Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Neko Nanka Yondemo Konai

Just in time for the holidays, here's another venture into contemporary short-form anime: 2015's Neko Nanka Yondemo Konai (Cats Don't Come When Called). The series has twelve ultra-short episodes (90 seconds each) about a pair of brothers who adopt a pair of kittens, Kuro and Chin, and soon find out, as all cat owners eventually do, that the critters rule the roost. In other words,

           You've made a basic error
           Now let me expound
           This master/servant thing's okay
           But no, not that way round

                         -- Les Barker, Guide Cats for the Blind
Although the animation is fairly minimal, it has cats, so what more do you need?

The anime is based on a manga of the same name by Sugisaku and seems to be autobiographical. Sugisaku graduated from a trade school in Niigata, went to Tokyo to become a boxer, had to give up after suffering a torn retina, and then worked for a flower shop and anime companies. When his brother went back to Niigata after getting married, he became a mangaka. The voice actors were chosen by auditions from a school called Nihon Kogakuin Creator's Carriage. The production company, Dub, seems to be associated with the same school.

Orphan must have a lot of cat lovers, because there was no problem staffing the project. Iri found the raws, translated, and did the research on the anime's creators; Yogicat timed the episodes; I edited and typeset; and Nemesis and Calyrica QCed. The series provided some good laughs during an otherwise grim stretch of time.

So have a happy Thanksgiving. We don't plan on subbing the live-action movie.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dragon Fist

If I may paraphrase Forrest Gump, 80s and 90s OVAs are "like a box of chocolate. You never know what you're going to get." That's exactly the case with 1991's Dragon Fist. As one of the QCs fumed, "I've signed on for this OVA to see some martial arts and inhuman characters, not for a really stupid plot about teenagers playing with cloning." You never know.

Dragon Fist starts out on a promising note, introducing Ling Fei-long, heir to the White Dragon Clan. Its members carry the power of the White Dragon in their fists. (Sort of like Ear of the Golden Dragon, where the clan chief carries the power of the Golden Dragon in his left ear.) Normally, heirs to the clan chief are born holding a silver jewel, but Fei-long was born holding a transparent jewel. For this aberration, his kin regard him with suspicion. He is sent to Japan to be schooled and to finish his training. And suddenly, we have a high school drama with sci-fi overtones.

In Japan, Fei-long is an apparently normal high-school student who is bullied for being a foreigner. One day, he sees some thugs trying to kidnap a girl named Katano Fuyuka. He intervenes and saves her, only to learn that she is not Katano Fuyuka. Fuyuka is actually dead, and this girl is a clone. (Despite this, clone Fuyuka seems to have original Fuyuka's childhood memories.) When a subsequent kidnapping attempt succeeds, Fei-long tracks the baddies to their laboratory in the mountains. There he fights the villains, mostly unsuccessfully, until he suddenly comes into his special powers, easily trounces everyone, and rescues the girl. There follows a totally arbitrary and tragic development, and the OVA ends.

Sasaki Nozomu, who played Ling Fei-long, has had prominent roles in better shows, including Tetsuo in Akira and Mello in Death Note. Nishiwara Kumiko, who voiced Fuyuka, played Iris Chateaubriand in all the Sakura Wars franchise and numerous live musicals derived from it. She also had a lead role in Tenkousei, which Orphan subbed this year. Matsumodo Yasunori, who played the chief villain, Sugiura, has had many roles, including Rin, the confused young protagonist in Joker: Marginal City, and Muto, the stalwart hero of Oz. (Orphan has subbed both of those OVAs as well.) The director, Yamauchi Shigeyasu, has had a long career, including Boys Over Flowers, Crying Freeman, the Saint Seiya franchise, and more recently, Yumekui Merry and Kimi no Iru Machi. Dragon Fist doesn't add much to his resume. The music is by the peerless Kawai Kenji, whose accomplishments are too long to summarize, and works well.

Iri found the raw (a VHS rip) and translated it. ninjacloud did the timing. I edited and typeset (there isn't much). Calyrica karaoked the OP and ED. Calyrica and Nemesis QCed. The OVA was never released on DVD, so this raw is probably as good as we're going to get.

Dragon Fist isn't top drawer anime, but it isn't Bavi Stock II or Twinkle Nora Rock Me! either. Enjoy.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Downhill (Twinkle Nora Rock Me!)

There's no way to soften this. Twinkle Nora Rock Me! (Nora 2) is to the original Nora as Bavi Stock II is to Bavi Stock I: a descent from the barely passable into the laughable. It's so bad that...

Audience: How bad is it, Collectr?

Collectr: It's so bad that Mike Toole, of Anime News Network, used it as a prime example in his panel, The Worst Anime of All Time.  He noted the almost total lack of in-between animation, the awkward jerkings that pass for dancing, and other failings. I could point to the absurd plot and the misspelled Engrish signs - DEPURTURE and AERIVAL - in the spaceport, but this just scratches the surface.

To start, the Nora Scholar of the sequel is a totally different character, even though she looks the same and is played by the same voice actress. In the original, Nora was an air-headed teenage space tourist who outsmarts an out-of-control AI by treating him as a naughty teenage boy. In the sequel, Nora is an interstellar bounty hunter with strong psychic powers. The universe is different too. In the original, the setting was the near-Earth planets and moons. In the sequel, the canvas is much broader.

Second, the plot is absurd. After defusing a hostage situation, bounty hunter Nora sets out for the "desolate mining planet" Dazzle. There she enters a rowdy bar and draws the unwanted attention of a huge bruiser named Touchino. She's actually after his older brother, Fuuchino, who has psychic powers too. In order to find Fuuchino, she must convince Max, a wannabe dancer, to disclose the brothers' hideaway. (She does this by playing air drums and convincing him to dance with her.) She then has a "wizards battle" with Fuuchino, defeats him, and joins Max in a concluding dance number at the same rowdy bar as before.

But above all, the animation is wretched. The first major scene - a hostage situation in a spaceport - has no in-between animation whatsoever. Nora's air drumming is completely out of sync with the background music. And the critical dancing scene between Nora and Max is animated at four frames per second. The dancing is awkwardly drawn and not very imaginative, but the jerky animation destroys any credibility.

With Bavi Stock II, at least, there's an explanation for the drastic changes between the first and second episodes: it was made by a totally different staff at a different company than Bavi Stock I. Twinkle Nora Rock Me!, on the other hand, is drawn from the same source material as the original and has the same director, character designer, voice cast, and production company. What happened?

Budget might be one explanation. It definitely looks as though money ran out at some point along the way, and the producers were unable to pay for in-between animation in many scenes. Lack of time - some sort of schedule crunch - might be another factor. Then again, perhaps the staff realized how bad this OVA was going to be and just threw in the towel.

Twinkle Nora Rock Me! has the same voice cast as Nora; see my blog entry on Nora for comments on the principal actors. The music is by a rock group called Vigilante and is entirely in English, most of which is incomprehensible. Fortunately, the soundtrack album has printed lyrics for the ending song.

gamnark translated the show, his first for Orphan, and Iri checked the translation. ninjacloud timed, I edited and styled, Calyrica and Nemesis did QC, and M74 encoded from a Laserdisc ISO provided by an anonymous donor. The ISO is missing the last thirty seconds due to uncorrectable damage on the original Laserdisc. Despite that, it is  better than the only other raw, which is from a VHS tape. To provide a complete version of the ending song, I've cut out the ending from the VHS raw and added the song lyrics. It's available as a separate file.

So here's the sequel to Nora. Don't all rush to thank us at once.