I feel good right now.
Not to say I've felt particularly crappy as of late, exactly. But I have felt dismally about my work output. I've been working on a great many things - lost episodes of epic tentacle hentai, controversial propoganda anime, perfecting my experience with monsterous programs like DVD Maestro, and the all important gauntlet of making sure I have at least a half a clue as to what I'm doing when I release DVD's to the marketplace. I'd like to think I'm OK at it... but I'm sure I'd have detractors, if anyone even knew I, y'know. Existed.
Unfortunately, all of this fancy book learnin' (or fancy computer learnin' as seems to be the case) has left me with a severe lack of output. I'll be the first to admit that my very own, Kentai Films, hasn't released a DVD since last August, an atrocity in and of itself for which it seemed the only penance was ritualistic suicide with a can opener. Unfortunately, I couldn't fit the silly thing in to my belly button, so I've trudged on - despite my woes and fears - to produce this:
Look well, dear friends, for this is it. This is really it. This is the next stage in Kentai Films' evolution. Let me break it down for you, and explain how this whole crazy thing came to be.
A friend of mine - one of only a hand-full of people who read this damnable thing I write in - whom I'll call Caterpillar, is in every real sense of the word my partner in crime. He's provided me with more valuable source materials, translation help and encouragement than I could ever hope to repay. And about all he's ever asked in return is that I make a kick-ass DVD that he can watch with English subtitles. Seems like a fair trade to me. Well, it so happened that he brought up a yaoi title he thought might do well alongside the hentai titles I was working on at the time. He was right. AI NO KUSABI, a veridable triumph of soft core animated pornography, was the first Kentai Films yaoi DVD. All hentai titles to be released thereafter were put on hold, just so that we could release BRONZE: ZETSUAI SINCE 1989, and ENZAI: EINE FALSCHE BESCHULDI-GUNG. Selling less feverently - but more regularly - than my limited hentai output, Kentai Films inadvertantly (to some degree - I'd always planned on releasing LEGEND OF THE BLUE WOLVES 'till Kitty Media beat me to it) became a multi-faceted company, which has released hentai anime, yaoi anime, and a certain controversial live action film, which depending on circumstances may or may not return to the line-up. Big, BIG things may be happening soon, and I need to figure out how to do them before I start shooting my mouth off about "building" this, or "selling" that.
Which brings me to KAZE TO KI NO UTA, aka Song of the Wind and Trees. Basically an impossible to find urban legend to most fans of yaoi anime, Kaze (as I'll now shorthand it) was the original yaoi/shounen-ai (that's "boys love" for anyone out of the loop - or romantic stories involving a pair of male leads) manga, and anime respectivelty. The Kaze OVA, running 60 minutes long, was a beautifully animated and interesting way to present only a portion of the massive 17 volume manga from which it took its inspiration from. A whistful, bittersweet tale, it focuses on a boy in the early 18th century named Serge Batouille, the son of a nobleman who married a gypsy, and begins on his first day at his father's boarding school Laconblade Academy. From there, he meets his roommate, the beguiling and infamous Gilbert Cocteau, the school tramp who, after years of sexual abuse by his uncle Auguste Beau, is more than happy to give his body to his horny classmates in return for term papers or roughing up someone he isn't fond of. Serge at first tries to convince Gilbert to act reasonable, but over the course of his uneasy friendship with the spirrited yough, he develops feelings for him... feelings he can't explain or justify.
