O, arrogant humanity!
Not all that the Blu-ray format promises
may be what Kitty Media actually provides...
It's here. Kitty Media/Media Blasters' UROTSUKIDŌJI: LEGEND OF THE OVERFIEND DVD/Blu-ray set. You all know how I feel about the film, so let's just get down to the technical stuff, shall we?
You know what? Fuck it, here's what you're probably here for: SCREENSHOTS FOR ALL!!
Before I even removed the shrink-wrap, I knew I was in for trouble. According to the packaging, the main feature is presented in "1080p High Definition 1.66:1 aspect ratio", and as a bonus feature you're treated to the "DVD release with original 1.33:1 aspect ratio". As I went over, the Urotsukidoji Movie was made of footage from the OVA series, and as such the title was always, always meant to be shown in 4:3. Every single prior VHS, DVD and LD release of "The Movie" has been in SD fullscreen, and I didn't even think I had to worry that Media Blasters would fuck up something as basic as a film produced in 4:3, for 4:3, being presented in 4:3. Seriously, I thought we were passed that shit in the year 2011.
But I suppose 1.66:1 is a better compromise than 1.78:1, right? Well, we may as well see how bad the framing is compared to the DVD...
480i DVD (upscaled to 1080p via Photoshop Bicubic)
...oh. It is 1.78:1. The hell? Well, I guess at least the box warned me the aspect ratio was fucked, it just downplayed HOW fucked it was. As you'll see through this comparison, the Blu-ray has marginally more info on the sides of the frame, but that it comes to a considerable loss at the top and bottom.
The whole Urotsukidoji series was animated in 4:3 - no exceptions - and was never intended to be shown at this ratio. "The Movie" has never been matted before on home video, and as this was probably only shown in a hand-full of arthouse theaters, it's not as if they had gone out of their way to "fix" the original framing for the compiled theatrical version. I honestly don't know why the Media Blasters crew thought it'd be a brilliant fucking idea to do it THIS time. I wouldn't say it's the most ruinous cropping in the history of animation - if anything it's slightly less retarded looking here than it was on the otherwise stunning German remaster of Vampire Hunter D - but it's still a boneheaded bullshit move that should please absolutely no-one who knows anything about the history of Urotsukidoji.
While it's always frustrating that almost nobody mentions the ultimate source of an HD film scan, I actually don't even need MB to tell me what this Blu-ray was made from: The title sequence does it for me.
Having spoken with former CPM employee Justin Sevakis about this title on more than one occasion, I know for a fact that a total of three English dubbed prints and three subtitled prints were in John O'Donnell's possession when he bought the rights for the Urotsukidoji film in the early 90s. These credits are a 35mm optical effect, not a digital recreation thereof, so we can be pretty safe assuming that the new Media Blasters HD master was made from those roadshow prints, or at least the Internegative that CPM used to create their prints with. This means that the title card and the Myojin "University" sign are subtitled, but also means that the opening Legend of the Overfiend is not. The closing credits are actually an all-new digitally created crawl that credit both the CPM and MB staff... fair enough, I guess, even if the chapter menu shows original Japanese credits.
So what's the quality of the transfer like, cropping and titles aside? It isn't good, that's for damn sure. It beats out the DVD materials, but since that's an analog CRT transfer dating all the way back to '89, the fact that the Blu-ray is generally more detailed and and has better colors should come as nothing of a shock. Naturally the Blu-ray lacks the analog video noise, composite rainbows and dot-crawl of the old JP transfer, and in general has a sharper, essentially more film-like look than any of the older prints. For once I'm not squinting at the transfer and trying to decide if this is an upscale; most of the transfer (and I'll get to that caveat shortly) looks better than a DVD, and as pitiful as this is, that's something I broadly want to praise Media Blasters for. The contrast is much higher than the old DVD materials and the blacks appear slightly crushed, but both of these are the result of the print used; this isn't something you "could" fix like print damage or poor framing, that's just the nature of the beast.
Unfortunately the transfer has clearly had a moderate pass of grain-scrubbing DVNR, and it looks as if zero attempts have been made to clean up the myriad of scratches and dirt blobs that cover the print from start to finish. Urotsukidoji has never been especially pretty and I'd be more than willing to forgive the occasional scratch in the name of preserving the film's artistic integrity, but I expected at least a token effort to clean up the constant layer of emulsion damage... it appears I may have expected too much. There's also a slightly distracting level of warping based edge-sharpening that's easy to spot on character outlines and similar 'hard' edges, but hasn't exaggerated the grain or color gradients too horribly (thank fuck for that, I guess). I've always expected "The Movie" to be a grainy, ugly mess considering that it was primarily compiled from duplicate negatives of the original OVA material, but this is pretty far above and beyond the level of "ick" I had expected for its' HD debut.
