Monday, May 31, 2021

Sangokushi Daiichibu Eiyuu-tachi no Yoake (HD)

This has been in the works for a while. High-definition versions of the Sangokushi movies appeared on Japanese streaming sites in the spring of 2019. It has taken more than two years to move Orphan's standard-definition scripts to these raws. Our fans (all seven of them) might rightly ask, "What took so long?" Well, a couple of things:

  1. The web streams were at the wrong frame rate - 29.97 fps instead of 23.976 fps. This normally wouldn't matter much, but it wrecked the extensive frame-by-frame typesetting in the originals. It took 16 months to persuade an encoder to transcode the original streams down to the right frame rate.
  2. The typesetting had to be redone more or less completely. The original encode was anamorphic; the high-definition raws are not. The caused any sign set at an angle to be askew when scaled. (I don't know why.) In addition, the original encode had less visible jitter than the high-definitions streams; that required more frame-by-frame typesetting.
  3. Fatigue. I had watched these movies multiple times in the original project and more times while scaling to the high-definitions raws. I just couldn't bear to watch them again for the final release check.

So, not reasons exactly, but at least some excuses.

Here's an example of what went wrong when the typesetting was simply scaled. With no rework, the sign at 1:02:59 looked like this:


It should have looked like this:


The scaled sign is at the wrong angle; it's not parallel to the stonework.

The original blog post covers Sangokushi Daiichibu Eiyuu-tachi no Yoake (Sangokushi: Dawn of the Heroes) in great detail; I see no need to repeat it. This first movie in the series is probably the best. It has some great set pieces, such as Liu Bei's initial encounter with and escape from the Yellow Turbans. The cast is relatively small at this stage, so the action is easy to follow. It has compelling villains in Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu. And it keeps the moralizing to a minimum.

Iri translated all three movies, which are the equivalent of a two-cour TV series. Sunachan, who has since left the team, checked all the names. Yogicat timed the originals and tweaked the timing for the new raws. I edited and typeset (twice). BeeBee and Topper3000 QCed the original release; TougeWolf did a thorough check of this one. The encoder asked to remain anonymous. He's holding out for real Blu-rays.

So if you're ready for another stroll through the Three Kingdoms era, this time in high-definition, you can get Sangokushi Daiichibu Eiyuu-tachi no Yoake from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Body Jack (Laserdisc Version)

I wasn't planning on doing any more of the Pink Noise series after Call Me Tonight, but the laserdisc for the fourth and last show in the series, the 1987 OVA Body Jack: Tanoshii Yuutai Ridatsu (Body Jack: Sublime Separation), was lying around, so I thought, "Why not?" Well, it turns out there were good reasons why not, but I didn't know them when the project began.

Pink Noise was a series of unrelated OVAs released by C.Moon, the "adult" label of Bandai Visual. It consisted of four titles:

  1. Call Me Tonight (1986)
  2. Gakuen Tokusou Hikaruon (1987)
  3. Maryuu Senki, 3 episodes (1987-1989)
  4. Body Jack (1987)

It's not clear what they had in common, except perhaps some sexually suggestive material (hence "Pink"). In Japan, they were only issued on analog media (VHS and laserdisc). Some encodes claim to be DVD sources, but they are probably based on laserdisc rips in a DVD ISO container.

Body Jack tells the story of a typical horny high-school boy, Asagaya Takaya. He lusts after the vivacious Ikenoue Komaba, but he also has a yen for his childhood friend, the tall and athletic Koenji Nakano. His pursuit(s) are going nowhere when he is suddenly approached by Dr. Tomaya, a typical mad scientist with a Frankenstein-like helper. Tomaya offers the boy a machine that will provide an "out-of-body experience." Takaya snaps it up and promptly tries it out. It works.


Now a disembodied spirit, Takaya invades and takes over Komaba's body. He then indulges in all the typical adolescent male fantasies: going swimming with Nakano, going into the girls' changing room with Nakano, and ultimately going home with Nakano for some yuri action, followed by furious masturbation. The erotic antics overload the out-of-body machine, and it blows up. Takaya's spirit is wafted back to his own body, now seriously injured. Back in high school, he tries to approach Nakano as himself, with mixed results.

All this seems harmless enough, if rather mindless. So what are the issues? First, the laserdisc video is just terrible - the worst mastering the encoder has ever seen (although it's better than the VHS tape). Second, the laserdisc is censored, not by adding mosaics (unnecessary) but by cutting an entire five-minute scene present in the VHS tape. Third, even with the censoring, the OVA is just pointless sexcapades, "a 13-year-old's wet dream," as one QC described it. For that reason, it's being released under the Okizari label.

