Archive for the 'book' Category

What I read recently

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Yotsuba& vol. 1 (Azuma Kiyohiko/Yen Press)
Bought this out of curiosity. ADV’s old translation had their usual problems, like occasionally being wildly wrong and misspelling random names. The new one is fine, but comes with all kinds of localization decisions that just annoy me. Everything written (SFX, signs, etc.) is left untranslated and put in notes, even though nothing at all is interesting about the original, all the honorifics are used (with more notes), and there are extra cutesy misspellings that are only funny sometimes. That being said, there’s nothing really wrong with it, except for the horrible filth:

…I think I’m bored of Yotsuba now. Actually reading this again just made me want to get the new Azumanga chapters.

The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya (Nagaru Tanigawa/Yen Press again)
Kind of boring. The early stories are all better in the anime, though some later chapters are better, I’ve heard. Also the entire translation is written like this. I was going to make up something here about fansub translators not knowing how to write paragraphs, but I guess it’s light novel style after all. The anime episodes are better but are still boring.

The Summer of the Ubume (Natsuhiko Kyogoku/Vertical)
kransom told me to buy this before it came out here, and so I did. Unfortunately, not only is this a real novel, but it’s actually good and well-written, which left me totally unqualified to say anything about it. I will instead note that most people seem to have called it a “supernatural horror”, which it isn’t, and insist on comparing Kyogoku to nerdshoe authors like Neil Gaiman/Stephenson.
Personally, I thought the mystery solved through a very long history lecture at the end reminded me more of Umberto Eco, but there’s no reason to go around reducing things to comparisons like that. Just go read it, okay.

Kannagi v1/2
(I read the subtitles, you see.)
There wasn’t really enough plot to sustain this. The individual episodes were mostly good, but none of them actually led into each other at all, and you just had to pretend that the weird serious drama in episode 2 merited it suddenly coming back at the end of the show.
Maybe if the author had written more of the plot out it could’ve been interesting, since it was at least more leftist than Kamichu, but instead some completely different series about maid cafes got stuck in the middle. Yamakan’s director power somehow made this and Kanon watchable, but I end up regretting it afterwards…

Umineko no naku koro ni, episode 6
I can’t mention any plot details until it’s been translated, but after reading it I don’t think I got any clearer picture of the mystery. It looks like episode 7 will reveal a large part of that, so it’s just a little more waiting either way, but it made reading such a long episode seem a little pointless.
There were a few great scenes, but overall the whole thing is by design stuck until the actual end, and I think he’s just padding it out now. Watch out if you start reading it (e.g. if someone translates the prologue), because the first few scenes will just confuse you until you get to the end 15 chapters later.

C77 Acquisitions (kind of): Manga Ronso Boppatsu Vol. 1

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

After some twitter back-and-forths, I’ve decided to try to do a few posts where I introduce some of the stuff I picked up last Comic Market (C77), mostly just to prove to people that you can spend over $500 on interesting doujinshi and have basically none of it be pornographic. (Nozomu Tamaki pushed his ero book on me and who am I to deny that man a sale?)

Of course, to start off this series of posts, I’m going to basically mess up my entire theme by starting with a professionally published book from 2007. I did, however, purchase this book at C77, and it’s the closest one to my laptop, so I’m going to start with the first volume of Manga Ronso Boppatsu (マンガ論争勃発, “Manga Debate Eruption”, alternatively “The Manga Criticism War Erupts!”), authored and edited by Kaoru Nagayama, author of Eromanga Studies (East Press), and the journalist Takashi Hiruma.

Manga Ronso Boppatsu is a collection of nearly fifty short (2-6 page) articles on a variety of topics, most of which center around a single expert or critic’s thoughts on the topic at hand. The authors of the book state that the idea behind the book is to listen to various positions on each of these hot topics, such as the globalization of manga, creators’ rights, and the limiting of free expression in manga, so that constructive discussion can start taking place rather than the mindless, polarized shouting matches that’re all too easy to fall into when debating these issues.

