Monday, September 29, 2008

Jagged Knife

Remastered Frame

Funny. The subtitled version for the entire VIOLENCE JACK trilogy is already over and done with, so for reasons beyond my comprehension that evil little voice in the back of my head starts shouting "Remaster it, you bastard! You know you can make it better!"

Original DVD Frame

The short of it is EVIL TOWN is a mess, yet another OVA that was shot and primarily edited on film, but has just enough video editing that breaking every interlaced frame back into its' progressive film equivalent via 3:2 inverse pulldown (IVTC) is physically impossible. At best, you wind up with jagged semi-interlaced frames like the one above. At worst, you have to deinterlace every frame with any interlacing artifacts that show through, which just makes everything even worse. What's especially noteworthy is that ANGEL COP has the same nervous tic, with many seemingly standard scene edits being slightly extended or cut short via video editing on the master tape. I can thus only assume that this is something ITANO Ichirou in particular has a fetish with, needing total, almost Godlike Power over the lengths of his cuts that didn't quite match what he'd hoped for. I applaud his dedication to detail, butit doesn't make what I do the least bit easier.

On the upside, the overwhelming majority of frames (even during the pixelated rape scenes) IVTC just fine. The upscale - as you can see - is going well enough, and I even managed to fix those poor black levels while I was at it. I'll have to include the credits as a second encode and splice it into the "progressive" main feature later, but that's what I've done with all of the Pinky Violence/Roman Porno restorations and so far no-one has either cared, or seemingly even noticed. While there is a bit of video noise, mostly mosquito noise from the original MPEG encode, it isn't so horrific that I'm tempting fate by adding noise reduction.

I tore Anchor Bay a new one for similarly poor-IVTC/upscale crap on TENEBRAE. That may sesm harsh, as that's literally what I'm doing now, but understand that Anchor Bay is a legitimate US distributor and has access to 35mm prints. They have both the resources and the technology to make a beautiful new unedited 1080p24 transfer for both DVD and Blu-ray. Instead, they choose to take the cheap route and do what any clever guy with a little AVISynth knowledge could have done with their original releases, but they even managed to fuck up Phenomena more than their first DVD release with heavy temporal noise reduction that caused ghosting. Way to go, guys...

Anyway, will this restoration be on the "Sale" version of Evil Town? Damned if I know for sure. I just know that it's fun figuring out how this series was put together on a technical level, and the more fucking around with video I do the more I learn about what (not?) to do with it in the future.

Well, I've had my fun. Back to ripping out hardsubs from a poorly fansubbed ero OVA for imminent patching.


I will never, ever listen to a hide song again without this image popping into the back of my head. I'm honestly not sure if I'm horrified or eternally grateful.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hell's Wind Freezes Over

It's now subtitled for your viewing entertainment.

That accounts for the entirety of the Violence Jack trilogy. Thanks for your support!

As for what to expect next... well, you'll just have to wait and see. But I think you'll enjoy it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Psychosis is a Slow and Steady Process

It's like erosion of the brain. But I'm feeling a lot better.

R1 (Urban Vision)

R2 (Sony Music Entertainment)

Kentai Films

I know all three of them suck, but I honestly feel that mine sucks ever so slightly less than the rest. It took me a long, long time to come to grips with the fact that levels 1-18 on the R2 are nothing but video noise, and damn it, I resisted the urge to drop it down even further... yeah, I could have killed more noise in the process, but I'd start losing actual details, like the werewolf who breaks the cross when Rei and Larmika first show up (who's hard to see on EVERY copy sans the German 16:9 transfer) and the black dinosaur... uh... thing in the pre-title sequence.

For the actual encode, I think I've settled on Animation 4 in CCE 2.67 - it softens everything up just enough that the horrific noise ebbs just a bit, and manages to smudge out a little bit of the banding and mosquito that's simply a part of the R2 transfer. There is noise reduction involved, I'm sad to say, but I defy anyone to tell me the R2 looks better without it (particularly before compression). Unlike the majority of modern transfers this has no film grain, just horrible crawling ass that mocks everything goodabout being taken from a fresh IP circa 1985.

