Monday, November 11, 2019

Hashire Melos (1992) v2

I was a bit unhappy with Orphan's original release of the 1992 movie Hashire Melos (Run, Melos). First, it was very big - 2.3GB for a movie that wasn't even full SD. Second, the encode was in two parts, because of differences between the framing on the first and second side of the laserdisc source. Third, I wasn't sure about the ratio. The rip came from a letterboxed laserdisc, but it was packaged in a DVD ISO container. The encoder assumed it was anamorphic at 1.85:1 after the top and bottom black margins were cut off. I don't think is. Laserdiscs are 640 x 480 (NTSC resolution). Even if the top and bottom letterboxing is removed, the horizontal width is still 640.

Earlier this year, a copy of the Hashire Melos laserdisc was offered on Ebay. I bought it and sent it to Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions for ripping and encoding. Erik was able to handle the changes in framing between the two sides, as that's a common problem with laserdiscs, and created a new raw. Orphan is releasing a new version of Hashire Melos using his new encode The principal changes are:
  1. All in one file.
  2. Laserdisc aspect ratio (borders included).
  3. Smaller file size.
  4. Better color balance.
  5. Short extra (a promo for the film) at the end.
As is his usual practice, Erik left the letterboxing in place. This allowed the karaoke and subtitles to be moved out of the video area. If that doesn't float your boat, you should stick with the previous version.


Hashire Melos is based on a beloved short story by Japanese author Osamu Dazai and has been made into an anime multiple times. It tells the story of Melos, a shepherd who crosses (either deliberately or inadvertently) the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius the Younger (called Dionysius II in the movie), and is condemned to death. He requests time to return home and settle his affairs, but the king refuses, believing that Melos will run off and never return. Melos' friend Selinuntius volunteers to take Melos' place. The king agrees but warns Melos that Selinuntius will be executed if Melos fails to return in three days. After numerous trials, Melos returns in the nick of time. The king is so astonished by this display of true friendship that he releases both men.

I find this version of Hashire Melos overstretched. There isn't enough content in the original short story to justify 100+ minutes of screen time. There's a lot of padding throughout. On the other hand, I like the look of the film, as well as its character designs. The main characters have distinctive faces and body types, with real noses and realistic eyes. Melos looks like an overgrown lunk of a shepherd, Dionysius has the "lean and hungry" demeanor of a habitual schemer, and Selinuntius has the balanced appearance befitting a classical sculptor. The animation is fluid, set against very detailed backdrops of the city of Syracuse and the Sicilian countryside.

The voice cast is excellent.
  • Yamadera Kouichi (Melos) played many leading roles, including Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop, Sukeroku in Shouwa Ginroku Rakugo Shinju, Ryouga in all the Ranma 1/2 properties, the nameless hero of Otaku no Seiza, Benten in Oedo ga Nemurenai!, Happyaku in Wild 7, and of course, Ryouan in Hidamari no Ki. The last three are Orphan releases.
  • Ogawa Shinji (Selinuntius) played Johnny's father in Starship Troopers and Douglas MacArthur in Junod, both Orphan releases, as well as Hyou in Hokuto no Ken. However, I remember him best as the lecherous ojii-san, Maestro Stresemann, in Nodame Cantabile.
  • Kobayashi Akiji (Dionysius) played Tachibana throughout the Kamen Rider franchise.
  • Hayashibara Megumi (Clair, Melos' sister) was arguably the most famous seiyuu of the 1990s. She starred as Faye Valentine in Cowboy Bebop, Ayanami Rei in Evangelion, Rune Balot in the Mardock Scramble movies, Rebecca in One Piece, Lina in the Slayers franchise, female Ranma in Ranma 1/2, and Miyokichi in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. She also played a number of feline roles, including including the title roles in the All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku and Hello Kitty franchises, as well as "lead cat" Iruinedo in Oruorane the Cat Player, an Orphan release. She played Navi in Izumo (1991), another Orphan release.
  • Nakamori Aina (Raisa, a prostitute who helps Melos) is primarily a singer. Hashire Melos is her only anime role.
  • Aono Takeshi (Calippus, a garrulous old man who helps Melos) was an industry veteran. He played Nurarihyon in every incarnation of GeGeGe no Kitarou through 2007, Billy Bones in Treasure Island, Bookman in D.grayman, Dracule in One Piece, Katsuhiko Masaki in the Tenchi Muyo franchise, and Shiro Sanada in the Yamato franchise. He also appeared in A Penguin's Memories, Ginga Tansa 2100: Border-nen, Fire Emblem, Grimm Douwa: Kin no Tori, Amefuri Kozou (Rain Boy), the three Sangokushi movies (as Guan Yu), and Tezuka Osamu's Tales from the Old Testament, all Orphan releases.
Osami Misaki directed and also did the storyboards and the screenplay. His use of dark interiors and shadows is striking. Oda Kazumasa composed all the music, including the excellent ending ballad. The background music is subtle and used sparingly.

