Category: graphic novels

ToraDora Graphic Novel

I love the ToraDora anime. The show ranks as one of my all time favourites, and I also own the first novel of the original novel, albeit mostly as a reminder that I remain barely literate in Japanese. So, when I heard that Seven Seas would publish the comic adaptation I knew I had to grab it on day one.

I didn’t have much to say about the first volume. Zekkyo, the artist, did a respectable job adapting the story, the art was good, and overall the book was enjoyable, just not anything to write home about. However, Zekkyo used most of the early chapters setting up Taiga and Ryuuji’s relationship. The other two main characters, Minori and Kitamura, received hardly any attention.

However, I expected that to change with volume two. We do get to see a little more of Kitamura, and Zekkyo also introduces the fifth and final main character, Ami, in the last couple chapters. Once she appears, Ami receives a lot of attention right away, and becomes a focal point for the last two chapters. Minori, though, continues to stay mostly on the sidelines. In the anime version, she appears frequently and often steals the show, especially in the first half, but it seems Zekkyo wants to focus on Taiga and Ryuuji. That’s understandable, of course. They are the protagonists. However, one of the anime’s strengths is how every character, even those with only a handful of lines, feels like they have a life and story of their own outside of how they interact with Taiga and Ryuuji. I would love to see Zekkyo accomplish the same here, because ToraDora has such a likable cast of characters.ToraDora Scan

Even without comparison to the anime, though, I suspect that the graphic novels would still feel claustrophobic, as Lissa Pattillo described volume one over at ANN, partly because of how verbose it gets. Flipping through the book, several pages suffocate under a tangle of speech bubbles. All the dialogue and monologue feel all the more oppressive in part, I think, because of the often dull backgrounds. Now, to be fair, Zekkyo does a fine job drawing the characters themselves, and there’s often not much to work with as far as settings go. Most scenes take place in school corridors (as on the right), walking down city streets, or at a restaurant that reminds me of Denny’s.

A few final points. As I said above, the characters are still likable, and I like how expressively Zekkyo draws them.

I also like the perspectives and panel layout, though navigating the myriad speech bubbles becomes unnecessarily difficult in some of the talkier parts.

Page 97 seems to have a printing error, where the top tenth of the page is reduplicated over the second tenth or so. I didn’t notice any such problems in volume one or in Gunslinger Girl, the only other Seven Seas release I own, so I’m hoping this is just an isolated slip-up. Let’s not turn into ADV already, please!


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More Sweet Zetsubou

Volume 9 of Kumeta Koji’s Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei just came out here in the US, and of course I bought it as soon as I could. It’s all standard SZS stuff, if you’ve read any of the last eight volumes you know what to expect. I love Mr. Kumeta’s fast-paced, satirical humour, and as a whole it’s one of the most quotable series I know.

I did notice that Kodansha has started publishing the series themselves, rather than licensing them through Del Rey. The layout’s almost identical to Del Rey’s; they just swapped out the logos on the spines.

The spines of zetsubou senseiGood for them; I’d have been irritated if they’d totally redesigned the thing and made them look weird on my bookshelf. There’s also a new translator, Joshua Weeks, taking over from David Ury, who himself took over from Joyce Aurino at (IIRC) volume five. Without reading the original I can’t vouch for accuracy, but Mr. Weeks seems to do a pretty good job keeping everything coherent for us anglophones, though I do have a couple nitpicks. Neither he nor Mr. Ury seem to use Zetsubou-Sensei’s standard formula ‘I’m in despair! (whatever) has left me in despair!’ as often as Ms. Aurino did, though Mr. Weeks uses it sometimes, which disappoints me a little. They use ‘hopeless’ or ‘I’ve lost all faith in (whatever)’ instead, which I’ll admit is just as technically accurate (AFAIK) and, perhaps more importantly, generally sounds more natural in most of these cases, but ‘despair’ is a stronger word. For what it’s worth, it’s also what fansubbers generally used in the TV show, so it’s what a lot of fans expect.

I’m also a little disappointed in the relative lack of translator’s notes. Ms. Aurino used a lot of them, Mr. Ury used fewer, though still more than most other series, and now there’s really just a few pages worth. Again, I don’t blame the translator (or editor or whoever decides these things). Most people probably don’t read them and, as the saying goes, ‘It’s not funny if I have to explain it’. Still, as someone interested in Japanese culture and translation, I always read the notes and usually find them interesting. That’s especially true of a series like Zetsubou-Sensei, which packs references so densely. I’d at least like to know the references in the chapter titles, most of which (again, AFAIK) refer to classic works of literature.…

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A-Kon 2011

I spent this past weekend at A-Kon, one of two anime conventions held in the Dallas area and the longest-running convention in the US (AFAIK). I had fun spending time with my sister and meeting with a couple friends, which is typically the highlight of any convention anyway, and also went to a pretty good panel on Kon Satoshi given by Helen McCarthy and Daniel Briscoe, but honestly I probably won’t go next year.

Though A-Kon isn’t too bad, I just don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. For one thing, the novelty has simply worn off, I can get much of the stuff in the Dealer’s Room online, and most of the art in the Artists’ Alley isn’t worth buying. Most importantly for me, though, A-Kon just doesn’t bring in guests that I care about.

