Thursday, September 27, 2018

Wild 7

For a society as orderly and law-abiding as Japan, the anime-watching public seems to love shows where society in the grip of criminal "carnage" (to quote a recent so-called leader). The only solution seems to be a vigilante individual or special squad that acts as judge, jury, and executioner all at once. A.D. Police, Dominion Tank Police, Techno Police 21C, Joker: Marginal City... the list goes on and on. And here's another: the 1994 two-episode OVA Wild 7

The setting is a Japan overrun by well-armed, politically-connected criminals who commit crimes and massacres with impunity. To counter them, a prosecutor and a police captain recruit seven death-row criminals, commission them as inspectors, provide them with motorcycles and a hell of a lot of lethal weapons, and use them as assassins against culprits who are seemingly "above the law."

Wild 7 is based on a successful, long-running shounen manga by Mochizuki Mikiya. It ran from 1969 to 1979 and reflects the turbulence of late 60s Japan. The OVA tells the story of the Wild 7's fight to expose and exterminate a "great boss," who plans nothing less than an effective takeover of Japan. In the first OVA, they target the leader of a terrorist organization, only to find out that he is merely the "lizard's tail" of the shadowy boss behind the scenes. In the second OVA, they face down a rival gang formed by the enemy, as well as political machinations that threaten their very existence. Both episodes are filled with slam-bang action sequences, great motorcycle chases, shiny explosions, and lots of graphic violence. If you turn your mind off from considering the numerous holes in the underlying premise and the actual plot, it's quite a ride.


Each member of the Wild 7 has a unique background and skill.
  • Hiba, the defacto leader, is a juvenile escapee from a reformatory and general hard case.
  • Happyaku is a former pro baseball player who graduated to embezzlement and fraud.
  • Ryougaku is an explosives expert and convicted bomber.
  • Sekai is a former wild animal trainer.
  • Chaashuu is a former professional chef who also cooked up drugs on the side.
  • Oyabun is a former yakuza gang leader and convicted murderer.
  • Hebopi is a former student protester who graduated to bombing and murder.
The voice actors for the Wild 7 were:
  • Seki Toshihiko (Hiba) played Riki in Ai no Kusabi, the hero Seitarou in Hoshi Neko Full House, Miroku in Yuukan Club, Chuuta in Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro, the fighter Nagase Jun in Akai Hayate, and the unnamed protagonist of Oruorane the Cat Player, all Orphan releases. He also played Matsuda in all the Yawara! properties, Sanzo in all the Saiyuuki TV series, and the title roles in Alexander (Reign the Conqueror) and Kaiketsu Zorro.
  • Yamadera Kouichi (Happyaku) played many starring 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, Melos in Hashire Melos!, and of course, Ryouan in Hidamari no Ki (the last two are Orphan releases).
  • Yao Kazuki (Ryougaku) is best known for his lead role as Dark Schneider in Bastard!!, the love rival Sofue in Boyfriend, and his recurring role as Franky in One Piece. He also played Date Ikkaku in Akai Hayate, an Orphan release.
  • Kobayashi Kiyoshi (Sekai) is best known for playing Jigen in the Lupin the Third TV shows and specials since the inception of the franchise.
  • Anzai Masahiro (Chaashuu) debuted in White Fang (an Orphan release). He has had numerous featured roles since, including Cherenkov in Starship Troopers, also an Orphan release.
  • Konto Yamaguchi-kun (Oyabun) is a comedian by trade. Wild 7 is his only anime credit.
  • Genda Tesshou (Hebopi) played Colonel Muto in Joker Game, Moloch in Yondemasu Azazel-san, Rei in the Urusei Yatsura franchise, Moguro Fukuzou in New Laughing Salesman,  "Oyaji" in Mitsuboshi Colors, as well as 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 Dog McCoy in Dallos, all Orphan releases.
Other featured roles include:
  • Terada Minori (Kusanami, supervising captain of the Wild 7) played the villain Muska in Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky.
  • Nishimura Tomomichi (Ooiwa, the villain of episode one) appeared in Aoki Honoo, Bremen 4, Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou, Fumoon, Starship Troopers, and Zetsuai: 1989, all Orphan releases. He is still active, appearing recently in Onihei, Fune wo Amu, and Koi wa Ameagari no You ni.
  • Yanaka Hiroshi (Kuromatsu, the villain of episode two) is playing Shiba in the current revival of Piano and Gorou in the Free! franchise. He played Yuurakutei in Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinji and appeared in Noragami, Nanbaka, Terraformars, and Hidamari no Ki, the last an Orphan release.
The director, Egami Kiyoshi, has done other fine action series, including City Hunter '91 and Weiss Kreuz.