For the original release, M74 transcribed the ACR subtitles and did the initial timing; ninjacloud did timing cleanup. Iri translation checked, I edited and typeset, Juggen created the wonderful ending karaoke, and Calyrica, konnakude, and Xenath3297 did QC. For this release, Iri translated the extra dialog, signs, and song verse in the promo. ninjacloud retimed the script. I cleaned up the script and redid the typesetting for the new raw and the added promo. Juggen redid his karaoke to fit the narrower width. BeeBee and Nemesis checked the release. Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded from a laserdisc I bought on Ebay.

Hashire Melos is still too padded for my taste, but it's excellent artwork and music make it quite watchable. You can get this new version from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.




 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Imperfect Raws

Streaming services in Japan are republishing classic anime series and movies in record quantities, often in high definition, sometimes remastered. That's good news for fans of old anime, because many of these shows have been unavailable or available only on imperfect sources like VHS tapes, laserdiscs, or hastily mastered DVDs. For example, the streaming source for the original Laughing Salesman looks vastly better than the DVD box set.

However, the streaming raws can also have problems. Sometimes, the high-definition stream is just an upscale of an old laserdisc or DVD, with no attempt at remastering. They result looks grainy and crude, with thick, jagged lines and blotched textures. Sometimes, the streaming service skimps on bandwidth. This introduces blocking and other artifacts. And sometimes, the streaming raw has encoding mistakes - incorrect frame rates (29.97 fps instead of 23.976 fps) or unnecessary blck borders.

Orphan has a pile of high-definition raws for shows it has already released, but many of them have issues that introduce problems in the subtitling process:
  • Incorrect frame rate. The high-definition Sangokushi movie streams are at 29.97 fps. This can't be correct: the originals were movies and must have been created at 23.976 fps. The incorrect frame rate not only bloats the encode, it also wrecks all the motion-tracked typesetting. Because the Sangokushi movies required months of typesetting, this is a big deal, at least for me as the typesettter. So far, no one has been willing to re-encode them back to the proper frame rate.
  • Lack of cropping. The high-definition raws for the Nine OVAs are at the correct frame rate but are not cropped. The first OVA has been released as though it were a wide-screen movie, with horizontal black bars to achieve the movie aspect ratio of 1.85:1 instead of the HD standard of 1.77:1. The second and third OVAs are square but have been padded with vertical black bars to widen the 1440 x 1080 resolution to 1920 x 1080. In both cases, this wrecks the typesetting from the laserdiscs, which are 4:3.
  • Ugly upscaling. The original high-definition releases of all the 60's Toei animation films appear to be simple upscales of DVD sources. They look terrible at 1080p and need to be downscaled to 720p to be tolerable, as was done for Wan Wan Chuushingura. (Toei is now remastering some of its best known titles, like Horus and Hakujaden; we'll see if they keep going.)
So I have a question to my readers (all three of you): would you like to see high-definition releases of our past shows, even if the raws have black bars or look terrible? Or should Orphan hold out for properly encoded/cropped raws? Of course, if we had a few more encoders, this would not be an issue...

Friday, September 13, 2019

AWOL Compression Remix

The 1998 series AWOL is infamous in anime history because of its lethargic pacing. It was so poorly regarded that the original TV series was never released on home media in Japan. Instead, the series was re-edited, compressed by a third, and released as four double-length OVAs under the title AWOL Compression Remix. Even that version never made it past VHS tapes and laserdiscs.

The series would have languished in obscurity except for a fortuitous chain of events. First, the original TV series was licensed and released in the United States on VHS tape, with English subtitles; it is now rather hard to find. Second, the author of the Land of Obfuscation blog wrote two detailed reviews, the first on the original TV series and the second on AWOL Compression Remix. These provided a guidebook to how the two were related. Third, a rip of the subtitled VHS tapes came Orphan's way. Last, Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions had most of AWOL Compression Remix in his collection, and I was able to buy the missing volume for him. All the pieces for subtitling the show were in place.