Here, I prefer the other Dallas convention, AnimeFest, which despite being smaller does a better job coming up with interesting panels. Mainly, I’m interested in hearing from Japanese people – that is, the ones who make these comics and cartoons. I couldn’t care less about American voice actors, webcomic artists, and so on. No doubt there are a lot of logistical difficulties in bringing someone halfway across the world just to give a few panels over a weekend, but AnimeFest has done just that for several years now. Katayama Kazuyoshi came last year, and Sato Dai has come a few years in a row (and has always been very entertaining and informative). I may still end up going to A-Kon next year, if I have some friends to go with or if they do come up with a decent guest, but otherwise I’ll just stick with the smaller convention.…

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On Learning Japanese

If any doubted it, let me clarify: learning a foreign language is a pain. Yet, I consider having a working knowledge of a second language essential for an educated person. So, for the last few years I’ve been attempting to learn Japanese.

Luckily, I was able to take two years of it at my university (one of the few educational benefits my school provided), so I do have a good feel for basic grammar and vocabulary. After graduation, though, I came upon the problem of expanding on and maintaining what I’ve learned. As anyone who’s taken a foreign language class knows, language is very much a ‘Use it or lose it’ proposition. Even over the course of summer break after year one, I lost enough that my reaction to seeing the next semester’s review was something like ‘It’s bloody Chinese!’

Anyway, half the endeavour depends on continuing to review daily. I’ve done pretty well with that. However, my learning has been haphazard at best. Mainly, I’ve just tried to read whatever I can get my hands on, often from or whatever random volumes happen to turn up at Half Price Books (like volume eight of Death Note, and volumes eleven and seventeen of Oh, My Goddess!). Yotsubato! is written at about my level, which makes me very happy. I can read Japanese better now than a year ago, but obviously that approach is generally slow and, again, haphazard.

So, for the sake of adding some kind of structure to my study, I bought a copy of James Heisig’s oft-recommended Remembering the Kanji. Mr. Heisig’s unique approach to learning kanji, the bane of every Japanese language student’s existence, involves focusing just on how to write the characters and remembering a single keyword meaning for the first two thousand or so kanji, then remembering complex kanji by creating mnemonic stories based on the simpler components many caracters are composed of. It sounds a bit gimmicky, but so far has worked very well for me (I’ve done the first 550 or so characters), especially coupled with the flash card programme Anki and the new official RtK iPhone app.

So, onward I go. Someday, someday, I’ll be able to read serious business Japanese literature. It’s a goal, at least.…

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I Have Too Many Books

…but I can’t stop buying the things. I’m like a crack addict or a hoarder when it comes to books (well, maybe not a hoarder). Literally, it can take months, even a few years, before I get to some of the books I buy.

In the past, I’ve always juggled multiple books at once. Typically, I’d have a couple things I was reading for a class, and at least one other for leisure on top of that, usually with the leisure reading taking priority, of course. Add to that graphic novels, which, fortunately, I can knock out quick enough that they don’t add to the backlog too much. Now, there’s no reason for me to do that, but for whatever reason I’m still juggling.

Anyway, enough of my eccentricities. Here’s what’s on the plate now:

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Sir Winston Churchill. I have mixed feelings about Churchill as a leader, but I do like his writing. I’ve been wanting to get a better feel for English history, and the scope of this work (in four volumes) also appealed to me.

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, trans. Ivan Morris. More Japanese stuff, this time from the Heian period. A collection of anecdotes, observations, lists, and whatnot from a court attendant. It’s best in small doses, but I’m impressed enough to consider renaming this blog ‘The Pillow Blog’, since my idea for ‘Everything is OK!’ seems similar to how Shonagon went about the Pillow Book.

Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas is my patron saint, and I’ve read many of the articles in the Summa before, but I’ve decided to finally read the whole thing. It’s an epic project, so I’m just going a few questions at a time.

Dragonball, Toriyama Akira. Popular series hurt my indie cred (*ahem*), but I liked the first volume and bought the box set, which came in a nice box with a poster, booklet, and all sixteen volumes. Seven volumes down, and so far I’d say DB deserves the popularity.

Ranma 1/2, Takahashi Rumiko. What’d I say about popular series? Well, I’ve really liked the first ten volumes, so whatever. The main criticism I’ve seen of Ranma 1/2 is that the jokes get very repetitive. There’s definitely a pattern to them so far, and there’s still over twenty volumes to go…

I’ve also just finished Economics for Helen, by Hilaire Belloc, which a friend of mine highly recommended. I’d also highly recommend it to anyone.…

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The Sudden Death of Moe

Well, for me, anyway. Moe has been around for several years and far be it from me to predict when it’ll end, but for me it died while reading vol. two of Kakifly’s K-On!

I don’t think K-On! itself caused it; I did like the first season of the anime adaptation, though I never watched season two. Rather, while about halfway through the graphic novel, I realised that I just didn’t care about this story. I think the sudden realisation may stem from a recent episode of the ANNcast podcast, where one of the co-hosts (Justin Zevakis, IIRC) commented that, as a grown man, he had no reason to care about what a group of high school girls are doing.

Actually, maybe my distaste isn’t with moe per se, but with high school comedies. The first graphic novel I really got into was Azumanga Daioh, by Azuma Kiyohiko. At the time, I was in high school, so watching a bunch of high schoolers was relevant to my interests, even (or perhaps especially) if they were girls. Since then, though, I’ve seen several other shows with the same setting, some of which I’m sure I’ll still like, but at this point I graduated high school five years ago. The setting seems really trivial, and honestly some stories suffer from the lack of gravity inherent in most teenage relationships. ToraDora had this problem – though the urgency the characters felt to clarify everyone’s feelings may have seemed important from their point of view, I found that sense of urgency unnecessary.…

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