Animation 5 simply blurs everything - like vaseline is smeared all over your TV, it's awful - and Animation 3... eh, it looks more like the source, but the source looks like crap. If I were using a fresh LD I'd go in that direction, but I think Animation 4 is the very last step in making Vampire Hunter D '85 as close to presentable in 4:3 as its' ever going to be.

Not quite positive of the bitrate yet. I haven't given up hope on including the worthless UK commentary track (solely on principle), and there's still the OST to consider. Equally relevant extras include the UK and Japanese trailers, plus the making-of feature which I'll likely just steal from the US release. There's also oodles of stills and the like which I can pick through, though for better or worse, the vast majority of VHD extras are really for Kawajiri's 2000 follow-up. Plus, this will inevitably be a 2-disc set anyway, so I can space out what I want and still keep the bitrates on an 80 minute film at least reasonable (between 5~6 MBPS anyway).

I still have the R1 5.1 track at the ready, but can't decide if I should save the bits and downmix it into a 192kbps 2.0 surround track or not. The 5.1 mix really is awful, lots of echo on the English voices, but I can't tell if that's a side-effect of the remix or just the way it was originally recorded. Maybe it's both.

Also... is it me, or does this shot make Count Lee look suspiciously like Riki TAKEUCHI?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ATI, You Son Of A Whore

The PC that my wife built for me about 3 years ago was originally envisioned as a sort of capture device with benefits, and at the core of that theory was the ATI All-In-Wonder 9600 2006 Edition. At the time, I was more n00b than nerd, so my initial experiments with capturing and encoding to MPEG left much to be desired. Within a few weeks I'd simply given up, bought a DVD recorder, and felt mostly satisfied with the choice I'd made.

And then, this happened.

The fact that I'm using Genma Taisen as a talking point against the quality of the hardware I use is proof that, try as I may, I'll never be satisfied with any presentaiton... even if I never want to watch it ever again.

Fast forward about three years, and a combination of improved understanding toward video capture and a newfound hatred of the poor compression that you get from stand alone DVD Recorders has pushed me to dust off my old video card and give it that old college dropout try-again.

After uninstalling the Omega drivers (which are great if you're playing games instead of capturing videos) and reinstalling the ATI drivers, I smacked headlong into a brick wall; the three parts of the card dedicated to capturing, the WMD Rage Theater Audio, WMD Rage Theater Video, and (sorta' related?) the WMD TV Audio Crossbar, are all broken. I've not changed the card out, and it's working properly otherwise... the fucking thing just won't get any sort of INPUT signal. When you consider that's the whole reason I BOUGHT the stupid thing, you can surely see why I'd have just a bit of sand in my vagina.

Now I still have my Lite-On recorder downstairs, and in XP mode it does an okay job; not perfect, but I've yet to hear any complaints unless I'm specifically looking for a horrific frame and then show it off. Unfortunately I just got a box of rare LDs today, and I'd rather not resort to such methods if I can at all help it.

If replacing the videocard were all it would take, I wouldn't be so worried. See, when I bought the POS it was when AGP was the only video card interface worth mentioning. A lot's changed in 3 years, and now to get a decent card I'd need to go PCI Express. I'm not against it ethically or anything, but I don't have a PCI-E slot on my Motherboard either. Bringing in a new Motherboard means effectively rebuilding your PC from scratch, so even if I only spent a few hundred dollars (yeah, I totally have money to burn...) it would be a lot of work, and could put me out of commission for a couple days. Not the end of the world, but overall it's still damn frustrating.

Honestly I'm not sure what to do on this one. I've wanted to upgrade my video card for over a year anyway, so I can't say this wouldn't be a convenient excuse for me to do so, but the money is as much an issue as it is wither or not I start overhaulig this thing from scratch or not. I also need to figure out what video cards even support lossless capture, or if all of them do these days. Or none of them. It's been so long since I've needed to look that I don't have a damn clue.

I'll try to trouble shoot this one a few more times before I give up the ghost, but it is not looking good... not at all.

Update: Things are looking better. I'll leave it at that before I get anybody's hopes up.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Did I Really Want Pasolini In 1080p?