That was almost two years ago. The project languished, for a variety of reasons. To me, the script assembly process looked rather daunting. Most movie specials or "compressions" - like the Dallos Special - are done by assembling all the scripts in order and then knocking out lines corresponding to deleted scenes. AWOL Compression Remix, on the other hand, jumped around. The Land of Obfuscation guidebook provided a general outline, but like the Technical Challenge in The Great British Baking Show, a few important details were missing. With lots of new and complete scripts available from the Orphan translators, AWOL Compression Remix was a challenge I could cheerfully duck, and no one else in the team was interested in playing script detective.

As I've mentioned in other blogs, starting a year ago, Real Life carried off Orphan's translators, and the backlog of new scripts ran out. I continued to procrastinate by doing revised versions of several shows with new raws, but then the backlog of encodes ran out too. I had to tackle AWOL Compression Remix, at long last. The first episode was very difficult. I couldn't find the cold open. Quite a lot of the first two episodes had been cut (the third episode was cut entirely). The subs and the audio on our copy of the TV series were badly out of sync. Gradually, I was able to develop a rhythm and put a script together. It became easier as the series progressed and I stumbled across missing pieces. (For example, the cold open of Remix episode 1 came from TV episode 6.) There were some additional challenges. Remix added signs to keep the viewer grounded about scene changes; they were not in the TV series. Each volume of Remix had a promo video at the end; they were not in the TV series either. But with a little help from my friends, the scripts came together.

AWOL (and Compression Remix) was a follow-on project from the team that did Next Senki Ehrgeiz, and it was also intended to be an action-oriented sci-fi thriller. Vicious terrorists calling themselves Solomon attack the Allied Planets, stealing weapons of mass destruction called Planet Destroying Bombs (PDB) and gaining control of a network of satellite-based laser weapons called the Planet Link Plan (PLP). The lasers render the Allies' space navies useless. The terrorists proceed to blow up one planet after another and to destroy fleet after Allied fleet. In desperation, the Allies put together a small counterstrike team under Major Jim Hyatt. He recruits not only capable pilots and soldiers but also criminals with special skills, like computer hacking and bomb making. Hyatt's team must find and take out the terrorists before the terrorists blow up the Earth. The show plays a bit like a cross between Condition Green and The Dirty Dozen.


The plot will not withstand scrutiny, of course. Solomon is run by a former military officer, Duran Gash. His motives are never spelled out; he behaves like a comic book villain who likes really big explosions. His ally is Peat Culten (yes, that's how it's spelled), the operator of the laser satellite network. The Allied Planets' military built the network secretly, without informing the civilian government. Further, they gave Culten total control, with no oversight and no backups. (What would happen if he was asleep or on vacation during an emergency is not specified.) Culten has control not only of the satellite network but of every one of the military's computers. Early in the show, an Allied anti-terrorist team successfully boards Gash's ship, but instead of blowing it and all of Solomon up, they try to recapture the PDB missiles. When it's Jim Hyatt's turn, he has recruited exactly the right people to meet every emergency and unforeseen problem that arises during his mission. And so on.

The science is a bit dicey too. The speed of light limit is sort of honored - it requires "hyper-drive" to get around space - except when it gets in the way of the plot. Communications are instantaneous, so that Pete Culten can control the PLP satellites in real time from light-years away. Hyatt's pilot can see laser beams coming, so she can dodge them. Well, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds anyway.

AWOL Compression Remix is nowhere near as slack as the original TV series, but it still has some pacing problems. In particular, the endless bickering between the representatives of the civilian government and the military leaders brings the show almost to a dead stop whenever it happens. Much of this was cut, but even more should have been. In addition, the show ends very abruptly; there's no epilogue to show what happens after. Mission accomplished, followed immediately by THE END. Do the criminals get pardoned? Is the military punished for its stupidity? Do the civilian and military officials who wrangled pointlessly all through the show finally strangle each other? We'll never know.

