Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kentai Films Is Back Online


This photo more or less sums it up: Kentai's Films has had a massive lack of updates and progress this month due to some massive computer troubles. That's all cleared up now, so I'll return you to my regularly scheduled insanity.

...also, what the HELL is that from? God I hope it's pornographic. Or for giving young children nightmares. Or maybe both.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Furiously Fisting The Big Boss

THE BIG BOSS Fists of Fury(1971)



FIST OF FURY The Chinese Connection (1972)


Fortune Star released what many fans considered the definitive transfers for 李小龍/Bruce Lee's original Hong Kong films - The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, and Game of Death - on limited edition R3 DVD back in 2004. They were by far the best looking transfers the now nearly 40 year old films had ever seen, and while plenty of purists were less than enthusiastic about the 5.1 surround remixes, it can't be said that these post-dubbed mono films never sounded all that great to begin with, so any complaints are mostly out of principle rather than fidelity.

These titles are now on Blu-ray, and since I'm slowly eating up all of my blog space with massive screenshots, I'll let the above 540p shots do the talking for me. For more, check HERE and HERE at the ever trustworthy mecca of DVD comparison sites, DVD Beaver.

In Brief:
The Big Boss looks fan-fucking-tastic. Fist of Fury... well, not so much. The Blu-ray manages to be both blurry and grainy, which makes me think the problem lies in the negative itself. It's weird that the earlier Big Boss would look dramatically better, but I'm thinking that maybe TBB was shot using typical anamorphic photography, while FoF was shot using 2 perf? It's also possible that FoF was telecined from a non-negative sourced print, but it's so pristine and damage free that I'd be shocked if this were actually the case.

That said, there's ZERO excuse for FoF to look so... well, blue. If you want proof that a color correction would have made a dramatic improvement, behind what a single click in Photoshop was capable of:

Talk to the hand, sister!

That's... probably just a little too pink, but still got to be a heck of a lot closer to how everyone looked on set. I know, color timing is always a touchy issue that every asshole on the planet who had absolutely no involvement in the production of any given film knows everything about once a new transfer comes out, and I'm not above playing arm-chair colorist. What can I say? Bitching about things you don't like is fun!

Still, just look at the above example. Compare it to the Blu-ray shot from the top of the page. Take a minute and really let the colors saturate your brain. Preferably, open them in different tabs and flick between the two. If the Blu-ray shot doesn't instantly look like it was shot in the dark on blue tinged cigar wrappers, briefly consult some handy TEST PATTERNS to make sure your monitor isn't just completely out of whack.

Just for fun, let's see how the Fox/Fortune Star R1 release looks:



As you can see, even the Fox R1 release has a color correction that looks better than the Blu-ray! That said, the Fox transfer appears to be taken from a completely different, far more damaged print than the Fortune Star transfer. Why, you ask? A part of me hopes that somebody at Fox took one look at the Fortune Star transfer and asked "The hell? Why is Bruce's skin green?!" and decided that their old transfer of the English print with the Chinese titles spliced back in would be just fine. I have no clue if this is accurate, but no other explanation makes the slightest bit of sense.

Neither of the Blu-ray include the mono Cantonese/Mandarin mixes, so if (like me) that kind of thing pisses you off, well... it's going to piss you off. The Fortune Star DVDs include vintage mono Cantonese mixes, but being pre-New Wave Hong Kong pictures they were shot without synch sound and then dubbed into Mandarin first. The Cantonese dubs for these films didn't exist until the mid 1980s, they're no more "original" to the film than the English dub is.

The R1 set has both mono Cantonese and Mandarin tracks, but to make up for those positives the vintage English dubs have been given the absolute worst 5.1 mix in the history of shoddy DTS remixes. Those things are so full of analog distortions, god-awful surround manipulation, and such limited range that they make the Mandarin 5.1 mixes Fortune Star pumped out sound positively Godly in comparison. Sure it's in 5.1 surround, but it sounds like you're listening to an array of tin cans on strings hooked up to an 8 track player!

