Saturday, January 30, 2010

Are You Saying My PS3 Is Gay?

The upcoming Limited "Naughty Edition" of the sexy girl drama/
strategy battle RPG
Record of Agarest War/アガレスト戦記
includes some pretty awesome first press extras...

Oh sure, plenty of vocal fans today would just love to see this kind of lolita fetishism and jiggle objectification disappear from the anime/manga/gaming subculture, not so much because it actually offends them morally, but so they could feel like they can take it all more seriously and not feel like they have to explain their affection for undressed animated teenagers to others. The western world has a hard time accepting that 2D character representations - cartoons, I mean - are anything but drivel for young children, and the fact that Japan does occasionally produce 2D animation targeted solely at smart adults gives foreign fans the faint hope that Japan is a nation of people who "get" that cartoons can, and should, be edgy. They blindly assume that, because THIS show was badass and totally serious, everything else those crazy Japs make must be just as awesome!

Most of these people are missing the point, of course. Anime, manga and Japanese video games, which have formed a bizarre and tightly interconnected relationship over the last 20 years, exist primarily to amuse people under the age of 25 with bright colors, big eyes and sappy pop songs. To otherwise distract us from how boring our own mundane life really is, a life lacking in honorable turn-based sword magic combat and humorous situations revolving accidentally revealed anti-gravity boobs.

Undeniable proof that Japan's industry of self-depreciating
pandering has gone too far...
and makes the world a better place for it.

If this sort of light weight and marketing driven pandering offends them, odds are they shouldn't much bother indulging in Japanese pop culture to begin with. It's been this way for well over a decade, and it isn't about to stop any time soon if shows like Queen's Blade and Strike Witches continue to sell so well they can justify sequels.

Me? I just wish more games came with these "3D Oppai" mouse pads. I still kick myself in the junk from time to time over the fact that I never bought the adorable Night Shift Nurses version...

What, you don't like tits cushioning your wrist?

The only real issue I have with this stunning limited edition presentation is the missed opportunity - namely the fact that it's only available to XBox 360 players. The PS3 release will be a nearly 10GB download-only game, which distributors Aksys Games promise will be slightly cheaper than the physical release, and (if I'm not mistaken) will include some free download content that 360 users will have to pony up for. This sounds like a reasonable compromise, but becomes largely irrelevant when you consider that these boob-pads typically sell for anywhere from $25-75, and the limited edition of the game is just $60, making the fucking game itself a virtual freebie if you just want the physical extras.

I have a PS3, and not a 360. That's not because I'm vehemently anti-Microsoft or pro-Sony, or even because there was one single game on the PS3 that I needed to fucking live, but because the PS3 offered the same basic gaming capabilities as the 360... plus a Blu-ray drive(*fap*), built-in wireless internet, free on-line play, the option to install consumer level HDD, plus several other smaller things that made it generally more appealing. Price aside, there was really no reason to favor the Bawks over the Pee-Ess, so I waited and got what I really wanted. As simple as that.

And no, considering the 360's estimated 9,000(+/-)% chance of a R.R.O.D., I don't think I made a poor decision, either.

I know people just love to defend their favorite consoles to the death, and to the best of my knowledge they have since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System versus the Sega Genesis, and it wouldn't surprise me if there was a forgotten epic war between ColecoVision and Commodore 64 players that existed long before the internet could keep track of - and simultaneously make fun of - such selfish and pointless retardation.

Case in point.

I don't care what side of the fence you're on, the fact is releasing a game made to be available on multiple systems getting extra crap thrown on only one of them is ridiculous. Even worse is the fact that while Aksys is simply forgoing the physical media on the PS3 version (I suspect to save money on pricey Blu-ray replication costs), the game is getting released on disc in Europe and Asia, which means virtually any other goddamn region of the world could have potentially offered people who don't spend every dime buying various game machines (What? Spend money on GAMES?!) the chance to squeeze the relevant plastic toy tits they so rightly yearn for.

Friday, January 29, 2010

No Time For Crime

Sorry the Kentai Blog has been more quiet than usual this month. The short of it is I got handed a couple dozen subtitle scripts to edit, and the last week and change have been spent doing little else. I still have a feature film to fix up, and I need to make sure the pile of TV episode subs actually work, so don't expect me to be back to my usual semi-proactive state of laziness for several days yet.

In the meantime, consider this:

How in the world does an artist like Hyung Tae-Kim, who knows even less about anatomy than he does perspective (much less weight, or texture!) still manage to produce such delicious looking pieces? For reasons I can't explain I really feel the need to spill my guts on why I love awful art, but that clearly won't be until I can use my brain for non-editing purposes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Funny thing happened when I took a look at the Maryuu Shinden VHS cover: It listed its' runtime as 40 minutes, despite the CAV LD release running a few minutes shy of 30. So what was inflating the runtime by nearly 15 minute?