The voice cast includes many notable names:
  • The redoutable Genda Tesshou (Jim Hyatt) played Colonel Muto in Joker Game, Moloch in Yondemasu Azazel-san, Rei in the Urusei Yatsura franchise, Moguro Fukuzou in New Laughing Salesman,  and "Oyaji" in Mitsuboshi Colors. He also played Paul Rusch in Yume Kakeru Kougen, the loyal lieutenant Galbreath in Next Senki Ehrgeiz, the dragonman Baguda in Greed, the narrator in Akai Hayate and Meisou-ou Border, Dog McCoy in Dallos, Hebopi in Wild 7, rebel leader Oosukune in Izumo, and Rikiishi's trainer Kuroki and Kirishima in Eguchi Hisashi no Kotobuki Gorou Show, all Orphan releases.
  • Nakamura Daiki (Chris Sheldon, Hyatt's criminal hacker) played Keith Winter in Condition Green (an Orphan release), the title roles in Dangerous Jii-san Ja and Demon Beast Resurrection, Dayakka in Gurren Lagann, Seiji Date in Ronin Warriors, and Liu Bei in Yokoyama Mitsuteru Sangokushi.
  • Nakata Jouji (Nelson the Bomb, Hyatt's criminal bomber) is best known as Alucard in Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate and as the Count of Monte Christo in Gankuutsuou. He also played Shamon in Amatsuki (an Orphan release), Ashen Eye in The Ancient Magus Bride, Bandou in Elfen Lied, Hijikata in Golden Kamuy, Vladimir Putin (!) in Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku, Jin Kunugi in Rahxephon, Otou in Working!, and Diethard Ried in Code Geass.
  • Nakata Kouji (Duran Gash, the terrorist leader) played the title roles in Kamui Gaiden, Ninpu Kamui Gaiden, and Seton Doubutsuki, the narrator in Dallos, and Admiral Maskanen in Yamato 2520. The last two are Orphan releases.
  • Nakao Ryuusei, who gives a virtuoso performance as the cackling terrorist hacker Peat Culten, played the lead in Igano Kabamaru, King Falke in ACCA, Hephaestion in Alexander's Decision, Freeza/Cooler in Dragon Ball, and Akio in Chameleon, an Orphan release.
  • Adachi Shinobu (Amanda Kessler, Gash's second in command) played Rabi in Madou King Granzort, the title roles in Calimero and Jagainu, Tom (Sawyer) in Huckleberry Finn, Kayra Su in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, and Chou of Benten in Usagi-chan de Cue.
  • Miki Shinichirou (John Bishop, Hyatt's sharpshooter) played Kojiro in Pokemon, Fujiwara Takumi in Initial D, Urahara Kisuke in Bleach, Minamoto no Yorihisa in Haruka Naru Toki no Nake de, Shintarou in Lime-iro Senkitan, Bruce Wayne in Batman: Gotham Knight, Roy Mustang in Full Metal Alchemist (2009), Gintarou in Gingitstune, and Cyber-X in Hand Maid May, an Orphan release.
  • Tanaka Atsuko (Dana McLaren, Hyatt's ace pilot) played Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Lisa Lisa in the JoJo's Bizarre Adventures TV series.
  • Ootomo Ryuuzaburou( Zack Landis, Dana's trusted mechanic and copilot) played Crocodile in One Piece and Bear Walken in Gungrave.
  • Kazuki Yayoi (Rachel Hurst, Hyatt's communications expert) was a stage actress and had no other significant anime roles.
The director, Kawase Toshifumi, also directed Next Senki Ehrgeiz. The music is by prolific anime composer Hamaguchi Shirou, who is best known for his work on One Piece, Girls und Panzer, and Ah! My Goddess; it's quite good. As with Next Senki Ehrgeiz, the opening song is a driving rocker, and the ending song a more soulful ballad.

Because of the origin of the shows, the staff credits are a bit unusual. Yogicat transcribed the VHS subtitles. convexity translated the songs, Sunachan translated the signs, and Iri filled in a couple of lines that were simply missing. I assembled the scripts and did very rough timing. ninjacloud did the fine dialog timing and the song timing. I edited and typeset; the signs are not difficult. BeeBee, Nemesis, and Topper3000 QCed. Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions encoded from his own Japanese laserdiscs. So lots of people had their hands, or at least their fingers, in this one.

In the end, is AWOL Compression Remix an improvement on the original AWOL? Yes, definitely. Is it enough of an improvement to be considered good? Not so sure. The old adage about silk purses and sow's ears applies. The creators of Remix were constrained by the original AWOL scripts. No new animation was added, only a few signs. The motives of the terrorists are never explained. The characters remain one-dimensional and functional. And the boring and pointless bickering among the Allies remains boring and pointless. On the other hand, there are lots of explosions, good action scenes, and some standout vocal performances. If you watch AWOL Compression Remix, it may not leave a lasting impression, but you won't tear your hair out either: Twinkle Nora Rock Me or Bavi Stock II it's not (thank the stars).

