It's that time again! Review Rednesday! This week we bring you Nekogahara volume three!
First off, I must say we were very relieved that Norachiyo wears clothes for this volume. On the other hand, half-naked, dripping wet Shishiwaka was quite yummy. We thought this volume would be easier than the last one, and I think for the most part it was, but oh my goodness, the cats from the Pound. They were a nightmare. I think the two pages where Kurogane names them took about two hours or something. It was ridiculous. First, we had to check each of the actual names to see if they were some kind of cat breed. We were only able to confirm two of them (jaguar and caracal), but I'm not convinced we're not missing something for the others. Then we had to figure out what in the world those nicknames were talking about. Most of them weren't too hard, but oh my goodness Toge no Kama-mushi. That was the worst. Just the worst. So I think I have determined that the worst is when there's a pun based on a very Japanese thing, that has to be localized to somehow match both versions of the wordplay, and it can't be localized too much because the series takes place in a very Japanese setting. It kind of reminds me of the eye chart situation in Kigurumi Guardians. Anyway, the translation we came up with actually works pretty darn well for a straight translation, except for leaving out the mountain pass part, but I think we're happy with it. But of course, we didn't get any indication of how they earned those nicknames, so we won't know how well the translations fit until we see more of those characters. Why oh why oh why did they have to name them all without giving any hint of what they do? Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.
So this volume. Norachiyo and Short have just survived their recent battle, and they find themselves at the teahouse. Norachiyo wants to act like a gentleman in front of Omike, so he has clothes on, thank goodness. (Mostly we just want them to have pants on. Or more specifically, their underpants. ...Short didn't look bad naked, either, is what I'm saying.) This chapter was really nice though, because it resolved our fears about how Norachiyo was talking all fancy in the first chapter of the series, and then was talking the opposite of that later. Whether that was planned from the beginning or just kind of happened and the return to the teahouse was how it was repaired, it works.
And now Shishiwaka is joining the party. He happened to be in the path of Little Fold and Mukuro as they carried Norachiyo and Short to the teahouse, so now he has been tasked with delivering a message. But before he can take his leave, who should appear but Kurogane Hyoe, who's got an itch to fight the pretty kitty. The title of the next three chapters was Norwegian Wood, and now I'm going to complain about the chapter titles for a while. And apologize. I really don't know how we did with them. Norwegian Wood was the simplest of the lot, since a straight translation still related to the English version of the thing it was a play on. We still worried about it, though, because the book Norwegian Wood is Noruei no Mori, and the song Norwegian Wood is Noruee no Mori, but the chapter title was just Norue no Mori, so we were like, "Should
we try to make it different?" We erred on the side of not melting our brains. But much worse was Yatsu no Nawa. Athena read it out loud, and I was like, "Oh, that's just a simple tweak of the movie Your Name." Only it wasn't, because Takei-sensei had to go and stick a different kanji on "nawa." And we were like, "How do we get both meanings?" We spent so much time looking up synonyms for ropes, types of ropes, types of knots. Words that rhyme with name, words that sound like name..it was ridiculous. And by the way, the only rope anywhere to be found in this chapter was the one from Short's kendama, which did not feature in the narrative at all, so there was also some debate on whether or not we should even bother with the rope translation. Finally, I was inspired to look up synonyms for "arrest," based on the connection of "nawa" (which is specifically a rope used to tie things up, as opposed to a rope used to tie things together), and we came up with nick. I think it's a pretty good way to go.
But then, two chapters later was "ore ore sagi." It's annoying enough to deal with when they're actually talking about "ore ore sagi," which we've learned can generally be localized by calling it phone fraud and having a note, but THERE ARE NO PHONES IN THIS WORLD! And it didn't matter anyway, because there was nothing resembling ore ore sagi in the chapter. The point was it was the chapter where Abyhei breaks Norachiyo's sword, so we figured the sagi/sagi (fraud/heron) connection was irrelevant and came up with a criminal act that we could have a play on and again I don't even know if it works, but it's something.
And finally, we had to deal with Rurou Kitty, which turned out not to be too bad, because fairly early on, one of us thought of "lone kitty," which has a kind of "lone ranger" ring to it, and "lone ranger" has a kind of similar vibe to a roaming, masterless samurai, so we stuck a "hi" on the front to make it a greeting and help it sound more like "hello" and there you have it. I'm sort of pleased and sort of ashamed of it. That's how I feel about a lot of the puns we come up with, but this one even more so because I'm really not sure if it works. If it does not put the reader in mind of Hello Kitty, I feel like we have failed.