I ended up getting this book (and its sequel) thanks to a tip from Vertical’s Ed Chavez, who sent me off in the direction of the far-left corner of the Big Sight’s East-3 hall, where I found a rather large table staffed by just one guy, who I assume was one of the authors of the book. The placement of their booth was a bit odd to me, as it was down in one of the doujinshi-selling halls (as opposed to the upstairs industry hall), but up against the wall where non-doujinshi products like markers and corn dogs are sold.

This was actually a rather appropriate place to stick these guys, as while their book is released by a professional publisher (Micro Magazine), the subjects covered in the volume either deal directly with doujinshi events like Comiket, or are extremely relevant to the ideals embodied by these events themselves: Spreading manga culture and providing a space where individuals can distribute works of free expression. I’m not just making this stuff up, either–the Comic Market Preparation Committee and the National Doujinshi Event Liaison Group are both prominently given credit for cooperation right next to the authors.

I mentioned that Manga Ronso Boppatsu is the closest book to my laptop, and there’s actually a reason for that; it’s basically the only thing I’ve been turning to as of late when I feel like educating myself on manga. While I’m still working through it, the articles I’ve read so far are all very informative and provide thoughtful views on whatever topic is at hand. Of course, there is a trade-off to gathering the breadth of experts that the book jams into a little over 200 pages, and that is that a relative lack of depth in any given article. However, the articles are all excellent primers on their respective topics given by some of the most respected individuals in their fields. Since it’d be nearly impossible to give my thoughts on each individual article, I’m simply going to spend the rest of this post below the cut translating each article’s title and the primary individual consulted or interviewed (when applicable), and strongly suggest the volume (available for purchase at Amazon and, among other places) to anyone with an interest in a mix of solid journalism and on-the-ground, current commentary on the state of manga and doujinshi.


Instant Review: the contents of this package from Right Stuf

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

In case you still remember kransom’s posts, you might think this is some kind of insightful and highly detailed blog. Unfortunately, you’re actually thinking of all the other ones on the sidebar.

Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei vol. 2 is a cool manga, you should read it. If you’ve already watched it, it pretty much covers all the same jokes, but personally I don’t care about that.

Faust vol. 2 doesn’t have Kara no Kyoukai in it. I guess everyone hated it so much in the last one that it’s gone now? I haven’t actually read this one yet, but Omo covered vol1 pretty well.

Gakuen Alice has a really unfortunate DVD cover but you should watch it if you like that kind of thing.

I haven’t done anything recently except play Umineko (which is more or less brilliant) so maybe this blog and that other blog will stay dead for a while.

Two literary masterpieces together at last

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009


In case you hadn’t already noticed, the published Haruhi novel reads almost exactly like a.f.k.’s old translation, to the point where it seems like he’s gone off and gotten a real job. Most of this can be dismissed – there’s only so many ways to write this, and it’s been through another editing pass (but probably not two, it’s still a little rough) – but I thought one part of the prologue was interesting. The original uses a strange idiom 最大公約数敵 (greatest-common-denominator-esque, referring to what society thinks about something on average); most translations missed this, including the DVD subtitles (which somehow turned it into “I’ve grown to where I think about things like the greatest common factor”), but the novel has the same loose-but-accurate translation as the old fansubs did.

Also it still explains “moe” as “turn-ons”, what’s with that.

Review: Akiba Days

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

I’m sure most of the readers of this blog have already been exposed to Akiba Days, the illustrated guide to Akiba featuring the cast of School Days. I didn’t pick it up at first since I figured that knowing about where stores are and which places are interesting was one of those things you could just do on the internet. I was humbled a few weeks later as I got embarrassingly lost trying to find an out of the way maid cafe and the guy I was with whipped out Akiba Days, flipped to the index and found the place in about 15 seconds. I ended up buying a copy later that day, though for full disclosure, half of the reason I bought it was so that I could hit 6000 Toranoana points so I could get some Touhou vinyl figures.

