And today is Review Rednesday! We finally get to post our review of Fire Force volume 1! And maybe it's a good thing we waited, because we looked through an English copy over Christmas and now we have even more to say!
Fire Force! Woohoo! YEAH!!! (I'm trying to get myself excited about it again, because I loved this volume but we recently had the realization that our chances of going to the Original Pancake House are suddenly a lot smaller, and I'm unreasonably disappointed about that. It's probably a result of the compound disappointment about the realization that we are also a lot less likely to go to the ice cream place Gaston keeps telling us about. And it's all his fault, the jerk. Okay, venting done.)
Okay, first I have to tell you about the homurabito, because this was ridiculous. Do you have any idea how hard it is to come up with a translation for homurabito (literally "flame person") that doesn't sound like an anti-gay slur? Never before did it occur to us that most words that can be applied to both fire and people are homophobic. Our placeholder was "flamer". I know, and I'm sorry. We were rushed and we wanted something we could just put into the script right away so we could get through the first draft quickly. We figured when we went through and did the edit, we would look into some fancy words, since "homura" is a fancy Japanese word for fire, maybe go with Latin or Greek, because that's where our linguistic snobbery tends to lead us. So we looked up the Latin word for flame, and guess what it is? It's flamma. Sounds like flamer. Grrrreat. So then we were like, "Well, the -bito is in katakana, which is kind of like how they write out scientific names in Japanese, so what if we did something like that? You know like...homo sapiens." Grrrreat.
We did consider using the Greek pyro, but I'm not sure why that wasn't working. I think it had to do with not knowing how to put Greek words together to form compounds, and not being sure which word to use for "person". We also talked the matter over with our sister who married a man who became a fireman (I know it would have been quicker to say "our sister who married a fireman", but he wasn't a fireman at the time, and incidentally, "fireman" is another word we couldn't use for "homurabito"), and she sympathized. She said, "Well, there's torchers, but that gets into drug users." I'm going to assume she knows that from teaching high school, because otherwise I have no idea where she learned it. We almost went with "torch", as in "human torch", and that would have been cool, too, I think.
So let me tell you how we eventually landed on Infernal. Get ready; it will blow your mind. We had all these ideas swimming around and we thought, "Okay, we have some ideas and some of them might even work. But before we finalize anything, we might want to check the thesaurus and see if there's anything else, something to help us come up with something better." So we went to Thesaurus.com and typed in "flame". Almost immediately, I noticed the word "inferno", and the rest is history. The end.
That's how we realized yet again the importance of thesauri. And almost immediately after I expressed my gratitude for thesauruses on LiveJournal that day, we went to work on Noragami and tried to use the thesaurus, and it gave us absolutely nothing. She is a fickle mistress, the thesaurus.
Of course, homurabito wasn't the only term that gave us trouble. We had to come up with something to distinguish the fire officers from the firefighters, which, if you've read the note in the book, you know was tricky because the Japanese words are different but basically mean the same thing. This is another term we discussed with the fireman's wife, throwing around all kinds of ideas. We mentioned the idea of, since the fire officers specifically fight Infernals, while firefighters fight just the fires, we have the officers be, like, homurabito fighters. And that's why we ended up having a long discussion about why it's nearly impossible to come up with an unoffensive translation for homurabito. But the point is, during that discussion, I said something about "the force", and our sister said, "But 'the force' makes me think of police officers," and we were like, "Wait a minute...that works!" Especially because the title Fire Force was already locked in. So that was the one term that our sister helped us come up with that we actually used. Eheh.
[Edit to add: I'm really ashamed about this. Anyone who has read the book knows that the official term is actually "fire soldier." And observant readers of the book will even be thinking, "Duh, it's right there in the artwork and everything." It was a few weeks after we turned in our translation of this volume that I decided I wanted to read something funny to cheer myself up, and I found the free preview of Fire Force at the Japanese Kodansha website. I got to where Company 8 shows up, and that was the first time I noticed the words "fire soldier" stamped across Akitaru's helmet. I'm very sorry. Fortunately, the higher-ups are rather particular about the translations of terms in this series.]
