Manga March 2022 (3): Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

…I swear my approach to each manga changes as I continue to write posts in this series, haha…

At first I was trying to be impartial between the physical and digital manga in my collection, but having mentioned this manga in the conclusion of my previous post, it makes sense for the narrative to flow that way too. Of course, SGRS is what launched this blog, in a sense, too, so paying homage to it is paying homage to the blog’s history, too.

Then again, what is it about this work that compelled me to it? At first glance, it almost seems to capitalise on the entire fact it’s about a foreign art with its own jargon, but if you look past that, it’s a generational epic about the inevitable fading of an artform, as well as a complex character study about a small group of people who grew up with, and will now die, alongside the artform itself, so it’s also about memory in that Rashomon-like way. Of course, said artform was rather gendered and traditionally, never let women in, hence my post.

…come to think of it, the Crunchyroll translation of the rakugo story names is very much in the vein of foreignising. (As an example, the first volume of the manga calls Dekigokoro “On Impulse” and it took me a bit to understand this.) By translating the titles of the stories, they become more…I guess the best way I can describe it is “compatible”…with the text around them. They go incognito and thus become more understandable to foreign audiences. In a sense, the jargon of rakugo, and many of the other traditional arts around the world (like shamisen for Mashiro no Oto), becomes its own gatekeeper.

If I had to complain about something about the manga in particular, it would be small things like this misplacement in the typesetting and the missed translation of an “ah!” found earlier in volume 1. Now, I only have a digital version, so I don’t know if this differs from the physical version, but as someone who’s read a lot of manga and is also self-taught in the craft of manga typesetting, little things like this can make quite a difference.

On the other hand, I like how the translator consciously chose different fonts for when Yakumo switches to storytelling mode as opposed to casual dialogue. I don’t know how this shapes up with the Japanese raw version either, but although it’s a pretty common technique, here it can be read into – Yakumo becomes a “living legend” when he starts a performance, instead of just being an “old man” like Konatsu calls him. (However, there is one thing I must say on this front and that is: you must remember the past as you move forward into the future.) Likewise, the speech bubbles change along with emotions – Yotaro’s performance for his old boss starts with rounded rectangular bubbles when most of them are standard round ones. Notes between or just within the panels are not intrusive, but a bit hard to read when they’re that small.

Sidenote: Thanks to Kodansha’s citing of their translators on the colophon – a practice that doesn’t get done a lot, not even by bloggers (sorry… *hand behind head sheepishly*), even though both Viz and Kodansha have been crediting translators and letterers there for about as long as I can remember – I can put a name to individual mistakes – Matt Treyvaud and Hiroko Mizuno for translation and lettering, respectively.

This series is available via print and digital from Kodansha. Of course, this post is only in regards to the first volume of the manga, plus my rose-coloured glasses of the anime. I could change my mind later, when the story gets down to the nitty-gritty of everything.

I’ve really become fond of Kodansha translations for this blog series because Viz manga don’t do a lot of the cultural/jargon notes unless it’s Case Closed, instead explaining stuff at the back (see Otomen as an example of this). Also, there’s that thing about citing who worked on the volume I mentioned earlier.

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