I'm in an awkward spot. On the one hand I'm almost not buying DVDs because I Know Damn Near Everything I Could Ever Want Will Be On Blu-ray Sooner Or Later Anyway.

...I could go on, but surely you get the point.

This has put me in quite a bind. On the one hand I'm not particularly interested in buying much in Standard Definition because I know the horrible little prick in me who demands that everything be perfect will balk at the very thought, should there be a High Definition transfer less than a year down the pike in the cards. On the other hand, lacking an HDTV* or any sort of Blu-ray player means that picking the BD release up because I can't actually play it. If there's a hell of a deal I may snap up a BD and keep it on my shelf for that inevitable day when mediocre Dragonball Z and Mortal Kombat games are no longer produced for the PS2, and to get my semi-annual fill of sweaty men beating the crap out of one another I'll literally have to upgrade my gaming system, at which point I'll continue to forsake Microsoft's evil little game box and get a nice BD player that happens to be built into the huge chassis of a purported gaming device. That way everybody wins.

A few months ago the British Film Institute said they were releasing Pierre Paolo Pasolini's controversial 1975 adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's 120 DAYS OF SODOM, released as SALO, uncut on Blu-ray in the United Kingdom. Not only did it promise a restoration of the original negative and a host of special features not on the Criterion Collection Reissue, but - being a High Definition release - it promised a better AV presentation as well. Plus, the cover is hot as hell. (And yes, I'm going there when I die.) Most tempting is that even WITH the fees associated with importing a UK Blu-ray, it would run me no more money than the typically overpriced Criterion release would, which meant that skipping the R1 would be a no brainer.

Unfortunately two things happened recently over at DVD Beaver - no linkie for you this time - and neither of them were very appealing. First off, the two disc set (featuring a Blu-ray for the feature and a PAL DVD for the extras) will be Region B and 2, respectively. While I've never been without a region free DVD player, region free BD players are still very limited and overpriced in their selection, so while I said I'd never buy a non-region free player, the overwhelming majority of releases have either been Region A or only or Region Free, to the point where I believe Salo is the first strictly Region B BD on the market (though I'm probably mistaken). In short, the bastards lulled me into a false sense of security and the first time a truly spectacular BD import wags its' ass in my direction I'm immediately cockblocked by the region code that also made DVD far more a pain in the ass than it should have. Seriously, would letting a few dozen (tops) Americans who happen to love nihilistic character dramas caked in feces and fake penises watch the British HD release really be the end of the world? I can hope that the region lockout means that Criterion is busy prepping its' own, superior HD release, but as Criterion DVDs typically cost $40 to $50 for a 1-2 disc set I'm assuming a truly tricked out Blu-ray release will be so costly that it'll require me to sign a contract held by a man in a red cape and when I stop making those easy monthly payments he'll come to collect one of my kidneys.

The fact that I'm "not allowed" to view this disc isn't quite the tragedy I'm making it out to be though... since frankly the "High Definition" transfer sucks hairy dog balls.

This is supposed to be the face of a woman. As you can see, it lacks any sharp detail, with no pores or fine lines or anything of the sort to be had. Also notice that there's no grain - zero - something that doesn't make much sense for a movie shot on 35mm... even the finest grades of film have visible grain. It's how films are made, with every irregular granule of the emulsion capturing a specific color at a specific point in time based upon how much light it was exposed to. Much to the chagrin of videophiles everywhere, for the last 30 or so years studios have spent a lot of time and money trying to filter out grain and the analog equivalent - noise - to produce a more stable image to be seen on low-definition TV setups. The day of SD transfers being the norm is slowly sinking behind us, and the thought of grain being a bad thing - somehow a 'flaw' in the transfer - has to go with it. Removing grain removes detail, and no, you simply cannot have it both ways.

You can also see an odd white outline everywhere, the indication of post-tampering with edge enhancement, an old analog standby to trick the human brain into perceiving high-contrast artifacts as sharpness. That's right, not only was this transfer stripped of all its' actual detail via Noise Reduction (to make it less grainy), but an artificial sharpness was slapped on top of that. Retardation meets redundancy, film at 11.

