"It ain't easy bein' sleazy."
- Jackal, Tony Randal's 'Fist of the North Star'
I really do hate to quote such a horrible live action B-movie wankfest (especially as I adore the original Hokuto no Ken manga), but that piece of crap film did have a few good one liners, and this is perhaps the truest of all.
For the record (I don't think I'm fooling anybody with this blog name...), I run Kentai Films. I release "mainstream" anime, yaoi, hentai, horror and exploitation films, and I'm looking in to the very real possibility of doing pinku cinema and any other under-tapped market I can be of servide to. That having been said, I'll never say who I work for in the "legit" field, since I don't want anybody to get in trouble and all that crap, but I do need to say a few words about bootlegging. It sucks. And let me tell you why.
Unlike a great many douchebags in the world, I go for quality. Seriously, some DVD's have been delayed over a YEAR just to make sure when they come out right, they come out right. Kentai Films Special Editions regularly top out the "pros" on eBay, and I'm rarely satisfied with any aspect; the video isn't right, the audio sucks, the subtitles are a wreck, the menus are cheesy, the extras aren't comprehensive... whatever. I'd like to think of myself as ahead of the curve. This also means I have like a half-dozen DVD's to sell, and if I were less of a goddamn perfectionist I'd have 5 times that. So let me take you inside a dillema I had with what's set to be the one of the next 3 Kentai Films' DVD-R releases: ANGEL COP.
The history behind ANGEL COP is an interesting one; KITAZAKI Taku created it as a fairly short manga, finishing out with only a single tankou volume in 1990. The concepts in the manga were fleshed out in to a 6 episode OVA in 1994, directed by ITANO Ichiro (who wowed America with the top selling GANTZ TV show in 1995), and with a script adapted by NOBORU Aikawa (who's been made infamous by UROTSUKIDOJI and just plain famous by FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST). The OVA's, running 30 minutes a piece, focus around several warring factions, starting with the Special Security Force (S.S.F.), a Japanese squad of elite cops who are allowed to do anything they have to in order to keep the country safe from the Red May Terrorist Organization. With storyboards by TAKAYAMA Hideki (Urotsukidoji, Mystery of the Necronomicon) and animation direction by UMETSU Yasuomi (A-Kite, Mezzo) just to name a few, there's plenty of names for fans of unpredictable and awesome anime to get pumped over. But there's so much more to Angel Cop than being awesome gore eye candy... and that's what made it so quietly controversial.
While the gore in episode 1 - a scene of a woman having the left side of her head literally splattered in to putty with bullets - was cut by the BBFC in 1995, feeling that the "gratuitous mutilation" was wholly tasteless and would damage the public if seen by fans of anime. Whatever. The real issue is the show's inherint Anti-American and Anti-Semitic politics. See, the story goes that the Red May was hired by American investors to crash Japan's economy, so that America could level Japan and turn it in to a massive nuclear base to slowly conquer the rest of Asia, to train it's soldiers and test WOMD's just like they did in Korea and Vietnam. If that wasn't bad enough, there's also a group of telekinetic vigilanties, the Hunters, one of whom (Lucifer) is there to destroy the SSD -and- the Red May so that Japan's economy recovers enough that she, and the rest of her Jewish people, can take Japan and make some sort of Japanese-free Jewtopia. I swear to god, I'm not making this up. Aikawa did. That's right, not only is Angel Cop exceptionally violent and full of unnessicary but awesome gore and explosions, but it even has a massive Japanese right-wing agenda so big that it puts Michael Moore to shame. So what, if nothing else, has Angel Cop taught us? Say it with me now:
ANIMATE YOUR PROPOGANDA WITH BREASTS AND GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE.
Seems pretty simple to me. Angel Cop is just fucking awesome... so the R1 DVD should be appropriately badass too, right?