Sunachan translated the show. M74 timed it. I edited and typeset. Nemesis and VigorousJammer QCed. M74 encoded from some truly terrible DVDs. The source is a mess of blended frames and interlacing. As a result, the typesetting ranged from annoying to impossible. In some places, I've had to resort to the {\an8}Sign: methodology. Please be kind.

So if you like special police death-squads on the rampage against satanic criminals running amok, Wild 7 is probably your shot of rotgut. 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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki: Long Distance Call

Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki Long Distance Call (Business Fighter Yamazaki: Long Distance Call) was a successful manga by Tomizaki Jun. It ran from 1992 to 2000 and was collected in twelve tankoban volumes. This OVA, from 1997, was released about three-quarters of the way through the manga's run, probably as a promotion. Despite the success of the manga, the OVA was only released on VHS tape; it never appeared on either laserdisc or DVD.

Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki tells the story of Yamazaki Takurou, a workaholic salesman whose job eventually kills him. A temp staffing agency (!) rebuilds him as a cyborg business consultant. In his new, semi-robotic form, Yamazaki is sent into troubled companies to consult on new products and, occasionally, to fight other cyborgs who have been similarly revived.

At the start of the OVA, Yamazaki meets a runaway delinquent teenage girl, Kashima Rinko, and saves her from trouble with the police. Despite his determination to have no human connections, Rinko attaches herself to him as sidekick and observer. Yamazaki's assignment is to help Itsusuba Electrics develop a new telephone product. The market is already crowded with cell phones, cordless handsets, answering machines, and so on; the planners at Itsutsuba despair of finding a new and compelling product concept. Yamazaki, of course, finds a niche and proposes a wall-mounted LCD panel that acts as a voice-operated telephone. This seems remarkably silly in today's age of smartphones, but then again... hello, Alexa? Before he can finish his work, Rinko runs afoul of another cyborg named Suzuki. Yamazaki then finds that his studiously cultivated emotional detachment is not quite as ironclad as he thought.


The voice cast includes:
  • Chiba Shigeru (Yamazaki) played Megane in the Urusei Yatsura franchise and Nezumi in later GeGeGe no Kitarou movies. He appeared in Ai no Kusabi, Akai Hayate, Bagi, Condition Green, and Yamato 2520, all Orphan releases. He is still active, appearing in the current Overlord series.
  • Kawakami Tomoko (Rinko) starred as Akane in the Harukanaru Toki no Naka de: Hachiyou properties and as the title roles in Hikaru no Go and Revolutionary Girl Utena. She also did a marvelous comic turn as Elise, the hard-as-nails assistant to the lecherous ojii-san Stresemann in Nodame Cantabile. She died prematurely in 2011, at the age of 41.
  • The peerless Ogata Kenichi (Suzuki) played the put-upon father in Gosenzosama Banbanzai and Maroko, as well as Smee in Peter Pan no Bouken, the crooked casino boss in Okane ga Nai! (an Orphan release), the Hong Kong chef in Yuukan Club (also an Orphan release), and, most recently, Gran Torino in Boku no Hero Academia. However, he's best known to me as the voice of Ranma 1/2's Sataome Gemna, whose alter ego - the grumpy panda - is my avatar on most anime forums.
  • Katsuki Masako (Kirika, Yamazaki's maintenance engineer) played Maroko in Gosenzosama Banbanzai and its movie version, Maroko, Mira in Ginga Tansa 2100-nen: Border Planet, Queen Bee in Golgo 13: Queen Bee, and Tsunade (Fifth Hokage) in the Naruto franchise. She also played Kenbishi Yuuri in Yuukan Club and Hojo's lover in Sanctuary, both Orphan releases.
The director, Tominaga Tsuneo, also directed the first four Initial D properties, Juliet, Lime-iro Ryuukitan Cross, and Wind: A Breath of Heart. He did the storyboards for Sanctuary and the screenplay for Tenkousei, both Orphan releases.

Iri picked up a VHS tape of Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki as part of his regular survey of secondhand media sources in Japan. Our media mogul ripped the tape, and eventually, M74 encoded it. The source is mercifully free of tape stretch and tracking loss, but it is a VHS tape, so it's rather blurry, with a lot of blended frames. Sunachan translated the dialog, signs, and songs. M74 timed. I edited and typeset (the repeated shots of the wall phone account for the bulk of the script). VigorousJammer and banandoyouwanna QCed; bananadoyouwanna also styled the songs.

