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Buried Treasure
Here is Greenwood

by Justin Sevakis,
Back in 1994, when I joined my first anime club, the "club archives" was really the collection of my high school upperclassmen who had only recently discovered the then-tiny VHS fansub scene. Consequently, they really only had a small handful of anime at their disposal, most of them on 5th generation washed-out VHS.

Pathetic by today's standards (or even 1997 standards), this collection of near-impossible-to-find anime goodness pretty much blew my mind. Today, of course, fansubs are everywhere and of near-DVD quality (to the chagrin of anyone trying to legally sell anime), but back then most anime fans had never heard of them. Not only were these shows that had never been released in America, they were shows that may have NEVER be released. The thought that such a rare commodity was available, provided you knew the right people, was almost intoxicating.

So I bore into the collection, taking in such classics as Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Video Girl Ai, KO Beast Century and the then-impossible-to-find Miyazaki catalog. Some of these shows I've outgrown, but many remain favorites to this day. One of those "first exposure to fansubs" series I'll never forget is a little 6-part shoujo OAV called "Here is Greenwood."

Here is Greenwood

Kazuya is about to start high school... a few months late. He came down with an ulcer and had to be hospitalized, due in part to his older brother (Kazuya's only family) marrying the girl he fell in love with. And then she moved in with them.

Luckily, the high school Kazuya got into, Ryokuto Academy, is mostly a boarding school, so as Kazuya begins his new life, he decides that he will never come home again. Unfortunately, the change in scenery didn't improve his luck: he's assigned to the Greenwood dorm, which is a haven for weirdos. His sempai and next door neighbors are Mitsuru and Shinobu, who are both brilliant bordering on evil. His roommate, Shun, looks and sounds EXACTLY like a girl. His neighbors include video game otaku who have turned their dorm room into a profitable arcade, cult members, and a guy who lives with his motorcycle -- on the second floor.

Greenwood is as situational comedy as anime gets, but that's not really a bad thing. For one, the characters are all extremely likable, and as we get to know each of them, their backgrounds and their quirks, we make friends with them as well. Writer/Director Tomomitsu Mochizuki is the creative force behind some of anime's most successful dramatic comedies, including Kimagure Orange Road, Princess Nine and episodes of Maison Ikkoku, as well as the Ghibli film Ocean Waves. While the humor is important, defining the characters is his prime objective. They're fun, intelligent and complicated people, just as we would expect of our own friends.

All this isn't to slight the comedy of the series; it's laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, but the humor is seldom from the set-ups so much as the interplay between the characters. For example, the glee Mitsuru takes in seeing Kazuya squirm at the thought of having to go home for the holidays, or the look on Kazuya's face when he sees that his roommate is a girl! They're cute, fun, knowing little moments that make the show worthwhile. Episode 3 has the gang attempting to make a Tolkien fantasy film for the school festival (entitled "Here is Devil's Wood"). The former film student in me was amused to notice their method of production (we can just use this camcorder and the gaming computers to make the special effects!), which was laughable back when the show was made, but it's actually quite possible today. And that's to say nothing of the Castle of Cagliostro parody...

There's a slight tinge of nostalgia to Greenwood's humor; a warm coziness that seems to underline the camaraderie of communal living. The last two episodes dispense with the humor altogether and examine Kazuya's attempts to better himself running track, while falling in love with a troubled girl who's trying to break free from her life as a gang member.

Greenwood's animation is handled by Studio Pierrot, and the palette is awash in pastels and earth tones. While the animation itself is pretty much standard fare for OAV's of the era (early 90's), the art design (by none other than Shichiro Kobayashi, of Utena/Loveless/To-y fame) keeps with the gentle, good-natured feel of a dorm populated by friends.

The Greenwood OAV's are meant as a companion piece to the 9-volume manga series, and as that series was released in English by Viz last year, we are finally able to comply with anime Shun's suggestion to "read the manga for the back story." Early volumes of the Viz edition, unfortunately, suffer from a clumsy translation, but later volumes are quick and fun to read, and delve further into the lives of other Greenwood inhabitants.

Greenwood is a fun, gentle comedy with warm, amusing characters and full of inspired moments. It's also surprisingly hard to write about intelligently. There's no common story, just a bunch of seemingly random things that happen to some odd people. But it sure is fun to watch.

A Abundant. Available anywhere that carries anime.
C Common. In print, and always available online.
R1 US release out of print, still in stock most places.
R2 US release out of print, not easy to find.
R3 Import only, but it has English on it.
R4 Import only. Fansubs commonly available.
R5 Import only, and out of print. Fansubs might be out there.
R6 Import long out of print. No fansubs are known to exist.
R7 Very rare. Limited import release or aired on TV with no video release. No fansubs known to exist.
R8 Never been on the market. Almost impossible to obtain.
Adapted from Soviet-Awards.com.

