Friday, 10 May 2019

50 Sentai "Hayabusa" - New publication by DNK

Talking about the "Hayabusa" of the 50 Sentai, Dai Nippon Kaiga has just released a brand new one; the fifth in the series after the "244 Sentai", the "70 Sentai", the "Akeno School" and the "64 Sentai".
While the "244 Sentai" was their best followed closely by the other four, this new one is the worst of all and SUCKS BIG TIME!
As before the publisher relies exclusively on the Kikuchi photo collection but no matter how many times people complain about the spreading of photos in two pages and the "valley" it creates, it seems that all protests fall on deaf ears. Actually I believe this is done on purpose. They have done this shit with 18 photos of this new publication, so conveniently they have filled 36 pages out of the total 96. (Perhaps we should do the same with our magazine. 10 photos spread on 20 pages = new issue every 2-3 months. Nice eh?)
Before you jump in and say I have some axe to grind with DNK, here is a sample review by a Japanese reader from Amazon indicative of others:

(What's the meaning of the band advertising the new dvd of the anime "Koya no Kotobuki Hikotai"? [He is talking about the band at the bottom of the cover])
(...compared to older publications, the lack of volume is obvious. Wish we had more photos like in the "Hien" book.)
(...the middle part of the page is not properly visible. The editor completely ignores the reader, or perhaps the editor does not know the value of these precious photos)

(...I wouldn't be bothered at all if they changed the orientation of the book from portrait to landscape to view the photos better. It is a really unfortunate editing job that does not understand the reader's feelings and the value of the photos.)

I would like to believe that they hurried to publish this one in time for the Shizuoka show (this weekend...we ain't going, have to finish the "Sally" book) because it's really not good. There are two pages of excellent artwork by Sato Kunihiko with various "Hayabusa" details, 6 pages of cheap, flat, totally unnecessary artwork by Yoshino Yasutaka showing the various paint schemes, 7 pages with color photos of the restored "Hayabusa" in the FHCAM, 61 pages with 52 photos from the Kikuchi collection and about 15 pages with a very rough history of the unit and other information. 

Don't you just love the "valley"? You got to destroy your copy to see the exhausts.

The printing quality of the Kikuchi photos is also not good at all. Compared to the brilliant KFI#79, they are dark with plenty of shadows and contrast. As a result a lot of details are completely lost. Not to mention they are not sharp at all. The author/editor explains that they used the small sample/test prints of the photos (see below. If you know the correct word in English for this, leave a comment) instead of the actual negatives.
And here's why: Kikuchi-san originally printed all the photos in the collection at a camera shop near their house. When somebody wanted to use some of the photos, they lent the printed ones (not the negatives). Some returned the borrowed photos, some didn't. The first time they printed them they were crystal clear. Subsequent prints were full of noise and in any case less than half of the photos in the films were printed and available. A few years back almost all the camera shops in Japan stopped printing films and Kikuchi-san (the widow of the photographer who had passed away in 1990) had no place to make more copies. So she started lending the sample prints which are of course small and of much inferior quality than the originals. I'm describing all this from painful personal experience. Kikuchi-san explained to me that after her passing, the photos will be donated to the "Japan Photographer's association" (or whatever is called) so we can only hope that when they get them they will make them somehow available in their original quality. Don't forget that although the aviation photos in the Kikuchi collection are of great value to us, Kikuchi-san was one of the first to visit Hiroshima right after the atomic bomb was dropped and the photos he took of the destruction, as you can imagine, are of extreme historical value.
But anyway, going back to the DNK publication. I'm always happy when a new book about Japanese airplanes comes out. Not particularly happy with this one though.
So for me it's Moderately Recommended.  
But if you're interested, it's available from our on-line store, HERE


jean barby said...

Thanks Georges! It is good to see that you are not in the politically correct attitude, and I like that!

