Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sensou Douwa: Kiku-chan to Ookami

Sensou Douwa (War Fables or War Tales) was a series of TV specials by Shin-Ei Animation that ran annually from 2002 to 2009. In chronological order:

  • 2002    Umigame to Shounen (The Boy and The Sea Turtle)
  • 2003    Tako ni Natta Okaasan (The Mother Who Became a Kite)
  • 2004    Chiisai Sensuikau ni Koi wo Shita Dekasugira Kojira no Hanashi (The Tale of the Ginormous Whale That Fell in Love with a Little Submarine)
  • 2005    Boku no Boukuugou (My Air Raid Shelter)
  • 2006    Yakeato no, Okashi no Ki (The Cake Tree in the Ruins)
  • 2007    Futatsu no Kurumi (Two Walnuts)
  • 2008    Kiku-chan to Ookami  (Kiku and the Wolf)
  • 2009    Aoi Hitomi no Onnako no Ohanashu (The Girl with Blue Eyes)

Orphan has already released The Boy and the Sea Turtle, The Cake Tree in the Ruins, The Mother Who Became a Kite, The Tale of the Ginormous Whale That Fell in Love with a Little Submarine, and My Air Raid Shelter. Today, we're releasing Kiku-chan to Ookami (Kiku and the Wolf). Saizen has already done Two Walnuts, so there's just one more to go.

Kiku-chan to Ookami is, like most of the Sensou Douwa specials, based on a short story by Nosaka Akiyuki. It is set in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (the Chinese province of Manchuria) during the closing days of Word War II. Life for the Japanese colonists is tranquil, with none of the hazards and shortages occurring in the Japanese homeland. Then, on August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union, fulfilling its obligations to the Western Allies, declares war and invades. The local Kwantung Army folds up like a house of cards, leaving the Japanese colonists exposed to the invading Russians and Chinese.

The story focuses on a typical family - Kiku, her old brothers Ko and Yo, and her mother, who is holding the family together while her husband is fighting in the army. Kiku, Ko, and Yo have nothing more serious on their minds than cadging hot sweet buns from the shop next door, but that changes when the Soviets invade. The colonists flee southward for their lives, hoping to reach Korea and be repatriated to Japan. (The Japanese in Korea were also fleeing southward, hoping to reach the American zone of control; see Ohoshi-sama no Rail.)

Kiku and her family head south by train, abandoning most of their possessions and the family dog, Belle. When the train is bombed, they are forced to continue on foot. However, Kiku falls severely ill and cannot go on. Faced with an impossible dilemma, Kiku's mother abandons her in order to continue south with her other children. Kiku becomes the target of an aging, famished she-wolf. In her delirium, Kiku mistakes the wolf for Belle, and the wolf becomes her maternal keeper. Together, they try to survive in the war-torn landscape, but the hazards are great, and the odds of success slim.


Like the other shows in the Sensou Douwa series, Kiku-chan to Ookami uses the pathos of children in danger to crusade against war, while ignoring the larger historical context. The Kwantung Army - the source of many of Japan's bellicose militarists and eventual war criminals - was a prime provocateur in sparking the Japanese invasions of China in 1931 and 1937. It used slave labor to build its installations and fortifications. Its infamous Unit 731 worked on bacteriological and chemical weapons and performed human medical experiments on prisoners. (In an equally infamous deal, the Americans pardoned the perpetrators in return for the data.) Despite its formidable reputation, the Kwantung Army was soundly defeated by the Red Army in the unofficial Soviet-Japanese border war of the late 1930s. By 1945, it was a hollow shell and put up little resistance.

The Soviets captured 850,000 Japanese settlers (colonists). Most of them were repatriated to Japan in 1946 and 1947. However, orphans left behind in the confusion were adopted into Chinese families; some refused to return home under later repatriation programs. Further, stranded women that married Chinese husbands were not allowed by the Japanese government to bring their children to Japan. To the end, Japanese xenophobia and denial of responsibility trumped humanitarian action.