How To Get It:

Here is Greenwood has been released in a low-priced 2-disc volume by Media Blasters, who also produced a new English dub. The dub, produced by Bang Zoom, isn't great -- it's got that stiff and sterile "cover the screen and you can still tell it's a cartoon" style of acting that seems to infect significant parts of the LA dub scene from time to time -- but it's still an improvement over the painful TAJ Productions dub included on the Software Sculptors VHS and LD releases from the late 90's. The rest of the package is top-knotch, and contains several "10th Anniversary" commentaries by the original Japanese seiyuu, most of whom have come a long way since then.

Tales of Nerdy Misery, Chapter 348,792

I had something of an unfortunate incident this week. But my pain might be your gain if you take what I learned.

Like most anime fans, my collection is full of DVD-R's. When you collect anime that isn't available easily, it's just a fact of life. From (unlicensed) fansubs of anime and drama series to VHS and LD conversions (as well as a few custom-authored DVD's I've made for myself over the years) to personal data backups, I don't mind saying that what I have on recordable discs is usually far more important and irreplacable than what I managed to get on commercial DVD.

Back in my VHS days, I would labor over the quality of each tape in my collection. After all, with analog tape, the integrity of the media had a direct impact on the quality of the picture. I even went so far as to train myself to grade videotape by scent. (These days, this is perhaps the world's most useless super power.) But with DVD's, every disc looks the same, and if it burns properly, it should be fine, right?

Wrong. In fact, this week, I got taught a BIG lesson in just how wrong I truly was. I made the horrifying discovery that a number of discs in my collection... had gone bad.

After having trouble with a few of my discs, I noticed they all looked similar, and therefore were probably from the same batch. The discs were actually physically deteriorating, and some data just could not be read anymore.

This wasn't the first time something like that had happened to me. Years ago, when the Disney dub of Kiki's Delivery Service first came out, I bought the CD of the new opening and ending themes from their singer, Sydney Forest. Like most indie musicians, her discs were on recordable CD, and had a laser-printed paper label stuck on it. When I had tried to listen to it a few months ago, all I got was static in the CD player, and my computer refused to even read it.

After hours spent going through my entire collection for discs similar to the ones that had failed, it became clear that they were all failing, and as I write this I am engaged in a weeks-long process in attempting to restore what lost data I can from them. As luck would have it, nothing on them is too rare. I consider myself warned.

The Sydney Forest CD is gone, unfortunately, and her website is now gone as well, so I may never get to replace that disc. I'm still hoping I have an MP3 of the Kiki songs somewhere.

So, please... learn from my mistake! Here are some tips to make sure your precious and rare anime archives stay with you for years to come.

1. Buy good media. I recommend Verbatim, Sony, Apple, Panasonic and Pioneer. Most store-bought brands don't actually manufacture their own discs, and are instead repackaged after being bought in bulk from specialty companies. One such specialty company, Taiyo Yuden, has the best reputation among archivsts. If you buy a lot of discs, consider buying them online in bulk from reputable online stores like Meritline.com or SuperMediaStore.com. (Fakes are not uncommon, so avoid eBay.) For more on media, I recommend you check out the DigitalFAQ.com DVD Media guide.

2. Don't use paper disc labels. Sharpie might be ugly, but at least it works. Paper disc labels use glue that, over time, can seep through the plastic of the disc and oxidize the reflective metal underneath, rendering the disc unreadable. This might not be as much of an issue with DVD-R's as with CD-R's, but better safe than sorry.

3. Keep the discs out of direct sunlight. Prolonged exposure can also kill the reflective layer of the disc. I had one that I forgot about on a sunny windowsil for months, and by the time I tried it again, the front was discolored, and every computer I inserted it into refused it. Also, if you don't have central air conditioning, it's a good idea to keep your most important discs in the room with the A/C.

4. Burn slower. Regardless how fast the DVD-R drive is, most computers can't really record at 16x, especially when you're doing something else at the same time. While some software (such as Roxio Toast Titanium for Mac) will automatically slow down to a more managable speed, I've noticed that most Windows software will just pause every so often. Every pause is a potential failure, so it's better just to err on the side of caution and slow down the whole process.

5. Check your library. If your computer or DVD player seems to be struggling on a particular disc, back it up immediately, and check any discs in your collection from the same spindle. If the entire brand is suspect, you might want to consider a long, drunken night of disc copying.

6. If you need to use a questionable disc in a pinch, don't fill it up. If a disc fails, it will usually be closer to the outer edge, which is the last place data is written.

7. If your DVD recorder will do both DVD-R and DVD+R, go for +R's. The error correction on them is more robust, so they're a little more reliable. Of course, if the +R is a less reliable brand, any benefit is quickly negated.

Screenshots ©1991 & 1992 Yukie Nasu/Hakusensha Inc./Victor Entertainment, Inc./Pierrot Project.

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