I'm not sure quite what to make of Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki. It feels like a satire at times, but I rather suspect it isn't. Yamazaki is portrayed as a hero (and a rather tragic one at that), not as an object of ridicule. Japan's insane workaholic culture is held up as something to emulate, not as a crippling burden on the young leading the country to demographic disaster.  Regardless of its intent, you can find the show as the usual torrent site or on IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Okane ga Nai!

So why, after swearing off R1-licensed anime, is Orphan releasing Okane ga Nai? Call it conservation of momentum. The project got started yonks ago, when M74 and I were plotting to redo some of the early BL OVAs. M74 had the Okane ga Nai DVDs, and we used them to release the four omake with softsubs and proper typesetting. That led us to look at the OVAs proper. aarinfantasy's release was hardsubbed and marred by video artifacts, while Nosmas' release was upscaled, had the usual awful R1 subtitle timing, and lacked typesetting. So in for a penny, in for a pound...

If you're not familiar with Okane ga nai! (No Money!), it's a borderline hentai BL OVA about a college student (Ayase) forced to pay off his debt to a loan shark (Kanou) with his body. That's probably enough information for most people. If you need more, read the Wikipedia article.


The OVAs cover the first two volumes of the manga, which relate how Kanou "acquires" Ayase and then defends him against crooked a casino boss and then a corrupt politicians. It includes a lot of (too much, in fact) non-consensual sex, occasional violence, and some humor. Because the two leads spend most of their time in angst-ridden conversation and introspection, the humor comes from the side characters: Kanou's baka "younger brother" Gion, who wants to use the pair for the ultimate porn movie; Someya Kaoruko, Kanou's transgender childhood friend and client, who runs an okama bar; and Kanou's twin assistants, Homare and Masao, who observe their employer's moods, ranging from furious anger to anxious jealousy, with deadpan humor and not a small touch of dread.

The voice cast includes a cross-section of the industry.
  • The incomparable Fukyuma Jun (Ayase) starred as Panda in Shirokuma Cafe, an Orphan release, Geass in Code Geass, Yukio in Ao no Exorcist, Keita in Inukami!, Kuro-sensei in Assassination Classroom, and Tokidoki in Amatsuki (an Orphan release), among numerous other roles. He is one of the major seiyuu in current anime.
  • Kosugi Juurouta (Kanou) made his debut at the villainous Eyesman in Bavi Stock I, an Orphan release. He played Touji in Ninku and de Morcerf in Gankuutsuou. He also played Oguma in Fire Emblem, Dr. Bayfarm in Joker: Marginal City, Utsubushi in Amatsuki, and Gisuke in Kage, all Orphan releases. He is still active.
  • Okiayu Ryoutarou (Gion). His 30-year career recently included the lead roles in Keppeki Danshi Aoyama-kun and Recorder and Randsell. He played Gorgeous in Maze and Ebisu in Noragami. He appeared in Fire Emblem and Yamato 2520, both Orphan releases.
  • Tobita Nobuo (Someya) is best known for the roles of Kamille Bidan (Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam), Albert Heinrich/004 (Cyborg 009 (2001)), and Sueo Maruo (Chibi Maruko-chan). He appeared in Condition Green and Eien no Filena, both Orphan releases. He is still active, appearing in the recent Darling in the FranXX and Sirius the Jaeger.
  • Tsujitani Kouji (Homare) 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, Shou in Condition Green, and Seishirou in Yuukan Club, all Orphan releases. His most recent role was in Kokkoku.
  • Hatano Wataru (Misao) played the hapless zookeeper Handa-kun in Shirokuma Cafe, an Orphan release, Kajii in Bungo Stray Dogs, and Nobunaga in Nobunaga no Shinobi. He is still very active, appearing in a dozen shows this year.
  • Ogata Kenichi (the crooked casino boss Hayashida) played the put-upon father in Gosenzosama Banbanzai and Maroko, as well as Smee in Peter Pan no Bouken, rival cyborg Suzuki in Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki, the Hong Kong chef in Yuukan Club (an Orphan release), and, most recently, Gran Torino in Boku no Hero Academia. However, he's best known to me as the voice of Ranma 1/2's Sataome Gemna, whose alter ego - the grumpy panda - is my avatar on most anime forums.
The director, Sokuza Makoto, has a few other credits, notably the original (excellent) Kyou no Go no Ni OVAs.

