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Alethea & Athena
That Wolf-Boy Is Mine! volume 1 
28th-Sep-2016 06:30 pm
Work is kicking our butts today, but we kind of knew that would happen. Oh well, it just means we get to work all the harder tomorrow! Or work some more tonight, but we have some stuff we gotta do.

But first, it's Review Rednesday! And this week, we finally get to post our review of one of the delightful new shoujo titles we've been working on, That Wolf-Boy Is Mine!. Spoiler level: moderate.

This is one of the titles that we asked for when our editor said, "I wanted to talk to you about new titles. Is there anything we announced recently that you want to translate?" And then we said, "If we can only have one, we want In/Spectre." And he said, "You can have more than that," and we said, "Okay, then we want Nekogahara and Wolf-Boy." Actually, before our first response, we did some research on all the titles that were announced...well, the ones that looked interesting at first glance, and we checked reviews at Amazon Japan for the shoujo ones specifically, because the last shoujo thing we were assigned that was a Kodansha title (it's a Yen Press title Stateside) was one we are starting to seriously dislike, so we're more than a little wary.

But this one involved animal boys, and the summary Kodansha USA gave compared it to Fruits Basket, and it takes place in Hokkaido. The reviews weren't all positive, and the one negative one said that it was all very cliched, which...actually wasn't necessarily a problem. There are some cliches we don't like, but there are also some cliches that we do like (they become cliches for a reason, after all), and more importantly, "it's so cliched" is the type of reasoning people tend to use to describe why they don't like something when they don't want to take the time to figure out why they really don't like it. (Have you noticed? People tend to have stock reasons. One person we know used to always say "the characters are flat," and another person we know used to always say "it was predictable," until we pointed out that when you watch it the second time, every movie is predictable, so she switched to "it's formulaic.")

So we put it up as our second/third choice, for all the reasons listed above, and the fact that it's shoujo (we still love it, even if we're wary of it), and the fact that it takes place in Hokkaido means that maybe they'll be using a Hokkaido dialect, which means we might get to use more of the mountain dialect we used for certain characters in Noragami. We got especially excited about that, because we had recently watched So Dear to My Heart, where they use a mild highland dialect, and we thought it would be so nice to have the characters talk like in the movie we love so much.

Well, if you've read the book (and we hope you have!), you know that they talk normal pretty much all of the time. I guess TV is making all the standard dialects more standard. There was still one phrase that was a northern-Japan specific phrase, but we couldn't immediately find an obviously highland version, so we just translated it to standard. (It's in chapter four when Rin says "What's up?" Normally that would be a "doshita?" but in northern Japan, it's "nashita?") But anyway, that turned out to be a good thing, because we really are not dialecticians, so now the series is going to be a lot easier to translate.

Not that it's the easiest thing in the world. It's not super hard, either, but there were some parts that we spent kind of a lot of time on. The most time consuming part was when the boys were explaining about animals living as humans. We had to do a lot of research...okay, so we didn't have to do it, and it didn't even end up in the notes, but we wanted to be sure we couldn't say anything definitively before we decided not to put it in the notes. See, the tanuki priest that gets mentioned...according to Wikipedia, there's a real life grave for him at a temple called Gugyoji in Ibaraki Prefecture, but the only other sources we could find to corroborate that were sites that seemed to be quoting Wikipedia. The homepage for Gugyoji mentions nothing. I thought it would be a nice bit of trivia to add to the note, but since we couldn't verify the source, we figured it would be best to leave it out. We also had some trouble looking up Kuzunoha, but mostly because the kanji for her name is a little weird.

So as for the series itself...we like it! I agree with the reviewer that it does have a lot of cliches, but that's mostly just in the setup. The characters and how they deal with the set up are different enough that it's still interesting. For example, the wolf-boy who's actually more like a dog--he's adorable and not really what I'd expect from a wolf-boy character. Senri (the cat) is pretty great, too, because I feel like I don't see a lot of sleepy cat characters, but according to Jeopardy!, cats sleep 20 hours a day, so it makes a lot of sense. The heroine, Komugi, is pretty standard, but let's just call it "classic". Rin is a little cliched as the overprotective friend, but I love him anyway. I've always had a fondness for foxes, and then Ylvis came out with their supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (I was trying to think of what word would describe the awesomeness better than awesome, and then I remembered!) music video, and now they're my favorite! And of course there's the nostalgia factor after going to the Fox Village (they, too, have signs telling tourists that none of their foxes have echinococcus). The point is, Rin is my favorite for silly reasons like that, but I love all the characters a lot.

And one reason I love them is that they're perceptive! Komugi started acting all careful about what she said and it doesn't take long before Yu thinks, "Somebody told her about my past, didn't they?" So much of entertainment these days seems to center on annoying misunderstandings that it's always immensely refreshing to see characters who can put two and two together.