So unless someone wants to clean up and rip the rather rare VHS tapes of the complete series, this is as much of AWOL as we're likely to get. You can get AWOL Compression Remix from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.




Monday, September 9, 2019

Let's Nupu Nupu

I have a secret (well, maybe not so secret) weakness for ecchi gag shows; for example, Hanaukyo Maid Tai. Here's one of the ecchiest and sketchiest, 1998's Let's Nupu Nupu. This is the first release based on a laserdisc source; previous releases used VHS sources.

Let's Nupu Nupu is a series of short sketches gathered into short episodes, with very little continuity and no through plot. The vignettes are organized around characters and situations:
  • Takagi-kun and Shitara-sensei. Lustful school nurse Shitara Yuri repeatedly attempts to get into the (literal) shorts of uninterested and disgusted sixth-grader Takagi Fumio. In the US, this would be an episode of Law & Order: SVU. In Japan, it's a comedy.

  • The Adventures of Sushi Neko. A mangy cat tries (and fails) at a series of jobs, including sushi chef, convenience store clerk, superhero, English teacher, hard-boiled detective, and office boss.

  • The communications problems of a pet hamster in a family where every person calls it by a different name.

  • Takao-san and Kobato-chan. Two high school students turn collecting the garbage into a trashy mess of double entendres.
  • The Omori Family Drama Series. Brocon and siscon siblings exchange charged utterances about home media electronics.

  • Happy Family Center. Kitamura Kumi, 26-year-old single kindergarten teacher, is brought to the edge of despair by a precociously insightful brat, Asami.

Because the episodes are only five minutes long, even the longest sketch goes by in a flash. If it's not funny, there's another one right behind it that may be better... or worse. There's some nudity, because Shitara-sensei strips at the slightest excuse, and lots of suggestive dialog, but no sex.

The voice cast includes quite a few distinguished seiyuu:
  • Tomizawa Michie (Shitara Yuri) played Linna Yamazaki in Bubblegum Crisis/Crash, Matsuzaka-sensei in Crayon Shin-chan, the nameless Office Lady in Oruchuban Ebichu, Sailor Mars in Sailor Moon, Mihoshi in Tenchi Muyo, Airi Komiyama in Those Who Hunt Elves, and Emi Ogasawara in Ghost Sweeper Mikami. She also played female Joker in Joker: Marginal City, an Orphan release.
  • Ueda Yuuji (Takagi-kun) played Johannes Krauser II in Detroit Metal City (OVA), Fuuma Yousuke in Wedding Peach, Sagara Sonosuke in Rurouni Kenshin, Tenkata Akito in Kidou Senkan Nadeseico, Keitarou in Love Hina, Makoto in Futari Ecchi, and Takeshi in Pokemon. He also voiced Nanbara in Hand Maid May, an Orphan release.
  • Takana Urara (Sushi Neko) played Mowgli in Jungle Book Shonen Mowgli, Tiger in Saber Marionette, and Maria Tachibana in Sakura Wars. She also voiced Sister Yumiko in Sei Michaela Gakuen Hyouryuuki and Ken in Next Senki Ehrgeiz, both Orphan releases.
  • Okiayu Ryoutarou (Takao-san) starred as Aoyama-kun in Keppeki Danshi! Aoyama-kun, Mitsui Hisashi in Slam Dunk, Matsura Yuu in Marmalade Boy, Jinnai Katsuhiko in the El-Hazard franchise, Nueno Meisuke in the Hell Teacher Nube series, the title roles in Gambler Densetsu Tetsuya and Toriko, Samejima Ranmaru in Kizuna, Souma Shigure in Fruits Basket (2003), Berserker in Fate/Zero, Hideyoshi in Sengoku Basara, and Atsushi in Recorder to Ransel. He also played Abel in Fire Emblem, Akram in Harukanaru Toki and 2, and Gion in Okane ga Nai!, all Orphan releases.
  • Araki Kae (hamster, Marimo) played Yuuki Miagi in Fushigi Yugi, Minnie Mae Hopkins in Gunsmith Cats, Ann in Juliet, and chibi Sailor Moon in the Sailor Moon franchise.
  • Ishida Akira (brother Omori) played Makoto in Boys Be, Cho Hakkai in the Saiyuuki franchise, Sasuke in Samurai Deeper Kyou, Gaara in Naruto, Chrono in Chrno Cursade, Judas in Saint Beast, Ahrun in the Gundam Seed franchise, Kuchiki in the Genshiken franchise, Komugi in Hen Zemi, Natori in the Natsume Yuujinchou franchise, and of course, Yakumo in Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.
  • Himomi (sister Omori) has done numerous eroge. In anime, she appeared in Shuffle, Happiness, Koihime Mushou, Carnival Phantasm, and several h-anime.
  • Katou Seizo (Sushi Neko's sushi mentor) played Putyatin in Bakumatsu no Spasibo, Oz in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz TV series, Okaa-san in Tokyo Godfathers, and Aran in Freedom. He played Abraham in Tezuka Osamu's Tales of the Old Testament and appeared in Kage and Perrine Monogatari, all Orphan releases.
Multiple directors were involved, each scripting his own skits. The original manga is by Mitsumori Akira.