The subtitles are basically from the R1 DVD, but I've interpolated from the aarinfantasy scripts in places, because the R1 subs are rather prissy and indirect sometimes - an odd choice for BL OVAs. M74 and Yogicat time, I edited and typeset, Calyrica and I QCed, and M74 encoded. This is an Orphan and M74 joint release.

We've packaged the Okane ga Nai extras with this torrent, to make a complete offering. You can get the show from the usual torrent site or download it from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on Irc.rizon.net.





Sunday, September 16, 2018

Oishinbo Special: Japan-America Rice War (Blu-ray)

After a rather lengthy delay, here's the second Oishinbo special, Japan-America Rice War (Nichibei Kome Sensou). Although I have no firm evidence, I suspect that this delay resulted from a simple fact: Japan-America Rice War is one of the most boring anime movies I have ever seen. Ninety minutes about the pros and cons of liberalizing Japanese rice imports, with a side order about the dangers of agricultural chemicals? Most of the team would rather have a root canal. (I just had one, so I prefer the anime.)

If you don't know the background for the Oishinbo series, Kaibara Yuuzan and Yamaoka Shirou are estranged father and son, respectively. Kaibara is an icon of Japanese national culture, famous for his pottery, his cooking, and his traditional dress and outlook. Yamaoka is a slacker cultural reporter at a newspaper. He started a recurring feature on cooking, called Ultimate Menu, for his paper. In retaliation, his father created Supreme Menu for a competing paper. The two cooking teams compete for supremacy in matches organized around a single theme.

The plot of Japan-America Rice War centers around the visit of California Senator Dan Foster to Japan. He is determined to make Japan lower barriers to rice imports, because California is a major rice grower. His sister, Ann, is engaged to Misawa at Touzai News, home of Yamaoka's Ultimate Menu team. Ann crosses paths with, and is insulted by, Tsuchida Gisuke, an obnoxious agriculture bigwig turned politician, who is determined to block liberalization of rice imports. She relates this to her brother the Senator, who turns up the heat on the Japanese government by threatening massive tariffs against Japanese goods. While the government dithers, the two Menu teams have to work together to save the situation and, of course, Ann and Misawa's impending marriage.


The tone of the anime is a bit odd. At first, the scales seem tipped in favor of the Japanese viewpoint. Kaibara Yuuzan argues for strict limits on imports in order to preserve the Japanese tradition of rice farming, which yields treasures in art, culture, and food. On the other hand, the American negotiators are presented as rational and forceful, while the Japanese government is presented as hapless ditherers who only want to cover their behinds. In the end, the author's real passion, as represented by Yamaoka Shirou, is not about rice imports but about the overuse of chemicals in farming, and the threat that pesticides and other chemical residues in the food chain pose to human health. It's rather dull, except for the opening set piece, an Ultimate vs Supreme match about "side dishes for rice," and a later set piece, a dinner that Kaibara throws for the visiting Senator to teach him about the importance of rice in Japan.

The main voice cast is the same as in Ultimate vs Supreme:
  • Inoue Kazuhiko (Yamaoka Shirou) played Yuki Eiri in Gravitation, but I know and love him best as the irascible, sake-swilling Nyanko-sensei in the Natsume Yuujichou properties. He also played Ryousuke in Daishizen no Majuu Bagi, Kitten Smith in Starship Troopers, and Liu Bei Xuande in both Sangokushi OVAs, all Orphan releases. He is still active, appearing recently in ACCA and Isekai Shokudou.
  • Shou Mayumi (Kurita Yuuko) appeared in Aoki Honoo, Hoshi Neko Full House, A Penguin's Memories, and Katte ni Shirokuma, all Orphan releases. 
  • Ootsuka Chikao (Kaibara Yuuzan) has had a lengthy career, starting back in 1963 in Astro Boy. He played Nezumi in the original GeGeGe no Kitarou series and Tora in the original Ushio & Tora OVAs. He appeared in several Tezuka Osamu specials (all released by Orphan) and played Captain Hook in Peter Pan no Bouken, among numerous other roles.
Some of the voice cast is unique to this special, of course:
  • Hazama Michio (Senator Dan Foster) also began his career in 1963 with Astro Boy. He has appeared in numerous anime but has also been the preferred dubbing voice for Dean Martin, Steve Martin, and Sylvester Stallone. His most recent role was in Onihei.
  • Yamada Eiko (Ann Foster) played the title roles in Anne of Green Gables and Legend of Lemnear, as well as Jo in Little Women. She also played Yu Jin, Cao Cao's stalwart woman warrior, in the Sangokushi OVAs and appeared in What's Michael? and Chameleon, all Orphan releases.
  • Ootaki Shinya (Misawa) played Pete, the male lead in Scoopers. He also appeared in Aoki Honou, Hi-Speed Jecy, and Wolf Guy, all Orphan releases.
  • Tanaka Nobuo (Tsuchida Gisuke) played Dio in the original JoJo's Bizarre Adventures OVAs and its sequel. He has had recurring roles in Detective Conan and One Piece.
Orphan again used the Yoroshiku subs with some tweaks. laalg did the original translation; izam translated the OP and ED. Yogicat retimed the subs for the Blu-ray encode; the original OP/ED timing, by sangofe, was retained. neo2001 styled the original; I edited and typeset both the original release and this new one. Saji and Oracle did QC on the original, Calyrica on the new one. Skr did the encode, from a BDMV.