The voice cast includes:

  • Shimamoto Sumi (Mother) debuted as Clarisse in The Castle of Cagliostro. She starred as Sara in Princess Sara, Nausicaa in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Otonashi Kyouko in Maison Ikkoku, and Dayan in Neko no Dayan. She also played Shokupanman in the Soreike! Anpanman franchise, Tinkerbell in Peter Pan no Bouken, Antoinette in Reporter Blues, Big Mama in Bakuretsu Hunter, Sue in Maris the Choujo, and Elice in Fire Emblem. The last two are Orphan releases.
  • Nozawa Masako (Wolf) is a legend. She played the title roles in The Adventures of Gamba, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry no Bouken, Billy Inu nan demo Shoukai, and Hey! Bumboo. She was Enma-kun in the original Dororon Enma-kun, Son Goku in the original Dragonball, and Kitarou in the 1968 and 1971 versions of GeGeGe no Kitarou, as well as Hakaba Kitarou. Even though her first role was in 1965, she is still active, appearing as Obaba in Ping Pong the Animation, Madame Curie in Marie & Gali, and of course, Medama Oyaji in the most recent version of GeGeGe no Kitarou. She played the title roles in Manxmouse and The Green Cat, Isamu in Kaitei 3-Man Mile, Lek in Cool Cool Bye, and Costar in 15 Shounen Hyouruuki, all Orphan releases. She won a lifetime achievement award in 1997.
  • Kawasumi Ayako (Kiku-chan) starred as Mogi in the Initial D franchise, Sakuraba in Ai Yori Aoshi, Fuu in Samurai Champloo, Sara in Gallery Fake, Lafiel in the Crest of the Stars franchise, Henrietta in the Zero no Tsukaima franchise, Saber in the Fate/Stay Night franchise, Ohno in the Genshiken series, Mahoro in the Mahoromatic franchise, and my personal favorite, Nodame in the Nodame Cantabile franchise.
  • Satou Ai (narrator) played many maternal roles, including Light's mother in Death Note, Masami's mother in Wedding Peach, Misaki's mother in Dear Brother, Ban's mother in Getbackers, Shigeru's mother in Noramimi, the unnamed mothers in Cinderella Express, Ai Monogatari, and Guyver: Out of Control, as well as Kristin Adams in Yawara!. Other roles include the refined mother in Eguchi Hisashi no Kotobuki Gorou Show, Ibuki's mother in Kiss wa Me ni Shite, Taichi in The Cake Tree in the Ruins, the narrator in The Boy and the Sea Turtle and The Mother Who Became a Kite, and the unnamed girlfriend in Lunn Flies into the Wind, all Orphan releases.
  • Kumai Motoko (Yo) played Gorou Honda in the Major franchise, Ginta in Mar, Banba in Kurage-hime, Yuuna in the Stitch TV franchise, and the title roles in Gon, Gakyuu ou Yamazaki, and Papuwa. She appeared in Tezuka Osamu's In the Beginning: Tales from the Old Testament, an Orphan release.
  • Yoshida Konami (Ko) played the title roles in Asobo Toy-chan and Metal Fighter Miku and the lead in Idol Fighter Su-Chi-Pai. She appeared in Akuemon, Kiss wa Me ni Shita, and Yamato 2520, all Orphan releases. 

The director, Hirai Minetarou, also directed two other Sensou Douwa specials, Two Walnuts and The Girl with Blue Eyes.

As he's done for all the other Sensou Douwa releases, kokujin-kun translated Kiku-chan to Ookami. Yogicat timed. I edited and typeset. Nemesis and Uchuu QCed. The raw is a 1080p webrip from UNEXT, rather bit-starved. kokujin-kun omits honorifics, so the translated title in the anime is Kiku and the Wolf.

Kiku-chan is an instance where my (distant) background as a historian distorts my reaction to the anime itself. The show is very moving, particularly the second half where Kiku and "Belle" are trying to survive. Nozawa Masako's performance as the wolf is both comic and poignant. The show makes it case more subtly than the blunt instrument approach of The Cake Tree in the Ruins or The Mother Who Became a Kite, but it's still effective. (Nosaka Akiyuki original short story retains the blunt instrument approach.)

You can get Kiku-chan to Ookami from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Kasei Yakyoku v2

When Orphan released Kasei Yakyoku in late 2018, we had to use a VHS tape for the first two episodes. At the time, I said we'd redo those episodes if a laserdisc source became available. It did, and we have.

Released in 1989, Kasei Yakyoku (Nightsong of Spendor) is a four-part OVA based on a nine-volume manga by Hirata Makiko; the manga is not available in English. It is set in late Taisho Japan (1923), a period of political and social ferment. It focuses on a quartet of star-crossed lovers: Hasho Akiko, a daughter of a noble family; Uchida Sara, her maid since childhood; Saionji Kiyokuni, heir to a major banking family; and Ito Taka, a strongman in the Aoba yakuza group. Akiko is betrothed to Kiyokuni but chafes at the constraints of an arranged marriage based on financial considerations. Then Taka rescues her and Sara when their car breaks down in a bad part of Tokyo. As a result, Akiko decides to have an affair with Taka and tries to give Sara to Kiyokuni as a "consolation" gift. Taka sees through Akiko and will have nothing to do with her, and Kiyokuni turns down Sara, albeit with regret. Sara quits her maid's job and tries to make it on her own. However, she is not equipped to face the dangers of the Tokyo demimondaine. Taka rescues her, they fall in love, and then suddenly, it's September 1, 1923...

