Friday, May 29, 2009

The Legend of Atari Dog: Il Capriccio di Paola

I considered posting a lengthy "this could damn well offend some readers" tag at the start of this post, but y'know what? You're all over 18 (you'd better be...) so you're adult enough to handle this entry the same as the rest of them. So...

Consider that mere consideration a warning in and of itself!

...I guess?

Atari Dog Level 1

If you can still tell what's going on, congratulations!
And yes, you watch far too much Japanese porn.

When my regular source for Japanese tapes was on the hunt for SATO Hisayasu's Horse, Woman and Dog he stumbled upon a tape for something called 馬と犬と人間/Horse, Dog, and Human, a film who's original Italian title was Il Capriccio di Paola (The Whims of Paola). The stills and description on the box promised something pretty saucy, but as is the case with old Japanese porn tapes, you really don't know what you're getting into until you hit play...

Turns out this was quite literally a vintage hardcore porn film directed by a Giorgio Maimone, which had to be drastically re-edited for Japanese release in accordance with EIRIN sensibilities, which naturally demand no frontal nudity on the screen. This led to all sorts expected airbrushed fog, optical zooms to obscure the naughty bits, hilarious animated .GIF style footage loops(!), and even recurring sudden fade-to-black effects to avoid actually showing off a peenie by accident.

Here's a fantastic example or two:

Oh, Japan.

Om nom...

...nom nom...

But, of course, they missed a spot:

Are you even reading these anymore?

No, I don't get it either. As you can see above, clearly sucking on horse wang is verboten... is it that animal husbandry regularly calls for equine handjobs, and thus nobody considers this sex anymore? Is it because Tom Green did it in Freddy Got Fingered? What the hell, EIRIN?! Not that Japanese censorship ever makes a lot of sense, but obscuring one scene involving horse dick and leaving another uncensored makes about as much sense as the NEVA not obscuring an anus until a tongue is pushing its' way inside of it. And yes, they do that too.

Censored or not, the fact that the chick actually massaging the stallion while getting reamed by her human co-host is constantly fearing for her life, leaning back to look at the director with miserable "do I HAVE to...?" eyes, makes the film worth watching alone. Too bad she sort of looks like Charlie Manson's inbred daughter...

The film itself is typically goofy vintage hard-porn of a seemingly mid-to-late 1970s vintage I can't pin down. Neither the film title nor even the director give me anything to go by, and the singular scrap of information has on it is that it was last released on VHS in April of 1995. At the very least, the similarities in the Japanese title to Horse, Woman, and Dog may have been less a clever knock-off than I thought: 1995 puts Il Capriccio di Paola's home video debut some 5 years after the theatrical release of Sato's Horse, Woman and Dog feature, and 4 years before its' shoddy looking video release.

Perhaps any similarities between horse penis epics was solely coincidental? Whatever the history of this bizarre gem of Eurotrash pornography might be, the tape was a real mess. As you can see above it's simultaneously very soft and noisy, with the optical effects - zooms and loops and all that - looking particularly worse for wear. The whole film is too dark thanks to constant airbrushed fog editing, and there's absolutely zero 3:2 cadence to be found in what was probably a very cheap telecine. Strangely, the pixelation censorship infecting Atari Dog seems to have been made BEFORE the film based Japanese subtitles were added to the print, which means that if this ever had a theatrical release, viewers were staring at a 15 foot pixelated pooch on the big screen... I can't decide if that's awesome, or depressing. I wouldn't be shocked if this were a direct to video affair though; Japan was making enough of their own cheap sexploitation films in the 1970s that I can't even fathom why anyone would bother buying the rights to a foreign film they'd just have to edit the crap out of in post anyway. There's nothing resembling a theatrical date of copyright on the cover either (as you can see), so whatever mysteries this title may hold, I'm not the guy with the answers... just the prerecord.

With a tape in this bad a shape, restoration is almost a moot point... but come on, Kentai Films NOT make a new anamorphic transfer out of hilarious horse porn? Anyway, this will be the first time I've used a straight-up deinterlacer, and I don't feel too bad doing it, because there's absolutely nothing I, or anyone else on the planet can do to restore 3:2 pulldown that's been temporally smeared into oblivion, so the usual 24fps based decombing I use on upscaled material is not an option.

The current deinterlacer-of-choice is what's called a "Smart BOB", and only deinterlaces the parts of the screen that are actually in motion at the time. Neat, huh? The result is a sharp and mostly aliasing-free image... but not one totally free of artifacts, I'm afraid:

Hey look, crabs!