So anyway, Akiba Days is a fairly comprehensive index of all the various stores in Akiba. Each store entry has a short, generally 2-4 sentence entry describing the place, a sentence commenting on the place by someone from School Days, maybe a few pictures, and address/map/hours/phone#. The stores are broken down into 4 categories, Eat, Play, Relax, and Buy, and they’re each broken down into subsections (ie curry, ramen, maids; video games, karaoke, maids; net cafes, massage parlors, maids; pc parts, video games, maid outfits, respectively). There’s also a 15-page map section in the front with an index of all the stores in the back, which is really handy when you’re trying to find stores hidden in the basement of a back street alley software store. There’s also a few small articles and infoboxes spread out through the book, like where the cheapest net cafe to spend the night at is in Akiba (1080jpy for 6 hours!), where to park your car (hah), or good date courses (HAH), though the book gives fairly ridiculous advice on these date courses like “Cure Maid Cafe -> Cos-Cha -> Mailish”.

Of course there’s the issue of stores lasting for an average of like 18 months in Akiba, especially with the mass maid cafe extinction thats going on right now, so I’m hoping for periodical revisions, since this thing is honestly a great guide to have, even if you do fancy yourself as somewhat of an Akiba vet. However, the book has only been out for a little more than 3 months now, so I think it still has quite a bit of time left on its shelf life, and after that it’ll always be a nice reference to have to see what Akiba looked like in its early post-Kato days. I’m not sure if this is much of a must-buy if you’re a School Days fan, since the characters really do seem to be not a whole lot more than semi-bland window dressing, but I’m not terribly familiar with the game’s characters, so for all I know it’s chock full of hilarious School Days jokes. All I noticed was the part where Sekai seems a little too interested in Akiba’s various sword shops. :x Anyway, it’s pretty reasonably priced at a little over 1300 yen, subsidized I’m sure in part by the back cover Toranoana ad, so if you’re planning on doing Tokyo and Akiba this winter or even as late as next Summer, pick a copy up if you can do the Japanese thing and impress all your other gaijin friends with your newly-found encyclopedic knowledge of Akiba!

So yeah, all in all,

Nice Mook.

Book (?!) Review: Manga! Manga!, Dreamland Japan (Schodt)

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Fred Schodt, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics (1983), Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (1996).

I’ve had these two books lying around for quite some time now, and it seems like now would be a good time to break my trend of posting reviews of things that the majority of this blog’s audience can neither read nor purchase easily. First up is Manga! Manga!. The book is broken into a number of sections, each with a fairly concrete subject, such as the origins of manga, themes in boys’ and girls’ manga, the industry, the future of manga, and a few more things in between, all in a little under 160 pages. You might think that this would result in a fairly scattershot approach to the monolithic subject of everything manga, but we end up with a fairly concise but focused set of essays that would be a good introduction to the subject. The book’s second half is devoted to English translations of four comics, Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix, Reiji Matsumoto’s Ghost Warrior, Riyoko Ikeda’s Rose of Versailles, and Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen.

Well, a good introduction other than the fact that the book is 25 years old. This isn’t exactly a fair criticism, but while the book may have been very poignant at the time, a lot of the ideas floating around in Manga! Manga! didn’t age terribly well, since the American landscape for the stuff was totally different, as the second-to-last paragraph makes it clear – “Most Japanese comics are unlikely to cross the cultural barrier between East and West in their original format. Those that do will probably be select classics with universal themes or works specifically created with Western audiences in mind. They are unlikely to become as common or as dominant as American comics once were.” Also, the whole bubble bursting thing took the idea of “JAPAN TAKING OVER THE WORLD” out of everyone’s heads right quick. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess. Despite the disconnect between then and now, there’s still a fair bit of useful information in here, especially when Schodt takes a look at the industry or recent history of the format. Of course, a bit of this is presented as totally alien stuff (as it ought to have been), but between Schodt’s access to Tezuka and the Japanese industry at the time makes for at least a few chunks of very good reading.

Of course, that isn’t to say that I can unequivocally accept everything he presents here. Within a handful of pages, I saw the first claim that made the Japanese studies undergrad in me squirm – that one reason for the dominance of comics in Japan is Japanese kanji, making an ideogram -> pictures -> comics!! connection, an idea that would earn me a mountain of red ink and a referral to this book by a college professor or two. I had similar reservations about his ideas that manga can be traced back as far as 12th century scrolls and (probably unfairly) his sections on samurai and honor influencing more modern-themed works like Golgo 13. (gotta get back to the duke. always gotta get back to the duke.) Actually, Henry Smith does a much better job of pointing this out in his review of the book in Vol 10 #2 of the Journal of Japanese Studies, which you should just read instead of this part of this blog post if you have jstor access. Too bad I told you that now, since I’m just about to wrap up! (It’s not too late to see Smith bust out his otaku cred by talking about gekiga and his Garo collection in the article, though!)