I'm going commit a massive taboo here that willll likely get me barred from any theatrical screening of any classic Hong Kong film for life. But I'll just say it anyway: I vastly prefer the Cantonese dub for The Big Boss. I think the new funky soundtrack and the performances just make the film a bit more exciting and personal than the original Mandarin audio. It's not like any of these dubs features Lee anyway, so while excluding the original Mandarin track would be a real downer for obvious reasons, the fact that the Cantonese track is there fills me with just a little bit of selfish joy.

Anyway, it's a shame that Fist of Fury wasn't given the color correction it so desperately needed, but anyone and everyone who's gay for Bruce Lee still needs these. Being a little expensive for a Hong Kong release I may just wait and see if a third party licensors do some further corrections on FoF, but if these are ever on sale, I think I'll have to wallow in their not quite archival quality goodness first hand.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Like Urot-sucky...

Seven years later, I finally made good on my personal promise to give THE UROTSUKI (UROTSUKIDOJI NEW SAGA) a second chance.

My initial experience was one of blind, frothing hatred at the time, with an incomprehensible story with only the most tangential connection to Maeda Toshio's original storyline, hampered further by a combination of poorly rendered internet flash cartoon quality animation occasionally peppered with 3D graphics that would have made a Nintendo 64 system feel better about itself sexually. In the end I watched about 5 minutes with my jaw hanging open in disbelief, scanned through the rest of the untranslated episode, and then shut if off in disgust. I wound up repeating this very process with the second OVA, and when I couldn't find the third I decided it was no big loss.

In 2004, Anime 18 released the title in North America uncensored and with a fresh set of English translations. With the company already on its' last legs, they made the brilliant decision to release each episode on a separate DVD, not because the 135 minute runtime required it, but because Nutech forever ruined the concept of American hentai distributors putting more than 1 episode per SKU, which led to studios feeling justified in charging $20-30 per half-hour. I'll admit that I own a few of these bastard releases, but felt regularly content to ignore them, particularly when the rest of the Urotsukidoji franchise packed an average of 3 OVAs per DVD and thought $30 was a damn fine price. Of course those DVDs didn't have any fucking subtitles... but I'm just splitting hairs now. Anyway, I was already angry at The Urotsuki, so the suggestion that I pay over double what I would have expected it to sell for left me guffawing and giving Anime 18 my raised middle finger.

I will say, however, that I begrudgingly bought Angel Blade at $60 for 3 episodes. I would have gladly bought Crimson Climax/Hotaruko at that price too if I'd known how fucking excellent a show it was before it went out of print, but we all live and learn...

I'm also going to mention that I've spoken a few times with Justin Sevakis, current head of Anime News Network. I'm not a friend of his or anything, but we've spoken a few times and I found him to be a pretty decent guy. I mentioned my love for Urotsukidoji, and he mentioned his contempt for it. He also mentioned that I really should give The Urotsuki a second chance, since the ending was what he liked best about the show. By the time this had happened, Anime 18 and the rest of CPM had already dropped off the face of the Earth, and this desire to give the so-called "New Saga" was forgotten for well over a year... until, of course, unexpected circumstance brought Justin's opinions to the general public.

So I finally watched the whole show. Uncensored and with a translation, hoping that would help change my opinion for the better... it did not. In fact, I think watching the whole sordid 135 minute train wreck over the course of 24 hours killed a small part of my black, shriveled heart that loved every part of the Urotsukidoji franchise unconditionally, and yes, that includes "The Final Chapter", an hour long project so ill-fated that it wasn't even fully animated before getting released to the rental market, and then being totally forgotten about thereafter, even in Japan.

Even at its' nonsensical worst, Urotsukidoji remained the high point of all Tentacle Rape Entertainment, with the only noteworthy competition out there being La Blue Girl - a spoof of Urotsukidoji to begin with, and Twin Angels - the "straight" version of La Blue Girl. Urotsukidoji held a level of artistic and literary scope that neither of these shows could ever match, and while I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, if anyone can watch the scene of Suikakuju getting his body back by sexually draining the energy from his mistresses as the Giger inspired chamber literally fucks and cannibalizes itself and NOT see a shred of mad artistic integrity, then I have no reason to speak to those people on any critical level. Don't get me wrong, I don't claim to pretend that all of my opinions are "right", but at the very least I do my best to have opinions I can explain in rational common sense. Denying the original Urotsukidoji's artistic integrity is to deny the artistic integrity of the very heart of 'Golden Age' Japanese animation, and to shrug off Legend of the Overfiend is tantamount to writing off the entire developing and unique culture of the 1980s OAV.

