More Classic Anime Rediscovered – The Dubs of ZIV International

Someone, tell me:

Is “Ziv International” like a proto version of Viz Video? Their names are so similar, yet one is an obscure company who licensed a bunch of anime in the early eighties, dubbed maybe 2-4 episodes of each series they had, and then kinda disappeared… the other is a licensing giant and one of the top three licensors in the industry at the moment.

“Ziv International” also has the dubious honor of introducing me to anime, practically the day I was born.

Here’s the thing… when I was young (and I mean like, 1-3ish) my parents acquired a video of a cartoon called “Angel,” which you can see two different dub intros to right here. The intro I always knew growing up was the one that had lyrics.

“Angel” (which I now know is a dub of an anime called Hana no Ko LunLun, or Flower Girl LunLun), was… well, it was weird, but as a kid, me and my sister liked it. Stuff like bad voice acting didn’t bother us back then, and the stories still seemed kinda powerful. Basically, Angel is this incredibly skinny girl who looks like she belongs in a Leiji Matsumoto manga, and one day a talking cat and dog tell her that she’s the “flower child” (not kidding) and that she’s supposed to find the “seven-colored flower.” Unbeknownst to her, Angel is being persued by a guy with a racoon tail (?) who is in the employ of some evil woman who wants the seven-colored flower for her own purposes… it was really like an anime take on Boris and Natasha, where Natasha is played rather seriously and the Boris figure is serious except for the whole having-a-tail thing.

But Ziv only dubbed two episodes, and in both of them Angel met someone who was having a hard time (one of them was about a farmer’s son who wanted to be a painter, but his dad was too set in his ways and wanted to force the son to be a farmer, stuff like that) and she would somehow help them find their inner strength or believe in themselves or something. She also had like a magic hand-mirror that could transform her or something. One of the episodes involved rescuing someone from a fire. This is a show I saw when I was a kid so I’m a little fuzzy on some details.

Here is something I’m not fuzzy on though:

Like most anime in the VHS days (even though Ziv pre-ceded the anime boom by more than a decade), it included trailers for other anime, and these were often more interesting than the main feature. The “Angel” video I had included trailers for two other shows. One was called “The Green Forest” which… looked stupid honestly.

The other one though, was for an anime called “Captain Future.” The minute I saw their trailer (aka the show’s intro) I just knew I had to see this show some day. It promised to be… something. I’m not sure what. I’m sure everyone has a time like that, where there’s something that really interests them, like they just… they need to know. They don’t know why they need to know, but they do.

It’s obscurity was felt in the early days of the internet tho. For some reason, Captain Future was popular in France and Germany so most of the pages I found were in French or German (neither of which I can read, and Google Translate didn’t exist back then), the only thing I could really find out was that Captain Future was based on a series of pulp magazine novels by Edmond Hamilton, and I could never find those, either. As I said in my previous post, I am neither rich nor well-connected, so the world of old Sci-Fi pulps (which is mostly a collector’s realm) is cut off to me.

So I contented myself with looking at the VHS racks in every pawn shop and Goodwill I went to, and while I found other… interesting specimens like “Vengeance of the Space Pirate” and “Macron-1” I never found Captain Future. And to be honest, I was kind of afraid to. I mean, what if I finally found it, and it turned out to be the most godawful anime ever? That’s just the kind of luck I have. A part of me would almost rather it remain a mystery.

But its a mystery no more.

In addition to the Youtube link above, I found out that this website also features Captain Future. Unfortunately, the one they host is NOT the Ziv dub–“Captain Future and the Space Emperor” is the Harmony Gold release, which replaces the awesomely cheesy theme song with background music from Robotech, and the four episodes featured are a fansub of the original Japanese. I admit this was kinda disappointing, but since the Ziv International dub is on Youtube, I can’t complain.

For those who were interested in that “Angel” show, they have that, too. The videos they have are a fan-remaster–they use the ZIV English dub, but the footage is sourced from a Japanese DVD, and they took the effort to make sure the dub track matches up. I honestly wish preservations of old dubs like this were more common, for nostalgia value if nothing else.

….

Incidentally, I’m interested in doing more posts like this. See, awhile back I did a post about the Anime version of Aladdin (googling “Anime Aladdin” actually turns up the video I put on Youtube, the description of which links back to this blog) and since then I’ve gotten several comments from people who had been looking for that anime for years.

This makes me think that talking about obscure, forgotten anime (and even forgotten cartoons like “The Heroic Adventures of John the Fearless”–I doubt anyone besides me has actually seen that one) might be a productive use of my blog, a complement to my original focus on video games. Because hey, memories are important, too.

Also, if there’s something you’re looking for, in a “I saw this cartoon once and I can’t remember the title, but it was about [insert description here]” way, go ahead and ask in the comments. I probably know what it is, or can find out… unless it was something that never aired in my area, but it doesn’t hurt to try, right?

Here’s a free one: That cartoon about the baby with magical powers who went on fantastic adventures, and everyone kept telling you it was Rugrats even though you knew it wasn’t? That was Fantastic Max.

Sailor Moon, fansubs and whether we even need licenses

So lately, I haven’t been in the mood for gaming. I don’t know what it is but for some reason, my back hurts a lot, and on top of that I already feel kind of irritable when I play games. I’m not sure how to explain it, except… I guess I’m just not in the mood.