First off, this was licensed in 1995 by Manga Entertainment. Or as I like to call them, "Mangle", "Mangay", or "those douchebags, you know who" depending on my mood and what they've just done to a fine movie or OVA. Originally a UK based distributor, they migrated to the States in the mid 1990's, carting with them a bunch of titles they only had poor quality PAL masters for and, in some cases, no rights to the Japanese dialogue version. Angel Cop was yet another title picked up on the UK end, so the already unimpressive letterboxed master has to suffer from the color shifts, softening, edge enhancement and everything else associated with NTSC-PAL/PAL-NTSC conversions. (Since Angel Cop was edited on video in Japan, an NTSC nation, the US DVD is literally both. Ewww.) The English dub was produced in the UK with the mindset of broadening the interest from hardcore otaku to a more profitable market, with all of it's retarded jokes and non-stop swearing, is preserved in all of it's... well... glory. I dunno' what THE worst Manga Entertainment dub was, but this is certainly a contendor and a half. But best of all - and this I'm actually somewhat happy to see - the US DVD included the Japanese audio track and seemingly accurately translated English subtitled. I say "Seemingly", because the scenes with the "Evil America"/"Damn Jews" dialogue was substituted for a direct transcribing of the English dub. In short, three scenes were dubtitled, but the rest of the show was presented accurately. Thank you, God. I know you were behind this small miracle, since Manga Entertainment finds new and amazing ways to fuck up everything they do.
It's like King Midas, except everything they touch turns in to pixelated shit on a shiny little disc.
Now, the DVD went out of print a few years ago, and if you can find that fugly, bare-bones release it'll still go for around $20-30, which is kind of cool. Most anime DVD's, particularly the atrocities Manga Entertainment created, aren't worth more than about $5 after they're open. But Angel Cop deserves better. And that's where I, and a hand full of import DVD's come in.
I've re-translated the American Conquest and Jewish Conspiracy dialogue myself. If you don't like my translation, feel free to create your own. Manga did that, and I wasn't too fond of it. I also fixed up the subtitles in general; using some more natural/accurate translations here and there, and "doubling up" some subtitles*, a thing that old school fansubbers would castrate me for, but casual watchers are grateful to see. I've also compiled several still galleries, alternate credits and English overlay sequences to compare the old Manga DVD to the new release, and perhaps best of all, the original Angel Cop manga as a DVD-ROM extra. This 3 DVD set literally makes the Manga DVD obsolete in every way, since I've also created English dub tracks that match up to the R2 video tracks perfectly... and herein lies my issue.
*For instance, if over the course of 2 seconds, the lines are "Shiteru hazu da?" "Betsuni...", an old fasioned fansubber would list the subtitles out as:
1 second: "Didn't you know that?"/1 second: "Not really..."
Where as I list them out in a single 2 second subtitle, looking like this:
"- Didn't you know that?
- Not really..."
Either you dig it or you don't. Some of my DVD's are like this, some aren't. Depends on a lot of factors.
The English dub was put on DVD at 192kbps. This is pretty much standard for a stereo track on an American anime DVD. The first 4 episodes in Japan had the same bitrate, while the last 2 had a sudden jump in bitrate to 448kbps, or quite literally "full Dolby Digital bitrate". Not a clue why, but cool none the less. The Japanese DVD's were also letterboxed; 1.66:1 widescreen, but not anamorphic for those badass plasma screens that you always get a hard-on for at big electronics stores. You can make 1.66:1 anamorphic (by putting black bars on the sides, since the movie isn't quite wide enough to fill up that 1.78:1 TV), but the Japanese DVD's were also compsite mastered, meaning there's rainbows, dot-crawl, and all that other not so cool stuff that D2 tapes did to your source video. The Japanese DVD's finished in January of 2001, and as far as I'm concerned represent the most badass version of Angel Cop, AV wise.
Then, in June of this year, Japan released a remastered box set. Seriously, how did I not know this 'till yesterday?
I call it "Remastered" for one simple reason; the new box, which included all the episodes on only 2 DVD's (surely dual-layered) has uncompressed Linear PCM audio. While Dolby Digital is capable of 448kbps, PCM stereo is 1,536 - and while Dolby at those bitrates is usually spreading it across 6 speakers, PCM allocates a full 768kbps per speaker, and is literally uncompressed. If you're in to high fidelity audio, it literally doesn't get any better.