Time has not been kind to Japan-America Rice War. The anime dates from 1993, when American paranoia about, and Japanese confidence in, Japan's technological and economic might was at its height (see, for example, Michael Crichton's 1992 scare novel, Rising Sun). Shortly thereafter, the U.S. began the longest sustained technological and economic boom in its history to that point, fueled by innovations in the Internet, biotechnology, and other fields, while Japan entered a multi-decade period of economic stagnation, rendering most of the arguments in the anime moot.

Japan maintained an effective ban on imported rice until 1995. At that time, Japan agreed to import a set amount at market prices, while raising subsidies to domestic rice farmers substantially. Most of the imported rice was designated for snacks and processed food; very little was earmarked for direct consumption. Even though the subsidies impacted the competitiveness of imported rice, by 1998 Japan accounted for about half of California's rice exports, or 20% of the state's total rice crop.


Japanese direct consumption of imported rice varies with economic conditions, with fast food restaurants leading the way in using it. However, both per-capita consumption of rice and domestic production are declining, as eating habits change, and the farming population ages out.

The issue of food safety remains unresolved. Recent testing has shown that rice from around the world, including so-called organic products, contain dangerous amounts of arsenic and other toxic chemicals.


So if you want to relive the passions of the early 1990s, as opposed to the ones that roil our politics today, you can get Oishinbo - Japan-America Rice War from the usual torrent site or download it from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.
 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Hidamari no Ki (Batch)

So here's Orphan's last word on Hidamari no Ki - the batch torrent. There are minor fixes in eleven episodes, for nomenclature inconsistencies and typos. If you don't want to download the v2 files, or can't apply the patches, you won't be missing anything.

Hidamari no Ki is brilliant TV anime. If I hesitate to use the word "masterpiece," it's only because I'm aware of the gap between an excellent TV anime and the works of auteurs like Miyazaki and Takahata. Tezuka Osamu was a popular entertainer, and Hidamari no Ki is among the finest examples of his work. I think it will stand comparison with the TV series viewers have loved the most.

That begs two questions, of course:
  1. Why do I think it's so good?
  2. If it is so good, why was it never fansubbed or licensed before this?
Now, I must admit to certain biases that work in favor of Hidamari no Ki. It's a seinen show, about and for adults. As a (fairly senior) adult, I like series that show people I might recognize, rather than the endlessly popular high-school students. It's a historical show, set against real events. As a historian by training, and a lover of historical fiction, it definitely hits my sweet spot. The artwork is distinctive and interesting. Tezuka Osamu's characters have real features and rarely resemble anime archetypes. And it's complex. The characters have multiple facets and are rarely black-and-white. Good things and bad things happen, and happy endings are rare - just as in real life.


So if Hidamari no Ki is so good, why has it remained untranslated (or more properly, an orphan) for so many years? First, it aired just before the flowering of fansubbing. By the time the first group looked at it, it had been off the air for four years. Most shows released from DVDs used R1 subs. Second, it's rather technical. There's a lot of medical lingo and historical Japanese terms. The translator needs a thorough grounding in medicine, Japanese history, and old terminology, or the show will prove impenetrable.

That leads me to an appreciation of the improbable series of events that made it possible for Orphan to do Hidamari no Ki. Sunachan, the translator, simply showed up one day. She's a professional interpreter with a background in medical translation. It would be hard to image a better fit to the task. Then, after years of futile quests for decent raws, Skr found a reasonable set of streaming raws in Japan. That permitted the translation and timing work to get underway. And finally, an anonymous benefactor wrote to ask if he could help purchase any rare materials for Orphan's work. That allowed us to buy the Japanese DVDs and to create definitive encodes. Everything followed from those three events.

