we didn't put that in the style guide.
Anyway, the point is, we pretty much messed up our whole schedule, so we figured we might as well come along and post a review! This week, we have our review of Forbidden Scrollery volume one! The reviewers at Anime News Network didn't like it, but let's see how we felt about it!
This book was the first of a set of three we aimed to finish all in one week, so while I do feel like everything is such a blur lately, this one is a blur for a different reason. The last thing I reviewed (Waiting for Spring 1) was a blur because it kept getting interrupted, so all the memories were mixed up with other things. This one is a blur because it went by so darn fast.
We got the offer for this series out of nowhere, and since we'd never heard of it, we naturally did some research on this particular series as well as the Touhou Project in general. And although the whole thing started out as a series of "bullet hell" video games, it looked pretty darn cute, so we figured why not? And it is indeed very cute. Actually, the day we finished this, we saw a video on Facebook about a woman and her daughter who started with a full bookshelf and then removed all the books with male protagonists and all the books where no women talk and...some other stuff like that, and they were appalled at how few books were remaining, and I just thought of this series that, on the other end of the spectrum, makes us just a little sad because there aren't any hot guys in it. In fact, so far, there are no guys at all. So maybe this would be a pretty good series for female role models. Maybe one of these days I'll write up my thoughts about role models. But the interesting thing about it is that when we pick up a manga series and find out that the cast is all or almost all female, our first assumption is that it's aimed at guys.
Anyway. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, let me provide a brief explanation of the Touhou series. I don't think I know all the details, because I mostly just retained what was significant for this translation, but basically there's a world called Gensokyo, which I think is like a secret hidden world inside Japan? Where all the youkai live because nobody in Japan believes in them anymore. Inside Gensokyo (which basically translates to Fantasyland, so think of it like Disneyland's Fantasyland if it were based on Japanese history instead of European) is also a human village, where all the humans of the land live. I think the Touhou Project wiki said something about how youkai need conflict with humans in order to survive or something? and so the humans live in the Human Village so they can band together and stay safe...is my assumption. And there are two main characters whose job it is to exterminate youkai: the priestess Reimu and the mage Marisa.
But they're not the main characters of this particular series (although they do play a big part). This series focuses on Kosuzu Motoori, who has recently gained the ability to read youkai writing, and so she's become a collector of youma books (youkai magic books). Of course, because the books are magic, they can cause some trouble, and that's pretty much where the conflicts in this series arise.
So...how to review this? I'm kind of in a daze because we've been so busy, so I'm having a hard time focusing. I guess our first thought about it is that it seems that Yen Press has caught on to our whole thing about translating series based heavily on Japanese mythology and folklore. We love it, so that's fine, except that series like that tend to take a lot of notes. This book has had more notes than any book we've done for Yen Press in a long time, possibly ever. I don't remember how many notes we averaged for Nabari no Ou, but I don't think we had that many for Higurashi. Maybe we did? I don't remember. But anyway, if you like series about Japanese folklore and/or mythology, you should definitely check this one out.
The characters are all adorable, at least visually. They're pretty cute personality-wise, too, but so far nobody really stands out as a favorite, except for maybe Mamizou. Athena says that Marisa reminds her of Rainbow Dash, and I think that's fitting. I don't know if this comes across in the English at all, but Marisa has a slightly masculine speech pattern. Yeah, I think I like Mamizou the best so far, just thinking about the bit where she comes in with the "let's be kind to animals" story. Speaking of that chapter, the story about the tanuki orchestra was pretty funny. We didn't write a note about that one...because we were tired of doing research and we hadn't found enough to write a good note about. All we found was that it seems to be based on a nursery rhyme or song that may or may not be based on a folktale. The song is just the tanuki singing about how their music is not going to be outdone by the priest's chanting, so there's not really a conclusion. But we did find out that Eartha Kitt did an English cover of it, and even sang it with a Japanese accent, so interpret that however you want.
Shiwasu! The point of the chapter title was completely lost on us until we finally looked up Shiwasu. I mean, we looked it up for the first draft to find out it meant December, but that didn't mean anything to us at all. For the second draft, we looked into the origins of the word, and then it all made a lot more sense, and it was pretty funny. Check the translation notes to find out why! [ETA: I have no recollection of what this is referring to.]