THE UROTSUKI is a conceptual remake of the original three part Legend of the Overfiend storyline, but it manages to approach the material in a way that's so ass-backwards, incoherent and poorly concieved that it made me smash my face into my desk multiple times before it was over. I'm not a man who inherently dislikes remakes, I'm just a man who can't stand the shitty ones that cash in on the original's name and are slapped together with absolutely no care or talent. There's just no part in this clumsy, ugly, poorly told tale that I could get into... but I'll try, dear readers. If only so you don't make the same mistake I do by thinking "Hey, Urotsukidoji? This could be cool and sexy, right?"

We're introduced to Amano Jaku as a prisoner of the King of the Beast Realm, shortly before his execution for the crime of venturing out into the Demon Realm. The King has shown him mercy, however, and allows him a chance to restore his father's tainted honor if he ventures out into the Human Realm to find the legendary Chojin* (Ascended God), and so despite the society having advanced US Airforce inspired technology, they send him on the back of a dinosaur to jump through a series of dimensional gates. This is all rendered in faux-widescreen and mixed in 5.1 to give it a sense of epic importance. That's right, if you can't tell a story that makes any sense, just makes it wider and louder, and maybe nobody will notice.

*Yes, it should be Choujin/超神. But I'm too angry to type the long "ou" right now. I am quite literally lazy with rage.

First of all, Amano can still fly in The Urotsuki, so why is he cruising on a pterodactyl? Second, what crime did Amano's father commit? It's always been mentioned that Amano is a Hanjujin ("Half-Beast"), but this is the first time the screen writers have ever explored it... but it doesn't mean much of anything, since apart from the ability to travel to the Demon Realm, Amano seems to have no other powers, and since that's punishable by death, what good does it do him? Why the hell does any society that's mastered advanced radio technology and satellite aided radar still dress like extras from an Italian Conan knock-off? And how the fuck did Kuroko warp to the Human World?! He wasn't with Amano when he left!

Anyway, Amano gets captured by Megumi - oh sorry... Genyo, a green haired Demon Queen skank who clearly gets knocked up by Amano, but this fact is never mentioned outright and is thus completely unimportant. Genyo becomes the villainess to Amano's antihero, murdering anyone who stands in the way of finding the Chojin... but why? We never know. She's willing to kill left and right just to be sure she's found the God of Gods, but she seemingly doesn't intend to kill him, meaning that her role is EXACTLY LIKE AMANO'S. She's there to cause trouble because the screen writers weren't capable of creating a villainous entity with a personality or goal of their own. They literally just put tits and wings on Amano and said "GENIUS!"

Once again caught in the middle of this inter-dimensional clusterfuck -and yes, I mean that literally - is the pervy dork Nagumo, and the school athlete Ozaki. In the original series, Ozaki was a bitch who got burned to a crisp after 10 minutes of screen time. Here, he's the main character, but instead of being a basketball player (and remember, Slam Dunk was HUGE in the late 80s) he's now a boxer. So, instead of being about Amano trying to find the Overfiend, it's basically a porno version of Ashita no Joe with a supernatural backdrop.

Um... okay? I could deal with this change if Ozaki were a compelling antihero, but honestly, he's kind of an asshole. He has cancer and doesn't tell anybody, and then rapes his manager (who's secretly in love with him... *sigh*), but when the finds out she's sorry because she "didn't understand his feelings". For fuck's sake... Look, I know rape is the physical version of はじめまして! and all that, but are you serious? Ozaki spends the entire show feeling sorry for himself and trying to recapture his childhood friendship with Nagumo, and Nagumo - you know, the fucking Chojin himself - is essentially just shrubbery for the entire series, and succeeded only in dying - briefly, at that.