Urotsukidoji certainly looks more like film on Blu-ray than it ever did on DVD, but it looks far more like a chewed up and slightly out of focus print you'd find at the local Multiplex than anything approaching the camera negative. Consider this the "warts and all" approach to restoration and there's still some level of appreciable gains in quality, but I wouldn't put this anywhere close to the level of care and deducation showered upon Rock & Rule, another animated film who's surviving elements might have been in a similar shape as the print we're reviewing today. Colors are largely consistent with previous releases, though it's worth mentioning that the last reel goes to hell somewhat, with Akemi's aura now appearing more green than golden, and the otherwise rock-solid black levels take a turn for the unpleasantly gray once inside that universal negative space between our world and that of the Choujin.
And you know what? If that had been what I was handed from start to finish, in its' intended ratio, I'd be fine with it. Oh sure, I'd moan and sigh and be less than impressed, but at the end of the article I'd still shrug and say "Oh well, it's Legend of the Overfiend in High Definition. Guess I can die happy now. Go buy it, ya hosers!"
I'm afraid that's not quite what we were given - not in full, anyway. You see, when you hit 'Play' from the main menu, it starts with the following "warning"...
It's worth noting that Rock & Rule only played this card
for the "lost" consumer-VHS sourced TV broadcast cut...
for the "lost" consumer-VHS sourced TV broadcast cut...
When I saw it followed by the familiar but more chewed-up than normal West Cape Corporation logos, I wasn't too worried. I figured, Oh okay, they had to cut multiple 35mm prints together because scenes from each one have been damaged. That's fine. I figured worst case scenario, the print gets blurrier or the colors change or the framing might get a little dicey...
Or maybe it defaults back to a cropped version the same FUCKING ANALOG TAPE master the VHS and Laserdisc were made from over twenty years ago. I should have guessed was a possibility, right? I know, I'm such an asshole for expecting a 1080p Blu-ray release to not suddenly shift gears into VHS territory...
No need to panic though, I thought to myself through gritted teeth and clenched fists. Maybe the scene with Akemi being raped was just a one-time thing. So I skipped forward to the scene with the nurse, trying very hard not to put my fist through a wall as I did...
Great Tezuka's Ghost! The whole scene looks like this, barring about 15 seconds? Oh, my bloody fuck... but hey, it's not like the scene where Amano and Suikakujuu are fucking up Osaka will look half this--
OH COME ON!!
While I'd have been a dick and argue that the 35mm sourced restoration wasn't all that impressive to start with, at least it was High Definition. The finished Blu-ray transfer almost regularly switches back and fourth between 35mm and the same analog source tape that the Kitty Media 2010 DVD was sourced from, which in turn is the exact same master tape every single prior home video release of 'The Movie' was ultimately born from. Even the Anime 18 DVD was crafted this antiquated transfer, though they went out of their way to source the end credits from a "Clean" source and create a new title card with video technology.
For further proof as to how fucking pitiful these inserts are, here's a comparison between the new 2011 Blu-ray and Kitty's own 2010 DVD:
That's right; they've actually managed to obscured a sex scene into complete nothing through sheer failure to double-check their color correction of their shit analog tape source. I'd call this failure on an epic scale, but I feel like even saying that well worn catch-phrase would be giving this piece of festering shit too much credit.
Here's a (probably incomplete) list of scenes that Media Blasters has sourced from analog video, complete with timecodes... I warn you, just making the following list makes me want to vomit, and if you have any respect for this phenomenal achivement in erotic-horror, you'll feel just as ill as I do. And oh yes, the following list spoils the SHIT out of the film... so, go watch it first. Preferably download it first or something.
00:08:39-00:08:40 - Togami rubs Akemi's vagina with her fingers.
00:08:52-00:09:00 - Togami licks Akemi's breasts and holds her hands to the cot.
00:10:02-00:10:16 - Togami rapes Akemi with her "tongue". Akemi writhes and screams.
00:10:31-00:10:49 - Togami wraps Akemi up with tendrils and spews neon slime on her face.
00:11:13-00:11:15 - Pan up Akemi's body while she's being raped.
So, the scene in which Akemi is raped has a total of about 47 seconds' worth of VHS master footage. When you factor in that this is the less graphic theatrical version, that means virtually every shot of Akemi actually being molested by a monster - you know, the whole reason most people are even watching this fucking movie - has been sourced from a shit source.
00:13:53-00:14:13 - Akemi tackles Nagumo naked, thanking him. Pan across Osaka as Amano and Megumi stare up at the skies, ignoring the ballgame below.
20 seconds removed around an original reel-change. Trust me, this won't feel like much of a cut when we're done...
00:26:50-00:28:22 - Nagumo begins to rape the nurse and transforms into the Hakai no Oni for the first time.
00:28:38-00:28:52- Nagumo licks the gore off of his face, and Kuroko runs to find Amano.
The Nurse Rape has a total of 1 minute 50 seconds sourced from analog video. That's virtually the entire sequence!
00:31:20-00:32:29 - Storms go off over Osaka (reel change shot). After this we're taken inside of Suikakuju's subteranian lair and watch as the ecosystem of demons eat and fuck each other to death.
So the awesome Giger-inspired designs of what's essentially Hell are now blurrier and darker than ever before? That's just fucking lovely. 1 minute 9 seconds.
00:45:12-00:45:22 - Niki fucks and abuses some skanks in the AV Room.