Naturally we grilled our sister on firefighting terminology, and she did her best. She also said she'd tell her husband we might text him, and we ended up not doing that, either. Why? Because we found a handy-dandy website called "firefightinginfo" or something similar, and it had a glossary and everything. (Not that we don't like our brother-in-law, just that we're intimidated by people in general. We wouldn't have talked to our sister if her son hadn't happened to be going through the list of people he needs to call and tell that he's playing with his Thomas toys.) Anyway, the website is what gave us the confidence to use "captain" and "lieutenant" for the corresponding titles within the company.
And now that we've gotten all of that out of the way, let's talk about the story, because it's awesome!!! This is the story of a team of fire officers living in a world where people will spontaneously combust, basically becoming fire demons that go around wreaking havoc until they die. The fire officers' job is to put their souls to rest before they cause too much damage. The protagonist of our story is Shinra Kusakabe, who has sworn to himself and his late mother that he is going to be a hero. Also, apparently not everyone who spontaneously combusts ends up going berserk--some people adapt to the fire and end up with superpowers. Shinra's power is that he can shoot fire out of his feet. And he uses that power to fight the Infernals! Tadah!
One of the first things we noticed about Shinra is that he screams kind of a lot, which means Yuki Kaji could play him really well. As if that imaginary casting wasn't awesome enough, later we meet Shinra's rival character, who is an aspiring knight, and he seems like he would be perfect to be played by Mamoru Miyano, who also played Death the Kid in the anime of Atsushi Ohkubo's previous series. Lately, Miyano-kun has been posting on his blog about The Secret Life of Pets, in which he plays a hawk and Kaji-kun plays a guinea pig, and he keeps saying that the hawk is always trying to eat the guinea pig, so basically their relationship is the same as in real life. And all of this made us pretty interested in seeing Pets, until we saw a trailer that made us think it's basically Toy Story with animals, but more importantly the idea of the rival dynamic and those two voice actors makes us very happy, even if the casting is currently only in our own heads. [Edit to add: If we hadn't been out of town, we would be in possession of an issue of Weekly Shonen Magazine that has an interview with Atsushi Ohkubo and none other than Mamoru Miyano himself, talking about Fire Force.]
So...I'm really not sure how to explain how awesome this series is. You have to read it. We keep wanting to quote all the awesome lines, and then we realize that they only really have an impact when paired with the visuals, which I think is a sign of a great manga artist, because it means Ohkubo-sensei combines art and dialogue brilliantly. And speaking of Ohkubo-sensei, the afterword. Oh my goodness, the afterword. It's hilarious. You have to read it. (I'm gonna give it away, because I want to say that one of the most oft repeated lines from the whole book is, "No, the Yankees would be Jump." And to be honest, I'm not sure why that's the most oft-repeated, unless maybe it's the one that stands on its own the best.)
Of course, Shinra isn't the only great character, either. I mean yeah, he's pretty relatable right off the bat, since he has this dream of being a hero, and he has some awkward character flaws. Adorably awkward, poor guy. I think it's worth noting (but maybe not that worth noting, since we didn't write a translation note) that when he's flashing back to kids talking about him at the academy, one of them describes his smile as "hikitsutta", which can specifically refer to the skin getting tight from, like, a burn scar or something. In other words, the creepy smile is a scar from his traumatic past. I'm really interested to know how the other pyrokinetics got their powers, because how the powers work is kind of fascinating. Shinra's make him a devil, Arthur's make him a knight, Tamaki's make her a cat... Will we ever know if there's a reason the powers manifest the way they do, or is it just random? Inquiring minds want to know!
Anyway, other favorite characters include pretty much everybody, but I have to mention Akitaru, because, like Shinra says, he's such a great guy. I always liked the fatherly leader type. And it's so great when he finds out about Shinra's smile habit.