The creators seem to have realized that Body Jack was a step too far, compared to the other Pink Noise shows, because the entire cast used pseudonyms based on baseball players. Only the three leads have been convincingly identified:

  • Futamata Issei (Asagaya Takaya) is best known for his roles as Godai Yuusaku in Maison Ikkoku, Akira (Chibi) in Urusei Yatsura, Onizuka in Shonen Jumai-gumi, and Saburo in Sazae-san. He played Yoshio in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou, Cross in Hi-Speed Jecy, Guy in Greed, the announcer in Elf 17, and Sakigami in Doukyuusei: Climax, and he appeared in Fukuyama Gekijou - Natsu no Himitsu, What's Michael? OVA 2, and Tokimeki Tonight, all Orphan releases.
  • Takada Yumi, aka Iijima Saki (Ikenoue Komaba), played Yoshinaga-sensei in many of the Crayon Shin-chan movies and Ayeka in the Tenchi Muyo franchise. She played Saya and Monmo in Cosmic Fantasy, Purinpurin in Hoshi Neko Full House, Atover in Exper Zenon, Yumi the barkeep in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou, and bit parts in Cool Cool Bye and Nora, all Orphan releases. She appeared in many classic h-animes, including Adventure Kid, Angels in the Court, Balthus: Tia's Radiance, Bizarre Cage, Black Window, La Blue Girl, Countdown, the Demon Beast and Darkness series, Dragon Knight, F3, Fencer of Minerva, Lyon Flare, Trouble Evocation, Twin Dolls, and Venus 5.
  • Aoba Miyoko, aka Kubo Miyoko (Koenji Nakano), appeared in the first Sangokushi movie, an Orphan release.

The director also used a pseudonym.

So what made everyone shy away getting their names in this production, even after appearing in actual hentai anime? Perhaps it was the deleted scene. Komeba (Tayaka) is masturbating furiously out of frustration when her stepbrother and some of his friends burst in. They all have sex with her, sequentially and together, possibly against her (his) will. Why the scene was cut from just the laserdisc is a mystery. Maybe laserdiscs were considered "higher class." They certainly cost more than VHS tapes at the time (and still do).

The translation is from Box Subs. In the spirit of the cast members' names, I'll attribute transcription and timing to Yogi Bear, editing and typesetting to Hoardr, QC to Nyx's Daughter and Topper's Ghost, and encoding to Foolhardy.

Anyway, if you want to see this mess, it's available on the usual (adult) torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Hashire! Shiroi Ookami

Orphan hasn't done a critter feature in a while, so we're quite chuffed to present the first English-subtitled version of the 1990 movie Hashire! Shiroi Ookami (Run! White Wolf). This is based on the 1970 children's book Flight of the White Wolf by wildlife author Mel Ellis... and therein lies a tale (or a tail).

Flight of the White Wolf had been adapted, quite inaccurately, by Disney in 1976. In 1990, Toho made an anime version called Hashire! Shiroi Ookami. It reflected the book fairly faithfully, although it was condensed for time. Then, in 1991, Disney made a live action version of Jack London's White Fang, which was quite successful. To cash in on the new movie, a Canadian licensing firm brought out a cheapie dub of Hashire!, titled it White Fang, and claimed that it was "based on characters from the classic Jack London" novel." In fact, the only connection between the dubbed anime and Jack London's White Fang was a title card and a change of character names. You can read the whole sordid story in these reviews from Anime Bargain Bin. So this release is the first accurate representation of Hashire! Shiroi Ookami in English.

The story is set in the middle of the last century, in an area in southern Wisconsin known as Kettle Moraine. The Clagg family - father Cal, mother Emily, and son Russ - are dog trainers. They have been nurturing an orphaned wolf cub whom they name Gray. Russ has become particularly close with the wolf. One day, Gray is confronted by an aggressive boxer dog, kills it, and escapes. The outraged owner (and local mayor) Mr. Schott demands that Gray be put down as a menace to the community. Russ refuses to go along and hatches a plan to take Gray all the way up the state to Nicolet National Forest, where wild wolves still run free. With his parent's reluctant consent, and with only partial cooperation from the increasingly wild Gray, Russ sets out on a 300km northward trek, scrounging food, dodging trucks, traps, and hunters, and trying to keep his increasingly recalcitrant wolf in line, in an attempt to deliver Gray to a safer wilderness habitat.

The movie is highly visual. The dialog is sparse, and quite a bit of it is Russ calling out "Gray" to get the wolf's attention. 


The background music is all excerpts from Dvorak's Serenade for Strings. The movie is also wide-screen. This is a problem because the only source is VHS; it was never even released on laserdisc, let alone on a digital medium. The anime was made in Open Matte. The dub is full frame and looks better (to me). Unfortunately, haphazard cuts in the dub make it impossible to fit the Japanese audio track to that video.

