Friday, March 02, 2007

The Dark[er] Side of Sanrio: Ringing Bell

Once upon a time, Sanrio--best known as being the makers of Hello Kitty and friends--was in the habit of making animated features, and they were pretty darn good stuff. If you're an aging and decrepit fossil of anime fandom (that is to say, older than your mid-20s), then perhaps you remember the Unico movies or Sea Prince and the Fire Child. These movies, having never been re-released on DVD, were largely forgotten for several years, until one daring and intrepid man equipped with a VCR and a PC capture card decided to do the "fansub tape God" equivalent of Prometheus bringing fire down from Mount Olympus to give to us mere mortals: he made digital captures of his VHS tapes and made them available for download.

Okay fine, so I don't think he did Sea Prince and the Fire Child. But that's okay, because there is another Sanrio production he has made available, one whose name was thrown about for decades to me as a sort of mythical Holy Grail of Anime Nightmare Fuel: Ringing Bell. The veterans at anime cons would often bring this up when putting their "anime fandom street cred" cards on the table, as getting a hold of copies of this thing was damn near impossible. Maybe you knew a guy who knew a guy who had a fourth generation copy on VHS, only in the days of snail mail fansub distribution, a person might have to offer something of equal rarity to trade for before getting said copy. And so the Fansub Tape Gods thrived: they had the stuff which couldn't be found anywhere else, and you didn't. You were at their mercy.

So it is that finding information online regarding Ringing Bell can be kind of tricky. Running only about 45 minutes long or so, it isn't something people would normally classify as a "movie," but hey, it was the 70s and OAVs hadn't quite existed yet. It's about a cute little lamb named Chirin who loves to frolic and play, and everything seems like the Sanrio we know and love...until the big bad wolf shows up and slaughters his mother. Fed up with his lot in life, Chirin vows to become a wolf himself rather than wait to be killed and be completely powerless to stop it. It's almost a shonen-style "never give up on your dream!" tale, except for the part where you have to abandon your soul and walk the path of Hell. Ogami Itto would be proud.
If you want to learn more about this obscure bit of Sanrio lore, I reviewed it in greater detail on Show # 43 of the Anime World Order podcast. There's also a link to download it via BitTorrent!


Tohoscope said...

Three cheers for Chris! Thanks for sharing this with us, Chris.

Chris Sobieniak said...

THanks. I hate to admit though, my idea of capturing video to my PC is using the "poor man's" technique I figured out by just using a DVD recorder, burn my VHS tape to disc, and then ripping the disc to an AVI. It saves me the hassle of hooking up a VCR to my computer, and I won't have to worry about having dropped frames in the process. One of these days I might get a TV card I could do that with (especially HD-ready), but for now, I'm OK with what I have.

Incidentally, someone beat me to "Sea Prince & The Fire Child" already. I have a DVD copy I downloaded that has both Japanese and English language tracks included, along with a subtitle track that is sentially "dubtitles" but with the names being replaced with the Japanese originals. If anything, it saves me the trouble of having to locate a VHS copy of said film, or even going the extra mile to order it on disc from Japan (where Sanrio thankfully doesn't charge the usual otaku prices for these gems). I just made an MKV out of this pretty easy.

If only the US subsidiary would bother re-releaseing these again. They could go the Kadokawa Pictures route if the best they can do is get some other company like FUNimation to release 'em.

Also need to get a decent copy of "The Mouse & His Child", though that wasn't particularly an anime, but one Sanrio's US division bothered bankrolling in '77, the animation in that film was handled by Murakami-Wolf Productions (their work in the 70's used to be pretty freaky before the 80's hit and they did a landslide by the time they churned out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Another production that used some American assistance was "Metamorphoses", later re-edited/renamed "Orpheus of the Stars" ("Winds of Change" in the US).

Irazema said...

Hi! I was wondering where can I download the subtitles for Sea Prince and Fire Child I just got the mkv file yesterday but I dont understand a bit of japanese.. lol..


Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to seed this wonderful little gem Chris! Never would have found it without AWO and your amazing dedication.

Might I inquire if you know anything about the first anime I ever saw called Twilight of the Cockroaches? I myself own a copy of it on VHS, but its just a shame that i've not seen it anyplace in either digital or dvd form. I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have as i've never heard anyone even so much as mention it.

Long days and pleasant nights.

Anonymous said...

Heres also a megaupload of it as well: