Monday, August 20, 2018

Sota's Knife, Vol. 1 by Yuichiro Sueda & Kei Honjo

I received my copy of Sota's Knife, Vol. 1 from the publisher through NetGalley.

This series follows Sota Kitaoka, an apprentice cook and everyone's favorite friendly neighborhood kitchen boy, as he perfects his culinary skills. It's overall very endearing, both the story and the art. It's a feelgood, wholesome volume that I enjoyed very much. It made me crave some Japanese food, so I had some sashimi tonight. I took this picture to celebrate (no, no, it's from the book; it sums up my thoughts about it):

The (.pdf) version of the book I received, however, is rife with typographical and spacing errors (see e.g., pages 19, 20, 50), text that was either not properly embedded to replace the original Japanese text or poorly translated (see e.g., pages 51, 68, 91, 104, 109, 129), font that is occasionally too small reasonably to expect someone to read (e.g., page 54), or just weirdly translated (see page 70). I trust these will be corrected by the time this is released to the public. What's that you say? It was released on November 7, 2017? Well, now I'm perplexed. Is this errata in the retail version, too?

Ping Pong Dash!, Vol. 1 by Shingo Honda

I received my copy of Ping Pong Dash!, Vol. 1 from the publisher through NetGalley.

Here's a story about some badass high school aged anti-hero with a rage complex named Haruku who runs into a girl who kicks him in the balls, so naturally he loves her after they battle each other at ping pong. It turns out Haruku sucks - no surprise there. He's good at getting fired up though. But let's look on the bright side: at least the ping pong kept him away from getting into fights for five minutes.  After a while, a softboy transfer student joins his class. It turns out the softboy is much better at ping pong than Haruku.

This was funny, but really not for me. I'm glad I checked it out. I think a lot of people will like it.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Lion and the Bride by Mika Sakurano

I received my copy of The Lion and the Bride from the publisher through NetGalley.

At first blush, I wasn't too into this series. It started out with characters for whom I didn't feel a shred of sympathy, and it seemed conventional and formulaic - typical high school drama-romance story. Ok. And then the first chapter ended with a surprise. And then the next chapter ended with the surprise, and so on. The characters grew on me though Sensei still seems a little blah.

This isn't typically the type of series to which I would be drawn (though if I were cross-examined in court, I might fess up to having read all of Kimi ni Todoke), but I could see myself reading the next one because I'm curious about the story. And I might even recommend it to you if I weren't too embarrassed to do so.

If you're into high school romance manga, this was made just for you. So check it out!

Monday, August 13, 2018

SETO UTSUMI, Vol. 1 by Kadzuya Konomoto

I received my copy of SETO UTSUMI, Vol. 1 from the publisher through NetGalley, which is a great site if you're interested in reading and reviewing to-be-released and recently released titles. Providing reviews is, after all, a great way to support publishers and writers alike. So we should all do it.

As for the book:  I thought it was a little different - almost a modern day 徒然草 in manga form. The setting hardly changes and it made me feel like I'm eavesdropping on someone's conversation most of the time. But it wasn't hard to follow. I think I'd like to read more of the series.

Dandelions by Yasunari Kawabata, tr. Michael Emmerich

This is my review of Dandelions that I added to Goodreads on February 12, 2018:

Emmerich has made some nice contributions to English translation of Japanese prose and poetry, but this is not one of them. This translation feels overall too academic, inartful, and altogether untrue to the original. With Dandelions, there are too few things about which I'm happy that Emmerich does and too many things that he does with which I disagree.

In my view, the major flaw: One thing that I've always admired about Kawabata's writing is how seamlessly he can weave differing narrative points of view in a given passage, or even a given scene, without disrupting the reader, and while remaining in an omniscient point of view. Often, if within the text, Kawabata will trigger such a change in viewpoint through static, simple, consistent imagery and/or a character deep in thoughts that lead out to their point of view or version of events. (Ok, and sometimes it's more abrupt, as in The Lake.)

The problem with Emmerich's version of this text is that the point of view seems never to shift as it should - it's far too omniscient, constant, and even rigid. Compare the voice at the beginning of the book with the scene surrounding, for example, page 70. The book begins with someone giving their opinion about Ikuta, but who? Is it Kawabata himself? Is it a character? It doesn't really matter one way or the other. Now look to the break at page 68 where Ineko's mother recalls an event Ineko's high school days. The narration is in pretty much the same voice between both passages even though there's a clear shift of perspective while remaining in an omniscient point of view. I'd argue that the narration in the latter excerpt is from Ineko's mother's point of view, and constitutes her mangled version of the events based on two sets of conversations - those from after the ping pong match and those from before she and Ineko left for the asylum in Ikuta. This would be true even if Kawabata had intended some of the dialogue to occur later in the story as Emmerich points out in his afterword. This idea is consistent with how Ineko's mother is painted in the rest of the text as inattentive and dismissive, even maybe a little scheming: she insists that the white rat doesn't exist, that the old man has no criminal urge, and that there is no white dandelion. (Or is it Kuno who is mistaken about all of that? "It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose." I don't think we're supposed to know which character's perspective is true, but instead that there are obvious attachment issues with each of the characters.)

And, how much is Kuno just poking at Ineko's mother to get a reaction out of her or to make her cave in and let him see Ineko? It's pretty funny really, but how many of us laughed? Let's be honest; zero. That's another problem to be addressed in a different translation. (Ok, I did laugh once.)

Anyway, without a strong, flexible narrative voice (or, maybe, voices?), this nuance in narrative perspective is all but lost to the reader. And that's really a shame. Is something like that easy to translate into English? No, I can't imagine that it is. But Seidensticker seemed able to work in the feeling nicely in a number of his translations of Kawabata's works, so it's possible to achieve it to some extent.

Maybe someday someone will take the time to translate たんぽぽ into something that doesn't feel like a polished document in a time capsule, but a living, breathing text. Maybe that someone will be Emmerich in 20-30 years, who knows? I think he could certainly do it. He just didn't do it here.

After this version of the book has had its chance to sit in my mind for six months, my suggestion is that you buy it and read it for yourself. It is, after all, a book by Kawabata that we should all have in our collection. Despite the review above, I'm eager to re-read this when I re-read all of Kawabata's work in order of publicationprobably during 2019.