To say much more about Kaze would be doing it a disservice to anyone who actually wants to see it. It's a beautiful piece, really, with a subtle and muted art style that's more reminiscent of classic Disney works like Bambi, with enlongated and distinctly attractive designs based on the sinewy art style of the creator, Keiko TAKEMIYA. The performances are stunning, the period setting used to a great extent (rather than as a marketing ploy; hey, look, it's set in France! That makes it, uh... classy? Fancy?), and while Enzai, a yaoi anime that followed in the de Sade-esque footprints of this prefocessor, is hands down the more graphic title, the understated charm that's shown in Kaze is really something beautiful. As with almost all yaoi material, it's really more of a sad and elegant 'doomed romance' piece of aesthetic film making, as opposed to the blatant erotic material that men are expected to crank one off to in the form of hentai. But yaoi isn't really made for men. As I've covered here in the past, yaoi is much more an emotionally involving form of entertainment, in which you HAVE to care about the characters to get much out of it. In short, if you're looking for gay wank material, there's plenty available. Like Enzai. Hint-hint. But if you want something more daring, more serious, and frankly a hell of a lot better than crap like Boku no Pico (what the HELL? 3 fansubbers pick that up?), Kaze's something you need to take a look at.
And my disk is, I promise, the only way to see it.
Sure, there was a fansub made years ago by the Super Techno Girls. It was pretty decent, back in the day of VHS sourced fansubs. But in this day and age of DVD rips with optional subtitles appearing the day after the Japanese release hits stores, well... it's a very different place now. And this market demands something a bit higher - especially if awful looking DivX versions of the VHS can be downloaded for free. I expect that. And that's why I decided to top the Super Techno Girls in every way possible. By which I mean no disrespect; hell, their subtitles were wonderful to pattern my own off of. I just want anyone who cares to understand WHY anyone would shell out $20 for a DVD-R of this title.
For one thing; the master. This was a tough one. My original plan was to record the VHS master - the only watchable copy anyone seems to have had access to - on to DVD-R, and be done with it. This wasn't going to work, as not only is the Kaze VHS a dark, murky, downright unwatchable piece of crap - perfectly acceptable for a video released in 1987 as it was - it also had MAJOR time base errors. What this means is that when I tried to turn on the TBC/DNR* filter on my handy-dandy JVC pro-sumer VCR, it made the tape "judder" uncontrolably at different points on the tape. I'd rather have a steady transfer with wobbly geometry and grainy noise than a jittery on-crack copy that has these things better. So, that was a bust and a half. There were also the expected minor tape dropouts, some hiss and crackle on the audio... in short, it looked like a 20 year old videotape. Which couldn't be helped.
*TBC/DNR is short for Time Base Corrector/Digital Noise Reduction. In simple terms, the TBC fixes the geometry and warping that comes from platying VHS to make a more stable overall picture, and the DNR is a piece of hardware that cuts down on the ammount of visible noise involved in the actual VHS recording. It helps seemingly grainy, warped video tapes look closer to the way they would have appeared on cable TV, though the general limitations of VHS keep it from looking as nice as either LD or DVD. It definately helps though.
Now I tried to fix it. Having performed a full on color-corection, it looked pretty damn close to how I thought Kaze was always supposed to look, if perhaps a bit too bright. But you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear. If you want silk, you get a laserdisc. And lo and behold, Caterpillar - the crazy sum'bitch who not only showed me where to get the subtitled copy, but also handed me the VHS master I was ready to use - came through again. Tomorrow, I'm sending that beautiful, massive, shiny disk to it's final home in the Netherlands. But not before capturing a perfect backup of the most perfect transfer Kaze will likely ever see in the digital domain.
So, how stunning does my edition looks? I'll let the following speak for itself (click to enlarge to full size):
I don't think I even need to point this out, but really, look at the "faces" on the VHS version. Or rather, the lack thereof. Also notice that the skin tones on the LD master actually look... something like skin. The humanity! I don't even need to mention that our blonde Gilbert over there has an awful punker green thing going on, or that Serge's hair seems to have gone gray on the VHS version. Really. You're smart people, you've figured it all out. I really do want you to drink it in for a minute or two though; I made the transfer on the latter myself, and I STILL can't f'ing believe it.
Anyway, the label was just finished, and I'm finalizing the cover now. It won't change much from what you've seen; just some last minute refining before I start printing it out for readability and the like. The transfer and menus are finished, and in short, Song of the Wind and Trees is as done as it'll ever be. God knows in time I'll re-do some of the older Kentai releases with improved subtitles and more functional/updated menus... but I'm more interested in releasing NEW shows at the moment, so 'remasters' (without better audio OR video) are towards the bottom of the to-do pile. It's for the best. More yummy yaoi, more hardcore hentai, and more sick live action films - with better versions of older titles to come in the near future. Everybody wins! That's just the way I am.