Because the movie is basically a two-hander between Russ and a (non-speaking) wolf, the named voice cast is small:

  • Toriumi Katsumi (Russ) played the male leads Wakamatsu in Miyuki and Ryou in Call Me Tonight, and he appeared as Shigeru in Yume Kakeru Kougen and Ishmael in Tezuka Osamu's Tales from the Old Testament. The last three are Orphan releases.
  • Naya Gorou (Mr. Schott) played Koichi Zenigata in Lupin III, Juzo Okita in Space Battleship Yamato, Shocker in Kamen Rider, Yupa in Nausicaa, King Magma VII in Kaitei 3-man Mile, Weedon Scott in White Fang (the real one), and Yamaarashi in Botchan; the last two are Orphan releases. His deep voice provided the narration in Shinzou Ningen Casshern, Vampire Miyu, Golden Boy, the original Dororo, and other shows.
  • Arikawa Hiroshi (Cal, Russ' father) is best known for dubbing the voice of Gandalf in the Japanese releases of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also played the main character, Kawaji, in Bakumatsu no Spasibo.
  • Munakata Tomoko (Emily, Russ' mother) played maternal figures in Bremen 4, Yamatarou Comes Back, and Zetsuai 1989, all Orphan releases.

The director, Maeda Tsuneo, did chief animation direction on Eleven Hungry Cats, the first Nine OVA, and the Touch movies, and he directed the Tama-chan TV series.

Iri translated and did the initial timing. (He also translated Orphan's release of the real White Fang anime as well as Wan Wan Chuushingura, among other critter flicks.) Yogicat fine timed. I edited and typeset. Nemesis and Uchuu QCed. Intrepid encoded from an "All in Wonder" uncompressed capture of a Japanese VHS tape. The tape is worn, and there are both video and audio defects. The original image is 640 x 384 (5:3, the Japanese standard for widescreen back then):


The encode is upscaled to preserve a 480p vertical dimension. I don't necessarily agree with upscaling a VHS tape, but I don't make the encodes.

So follow along with Russ and Gray as they navigate the wilds of rural Wisconsin seeking a safe haven for a wolf. You can get Hashire! Shiroi Ookami from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Cleaning Out The Attic

Everyone in Orphan is a fan of old anime, so it's not surprising that the team has collected a lot more raw anime than it can translate. (Think about my nick, duh.) Therefore, we need to "clean out the attic" occasionally and let others share the treasures that have been collecting dust. The hope is that other groups will be inspired to translate some of these shows. It hasn't worked so far, but hope springs eternal.

The first release in this group of raws is the 1991 OVA Asatte Dance. According to ANN, the plot of the goes like this:

Suekichi Terayama is a college student with a lot on his mind. He prefers his behind-the-scenes work with the avant-garde theater troupe Bondage Horse to his studies (probably because he has a crush on the troupe’s leader, Miss Shimomura). The thing is, his great-grandfather has just died and left him an inheritance of 450 million yen... on the condition that he graduate from college and start a career. Then there’s Aya, the very sexy woman he finds in his bed the morning after the funeral and who proceeds to force her way into Suekichi’s life. He’s pretty sure she’s only after his inheritance, but her frequent seductions are impossible for him to resist. Add a theater-loving yakuza, the great-grandfather’s lawyer, Aya’s ex-husband and the pretty young Miyuki to the mix, and Suekichi’s life seems destined to spin out of control.

How much of this is in the OVA is tbd, of course, but it looks like a typical 90s romp, with comedy, sex, nudity, and perhaps a bit of violence.

The first episode is a Domesday Duplicator rip of a Japanese laserdisc; the second is an "All in Wonder" uncompressed VHS rip of a Japanese video tape. Intrepid encode both.

The second release is the 1992 OVA Ore no Sora: Keiji-hen. According to MAL, the plot goes like this:

Yasuda Ippei is the son of Yasuda Seijiro, the head of Yasuda Group, Japan's biggest business conglomerate. Although he is the son of a distinguished family, he has absolutely no disagreeable areas and is liked by everyone. His academic achievements are exceptional. He completed his entire high school programme in 2 years and qualified for Tokyo University's Faculty of Law without studying for the exams. In order to establish his own concept of justice, Yasuda leaves his position as the heir to the Yasuda Group to attend the police academy. He becomes a detective at Kyobashi Police Precinct and bravely faces great evil.

More of a drama this time, but with the usual 90s mix of sex, nudity, and violence for spice.


Both episodes are "All in Wonder" uncompressed VHS rips of Japanese video tapes. Intrepid encoded both episodes. 

The third release is the 1987 OVA Kentauros no Densetsu (The Legend of Kentauros). This one is about rivalry within a motorcycle racing team:

The Centaurs are a racing team of 93 bikers from the port city of Yokohama that are named after the legendary Greek horse/men. Arthur and Ken fall out over their love for the same woman and decide to settle their competition with a race.

In addition to the main OVA, the release includes a "live action" omake allegedly from the "president" of the racing club.


This is another "All in Wonder" uncompressed VHS rip of a Japanese video tape, encoded by Intrepid.

