Sunday, November 11, 2018

Izumo (1991)

No, not that one. And definitely not that one. Rather, it's this one, the first one, a two episode OVA from 1991. Izumo is based on a Tsuzuki Kazuhiko's four-volume manga from 1990. The manga has not been translated, but based on the drawings, the OVA covers some, but not all, of the first volume.

Izumo is a historical fantasy set in third century (i.e., mythical) Japan. It tells the story of Izumo, the young prince of Nakatsukuni. He's not very interested in studying, unlike his cousin Dekiru; instead, he wants to see the wider world. One day, a mysterious girl named Sanae shows up as a stowaway on an airship. Although nominally from Yamataikoku, she is actually from the Naga, a shadowy people possessing magical powers. Sanae is kidnapped by Takeru, a warrior from the rival kingdom of Akusa, and placed at the mercy of the evil witch Yomihime. Izumo, helped by an orphaned glider pilot named Navi, must now take up the sacred sword of his country, master its powers, and rescue Sanae. However, before that, he must defeat the reawakened eight-headed snake of legend, Yamata-no-Orochi.

I found Izumo very engaging and entertaining. It's beautifully drawn. The combination of Japanese myths (Yomihime, Orochi) and anachronistic technology (airships, gliders) contributes to the sense of remoteness and prevents the show from becoming an ordinary sword-and-sorcery fest. The leads are charming, and the other characters more than just plot drivers. Finally, it looks really good for an analog source.

The voice cast is stellar:
  • Seki Toshihiko (Izumo) was one of the leading male seiyuu in this era. He played 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, 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, and the title roles in Alexander (Reign the Conqueror) and Kaiketsu Zorro.
  • Shimazu Saeko (Sanae) played Madoka in Kimagure Orange Road, Yuri in the Dirty Pair franchise, Chocola in Don Dracula, and the title roles in Lunn Flies into the Wind and Bagi (both Orphan releases). She also had featured roles in the other Rumiko Takahashi series of the era, Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, and Inuyasha.
  • Hayashibara Megumi (Navi) was arguably the most famous seiyuu of the 1990s. She starred as Faye Valentine in Cowboy Bebop, Ayanami Rei in Evangelion, Rune Balot in the Mardock Scramble movies, Rebecca in One Piece, Lina in the Slayers franchise, female Ranma in Ranma 1/2, and Miyokichi in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. She also played a number of feline roles, including including the title roles in the All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku and Hello Kitty franchises, as well as "lead cat" Iruinedo in Oruorane the Cat Player, an Orphan release.
  • The late Nozawa Nachi (Takeru) 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 Black Jack in Marine Express and Bremen 4 (both Orphan releases). He passed away in 2010.
  • Sasaki Nozomu (Dekiru) 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 Taiga in Nagasarete Airantou, Hal in Next Senki Ehrgeiz, and Ling Fei-Long in Dragon Fist, all Orphan releases.
  • Genda Tesshou (the rebel leader Oosukune) 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, Dog McCoy in Dallos, and Hebopi in Wild 7, all Orphan releases.
  • The late Tsuru Hiromi (Sanae's friend Iyo) debuted as Perrine in Perrine Monogatari. She went on to play Kashima Miyuki in Miyuki, Madoka in Kimagure Orange Road, Barge in Blue Sonnet, and Mikami Reiko in Ghost Sweeper Mikami. She also played Nozomi in Nozomi Witches, Jill in A Penguin's Memories, and UFO-chan in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou, all Orphan releases. She died in 2017.
  • The late Niimura Reiko, who gave a particularly chilling performance as Yomihime, was primarily a dramatic actress. Her anime roles included Master Keaton, Night on the Galactic Railway, and Senya Ichiya Monogatari, an Orphan release. She died in 2011.
(The translator, Sunachan, swears that Iyo is voiced by Hayashibara Megumi, one of her favorite seiyuu, and thus Navi must be Tsuru Hiromi, but I have to follow the credits as listed in the show.)

Izumo was directed by the legendary Yamamoto Eiichi, who directed the Animerama films Senya Ichiya Monogatari and Cleopatra (both Orphan releases), as well as Kanashimi no Belladonna, Odin, Oshin, and Tsuki ga Noboru made ni (also an Orphan release). Izumo and Tsuki were his last directing projects; his experienced directing hand shows. The music was by Koroku Reijirou, who wrote the scores for five of the six Lion Book OVAs.

Sunachan translated the show; Moho Kareshi did an initial version. ninacloud timed, I edited and typeset, bananadoyouwanna styled the songs, and Topper3000 and VigorousJammer QCed. The show was encoded from Japanese laserdiscs by Piyo Piyo Productions; it looks remarkably good for an analog transfer. The laserdiscs have an interesting backstory. Erik purchased them back in his VHS subtitling days but decided against working on them and sold the discs. Then, Iri found another set of discs on Yahoo Japan, bought them, and sent them to Erik for encoding. The circle of (analog) life!

I really like Izumo, and so do all of the staff that worked on it. Note that like many 80s and 90s shows (including Ranma 1/2 and Prime Rose), it includes some non-sexual nudity. You can get Izumo from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on