Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sangokushi movie 3

The third movie of the Sangokushi trilogy is Sangokushi Dai San Bu Harukanaru Taichi (Sangokushi: The Distant Land). With this release, Orphan completes its work on Sangokushi, at least for a while: two TV specials and three movies, totaling more than eleven hours of anime. It had taken a year and a half to do - a marathon, not a sprint.

The third movie covers the longest time span, from Liu Bei's expedition to Shu in 211 CE to the death of Kongming in 234 CE. Instead of The Distant Land, it could just as well be titled The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. All of the main characters die, and the ultimate winner of the battle to reunite China is None of the Above - not Liu Bei or his descendants, not Cao Cao or his descendents, not Sun Quan or his descendants. Eventually, sheer exhaustion of all opponents allows a descendant of the Cao Wei general Sima Yi to reunite the country and create a new dynasty... for a while.

The Distant Land goes a long way, perhaps inadvertently, toward undermining Sangokushi's glorification of Liu Bei's nobility and Kongming's strategic genius. In particular, Kongming's "Land Divided in Three Stratagem" fails spectacularly, producing not a peaceful balance of power but a perpetual war for supremacy among the three states, like the three conflicting superpowers in 1984. The results were disastrous: the population of China was cut more than in half between the outbreak of the Yellow Turban revolt in 184 CE and the establishment of the Jin dynasty in 280 CE. The movie tries to claim a retrospective victory for Liu Bei's ideals, but the state of modern China belies that.

Because it has so much time to cover, The Distant Land moves at a breakneck pace from conflict to violent incident to battle and back again. With the exception of Guan Yu's foster daughter Fengji, characters are introduced, act out their part in history, and vanish in minutes. There is little time for character development or domestic concerns, just for plotting, ambition, betrayals, and executions. It all feels rather depressing - or perhaps I'm just tired of working on the Three Kingdoms era after so many hours working on the TV specials and the movies. The Distant Land had a ton of signs to set, and because of image jitter, almost all of them needed to be motion tracked.

The principal voice cast (Liu Bei, Cao Cao, Kongming, Sun Quan, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei) is unchanged from the previous two movies. The new main characters include:
  • Hiromi Tsuru (Fengji) debuted as Perrine in Perrine Monogatari and 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 Iyo in Izumi, Nozomi in Nozomi Witches, Jill in A Penguin's Memories, UFO-chan in Dokushin Apartment Dokudami-sou, and Takagi Youko in Nine, all Orphan releases.
  • Tanaka Hideyuki (Ma Su, Fengji's lover) 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, Aoto in Oedo ga Nemurenai!, and Katze in Ai no Kusabi, all Orphan releases. 
  • Ootsuka Chikao (Sima Yi) also had a lengthy career, starting back in 1963 in Astro Boy. He played Nezumi in the original GeGeGe no Kitarou and Hakaba Kitarou series, Goemon in the first Lupin III TV series, Tora in the original Ushio & Tora OVAs, and Kaibara Yuuzan in the Oishinbo properties, among numerous other roles. He appeared in several Tezuka Osamu specials, all released by Orphan. 
The anime staff remained the same in all three movies.

Despite the massive size of the undertaking, Orphan's work on the Sangokushi movies was done by a small and remarkably dedicated crew. Iri translated all three movies, diligently researching names, translating signs, and labeling the numerous map locations. Yogicat timed, I did edited and typeset, BeeBee and Topper3000 QCed, and M74 encoded from R2J DVD ISOs - a total staff of six. They have my heartfelt thanks for sticking with the project until it was completed. You can get Sangokushi Dai San Bu Harukanaru Taichi from the usual torrent site or from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net,

Is this the end of Orphan's involvement with Sangokushi? Well... while we were working on the movies, some beautiful high-definitions raws surfaced on Japanese streaming sites. We could put out HD versions of the movies, but there's a problem: the raws are 29.97 fps and need to be re-encoded down to 23.976 fps in order not to wreck all the typesetting. (No, I'm not redoing all that.) So if you want HD versions of the Sangokushi movies, tell your favorite and most capable encoder-san to get in touch with us on IRC. Or do my wrists a favor, and don't.


  1. Tanaka Hideyuki also played Amon Goeth in the Japanese dub for Schindler's List.

  2. Do the 3 movies cover the same events as the 2 80s OVAs ? Would you recommend a watch order ?

    1. The movies cover a longer time span - from the start of the Yellow Turban rebellion to the death of Kongming. The OVAs start with Liu Bei's recruitment of Kongming and end with the death of Liu Bei. Some of the details are different - notably the treatment of Liu Bei's wife Lihua - but you can watch them in either order.