The fourth raw is the 1992 movie Tottoi, a tale of rare creatures facing extinction on the island of Sardinia:

Sardinia is abundant in beautiful beaches and mysterious caves which are known as the habitat of a peculiar kind of seal on the verge of extinction. After moving to this island, Tottoi, fascinated by nature, visits different beaches and caves everyday. When he finds a seal cub and its mother in an isolated cave, he is surprised by the humorous movements and innocence of the cub and the dignity of its mother. Tottoi soon becomes attached to the seals, but his secret is revealed to heartless adults. In the name of preservation, a plan is developed to capture them for an aquarium. Now the dignity and pride of the wild seal are in danger. No matter how painful for Tottoi to be separated from his small friends, he must fight for the welfare of the wild mammals and let them go free into the sea.

I was hoping to add this to Orphan's list of "critter features" but couldn't get a translator to bite, despite the cute seals:

Yet another "All in Wonder" uncompressed VHS rip of a Japanese video tape, encoded by Intrepid.

The fifth raw is the 1990 OVA Shiratori Reiko de Gozaimasu! (I Am Shiratori Reiko!), a romantic comedy:

19-year old Reiko is a rich, arrogant, material girl, who refuses to admit her feelings for classmate Tetsuya Akimoto before it's almost too late. Reiko pursues him to Tokyo and enrolls at his university in an attempt to win him back.


Still another "All in Wonder" uncompressed VHS rip of a Japanese video tape, encoded by Intrepid. I think this encode is the first one at full resolution.

The sixth offering is the 1989 OVA Koiko no Mainichi (Koiko's Daily Life), an excerpt from a 32-volume (!) manga by George Akiyama. It's a seinen slice-of-life "comedy" about gangsters:

Shinjuku gangster Sabu and his young wife Koiko try to live a normal life, despite the interference of gang politics and criminal deals. After she saves his life, Sabu's gang-boss, Tominaga, falls in love with Koiko and sends Sabu into increasing dangerous situations, hoping to cause his arrest and thus obligate himself to "take care" of Koiko while Sabu is in prison.

However, the happy couple seem to know how to take care of themselves and enjoy life.


Once again, an
"All in Wonder" uncompressed VHS rip of two Japanese video tapes, encoded by Intrepid. I think this encode is the first one at full resolution.

We'll end this week-long release spree with the 1990 OVA OL Kaizou Kouza (Office Lady Remodeling Course), a comedy about office work:

Another "All in Wonder" uncompressed VHS rip of a Japanese video tape, encoded by Intrepid.

I hope you've enjoyed these treasures from Orphan's attic of untranslated raws. There's a lot more where those came from! If any of them catch your interest, or if you'd like to help with translating shows from the back catalog, please get in touch with me on irc.rizon.net!


Friday, April 16, 2021

B.B. Fish

There just aren't enough anime about scuba diving. Yes, there was Grand Blue, but it was primarily a gross-out comedy. And there was Amanchu!, but it was more a slice-of-life show. RD Sennou Chousashitsu (Real Drive) used scuba diving as a metaphor for exploring cyberspace. And there have been individual scenes here and there. Meanwhile, the excellent scuba diving manga IO has been available for adaptation for more than a decade. So when a laserdisc of the 1994 diving OVA B.B. Fish (Blue Butterfly Fish) showed up on the second-hand market, I snapped it up, and here we are.

The OVA is a teaser for Kitagawa Shou's 15-volume manga series of the same name. I have no idea where this particular episode fits in the manga, which has not been published in English. It starts in media res, with no introductions for the characters or their backstory. The story is confusing enough that one QCer asked, "What did I just watch?" But it's nice to watch.

As the OVA opens, Hayama Ushio, a free diver, and his knockabout buddies, Kumaya and Muraoka, are on a tropical island visiting the brother of Ushio's main squeeze, Sara. They are all in search of the legendary blue butterfly fish, which supposedly inhabits these waters. Ushio is a great free diver because he can, in fact, breathe underwater. He and Sara are out diving, playing with a whale shark, when Ushio spots a local girl swimming without a tank, like he can. Later, he and his buddies run into the same girl and her sister on a back road. The mysterious girl, named Aruuyu, recognizes that Ushio is a kindred spirit.

Eventually, the separate groups merge into one large party. Aruuyu is jealous of Sara's closeness with Ushio and invites her rival to go diving in search of the blue butterfly fish. Aruuyu abandons Sara inside a cave called the Dragon's Mouth. Sara is in mortal peril from the rising tide when Ushio free dives to the cave to find her. He and Sara have a mystical reunion, and it seems clear that Ushio is the legendary blue butterfly fish. Or maybe not.


Regardless of the plot, B.B. Fish is very pretty to look at. It has lovely underwater scenes, and the characters have a tendency to doff their clothes to be more graceful in the water.
 
The laserdisc transfer is pristine. B.B. Fish is widescreen, which is quite odd for an OVA. Perhaps it was intended for theatrical release. The aspect ratio is 5:3, as this uncropped frame from the laserdisc shows:


This is a change from ToyRC's version, which was encoded at 16:9. This release also includes the stills from the Production Gallery featurette.