A VHS exclusive recap of the first two episodes!

As you can see, the quality of the Maryuu Senki VHS was nothing to write home about. It doesn't have quite the same flickering problem like the rotten LD of the first episode, but it's substantially softer and just as dark, so I can't call it "better" with a straight face.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

King's Karate Tricks

Ever wonder what uber-violent MANime staple Hokuto no Ken: Fist of the North Star would have been like had 4Kids marketed it as a show for retarded 8 year olds... in Sweeden?! Well that's just too mother fucking bad, because it happened, baby!

Thanks to ChasedByFate for bringing this 20 minutes of sweet, sweet misery to my attention. Keep in mind THIS IS WHAT HOKUTO NO KEN WAS ALL ABOUT. Watch it - at the very least, I beg you, watch from 7:20 onward in part 2 - and weep a single tear for all that humanity has accomplished in the least 25 years.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hininden Dot Crawl

When TComb works, wow, it fucking works.

And when it doesn't...

I know I said I was happy with the Gausu transfer prior. I was too, more or less, but an authoring error made me lose several seconds from the end credits, and that just isn't acceptable to me. So, here I am, crafting a new script for (I pray) the last time for that ancient Scarlett Ninja Legend.

Checkmate may be slightly better at removing dot-crawl on moving objects, but it's also immeasurably more prone to artifacts for it. When TComb doesn't work, it might as well not be there - which is exactly how a comb filter should work. It's still not half as good at this stuff as a stand-alone DVD recorder is these days, but for R2 sourced material it's still better than nothing.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

He is the Spirit of the Age!!

Not to be a bleeding blowhole, but I just want you guys to see the shoddy materials I sometimes have to deal with here at Kentai Films. This is ONIMARU, a rather obscure 1990 action/comedy OAV from Magic Bus and distributor by C. Moon. I don't know jack about the staff of the history, but I'll do my five minutes of research another day.

This is an original, lightly used rental VHS, but even I'd swear it's a multi-generation copy... it's not only loaded with mysterious gritty noise I've never seen before in all my years of watching shitty looking anime tapes, but it's also got wavering, irregular geometry, even with a line TBC... it's as if the cheap son of a bitch in charge mastered the production VHS from a check tape and used a shitty VCR to dub it from, too. Just to add to my misery, there's after-image ghosting that literally lasts over one second.

I'll probably do a similar "download" version of this alongside a DVD, but don't expect either to be remotely watchable. Not even the holy magic of Neat Video nor the temporal serial grain rapist that is eDeen is going to fix this...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Let Me Just Get My Googly-Eye Glasses...

Not to look a free fansubbed DVD in the mouth or anything, but am I the only person out there who seriously can't fucking read these subtitles? (Never mind the fact that my widescreen CRT has overscan.) Kudos for font-matching and all that, but damn... if we at Kentai Films ever do this on DVD, you dear readers have my permission to hold a violent uprising and take back your competently subtitled smut and cult entertainment.

I'm not trying to pick on the guy who made this DVD, mind you. He's a good man, and he's only doing what others before him have done with the same material. The problem isn't this lone hard-working DVD subtitler, it's the entire culture surrounding fansubs. Some title sequences these day have more movement in the subtitles than they do the animation, and this is because - at some point in the last decade - making fancy subtitles became more important than making sensible subtitles. I don't mind the occasional "stylish" font for a spray-painted tag or a message written in blood, but what you see above is for NORMAL DIALOG. All I can say is that's messed up.

I'm not the first person to call for everyone out there who produces stuff like this to re-think their ways, nor do I hope I'll be the last - unless this post is so magical it single-handedly changes the world, in which case nobody else needs to complain about overly-stylish "funtitles". I think I really just want someone out there to try and explain how stuff like this is more appealing than some nice Arial Narrow text with a thin border.

Besides, nothing I said above is even half
as stupid as sideways karaoke subs:

If Japanese people can't even read them, stop.
At this point you're being completely fucktarded.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kentai Films Presents: Dead Heat In The Raw

DEAD HEAT was an original one-shot 1987 OAV about "Formula X" mecha-racing roller derbys, created solely because the 1980s were full of crazy one-shot anime based on a single animator's selfishly fetishistic whims. (How else does one explain oddities ranging from Angel's Egg to M.D. Geist?) This Sunrise/Victor production was directed by KAWASE Toshifumi, a man who's director credits range from moe bait Pitaten, children's mecha "yuusha" prototype Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh*, boob-fighter train wreck Tenjho Tenge, a show that defies all brief descriptions - Eat Man '98, and goddamn top adventure anime Beyblade.

