Sunday, September 24, 2006

Deutsch bootlegging on official disks vs. English bootlegging on DVD-R

I had a good morning. Despite having cut up the spot between my toes pretty bad on the corner of the bed. God, I hate that fucker.

It was good, because despite being a Sunday, I had mail. This mail, specifically, was an EMS package from Japan, who's contents were the exceptionally sexy UROTSUKIDOJI SPECIAL COLLECTION. Exactly what was in the Uro SC LD BOX, I was never 100% sure... I just knew I needed it. Badly. I had an idea though, thanks to the wonderful illegitimate bastards at OVA Films/OVA 18.

See, several years ago OVA Films, one of the first (and only) German anime licensors sub-licensed the rights to Urotsukidoji in Germany. Manga Entertainment controls the European distribution of both Legend of the Overfiend (OVA 1-3/Movie 1) and Legend of the Demon Womb (OVA 4-5/Movie 2) - among virtually every other action/sci-fi/horror anime you can think of, while the rights for Return of the Overfiend (OVA 6-9, Movie 3) and Inferno Road (OVA 10-12, Movie 4 - never released outside of Japan) are, more often than not, bought out directly through the Japanese distributor, Tohokushinsha Film Corporation. While Overfiend and Demon Womb were already available on German video, dubbed in Deutsch (with Amano seeking out the Uberdemon!) and heavily cut, OVA 18 wanted the subtitled/uncut rights to go with their growing catalog of hentai titles, which would later include Countdown, Inma Youjo, and Adventure Kid among others. They got them. With the German dubbed version strictly a rental move on Manga's part, OVA 18 was granted the right to release Urotsukidoji 1 (OVA) and Urotsukidoji 2 (Movie) uncut for the sell-through market.

Naturally, the story didn't end there. It'd be kind of a lame story if that was it. The real fun begins when OVA 18 wanted to release Urotsukidoji 3 and 4. Being cheap mother fuckers, they decided to buy up the PAL masters that were given to Kiseki, the UK licensor who picked up Return of the Overfiend and "Infernal Road" in the mid 90's. (Kiseki's English dub of Return of the Overfiend would later appear on the US release through Anime 18, and they wouldn't bother dubbing Inferno Road because the first 2 episodes were banned by the BBFC which were submitted subtitled perhaps to play up their "art" factor. If so, it didn't work.) Having uncut, unedited, more or less pristine masters, OVA 18 decided to do what film distribution companies do best: fuck the consumer over so they can make some more cash! They accomplished this by first cutting the Return of the Overfiend series (originally 4 episodes) in to a pair of movies, so that the first set of credits and the opening to the second episode was cut, effectively turning 2 separate episodes in to a single 2 hour "movie". Both credits sequences were played back to back, but the opening scene on episode 2 was simply thrown away like the tasty wings of a chicken, or the shockingly yummy morsel that is a chocolate covered cricket. They repeated this process with episode 3 and 4, thus having a pair of "movies" instead of either 4 short videos or a double-length tape. It's kind of illogical and... well, stupid. But at least it couldn't get any worse.

Wait, what was I thinking? Of course it did! Inferno Road was also turned in to a pair of "movies"... but it only ran 3 episodes. To accomplish this, the first episode had its credits removed, and then the second episodes' opening was cut entirely (since it basically repeats the ending scene of episode 1). We get half of episode 2, and then both sets of credits. OK, cool... I guess. It plays 2 sets of credits to boot. We also got a short text intro and new German title cards... but that's just bitching on my part, I'm sure. Then "movie 2" begins with the cut opening scene from Inferno Road 2... and then jumps ahead to half way through the second episode. The episode finishes out, and then jumps to the post-opening sequence of episode 3, once again treating the opening like cold moldy leftovers. It rides all the way through, and then 2 sets of credits play. The best part of all this, however, is that (like all DVD releases of episode 4-3) while the VHS edition had just the last episode in matted widescreen... the DVD release had all 3 episodes matted. Retards.

I still own 3 out of 4 of those DVD's though, and I'd own all 4 of them if I could find the painfully expensive/out of print little fuck. And why is that? Simple, dear readers: the OVA 18 DVD editions of Urotsukidoji include a wealth of bonus materials that, otherwise, had not been seen before or since. Trailers for the first 9 Urotsukidoji OVA's (and 2 movies!), unfinished workprint animation showing off the technical splendor of the Chojin's many penises, the Special Erotic Collection - a "greatest hits" of sex scenes from Urotsukidoji OVA 1-3, and a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) collection of rare and henceforth unseen still galleries ranging from character designs to poster concept art, and so much more. The OVA 18 DVD's have a wealth of rare extras... but where did all of that crap come from? Surely this German studio didn't create them from scratch, and if Manga Entertainment owned them the whole time, why didn't any other European release include them? The answer to both of these questions is suprisingly simple.