Nagumo isn't alone in being ornamental nothing, though. Niki makes a brief appearance as a fat girl working at McDonalds. Mimi, the Beast King's daughter, fills runtime in the opening sequence of the first episode but doesn't add anything of note. Akemi is almost useful as a psychic who reveals bits of the future to Ozaki, but the fact that a pacifist is somehow the leader of the Japanese Hells Angels is so asinine that I must disregarded her completely. Suikakuju, one of the most interesting characters in the original storyline, is mentioned by name but completely irrelevant to the story. All of these instances are disappointments, but at least they were thrown in seemingly as a wink and a nod to fans of the original series, like Tom Savini having a 10 second cameo in Zach Snyder's somewhat less disappointing (but still not great) Dawn of the Dead remake... it's there for fans, but it really adds nothing to the experience, other than trying in vain to point out things that we used to like about the franchise. This is a dangerous game, and the more you do it, the more condescending or desperate it can feel.

It doesn't stop there, though! Just as shockingly useless is a new character, Socrates, a cloned baby-monkey in a jar with wires coming out of his exposed brain. Amano finds him, says "What the fuck?", and he is never mentioned again. Genyo's cronies were clearly after him, but why? We don't know! The nothingness or Socrates perhaps sums up the deep flaws of The Urotsuki better than anything else I could pick apart like a festering maggot-covered wound: it makes a lot of noise, but there's really nothing to see. What the hell does a genius-monkey have to do with the Chojin? What's that... NOTHING? That's what I thought.

Both the titular Wandering Kid and the original subtitle's God of Gods are footnotes in what's supposedly their own program, and the fact that the original content setup around them is nothing but cardboard and mirrors is simply inexcusable. The script is shit, period, and without a good script you've typically got nothing. While The Urotsuki does impress in the first episode with its' boxing match, and features one amazing monster raep scene in the second episode (and one equally gorgeous attempted violation), which involves Ozaki becoming a masculine version of Genocyber and fucking a cute girl in half. This scene literally looks like it was cut from a much better series, but no, it's legitimately a part of The Urotsuki, like a delicious fresh strawberry sitting atop a pile of donkey shit.

The rest of the animation feels like stock footage from any number of unimpressive Milky Animation titles from the era. It's flat and ugly, with character designs that are mildly attractive but so poorly brought to life that I'm not exaggerating when I say that long stretches of animation, like the orgy at the start of the second episode, literally look like scribbled flash cartoons you'd find on crappy amateur-artist run pay websites. Even non-animated titles like Gibo/Stepmother's Sin, and the various Demon Beast Invasion sequels were smart enough to make up for a total lack of animation by having strikingly gorgeous production design as a crutch. The Urotsuki literally just ceases being awful for about 5 minutes total, and then returns to business as usual. Bad cinema is a shame, but bad pornography - particularly when it clearly had such lofty aspirations - is nothing short of an atrocity. The final nail in the coffin was realizing that a humanoid tentacle rape in the third episode was literally a remake of a scene form the opening of the third Inferno Road episode: Inferno Road 3 may well have been the biggest prior disappointment in the Urotsukidoji franchise, but watching the scene literally get remade without the slightest bit of narrative excitement or cinematic quality just left me hiding my head in my hands, ashamed - perhaps for the very first time in my life - to be watching god-awful animated pornography.

The only truly positive aspect to be found in The Urotsuki is probably the soundtrack by regular series composer AMANO Masamichi. Unlike the script or direction, it pulls on the original tunes for inspiration and layers them with more complex and touching melodies, creating a surprisingly sensitive score based on what was once a powerful explosion of electronic fury. I absolutely hate to say it, but The Urotsuki may have the best music out of the entire Wandering Kid saga, and the fact that it's wasted on such putrid crap is really a waste. NISHMURA Tomohiro is also predictably fine in the role of Amano, but then Nishimura simply being Nishimura can hardly be considered a daunting task: much like Samuel L. Jackson or Wakamoto Norio, Nishimura is rarely asked to create a character so much as he is asked to play a trumped up version of himself, and while the result is always a lot of fun I can't imagine it's especially hard for any of these men to basically be coked-up versions of their accepted personas. Everybody else on the Japanese end seems adequate: none of the performers jumped out at me as being especially great or terrible. Nishimura's performance is all background noise to Ozaki wallowing in a sea of emo self-hatred anyway, so much like Amano's score, it's a minor bit of consolation in a seemingly never ending chain of crap.