The summary makes Kasei Yakyoku sound melodramatic, if not downright soap operatic, and to some extent it is. But it's also a fascinating look at a time in Japan when society was undergoing rapid change, and new and old rubbed elbows uneasily. The characters are well fleshed out; there's not a one-dimensional stereotype in the bunch. There's nudity, sex, violence, raw emotion, wonderful animation, and an excellent score. What's not to like?


The voice cast includes many well-known names of 20th century anime:
  • Nozawa Nachi (Taka) debuted in 1967. He played Lupin in the original Lupin III pilot film, Axel von Fersen in Rose of Versailles, Cobra in the Space Cobra franchise, and Deimos in Bride of Deimos, as well as Black Jack in Marine Express and Bremen 4 and Takeru in Izumo (1991), all Orphan releases..
  • Mutou Reiko (Akiko) played the title role in Marvelous Melmo and Uran (Astro Girl) in the original Astro Boy. She played Countess Polignac in Rose of Versailles, and Queen Tasuka in One Million Year Trip: Bander Book (an Orphan release).
  • Suzuki Hiroko (Sara) played the title role in The Adventures of Pepero and appeared in Peter Pan no Bouken and several other World Masterpiece Theater series.
  • Ogawa Shinji (Kiyokuni) played Johnny's father in Starship Troopers and Douglas MacArthur in Junod, both Orphan releases, but I remember him best as the lecherous ojii-san, Maestro Stresemann, in Nodame Cantabile
  • Seki Toshihiko (Sara's younger brother Junichiro) was one of the leading male seiyuu in this period. He played the title role in Izumo, Riki in Ai no Kusabi, the hero Seitarou in Hoshi Neko Full House, the gang leader Hiba in Wild 7, Miroku in Yuukan Club, Chuuta in Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro, the fighter Nagase Jun in Akai Hayate, Hayata in Call Me Tonight, Ootsuki in Milky Passion: Dougenzaka - Ai no Shiro, and the unnamed protagonist of Oruorane the Cat Player, all Orphan releases. He also played Matsuda in the Yawara! properties, Sanzo in the Saiyuuki TV series, Mousse in Ranma 1/2, and the title roles in Alexander (Reign the Conqueror) and Kaiketsu Zorro.
  • Tsujitani Kouji (Taka's colleague Saburou) played the title role in the Captain Tylor franchise and the lead role in the 3x3 Eyes OVAs. He also played Guy in Ai no Kusabi, Homare in Okane ga Nai, Shou in Condition Green, and Seishirou in Yuukan Club, all Orphan releases.
The show was directed by the 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, and half a dozen Lupin III TV specials. Quoting AniDB, "He was known for his distinct visual style, which made use of split-screen, stark lighting, and pastel freeze frames that he called 'Postcard Memories.' The latter was perhaps his most famous trademark and featured a process where the screen faded into a detailed 'painting' of the simpler original animation. Many of techniques that he used became popular afterwards."


The show poses a number of interesting translation problems.
  • The title, Kasei Yakyoku, is rather ambiguous. The translator, weleaveshadows, used the English title suggested by TechnoGirls, Nightsong of Splendor, but Starlight Nocturne is equally valid.
  • Some characters are referred to strictly by title rather than by name. The Aoba group boss is oyabun, rendered as "Boss" or "the boss." The proprietress of the Cafe Bistro is okami, rendered as "Ma'am" or "Madam."
  • Taka's coterie use terms of familial respect. Junichiro and Sabu refer to Taka as aniki, respected elder brother, rendered by the anachronistic but locally appropriate "Bro." Taka calls Junichiro his ototobun, meaning a friend treated like a little brother.
  • Akiko calls herself atarashii onna or "new woman." This was a feminist movement in Taisho Japan, seeking greater freedom and rights for women.
There are many historical references throughout the series. For example, the magazines that Junichiro is seen reading (Nihon Shonen and Shonen Club) are real boys' magazines of the time.The product advertising billboards also show actual 1920s products; for example, Sakura Beer. weleaveshadows has more notes on the show on her website.