The series does seem to have taken a lot of pages from Fruits Basket, like with the hypnosis and Yu's angsty past. It's like he's Momiji and Kyo combined! And they're some of my favorite characters from Fruits Basket, so that's pretty great. Yu is also my favorite character. He's just so friendly and helpful and caring. But he doesn't want Komugi to be in love with him!? Oh no, why!? We'll just have to find out later. The preview (which may or may not be in the English release) makes it look like Rin is going to be pretty awesome in the next volume.

And speaking of Rin! The fact that he's living as a human just so he can play video games is pretty hilarious. (And he likes RPGs! That's our favorite genre, too!) Of course, there's been some indication that that's not the real reason... Suspicious...

And I'm not sure I have a whole lot more coherent thought about this. The point is, it's just a nice shoujo manga with fun characters that we like a lot, and we enjoy it, so I hope all of you will enjoy it, too!

(One last thing I made a note of while translating this series. When they say "short homeroom," they use the "kanji" SHR. So we looked up SHR at Weblio, and all it gave us was several dictionary entries that told us it meant "spontaneously hypertensive rat". That was not very helpful, but it does seem oddly appropriate.)

Today I'm thankful for the Disney chocolate cookies we got from Tokyo Treat (so many characters were represented!), getting to talk about Wolf-Boy, the feeling that we're doing a pretty good job on this current translation, finally finishing that trial in Ace Attorney, and it being time for dinner.
5th-Oct-2016 09:08 pm (UTC)
I finally finally went to the comic shop today (I hadn't been since... before Japan, at least) and they had this on the shelf! (and then I made them add it to my subscription list, so I won't have to worry about future volumes.) It's SO nice! All the characters are great so far, and I think because, as you mention, they're all pretty perceptive about things, I didn't really feel like I was reading something particularly clichéd. Ignorance and misunderstandings are the less forgivable clichés, in my mind. I think some line early on got me thinking you had fun translating Fushimi (I'm still on a family-name basis with these guys). I always enjoy reading the dialogue you two write/translate!

Also I was excited about Hokkaido! Ever since I looked it up on the map and realized it's around the same latitude as Michigan (Sapporo and my city are within .1º of each other!), Hokkaido has had a special place in my heart :)

And I kind of squeaked when guy #4 showed up as a cat. (I never took to Kyo the same way, but...) Cat!! He's so standoffish, I want someone to run after him and give him a hug :) I'm glad you found a new Kodansha (Aria, even) shoujo that makes you happy! And it makes me happy too, so far!

(finally, I'm glad you mentioned the signs at the fox village declaring that the foxes didn't have the parasite, because then it makes more sense to me that the random classmate was like "that parasite foxes carry" and then rattled off the name. I'd never heard of that, but that's probably because we don't encounter foxes much in daily life.)
6th-Oct-2016 12:01 am (UTC)
Yay! You got to read it! It really is a nice series. Cozy? Maybe I would call it cozy. Not deep or edgy or anything like that; just nice. And I agree; ignorance and misunderstandings are much worse as cliches go. And yay Hokkaido! Aww, and thanks for the compliment.

Oh goodness, I think Senri would haaaate it if someone ran after him and gave him a hug. Anyway, we're glad you like the series!

Haha, yeah, we seem to remember considering writing a note about the parasite, but we must have reasoned ourselves out of it because we're so lazy about notes.
6th-Oct-2016 01:18 am (UTC)
Cozy is a good word for it!!

Oh, talking about notes reminded me, they didn't include the next-volume preview you mentioned, for this volume. And probably don't/won't in general, since that page spread is needed for your ever-informative translation notes :) It seems like that's not really a thing they do (I asked when working on In/Spectre)... I think Yen Press is the only publisher that consistently includes those previews. (I like them, but I'm not too worried about them being left out. from lettering experience, they can be a paaaain when the publishers send them as flattened images... er, sorry for this tangent. (but if anyone's curious, Kodansha provides nice layered files for that sort of thing so I've come to appreciate them quite a bit.))

(but now I'm curious, is there anything special under the dust jackets for this series?)
6th-Oct-2016 02:55 am (UTC)
Ha ha, yeah, one time we got so fed up with translating previews (they can be a pain to translate, too, partially because I feel like I should try to help the letterer know where everything is, and partially because the whole point is to show things out of context), we pulled out one of our comp copies for that series and saw there was no preview, so we were like, "Sweet, we're off the hook!" So we didn't translate it...and then our editor emailed and asked if we could translate it. So now we are in the habit of always translating them regardless of the likelihood of them ending up in the final version, hence the comment about whether or not it was there.

