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Added on: 14/6/2011 14:37
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    Manga Entertainment's Haruhi Suzumiya S2 Release Inherits The Japanese Mono Audio Fault

    The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Season 2 was Bandai Entertainment's jewel in the crown for 2010 in the US, and when that release turned out to be flawed, the ripples it started in the fan forums over there washed up on UK fan sites as well, where some people are prone to import to get ahead of the pack. The problem was that while the English audio was in the proper, advertised stereo, the Japanese audio merely repeated the same track across both left and right channels, what is usually referred to on the back of the box as DD 2.0 mono. It was a problem that also affected the early, sub only release of the Haruhi-chan part 1 disc as well. These issues prompted Bandai to offer an exchange programme earlier this year, replacing the discs with the corrected Japanese stereo versions.

    These were problems that were vocally and repeatedly discussed on forums, and with a title like Haruhi Suzumiya, perhaps to a disproportionately excessive degree. This year it became the turn of the UK to sample the delights of Haruhi Suzumiya's second season, and some may have thought that with the issues so prominent in fan awareness, that company awareness would be heightened as well. This week, the UK check discs arrived, and quite naturally my first inclination was to check the Japanese audio. My heart sank when I heard a distinct lack of separation in the audio, sounding completely centralised. Not trusting my ears, I have since sampled the audio on all four discs, and taken a look at it in a waveform analyser. Sure enough, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Season 2, Discs 1-3 all have DD 2.0 English Stereo, but DD 2.0 Japanese mono. Fortunately, the Haruhi-chan disc has the correct English and Japanese stereo tracks.

    I've posted snapshots of the waveforms below for all four discs. Red is Left, Blue is Right. Note that the left and right graphs for the Japanese audio in the first three discs are identical. For sampling the audio, I used the creaky, but reliable Creative Soundo'Le set to capture at 44100 Hz, 16 bit, Stereo at 172kb/s. I used the venerable Creative Wave Studio to take a look at the waveforms, screencapped them, converted to jpg, and cropped the area of interest in each case.

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    Note that dialogue scenes are mono by their very nature, even in a stereo track, and stereo separation really only is apparent for extended periods of time during scenes with music. Hence I turned to the opening credit sequences on all four discs to sample the audio. You can see in the series discs that the Left and Right signals in the Japanese tracks are identical, while in the English tracks there are differences between the two.

    The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Season 2

    Disc 1 English Stereo

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    Disc 1 Japanese Mono

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    Disc 2 English Stereo

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    Disc 2 Japanese Mono

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    Disc 3 English Stereo

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    Disc 3 Japanese Mono

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    The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya and Nyoron Churuya-san Bonus Disc

    Note that here, both the Left and Right channels in the Japanese audio vary, just as they do in the English audio.

    Disc 4 English Stereo

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    Disc 4 Japanese Stereo

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    Certainly questions need to be raised about how given that this was such a red flag issue in the United States, how Manga Entertainment could have missed it here? Actually, that's just the tip of the iceberg, as these discs, as so often happens for UK anime, have had their PAL masters sourced from Australia. These are essentially the Madman discs. The question surely becomes, how did Madman miss the problem? Also, given the quiescence on the Madboards, how could the Australian anime DVD buying public? Then there is Bandai's part in this, as it is they who would have supplied the materials to author the discs. I'm unclear on the timeline, but the US discs were released last autumn, and it didn't take long for the issue to be noted by purchasers. It took a while for them to confirm the problem and the exchange programme was only instituted this March. But, they must have been aware that consumers were complaining about the audio early on. Yet the problematic audio was supplied to Madman, and so on and so forth.

    Fixing the problem for the July 4th release date is very unlikely, especially as these are PAL masters, 4% faster than the US discs. Simply asking Bandai for their corrected stereo tracks would be pointless. They won't fit. If they are unaware of the problem, Madman may not even have corrected stereo tracks available. It looks like we'll be stuck with the problem. Importing from Australia would be pointless, importing from the US would be a lottery as to whether you get the corrected discs or not, and surely Bandai's replacement scheme doesn't reach as far as the UK. There are the Japanese Blu-rays though…

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