Kasei Yakyoku had a tortuous path to release. Close to three years ago, Iri found some sub-par Internet raws and started to translate, but the awful raws and other opportunities caused the project to be shelved in 2016. While Iri searched for better raws, weleaveshadows of Iquix released her own version of episode 1. I reached out to her and suggested that Iquix and Orphan collaborate to finish the series. She agreed and translated the rest of the OVAs, but the project stalled again on availability of both raws and a translation checker. Finally, Iri located a VHS tape of the first two episodes and a laserdisc of the last two. After delays for encoding, these raws were ready. Then in 2021, a laserdisc of the first two episodes became available.

weleaveshadows of Iquix translated all four episodes. Iri translation-checked episode 1 and part of 2; laalg translation-checked all four. Yogicat timed. I edited and typeset. BeeBee and Topper3000 QCed the original release. Nemesis RCed the two revised episodes. Intrepid encoded the first two episodes from a Domesday Duplicator laserdisc rip, and Erik of Piyo Piyo productions encoded the last two episodes from a regular laserdisc rip. I had hoped to redo the last two episodes with the Domesday Duplicator, but Erik is offline right now. So episodes 3 and 4 are unchanged from the first release, although the file names have been corrected.

I quite liked Kasei Yakyoku. The OVAs tell a complete story, although clearly not the whole story that's in the manga. The ending feels like a good stopping point, with the central relationships and tensions defined but unresolved. And it's gorgeous to look at; Dezaki Osamu's style is a perfect fit to the material. If you previously downloaded Kasei Yakyoku, I recommend getting this version for the improved video in the first two episodes. You can find it on the usual torrent site or download it from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Kaitei 3-man Mile

Toei Douga pioneered the feature-length theatrical cartoon in Japan, starting with 1958's Hakujaden. Orphan has released several Toei features:

Orphan and M74 are pleased to release the first English-subtitled version of another one, 1970's Kaitei 3-man Mile (30,000 Miles Under the Sea, or, for a literary pun, 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea). 

Kaitei 3-man Mile is an all-ages shounen adventure fantasy. Young Isamu and his pet cheetah (named Cheeta, natch) are playing soccer on a volcanic island when they encounter a mysterious girl named Angel. Their playful bickering is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a monster, a Flame Dragon. Isamu saves Angel, so she invites him to visit her home. They travel to the bottom of the ocean in Angel's craft, the Seathrough. Once home, Angel informs Isamu that in addition to the surface world, there is an Underground Kingdom, ruled by King Magma VII, and an Underwater Kingdom, ruled by her father. Yes, Angel is a princess, and one with a taste for adventure to boot.


While attempting to return Isamu home in the Seathrough, Angel is captured by the Underground Kingdom's Magma VII. He uses her as a hostage to keep the Underwater Kingdom neutral while he wages war on the surface with his Flame Dragons. Isamu, aided by Cheeta and the Seathrough's comic crew members, Octopus and Tuttle (Turtle?), must rescue Angel and team up with her to stop Magma VII's evil plans. Do they succeed? Is this a G-rated kids' movie?

Because it was made more than 50 years ago, the voice cast consists of stalwarts from an earlier era:

  • Nozawa Masako (Isamu) is a legend. She played the title roles in The Adventures of Gamba, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry no Bouken, Billy Inu nan demo Shoukai, and Hey! Bumboo. She was Enma-kun in the original Dororon Enma-kun, Son Goku in the original Dragonball, and Kitarou in the 1968 and 1971 versions of GeGeGe no Kitarou, as well as Hakaba Kitarou. Even though her first role was in 1965, she is still active, appearing as Obaba in Ping Pong the Animation, Madame Curie in Marie & Gali, and of course, Medama Oyaji in the most recent version of GeGeGe no Kitarou. She played the title roles in Manxmouse and The Green Cat, Lek in Cool Cool Bye, and Costar in 15 Shounen Hyouruuki, all Orphan releases. She won a lifetime achievement award in 1997.
  • Kobato Kurumi (Angel) played the lead in the Attack No. 1 franchise before leaving anime work to teach at a university.
  • Naya Gorou (King Magma VII) played Koichi Zenigata in Lupin III, Juzo Okita in Space Battleship Yamato, Shocker in Kamen Rider, Yupa in Nausicaa, Schott in Hashire! Shiroi Ookami, Weedon Scott in White Fang, and Yamaarashi in Botchan; the last three are Orphan releases. His deep voice provided the narration in Shinzou Ningen Casshern, Vampire Miyu, Golden Boy, the original Dororo, and other shows.
  • Kitegawa Kunihiko/Yonehiko (Underwater King) played Konaki Jiji in the first Gegege no Kitarou, the chairman in the Kinnikuman franchise, Poseidon in Umi no Triton, Jacob in Tezuka Osamu's Tales from the Old Testament, and Zhang Song in the third Sangokushi movie. The last two are Orphan releases.
  • Umino Katsuo (Octopus) also appeared in Wan Wan Chuushingura, an Orphan release.
  • Hitomi Akira (Tuttle) was a stage actor.