Those little black dots eating into the ringing at the bottom of the screen are confusing random video noise with actual movement, and smearing pixels together that should be left alone. It seem to be the Achilles Heel that affects *all* 3D motion-adaptive deinteracing solutions, including TomsMoComp, Kernal Deint, SmartBOB and others, I'm sure. Of course, if you turn off the thresholds for area-based deinterlacing and deinterlace the entire frame, these issues disappear, and that's exactly what I've decided to do. Retaining "resolution" on this pile of crap is barely a priority to begin with, since if anything deinterlacing the image using a "Dumb BOB" algorithm will only serve to soften up the image and help eliminate the endless parade of heinous VHS analog-noise. It's just like using a 2D NR filter without actually needing to run a second line of code! It will up the ghosting you see during movement slightly, but not blending vaguely-remated information from one frame to the next means we'll get less smeared chroma, so as always, you simply trade one problem for another.

The data is technically 30fps, but watching it all frame-by-frame, you can see repeated frames TRYING to emulate 3:2 cadence - they're just sucking at it. Decimating the image from 30fps to 24fps will cut down on the repeated movement, and thus improve motion (not to mention compression) without drastically affecting anything else in the process. The BOB filter I'm using, even in "Dumb" mode, is very sharp and doesn't have any of that irritating vertical 'shake' that some crappier BOB deinterlacers have, so I'm convinced I've found the best compromise I'm going to get out of this transfer. It's not a perfect solution by any means, but it's better than anything else out there short of getting my hands on the Japanese film print.

Various noise reduction, sharpening, and color correction combinations have been experimented with, but I'll be honest in saying that all of them are varying levels of FAIL apart from the usual level-fix, boosting the contrast levels to DVD standard 16-235 and carefully raising the gamma to help with the numerous darker-than-hell scenes from poor lighting and hot contrast. Don't expect much, just know that this is still nicer looking than the source tape, and sometimes that's about all you can pray for.

Atari Dog Level 2

It's not against the law if you can't tell what's going on... right?

The Machino Cherry on Handley's Shit Sundae

In my home town of Freedomland, USA, this very image could land me in butt-pounding jail for a decade and a half.

Christopher Handley, the sort of watermark for how the First Amendment doesn't mean shit when hardcore sex is involved, recently plead guilty to distributing and receiving obscenity in the form of imported adult manga. (Shockingly, owning obscene material doesn't seem to be against the law.) He had the CBLDF behind him every step of the way, and was quite literally the first consumer - not a seller - to ever be arrested for reading adult comic books in his own home.

The material that raised a flag to start with seems to have been an unspecified work created by 40 year old professional comic artist MACHINO Henmaru (町野 変丸) , the creator of works like Girls Chaos, UFO, Dog Puppet, and Tokimeki Yumiko-chan Memorial. His work was featured prominently in the traveling "Simple and Flat" exhibit focusing on modern erotic manga art a few years back, which furthers arguments for his work having artistic merit, and by definition would make his work not obscene.

While I'm not personally the biggest fan of his work, I won't refute that the man has a talent in creating equal parts adorable and shocking creations that don't just break the boundaries of normalcy, but literally break the boundary of common sense into absurd, and at times hilarious monstrosities of the human libido... case in point:

Why yes, this sort of imagery is typical for Machino.

Two and a half years after the initial seizure of his massive collection of (primarily non-pornographic) comics, animation videos, and computers containing related images, Handley was finally brought to trial. He plead guilty just last week to charges of 'images of child abuse and bestiality', and now faces up to 15 years imprisonment and a quarter-million dollar fine. The only real upside to this was that the judge handling the case threw out charges relating to the relatively new PROTECT Act, ruling a set of laws intended to protect living children from sexual abuse as unconstitutional when applied to fictitious characters. Thank fuck for small favors, I guess?

As both an American and a fan of manga and anime - never mind my inclination to "obscene" natured material of any stripe - I find this whole scenario appalling. A part of me is incredibly angry that Handley didn't plead "Not Guilty", take all of the help offered to him, and try his best to fight against what's not just an injustice to fans of 2D comic art. Most troubling is that his fairly sizable collection was taken "as evidence", effectively removing the one passionate interest from his life entirely. This isn't at all like the Dwight Whorley case, in which a registered sex offender who collected actual child pornography along with lolicon material - Handley was a regular, not-particularly creepy otaku who had a small sampling of adult material in the mix. Police even found advertisements for the all-ages action series King of Braves GaoGaiGar noting that the show was "for robot fans who never grew up", and tried to present that as code word for the show being child pornorgaphy! I wonder if they'd have confiscated Disney's Pinocchio for the title characters' dream of being a "real boy", too?