No, seriously. Pitaten, TenTen, Raijin-Oh and a show about racing robots. Say what you will about any of them, but it'd be a bold faced lie to suggest he's not versatile.

*Now available from Anime Midstream! Seriously. I know, I thought they were just making shit up, too!

This is one of roughly a quarter-million tapes that Shin sent me ages ago, and while I'm still fine-tuning the script for a DVD transfer, there is no translation available, and the odds of one existing seem limited without readily available copies making the rounds anyway. So I figured, crap, why not just give some of these uber-obscure titles away to whoever follows the blog?

While the DVD encode will likely receive some additional tweaks, don't let my continued insanity put you off. This is an H264/AC3 file at higher resolutions than a deinterlaced VHS could ever provide, and I think with a touch of post-processing through my usual FFDShow Tryouts settings, it looks pretty damn good.

Oh yeah, the Victor VHS runs about 37 minutes, despite the OAV itself ending after 32. Why? Because the tape included a bonus gallery of animator genga sketches running about 5 minutes as a primitive extra. It's included, and since this particular encode was Quant based it shouldn't have increased the file size exponentially.

Before you think that 23 year old anime about riding a motorcycle with arms couldn't be less relevant to today's rash of of popular fantasy soft-porn and guitar strumming school girls, just remember: The more things change...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


あれは サタン!サタン サタン!

Today's lulz are courtesey of Mania's 10 Most Iconic Anime Heroes. I don't know Thomas Zoth from a hole in the ground, so he may or may not realize he's made an epic mistake here.

It's hilariously lazy at best, horrifyingly ignorant at worst. It made me laugh, either way.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Have To Break Up The Band(ing)

Neat Video is awesome, we've established that already. When I took a look at the before/after shots of Maryuu Senki, I couldn't believe the results... unfortunately, most of those A/B tests were on still frames. Not moving clips. I thought I was done with this whole remaster thing yesterday, and then stumbled upon a nasty surprise... allow me to explain how it slipped through up until now.

Spatial Digital Video Noise Reduction (DVNR) works by simply comparing each pixel to its' neighbor pixels in the same frame, based on an arbitrary threshold of how 'different' any given pixel has to be from its' neighbors to be kept. Either the pixel is turned into a clone of its' neighbor, or it is isn't. It's simple stuff, and while it has uses, it doesn't really do much good on crap like... well, like this:

Temporal Digital Video Noise Reduction works by comparing each pixel to the corresponding pixel in the frame before and/or after itself. That allows it to remove a lot more noise by averaging a wider sample, and - in many circumstances - looks slightly more natural when the grain levels fluctuate drastically on a frame-by-frame basis.

Here's the problem: Maryuu Senki is a title with lots of spatial noise, lots of temporal anamolies, and lots of fluctuating chroma changes. This is sort of the perfect shit storm to give birth to the dreaded artifact known as banding - that is, natural dithered gradients turning into chunky blobs of single colors, also known as posterization. The issue isn't really that I have banding - sure that sucks, but there's filters that can deal with it, and it's sort of a natural consequence of DNR with difficult material. It sure beats the source problems, doesn't it?

In a still, or spatially, it looks okay! In motion - that is, temporally - you'll shit bricks.

The issue I have with all of this banding is that it literally pulses. It's as if the walls are alive, throbbing and breathing like characters themselves. It isn't just a problem that shouldn't exist, it's fucking creepy. I'm frustrated to find that it's a source related issue - it isn't that the LD had visible banding, but it did have some subtle chroma shifting buried under a very thick layer of noise that, when fused together into more stable blocks of color via DVNR, blends into a fluctuating solid band of color. Slapping grain on top doesn't even hide it; that banding is alive, and it wants to eat my very soul.

At first I thought it could be an issue with Neat Video specifically, but I've gotten almost identical results using the 3D filtering options in FFT3D Filter and Deen. I didn't spot much of this 'pulsing' with Temporal Cleaner, but I did get temporal ghosting, which is even worse than temporal banding fuckery. So I tried using Neat Video without Stab in the chain. Still a bandy legged piss-fest. Out of desperation, I tried using both Neat Video and Deen in spatial-only modes... the pulsing was slightly less obvious, but it was absolutely still there.