The voice cast is small but should be well known to Orphan's fans:

  • Hayashi Nobutoshi (Hayama Ushio) starred as Guts in Berserk, Nekki Basara in the Macross 7 franchise, Tasuki in Fushigi Yuugi, and Gawl in Generator Gawl. He played Shiba Ryoutarou in Nozomi Witches and Nanbara in Hand Maid May, both Orphan releases.
  • Shinohara Emi (Kanazuki Sara) played B-ko in the Project A-ko franchise, Sailor Jupiter in the Sailor Moon franchise, and Angel in The Big O. She played Reiko in Akai Hayate and Android 1025 in Oz, both Orphan releases.
  • Amano Yuri (Ayuuru) 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, Yuko in St. Michaela Gakuen Hyouryuuki, and in multiple roles in Fukuyama Gekijou, all Orphan releases. 
  • Chafurin (Kumaya) played the title role in Barbapapa Around the World, Inspector Megure in the Detective Conan franchise, Scotch Jii-san in the Hello Kitty franchise, Isono in Sazae-san (since 2014), and Kamoda in Yawara! He also appeared in Coluboccoro (2019), Jikuu Bouken Nuumamonjaa, Yamato 2520, Ohoshi-sama no Rail, and Izumo (1991), all Orphan releases.
  • Midorikawa Hikaru (Muraoka) played the title role in Sakamoto desu ga?, Softon in Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Heero Yuy in Gundam Wing, Tamahome in Fushigi Yugi, Shi Seiran in Saiunkoku Monogatari, Kaede Rukawa in Slam Dunk, Zelgadis Greywords in Slayers, Gen in the OVA version of MAPS, and Ryuu Hou in s-CRY-ed. He played Mars in Fire Emblem, an Orphan release. He's done numerous voices for video games and drama CDs, sung in several music groups, and written manga.
  • Sugawara Masashi (Kanazuki Tatsuya, Sara's brother) played Jean Valjean in Les Misérables: Shoujo Cosette, Hanazono in Yawara!, and Ray Lovelock in the Macross 7 franchise.
  • Orikasa Ai (Made, Ayuuru's sister) made her debut in Shoukoushi Cedie. She played the title role in Romeo no Aoi Sora, Fee in Planetes, Seguchi Touma (the record company president) in Gravitation, Quatre in Gundam Wing, and Ryouko in the Tenchi Muyo franchise. She also played Carrie in Ziggy Sore Yuke! R&R Band, Sara in Eien no Filena, Toryune in Al Caral no Isan,  Katchan's mother in Tako ni Natta Okaasan, the narrator in Boku no Boukuugou, and young Mars in Fire Emblem, all Orphan releases. 

The director, Hamatsu Mamoru, also helmed To-Y, Yoroiden Samurai Troopers, the Arslan Senki OVAs, B'tx, and the 2005 remake of Glass no Kamen. The excellent score is by Yoshikawa Youichirou, who also wrote the music for Oz, Green Legend Ran, Iria Zeiram, Kyou Kara Maou, and Baby Steps. Orphan has already released the original soundtrack.

The original translation was by ToyRC, with corrections (some significant) by TougeWolf and Iri. Yogicat transcribed the subtitles and timed. I edited and typeset. Nemesis, TougeWolf, and Uchuu QCed. Intrepid encoded from a Domesday Duplicator rip of a Japanese laserdisc. Even with upscaling from 640 x 384 to 800 x 480, it looks very good. The audio is FLAC. Please forgive him; he uses FLAC when the original laserdisc audio track is digital.

A biology note: There is no such species as a blue butterfly fish. Some species have blue stripes or spots, but the predominant color is yellow. And it should be spelled butterflyfish, with no space, but then B.B. Fish doesn't work.

So sit back and let the warm tropic seas wash over you as you watch Ushio, Sara, Aruuyu, and the others frolic in the currents and the waves. B.B. Fish is short, with relatively little dialog; it's a visual experience. You can catch it from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net


Friday, April 9, 2021

Gude Crest

Orphan's presents a new English release of the 1990 sword-and-sorcery OVA Onna Senshi Efe & Jira: Gude no Monshou (Woman Warriors Efe & Jira: The Emblem of Gude), more succinctly and familiarly known as Gude Crest. It is based on the first volume (The Three Meteors of Grafton) of a fantasy novel series by Hikawa Reiko. However, there is a problem.

The problem is not the story. It's a serviceable, if not exactly original, fantasy plot, set on another world (probably not Fantasy Island) whose backstory is painstakingly described in voice-over narration that runs on far too long. When the story finally starts, we are introduced to our heroines: Efere (Efe), a failed mage, and Jiliora (Jira), a runaway princess from the Muarl Empire. Even though they are fierce mercenaries, they have been captured and are chained up in a slave ship, bound for an unknown but presumably none too happy fate. Fortunately, their factotum, Orin ("the last survivor of the Enchanted Race" - an elf?), has sneaked aboard as well. He breaks them loose, and the two warriors make their escape. Another young captive begs them to take him as well, but he is fatally wounded in the ensuing melee with the slavers. He gives them a mysterious crest before dying. Efe and Jira find out that the crest is a dreamstone, showing the state of the Grafton triplets, Princess Rubiella and her brothers Yurion and the now deceased Kirian. Efe and Jira decide they must return the crest to the surviving siblings.