Without new precedent ever being established, laws like the PROTECT Act and 1466A - and just as importantly, the outcome of their cases, will never change. As long as these laws exist in the United States good, decent people can get in big trouble for even requesting a fictional drawing that a court, at a later date, may or may not consider illegal in the first place! Handley could have been a very important martyr of sorts, standing up for everyone out there - regular assholes like myself, and you, dear readers - taking a bunch of flack and, just maybe, emerging outside the other end of the hentai gauntlet to prove that America is finally a country mature enough to handle clearly simulated acts of cartoon fantasy.

On the other, I know that the realities of Middle America mean that even if he had fought the good fight, odds are the images found in his package would still have been found "obscene" based on the Miller Test by a jury of his peers, and then he wouldn't be able to plea-bargain his way to a lesser sentence as he's surely doing now. Granted, some of the images might not have been found obscene, but ask yourself how the average person walking down the street would react to this:

If you want more, just google his ass. I'll be here when you get back...

The only time that manga has actually been ruled obscene in the US, to the best of my knowledge at least, is the case of a Texas comic shop clerk who was charged with obscenity for MAEDA Toshio's Urotsukidoji and Demon Beast Invasion. That particular case was actually a smoke screen set up by local officials to take the focus off of a regional periodicals tax, which would include magazines and comic books. When the CBLDF caught wind of this, they presented the information they had on the case, and one of the charges was dropped... unfortunately, Maeda was still found to be obscene, and as I've yet to hear any news of how the appeals went, I can only assume it was "badly".

This was already troubling in that Maeda's work isn't even close to the level of offensive and disturbing content found in authors like SAIZOU Horihone, UZIGA Waita, and even MAURO Suehiro, whom I would personally champion as some of the most talented and transgressive artists of the 20th and 21st century. If Maeda, a man who admits to being freaked right the fuck out by the wave of 'extreme' magazines that followed after his reign in the 1980s, can't stand as an artists who's questionable content has the literary and artistic credibility to be viewed as not obscene, the men I've mentioned above don't even stand a chance. I'm not requesting that everyone like these men, merely that they cast their notions of decency aside and recognize artistic talent when it's presented to them. Clearly, Texas has no concept of art, lest the poor bastard would have been let off for the offensive - but fantastic - work of Maeda Toshio:

Remember that Handley has not lost this case, merely plead guilty. The rules are the same now as they were from 1973 onward, when Deep Throat first hit American theaters and dragged the legality of cinematic pornography kicking and screaming into the public sector: lolita, bestiality, rape, bukkake, scat, snuff, and every other fetish a manga/anime can throw at the viewer is not inherently illegal... but it isn't safe from prosecution under the confines of obscenity, a concept which makes freedom of expression itself null and void.

That's not to say that everything found to be obscene stays that way forever, though; keep in mind that 2 Live Crew's album Nasty As They Wanna Be was deemed obscene in Florida in 1989 (which was overturned in 1992), as well the German film The Tin Drum by Oklahoma City in 1997 (which was overturned in less than a year). Sadly, few people are willing to stand up and fight for cartoons' right to exist, and when people like Handley refuse to even try, it makes me sadder still.

Obscenity is the Joker card in the deck of the Bill of Rights, allowing a court to appoint a judge and jury to decide what art does and doesn't quality as having social or artistic merit. I don't rightly see how any singular community can make that call, and more importantly, why the people who have it (and aren't even showing it off in public) can literally be thrown in prison for it. Obscenity harms no one, except for the poor bastards who are occasionally tried for it. I don't expect it to disappear within my life time, but I certainly hope it will. And not just for my sake, but for the sake of all who think that manga is a harmless and enjoyable passtime.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Origin of Subway Serial Rapists

KATAOKA Shuuji directed a total of four SUBWAY SERIAL RAPE/地下鉄連続レイプ films from Nikkatsu from 1985 to 1988, and contemporary Japanese gonzo pornography and anime producers has been ripping his saga off ever since.

The first in the series is now available remastered in anamorphic widescreen. There are some combing errors during the opening credits, thanks to Nikkatsu having re-made the titles just for home video (why?!), but take my word for it when I say that there wasn't anything I could do to fix it. As with seemingly all 1980s Pinku/Roman entries, the literal film/telecine quality is pretty rough. Still, there will be a subtitle patch in the near future, and according to the guy who's making it, this is a major upgrade from the old Video Search of Miami bootleg tape everyone has fapped to prior.