The director, Tamiya Takeshi, mostly did planning and production.

This project has a long history, with its origins now lost to (my) memory. M74 got the ball rolling back in 2017, encoding the DVD and doing an initial translation from another European language. I did an initial edit, and Sunachan agreed to check the translation. It proved to be her last project for Orphan, and it wasn't clear how much she had done.

In early 2021, I took a look at the state of the script. I found that Sunachan had actually finished her translation check. I updated the editing and typesetting, and Uchuu and VigorousJammer QCed. At the same time, Skr captured a high-definition broadcast of a "4K remaster" of the film. Although rather bit-starved, the remastered version had better color balance than the DVD, as well as more detail. bananadoyouwanna agreed to encode the web stream, downscaled to 720p because of the bit rate. Yogicat retimed the script to the new raw, and I tweaked the editing and typesetting yet again. Nemesis checked the finished script. Because M74 did the original translation, timing, and SD encode this is a joint Orphan-M74 release.

Kaitei 3-man Mile is mid-tier Toei Douga - better than Saiyuuki but not a masterpiece like Horus: Prince of the Sun. There's a Disney-like abundance of sidekicks (Cheeta for Isamu, Octopus and Tuttle for Angel), a few non-intrusive songs, lots of comedy, and lots of action. (The Flame Dragon attack is probably too intense for younger children.) Some of the sequences without dialog, like Isamu's soccer practice with Cheeta and the underwater ballet at an undersea banquet, are really well done, both visually and kinetically. The movie goes by quickly, partly because it's less than an hour long. And the ending is unexpected - not modern ironical, but not formulaic either. You can get Kaitei 3-man Mile from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Blue Sonnet

Akai Kiba Blue Sonnet (Crimson Fang Blue Sonnet), usually known as just Blue Sonnet, is a five-episode OVA series from 1989. It is based on a 19-volume manga by Shibata Masahiro that is unavailable in English. It received an English release from Central Park Media (CPM) on VHS tape (and laserdisc too, apparently), and rips of those tapes have been the only way for an English speaking audience to watch the show... until now.

Blue Sonnet is an action show set in a world of ESPers and cyborgs. A sinister secret organization, Talon, masterminded by an evil genius, Dr. Merikus, and the equally evil Azumi Group, led by its ruthless director Tsunaga, seek World Domination™ by creating all-powerful cyborgs with ESP powers. The doctor's greatest creation, Sonnet Barge, is sent to Japan to investigate Lan Komatsuzaki, who is suspected of being the legendary Crimson Fang, a super-ESPer with "the power of the ancients." Talon sets increasingly dangerous traps for Lan, who must try to escape from their clutches (and from Sonnet) with the help of her guardian, writer Jin Kiryu, his son Wataru, a maimed ESPer named Yuri, and a mysterious stranger who seems to turn up rather conveniently, Shuichi Torigai ("Bird"). While tracking and then pursuing Lan, Sonnet begins to experience emotional reactions to her surroundings, particularly to the friendships she experiences at school in Japan. Will Sonnet's brutal training keep her a faithful soldier of Talon? Or will her latent human feelings win out? Time will tell. There's a lot more detail, as well as a thoughtful appreciation of the show's strengths, in Justin Sevakis' Anime News Network review.


The show's plot, and in particular, its "science", will not withstand scrutiny. For example, Talon wants to clone Lan in order to get more super-ESPers, but their cloning technique involves artificially inseminating Lan's eggs with the sperm of a "famous scientist" - which would of course produce not a clone but an in-vitro baby. When Wataru gets a blood transfusion from Lan, he picks up some of her ESPer powers - even though her powers are in her genes. Sonnet can stop anything and destroy anything, except when she can't, because the plot demands it. And so on.

Originally, I thought Blue Sonnet would be a fairly simple project, based on applying the VHS subs to PPP's laserdisc rip, producing a softsubbed version with better video. However, there were Problems, as there always seems to be:

  • The R1 subs are bad, overly compressed with whole phrases and lines missing. The show required a full translation check, and translation resources are difficult to find these days.
  • There were multiple encodes to choose from. Piyo Piyo Productions redid its original encode using the Domesday Duplicator. Beatrice took the DdD data and made its own encode as well.