Unfortunately, the two remaining siblings are hostages in Forda, a powerful country with a strong magical religion, the cult of the Supreme Mother. Efe and Jira attempt a rescue but are taken captive, not just by evil Baron Celdion of Forda but also by equally evil Prince Shardon of Muarl - who just happens to be Jira's estranged fiance. Sword fights, daring escapes, out of body experiences, and a final confrontation with the Supreme Mother await Efe and Jira before they can extricate themselves from their dire situation. There's plenty of 90s violence and a little 90s gratuitous nudity to liven things up further.

No, the story is not the problem. And ADV's R1 translation isn't a deal-breaker either. It's terse, overly localized, and liberal, like many R1 translations, particularly the ADV translations of this era. Still, it has been thoroughly checked and corrected where necessary. It gets the essential points across without distorting the underlying meaning too far.

So if it's not the story or the translation, then what's the problem? The answer is: the source. According to Orphan's Intrepid Media Maven™, Gude Crest is the worst laserdisc source he's ever seen: interlaced, frame blended, jerky; impossible to correct. Intrepid did his best by encoding the laserdisc at 60fps. This smoothed out the jerkiness but exacerbated the blending, particularly at scene boundaries. It's not all that visible during viewing, but it looks bad frame-by-frame. Still, the team persevered, and now it's ready. The trailer - never subbed before - is just fine.

The voice cast includes:

  • Ikura Kazue (Jiliora) is best known for the roles of Makimura Kaori in City Hunter, Toraou in Mashin Eiyuuden Wataru, Natsume Ryuunosuke in All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, and Leni Milchstrasse in Sakura Wars. She also appeared in Sei Michaela Gakuen Hyouryuuki and 15 Shounen Hyouryuuki, both Orphan releases.
  • Matsui Naoko (Efera) played Wato-san in Mitsume ga Tooru and Tezuka Osamu ga Kieta?!, both Orphan releases. She played the title role in Compiler, Uru Chie in High School! Kimengumi, Katsumi Liqueur in Silent Mobius, Run Run in Mahoujin Guru Guru, Roux Louka in Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, Suzuki Sonoko in Case Closed, Juushimatsu in Osomatsu-kun (1988), Marian in Robin Hood no Daibouken, and Matsu in Nobunaga no Shinobi.
  • Ginga Banjo (Baron Celdion) is a veteran voice actor. He played the title role in 80 Days Around the World with Willy Fog, Baloo in The Jungle Book, and Tohtsuki chairman Nakiri Senzaemon in the Shokugeki no Souma franchise. He also played the title role in Oruorane the Cat Player, Ekuna in Amon Saga, and the head chef at Bongo in Ipponbouchou Mantarou, and he appeared in the two What's Michael? OVAs. All are Orphan releases.
  • Touma Yumi (Kirian/Yurion) played the title roles in Emma: A Victorian Romance and Baby Felix and Urd in the Aa! Megami-sama franchise. She appeared in numerous Orphan releases, including Boyfriend, Condition Green, Fukuyama Gekijou, Tezuka Osamu ga Kieta?!, and Eguchi Hisashi no Nantoko Nareudesho.
  • Asami Junko (Rubiella) appeared in numerous h-anime, including 1+2 = Paradise, Adventure Kid, Battle Team Lakers EX, Countdown Akira, Demon Beast Invasion, Doukyuusei Climax (an Orphan release), Dragon Knight, End of Summer, Midnight Panther, Nightmare Campus, Rance, Twin Angels, Twin Dolls, Urotsukidoji II, and Venus 5. She also appeared in Every Day Is Sunday and Eien no Filena, both Orphan releases.
  • Hayami Shou (Shargan) starred as Nanjou in Zetsuai: 1989 and Bronze: Zetsuai since 1989, and Kushinige Hodaka in Oshare Kozou wa Hanamaru. He also played an angel in Tezuka Osamu's Tales of the Old Testament, Exper Kain in Exper Zenon, Iason's friend Raoul in Ai no Kusabi, Hojo in Sanctuary, Pat Leivy in Starship Troopers, Junoichi in Blazing Transfer Student, and Seichii in Mikoneko Holmes. All of these shows are Orphan releases.
  • Yajima Akiko (Orin) played the title role in Idol Densetsu Eriko and Crayon Shin-chan, Pino in Ergo Proxy, Takami in Geobreeders, Chinami in Sepaphim Call, Tsubasa in Figure 17, Asumi in Twin Spica, Kintoki in Garo, Kohaku in Inuyasha, Mipple in the Precure franchise, Kogitsune in Natsume Yuujinchou, Lesser (Red) Panda in Shirokuma Cafe, Anna in Battle Athletes, and Angela in Kuroshitsuji. She also did some h-anime early in her career, playing Hikari in Kakyuusei (1995) and Karen in Doukyuusei 2, both Orphan releases.
  • Mine Eken (Elder Gulk) played dozens of characters in Sabu to Ichi Torimono Hikae and appeared in everything from Ariel to Zou no Inai Doubutsen, including Fumoon, Perrine, and the second Sangokushi special, all Orphan releases.
  • Yoshida Rihoko (Holy Mother) played Megu-chan in Majokko Megu-chan, Monsley in Future Boy Conan, Maria Grace Fleed in UFO Robo Grendizer, Michiru in Getter Robo, Clara Sesemann in Alps no Shoujo Heidi, Rosalie Lamorliere in The Rose of Versailles, Kurama in Urusei Yatsura, and Machiko in Maicchingu Machiko-sensei. She appeared in numerous other World Masterpiece Theater series, including  Anne of Green Gables, Honoo no Alpen Rose, Katry the Cow Girl, Shoukoushi Cedie, Lucy May of the Southern Rainbow, Marco: 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, Perrine, and Pollyanna. She played Diaochan in the first Sangokushi movie, an Orphan release.