Apparently Asian Cult Cinema also had an "import" DVD with Chinese and English subtitles ages ago, but as nobody on ADC seems to have actually seen it. I don't know if it's just a non-anamorphic VHS dump, or some telecine of a Chinese theatrical print... I'd love to find out, but short of someone offering me a copy, I don't even know where I'd begin.

Alongside a few other titles sitting on my HDD, I have over a dozen prerecords left to record and restore, plus a couple LDs kicking around. Hopefully, unlike the last 2 tapes I tortured my poor VCR with, they'll still be in good shape...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sensual Free Time

Dear readers, the good news is that I have plenty of time to get back to recording VHS/LD sources for obscure cult films and anime titles. I've recently added Yukio ABE's adaptation of IHARA Saikaku's 16th century erotica novel 好色一代男/THE SENSUALIST to the Kentai Films archive, a bizarre Tokugawa-era counterpoint to the jaw-dropping mind fuckery of Kanashimi no Belladonna. That's not to say that Toho's direct-to-video naughty character drama is anywhere near as amazing as Mushi Pro's erotically charged swan song about Joan of Arc, but the multi-layered yet limited animation and focus on blunt sexuality as the highest form of fine art certainly lend themselves to comparison, however subtle they may be.

This had a subtitled UK release? And it was UNCUT? Seriously?!

The only bad news is that I now have all of this free time in lieu of what could have been a pretty impressive job offer. It may seem counterproductive of me to mourn my loss of free time to archive and - at least potentially - bootleg obscure anime titles when clearly that's what I love doing, but I've always had strong hopes that in time, I wouldn't need to bootleg titles as a business - merely archive and restore them as a hobby. For any of that to be a reality, clearly I would have to hone my skills as a video guru first... and, if I may say so myself, I think I've gotten pretty goddamn good at what little it is that I do. Evidently, someone noticed that, and sent me an offer.

The short of it was it was an offer to restore a film at the frame-by-frame level. In other words, I'd find frames that looked like this:

And make them look like this:

Sorry, but don't get your hopes up. ZETSUAI 1989 is NOT licensed, or if it is, I don't know a thing about it. Nor am I planning an extensive frame-by-frame remaster of that title, despite it being "in the works" in one form or another. I'm just using this as an illustration of the "Dust Busting" digital film clean-up concept. I'm classier than to actually post screen shots from professional screeners given to me by employers, I assure you.

Yeah, sure, copy-pasting out film damage from surrounding frames (and resorting to the clone brush in dire circumstances... see above for a little of both) isn't so bad... for a second or two's worth of footage. Factor that a 2 hour film has 24 frames per second, and that 2 hour film has a total of 172,800 individual frames! Keep in mind I'm doing this with freeware tools, not a fancy MTI workstation designed to make this sort of work quick and painless, so this would be a maniacally painstaking and time consuming process requiring months of OCD dedication. Even finding film damage in LBKiller - forget actually fixing any of it! - takes for-fucking-ever, even with a relatively fast computer and starting with NTSC resolution DVD footage. If the film is littered with consistant damage - dirt, specs, stains and the like - that means it could take you several minutes to fix each damaged frame, meaning that a minute's worth of footage could easily take a single day to fix.

I liked the company that offered the work, and I even like the film I would have restored, but we just couldn't come to a price that I felt was fair. I don't mind getting a pittance for something I can do in just a few days, but getting paid only a fraction of what this job was worth - for something that would take about 4 months to complete - just isn't something I can do. As a crazy Meatloaf loving gigolo somewhere once surely said, "I would do anything for money... but I won't do that!"

So, anyway, expect some Go Nagai themed patching in the near future. It's been far too long since I've done that, hasn't it?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Fist of the Eastern Star

I got my copy of Discotek/Eastern Star's upcoming FIST OF THE NORTH STAR DVD a little early. It seems as if I have a bit more free time than I'd bargained for, so I figured I'd share both the good and the bad news...

If you can already spot what's wrong you might consider stopping now, just to avoid the SEETHING RAGE!! the rest of this entry will likely cause you.