Speaking of Shinra's smile habit, Tamaki seems to have developed a very unfortunate habit as well, so does that mean she is "the one" for Shinra? Athena's pretty sure it's still Iris, since she's the one who called him kakko ii like his mom did. By the way, we had a tough time deciding what adjective Shinra's mother should use to describe her opinion of all his heroics. We texted our other sister, because she's the one with a kid the same age Shinra was before the fire, and we're like, "What would you say to Logan if he said he was going to be a hero and protect you and his siblings?" and she said, "Probably something like, 'Oh, thank you!'" She apologized for not being helpful. But we needed an adjective that worked for him saying he was going to be a hero, and asking if he looked like a hero. And it bugs me, because "kakko ii" is such a great way to describe it, but we just don't have a single word that captures that nuance in English. ...At least not one that's in common enough usage to not sound really bizarre. Or like something that was directed more at a knight than a superhero--gallant, dashing...brave sort of works, but the nuance is still wrong, and of course heroic would be redundant. But she looked like a young enough mom that we could get away with awesome, so that's what we went with. By the way, I really loved that scene when he remembers her putting the cape on him, and then he runs off to be a hero in real life. Oh man, it was so good.
I also have to mention Arthur again, because man, that guy. And Maki. She's great. And Iris is great, too, but we've had a bigger focus on Maki, and I love her. I love how she keeps making these little fire mascots, and even though I think he's a jerk for it, I love how Takehisa keeps putting them out. We had fun coming up with the names for them. Well, not for Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. We just left that one as-is, because it was clearly a reference to the anime or manga of the same name.
And I think that covers it. This series is really, really good you guys. At least, so far it is. And it wastes no time getting right to addressing the big question. But anyway, we hope you check it out, because it's a lot of fun.
PS: When I went to save this file, I saw a file name that reminded me of something I wanted to talk about! The prayer that they say when they're putting Infernals to rest. At the end, they ask the soul to return to the great "en'en no honoo", which basically translates to the great "flame flame flame". Okay, so more literally it translates to the "flame of flames", but "flame flame flame" is so much fun, I had to mention it. It was my placeholder for the first draft. Come to think of it, "flame of flames" does sound pretty cool; I'm wondering if we should ask our editor to change it. Right now we have "flame of fire". We thought at first that maybe we should choose words that weren't so similar, so we were looking around at options (thesauruses again), and then we thought it's a prayer, so we should look into that. The Holy Sol Temple is kind of Catholic, so we Googled Catholic prayers to see what those looked like, and then we thought we ought to use Biblical terms, so we went straight to the source and checked the King James Bible. We went to the online version at lds.org, and first I searched for "fire" and that wasn't really helpful, but then I searched for "flame" and we discovered that in Ezekiel there's a scripture that mentions a "flaming flame", and we were like, "Really?" Well, if it's good enough for the Bible, we can totally use it in Fire Force! Athena says she thinks we saw "flame of fire" somewhere, too, which is probably why we decided to go with that. Anyway, "flame flame flame". It's fun to say.
[Edit to add PS: We brought a copy of this manga up to Fresno when we were visiting family, because duh, firefighting brother-in-law. So we were looking through it and saw that the editor changed one of our favorite lines. She probably thought it was too slangy and dated, so I'm sure she had her reasons, but I wanted to mention it here so when you all read it, you can know what the line was supposed to be. In the final version, Shinra says he said that knights "are so lame compared to heroes." Actually, "lame" was the word that naturally came to mind first, but we are a little careful about ableist terms, so we wanted to make an effort to use something else. And then we came up with something that was funnier anyway, so it was a win-win! Until it got changed. our version had Shinra saying that he said knights "are weaksauce compared to heroes." See how much better that is? And I kind of get the "dating" thing, but it's not like the bee's knees or anything. People can still kind of understand what it means even if it's not in current usage. And Athena says Shinra is totally the type to use outdated slang. Ah well, c'est la vie.]
And there you have it! We hope this motivates people to check out the series, because it's a lot of fun!
As for this week's new releases, the eleventh and final volume of Your Lie in April hit bookstore shelves yesterday!
And tune in next week for our review of the fourth and final volume of Livingstone!
Today I'm very thankful for the lovely card Kodansha Comics sent us for the holidays, getting to look back at Fire Force 1, making good progress on work today, getting to translate a pretty cool chapter of UQ Holder, and having a breakfast alternative that doesn't require milk.