And now, for Reviewsday, we present Nekogahara volume one! Spoiler level: mild.
This book is one of the "Big Five" set of translations that were all due approximately two weeks after Anime Expo, so we had to really rush on it, and we were scared about it, because we had translated the first chapter a while ago for previews (which were not available at Anime Expo, much to our disappointment), and we knew that this series was going to be tough to edit. On the bright side, it's not too heavy on text (or at least all the chapters after the first one weren't), so while the editing was very difficult, there wasn't as much to edit. And that's how we managed to survive getting it done in about two days (having the first chapter done helped), which we needed to do so we'd have time for the last three members of the Big Five, one of which is Noragami, which also tends to be very time-consuming, and another of which is Devil Survivor, which tends to be up in the air. Anyway, we're very excited that we finished it so quickly, but we won't truly be finished with it until we've written a review, so here we are!
As previously mentioned, this series is tough. I would say it's approximately Noragami-level tough, but it's hard to say. My attachment to Noragami makes me reluctant to say that anything is as hard as Noragami, but then I remember those chapter titles... This one actually doesn't require quite so much research, which is a little surprising, but not that surprising, because it's basically a historical drama such that as long as you're familiar with the tropes, you have a pretty good idea of what's what. On the other hand, it has a LOT of wordplay. Okay, maybe not a LOT a lot of wordplay, but more wordplay than we'd like. There was the thing about Short (or Sho-to, depending on what our editor decided to go with), and the thing with all the -doris, and then the chapter titles were just evil. ...Actually, the Busy Lake thing was pretty funny. See, the Pompey Sass chapters were originally titled Busy Lake, and we were like, "Oh. Well, that's English, so we don't have to worry too much about that. I guess there will be a lake or something."
There was not a lake. Instead, there was a character calling another characters a Biji Reiku, which refers to using flowery language, you know, like a pompous buffoon. For the English rendering, we referred to a story from our friend Han about how he became friends with our friend Gaston. Apparently it was a gathering of college-age students, and there was philosophizing, and Gaston was being himself, and some other Smart Person was not amused, so he said to Gaston, "Did you know you're a pompey sass?" (We don't like swearing, okay?) Gaston replied, "Yep," and went right on talking. From that moment on, Han knew he wanted to be friends with that guy. I will second both opinions. Anyway, we decided it was okay that pompey sass doesn't make any sense, because neither does busy lake, and for that we are grateful, because wordplay is a heck of a lot easier when you don't have to worry about meaning, unlike the one page with all the -doris, where there was an illustration of each -dori as it was stated. To that page, I say, "Fie!"
Oh wait, this is a volume one. I should give a brief summary. Basically, it's samurai cats. What else do you need to know? It's like a Japanese historical drama, only all the characters are cats. But if, for some bizarre reason, that's not enough for you, it's the story of Norachiyo, a stray cat who was owned by a person for a very brief time, and now he wanders the land as an unemployed samurai while he deals with his inner demons and a bunch of people who are trying to kill him for stuff that happened in the war, I guess? They haven't revealed all the backstory yet. And the inking is done in a very calligraphic style which is beautiful, and the art looks simultaneously traditional and modern cartoony. And! most of the cats are named after breeds of feline, so it's always exciting to see not only which of your favorite samurai movie tropes will show up, but which new cat breed will show up! And we get to learn what each breed looks like. The Norwegian forest cat is beautiful. But because of the breed thing, we did use nonstandard spelling for most of the names. I'm pretty sure that's going to make them even harder to pronounce...unless you know something about cat breeds!
We had a good time using cat terms instead of people terms. We always translate "otoko" to "tom" instead of "man", for example. And we almost forgot about this, because it was in chapter one, which we translated oh so very long ago (like April or May or something (it's early July as I write this)), but we got to look up new words for cats, like how a group of cats can be called a glaring or a clowder. And we wanted to find the feline equivalent of a mutt, which is how we came across "mog", which you'll see several times in the dialogue.
Character voice is a little difficult in this series, because it's not always consistent, and sometimes it's definitely deliberate, as in the case of Shishiwaka (whose given name means "young lion"; that didn't make it into the translation notes, but it's neat, so I wanted to reveal that here), but sometimes I'm not so sure. Norachiyo started out talking a little bit fancy like you'd expect from a samurai, but not super old fashioned. But then after he got killed, he started slurring a lot and being less fancy. Maybe it was deliberate, since it was definitely a progression.
One of the characters that I'm finding myself liking pretty well is Short (or Sho-to), and that might be purely because he's an American shorthair, and I'm patriotic. But I like his spiral markings, and there's one panel of him, when he says he's going to be the catnip king, that's got such a perfect balance of older Japanese art and modern cartoons that it's a wonder to look at. And I love to hate Shishiwaka. He really is a beautiful cat, but man is he a jerk. As for Norachiyo, I like him well enough. I don't know enough about him. He seems like a decent guy in the first chapter, but then all the killing. He definitely gets points for ingenuity, though. His revenge against Shishiwaka was very clever, but extremely unsanitary. It's one of those "it's so wrong but also so funny" things. Speaking of which, the series does have some potty humor in it. We're not real big fans of that, so we're hoping it's just for now, or here and there, and won't be a continuous thing.
Anyway, volume one is really entertaining, so we hope everybody likes it!
Well, that review seemed to not really tell too much about the story... But it does have a summary! I don't know if there's enough in there to answer any questions people may have before committing to buying volume one, but you can always ask in the comments!
Today I'm thankful for having a nice laid back kind of day, the chewy candy with the crispies that came in our Tokyo Treat box last month (I think it's called kajiriccho), the lovely art style in Nekogahara, getting a couple of neat odds and ends to work on today, and getting to go to the temple later.