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Alethea & Athena
Complex Age volume 1 
27th-Jul-2016 05:03 pm
The problem with our schedule being so packed is that, usually, when it's just packed, we can cross something off our list after finishing it fairly quickly and think, "Oh good, now we have more time for the rest of the things on the list." But now, because our list is so packed, we still don't have more time for the rest of the things on the list; we just have to work that quickly. Le sigh. On the bright side, we really do enjoy our job.

And speaking of our job, it's Review Rednesday! This week, we're finally going to review the critically acclaimed Complex Age volume one. Tadah! Spoiler level: mild.

Complex Age! The beginning of this review shows an excitement that is in utter contrast to the amount of energy I feel like I have right now! As I said in our LiveJournal post today [I do not remember what day that was, maybe some time in February?], I feel like the pool of words in my head is drying up. That happens sometimes when I feel overworked; I have no more words. It kind of makes sense, because our whole job is coming up with words.

Aaaanyway. This is another one of the lovely Kodansha titles that we got and were excited to work on...and then we were hit with a barrage of more and more work until it was finally at a point where we had to work on it or we'd miss our deadline. Actually, we wouldn't technically have missed our deadline, because it's actually not for a couple of weeks (a week and a half), but our editor said after he made the contract he discovered that Kodansha actually wanted it sooner than that so if we could expedite it... And I really wished we could have expedited it more but the everything was just too much. As it is, I want to just crawl into a cave for a month. Athena blames everything on Devil Survivor and First Love Monster, and it's hard not to agree because nobody ever told us that Devil Survivor was going to be a stinking monthly release for crying out loud. But technically, the real culprit is the video game project that showed up whenever we had a few days and said, "Hey, I bet you don't have enough work!" And we were like, "No, actually, we totally do, but we'll take some more!" because we have a weakness for certain types of video games.

But we're supposed to be talking about Complex Age. I'm 98% sure that the editor on this series offered it to us because we met at Anime Expo 2015 and we were cosplaying every day. So here's this series about a girl who's old enough to have a life beyond cosplay, and here's these translators who are old enough to have a life beyond cosplay, so let's put them together! The summary we read somewhere (possibly in the email the editor sent us, but possibly somewhere else; I'm too lazy to check) said that Nagisa is in her mid-twenties and starting to think she may be too old for the cosplay thing. We have a friend who thought the same thing, so we could totally relate. (And I really mean we had a friend who thought that; I should hope that anyone who knows us well enough will know that we care very little what society thinks of our hobbies.)

Actually, as of volume one, age doesn't seem to be anywhere on Nagisa's radar, except for one time where she got called an old lady, but she was more upset about the adjective "giant". Apparently she's insecure about being too tall, but that's more of a side thing so far.

But anyway! I thought it was pretty interesting, because right off the bat it shows the ugly side of cosplay, but from the perspective of someone who's been there, not like the manga artist was all, "So I heard about these cosplayers. Aren't they so totally wackadoo?" In the first chapter, Nagisa stays up all night remaking her costume because the day before the event, there's a new episode of the anime she's cosplaying and she sees a new detail on the character's costume for the first time. We were all, "Girl, you have problems." We're perfectionists, but we would be like, "Eh, it's under her cape. No one will see it anyway, and sleep is more important." What I related to a little more, though, was when Nagisa was looking at the other girls' costumes and being all horrible about their lack of perfection. Eh heh heh.

I will explain where this comes from. When cosplay is your thing, the thing that makes you special, you feel the need to convince yourself that your cosplay is better than everyone else's, because if you're not the best of this whole sea of people, then why do you even matter? Not all cosplayers feel that way, fortunately, and I like to think we've grown out of it (we're just bitter and jaded instead; look, everybody thinks they're a Disney princess, okay? just 'cause you're wearing a dress that looks like one, too, doesn't make you special even if you did sew it by hand).

Now I like to think we're more like Kimiko--let's all have fun and be friends and do group cosplay! Yay! I'm not sure we've matured to the point of letting other people cosplay "our" characters, though. And that's pretty silly, too, because we've never gone all out with photo shoots like that. Oh man, but that sounds like a lot of fun.