But, PCM comes at a cost. A DVD has limits on the bandwith it can play during any given second, which at maximum is 10.8mbps. Usually that's up to 9.8 on the video track, the other 1 on audio tracks, subtitles, and whatever else you have. So say you have 2mbps worth of audio tracks; the video can't raise up over 8.8mbps to compensate. Just to be safe - I assume - it was decided that PCM DVD's can only have a maximum video bitrate of 8mbps.
So, the "remastered" version of Angel Cop has better audio... at the sacrifice of theoretical video bitrate. Wither or not the video IS better with lower bitrates, I don't know. The "old" R2 DVD's were non-anamorphic composite masters. This new mystery box may be a brand new progressively encoded component master for all I know. But I know that the peaks are lower, and that usually doesn't improve on things, at least if the same material is being encoded.
Was the R2 box given a new component master? I have no clue. I know it didn't get an anamorphic master (which would imply a brand new telecine... not fucking likely), so the chances of it being strictly a re-encode is entirely possible. Even a re-encode at lower bitrates CAN look better, if the hardware or MPEG encoder or whatever is an improvement over the older encode, but that doesn't mean the difference is worth an extra $125 on my end just to find out.
Plus, and this is crucial (at least to my ego): if the disks have PCM audio, there's no guarantee that I could fit the English dub tracks that I worked so hard to cut to pieces and re-synch to the Japanese video tracks. Plus I might have to re-time the subtitles... and frankly, I've worked on those things enough. Angel Cop just needs a few menus and bang, ready to go.
I've always claimed, and believed, that Kentai Films uses the best masters available for every project it does. If I can get an LD master, I won't settle for a VHS. If I can splice 2 copies together to get a proper version (uncut, letterboxed, whatever) I will. But I'll be god-friggin'-damned if I'm going to buy $125 worth of PCM tracks for a show that may or may not make me a cent. 'Specially when the Japanese Dolby tracks I have now sound juuust fine. PCM would rox0rz and all that, but PCM is a sacrifice you make for having multiple languages. In short, it's a sacrifice that will be made for the Kentai Films release. I'm sure the 7 or 8 guys that hang out at Gurochan who will actually buy this set will forgive me.
I could always look on the bright side; eBay's gotten wise to my smut peddling ways, and won't allow me to sell ENZAI or GIRL OF DEBAUCHERY anymore. So, one of my oldest titles and one of my best sellers are no longer an option. SALO' has been gone for a good long time, which is a damn shame; almost makes me want to seek legit work. Which I'd do, if it payed half as well as bootlegging did. Now, you'd think me losing a source of income would actually be a bad thing. It is. But this means that I'll have PLENTY more DVD's ready to go in the near future. (Or else.)
For those interested, I've started work on a new project today: UROTSUKIDOJI II - LEGEND OF THE DEMON WOMB. By "started on" I mean "I'm using my MPEG encoder and scouring around for my notes", but admit it, it's something. It's going to be a totally decked out 2 DVD Ultimate Edition, the way I like to roll. The master is going to be the Japanese VHS, since having compared it to the German PAL DVD, they look pretty much friggin' identical, and that makes me a very sad panda. Any "additional" detail that the German master had was killed by the NTSC-PAL conversion, and this way I can include the Special Erotic Collection without having burned-in friggin' German subtitles. I also have a secret Uro-themed weapon heading my way via Air mail as I type (theoretically), and if everything I -think- is in that totally tits box is really there, the Kentai Films Ultimate Editions of Urotsukidoji will be some of the most spectacular bootlegs you've ever laid eyes on. Unfortunately, we'll just have to wait and see if the massive box of Maeda goodness I'm getting is exactly what I think it is.
Also, UROTSUKIDOJI V - END OF THE WORLD (aka The Lost Episode, aka the aborted featus of a retarded series that never should have been and should have been buried in the anals of forgotten hentai history) is going to have a straight up NTSC sourced Kentai films transfer in the forseeable future with maxed out video bitrate and a 256kbs Dolby audio track. it's gonna' be hot shit, I promise. So that DVD I probably already sent you? Get ready to kick it to the curb on the transfer, but keep it for the extras which will be on future editions anyway, since I HATE needing to own a film more than once (unless it's theatrical cut vs. director's cut or something retarded... I let that slide). I know, I'm on crack these days. Have I mentioned it's nearly 7 am and I haven't gone to sleep yet?