These banding problems, even using the exact same DVNR profiles, are simply non-existent on Maryuu Henjou and Maryuu Shinden. This is strictly a problem with the source, and since Maryuu Senki was that melt-in-your-hands, not-in-your-mouth science experiment of mine, it's probably a flaw that dying disc will take with it to the grave. It could even be a source issue, how the heck would I know not having seen a stable copy?

I hate it, I really do. But there's really not dick I can do about it. If I can ever find a new LD that isn't scratched and doesn't melt apart in my hands, the banding and noise would be less of an issue to start with. But until that happens I'm going to have to live with these freaky Giger-gasm walls... oh well. An earnest restoration of a flawed master is still better than the flawed master you start with - and these clips do illustrate plenty of what's wrong with Maryuu Senki to begin with.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Scarlet Menu Buttons

Still got some work to do on these menus, but it won't be long now.

I've found a pretty substantial pile of things that I could include for the DVD, so there will definitely be more special features than there were on the original Pink Pineapple release. Which of course had none at all, save for trailers stuck at the end for Kisaku Spirit and the Hana to Hebi PC game. Possible points of interest for anyone actually waiting for the Gausu Remaster:

* I still can't figure out for certain what the hell "rikudoushuu" is supposed to mean, since I can't find what I think is the appropriate kanji anywhere on the official site. In the original context it might be "集の一人", which would roughly translate to something like 'One of the Six Guardians', sort of like a less sinister sounding Eight Devils of Kimon from Ninja Scroll. Unless somebody here can come up with a better translation for Shura's dialog, that'll be what I use.

At least that's the last of EroBeat's somewhat incomprehensible Japanese jargon. Other than 'Gausu' itself, which was such an obscure kanji mash-up that even the Japanese title was written out in easy to read katakana. The OAV didn't last long enough to confirm what 'Gausu' truly meant, so I'll leave that point just a little vague.

* "Shinobi" and "Kunoichi" will be used in the subtitles. As a friend pointed out to me, studios like Geneon and ADV have released movies with Kunoichi in the title, and the word Shinobi has been with is for years in the form of video games, so I shouldn't bother replacing the actual words with stuff like "Female Ninja".

Ninja will be used for the title, however, and I can explain why. 忍者 is read as "Ninja" using the on kanji reading, while 忍の者 is read as "Shinobi no Mono" using the kun kanji reading. Kun readings are for using stand alone words, while on readings are short-hand and used for combining separate words - like 緋忍伝. So "Ninja" as a short hand for the title is totally appropriate, even though not a single character in Gausu calls themselves one. (Ain't kanji just a bitch?)

* I have the 1:40 Gausu promo movie that disappeared from PinPai's site several years ago. It was made for computer viewing over 4 years ago, so the quality isn't perfect, but it's better than not having a trailer at all.

* I do have reasonably high quality scans of the 100 page RIN-SIN ILLUSTRATIONS book, and odds are it will be included as DVD-ROM content. Unfortunately it's the 2001 printing, not the expanded 2005 edition that came out around the same time as Gausu. That sucks, but even if I bought a copy of the second edition I don't think I'd have the balls to shred it to pieces and scan it.

As for everything else, I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the DVD. But like I said, it shouldn't be much longer.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Calling Dr. Lamb For Emergencey Restoration Surgery

This cover is a lie, by the way.

About two years ago ago Austrian film licensor XT Video made my day by announcing that the Cat III feature DR. LAMB/羔羊醫生, would be released uncensored in anamorphic widescreen on DVD for the very first time in June of 2008. It was even going to have English subtitles!

For the uninitiated, Dr. Lamb is the "mostly" true story of a Hong Kong cab driver who, for the better half of 1982, kidnapped, murdered and dissected several young women in a one-man reign of terror. Fun for the whole family. It was some fairly ground-breaking cinema in 1992, a cultural oddity from a country who's horror output had mostly been wild and psychedelic adaptations of grotesque folk tales. This film established the pattern of a deranged psycho killer and the abusive bumbling cops who need to get a confession out of him, regardless of what rules they have to break.

It worked well enough here that it was effectively remade (from a structural point of view) with a better lead and way more sex and violence in THE UNTOLD STORY/八仙飯店 人肉叉燒包 one year later, and the entire Cat III industry changed almost overnight when that received no small level of mainstream acclaim. From then on seemingly every Cat III feature was about a perverted maniac raping and killing attractive women for 90 minutes, and the subgenere flourished until about 2000, when a pair of films about the "Hello Kitty Murder" were literally released on the same day.