So instead I’ve been watching anime, and one anime in particular. As you likely guessed from this blog’s title, that anime is Pokemon!!! Haha just kidding, it’s Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon, which I’ve been able to watch uncut via fansubs thanks to Sailor Moon Center

I’m probably behind the times here. My first exposure to Sailor Moon was, like most people I bet, the English dub produced by DIC. I remembered tuning in to watch it on USA Network every day before school, so there’s some nostalgia here (I never watched it on Cartoon Network though, for various reasons). But it seems like everyone else in the world was either a rich otaku or had good connections, because somehow even as far back as 1998 I knew of people who had seen the original Japanese version. I myself somehow wound up with a VHS tape someone had recorded off of Japanese TV that had the first eight or so episodes of Sailor Stars, complete with actual commercials (Pepsi Man will forever haunt my memories), but I don’t even know how I got it. Bottom line is, I was neither rich nor well-connected, so for me often the only way to see anime was via bad dubs on TV, or whatever rental stores happened to be carrying. Things got a little better when the DVD era started, but I was never able to afford the DVDs of Sailor Moon even before they became collector’s items (well, I managed to get a volume of Super S once, but I wound up having to sell it).

So for me, I’m seeing the real, Japanese Sailor Moon for the first time.

And I’m absolutely loving it.

For those who aren’t aware, Sailor Moon is basically an animated Power Rangers (or should I say Super Sentai?), where (except for Moon) the rangers are all themed around Planets: Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus (there is no Sailor Earth, but there’s a man named Tuxedo Mask who acts as sort of the “sixth ranger” of the series and arguably fills that role. Sailors for other planets appear in later seasons). The main things that separates it from typical Super Sentai are 1) except for Tuxedo Mask, they’re all girls, 2) the sailors are introduced gradually: First you have a few episodes where it’s just Moon and Tuxedo Mask, then she meets Sailor Mercury and its the three of them for awhile… its not really until a dozen episodes away from the first season’s finale that the whole five-girl ensemble is assembled.

I’m not gonna lie: If you’re looking for originality, you will not find it in Sailor Moon. It does a few things differently, but otherwise it’s, again, Power Rangers with girls.

Despite this, many people around the world have become hardcore fans. Back in the day, they used to be called “Moonies” (sorta like how nowadays we have “Bronies”). I would give some dipshit faint praise about how the execution makes up for the lack of originality, but fuck that. Just watch the show yourself, and see if it convinces you. It either does or it doesn’t.

I’m here, rather, to talk about the fansubs.

I used to not like digital distribution, and would always insist on buying a DVD if it was available. Admittedly this was largely due to personal circumstances–until very recently I did not have a fast internet connection (I was still using Dial-up in 2009), which all goes back to what I was saying about not being rich or well-connected. I get the feeling that most people on the internet are spoiled brats, who don’t see a problem as long as they can do something, and don’t consider that others might not be quite so fortunate. I might even have been the same way if I hadn’t gotten to live on the other side of the fence. That’s why I use a minimalist blog layout–I don’t want something that’ll choke a slow internet connection or be a hassle to read.

But getting back to anime, not long ago I had reason to doubt my faith in licensed publishers.

I can’t pinpoint an exact time, but it was back when my blog was known as “Jispylicious.” Back then, a friend of mine had introduced me to an anime called Clannad, which I first watched via a fansub and loved all over, so much that I decided to buy the DVDs as soon as they were released in my country.

To my shock and horror, the official, licensed subtitled release… sucked.

The problem was the SUBTITLES THEMSELVES. Whereas the fansub was idiomic and preserved the little foibles and nuances of the characters, the official sub by Sentai Filmworks was translated as though by a businessman: nuances were lost, everyone spoke proper grammatical English. This not only was less fun to read, it actually significantly altered the portrayal of Ibuki Fuko, a major character who has the speech tic of referring to herself in third-person, a fact which IS ACTUALLY COMMENTED UPON by other characters. And yet every instance of “Fuko needs…” or “Fuko wants…” was rendered as “I need” or “I want” when spoken by her. While the show could still be watched in this state, frankly, it made me wonder why I payed money for the inferior product.

I’ve become friendlier to digitally-distributed fansubs since then, and today, I wonder:

Do we even NEED licensed releases anymore?

Again, going back to Sailor Moon, there was an uncut season 1 set by ADV, but their box set used old video/audio masters, and I’ve heard its missing episodes and has one episode where audio from the English dub is spliced in by mistake (though apparently they printed a replacement for this issue). Not only that, but ADV is the company that later became Sentai Filmworks, the guys who botched Clannad, so it makes me wonder how accurate their translation of Sailor Moon is.

By contrast, the fansub (by KickAssAnime, although I think Sailor Moon Center’s version is basically the same) is sourced from the Japanese DVDs, which look and sound absolutely pristine, in addition to lacking any bugs. On top of that, there are neat little features of the fansub which I like, such as how the text is color-coded based on who’s talking. Licensed distributors don’t do tricks like this because the only way to make it work in a DVD player is to hardcode the sub into the video, and they don’t like to do that. On top of that, I’m also pretty certain the fansub is more accurate.

Another case is Cardcaptor Sakura: the official DVDs by Pioneer are by no means terrible–just out-of-print and (the later volumes especially) going for outrageous aftermarket prices, not to mention there’s 18 of them and that’s a hefty amount of shelf space you have to have. Meanwhile, it’s possible to find a fansub (by a group called Coalgirls) which is just like the official sub except they put Japanese honorifics back in, and oh yeah their video/audio source is the Japanese Blu-Ray edition.

In the olden days, one of the primary arguments for buying licensed releases was that they were often better than the fansubs. This was the days when Dragonball Z came in Realplayer movie files and had fansubs that added profanity to make it more “edgy,” both practices being things of the past.

But in modern times, it seems like the situation has reversed: the fansubs use better audio/video sources and (probably) have more accurate, or at least more fun to read, translations than the licensed ones. So I ask:

Do we really need anyone to actually license anime anymore?