"But Kentai" I can hear the back of your mind shouting, "It's an old and low budget film. How good can a cheaply made movie older than you look?"

Glad you asked. Take a peek at a shot from The Godfather, another "old" and "cheap" movie from the mid 70s.

Not good enough? How about a peek at The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the definition of "old" and "cheap".

TCM doesn't look that great, having been shot on 16mm reversal stock with zero controlled lighting, yet it still looks more like film than Salo, which was shot on 35mm. That's not just surprising, that's pathetic.

All in all, we yanks are better off getting this shoddy released locked out of our hair. In the meantime I'll just buy the Criterion R1 DVD - which seems to have grain, even at 480p - and be done with the film until we get a proper US Blu-ray release that looks substantially better.

Note: I'd have called this blog "Blu Holocaust", but instantly knew I'd want to save that for either complaining about the German bootleg of Buio Omega or wait for Cannibal Holocaust to get a BD release somewhere. We'll figure out which one I go with in due time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kentai Blog Earns Its' "Adult" Tag Today

VIOLENCE JACK: EVIL TOWN (and HELLS WIND, I think, though I've yet to compare all the releases out there) has some of the strangest framing issues going on that I've ever seen. Originally produced in 1988, it was a sequel/spinoff/whatever to the 1986 OVA release which, at the time, was just known as "Violence Jack", the episode which was eventually ghettoized even further by Manga Entertainment and released last, so as not to scare them off with the primitive animation and distinct lack of... well, the titular violence.

What we see here is the Japanese DVD transfer, itself a comb-filtered port of the composite video master used for the 1988 JHV release, superimposed onto a still found on the same disc as an extra. As you can see it's been cropped on all sides into a completely different aspect ratio. The actual R2 aspect ratio looks to be about 1.66:1, a familiar ratio to connoisseurs of European films*, but a ratio that's probably never actually been seen in a Japanese theater which patterned itself after Hollywood directly and switched to "Anamorphic" (2.39:1) and "Flat" (1.85:1) - both wider than 1.66 - by at least the late 1970s. The earliest anime I can think of to be animated in 1.85:1 is Miyazaki's LUPIN III: THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were more out there.

My gut instinct tell me that this production still is actually the original camera negative, or a print direct from it. No, I can't be sure... but if it's a scan of a production cell, why the hell is there grain all over it? Cells don't have grain - though, frustratingly, a photo of one would. Wither or not the actual camera negative is 4:3 isn't certain, but the show was certainly animated that way.

Now take a look at this little number. What we have here is the Hong Kong VCD from Universe Laser, a rarely seen alternate cut that turns HELLS WIND and EVIL TOWN into a single movie. It also edits some of the more graphic violence and dialog, overall making the two of them into a faster paced action title with the majority of the gristly nastiness that made the latter two episodes such exploition darlings. Anyway, the print is cropped on the top and bottom more or less the same as the Japanese DVD... except it's also been pan-and-scanned, leaving so little of the original film frame left that it's practically a bad joke! However, there's a little more info on the bottom of the frame, proving that the R2 isn't hard-matted either, lest we'd get that pointy scrap on Jack's arm-hole in frame like we do on the Cantonese dubbed VCD.

Telecine by nature removes the outermost edges of the frame, but the VCD transfer is just insane. As you can see Universe could have very easily created a competently framed 4:3 transfer, but instead they either started with a prematted "widescreen" print and then cropped it for fullscreen later on, or... well, I'd rather not consider the second possibility.

The aspect ratio, however, isn't the exciting thing about the VCD...

Note the film splice in the middle of the frame.

Also note that there's virtually no pubic hair or genitals to hide. Ah, Japan.

Yes, she gonna' get raped.

Wait, this DIDN'T get cut?!

The Hong Kong VCD is especially awesome for including several shots which, on all other known video releases, are censored to remain within Japan's obscenity laws about frontal nudity. (The first screencap is one of several instances of the NEVA just spacing the occasional vagina and not bothering to change its' mind in retrospect.) As if to spite me, not all of these censored shots are included though. It also deleted other random acts of violence, including that Evil Dyke Rapist chick killing children, and those same kids yanking the legs and head off of a cockroach so they can eat the eggs inside. I can't decide why the latter was cut... is animated cruelty to animals - animals that most people step on or spray with poison - really something the TELA should be concerned with?