The original subtitles were by RiP. They did a good job bringing out the lewd jokes in the dialog and the titles, but a few errors have been corrected.  ics- transcribed the subtitles, originally for use with his own laserdisc. Iri translated the opening song, and Sunachan translated some additional signs. ninjacloud timed. I edited and typeset. Nemesis and VigorousJammer QCed. ics- ripped the show from his own Japanese laserdisc. The encoding is by Urotsuki of Beatrice-Raws, and it looks great. This is a conventional rip, not a Domesday Duplicator rip, so massive props for making the show look so good. (It's been upscaled to 768 x 576, but I don't think that's noticeable.) So this is an Orphan-Beatrice joint release. I hope there will more in the future; Orphan needs all the encoding help it can get.

On TV, each episode had an opening and ending song. For the home video releases, these were chopped off. The laserdisc includes an opening song for all sixteen episodes; it is probably the original ending. The laserdisc ending is an instrumental that includes credits for all the episodes. There is no sign of the TV opening (Maybe True by Fanatic Crisis). The torrent includes a "play all" option. On a player that supports ordered chapters, this will play the OP, the sixteen episodes, and the ED, in laserdisc order.

So here's Let's Nupu Nupu with significantly improved video, which allows Shitara-sensei's, ah, lessons to be admired in greater detail. As usual, you can pick up Let's Nupu Nupu from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Tomoe's Run! - A New Version

Orphan has already released two versions of the 1991 OVA Tomoe's Run! (Tomoe ga Yuku!) - the original and a patch to fix a timing problem - so this is technically v3, but who's counting? Erik at Piyo Piyo Productions and I have both wanted to redo the show, because the original encode was done at 29.97 fps rather than 23.976 fps, and its color correction wasn't all that great. The availability of the Domesday Duplicator provided the perfect excuse to revisit Tomoe, so here's a new version, at the proper frame rate and with improved color. The show is a hoot, and I recommend it highly, despite a plot that will not withstand even the slightest scrutiny.


Our heroine, Tomoe Ojima, is a seventeen-year-old roller-skating j.d. She liked to play peek-a-boo and tag with speeding trucks on Tokyo's crowded highways, until her best friend was run over and killed during an outing. On the rebound, Tomoe joins a training school for stuntmen called Green Day. There she launches a torrid love affair with Kazusa Himuro, one of the "managers". Little Does She Know, however, that Green Day is actually the Tojo yakuza group's assassin training school, and Kazusa is the group's chief enforcer. Informed of the truth by an undercover policewoman whom Kazusa then ruthlessly executes, Tomoe makes her escape on skates and flees to the arms of Iori Tojo, the alienated son of Tojo's leader. Together, they fight to foil Kazusa's nefarious plots, take down Green Day, and restore Iori to his rightful position as heir to the group. Tomoe and Iori fall in love, but they realize that Their Love Is Not To Be.

Along the way, many parallels are drawn between Tomoe Ojima and Tomoe Gozen, the legendary twelfth century female samurai. Tomoe Gozen fought in the Genpei War at the side of her liege lord and lover Minamoto no Yoshinaka (identified in the anime by his original clan name, Kiso Yoshinaka), surviving both the war and him. Tomoe's Run! hypothesizes that Yoshinaka did not marry Tomoe because their difference in rank was too great. Iori cannot marry Tomoe Oujima for the same reason. At the end, They Must Part for their different destinies, he to rule a prominent Japanese corporation/yakuza group, she to roam the roads on her roller skates...