I am not the person to present with a choice of raws. I have senior citizen eyes and an almost total lack of knowledge about what makes a good encode. The project started with Erik's original release, because that's what was available at the time. However, the DdD-based versions have much better color fidelity. Ultimately, we chose Beatrice's raws, because their encoder did the best job in eliminating blended frames. The encodes are huge and a bit upscaled, and episode five has audio dropouts from disc rot, but them's the breaks.

The voice cast is stellar:

  • Tsuru Hiromi (Sonnet Barge) debuted as Perrine in Perrine Monogatari. She went on to play Kashima Miyuki in Miyuki, Madoka in Kimagure Orange Road, and Mikami Reiko in Ghost Sweeper Mikami. She also played Keiko in Hiatari Ryoukou, Nozomi in Nozomi Witches, Jill in A Penguin's Memories, UFO-chan in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou, Milk in Karuizawa Syndrome, and big sister Shizuka in Tomoe's Run!, all Orphan releases.
  • Kanda Waka (Lan) played Marin in Windaria but has few other credits.
  • Genda Tesshou (Jin Kiryu) 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 Zigong in Eiyuu Banka Koushi-den, Paul Rusch in Yume Kakeru Kougen, Jim Hyatt in AWOL Compression Remix, 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.
  • Hironaka Masashi (Bird Torigai) played Jiro in Karuizawa Syndrome, Ihika in Yousei-Ou, Kanou in Nine, Kazusa in Tomoe's Run!, and the hijacker in Stop!! Hibari-kun!, all Orphan releases, as well as Siegfried in Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
  • Sasaki Nozomu (Wataru) starred as Tetsuo in Akira, Ebata in Genji Part 1, Ushio in the original Ushio to Tora, Urameshi in the Yu Yu Hakusho franchise, and Mello in Death Note. He played Dekiru in Izumo, Taiga in Nagasarete Airantou, Hal in Next Senki Ehrgeiz, and Ling Fei-Long in Dragon Fist, all Orphan releases.
  • Shinohara Emi (Yuri Onagara) played B-Ko in the A-ko properties and Sailor Jupiter in the Sailor Moon franchise. She appeared as Vulgar daughter Stephanie in Kotobuki Goro, Reiko in Akai Hayate, and Android 1025 in Oz, all Orphan releases.
  • Minaguchi Yuki (Yuri's daughter Yumi) is best known for Yawara!, her breakout and defining role. She debuted as Kii in Greed, an Orphan release, and starred in numerous other shows, including Bosco Adventure, Dragon Ball Z and GT, Sailor Moon, One Piece, and Alexander (Reign: The Conqueror). She played Frieda in Apfelland Monogatari, Saki in Singles, Hoshimi in Maps, and Felicia in Oz, also Orphan releases.
  • Nagai Ichiro (Dr. Merekes) played grandfather Jigoro in Yawara!, the off-the-wall narrator in Gosenzosama Banbanzai!, Professor Hajime in Queen Millennia, and Happosai in the Ranma 1/2 franchise. He appeared in Manxmouse, Nora, Hidamari no Ki, Yuukan Club, Amon Saga, Botchan, Ipponbouchou Mantaraou, Rain Boy, and Yamato 2520, all Orphan releases.
  • Shioya Kouzou (Tsunaga) has appeared in GeGeGe no Kitarou since 1985. He also played Wildcat B in Grimm Douwa - Kin no Tori, the Announcer in Nora, and a bodyguard in Elf 17, all Orphan releases, as well as dozens of featured roles.
  • Sakuma Rei (Naru, Lan's school friend) played Batako in Soreike! Appanman, April in Sol Bianca, Peorth in Ah! My Goddess, the title role in Aika, Shampoo in Ranma 1/2, Vena in Dragon Half, Kitty White in Hello Kitty, and Mii in Muumin. She also played
    Carmencita in Starship Trooopers and Belga the pirate in Cosmic Fantasy, both Orphan releases.
  • Futamata Issei (Tsunaga's henchman Ina) 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 Asagaya Takaya in Body Jack, 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.

The director, Kanda Takeyuki, started at Mushi Productions but spent most of his career at Sunrise, where he helmed Ultraman and Dragon Quest, among other shows.

Yogicat transcribed and timed the R1 subtitles. He also transcribed the kanji of the song lyrics, greatly facilitating translation. TougeWolf translation checked; the project could not have been completed without his help. I edited and typeset. (The typesetting was primarily to deal with the show titles and the eyecatch.) Uchuu and Topper3000, as well as TougeWolf, QCed. Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions ripped his Japanese laserdiscs on the Domesday Duplicator, and Urotsuki of Beatrice-Raws encoded. As a result, it's an Orphan-Beatrice joint project.

