Saturday, September 29, 2007

Odexipus Rex

FOREWARD: Odex owns Haruhi in Singapore, but it's been sublicensed to a new label of theirs or something. As such it isn't on the Odex site, and I don't for sure know what "company" to call them. This is a shame, since I'm very much interested in some of their titles.

Dictionary.com gives the following as a possible definition for the word "Irony":

e. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.

Irony can be delicious. Case in point, allow me to present to you Odex Private Limited. For those who have never heard the name before, they appear to be the anime licensor in Singapore. They release everything from Fullmetal Alchemist to The Melancholy Life of Suzumiya Haruhi, Monster to Mai-HiME, Samurai Champloo to Ai Yori Aoshi and about a hundred other shows that are harder to find, if you take the time to wiki their asses. (What am I, your database slut?) They became relevant to my exploits back when I started buying Fullmetal Alchemist, a title that - despite my empty wallet only having bought a few odd volumes of - is quite possibly one of the most fascinating TV shows Japan produced in 2005. And I'm not just saying that because the movie has the Thule Society using a dragon to complete a working Uroboros to travel to the fabled Aryan birth world. But yeah, that's part of it.

As everyone here likely knows the US release was handled by FUNimation. A decade ago that was akin to saying "this title was licensed by 4Kids". If you don't watch anime, this is kinda' like saying "this property I love is about to be adapted by Uwe Boll" or "this movie is going to star John Travolta in drag". It just wasn't something you wanted a part of. After years of grinding Dragonball Z out into an easily digestible kiddie flavored pulp for the good of syndication, the company switched gears completely and started focusing on not only releasing more adult natured titles, from the smart and violent world of Blue Gender and retarded psuedo porno via Speed Grapher to down and out harbingers of frantic pedo masturbation in Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase and even the East Meets West combo plate that managed to magically not suck balls that is Afro Samurai. FUNimation consistently offers Japanese credits as alternate angles, faithful and - at times bizarrely so - accurate subtitle translations, beefy sounding 5.1 English surround for those of you into that sorta' thing, and where applicable image packed 16 page booklets and reversible covers and sturdy artboxes that remind you why you spent an extra $10 on a cardboard box, you re-re you. Logically, FUNimation should be the best licensor ever.

Unfortunately, every one of their DVDs - Afro Samurai aside, for some strange reason - has an average bitrate that's lower than most cable broadcasts, uses a profile that blows out color saturation and increases edge enhancement to nasty levels, and as such, pretty much every title looks like a pixelating XviD download ripped from someone elses' DVD. Some titles escape looking like macroblock hell, but... not usually. Nope. Afro Samurai has a bitrate of 6000+kbps, but whoever it is that encodes their titles just doesn't know how to change that average setting. I swear to god my wife loved Moon Phase and would have gladly bought it if it didn't pixelate and look like shit on her at random. FUNimation can't be blamed for Tsubasa Chronicle TV turning her off though... that's the show's fault. Goddamn, how did they manage to fuck that up?

*Ahem* So, denizens, and over at the AoD forums (that's AnimeOnDVD.com, if you're wondering) discovered that Odex was releasing Fullmetal Alchemist, and that their encode quality was far superior to FUNimations. Groovy! It had English subtitles and Japanese 2.0 dialog, along with a Mandarin dub and Chinese subtitles none of us English speaking Western types cared about. You also got 12-13 episodes in a bootleg-like gatefold package* for under $40. They were also selling Monster, which so far hasn't been available (legally, I mean) in English from anywhere else. Could life get any better?

*Tsubasa Chronicle got keepcases and an artbox instead of the usual cheap-ass digipack gatefold thing. Why? Beats the crap out of me.


Yap. "Yap" is literally a subtitle that appears on their English translations, and there is awkward Singlish grammar and the like to boot. Still, with these 13 episode sets selling for roughly $30 USD, and the country's official languages being Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, and English it's to be expected that sometimes their subtitles are a little... "off", compared to what a Yank or a Aussie or whatever would probably expect. Eventually, Odex got tired of it's subtitle translations being awkward, and they started just ripping off the scripts from English fansub versions floating around the internet.

Back in 2003, Odex created the Anti Video Piracy Association of Singapore (AVPAS). No, this isn't irrelevant trivia... you'll see where this is going. Oh yes.