I think the whole thing about En'enra was mostly just easing everybody into the story...or I guess I'm trying to say it felt like filler, although it was an introduction into just how careless Kosuzu can be with her youma books. And it was entertaining, so of course there are no complaints. It was the next set of chapters that seemed more significant. The whole Hyakki Yakou thing. Of course that reminded us of Noragami. We thought of stealing some of our translation notes for it, but it turned out they didn't really fit. But the big question is this: by playing with the Hyakki Yakou, is Kosuzu going to end up summoning a big scary demon? When Mamizou told her to open the book once a month, she did it in a way that could mean, "Do it once a month and you'll summon a demon," or, "Do it once a month or you'll summon a demon." It's just like in The Emperor's New Groove! Which conjunction is it!? (And now we're back to Eartha Kitt. It's astounding! In fact, Mamizou could be played by Eartha Kitt in an English version of this series...and since Mamizou is the tanuki, it all comes full circle. Y'know, in my imagination.)
Anyway. It's not the first time we've done this, but it's kind of interesting working on a series that's just a little slice of a much bigger world that's already out there. So almost every character (Kosuzu is new) has already been introduced to a large fanbase, one that extends even outside of Japan. That's the part that makes it a little bit scary, but since none of the games have been officially translated into English yet...well, that makes it more and less scary at the same time. There's no official translation, so technically we should be free to do what we want, but since some fans are already pretty well-versed in the whole franchise, there could be some problems if we go off-script...that's not the right phrase, because we wouldn't really do that, except that our English script, while matching the Japanese script, might not match their English script, and then you'll have people saying, "It doesn't mean that, it means this!" and we'll be all, "No, we're right and here's why!" only we won't actually say it anywhere where anybody would see it. But as far as we know, we haven't had any real complaints for diverging from the Persona Q script, so maybe it's just fine. I don't know.
I don't know what else to say about this. I should probably point out that each of the characters is given a special title, and Kosuzu's is bibliophile, so if you like books about people who like books, you should definitely maybe check it out! No, you should definitely at least check it out, for goodness sake. You may or may not like it, but it doesn't hurt to try it! Especially if you check it out of a library or something. It's a nice little series, and I'm pretty sure you don't need to be familiar with the games to enjoy it, because we are certainly not familiar with the games. (Sorry, fans! We're doing our best to do a good job anyway! And of course, we are interested in playing the games, but we don't even have time to play games that are actually possible.)
And there you have it! The review touches on this a little bit, but I wanted to address it some more: the fact that this series is about pre-established characters and therefore doesn't put a lot of effort into introducing most of them. Apparently this was a point of confusion--like, "Who are these people? Why should I care about them? Tell me where they came from, darnit!" And I totally get the, "Why should I care about these people I've never met before?" thing, but I also don't think it's necessary to have a character's life story to be able to hang out with them in a little side story like this one. Imagine going on a tour or a campout with a bunch of people. In most cases, you're not going to be going with only your friends and family. So you all tell each other your names and shake hands, and then you go on your tour and enjoy each other's company, and you learn what you learn about each other during the course of the tour, and you don't learn what they don't tell you, and you may or may not keep in touch afterward. You might even have an awful time with those boring people. But you might have a great time, and it's not because you heard the whole story about how they came to be in that tour group. So please don't write this series off just because you don't know all about Reimu and Marisa.
Now! as for this week's releases! All we have is Kigurumi Guardians 3! Mwahahahahaha! Now ALL the Kigurumi Guardians fans can share in our suffering! Ah ha ha ha ha! AAAAAHHH HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Anyway. Tune in next week for our review of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows! It'll be a long one, because that's a three-volume omnibus, and we wrote a separate review for each one! I will be relieved to get it posted and move on to more cheerful manga.
Today I'm thankful for getting to finally watch UQ Holder! episode 11, having the flexibility in our schedule to take UQ Holder! breaks (or at least the autonomy to choose our own hours)...
...And while I was writing this, we heard some noises outside which all resulted in something rather bittersweet that I think I'll talk about tomorrow. For now, suffice it to say that we started writing this post long before we actually posted it.
...And I'm thankful for having some time to process, the yummy chocolate muffins we got at Bread Day on Sunday, and tofu soap.