maiorita Fushigi Neko from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.