For whatever reason Hong Kong hasn't much gone back to this gruesome treasure trove since, and so like Tokugawa period pieces about sexual torture and jungle movies featuring cannibals castrating each other, it's become yet another crazy bygone subgenre in the twisted metal mosaic of exploitation films. They're also some of the trashiest, most politically incorrect, and inappropriately hilarious exploitation films ever made anywhere, and as such the Hong Kong Nasty of the 1990s holds a special place in my heart right next to 80s tentacle rape anime and mind-numbing 70s zombie epics.

Anyway, this entry isn't so much about the film as it the DVD. XT Video is, like any German or Austrian label with "X" in the name, a subsidiary of Andreas Bethmaan's X-Rated Kult company. The initial release of Dr. Lamb was a pair of DVD case sized hardboxes and a limited VHS sized hard case, and once those sold out a limited metalpack was produced. Being way too goddamn poor to spend 25 Euros on a film I never picked up for $10, it's since become unavailable, but I finally got my hands on a copy.

Bethmaan and pals promised it would be anamorphic, so that means the DVD should look at least pretty good, right?

Fuck! No fine detail, chunky analog video noise, weak black levels, massive edge-enhancement halos... it's kind of a laundry list of source fugly-assness. The dual-layer disc left it with decent compression, at the very least... Looks like it's the same non-anamorphic print Winson minted for DVD in 2001, but filtered within an inch of its' life, and with about 30 seconds of restored footage from PAL VHS. The scariest part is the difference in quality isn't as dramatic as you'd expect...

At least it's mostly-progressive 25fps PAL transfer despite being made from an NTSC source, and is presented in anamorphic widescreen at what looks like a 1.72:1 aspect ratio. The comb filtering has been done pretty well, and there isn't much in the way of obvious temporal DNR smearing or scratch removal artifacts, despite both having been used on the source. (Supposedly the old Winson DVD had grain. This one sure doesn't.) Truth be told the restoration itself isn't bad, it's just that the source is so terrible it's piling expensive makeup on a rotten pig head. It needed a new 16:9 transfer from a stable 35mm source, and instead we got a transfer from 2001 that was barely fit for LD.

Sad as this may be, Dr. Lamb is actually a lot better looking than Raptor's earlier "Remastered" release of The Untold Story, and both discs mirror one another with extravagant numbered boxes, a featurette on the new 5.1 surround German dub, and even a similar before/after restoration comparison...

The latest non-limited release is just 15 euros, which seems like less of a rip-off for such a poor transfer. It's possible that the producers don't know where the film negative is, and a new restoration is physically impossible. It's also probable that when you're only selling 2,000 copies of something you don't even own, paying for a new telecine is financially counterproductive. I know all too well the realities that small genre labels face, and so they have my sympathy - but that still doesn't mean that they're not overcharging for a fairly shitty product. Sadly, the XT release is still the best looking DVD release out there of this film, and the only one that's uncut. Universe/Tai Seng released a dump of the same letterboxed LD transfer, which was cut by about 30 seconds by the Hong Kong censors (details HERE). I don't think there have even been any other DVD transfers to speak of, so even if this looks like crap, I'm still kind of glad to have it.

The CineClub release of RUN AND KILL/烏鼠機密檔案 remains the only "real" German restoration of a Cat III feature*. I'll leave you with a few delightful screencaps to show you much much difference starting from an early-generation film can net, even if the new telecine isn't perfect.

That said, Run and Kill also came with an uncut copy of INTRUDER/恐怖雞 so god-awful that I refuse to even post screencaps. The fact that it seemed to have been sourced from an all digital source makes me all the more sad.

*I've been told that the German transfer of Run and Kill was probably lifted from the French HK Video release. Wouldn't surprise me, as these guys have released several anamoprhic transfers of trashy vintage Hong Kong features, and I doubt Cine Club has money to burn. The point on "Make a new telecine, goddamn it!" still stands.


Turns out the 1999 film TRUST ME U DIE/新羔羊醫生 was marketed as "The New Dr. Lamb", and also happens to star Simon Yam as a serial killer. It's worth pointing out that this was the year "The New Untold Story", Bloody Buns/新人肉叉燒包 came out. If Trust Me U Die is anything like Bloody Buns, consider painful suicide as a viable and wise alternative to actually watching it.

Momentary comb filter fail...?
Seriously, what the hell is this?

Friday, January 01, 2010

And A Happy Nude Year

I've decided to not start this brave new decade with a bunch of empty promises or hype. Just know that several releases are waiting for their finishing touches, and I'm hard at work on several more titles that I hope to call finished in the coming weeks.

At this moment, Kentai Films has nowhere to go but up. We'll see just how hard I take advantage of it.

Hey! I said "but up", not "taking hard advantage butts"...
I guess maybe I should have said that, though.