There's nothing especially special...okay, maybe I take that back. Volume one just has a picture of Yu as a wolf cub, which didn't really seem all that special, but then volume two had Yu as a wolf cub with Rin as a kit together, which is just so sweet, and volume three has the two of them with Aoshi as a little tanuki. We can't remember if we got volume four yet, so we can't check, but I think we all know where that's going.
6th-Oct-2016 03:01 am (UTC)
Awwww!!! That sounds so cute!! Maybe for the final volume (oh yeah, that's v4) you can drop a hint to an editor that it would be a splendid idea to include a nice little collection of all those illustrations at the end... :D *dreaming*

(I have, of course, made sure that we're including the under-jacket art for In/Spectre!)

Edited at 2016-10-06 03:02 am (UTC)
6th-Oct-2016 04:32 am (UTC)
I'll see if we can remember to mention it!
6th-Oct-2016 09:00 pm (UTC)
I second this suggestion :)
7th-Oct-2016 03:06 am (UTC)
6th-Oct-2016 09:00 pm (UTC)
I also read vol 1 and enjoyed it very much. I like the art and characters. I can't wait for volume 2. I'm glad it's a fun series to translate.
7th-Oct-2016 03:06 am (UTC)
We're glad you like it!
16th-Dec-2016 09:09 am (UTC)
What Yu's mother wound up doing when faced with a constantly shape-shifting child was terrible. But I didn't get the impression that she abandoned him out of sheer repulsion, the way Momiji's mother effectively did in "Fruits Basket." At least, not if that flashback of her taking toddler Yu up to the mountain and leaving him there more or less depicts how it really happened. (Perhaps Rin was already there watching when she and Yu arrived, instead of just stumbling across Yu afterwards? Since Rin hates humans, it seems somewhat unlikely that he'd voluntarily imagine Yu's mother tearfully saying "I'm so sorry" as she left him there, even if he interpreted her apology as merely an attempt to make herself feel better about her actions, rather than genuine regret/repentance. Although since it's the tanuki kid who actually tells Komugi the story of how Yu first became part of their little interspecies pack, I suppose some of those details could be just his personal spin on it, or the way Yu himself prefers to remember it.)

It's true that a wolf cub--especially a part-time wolf cub--that young wouldn't be much more capable of surviving on its own than a regular human one- or two-year-old. But maybe Yu's mother knew (if his late father told her) or guessed (because of the local legends about the mountain being a strong spiritual power source) that there were other supernatural animals there who might be better equipped to raise such a child than she was. Of course, this still doesn't excuse her just leaving Yu there instead of attempting, however ineptly, to make contact with the other animal yokai she may have suspected lived there. Especially if she had any inkling that her husband/boyfriend had been the last wolf, so any other shapeshifters still there wouldn't be Yu's actual blood relatives and therefore might be less inclined to take him in. But if her behavior in that flashback scene bears any resemblance to the truth, at least it doesn't seem as if discovering that Yu was a shapeshifter who kept uncontrollably transforming from human to wolf instantly made her flip from being a normal loving mother to hysterically deciding that her baby was a freak and refusing to have anything more to do with him, as happened in Momiji's case.

I, too, found the boys' claim that they'd chosen to live as humans so they could do things like read manga and play video games hysterically funny. Of course, even if that is the main motivation for some of them, it's possible that the yokai elders, or whoever is in charge, picked Yu in particular to do this because they wanted to give him the option of eventually rejoining the regular human world his mother came from, rather than remaining part of the local yokai community for the rest of his life. If so, that might explain why Rin is so determined to keep Yu from getting romantically involved with a human girl, and why Yu himself shrinks back when Komugi's confession raises the possibility of their friendship turning into the kind of bond that might threaten his connection with the "family" he's spent most of his life with.

I was also really amused by the line about Rin being a "spoiled rich kit." Was some equivalent of that pun in the original Japanese version, or did you just throw it in?

17th-Dec-2016 03:02 am (UTC)
We agree that Yu's mother wasn't exactly like Momiji's, that's why we said he was like Momiji and Kyo. Actually, we thought of Yu himself as more like Momiji (but with Kyo's angst) and his mother as more like Kyo's. She clearly tried to take care of him, but in the end decided she couldn't hack it. On the other hand, she did give him up (like Momiji's mother) instead of killing herself. The event probably happened much the same way it was portrayed, but since it was only like two panels, there's definitely more to it.

I think Yu's hesitance to get involved romantically with Komugi is more because he doesn't want to get hurt than anything else. The one human he ever loved before had already abandoned him, and we wouldn't want to have to go through that again. And I think that if Yu weren't afraid of romantic relationships, his personality is such that he wouldn't see how one would threaten his preexisting relationships.

The pun was something we threw in; the Japanese just called him a "spoiled rich boy fox", because they don't have a specific word for "child fox". We also did a lot of that kind of thing in Nekogahara for similar reasons.
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