So, with Kaze about to test the waters on eBay, what's next? I don't mind mentioning a few titles, and I'll bring up the most likely next few titles. Knowing how quickly I work, expect to see copies before 2009.
ANGEL COP - All 6 episodes of the most hilariously anti-semitic cyborgs versus psychics gore show ever made. Not that the competition is very stiff. From the director of GANTZ and VIOLENCE JACK: EVIL TOWN, so if you're a fan of Ghost in the Shell, Battle Angel, or just of brains hitting the ground it's definately not to be missed.
VAMPIRE HUNTER D - The original OVA from 1985 is up first, missing the 20th anniversary by a country mile. But look on the bright side; the extra wait means you get not one, but TWO digitally remastered prints (one fullscreen, one widescreen) with 5.1 surround English, and for the first time in the US, Japanese. Expect some rarely seen and rarely heared extras, and the brightest, most vivid and sharp transfers that Vampire Hunter D has ever had. Expect an ultimate edition of BLOODLUST sometime thereafter, but not for a while. I'll need to test the hell out of dual-layer technology before that'll happen. Man, Urban Vision is goint to HATE me if they ever find me.
UV, I'm available for remastered versions.
TOKUGAWA III - aka Orgies of Edo, for the first time available with English subtitles. This'll (unfortunately) be mastered from a VHS, but it'll be the first time the UNCUT and version of Teruo ISHII's pinky violence period film full of abortions, incest, midget abuse and so much more is released with subtitles of any kind. Expect a totally color corrected transfer, optional English subtitles, and both a German trailer and an alternate opening sequence. There are a few other rare pinku films that may be on the roster, but I'll have to see how much interest there is in the genre as a whole first.
COUNTDOWN 2 - A double feature of guro and adorable futanari (two great kinks that go great together!), Kurenai/Zutto Amai Kuchibiru (Crimson/Very Sweet Lips) was the second of 6 total episodes in Hiroyuki UTATANE's show, combining bittersweet romance, swinging comedy, and in this rare case horrific mutilation combined with sexual pleasure. It's no wonder that ADV/Soft Cel skipped this back in the day, but that's exactly why I'm here, to give you all the goods no one else has the gall to let you see. Subtitled and not only uncut, bot totally uncensored. No pixels here. It's a work of art, it truly is. The original manga and Original Soundtrack will be included as extras, and maybe, MAYBE still galleries. (I'm -so- not tearing up the art book I have, but if I can find another at the right price...) Expect a Countdown Collection in due time, with the OOP episode 1 and 3, and (possibly) Countdown Akira Complex eventually.
ROBOT CARNIVAL - The first in one of many somewhat esoteric and... well, downright weird "arthouse" anime I'm very, very interested in restoring to greatness and public awareness. Featuring shorts from Rintaro, Katsuhiro OTOMO, Umetsu YASUOMI, and several others it's a stunning masterpiece that stretches the gambit from quiet experimental animation to hard-boiled bio-mechanical horror and everything in between. Satire, drama, action, romance, all with the common thread of robots being involved make it the Golden Age of Anime's literal answer to Disney's own Fantasia. It's brilliant, and deserved to be seen by anyone with even a passing interest in what animation is capable of at every level. The Japanese DVD is a wreck, the old Laserdisc wasn't any better... but hey. That's why you got me. If anyone cares (and even if nobody does...) expect more experimental "art" anime. There are some amazing titles that nobody's ever seen, and I just might make it all happen out of simple frustration.
Well, I'm out for now. I've got plenty to do for my "other" work, and with the new titles coming my way I need to plough through some older works so I don't get too distracted. Too much time spent playing Final Fantasy 9 and foraging for food that simply isn't here anymore. Not so much a good combo.