Some editorial notes: The original subs used Western name order, and that has been retained. The original subs also have no honorifics, with one glaring exception: Kiryu is called "sensei" or "Kiryu-sensei" throughout. This really irked the translation checker, and "Mr. Kiryu" has been substituted. Finally, Wataru calls Lan "nee-san" (sister), even though they are not related by blood. Her proper name, Lan, has been used instead in some places.

Blue Sonnet is quite entertaining (if morally dubious), with a lot of forward momentum, particularly in the last half of the series. There's the typical 80s OVA soupçon of nudity and violence, the former in moderation, the latter not so much. You can get the show from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net

Saturday, June 19, 2021

(Maris) The Choujo

I'm not as familiar with the works of Rumiko Takahashi as an anime fan ought to be. I've never watched Maison Ikkoku, Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, Inuyasha, or Rin-ne all the way through, and I've somehow missed her shorter works, such as Mermaid Saga and Rumic World, too. The only Takahashi show I've worked on was the "It's a Rumic World" anniversary Urusei Yatsura OVA, The Obstacle Course Swim Meet, released by Orphan in 2013.

Rumic World was a set of OVAs based on one-shot Rumiko Takahashi manga. The OVAs were released from 1985 to 1992:

  1. Fire Tripper, 1985.
  2. (Maris) The Choujo, 1986.
  3. Laughing Target, 1987.
  4. Mermaid Forest, 1991.
  5. Mermaid's Scar, 1992.

(One-Pound Gospel is sometimes listed as part of this series, but it was based on a longer manga series.) 

The last two OVAs were released on DVD, but the first three were only available on VHS tape and laserdiscs. That caught my eye. Orphan gradually acquired the laserdiscs for the first three OVAs, with the intent of creating shiny new releases using the Domesday Duplicator. However, as is frequently the case with analog media, there were issues, both with the sources and the available scripts. As a result, Orphan is just now releasing 1986's (Maris) The Choujo. Others may follow, if the encoding issues can be solved.

The odd title requires some explanation. The Japanese title is ザ・超女(スーパーギャル), or phonetically, za chou on'na (suupaagyaru). The first part is pronounced as "The Choujo," meaning "super woman," while the parenthetical piece is katakana for "super gal." The original English title was The Supergal, but threats of a lawsuit from a certain Well Known Comics Publisher caused CPM to retitle it Maris the Choujo. That's how it's known in English-speaking countries, and I've retained the title in this release.

The Choujo tells the hard-luck story of Maris, a lieutenant in the Space Patrol's Special Police. Maris is a refugee from planet Thanatos, which blew up when she was a small child. Like all Thanatosians, Maris is super-strong: six times stronger than a mere Earthling. While this is handy in fighting bad guys, it's a hazard in real-life. Maris accidentally leaves havoc and destruction in her wake, so her debts for damages are constantly increasing. She can't find normal employment or romance. (Before joining the police, Maris was a pro wrestler known as "Vampire" Maris.) In short, being a "supergal" is not all it's cracked up to be.


Maris' luck seems to take a turn for the better when she is assigned to rescue Kogemaru, the kidnapped son of a billionaire. With yen signs glinting in her eyes, she sets out to Planet Moroi, accompanied by her sidekick, the shape-shifting nine-tailed fox Murphy. There they encounter Maris' former pro wrestling opponent, "Zombie" Sue. After many adventures, Maris rescues Kogemaru, but her hopes for a profoundly wealthy marriage don't quite turn out as she'd hoped.

I found The Choujo extremely funny. It's full of wonderful sight gags:

as well as Easter eggs:

The mandatory bit of 1980s nudity is short and sits inside a terrific gag about Maris' handling of the cockroaches in her decrepit hotel's shower. The action sequences are well done, and denouement is entirely in keeping with Maris' hard-luck life.