In total, at least shots that I could identify were uncensored on the Hong Kong VCD. Ironically, at least 9 shots are also either missing entirely or cut to obscure the footage that would have been uncensored. Here's many (but not all) of the examples I spotted:

Anyone who uses the words "Torture Porn" without having seen Evil Town needs to shut the fuck up.

But, whatever. I'm just glad to have some small part of the Violence Jack phenomenon uncensored, and await (without holding my breath) for Japan to do a remaster, which can then be sold uncensored to some other country with a big ol' hard-on for Go Nagai. After all, Shin Vision in Italy licensed the OVAs a few years back, though sadly they're stuck with the same Manga PAL masters as everybody else.

While I wouldn't quite call Evil Town the pinnacle of Violence Entertainment, I think it one-ups most films who's sole purpose is to genuinely offend the viewer by crafting a larger than life fable about the evils of men who, when faced with a crisis, degenerate into literal animals. Its difficult to genuinely like a film who's sole likable cast member is an inhuman giant who couldn't really care less about the fate of those around him, but that's really the point, made clearer here than it was even in the early Go Nagai volumes of the original manga: Violence Jack isn't a man, or a monster. He's a force summoned by the world around him, natre's emergency break who can only be pulled when everything around them fails.

Aira: "Can't you stop the killing?"

Jack: "It's too late. Now that I'm here, it's far too late."

Up until the final reel when Mad Saurus approaches his fallen comrades, the whole story plays out as a brutal - but somewhat conventional - tale of post apocalyptic panic and hysteria. After that... I don't even know how to describe the whole thing. Itano's occasional lapses' in animation quality through the film (at least when compared to MEGAZONE 23: PART II and ANGEL COP) are forgiven by the absolute gonzo art efforts of the climax, which mixes experimental glowing line-art and splatter-movie imagery, building to an incredibly gruesome climax - and then ending with a whimper via some tacked-on Revelation of the world not being quite so bad in the end, though wither this ending is really the fault of Itano or the always reliable screenwriter Aikawa Shou, without whom I'm sure much of the sneering dialog would have gone from scathing to ludicrous. Much as Evil Town is almost the perfect exploitation film, paced to keep the surprisingly personal story chugging along and filled with enough gut-churning violence and quite literally pornographic rape, the follow-up episode HELLS WIND took the story and pushed it further into the realm of epic nihilism, creating a slightly less graphic but no less awe-inspiring action film to Itano's soul crushing celebration of humanity's inherent loss and bestial tendencies.

Here's the hardest question; is it porn? The very definition is the explicit depiction of sex acts to arouse the viewer. While Japan has a long history of violent and overtly misogynistic adult entertainment dating back to the Edo period, the two rape scenes are so brief, so fast and repugnant that their execution should probably be seen as akin to the graphic rape scenes in THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE and A-KITE, or even the brief hardcore scenes found in CRUISING. Absolutely they're brilliantly staged and exceptionally well animated rape scenes, if you're really, really into that sort of thing, but they're not really there to get you off. Quite the opposite; even moreso than the stomach-churning work of Teruaki MURAKAMI (Dark Love, Taimanin ASAGI, etc.) these sequences are there to make the viewer feel sick and offended. The climax of the second orgy especially isn't a shot of Aira finally getting into it and opening her mouth for a facial, it's the bloody decimation of every single victimizer, their bodies torn apart, and their victims standing silently in the darkness, unable to say a word to console one another.

Evil Town is a calculated and traumatizing event, not entertainment, and Itano used his position as director to use pornography - usually a safe fantasy that the audience uses to escape - and assaults them with it in the most unpleasant manner possible. Particularly to a Japanese audience, who considers films like Audition and Freezer not "Horrifying" but "Feminist", I imagine the sight of the Zone B men getting their eyes torn out and literally wrenched in two like a wishbone leaves a hell of a lasting impression. With this context in mind I can't write Evil Town off as the utmost sadistic wank material. Only the most jaded and heinous of wankers are likely to find anything sexy about it, and for it, Itano should be praised.