Overall, I’m not all too sure who to recommend this to. I mean, these days we have things like the internet to tell us about manga history, while a good portion of the rest of the book is either outdated or clashes too strongly with my ingrained ideologies for me to appreciate. Not to mention that the only people who I would have the opportunity to recommend the book to would have probably learned a lot of the stuff in here through it being dispersed into general nerd knowledge over the past 25 years. At the same time, it’s a fairly engrossing read, and actually has a fair bit of authority behind bits of it. (Which is to say I enjoyed it a lot more than Samurai from Outer Space which I will not rag on but will simply say that the most I learned from it was that someone out there with a Stanford education actually took Crystal Triangle seriously.) I’d certainly buy it at the $5 Amazon price if you had the bookshelf space, especially if you want a hard copy of something to cite, and I wouldn’t tell someone not to borrow and read it if their local library had it, but I’d suggest reading it with a grain of salt.

On the other hand, there’s Dreamland Japan, which will get a much shorter review from me because I love it so much that I will not write a single bad word about it. Also, I need to sleep soon. Where Manga! Manga! had things like opinion and theory (which I inexplicably hate all of the time especially when it comes from jerks like me), this sucker has big chunks of information to jam-pack your tiny otaku brains with. The first two chapters start off with a overview of the medium as well as its discontents (otaku, comiket, aum cultists). Schodt then moves on to an overview of a fair number of popular manga anthologies of the time, including demograpic and circulation information in handy little boxes. While some of the information is, unsurprisingly, a bit dated, a lot of the information holds up while also giving a pretty clear, in-depth snapshot of the state of the Japanese industry at the time.

This alone would make it worth a purchase, especially at the dirt-cheap prices that you can find it online, but then we get a hundred-page chapter that focuses on various manga artists of note. Schodt’s writing keeps things fresh as he profiles (and includes samples!) of one artist after the next, leaving a host of dogeared pages in any underinformed reader’s (my) copy of the book with mental notes to check the artists out once you’re done with the book. The next chapter is about Tezuka, and to be honest, I just thumbed through the chapter since nearly all of it was included in Schodt’s later Astro Boy Essays, which AWO’s Daryl Surat did a nice little review of in Otaku USA. (spoilers: you should buy it.) The final two chapters are on the future of manga, first in Japan, then in America. Again, being ten years old on a subject that’s constantly experiencing an incredible amount of change hurts these chapters’ relevancy a little, but they still provide a great picture of what was going on at a time that we can’t easily hop online and pull up websites about. Also, you get to see an absolutely ancient picture of the absolutely ancient Anipike, which should bring a smile to any old codger’s heart. So yeah, I would strongly suggest anyone interested in the history of manga or just manga in general pick up Dreamland Japan. It is both an engrossing read and will probably make you more informed about Japanese cartoons, an important trait of every educated citizen of the world!

Kafka on the Shore update

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

This would have been a good book, if only it was a good book.

I think his method of telegraphing the obvious plot resolutions in the ending, then not actually writing the ending and just ending the book before it, might look clever to some people, but it was actually kind of annoying.

In the future I will restrict myself to reading Murakami books that are provably episodes of Haibane Renmei.

(Though maybe I should read Underground; it’s nonfiction, after all.)

INSTANT REVIEW: Kafka on the Shore, pg 1-106

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

Things I have noticed, so far:

  • The main character wakes up covered in blood with no memory of why.
  • A character has hemophilia, although unfortunately for my theory it is a different character.
  • The book is foreshadowing that half of the main character’s “shadow” is shared with someone else, who hasn’t been the same ever since he went into a coma and lost his memory.

I therefore conclude that all post-2000 Japanese literature plagiarises Tsukihime.