The same exact transfer used on the Toei Limited Edition Japanese DVD is present on the R1 Discotek Media/Eastern Star DVD. I don't mean "this is a new transfer taken from the same Digibeta", I mean the actual M2V encode and AC3 files appear to be copied and pasted from the Japanese "Multi-Ending" DVD transfer, with new menus and subtitles like built aronud them. Don't mistake this for a complaint: aside from some relatively minor contrast boosting and some noise reduction, Toei's HD remaster for Fist of the North Star is very nice . The original Japanese stereo track is also fantastic. It could probably be a little sharper, but the progressive open-matte 4:3 transfer looks worlds better than any prior video release, even with the minor complaints I have toward the restoration itself. The Japanese stereo mix is equally powerful, and sounds clearer than any incarnation I can remember - though I'll admit I've since sold the Toei LD with digital stereo sound. By comparison the English dub sounds muffled and scratchy, but likely all that has more to do with Streamline Pictures than Toei or Discotek.

The English subtitles are... well, not very good. They're servicable for newcomers, and never so off that the translator just seems to be making shit up as they went along, but compared to the fantastic work done by Neil Nadelman for the TV series - those curious can go to Satan's Bathroom (aka Crunchy Roll) and see his work for free - this translation is awkward at best, and doesn't seem to know what it's talking about at worst. I won't claim to be anywhere near fluent in 日本語 or anything, but certainly I know enough of it to typically tell when a translator is lying right to my face.

A far better way to say this in English would have been "Kenshiro, it seems you've become the Master of Hokuto Shinken". The word he's using 伝承者 (denshosha), as in the one who carries on a tradition. 'Successor' seems to be the best English equivalent, though ADV's own "Heir of Hokuto Shinken" works out all right. Even the term 'Master of Hokuto Shinken' would probably be appropriate, giving the translation the vibe of the 1970s wu-shu epics that inspired it. But "the Strongest of Hokuto Shinken" is not only a poor translation, but it makes his loss to Shin all the more inappropriate.

But surely it'll get better from here... right?

In Japanese, Shin mutters "南斗獄殺拳", or 'Nanto Gokusatsu Ken'. This is a strange (yes, strange in Japanese) combination of Kanji - Chinese characters that Japan appropriated a millenia and a half ago - that means something like 'South Dipper Prison-Butcher Fist'. HARA Tetsuo and Buronson made up these massive kanji clusterfucks to emulate traditional Chinese martial art names, and had characters shout them out as they unleashed these devastating attacks.

The movie mostly did away with these, though the TV series would have at least one example per episode, with the action literally stopping for a moment to let the attacker shout out the name with massive kanji covering the screen. I'll admit it's a strange thing for anyone not intimately familiar with the series to find a proper English equivalent for, but 'Nanto can't be harmed' is most definitely not it.

Whoa... what the crap? No, Jagi just said "兄上", or 'aniue', which is a particularly respectful form of "Big Brother". He also calls him simply "Ani", an even less formal word for brother. The four Hokuto Shinken trainees - Kenshiro, Jagi, Raoh and Toki (who's absent in this film adaptation) - were all oprhans raised by Ryuuken as literal siblings. Yes, I am a Flaming Hokuto no Ken fan and all that, but there's nothing about "ani" that shouldn't be translated as brother.
Translating as 'master' doesn't even make sense! I won't even get into "Hokuto Shinken throne" as there isn't one. The Successor is given the title as the sole use and total master of the Hokuto Shinken style, and must uphold the traditions which it stands for. There's no kingdom, no glory, they even sit on the damn floor... in what way is being the damned wandering heir of a killing style a "throne"!?

Hey look, they're talking about 伝承者 again! I don't think 救世主 (kyuseishu) - or "Savior" in English - is even mentioned after the opening credits, and much of the translation seems to use "Savior" to mean "Successor". Whoopsie. Once more, a better translation could have been made easy enough. Maybe something like "Brother, does that look like a worthy Master of Hokuto Shinken to you?" Also note the multiple question marks, ALL CAPS WORDS, and Random Capitalized Words. Get used them. They crop up through the entire script. Along with nonsense like "Ooooh".

Adding insult to injury, Jagi's explanation that Hokuto Shinken trainees who fail to become successor is completely misinterpereted. In the dialog, Jagi is effectively telling Raou that if Kenshirou is still considered Master of Hokuto Shinken, then the two of them will have their first broken and their memories erased. The subtitle translation suggests that it's the act of Hokuto and Nanto clashing that would lead to them being crippled!