I have nothing more to say. I feel as if the more time I even shit on this title's screaming mouth is a waste of time. I implore you, dear friends, avoid The Urotsuki. It may not be quite as terrible as Raoh Gaiden Ten no Haoh or the live action Devilman, but that's akin to saying that something is less terrible than choking to death on your own semen... seriously, what isn't?

Friday, August 14, 2009

La Mort D'amour

It took about a week to finish properly, but sure enough the Kentai Films script for LOVEDEATH is complete. As it an ISO patch for everyone who happens to have a copy of the French Edition and can rip a 1:1 copy of it using ImgBurn.


ENGLISH SUBTITLE SCRIPT (PAL FORMAT) - V2 UPDATE


PATCH FOR THE FRENCH DVD


Many scenes were re-translated completely, and while I won't vouch that this script is 100% literal at every turn, I can promise you it's the best English script for the Integrale 158 minute version of LoveDeath out there. LBlisters has evidently released an "official" translation, which is likely far better than this, but it's of the shorter 122 minute Festival Cut and thus is somewhat useless in the context of the uncut version of the film.

Having checked the French script it seems that at least some of the blame needs to be aimed at M6/WE Entertainment. The French translation was hardly a literal one to start with, so translating that back into English and comparing it to the Japanese dialog quickly became a clusterfuck of epic proportions.

I'm currently making arrangements to get my hands on the Japanese rental version of LoveDeath, which means an NTSC transfer with a Dolby 5.1 track. If either of those matter to you, wait. If not, the French DVD is pretty fantastic looking. If PAL's your bag, hey, I'm not here to judge. You filthy pervert.

And now, we can put this whole ugly mess behind us. It's back to subtitling animated pornography and restoring B-movies for me, and I couldn't be happier.

EDIT: There was a minor unicode freak-out that caused some gibberish to pop-up for two or three lines relating to "I'm", of all things. That's fixed on the subtitles now.

Since there will be an even better DVD patch in the near future, I'm afraid you'll just have to live with these very minor flaws for the time being, but you can download a fixed script and either load it externally or craft a patch of your own, if you're so inclined.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Diebusted!

Original 1080p screenshot.


The same screenshot downscaled to 480p, and then upscaled back to 1080p.


Having watched the Bandai Visual Blu-ray release of
トップをねらえ 2! 劇場版 / DIEBUSTER: THE MOVIE, I was impressed by the stellar technical animation for an OVA dating back to 2003-2006, but also slightly disappointed at how soft everything was for a 1080p release. I think the above comparison speaks for itself in establishing that this was Bandai Visual's second NTSC upscale on "High Definition" Blu-ray.

I've been on the fence about the Gunbuster vs Diebuster Gattai! Blu-ray box set. $100 MSRP for 190 minutes worth of two compilation films and a bonus disc is hardly chump change for a US release, and while I didn't mind Diebuster as a feature film, the original series falls apart in its' shorter, singular edition. I want them both in High Definition with lossless 5.1 audio, naturally, but I'd much rather have the even more outrageously overpriced OVA cuts ($70 for Gunbuster/$120 for Diebuster), which are only available on DVD. What is a broke OCD videophile to do?

Sadly, $100 (by which I mean $60 at Amazon.com) is still a damn good deal next to the 155 minute long $150 Yukikaze collection, or the $50 bare-bones Akira disc I already own. While the pricing was outrageous, Bandai Visual's AV and packaging quality was always top notch, though I never felt that the latter quite justified the former. Bandai Entertainment's first BD release (Ghost in the Shell: Innocence) was a bit of a clunker, but word on Sword of the Stranger gives me hope that all upcoming Bandai Blu-ray will still be high quality and not cost an arm and a leg - just one or the other.