That not to say it's likely not the single hottest rape scene in animation if you're already so jaded that nothing in Mezzo Forte or La Blue Girl looks like rape to you anymore. I'll leave that descision up to you.

HELLS WIND is its' own fun, and some would argue even more satisfying experience, but it and its' director Takuya WADA's take on the material and seemingly has far more love for Mad Max 2 and Rambo than it does Caligula and Emanuelle in America. Evil Town is a peerless and heavy exercise in bad taste, a once in a generation product of its' time when producers would let directors make whatever the hell they wanted so long as it was a certain length and delivered what the box art promised. The result was an endless parade of sadism, claustrophobia, naughty bits, and garish primary colored special effects designed to assault the viewer's every sense of taste and morality without dressing it up as fine art. The final product has all the subtlety of a music video combined with a gore movie, designed solely to leave the audience reeling and suffering. It's the animated form of noise music, of mutilation as a form of self expression... and I couldn't be more thrilled with the results.

*It was created as a second standard after WWII, so that Hollywood could sell both vintage "Academy" (1.33:1) and modern "scope" (2.39) films. Many European countries adopted 1.66:1 as a native ratio - such as Poland and the Netherlands - and was also adapted by Disney in the early 1980s specifically so their films could be cropped theatrically to 1.85:1 and then into 1.33:1 for home video without looking particularly compromised in either format. It's also the native aspect ratio of Super16, the gritty documentary-grade film stock that gives movies like The Devil's Rejects and Babel their unmistakable look, though as virtually all modern theaters are not properly equipped to play 1.66:1 the film is matted to 1.85:1 eventually.

Jacking off on Violence... Again

Behold! The sequence that best sums up ITANO Ichirou's entire career!

Asian DVD Club. Now. Don't tell me you don't want it. You like it rough, don't you? Yeah, Kentai knows what you like...

A technical note: because the Japanese DVD is matted to 1.66:1, a strange little issue I'll pick apart in a new blog, there are two subtitle tracks included. The first is "4:3 friendly" and extends into the bottom matte-bar, the second is "16:9 friendly" and can be cropped up to 1.85:1 without disappearing. If you zoom content on your screen to rid yourself of black bars, pick the second. Be careful not to zoom in to full 16:9 though. The video isn't that wide, so stick to 14:9 or whatever "partial" zoom modes you can.

Alternately, be a difficult to please prick and do it in FFDShow like I do. You'll never have to worry about over-matting material again, especially not with a 16:10 monitor.

Maybe I should have done a full blown anamorphic restoration... but I didn't. Not yet, anyway.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Apocalypse of Kentai Films

That's right friends, my own translation was put up as a patch on ADC. It's infinitely better than the Chinglish bootleg subtitles you'll find on YouTube or whatever. Can't say for sure if the Cannibal King VHS from 2000 was any better because I've never seen it, but as most CK DVDs need some serious grammar policing I'm willing to bet my release is the best it's ever known, and will ever get.

Sad, isn't it? I mean, I can buy the Xenosaga anime on DVD in the United States, but not Amon: Apocalypse of Devilman. What the hell, Manga Entertainment?

If you don't know, Amon is likely the single greatest OVA of all time. Better than Megazone 23 Part II. Better than Angel Cop. Better than Kakugo no Susume: Apocalypse Zero. Better than Vampire Hunter D. Better than Riki-Oh. Better than Violence Jack. Better than Genocyber, even. Oh, if you're thinking "but all those shows are crap"... get out. Ah! Don't wanna' hear it, you know where the door is. Don't let it hit you on the way out.

This show has that same sense of PCP fueled non-storytelling and out of control bloody horror madness and cranks it so far over the top that you'll either sit horrified or cackling the whole time. It's just indescribably amazing, and the world is a much better place for the fact that it exists. It won't make a lot of sense if you aren't already familiar with the Devilman mythos, and yes, it's at times overly obtuse and... "Post Evangelion", if you follow me, but it remains one of the most beautiful and ugly 45 minutes of my life I've ever wasted.