Even if the plot follows well-worn tracks, the show's a treat. Tomoe is a spunky heroine who makes her own decisions in life and love; for example, it's clear that her relationship with Kazusa is an adult's love affair, both emotionally and physically. The supporting characters are interesting and not just the usual wingmen (and women). And the ending is bittersweet.

The voice cast includes:
  • Yamamoto Yuriko (Tomoe) played Iczer 1 in the Iczer OVAs, Rumy in the Gall Force OVAs, Sally in Mahou Tsukai Sally 2, Sandybell in Hello! Sandybell, Georgie in Lady Georgie, Nora Scholar in Nora, Rihabi and Sayuri in Stop!! Hibari-kun!, and Telenne in High Speed Jecy. The last three are Orphan releases.
  • Hironaka Masashi (Kazusa) played Siegfried in Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Ihika in Yousei-ou, an Orphan release.
  • Inoue Kazuhiko (Iori) starred as Yamaoka Shirou in Oishinbo, Yuki Eiri in Gravitation, and the title role in Cyborg 009, but I know and love him best as the irascible, sake-swilling Nyanko-sensei in the Natsume Yuujichou properties. He also played Kanuma Hayate in Akai Hayate, Ryousuke in Daishizen no Majuu Bagi, Kitten Smith in Starship Troopers, Liu Bei Xuande in both Sangokushi OVAs, and Nakatsugawa in Boyfriend, all Orphan releases.
  • Shimada Bin (Kuro) appeared in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou, Fukyukayama Theater, and Sangokushi, all Orphan releases. He played Ken Nakajima in the You're Under Arrest franchise and numerous other roles. He is currently appearing as Konaki Jijii and Wally Wall in GeGeGe no Kitarou.
  • Tsuru Hiromi (Shizuka, Tomoe's older sister) debuted as Perrine in Perrine Monogatari. She went on to play Kashima Miyuki in Miyuki, Madoka in Kimagure Orange Road, Barge in Blue Sonnet, and Mikami Reiko in Ghost Sweeper Mikami. She also played Nozomi in Nozomi Witches, Jill in A Penguin's Memories, and UFO-chan in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou, all Orphan releases.
The director, Ishiyama Takaaki, also directed Viewtiful Joe, MapleStory, 18if, and a couple of Happy Science movies. (Well, a guy's gotta earn a living.) The camera work is visually interesting, featuring lots of shadow and angle shots, as well as clever use of both foreground and background within a scene. The show features a number of good songs, particular the second ending, Sixteen's Revolution, and the soundtrack is now available online.

Moho Kareshi did the original translation (he prefers to convert long vowels to their English counterparts directly). convexity translation checked the dialog and translated the songs. ninjacloud timed the scripts, and Juggen supplied nice karaokes for the two ending songs. I edited and typeset, and Calyrica, konnakude, and Saji did the original QC. For this version, ninjacloud tweaked the timing, I reset the signs and did some minor cleanup on the dialog, and VigorousJammer did a release check. The new raws are from Piyo Piyo Productions and were ripped with Erik's Domesday Duplicator. Audio decoding is still a work in progress, so the audio is an analog capture.

So join our heroine for some high adventure and doomed romance in this new version of Tomoe's Run! You can get the show from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Okizari Reloaded

At the end of 2014, Orphan did a couple of hard-core h-anime that had been left unfinished. They didn't go through the same process as normal projects, and none of the staffers who worked on them wanted to be identified. Accordingly, Orphan established an h-anime "sub-brand", Okizari (which means "deserted" in Japanese), for these shows. They got uploaded to various torrent sites and forgotten.

Orphan has been quite inconsistent about using the Okizari label. Shadow (Kage) was released as Orphan; in fact, it was Orphan's first release. "Softer" h-anime like Kakyuusei, Dokyuusei 2, Tenkousei, etc. have also been released under the Orphan label. The distinction was always pretty arbitrary, and I don't see any reason to deny that Okizari releases are Orphan projects.

The five Okizari titles to date are:
I'm not going to provide an "analysis" of the single episode releases; what's the point? In any case, they're now all available on the Orphan IRC bot. This fulfills a request made nearly a year ago in the comments section of the blog.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sangokushi movie 3

The third movie of the Sangokushi trilogy is Sangokushi Dai San Bu Harukanaru Taichi (Sangokushi: The Distant Land). With this release, Orphan completes its work on Sangokushi, at least for a while: two TV specials and three movies, totaling more than eleven hours of anime. It had taken a year and a half to do - a marathon, not a sprint.