1) The source is the Urotsukidoji Special Collection LD BOX set, a 3 LD set released in 1994 to help build hype for the doomed Inferno Road saga.

2) No other release included them because they didn't have the rights to them.

The history between West Cape Corporation, WM Films (West Cape/Mu Productions), and Jupiter Films is a bit foggy. Near as I can tell West Cape animated Urotsukidoji OVA's 1-5 (the original Legend of the Overfiend and the Legend of the Demon Womb episodes), at which point W.C.C merged with Mu, thus becoming WM films. The masters shipped to Anime 18 would confirm this to some degree. However, the Special Collection LD, which was advertized at the end of the last episode of Mirai-Hen (the only part of the saga to be distributed by WM, alongside ADVENTURE KID) was released via Jupiter Films. Jupiter Films was credited as the copywrite holders for the first two episodes of the 1994 Inferno Road series... but the third episode - which also had an entirely new (read; retarded) staff - was credited as being copywrite of W.C.C.! My general theory is that Uro 4-1 and 4-2 did poorly, so they essentially created the final episode to kill the show off once and for all, trying to distance themselves from the evident failure of the fairly interesting and well animated episodes about a cult of telikenetic children who use adults to produce more children. Whatever.

Anyhow, the whole shebag was either sold to - or became - Voyager Entertainment in 1994. Voyager Entertainment released a pair of "new" movies , one being a compilation volume of the Inferno Road saga, the other being the afforementioned "Kyo-O Hen" video, which broke all 12 OVA's (plus the new ending created for Inferno Road) in to a 2 hour feature. Their final downfall was continuing to milk the dried up udder that was Maeda's cash cow, by creating the "lost" 13th OVA. It should have stayed lost; it appeared as an easter egg on the final German DVD (illegally most likely) and hasn't been spoken of from the Japanese end of it since. Tohokushinsha doesn't even own it. In short, nobody in it's production wants it to be known. Not without reason; the animation is stilted, the plot revalations retarded, and it's about the Chojin being a giant Freudian spaceship who gives birth to genderless Sailormoon meets Power Rangers "perfect beings". Uh. Yeah. That's real fucking perfect.

So, with that out of the way, here's the relevancey: Jupiter Films - be they a brand new company that failed or a sort of ghost-studio that was just W.C.C./WM Films in sheep's clothing - compiled the extras and produced the LD box set shortly before Voyager became the all-things-Uro, but (assuming they sold off their films) they never sold the extras to Voyager, probably assuming that people who wanted them already had the LD set, and therefore wouldn't care. (A nasty assumption Japan makes about a lot of things.) Voyager, in time, would sell their ownership of Inferno Road to Tohokushinsha, who would sell it abroad to the US, the UK, and France - OVA Films never actually bought it outright, just sublicensed it from Kiseki. (Inferno Road was never as big a success as it's predocessors.)

So, Voyager owns Inferno Road and it's dead lovechild, along with (maybe) the special features. Tohokushinsha doesn't. OVA 18 claims they were allowed to stick the lost episode on the last DVD "if it was not translated, and was an easter egg". Sounds to me like Tohokushinsha told them "hey, WE don't care... but watch your back."I also spoke with a very nice representitive of Tohokushinsha, and they told me that they didn't know of any extras on any German DVD. So, yeah; basically, OVA 18 stole the extras from Jupiter Films illegally... which is shockingly common over in Germany.

I'll probably piss a few people off on principle, they'd be all like "you can't say that about an entire country! z0mg racist xenophobe!" or whatever. But in much the same way that Hong Kong produces just as many bootlegs as it does legit videos (just ask the RCE DVD region code douchebags - they call it a "bootleg territory" alongside Russia and Taiwan!), Germany is a country where licensing is a very problematic means to an end. You want to release some obscure Italian horror movie on German DVD that was in theatres there 20-odd years ago? Awesome. Just expect there to be a bootleg quietly released by the people you outbid when you get the rights, cutting deep in to your bottom line. Your print will look better, sure, but Germany is a country very much interested in bare-bones DVD's on the cheap regardless of their general quality. Hell, Warner Home Video releases movies pan-scan and dubbed in German with no chapter stops, just to keep the prices down for creating menus or a new master! Anchor Bay also threatened to sue XT Video when their release of DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) included extras created by - and therefore owned - by AB. Dunno' if anything came of it, but it supports my theory that the extras were all unclicenced douchebaggery none the less.