Much as I was against the process of releasing "quasi-HD" material on Blu-ray when the resolution of the source never surpassed what standard DVD could provide, Diebuster actually makes a great argument for the format's use on SD material. The problem with DVD on HD setups has less to do with the lower resolution, and more to do with the relatively low bitrates and archaic MPEG-2 compression that exist as the only option for DVD video.

Having already ordered Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete, clearly I've just about given up on my "no upscales" policy.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Love It To Death

The fact that this blog title has absolutely nothing to do with Alice Cooper is nothing short of staggering.

I've spent 2 days fixing up the translation on the first half of Ryuhei KITAMURA's 2006 Yakuza driven black comedy LoveDeath. For me, that's business as usual. Getting a heaping pile of drama on top? Now that's a twist!

I was a little surprised to receive a combination of insults and demands, directly from the woman who translated a couple hundred French subtitles into English, not to do anything with "her" script. I'll point out now that she only translated about 300 lines out of nearly 2,000 subtitles. This will make the next paragraph even funnier.

I'll spare you every gory detail, but evidently she took a grave offense to me putting "Kentai Films Presents" in the DVD subtitles of This Transient Life. After being called everything from pretentious to the Miramax Incarnate, she even went so far as to release her crappy translation and claim that I hatched a nefarious world-dominating plot to steal all of her hard work and claim it for our own. Never mind that 85% of it wasn't hers to begin with, and that I had every intention of giving her and everyone else who worked on this project full props for their blood, sweat and tears. Forget that the third party who sent me the script told her up front that he was sending it to me for DVD patching. Oh no, this was all me putting a Svengali spell on someone so I could revel in the glory of subtitling a yakuza comedy for free. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

Care to see what fantastique translations you can expect on the new Frenglish script?


At what moment did my life changed?

Her, it's our Boss's girl.

354,803,500 yens...stolen.

It's humiliating! It cuts your ears!

"The money has been stolen and is not found yet..."


I could go on, but you get the idea. Frankly, these subtitles suck dried amphibian balls on sliced stale baguette in any language, and I'd have been embarrassed to release a DVD with incomprehensible bullshit like that.

Whatever. I hope she had fun releasing that Frenglish script on DVD. If she's too good for my (much needed) help, then fuck her. There just aren't words to describe the violent crazy that drips out of this chick, so I've decided to simply let the situation dry up and flake off on its' own.

I'll let you guys know when the less-shoddy English script is ready. I'd love to see it attached to the JR2 eventually.

Friday, August 07, 2009

It makes SLIGHTLY more sense in context...


...but not nearly enough.

LoveDeath's subtitles need to be overhauled pretty drastically, so everything else will take a rest 'till this is through.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Wait... Did I Do Those?

How could I neglect to mention the last to Kentai Films' DVD9 projects here? I swear, if my testicles weren't bolted to my dork I'd probably forget them at home...


Takashi Miike's THE GUYS FROM PARADISE


Kazuo Umezz's OROCHI


In the latter case, the script was from an honest-to-goodness fansubber, so kudos goes to 8thSin for letting me steal his hard work and act like it's my own. For The Guys From Paradise, the subtitles are from Cannibal King, but finally on a proper 16:9 and dual-layered transfer.

The next two films I'll be finishing are as follows:

Akio Jissouji's THIS TRANSIENT LIFE 無常

This Transient Life is actually finished right now, I just need to author the VIDEO_TS folder into a dual-layer DVD image and then get the cover scanned. Look forward to that. It's a strange, fascinating film that strikes me as a bit like a non-fastastic answer to Le Viol du Vampire... except, you know, it's not a steaming pile of crap.


Ryuhei Kitamura's LOVEDEATH

This will be quite an unusual release for me. For one thing, I'm working with the French DVD, which is a genuine 25fps PAL transfer rather than the usual NTSC>PAL standards conversion. The only real downside is that the French release has a 2.0 Japanese downmix to make room for the 5.1 French track, though at least these subtitles could easily be retimed to match the NTSC and surround-sound Japanese language release... if it were ever to fall into my lap. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy Kitamura quite a bit, but if I've yet to pay $30 for Ultimate Versus I'm sure as hell not paying $60 for this.