So anyway, the first volume is mostly about Nagisa and how she wants to be THE Ururu cosplayer, and that's something we've been through, so we could definitely relate. The slight problem with it, though, is that with all the explanations of how cosplay works, it's like, "Yeah, yeah, we knew all that. Let's have some DRAMA!" It is pretty interesting, though, and the wig tutorial was pretty helpful! Maybe one day we'll make wigs for our cosplay...

I have to talk about Ururu for a second. I think Magical Riding Hood Ururu is what makes this series give me a heart attack. A lot of the characters' names (especially the Friendsters) seem to be based on sound effects (ururu is the sound of eyes watering, kusu kusu is the sound of chuckling, etc.), so I was like, "Well, if this series were brought to the States, you know they would be localizing those names..." And I think I was a little too hung up on when our editor told us that what we did with the word psycholith in Livingstone is what real translators do, so I was like REAL translators would come up with GREAT alternatives for those names. But I was soooo tired. And we figured that the fans would all eventually demand a release with the names untouched, like they did with Sailor Moon, and the characters were all in Japan anyway so they would be watching with the Japanese names. So hopefully our editor isn't too disappointed about that.

What we DID have to deal with, though, is Ururu's nano~ sentence ender. There's a note in the book that explains what it's for, so here I will just tell you that we struggled with it until Athena started thinking about Michelle Tanner. Fortunately, we had recently finished watching Fuller House, so we had it fresh on our minds when the girls drunk-called Michelle and recited all her catchphrases to her voicemail. We almost stole "you're in big trouble, mister!" wholesale, but we thought, eh, all the characters in that anime are female and we don't want to copy it verbatim. The kangaroo thing was not from Full House, but I thought it was a cute rhyme at the time. I do feel the need to apologize for it now, though. I'm sorry.

Anyway, I think I will say it's a promising series? I don't know, but I really look forward to seeing all the cosplay, and how much of it we recognize. I'm kind of bummed that the first real series they cosplayed was one we're not familiar with. And that's another thing! Aya says something as Celeste that may or may not be one of the character's stock lines, but since we haven't played the game we don't know. And she was in potty mouth mode at the time, but the Danganronpa wiki (incidentally, I think Dangan Ronpa should be two words) listed a quote that seemed like it could be the high-class version of that line, and I just don't know! But we don't have time to play and find out, and from what we've read of the dialogue, we really don't want to play the English version anyway.

Finally, there was the Episode 0 story, which doesn't really give us a lot of hope for where this series is going to end up. But Sawako's husband was really cute when he said she'll always be his princess.

Today I'm thankful for Kinoko no Yama, getting one more thing crossed off our list, getting complimented on our Fire Force translation, having enough energy left to get some more work done, and TV shows that help us with dialogue.
27th-Jul-2016 10:57 pm (UTC)
Kinoko no Yama! Yay!! (since it's the only one I've actually ever had, I didn't have much choice in taking sides. But I do favour Kiun, and I always thought mushrooms were cute, so...)

I'm glad you translated Complex Age because when you mentioned it a while back, it reminded me to check it out! And I liked it, and then I lent it to two girls at church who do a lot of sewing and cosplay and they really liked it too!!! I only have an outside perspective on the hobby, but I guess aspects of having nerdy hobbies are still relatable, and anyway it was all interesting! I didn't think about the possibility of the Episode 0 forecasting the main story's ending until a review I read tossed that idea out there, and then I was a little sad and I hope it doesn't go that route. But when I was reading, I mainly thought, "You could've at least sold the clothes instead of burning them up. goodness."
27th-Jul-2016 11:44 pm (UTC)
I agree that Kinoko no Yama are cuter. But Takenoko no Sato has a better chocolate-to-cookie ratio, and since we're all about the chocolate... On the other hand, Kinoko no Yama actually has more chocolate per cookie.

Yay, we're glad you checked it out and even more glad that you liked it! That's great that you got to share it, too! We totally agree that Sawako's "solution" to her problem was extreme. Selling them would have been so much more practical and legal. I also agree with Sho-chan--she could at least keep one. I think he should have rescued them all and hidden them in a storage unit or something until she was old enough to look back fondly on the whole thing.
27th-Jul-2016 11:13 pm (UTC)
I really liked this manga. I'm not a cosplayer, so to me it seemed as if the mangaka avoided heavy-handed infodumping pretty effectively by having Kimiko and Nagisa explain a lot of the more specialized information to enthusiastic newbies Aya(?) and friends.

