Rokka no Yuusha v1 or They Were Seven


Adlet-san by En
(https://www.pixiv.net/member_illust.php?mode=medium&illust_id=53067871)

The first volume of Rokka no Yuusha (because 六花 is read as “rokka” here, weird) series by Yamagata Ishio, whom you might know as the author of Tatakau Shisho, was published by Super Dash Bunko in August 2011. I learned of it somewhere in 2012, not long after the book was released, when I was reading Japanese light novel reviews a lot. