Thursday, February 25, 2010

I've gotten into buying manga again. Oh dear.

I spent a lot of money on manga before I went to Japan. Back then, the manga I was buying was usually between $12-$15 a volume. I ended up selling a bunch of those to the used books dept. at Barnes & Noble before I left...and most of the rest during my first visit home.

Ranma 1/2, Gunsmith Cats, Maison Ikkoku, Blade of the Immortal, Vagabond, You're Under Arrest, Battle Angel Alita, Inu Yasha, Fushigi Yuugi, Video Girl Ai, Urusei Yatsura...and probably more that I'm forgetting. I guess these are the ones I wish I didn't have to sell.

Nowadays, manga are a bit cheaper than they were. (That never happens, does it?) Perhaps it's because manga and anime are more popular, so they print more copies; it could also be because localizing manga is a lot easier than it was. They no longer flip the artwork to make it read left to right, for example, and that alleviates the need for a lot of retouching. So...I've started buying manga again, but in a more limited fashion. Hikaru no Go, Oh My Goddess! (which I was buying before), and one other, mentioned below.

Also, the development of high-speed internet has greatly affected how quickly manga gets here from Japan. Before, getting the latest chapters of manga took months after its initial Japanese publication. This led to the rise of "scanlation" groups who would buy manga as it came out in Japan, scan them into graphics files, and insert their own translation via Photoshop.

Now, in addition to trying to shut down these sites (which isn't really working), some companies are trying it themselves.

Rumiko Takahashi, of Ranma and Maison Ikkoku fame, started a new manga, Rin-ne, at just about the same time that I left Japan (April of last year). Back in the day, I would've had to wait until, oh, now, to be able to read it. But Viz Media, the American division of Japanese publisher Shogakukan, has been releasing their own digital translation online pretty much simultaneously with the chapters' original publication in Shonen Sunday. The collected editions are also released the same day that the books come out in Japan.

Rin-ne (or 境界のりんね, if you will) is pretty good, but kind of similar to some of Takahashi's previous work. It could be described as a more lighthearted take on the early parts of Inu-Yasha. You've got the high school girl, Mamiya Sakura, who falls in with the mysterious other person, and they find themselves working together to deal with problems stemming from the supernatural world. In this case, the other person is Rokudo Rinne, a classmate of the protagonist, who is forced by circumstance to work as a shinigami, guiding spirits to their final resting place (sometimes forcibly). Often short of resources, he sometimes has to be very creative in doing his job, and Sakura helps out as much as she can.

One of the things that surprised me the first time that I read Rin-ne was that I can pick out several cultural references that somehow were not noticed by the translators...or at least, they didn't see fit to include them in the notes in back.

For example, Sakura makes mention of how Rinne is using a weather station in back of the school like "Kitaro's Demon Post", which is a reference to Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro, a manga drawn by a native of Sakaiminato, the last place in Japan that I lived. In another chapter, one of the devices that Rinne uses in his job says "Zoooooom...IN!" repeatedly. This is a trademark line of the NTV morning show "Zoom In Super!"

...maybe I did live in Japan for too long...

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Other improbable things that my students have recognized

  • The Numa-numa song
  • The Ranma 1/2 theme song (hey, it IS over 20 years old...)
  • Hannah Montana
  • The PowerPuff Girls (wait, wait, there's a Japanese version of them now)
  • Marie, from "The Aristocats" (the character is VERY popular in Japan -- My boss is a big fan

On the other hand, one of my elementary students from back when I was teaching in America recognized Genma Saotome (in panda form).

On the gripping hand, some of those same students at Prosperity Heights asked me in all seriousness if they had Nintendo or PlayStation in Japan. (My response: Show the videotape of the first episode of ポケットモンスター.)

(apologies in advance for the ultra-geeky reference there...)