It's an easy mistake to make in Germany. A very small handfull of people own all of the DVD studios out there - Andreas Bethmaan probably has half a dozen by now - and the people that run these studios collect and trade the licenses to films like baseball cards. Missed the Astro DVD of Porno Holocaust, or Killing Birds? No problem. The X-Rated Kult DVD's are literally identical, except they also have new (and probably not legit) special features. The only licensed US release I can think of off the top of my head was the bonus CD in the limited PINKY VIOLENCE COLLECTION. There's a CD of REIKO IKE SINGS, an amusingly creepy and not-sexy lounge performance by one of Japan's oft-naked stalets of the 70's. Panik House claims that the CD was remastered from the only surviving audio tape copy - and it sure sounds rough for it. Forget that you can buy it used on LP in Japan, or even new on CD in Japan to this day. But considering that Panik House is run by former members of the infamous VIDEO SEARCH MIAMI bootleg outfit, I guess this is less suprising and more a matter of one guy going "...whoops" than an entire country not giving a goddamn about licensing contracts.

That having been said, I've spoken - to some length - with my boss as to how extras work. The fact of the matter is they usually AREN'T included with the license, and if you want them to be found you either have to ask real nice/threaten bodily harm, or pay for them. That's why the Hong Kong version of CASSHERN has no extras, but virtually every other edition (UK, Thai, Taiwanese, Korean, etc.) does; Universe Laser of Hong Kong didn't think it was worth the extra scratch for a second disc worth of features, and as such can lower the price of the DVD to compete with the Casshern 2 DVD bootleg sitting next to it on the shelf. There's a world of competiton out there that people just don't know. Still, if you rip off someone elses extra (or even cover art!), you can get sued. So you CAN release anything... just don't be suprised if you get bitch-slapped by the copywrite owners for it. Christ, it happened on one of the Superman DVD's from Universal.


Here's a comparison of the NTSC LD (as captured to a Sanyo DVD Recorder in XP mode) to the German PAL DVD - click them to zoom in:

Nice bright colors, crisp details (or as crisp as the trailer for a meduim-budget OVA from 1990 can get), and while you can't see it here, NO GHOSTING. In short, this is how vintage anime should look. Man I miss LD sometimes. Not to say a DVD can't kick it's ass hardcore for an expensive theatrical film, but let's face it, plenty of Japanese DVD's of older anime given "budget" releases (like Urotsukidoji - yes, $42 retail is budget for hentai in Japan...) the difference becomes miminal. Plus... LD's had awesome booklets and jackets. Can't beat that with a stick.

Now this fuzzy, washed out, undersaturated nightmare is what happens when good video signals get converted from NTSC-PAL (or vice-versa). The resolution is literally cut in half, and while this isn't the sharpest example, it's still a good un' to show why conversion standards are just fucking evil. You can convert stuff shot strictly on film without these ugly artifacts - by speeding up film by 4% for PAL or slowing that down for NTSC - but since Urotsukidoji (and most TV/OVA anime...) was edited on video - all the pans, all the zooms, all the credits and what have you - there is no "film print" to speak of, and you can't break video editing back in to 24 frames per second and speed it up. Not without doing an expensive new telecine, at least. The credits and various edits/special effects/etc. ARE 30 frames per second. So yeah, you're just plain fucked if you want to watch them in a PAL country.

Back to the reason I bought the friggin set: no German subtitles, sharper lines, a less washed out transfer, no ghosting... frankly the original LD beats the living crapola out of the German DVD's I would have used otherwise for the extras. See? I love you THAAAAAAAT much. Promise.

And here's the best part: The LD BOX also contains the extended International Complete Cut of Uro 2, rather than the original un-extended OVA cut I was expecting. Frickin' awesome. And to think I recorded the VHS a few days ago, figuring that I'd never get my hands on an LD copy... go figure, eh? It's still fogged up to cover the naughty bits, but frankly after the first 3 episodes Urotsukidoji didn't have much (if any!) graphic genital/penetration shots, or at least not that you couldn't see right through the fog on. The censorship was minimal, and doesn't affect the fappage much; if getting off on well drawn women being gang-raped by a single giant bug is your thing, this'll work with or without being able to see if she's got pubes or not. And if you're just in it for the uncensored dick... you're gay. I don't care, I subtitle gay ass-rape anime for a living, but it's something you just have to accept. Jerking off to boys in skirts getting a strap-on up the butt, too. But not hermaphrodites. Futanari are straight man porn.

Well. Maybe bi-curious.

So, do I usee the LD master and splice in the uncensored footage? Do I keep the uncensored scenes as a damn extra? It's nothing short of disgusting that I even need to consider these options, but hell, that's why I'm here on this planet. Remastering and compiling porn for the enjoyment of the world.

Oh yeah! Remember that guy in DEMON WOMB who gets decapitated while his dork gets bitten off when Takeaki owns him through the side of his car? That character design was based on Uro's original created, MAEDA Toshio. Apparently he usually draws himself as a fat man in a schoolgirl outfit with a samurai topknot. Yeah, I'm serious.

I love Japan!

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