Friday, September 05, 2003

Weathering Continent

This anime showed up recently in R1. It's an old-fashioned "adventure" story, in the 20's-30's pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and C.L. Moore: desert wastes, half-naked barbarian hordes, lost cities and dying civilizations. It was made in Japan as one of Kadokawa's "advertising" movies - a series of high-budget, double-bill hour-long films made from existing novel or manga Kadokawa franchises. I believe it ran on a double bill with the second Silent Moebius movie.

Weathering Continent was a series of novels in a Japanese variant on a Howardesque setting - the dying days of the continent of Atlantis, when civilization was breaking up in the face of environmental disaster. I've got a radio drama sitting around somewhere in my apartment that's also based on the novels (I had thought it would be a soundtrack CD - more fool me!). I have no idea how good or bad the novels are - as far as I know, they've never been translated into English.

The movie doesn't really require any prior knowledge of the books, as it turns out. It's a compact, spare ghost story, with fairly few extraneous parts, all of which are adequately explained for those that pay attention. Our protagonists are a wandering trio of - well, we're never really told what it is they're doing. Trying to avoid dying of thirst, for the most part. They come across a larger band of travelers who have been ambushed, tortured, and murdered in a tumbledown ruin on the edge of the high desert. A survivor tells them that they were treasure-hunting for the lost city of Aztec Sistra before tragically expiring. Our heroes go on in search of the hint of water, and find the lost city nearby. Aztec Sistra is an enormous necropolis, filled with the mummified, masked dead arrayed in the clothes, situations, and postures of their lives. Here, they run into the barbarian-bandits who murdered the other group, and things quickly spiral downhill in a fashion vaguely reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's a very atmospheric, stylish exercise in high pulp.

Why am I going on at this length about Weathering Continent? Because it was once my contribution to fansub culture. Back in the day, fansubs were rather rare, and fans tended to trade raw copies of anime. Certain Big Fans made their reputations by translating anime and circulating their scripts. Sue Shambaugh, Dave Fleming, Jeff Okimoto, Tonghyun Kim. Kim did a script for Weathering Continent, a show that wasn't, to be strictly honest, ever massively popular. I had managed to get a decent copy off of LD of said show, and lived in a group house with someone with a setup conductive to fansubbing - a genlock, low-end Amiga, high-end VCRs, etc. Others in the house had already done some fansubbing work under the "Quest Labs" name, and I had helped out. Weathering Continent was my contribution to the endeavor. I edited the script for tone and sense, and dumped it into the proper format for timing purposes. Then I sat down and did the slow work of timing the subtitles. Back then, the software was pretty primitive, and I sucked at hand-timing. The end result wasn't anything that you'd want to write home about; it was frankly amateurish, in the worst sense of the word. But it was my contribution to "the cause". Quest Labs stopped doing fansubs a few months later, as another project started eating up all our creative energy and free time. Fandom's turned over about four or five times since then. But that was my brief adventure in fansubtitling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure some people appreciated even very amateurish fan-subbing then even as they do now at times when there is no other option. I only caught a little of fansubbed VHS. I really got into anime in the late 90s, when things were just about to explode and become more available. But not everything! Today, the sometimes "gray area" of fan subs and scanlations are something I would be heart broken to see cracked down on more. We won't get everything. And sometimes I wonder if the localization industries watch this area to see what to pick up...

The Weathering Continent isn't a masterpiece and is probably weird on its own to many who haven't read the novels. It's still one of my favorites. I hope so much that someday I can read it in English. I've been curious since the 90s and my Japanese is too poor to get through a novel. So, just putting it out there, those who like translating novels--I'd be forever grateful if someone tried. I'd be happy to buy.

Thanks, translators and the like--no matter which kind--for your hard work!