In the hopes that this scene was merely a botched sequence in the long run, I skipped forward to the scene where Raou shows his power to Ryuuken, beginning his campaign to literally destroy the 2,000 years of Hokuto tradition. The exchange is clunky, but seems all right... for a little while:

Japanese dialog: 俺の望み輪。。。天!天を握ることだ。
Discotek subtitles: My desire is... God! To hold God in my fist.
A literal translation: My desire is... the heavens! To hold heaven itself in my hands.

This might not seem like a big difference at first, but remember that Japan is primarily a nation of Shinto/Buddhists, and don't have any ingrained belief in a single all-knowing entity. Infact, the first episode of the Hokuto no Ken TV show was titled 神か悪魔か!? 地獄にあらわれた最強の男, or "God or Devil!? The Mightiest Man to Appear in Hell." Raou doesn't believe in God; if anything, he thinks of himself as one, and says in the next scene that he will fight Gods and Devils alike to make the heavens - and by association, everything they look down upon - belong to him.

To be fair, what I've watched so far has been well timed and mostly free of spelling errors, so at least the purely technical side of the subtitles was well done. All I wish was that I'd had the chance to proof-read them...

Summon: Kenshiro Lv. 50!
He makes even Neo Bahaumut look like a bitch.


Totally not Engrish in any way.

This here is just the freakiest yaoi anime I've ever seen...

When it's not talking about martial arts, family values, or Chinese legends, the subtitle translation seems at least serviceable. For example, the scene where Zeed's forces attack Lin's village and Kenshiro retaliates was almost without issue: there were a couple of poor choices, but it wasn't unjustifiably wrong like so many other scenes around it. Even the bit where the narrator briefly explains the principles of Hokuto Shinken was... well, honestly it's oversimplified almost to the same level as Carl Macek's vintage English dub, but at least it's not pulling anything out of it's ass or reading between lines that never existed to begin with.

And then I found a single subtitle, one so awkward, unintentionally hilarious, and just plain homoerotic that it literally made me hit stop, eject the disc, and decide I'll torture myself with the rest of this mediocre translation another day:

lol wut?

(If only this translation weren't so bad, I'd think that was intentional...)

The extras on the R1 DVD are a letdown too, though at least Toei is solely to blame on that end; Discotek included everything they were allowed, of that I'm certain. We get English text character profiles with included design sheets, a promotional image gallery, vintage TV spots (featuring unique animation!), and finally the theatrical trailer that many fans will recognize from the old Toei LD, and the subsequent Manga International bootleg.

The cover art is very nice, featuring a rather nostalgic spread on the reverse, and a classy collage on the front playing heavily on the brutality of the source material. I'll admit that France wins in the design department with its' stoic blood-splattered black slipcover, but they've had multiple prior releases to get the recent Collector's Edition just right. Menus are still, but well designed and feature the original score to great effect. As with all of the Discotek DVDs I've had the chance to see, the overall presentation is top notch... which makes the very disappointing English subtitles for the feature even more of a surprise.

The Eastern Star release of Fist of the North Star is a mixed bag, though the only thing they can really be faulted for is the subtitles. On the one hand the audio-video presentation are fantastic, and the extras that are included are nice. On the other, the subtitles are mediocre, and are really the one thing on this release NOT featured on the stellar Toei Limited Edition Japanese DVD. If you already bought the LE import, there's little reason to buy this full priced and slightly stripped down port of the same materials. If you didn't, this release is nearly the same thing, but without the multi-ending, promo film (basically a LONG trailer) and booklet. For the $17.24 it's selling for on DVD Pacific, owning a copy of the most fantastic MANime experience ever is still quite a deal, and anyone who doesn't already own a half-dozen copies of this film is urged to pick up a copy... it's jut not the 2 disc liner notes toting perfectly subtitled special edition I've been waiting 8 years for, and for that, I'm a bit disappointed.

My opinion of Discotek has always been one of a dedicated company who releases the very best product possible. Fist of the North Star hasn't changed my opinion of their output, even if it might not be their best release. Eastern Star is off to a frustrating but primarily positive start, and I'm looking forward to their upcoming Crying Freeman box set, and anything else they can license in the world of Japanese animation. The DVD marketplace sucks, and even a flawed release is like a gift from the retail Gods these days, so I'm looking forward to Eastern Star's potential future if titles like this do well.

And don't worry, Crying Freeman already has a competent subtitle translation they can use.

Hokuto no Oro?

Discotek also get major bonus points in my little black book for releasing Star of David: Beautiful Girl Hunting with an exclusive commentary track, and the first ever anamorphic release of Ebola Syndrome complete with deleted scenes. But that's another entry...