Circa 2006, Odex found their profits were literally half of that circa 2005, and - naturally - they blamed it on rampant piracy of "their" titles, mostly from digital fansubs downloaded via bittorrent and similar services. It can't ever be that you're just releasing shit and your customers have other things to spend money on, right? Ugh... moving on. This year, being the AVPAS in a licensor's clothing, Odex decided to send cease and desist letters to everyone with a Singapore IP address caught downloading a title they were distributor for. 300 people were brought to court, and despite Odex claiming that "no damages have been paid" so far 1/3 of them have settled (with the average settlement being about $5,000 Singapore dollars - like $3,800 US?) while the other 200 are currently hashing the case out with their lawyers. One of those individuals was a 9 year old.

I'm not shitting you. A fucking nine year old child kid.

But y'know what the best part of all this is? Odex, after literally suing people for downloading fansubs of titles including Haruhi, released the title on DVD in the past couple days. Odex , supposedly, is outsourcing translators for their projects, and the finished Haruhi DVD has lines that appear to be copied word-for-word from an earlier US fansub release. You can check out the accusation-with-pictures here! CLICK ME DAMN YOU!! at Odex' own forums.

I've given much thought about how immensely giddy the hilarious karmic bitch-slap of this situation is, and as such, I offer you the following animated gif:









Awww.

Have I mentioned that the guy who runs Odex ratted out a business partner of his in the late 1990's for selling bootleg merchandise, and that he posted on Singapore anime forums stating "he was too busy suing people"? Not as awesome as a tale by buddy Caterpillar told me of some epic alcohol infused astroturfing at the DTM forums shortly after their god-awful release of Eat the Schoolgirl came out, but it sounds like this Peter Go is s crazy asshole the likes of which the mostly lovable complete avoidance of reality that Media Blaster's own CEO, John Sirabella, throws out all over the place just can't beat with a stick. I may have misread parts of that article, but I think he beats baby seals to death with his penis and has sex with cows. But, seriously. Wiki that shit. It's beyond epic.

Anyway, there's a lot of possibilities here. For one thing, two translations of the same dialog SHOULD be similar... but often the wording is a little different in complex prose, which is the real problem with Haruhi. Secondly, this isn't the first time. Some of their releases from a couple years back, like Monster, were similarly fansub rips. Fans (who were already getting a heaping shovel full of guilt from Odex on a regular basis) called them on it, and no other title since had has the problem.

Fascinatingly, while a fansubber does NOT have any legal right to distribute or show off any project they do in public, they DO own the rights to their own hard work (and guts). Legally speaking, for Odex and whatever translators they enlisted to create their subtitles to have used the fansub script, the group that created it (a.f.k., I think it was?) would have to give them permission. It's not unheard of for fansub scripts to be bought by English licensors, to be cleaned up a little bit, since fans hardcore enough to subtitle this kind of stuff for free often have a more intimate knowledge of the material than someone who's never seen it before anyway. Of course, this comes at the cost of not having recording scripts and, often, being at a professional level in terms of perfectly understanding either English or Japanese perfectly.

Anyway, Odex bootlegged a bootlegger (accidentally, maybe?) after spending the last year suing everybody who did bootleged "their" title to begin with. Isn't life just grand? Whatever happens here I need to figure out what sub-label they're releasing Moon Phase on.

Also, the internet has a big enough pinecone up it's ass about Geneon Entertainment upping and leaving the R1 market as a licensing studio without me dedicating 8 pages of angry highschool level ranting or angst ridden emo bitchery. I firmly believe that Dentsu just wants to correct their generally top quality American financial black hole (30+ people working on 15 volumes of Fighting Spirit that never had a hope of breaking even just isn't good business) and turn Geneon into something akin to Kadokawa and Synch Point, where they do all the dirty work and then let another studio release it for them since it's just easier and cheaper that way: think Fullmetal Panic: The Second Raid or Haruhi to Kadokawa - every step of the way is monitored by Kadokawa, even if it has a FUNimation or Bandai Entertainment logo on the box.

All I will say is that I'm going to pick up Higurashi no Naku Koro ni/When They Cry volumes 2 and 3, and cry myself to sleep every night until the second half of the first season gets a US release. The fansubs are all the censored TV edit, and a friend of mine may get me rips of the R2's, and yet...

...every day I can't have this translated and tucked away on my shelf of DVDs is a day that I cry myself to sleep. Not because life sucks, but because dead loli's are a commodity more rare than gold.

'Nite, folks.

Edit: Currently the Odex forums are down while the page "gets a new look". A look free of fansub thievery talk? We'll see.

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