As I eagerly await the Discotek release of Fist of the North Star, I figured I might as well check out the streams of the show which are readily available. First I went to Hulu. Then to Funimation. I was somewhat disappointed to see the quality of these streams. Of course, I know Fist is an older show, but the fact that there are beautiful remastered DVDs available in Japan, led me to believe the streams would look at least somewhat good.
Then I decided to go to Crunchyroll. These are the guys doing 1080p simulcasts of some of the most popular anime on the planet and offer high quality downloads of most of their stuff, so if anyone got it right, they would.
I bought episode 72 (Toki vs Raoh!) for 1.99, and downloaded the PC version, bypassing the lesser stream and psp/ipod encodes. And it was fugly.
I felt miffed. Disappointed. Cheated. Bamboozled. So I sent Crunchyroll an e-mail.
Before you call me out for laying it on thick, I have to tell you I am genuinely impressed with how this ragtag group single-handedly went to Japan and established the practice of legally streaming anime that we now see everywhere, even if their userbase was built up by profiting from fansubs. My dream is that someone will do the same for good/classic/manly manga. Here is the letter I wrote:
First of all, I’m a huge fan of Crunchyroll’s innovation and what you guys are doing for anime fandom.
That said, I recently purchased “Fist of the North Star – Episode 72,” and was terribly disappointed by the poor quality of my video. Despite being over 300 MB large, it looks like a VCD rip. I assumed that when I was purchasing “standard definition”, I would get something comparable to television or DVD quality. Instead, my download looks like something ripped from YouTube.
I wasn’t expecting this at all, because I’ve seen episodes of Hokuto no Ken from the original Japanese DVDs before, and they didn’t appear anywhere near this poor, despite the series’ age. Also, Crunchyroll is at the forefront of high quality streaming anime in general.
For these reasons, I believe a refund is warranted, and I respectfully request one. If you ever offer a version of Fist of the North Star that reflects the quality the series is available in Japan, I’ll be more than happy to purchase it in the future. Just let me know.
Thanks for your time,
Here’s the response I got:
Hello Emilo, [He spelled my name wrong but that's okay, happens all the time.]
Did you download the PC, iPod or PSP version? The PC version is the highest quality out of those, so please download and view that one if you want the top quality. Though, I looked at the video and see no problems with it. I even compared it to a DVD-rip fansub just to test and they were virtually identical so I would have to assume that the problems you have with the video are with the quality it was produced in and not a problem with our encodes. It’s an old show and thus it has poor animation practices.
He compared it to the fansub? Not sure why that would be the standard he’d be comparing to, but here are some comparison shots between my PC version of the Crunchyroll video and the fansub video he was undoubtedly referencing [Warning: images are large because they are uncompressed screenshots]:
See how the Crunchyroll video looks like a jpg that’s been compressed too much?
Why would a content provider working directly with Toei use a fansub as a point of comparison? This fansub wasn’t even made using the latest Hokuto no Ken remaster, or the latest dvd-ripping technologies.
See how the pink on the girl is bleeding through her own border in the Crunchyroll video? That means it’s way too compressed.
I think I’ll send him these .png comparisons and see how he responds. But what I really hope is that Discotek gets the best Japanese source material for their releases, like they did for the 1986 movie.
Still, I’m disappointed. In this era of blu-rays and high-definition, shoddy quality Fist of the North Star streams work against us Kenshiro evangelists.