If you've never seen it, and don't mind wretch inducing animated gore, kick yourself in the teeth for having forsook it until now and download it ASAP. You'll thank me later. You'll have to download the R2 from some other guy and then use the patch to add the subtitles, but it's nice and easy to do after that. Also, the patch is teeny-tiny. And the disc is a dual-layer affair, so if you aren't down with that, buy a DL burner already. Or maybe invest in a second hard drive. With the way I'm downloading crap these days I really should.

In other news, I'm hard at work subtitling another horrific and gristly Go Nagai show. Won't tell you what 'till it's up, though. You'll be pleased, I'm certain.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

ADC, Hey You Know Me

A pair of Yasuhara HASEBE Pinku have been restored by myself.

Rape! (犯す!) - 1976

Raping! (暴る!) - 1978

Not bad for a VHS upscale with an initial capture from a cheesy Lite-On DVD recorder, eh? I'd say that SLAVE WIFE is still the best looking of the bunch, but only because the tape was especially nice. The process hasn't changed much, but I've found that using spline or lanczos is overkill; there's just no more "detail" to magick out of a VHS tape, and using bicubic cut down on the inherent noise ever so slightly in comparison, but not so much that you lose any actual detail. The pattern on the wall of the Rape! screencap was sort of a litmus; it didn't change using any of the algorithms, proving that all I was doing was wasting CPU cycles and getting better defined analog noise, which I don't particularly want in the first place.

There's occasional combing on Rape!, but only because the tape had some tracking issues which creates horizontal distortions which wreak havoc on any IVTC method, so my only hope to get rid of it would be to buy a new tape. As I didn't buy any of these in the first place, that just ain't happening.

I'm hoping Nikkatsu makes with the restored R2 DVDs on these films, especially Raping!, which is easily the greatest road movie ever made. No, really. It's the Marquis de Sade's JUSTINE but with a hot Japanese girl in bell bottoms getting molested by truckers in the woods who throw money in her face when they have their way with her, and at one point has a wheedly little salaryman looking dork get butt raped by a gang of bikers. And that's just the tip of the awesome iceburg, too. In comparison Rape! has delicious Tani getting tied up and ravaged on a playground, but without her being the object of rope based torture via Dan Oniroku's perverted imagination I'm slightly less interested in whatever it is she has to do. Don't get me wrong, Tani's lovely... but she's even moreso when kimono and bamboo poles are involved. S'all I'm saying.

Best part is both of these will get subtitle patches shortly. Video Search of Miami made hard-subbed bootlegs back in the days of VHS dupes, and while Rape! looked mostly okay, Raping! is so bad that the subbed tape is literally black and white. I'm not kidding, literally monochrome grayscale covered in composite artifact rainbows. *Shudder* Nasty stuff.

I think both films have been cropped slightly; what should likely be 2.39:1 look more like 2.1:1, particularly Raping! which doesn't have as much window-boxing to mask this fact. I'm guessing it was a sacrifice made by Nikkatsu in the era of low-res NTSC transfers, and isn't quite as bad as poor Slave Wife, which was literally cropped to 1.78:1 after a full scope opening. Eh, if anyone wants to hand me a fresh 2.39:1 telecine from a 35mm print they're more than free to do so, but until that happens I'll assume that this VHS restoration is the best either of these films will look until Nikkatsu breaks all their Hasebe classics out of their vault. I don't feel embarassed about these transfers, either... years working with the soul-crushing defeat of Vampire Hunter D had made me self-conscious about wither or not I was any good at video restoration, but these relatively simple tweaks have given me just the boost I needed. No, I'm neither Don May Jr. nor God, but I'm getting there.

So, if you want these check out ADC. Also grab SABURAI while you're at it, as it's still golden. I'll admit that it's not as great as I may have made it out to be, but that's in part because I wasn't familiar with enough good chanbara films to make a fair comparison. But hey, it's a free download, right?

In other news I got me an 8mm projector and moviola style viewing suite. No clue what the hell I'm going to do with it, but I'm sure it'll be a lot of fun, whatever it is.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bandai Entertainment Can't Press a Damn Waffle!