There were also some elements that seem specific to cosplaying in Japan, and therefore less apt to produce impatient "we know all this already" reactions in most Western cosplayers who pick up the book. For instance, as far as I know there aren't any studios in the U.S. that specialize in essentially providing stage sets for cosplay photo shoots (although I suppose some smalltime movie-related businesses in L.A. might offer this service as a sideline). And ever since I read the scene in "Genshiken: Second Season" where resident cosplay enthusiast Ono expressed horror at the news that one of the new club members had been changing into cosplay gear in one of the college bathrooms (the ladies' rooms at one cosplay-heavy college con I used to attend were always full of teenage girls doing just that), I've been wondering where on earth you're officially supposed to do this in Japan. So it was interesting to finally find out that Comiket and other otaku event venues have special rooms set aside for this--and, from your footnotes, that non-cosplay-oriented events usually charge cosplayers extra, due to the need to provide such changing rooms for them.

I also liked Episode 0. (There are some SPOILERS from here on, for anyone who hasn't read volume one yet.) Although, as you imply, unless the mangaka can think of some plausible way for Nagisa to reconcile her role as a slightly aging cosplay star with the "mainstream" world in a more effective longterm manner than Sawako came up with, the "Complex Age" series could ultimately wind up depressingly endorsing the view that, like Gothic Lolita fashion, cosplay is no hobby for older-than-twentysomething women. I really winced at the sweeping drasticness of Sawako's method of renouncing Gothic Lolitadom, and thought that the new young thing whose (apparently innocently tactless) remark at the tea party about knowing when to give up inspired it should have been severely reprimanded, if not kicked out of the group on the spot. Instead, both Sawako and her doyenne-of-the-group friend felt too awash with insecurity about their own "post-Christmas cake" status to say a word.

I'd actually like to see more of Sawako, both in terms of her past and what may or may not happen next regarding her keeping in touch with the Gothic Lolita world. (Perhaps she could make costumes for other people on the side?) It seems as if there must be an interesting story behind how she met and married a guy who's basically fine with her otherwise-secret Gothic Lolita side, especially since the fact that she's something like thirty-two now and they've only been married two years suggests that this happened noticeably later than even an office lady without clandestine otaku hobbies would stereotypically expect to find a guy who gets her so thoroughly. But even if Sawako's entire rather compressed initial story arc turns out to be all we ever see of her, it'll be interesting to see whether the mangaka manages to take the somewhat younger, but apparently more fundamentally insecure, Nagisa in a more non-renunciatory direction than the thematic rough-draft "Episode 0" storyline suggests.
27th-Jul-2016 11:51 pm (UTC)
I'm not saying all the info on cosplay was poorly done, just that we personally didn't have much patience for it. Plus, translating tutorials has never been our favorite thing.

A few things to address: not really relevant to the story at all, but we did see a Kickstarter a few months back for a cosplay photo studio in the LA area. Also, if we had translated that volume of Genshiken, we like to think we would have done the research to find out where cosplayers usually change in Japan, then written a note. And speaking of notes, we must admit, not all the notes in this one are ours. Everything in the cospedia was in the Japanese version and we just translated it. That's true of most if not all of the footnotes, as well.

As for Episode 0, we're 95% sure that the girl who made the snide comments was doing it deliberately, but we agree that the older ladies probably didn't fault her for it because they agreed. But I will point out that the talents Sawako developed for her Gothic Lolita style (it is a fashion choice, not a costume) could easily be put to use in a practical, real world setting. She could go into fashion design, make costumes for theater, make goth-loli outfits for other people, start her own line. There are all kinds of ways to apply these things if people just remember that office work isn't the only kind of work there is. I mean seriously, we translate comic books for a living, for crying out loud. There's no reason that having "weird" interests can't lead to a fulfilling adult life, especially the way geek culture has become so mainstream these days.
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