The third movie covers the longest time span, from Liu Bei's expedition to Shu in 211 CE to the death of Kongming in 234 CE. Instead of The Distant Land, it could just as well be titled The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. All of the main characters die, and the ultimate winner of the battle to reunite China is None of the Above - not Liu Bei or his descendants, not Cao Cao or his descendents, not Sun Quan or his descendants. Eventually, sheer exhaustion of all opponents allows a descendant of the Cao Wei general Sima Yi to reunite the country and create a new dynasty... for a while.

The Distant Land goes a long way, perhaps inadvertently, toward undermining Sangokushi's glorification of Liu Bei's nobility and Kongming's strategic genius. In particular, Kongming's "Land Divided in Three Stratagem" fails spectacularly, producing not a peaceful balance of power but a perpetual war for supremacy among the three states, like the three conflicting superpowers in 1984. The results were disastrous: the population of China was cut more than in half between the outbreak of the Yellow Turban revolt in 184 CE and the establishment of the Jin dynasty in 280 CE. The movie tries to claim a retrospective victory for Liu Bei's ideals, but the state of modern China belies that.


Because it has so much time to cover, The Distant Land moves at a breakneck pace from conflict to violent incident to battle and back again. With the exception of Guan Yu's foster daughter Fengji, characters are introduced, act out their part in history, and vanish in minutes. There is little time for character development or domestic concerns, just for plotting, ambition, betrayals, and executions. It all feels rather depressing - or perhaps I'm just tired of working on the Three Kingdoms era after so many hours working on the TV specials and the movies. The Distant Land had a ton of signs to set, and because of image jitter, almost all of them needed to be motion tracked.

The principal voice cast (Liu Bei, Cao Cao, Kongming, Sun Quan, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei) is unchanged from the previous two movies. The new main characters include:
  • Hiromi Tsuru (Fengji) debuted as Perrine in Perrine Monogatari and went on to play Kashima Miyuki in Miyuki, Madoka in Kimagure Orange Road, Barge in Blue Sonnet, and Mikami Reiko in Ghost Sweeper Mikami. She also played Iyo in Izumi, Nozomi in Nozomi Witches, Jill in A Penguin's Memories, UFO-chan in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou, and Takagi Youko in Nine, all Orphan releases.
  • Tanaka Hideyuki (Ma Su, Fengji's lover) had a long career, including featured roles as Terryman in the Kinnikuman franchise and Rayearth in Magic Knight Rayearth, as well as Harmer in Al Caral no Isan, Sammy in Bavi Stock, Sawamura in Nozomi Witches, Ronron in Greed, Aoto in Oedo ga Nemurenai!, and Katze in Ai no Kusabi, all Orphan releases. 
  • Ootsuka Chikao (Sima Yi) also had a lengthy career, starting back in 1963 in Astro Boy. He played Nezumi in the original GeGeGe no Kitarou and Hakaba Kitarou series, Goemon in the first Lupin III TV series, Tora in the original Ushio & Tora OVAs, and Kaibara Yuuzan in the Oishinbo properties, among numerous other roles.. He appeared in several Tezuka Osamu specials, all released by Orphan. 
The anime staff remained the same in all three movies.

Despite the massive size of the undertaking, Orphan's work on the Sangokushi movies was done by a small and remarkably dedicated crew. Iri translated all three movies, diligently researching names, translating signs, and labeling the numerous map locations. Yogicat timed, I did edited and typeset, BeeBee and Topper3000 QCed, and M74 encoded from R2J DVD ISOs - a total staff of six. They have my heartfelt thanks for sticking with the project until it was completed. You can get Sangokushi Dai San Bu Harukanaru Taichi from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net,

Is this the end of Orphan's involvement with Sangokushi? Well... while we were working on the movies, some beautiful high-definitions raws surfaced on Japanese streaming sites. We could put out HD versions of the movies, but there's a problem: the raws are 29.97 fps and need to be re-encoded down to 23.976 fps in order not to wreck all the typesetting. (No, I'm not redoing all that.) So if you want HD versions of the Sangokushi movies, tell your favorite and most capable encoder-san to get in touch with us on IRC. Or do my wrists a favor, and don't.