The director, Kikuchi Kazuhito, also directed Samurai Gun and Saint Seiya, but he worked mostly as an episode director and storyboarder.

The subs are from the ADV R1 release. tenkenX6 translation checked the OVA and translated the theatrical trailer. ninjacloud did most of the timing, with help from Yogicat. I edited and typeset - the typesetting is all in the trailer. Nemesis and Uchuu QCed. Intrepid encoded from a Japanese laserdisc ripped on the Domesday Duplicator.

One translation note: I've rendered onna senshi as "woman warriors" rather than the more literal "female warriors." This is an homage to Maxine Hong Kingston's seminal 1976 book about the Chinese-American experience, The Woman Warrior. If it sounds ungrammatical to you, well... that's why they pay me the big bucks.

Reading through it, this blog sounds like a glass-half-empty appraisal, focusing on the flawed source. (Well, I'm a glass-half-empty kind of guy.) In fact, Gude Crest is a pretty good ride, with vivid if black-and-white characters, lots of action, and more of a bittersweet ending than is typical in this kind of anime. If you haven't seen Gude Crest, you could do a lot worse than downloading it from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news in irc.rizon.net.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Aspect Ratios

In this blog entry, I am venturing into deep water without a life jacket, because I'm not an encoder, and I don't play one on TV. To keep things simple, I'm only going to discuss US standards (NTSC). European standards (PAL and Secam) only make matters worse.

The aspect ratio is the ratio between the number of pixels horizontally and the number of pixels vertically. This can be expressed as the actual number of pixels (e.g., 1280 x 720), as a ratio of whole numbers (e.g, 16:9), or as a ratio against one (e.g., 1.77:1). The last one is only approximate, because the decimal digits repeat indefinitely.

Up until the 1950s, aspect ratios were fixed at 4:3 (1.33:1), the so-called Academy Ratio, because everything was done on 16mm or 35mm film stock, and the frame size was 1.33:1. In the early 1950s, the movie industry created a raft of wide-screen formats - Cinemascope, VistaVision, Panavision, etc - at a variety of aspect ratios, including 2.40:1, 1.85:1, and 1.66:1. Some of these were done by anamorphically stretching the 35mm film stock, using special lenses; others used wider film stock, such as 65mm or 70mm. TV production retained 1.33:1 until this century. Wide-screen content such as movies had to be presented by one of two techniques - letterboxing, which showed the wide-screen image on a subset of the TV screen, with black bars and top and bottom; or pan-and-scan, which moved the viewpoint around to show the "essential" part of wide-screen image on the full TV screen.

The Japanese analog home-media formats - VHS tape and laserdiscs - were invented when all TVs were 1.33:1, and they basically copied the NTSC standard. Thus, it was fairly common for VHS tapes of wide-screen movies to be offered in two versions, letterboxed and pan-and-scan. (Laserdiscs were more typically letterboxed, because TV screens were bigger by then.) For fansubbers, then, there is (or should be) no issue about the aspect ratio of VHS and laserdisc-sourced material - it's 4:3 (1.33:1) prior to any cropping or upscaling.

Starting in 1984, Dr. Kerns Powers of the SMPTE Working Group on High-Definition Electronic Production proposed 16:9 (1.77:1) as a suitable wide-screen compromise between the US de-facto standard (1.85:1), the European standard (1.66:1), and the older Academy ratio (1.33:1). Driven by the EU, the proposal gained traction and became the standard for HDTV broadcasts, at 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080. And in the mid-1990s, the proposal was sufficiently far advanced that it was supported by the spanking new DVD standard.

DVDs can be considered an intermediate format, looking backward to the still-predominant 4:3 standard and forward to the forthcoming 16:9 standard. The actual DVD resolution was a compromise: 720 x 480 (1.5:1). Metadata on the DVD would tell a player whether to "stretch" the resolution anamorphically to 16:9 (1.77:1) or "squeeze" it to 4:3 (1.33:1). When TVs evolved to a 16:9 aspect ratio, the players had to handle four cases:

  1. 16:9 display on a 16:9 TV.
  2. 16:9 display on a 4:3 TV.
  3. 4:3 display on a 16:9 TV.
  4. 4:3 display on a 4:3 TV.