D. chouinard said...

So, they used a contact sheet for the photos!? Those are indeed test prints, used to view and check photo quality before printing. Yes, I would say that was a bad move on DNK's part.....
And the anime tie in would best be left to something else, or the like the advertising page in the Model Art books. (on the very last page, or inside back cover. But best if not there at all.
And like you, I HATE the "valley" of lost details. It effectively shortens the photo...right in the middle. Landscape format would have been better.
I like the detail artwork, but the profiles are much like those seen in the MA series.
I haven't seen the 244 Sentai book, so I have no way of personally knowing how good this series can be.

Anonymous said...

Excellent and honest review. I think Devlin is correct, they are called contact sheets. Thanks George!

Wind Swords

carlo said...

Hello George,
I am quite surprised that in Japan there are issues is with old film and negatives. Nikon and Canon used to make professional film and negative scanners with 4000 dot per inch resolution. That is more than enough to correct for all defects, re-equilibrate contrast and print excellent images up to A4 size using standard digital photo-editing programs. All without any damage to the negative. Even with a standard consumer scanners one could do good stuff (I did all the old B&W negatives in the family since the 50s). I always wonder why the quality of pictures in Japanese publications seems to be so low, I have seen much better print from Japanese archives in French publications by B.Baeza that in some of the Japanese books. Any idea why?



P.S. When could we hope to have the Sally book ? :-)

D. Chouinard said...

Hi Carlo!
Maybe I can offer some insight? Enlarging from a negative is always the best option, if you have the negatives that is. You print from a photo, however, it's essentially a photo of a photo. The copy will never be as good as the original. In the case with this publication, they used images from a contact sheet, which are the same size as the negatives. (Looks to be about 35mm) That tiny photo will never provide the same quality as a negative, or even a larger photo. Even with the best scanning available, with a printed (Copied) photo, you are always limited by the source material.

Sorry for the long explanation!

Arawasi said...

Hi Carlo,
to add to what D. said, another reason is that some Japanese publishers don't want to invest time and money to hire a professional who can handle the photos properly. For example, sometimes they use b/w photos in RGB, instead of the correct CMYK or grayscale, and the photos appear weird and too dark. Sometimes they try to fix the photos by adding too much or too little shadows and contrast. Very often they don't try to clear the photos from noise, scratches and dirt, to keep their "vintage" feel. You can see the big scratch in the photo on the cover of the 50Sentai book.
We are talking here about vintage photos taken 70+ years ago. Many of them are in very bad condition and very very small. They need a lot of time and care to bring them to a condition comparable to today's standards.
I hope you are happy with the quality of photos in Arawasi publications. I spend hours upon hours agonizing over every single photo and even then sometimes I feel the result could have been better.
As for the "Sally" book, it will come out when it's ready. Soon!

carlo said...

Hello D.,
thanks, I was aware of the difference between negative and contact prints. My point was more that while I can understand low quality for subjects whose origin is a contact print, I still think that japanese printing industry should have much better standards when it comes to printing from negatives. In the end all printing now is digital so they have to convert the negative in digital form anyway. So much can be repaired at that stage that is unforgivable not to do so, especially considering that the transfer to digital form is probably the best way for that material to survive: war time negatives are more prone to degradation than more recent ones.
George, thanks for the insight. It explain well why such low quality when they have really all the tools and the know how to do a better job: keeping cost down....
As I was saying, french or british publications do a much better job on japanese materials and you are perfect example of what can be achieved quality wise. Your publications are always of the best quality, thanks for the effort.
Looking forward to the Sally then.

Danilo said...

Hi everybody,
as photographer I can only confirm what Devlin and George said - you can have the best scanner in the world, scan a picture at 1200 dpi, work on it as long as you want but if the original is a print as large as a stamp you can't obtain any acceptable result. However it is a shame to know there are original negatives languishing in the hands of certain people who do not care about content and quality of their job - just to earning money with a poor service in exchange! I thought in Japan they had a better sense of honesty - or am I too naive?
Regards to you all

Anonymous said...

When will the Sally book be out?

Arawasi said...

The "Sally" book will come out when it's ready. Soon!