So back to Norwegian Wood. This is where we get some idea of Shishiwaka's backstory, and I have to say, this is the second samurai manga we've translated, and I think the story is only slightly more coherent. And the first samurai manga we translated (Candy Samurai) made absolutely no sense. But this series has just enough of a cohesive storyline to make you think
it probably makes sense, or probably will make sense later when they reveal all the answers, maybe? But at least each individual episode makes enough sense that you can follow the action, and since the main point of this story is really the art (the obi for the Japanese version called Magazine Edge a "neo visual shounen magazine"), then that's really all you need. And I will say, as I think I've said before, I'm not usually swayed too much by art style, but something about this manga has me in love with the visuals. As long as the cats are wearing underwear.
Anyway, we learn that Shishiwaka was disowned by his father for not wanting to destroy all the heathens. It's kind of a cliched way to treat Christianity that I don't always like, but this series seems pretty neutral about a lot of things, and I definitely agree with Shishiwaka about people not thinking for themselves. (That may sound ironic coming from a Mormon, since I'm pretty sure a lot of people (and especially ex-Mormons) think that Mormons are all a bunch of blind followers, but when have you known the two of us to like or dislike something just because someone else does?) So before, Shishiwaka was just the token bishounen, and kind of a creep at that, but in this volume, he was pretty awesome...which made his half-nakedness later that much yummier. Right now, he's my second favorite character, because I still think Short is the best. That was another thing--Short got even better in those three chapters, too, because he was like, "Yeah, I was a crook, too, but I just realized I don't want to do that." And I always like it when people decide to do the right thing...or at least decide to stop doing the wrong thing.
Together, Shishiwaka and Short defeat Kurogane, but they don't kill him. That's okay, though, because Abyhei comes along to finish the job. So here's another thing about this series. Even though most of the characters are far from good guys, we still feel bad for them when they die. I mean, so far none of them has proven to be much worse than Norachiyo. But Kurogane was pretty bloodthirsty, so maybe it's good that he won't be prowling around anymore. On the other hand, Abyhei is getting scarier and scarier. And that reminds me of the message Shishiwaka was supposed to deliver. Something about knowing "who he really is." When we first translated this chapter, it was actually back when we were working on volume two, so we had no idea who they were talking about. The rest of this volume strongly implies that it's Abyhei, because he's now going around killing people just for knowing who he is. But on the other hand, Norachiyo knew him in the past, so wouldn't he know who Abyhei really is? Well, not necessarily, because when they first met, he was already going by Abyhei. And that's an important detail, because if Norachiyo already knew who Abyhei really was, why would Fold and Mukuro need to deliver any message about having that information? If Norachiyo already had the information, the message would be pointless. Or maybe it's significant that somebody else has the information. And this is what I'm saying about samurai stories and how they don't always seem to make sense.
Anyway, now that the public has found Kurogane's body, they have to find his murderers, and conveniently, some farmers saw him fighting Shishiwaka and Short. So now they're wanted alongside Norachiyo, who, by the way, is now telling the others that they should go on over to Short's father's place to face their enemies and/or deaths. But they don't even get to debate the matter very long before Abyhei shows up and they start fighting because Abyhei mostly just seems interested in killing everybody. Fortunately, Norachiyo is able to stop the surprise attack that would have killed Shishiwaka, but Abyhei's a pretty powerful opponent, who, by the way, also happens to be the cat that took Norachiyo's eye from him. This time, instead of an eye, Abyhei takes Norachiyo's beloved sword and memento of his master--a move that paralyzes Norachiyo with shock. And just when Shishiwaka is convinced they're all going to die, the rest of the police show up, and Abyhei has to act like a good guy again. That gives Shishiwaka and Short just enough time to grab Norachiyo and run.
They fall into the river and end up who-knows-where. And Norachiyo begins to tell his backstory, which isn't super important for the purposes of this review, but I will say that Norachiyo was sooooo cuuuuute when he was little. Aww, poor little kitty, looking for his master. Soon we'll learn how he got to be the bitter, jaded, dirty old tom we all know now.
Wow, that review spent an inordinate amount of time talking about punny names and chapter titles. Ah, memories. I wonder when we'll work on this series again... (Although I do enjoy the series, I hope it's not too soon, because we are still so swamped. (I'm afraid I just jinxed it.))
This week, we actually had three translations released! Let's see if I can remember what they are... Forbidden Scrollery volume one is one. Then there's First Love Monster...8? And My Monster Secret...also 8, I think. *checks* Yes, eight on both. Also, there's a volume of UQ Holder!, but we don't have reviews of that one, alas. (I would definitely want to start writing some, since it's monthly now and not weekly, but we don't have time anyway. Alas again.)
And tune in next week for our riveting(?) review of Land of the Lustrous 3! Ooh, and they'll be showing corresponding episodes of the anime this week, too! How timely!
Today I'm thankful for reviews to look fondly back on, one of the kittens trusting us enough to at least not let us distract it from eating, the yummy pound cake we had for a snack, new Spirit parts in Kingdom Hearts Union Cross, and not making terrible progress on work today.