Blu-ray did away with the anamorphic mess. Blu-rays are always 16:9, and the content is letterboxed, pillarboxed, or cropped to fit. Modern web streams are the same.

However, DVDs had more than enough rope for fansubbers to hang themselves and six of their best friends too. A common mistake was to take the 720 x 480 (3:2) ratio as correct. The caused wide-screen material to look squashed and Academy ratio material to look stretched. This can be fixed pretty easily in players or by creating a Matroshka mux with the proper aspect ratio set.

Another mistake was to assume that the wide-screen ratio was 1.85:1. This was based on an unconscious assumption about the universal acceptance of US standards, as well as a set of arguments about pixel shape, but in fact, it's not what the standard says. A different justification was that 1.85:1 movies on DVD played on a wide-screen TV without letterboxing. In fact, there is letterboxing, but it falls in the overscan area and can't be seen. If the TV can turn off overscan, the letterboxing becomes visible, and a bit more of the frame appears at the edges. Encoding at 1.85:1 made anime looked subtly stretched. It wasn't as bad as the previous case - it's only 5% - but it's annoying if you're familiar with a DTV or HDTV broadcast of the same material.

Fansub encoders found a clever way out of this mess: they encoded at 720 x 480 and then set the display aspect ratio as part of Matroshka mux. That way, it was Not Their Problem. However, it created headaches for other members of the team, particularly the stylist and typesetter, who had to account for the stretch or squeeze in their work. Anamorphic encodes have been the bane of my existence as a typesetter.

At this point, you've probably gone "tl;dr" and are wondering what this has to do with Orphan, which works mostly from analog media anyway. Analog media are 4:3, so no headaches, right? Wrong. The DVD format has created problems in the handling of analog media, because analog captures were and are often distributed in DVD ISO format. That has led to mistakes about the origins of the material ("it's a DVD") and how to process it.

  • aarinfantasy's groundbreaking release of Zetsuai 1989 used an ISO image of a laserdisc capture and assumed the dimensions were correct. After cropping the pillarboxing, the encode was 700 x 480 - too wide - which actually made the ultra-narrow character designs more reasonable.
  • Toy-RC's groundbreaking release of Call Me Tonight also used an ISO image of a laserdisc capture. The encode used vertical expansion to correct the ratio (720 x 540) and is thus technically a 12.5% upscale.

More serious issues have arisen with letterboxed widescreen releases on laserdisc. The obvious way to deal with letterboxed laserdiscs is to encode them at 640 x 480, letterboxing and all. That's what Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions does routinely. I like the approach, because the letterboxing provides a nice place to put the subtitles without infringing on the image. Another simple approach is to crop the image exactly as shown, to 640 x whatever. That too is faithful to the original source.

However, sometimes encoders want to create a normal 480p (vertical) resolution encode, which involves upscaling. That poses a problem: what should the horizontal resolution be? Again, there's a simple answer: measure the original image to get the aspect ratio and upscale accordingly. However, sometimes the groups plump for the US widescreen standard (1.85:1), on the theory that the laserdisc must have been scaled wrong. However, that's incorrect. Japan did not use the US widescreen ratio of 1.85:1 but rather the "VistaVision" (aka European "flat") ratio of 5:3 (1.66:1).  It later showed up in Japan's first HDTV standard (Hi-Vision).

The result is that upscaled versions of widescreen Japanese movies sourced from laserdiscs can have incorrect aspect ratios. Orphan's first version of Hashire, Melos! was 1.85:1, because the encoder thought that's what widescreen movies had to be. As a result, it's too wide: more than 10% stretched horizontally. This can be seen by comparing the first version, done with "anamorphic stretch":

 
versus the second, which was done at standard laserdisc resolution with letterboxing intact:

It's subtle, but the faces in the first version are too wide.

A similar problem occurs in Toy-RC's B.B. Fish. It is encoded (non-anamorphically) at 1.77:1 (16:9), as though it were a DVD. Looking at an untouched frame of the laserdisc output, with letterboxing intact, shows that it's actually 1.66:1 (15:9). The laserdisc jacket even says "Vista version." Orphan's first attempt at encoding the widescreen release of Hashire! Ookami Shiroi was also too wide, as a comparison with the 1.33:1 (4:3) US dub clearly showed. The widescreen version is actually 1.66:1 (15:9).

By now, your eyes have probably glazed over (mine have). The bottom line is twofold:

  • A DVD ISO does not mean a DVD source. The DVD ISO format is just a container. The encode has to be aware of the actual source media.
  • A Japanese media property mastered in the 70s and 80s will conform to the Japanese standards of the period, not to modern standards.
Being cognizant of these two observations will save a world of problems in encoding analog media.