Semi-notable for the hilariously poor dubbing in this scene. "Shaat da fuuck up ya bitch. Ya SLUUUT!" Still, I'm not fucking smiling, and neither should you. 10 seconds.
00:51:20-00:53:17 - Niki licks Akemi's face clean and gains the Choujin's strength. Amano and Suikakujuu continue to trash Osaka.
No horrifically homoerotic footage in HD for you! Ubergod help me, I am upset about this fact. This was yet another reel change, so I'm not surprised to see some of it disappear, but I think this is the single longest example of analog footage appearing on the Blu-ray. Also, Amano is way better at playing DBZ than Gokuu is, so this scene has always amused me. 1 minute 53 seconds.
00:57:22-00:58:14 - Niki forces Akemi to masturbate so he'll save Nagumo. Kuroko pops a tiny boner until Megumi smacks him.
52 seconds of precious sexual manipulation, horrible mutilation and shota-wang sourced from utter shit. Goddamn it, Sirabella!
01:08:30-01:08:52 - Fukaki feeds Suikakujuu's horn to Niki's dead body.
Once again, goddamn reel changes. 22 seconds.
01:10:06-01:10:30 - Suikakujuu has sex with his consorts to revive his body.
Pretty much the entire scene as it appears in the movie edit has been sourced from low quality analog material. Seriously?! I can't even watch the twins explode in non-upscaled HD? 26 seconds.
There may well be even more missing footage, but I'm in too white hot of a rage to continue checking. Tallying me bananas, we're already up to a total of... Jesus Christ in a fucking burrito, that's just under 8 MINUTES!! Again, it's entirely possible that even more footage has been sourced from this shitty tape that's legally old enough to drink, but I've had it up to here with looking for it. My soul can only take so much crushing in a year, damn it.
This release is a travesty, pure and simple; if there was a single 30 second sequence so damaged that they resorted to the VHS materials I'd still be slighly pissed, but shrug it off as an inevitable compromise and just be grateful that they didn't release it cut. When your source print is missing eight fucking minutes of footage, you know what you do? You don't fucking bother. Just stop what you're doing. Walk away, admit defeat, and release whatever you came up with on DVD and say "This is as good as it gets, sorry". The fact that they would pull this shit with any film is horrifying... but to have done it with The Hentai Ubergod himself makes me want to tear my own flesh off with my bare fucking hands, just so that I might once again feel clean.
Perhaps the ultimate irony in this horror of a release can be found on the Blu-ray.com Forum's rather epic discussion between Euro Horror fans, Midnight Legacy's Dolph Chiarino, and John Sirabella - CEO himself of Media Blasters, which can be read in its entirety HERE:
"We could have tried to splice in inferior footage but it would look like crap. On a blu-ray I can not do that, DVD like zombi 3, ok but not a blu ray. Infact we will be announcing zombi 3 soon and I know some of those scenes we got on vhs will not be there. We will have to deal with it."
Clearly, this quote from about three months ago is now null and void, and we can all look forward to Zombi 3 featuring state-of-the-art "Video Home System" data - but presented on today's Blu-ray technology! Aren't you just fucking EXCITED?
Slightly Less Geeky Info: Subtitles are yellow, and appear to be a brand new translation that - in some ways - might be better than the subtitles featured on the Perfect Collection from Anime 18. A slate track is included for those who want to brave the vintage English dub. Both audio tracks are presented in lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0, with the main film clocking in at 19 gigs, which puts bitrate estimates around 17 Mb/s. There's some minor banding around "glowing" effects and you can find some minor breakup along moving outlines, but the middling bitrate is about the last of this transfer's problems. The technical presentation is "okay", which I suppose is better than anything else I can say about this miserable excuse for a Blu-ray. No extras of any sort are included on the BD, and the DVD that comes with it only has trailers for other Kitty Media releases.
I won't say the DVD looks better than the Blu-ray on the whole. That would be a lie; analog video from 1989 is not pleasant to look at, and you can use the above DVD shots to see why. But I will say that everything wrong with this Blu-ray FAR outweighs anything that they might have gotten right. The materials they had on hand weren't fit for a proper DVD release, and yet they released it on Blu-ray none the less. The Legend of the Overfiend is cropped dramatically, absolutely rife with ugly film damage, and has been stripped of anything resembling an organic, natural appearance... and at least 8 shocking minutes actually do look worse than the DVD.
Part of me wants to say the following: "Buy the DVD and support Urotsukidoji, the most rightfully legendary adult anime series ever conceived. Just skip this trainwreck of an only partially-remastered Blu-ray". The other part is just... kinda making horrible, feral sounding cuss words that started out as just obscene, but moved straight into obtuse following the phrase 'cuntshit fucktonguing pussgargling analwank'. I'll let you weigh the two and decide which choice is right for you, naturally.
Someday the Overfiend's great power will be placated by a proper HD restoration... but in the meantime we must all continue to wander the three realms and wait for his true High Definition revival. Pray that it does not take another three thousand years, arrogant humanity.
So how do you feel about all this, Amano Jyaku?
That... sums up my feelings perfectly.