The Margaret video series was a set of six shoujo OVAs released at monthly intervals in 1993. They were based on manga published in Margaret magazine and animated by Madhouse. In chronological order, they were:Orphan has released A-Girl, Kisa wa Me ni Shite, POPS, Singles, and Oshare Kozou wa Hanamaru. We're pleased to bring you the last of the six, Oedo wa Nemurenai! (Oedo Never Sleeps!). It's based on Honda Keiko's five-volume manga, which has been completely scanlated into English.
All the Margaret OVAs until now have focused on the romantic tribulations of young women in modern settings. Oedo wa Nemurenai! is a departure. It's set in historical Edo (old Tokyo) during the 18th century. It borrows a character and some of its style from a famous kabuki play. It contains supernatural elements. And finally, the heroine is a young courtesan in the Yoshiwara red-light district. It's shoujo, for sure, but not the routine shoujo of the other five OVAs.
The story focuses on three principal characters: Usugumo, the "number one girl" at Miura-ya, a Yoshiwara brothel, and still a virgin at 14; Aoto Touichirou, nominally a western doctor but really a secret agent; and Bentenkozou Kikunosuke, a chivalrous thief. Usugumo is actually the daughter of the Shogun and a Christian courtesan; Aoto has been assigned to protect her. Usugomo attracts the unwanted attention of the heir to the Kaga clan, who wants to ravish her, and of court assassins, who want to bury the Shogun's secret forever. The two men in her life must protect her life and future.
The voice cast has many well-known seiyuu of the era:
- Hidaka Noriko (Usugumo) played Satsuke in My Neighbor Totoro, Akane (the female lead) in Ranma 1/2, Peter in Peter Pan no Bouken, Mrs. Yamada (the mother) in the first two Chi anime series, Near in Death Note, and Kikyo in the Inuyasha franchise. She played Yuuki in Boyfriend and Noriko in Yuukan Club, both Orphan releases. She is still active and recently appeared in Little Witch Academia.
- Tanaka Hideyuki (Aoto) has had a long career, including featured roles as Terryman in the Kinnikuman franchise and Rayearth in Magic Knight Rayearth, as well as Harmer in Al Caral no Isan, Sammy in Bavi Stock, Sawamura in Nozomi Witches, Ronron in Greed, and Katze in Ai no Kusabi, all Orphan releases.
- Yamadera Kouichi (Benten) played many leading 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!, Happyaku in Wild 7, and of course, Ryouan in Hidamari no Ki. The last three are Orphan releases.
- Kobayashi Yuuko (Benten in female guise) played Washu in the Tenchi Muyo franchise, Rapier in the Maze properties, and Rin in Otaku no Seiza.
- Fujita Toshiko (Takao, Usugumo's friendly rival) played the title role in Ikkyu-san, Rui in Cat's Eye, and Yawara's mother in Yawara! She also starred as Sharaku in Akuma Tou no Prince: Mitsume ga Tooru and played Cyborg 1019 in Oz, both Orphan releases.
- Miyuki Sanae (Usugumo's cat Kotetsu) starred as Lynn in Lady Lady! and played the Star Cat in Hoshi Neko Full House, an Orphan release. She had a recurring role as Botan in the Yu Yu Hakusho franchise.
- The peerless Ogata Kenichi (lord of Kaga, narrator) played the put-upon father in Gosenzosama Banbanzai! and Maroko, as well as Smee in Peter Pan no Bouken and, most recently, Gran Torino in Boku no Hero Academia. He played the governor in Akuemon, the crooked casino boss in Okane ga Nai!, the Hong Kong chef in Yuukan Club, and the ruthless rival cyborg in Kigyou Senshi Yamazaki: Long Distance Call, all Orphan releases. 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. He recently appeared in Radiant.
Because of its historical setting, Oedo wa Nemurenai! actually requires a few context and translation notes:
- Bentenkozou Kikunosuke is one of five thieves in the nineteenth century Kabuki play 白浪五人男. Here, he is portrayed as a chivalrous thief, robbing the rich to give to the poor. In the play, he's a devious villain, who kills without compunction. The opening scene, in which the three main characters remove their masks and reveal their identities, is styled after Act IV of the play.
- Usugumo is a tayuu, the highest official rank for a courtesan. A tayuu was more of an entertainer than a prostitute, and she had the right to refuse to serve clients, as Usugumo does at the Kaga mansion. The rank was retired in 1761.
- Usugumo describes herself as "strong against evil but weak about emotions." These were said to be the traits of the typical Edokko or citizen of old Edo.
- Usugumo's outburst at the Kaga heir is reminiscent of a stage performance, and the spectators respond with Nipponchi! (Best in Japan!), as they would for a good show.
- Yoshiwara was the official red-light district of Edo. When Benten disguises himself as a courtesan, he says he is from Shimabara, the official red-light district of Kyoto.
- The Shogun was usually referred to as "the Lord of Edo Castle" or just "the Lord."
- The closing remarks by the narrator do not, alas, point to a sequel but are typical of the conventions of a stage play.
This completes Orphan's work on the Margaret video series. If our media guru can improve the VHS ripping setup, we'll probably re-release some of them, but unless or until, we're done. We hope you've enjoyed them.
You can get Oedo wa Nemurenai! from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.