In closing, I'll recapitulate the staff credits for the show:
  • Translation - Sunachan
  • Timing - Eternal_Blizzard and Yogicat
  • Editing and Typesetting - Collectr
  • Karaokes - Juggen
  • QC - bananadoyouwanna, Nemesis, VigorousJammer
  • Workraws - Skr
  • Encoding - M74
  • DVD provider - anonymous
It's been almost a year's work, but I think everyone on the staff would agree that it's been worth it.

Could there be a high-definition release someday? Eternal_Blizzard points out that Madhouse (the animators) were among the last holdouts for cel-based drawing and didn't move to digital animation until 2002, after Hidamari no Ki was released, so it's possible. Could there be an R1 release someday? Smaller DVD outfits have been reviving items from the back catalog, so it's possible. So this "last word" may not be the "final word." I certainly hope so.

In closing, I'll repeat what I've said in every release post: this show is a masterwork. Please, put aside all the trope-y junk that makes up most of modern anime and give Hidamari no Ki a chance to cast its spell. You won't regret it. Meanwhile, you can get the batch from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net. A direct download link for the patch and for the DVD booklets is included in the batch torrent release.




Saturday, September 8, 2018

Yawara Atlanta Special (Blu-ray)

It's been more than four years since FroZen-EviL finished the standard-definition Yawara! project by releasing Yawara! The Atlanta Special, more formally known as Yawara! Ever Since I Met You... The Blu-ray version of Yawara! has been proceeding by fits and starts, so the team has leaped ahead to the end to bring you the conclusion, in high-definition.

The climax of Yawara! was supposed to be set at the1992 Barcelona Olympics, but the series didn't finish until after those Olympics were over. There was a four-year gap before a project was started to provide an actual conclusion to the series, so the setting was moved to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and all the signs in the TV show about "xyz days until Barcelona" were removed in the Blu-ray releases.

Yawara! The Atlanta Special wraps up all the story lines of the show: Yawara's less-than-enthusiastic pursuit of Olympic glory; the subsurface romance between Yawara and the "third-rate reporter" Matsuda; Kazamatsuri's increasingly desperate attempts to evade the grasp of Honami Sayaka. Most of the subordinate characters put in an appearance: Fujiko and Hanazono, now married with an infant; Jody Rockwell, now bigger and stronger than ever; Kuniko, Matsuda's colleage and wannabe love interest; Kamoda, Matsuda's much put-upon photographer; and of course, Master Jigoro, ever ready to steal a scene, a medal, or a massive plate of food. Despite romantic mixups and the problems imposed by Japanese reticence, all ends happily. Or rather, the main characters all get what they deserve.

In all my blogs on Yawara!, I've never talked about the voice cast, which is just wonderful.
  • For Minaguchi Yuuko (Inokuma Yawara), Yawara! was her breakout and defining role. She made her debut as Kii in Greed, an Orphan release, and appeared in numerous other shows, including Dragon Ball Z and GT, Sailor Moon, and One Piece. She played Roxanne in Alexander (Reign: The Conqueror) and Felicia in Oz (another Orphan release).
  • The late Nagai Ichirou (Yawara's grandfather Jigoro) appeared in numerous shows, including Gosenzosama Banbanzai!, Nora, and Hidamari no Ki (the last two are Orphan releases).  He also dubbed Albus Dumbledore in the Japanese versions of the Harry Potter movies.
  • Okabe Masaki (Yawara's absentee father Kojiro) played Shinichi, the conniving and lecherous politician brought down by Hojo and Chiaki in Sanctuary, an Orphan release.
  • Seki Toshihiko (Matsuda) should be quite familiar to readers of this blog. He appeared as Riki in Ai no Kusabi, the hero Seitarou in Hoshi Neko Full House, Miroku in Yuukan Club, Chuuta in Satsujin Kippu wa Heart-iro, the fighter Nagase Jun in Akai Hayate, and the unnamed protagonist of Oruorane the Cat Player, all Orphan releases. He also played Sanzo in all the Saiyuuki TV series and the title roles in Alexander (Reign the Conqueror) and Kaiketsu Zorro.
  • Chafuurin (Kamoda) played Inspector Maguro in the Detective Conan franchise. He also appeared as the Tera leader in Next Senki Ehrgeiz and Jog in Yamata 2520, both Orphan releases. He is still active, appearing in Basilisk, Baki, and Pop Team Epic in 2018.
  • Kamiya Akira (Kazamatsuri) is best known for the title roles in the City Hunter properties and the Kinnikuman franchise. He also played Sergeant Zim in Starship Troopers and stole the show as the lecherous robot Chiraku in Hoshi Neko Full House, both Orphan releases. 
  • Takamori Yoshino (Sayaka) played the twin roles of Juliet Douglas and Sloth in Full Metal Alchemist. She also appeared in the What's Michael? OVAs and Yousei Ou, Orphan releases.
  • Kawashima Chiyoko (Fujiko) played Clair in Galaxy Express 999, Sailor Pluto in the Sailor Moon franchise, Okiyo in Haguregumo, and Iko in Greed, an Orphan release. She retired in 2001.
The director, Asaka Morio, did not work on the original TV series. After this special, he went on to direct many well-known and well-regarded shows, including Cardcaptor Sakura (and its recent revival), Galaxy Angels, Chobits, Nana, Chihayafuru (both series), and Ore Monogatari.