I bought Gurren Lagann 01 (episodes 1-9) a month and a half ago. Brought it home, and watched most of the first disc without issue despite there being cyclic scratches on the non-floater disc. Disc 2, however, was badly unbalanced and made my usually silent DVD player sound like a wind tunnel. A turbine engine. A rock concert/gang rape/21 gun salute. was loud, is the bullet point here.

Deciding that discs that sound like they're gonna blow just wasn't something I'm down with, I returned GL 01 to Best Buy and had a relatively pain-free exchange. Disc 2 played without a hitch, and I was satisfied enough to buy GL 02 (10-18) a few weeks later. Guess what? Same result on disc 4; hitting "menu" and playing the episodes ebbed the problem after about 5 minutes, but Nero gives me nothing but unreadable garbage data for the first 250~ MB of the disc.

Now the AoD Forum notes that there's a major glitch on GL 03 (19-27/END) which kicks to the next chapter stop, forcing you to rewind to catch 'most' of the scene in question. This is the exact same issue affecting the second disc of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, which is Bandai Entertainment's "other" awesome unconventional big honkin' robots show of the year (and combined effeminate CLAMP character designs with cackling manly insanity, astronomical racism/xenophobia, over the top sexy mecha action and... Pizza Hut). In random, totally unrelated news, Toward Terra Part 2 was officially delayed, and both GL and Lucky*Star volume 3 are nowhere to be found on release day.

I buy Neo Ranga and Gravion, but don't watch them for some reason. I buy Witchblade, and then bitch about how awful the discs look. I buy Gurren Lagann, and can't even get the discs to play properly in my PC. I buy When They Cry, the release gets canceled half way through for a year and change. I meant to by Simon, but know full well that if I wait 2 months after the last volume I can have the show for the price of a double cheese burger and a large shake. I've effectively refuse to buy anything from Manga, since any disc they've released that isn't totally screwed (and that I'm interested in) I already own in some form or fashion.

I get that you exchange money for goods and/or services, but... why am I buying anime from any of the surviving R1 licensors?

For the love of God Bandai, switch replicators ASAP through whatever back-stabbing contract withdrawal openings you can find. These asshats are giving you nothing but trouble, and if consumers can't play your DVDs they won't buy them in the future, either.

Oh, yeah. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann? The only show to be the greatest thing ever by episode 3 and yet it still manages to get progressively more awesome every episode thereafter. Seriously, insanely awesome. It's like sex. Except we're all having it, all the time, and it's always awesome. Never sticky or embarrassing or full of those awkward moments where you scream out the name of somebody you don't even know. It just makes you feel good.

Enjoy a sexy Yoko shop in celebration of my pain. You've earned it, I'm sure!

Edit: Having run Nero CD-DVD Speed on all four discs, they all have horrific errors. Why certain flawed discs make DVD players puke and others are just dandy should have largely to do with how good the error correction is in the DVD player itself. Unfortunately the issue is that the replication - not the authoring - is wonky, so not every disc has the same errors on the same spots of the disc. Ergo, one copy plays OK in player X, another doesn't. I'd trade in the lot of them, but as Bandai is doing this subtitled only release on a strictly limited table I don't know if it'd do me any good in the long run...

Did I mention that GL 02 subtitles the OP song, but not the ED? For fuck's sake, even speedsubbers put in more effort for consistency! The fact that some jackoff was paid to lazily subtitle songs only when s/he felt like it fills me with rage and pain.

Fucking hell... I really should have stolen the DVD-R fansubs. I'd add "or wait for the bilingual special edition" but that would imply that Bandai had their shit together enough to press a DVD that works by the end of the year. Not holding my breath on that one.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Next Stage in Kentai Films' Evolution

I'm currently contacting some companies (and likely some individuals) to figure out where to go from here. I'm like that dog always chasing cars...

Hooray! I finally caught one! Now what the hell do I do with it?

'Real' work is done, which means I can devote time to Kentai Films once again. (Wither or not I will is open for debate and ridicule, of course.)