The voice cast includes:

  • Koyama Mami (Maris) starred as the title character in the Minky Momo franchise, Paris no Isabelle, Princess Himetsu, and Nils no Fushigi na Tabi. She played Kei in Akira, Arale in Dr. Slump, Lunch in Dragon Ball, and Mendou Ryouko in Urusei Yatsura. She also played Mimiru in Bander Book and the female lead in Tezuka Osamu Monogatari: I Am Son Gokuu, both Orphan releases.
  • Yanami Jouji (Murphy) narrated most of the Dragon Ball Z properties. He played Ittan Momen in several of the GeGeGe no Kitaro series and movies and Chuta Ban in all the Kyojin no Hoshi TV series. He appeared as Lump in Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet, Big Bird in Grim Douwa: Kin no Tori, the cart vendor in Akuma Tou no Prince: Mitsume ga Tooru, Red Shirt in Bocchan, and of course, Ibari in Stop!! Hibari-kun!, all Orphan releases.
  • Shimamoto Sumi (Sue) as debuted as Clarisse in The Castle of Cagliostro. She starred as Sara in Princess Sara, Nausicaa in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Otonashi Kyouko in Maison Ikkoku, and Dayan in Neko no Dayan. She also played Shokupanman in the Soreike! Anpanman franchise, Tinkerbell in Peter Pan no Bouken, Antoinette in Reporter Blues, Big Mama in Bakuretsu Hunter, and Elice in Fire Emblem (an Orphan release).
  • Furukawa Toshio (Koganemaru) played Kimball Kinnison in Galactic Patrol Lensman, Moroboshi Ataru in Urusei Yatsura, Kagege in Keroro Gunsou, Kai Shiden in Mobile Suit Gundam, Shin in Fist of the North Star, Shinohara Asuma in Mobile Police Patlabor, and Piccolo in Dragon Ball Z. He also played Inumaru in Maroko, Tree Kangaroo in Shirokuma Cafe, Prince Croyler in Grimm Douwa: Kin no Tori, the Spartan Dragon in Stop!! Hibari-kun! and Sally in Chiisana Koi no Monogatari, all Orphan releases.
  • Takiguchi Junpei (the Colonel) brought his distinctive voice to the roles of the Professor in The Green Cat, Dr. Yamanado in Fumoon, Scratch in Techno Police 21C, the villainous king of Kanemacchi Castle in Grim Douwa: Kin no Tori, the Mouse Thief in Stop!! Hibari-kun!, and Dong Zhung in the first Sangokushi movie, all Orphan releases. He also played the Millennium Earl in D.grayman, John Trelawney in Treasure Island, and Dr. Laughton in Metropolis.

The director, Takahashi Motosuke, directed two other Rumic World OVAs, Fire Tripper and Laughing Target.

The subtitle starting point was Kotomi's transcription of the R1 subs. tenkenX6 did a full check and helped with the songs. ninjacloud timed. I edited and typeset. Nemesis and Rezo QCed. Intrepid encoded from a Domesday Duplicator rip of a Japanese laserdisc. It look many tries to get the show looking right; the final encode is take 13. The audio is FLAC, for maximum bloat... er, to capture the digital audio track in full accuracy.

So if you're up for a good laugh and a zippy sci-fi action OVA, you could do worse than The Choujo. It's available at the usual torrent site as well as from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Late breaking news: I muxed a down-rev copy of the script. I've posted a patch to bring v1 to v2 here. I'm out of practice at doing releases. Lack of translators is to blame!

More Raws from the Attic

Time to share a bit more buried treasure with the anime universe. Today's offering is Super Real Mahjong, a pair of OVAs from 1990 which share a theme (mahjong) and major characters (Kasumi, Miki, and Shouko) and not much else. According to MyAnimeList.net,

  • Super Real Mahjong: Kasumi Miki Shouko no Hajimemashite: An anime based on characters from the strip mahjong arcade game, "Super Real Mahjong 2.
  • Super Real Mahjong: Mahjong Battle Scramble-  Konran-teki Sento Mahjong: Mahjong-playing sisters Kasumi, Miki, and Shouko are sent to a world where mahjong tiles are currency. In order to return to their world, they must defeat a mahjong-playing rabbit who rules the land.

This screencap of the three protagonists is from Konran-teki:

Sourced from Japanese laserdiscs, ripped on the Domesday Duplicator, and encoded by Intrepid.

The next one really hurts. Tabako Ippon no Story: Heart Cocktail, or Heart Cocktail for short, is a series of 78 vignettes about love, each no longer than the time it takes to smoke a cigarette. Originally issued in 1986 to 1988, it was fiendishly difficult to find. A partial reissue on DVD rarely surfaced, and the complete set of laserdiscs was offered at truly exorbitant prices (more than $700). Over the last two years, Orphan has purchased individual volumes and finally got a complete set, only to find... no translator available or interested. It's a shame. Perhaps releasing the raws will spark some interest...


... but I doubt it. Sourced from Japanese laserdiscs, ripped on the Domesday Duplicator, and encoded by Intrepid.


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.