The staff credits are basically the same as for the standard-definition release. kokujin-kun translated and typeset; Juggen timed; I edited; CP, Saji, Juggen, Mamo-chan, and Skr all worked on QC. Suzaku encoded from the BDMV box set, which CP purchased. 

Today is the anniversary of CP's passing. His presence has been, and continues to be, sorely missed by all his friends and colleagues.





Friday, September 7, 2018

Hidamari no Ki, Part 4

Here is the final installment of Hidamari no Ki: episodes 20 to 25. The chaos of the Bakumatsu reaches its climax with the overthrow of the Shogunate, an event that has decisive consequences for Manjirou, Ryouan, and the men and women in their lives. In particular, Manjirou confronts the ronin who have dogged his steps throughout the series: the assassins Toubei and Otojirou. If the first half of the series belonged to Ryouan, the second half, and the last five episodes in particular, are Manjirou's.

If these concluding episodes seem rushed, it's partly due to the headlong pace of events that take place in the background. By the early 1860s, the relationship between the Shogunate bureaucracy and the Imperial Court was openly antagonistic. Various clans used the banner of Sonnou Joui to further their interests at the expense of the ruling Tokugawa. In the Kimon incident, the Choushuu clan raised the banner of revolt in Kyoto. This led the Shogunate to dispatch punitive expeditions against Choushuu. The first, in 1864, ended inconclusively. By the time a second expedition was dispatched two years later, the Choushuu forces had modernized with Western weapons. The Shogunate army was decisively defeated, fatally weakening its prestige. Shortly thereafter, the Shogunate regime fell, without much of a fight.

Hidamari no Ki is, of course, the story of Ryouan and Manjirou, and they are the only two characters whose fate the show spells out. The historical characters mentioned in these last five episodes met various ends:
  • Katsu Kaishuu remained loyal to the Shogunate but survived to serve the new Imperial regime. He eventually became a count.
  • Saigo Takamori led the Imperial forces in the war against the last rebellious remnants of the Shogunate. In 1873, he left the Imperial government and later ended up leading a rebellion of disaffected samurai against the new regime, during which he was killed.
  • Sakamoto Ryouma was assassinated in 1867 by members of the Mimawarigumi, another of the special samurai squads formed by the Shogunate.
  • Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last Shogun, disassociated himself from any efforts to restore the Shogunate regime and lived a quiet life in retirement. In 1902, he was named a prince of the empire.
This group of episodes introduces one last significant character, Aya, sister of the ronin Otojirou. She was played by Neya Michiko, who has had featured roles in many shows. She's probably best known for Melissa Mayo in the Full Metal Panic franchise and Riza Hawkeye in the original Fullmetal Alchemist. She also played Lena in Fire Emblem, an Orphan release.

In preparing this last group of episodes, certain aspects of the show have really stood out. The opening credit sequence, which I've seen perhaps a hundred times now, is a masterpiece of music and composition. It starts out tranquilly, as a solo piano piece, surveying the massive camphor tree that stands as a symbol for the Shogunate. It takes an ominous turn, as images of Ryouan's battle against the cholera epidemic, and Manjirou's numerous sword fights, are played over the tree. Then, the three principal women characters - Oseki with a serious expression, Oshina with a melancholy look, and Okon with her enigmatic smile - are shown against the trunk. They give way to the banners of armies, which fall over and fade away to foreshadow to ultimate fate of the Shogunate. This sequence never gets stale.

Another noteworthy aspect is the different way Ryouan and Manjirou interact with the women in the show. Superficially, Manjirou seems the better man. He treats women with respect and reserve, putting them on a pedestal, while Ryouan is a womanizer, a patron of geishas, and an unfaithful husband. Yet Manjirou's stubborn honesty inflicts unhappiness on all the women with whom he becomes involved (Oseki, Oshina, and Aya). Ryouan may be a playboy, but he genuinely likes women, and he helps the nighthawk Okon achieve the only truly happy outcome in the series.


As a bonus, this set of episodes also includes a short special on the real locations used in the first two episodes.

The staff for the show remains the same. Sunachan translated the dialog, songs, and signs. Yogicat did the timing. I edited and typeset. banandoyouwanna, Nemesis, and VigorousJammer did QC. Skr encoded the workraws, and M74 the final raws. An anonymous benefactor bought the R2J DVDs, an essential foundation for making the project feasible.

We're not quite done yet. There's a batch torrent in the works. It will incorporate minor fixes in the first handful of episodes, mostly terminology that needs to be made consistent. I doubt there will ever be a Blu-ray release. Hidamari no Ki was made with digital animation long before HDTV. It's simply not that popular in Japan, and of course, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world.

You can get the fourth installment of Hidamari no Ki from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net. Watch it, please, and then tell your friends about it. This show is not to be missed.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Alice in Cyberland

A lot of OVAs, particularly those that were promotions for other media (manga, video games, novels), were one-and-done affairs, such as Sanctuary, Meisou Ou Border, Cosmic Fantasy, and Joker: Marginal City. Much rarer are OVAs that were planned as multi-episode - even had animation for a second episode - and simply stopped. That's the case with 1996's Alice in Cyberland. The first episode has a preview for a second episode - it even has a release date for it (Feb 25, 1997) - but the second episode never appeared. It's quite a mystery.

Alice in Cyberland was a tie-in to a "gal adventure game" (to quote the English loan words in the game promo) of the same name. It tells the story of Alice and her two friends, Rena and Julie, who go "diving" into cyberspace to hunt for "Eastern European cyber-anarchists" that threaten the world-wide network. (Sounds kind of prescient, doesn't it?) A mysterious network entity named Lucie gives Alice powers to enter cyberspace and to combat the villains there. She and her friends dispatch the bad guys and return to their normal existence. And that's it. The second episode promised another adventure in Cyberland, but it's lost out there in the ether.


The voice cast includes:
  • Asada Yoko (Alice) has an extensive resume in both regular and hentai anime. She played the title role in two of the Angelique series and one of the leads in Refrain Blue. She also appeared in Doukyuusei 2 Special: Sotsugyousei and D4 Princess, both Orphan releases.
  • Araki Kae (Rena) played lead roles in all the Sailor Moon properties, Yuki Miaka in the Fushigi Yuugi franchise, and Ann, the female lead, in Juliet. She also played Marceau, Yawara's unexpected challenger, in Yawara! The Atlanta Special.
  • Miyamura Yuuko (Julie) played the title roles in NieA Under 7 and Akane's High Kick. She also had lead roles in Starship Girl Yamamato Yohko and Those Who Hunt Elves, and she has an ongoing role in the Detective Conan franchise.
  • Inoue Kikuko (Lucie) starred as Belldandy in the Aa! Megami-sama franchise, Kazami in Please! Teacher, and Doris in D4 Princess, an Orphan release. She has numerous other credits, including Cyberdoll Mami in Hand Maid May and Short(cake) in The Girl from Phantasia, both Orphan releases. She remains active and has recently appeared in Amanchu! and its sequel, The Ancient Magus' Bride, Darling in the FranXX, and FLCL Progressive.
  • Nakata Kazuhiro (Information Inspector Omata) played Chiaki, one of the two leads, in Sanctuary, an Orphan release, and has numerous featured roles in his resume.
  • Suyama Akio (the Cyberland monster Wolf) played Hatsuharu in Fruits Basket and Hige in Wolf's Rain. He had a cameo as Crested Serpent Eagle in Polar Bear Cafe, an Orphan release.
The director was the late Yokota Kazuyoshi, who worked on many World Masterpiece Theater series before Alice and on Maetel Legend afterwards.

Moho Kareshi translated the dialog and the songs, and laalg checked it. Yogicat timed; I edited and typeset. Nemesis and VigorousJammer QCed. The encode is a laserdisc rip by Erik of Piyo Piyo Productions; it looks really good. The disc includes several promos: a preview for the non-existent second episode; ads for related CDs and PlayStation games; and a series of stills from the game. The promos beyond the preview have not been translated or typeset.

By itself, Alice in Cyberland is a frothy little bauble that comes and goes quickly, with no lingering aftertaste. But the mystery of the second episode... that lingers. What happened? As Fats Waller used to say, "One never knows, do one?" Meanwhile, you can get Alice in Cyberland from the usual torrent sites or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.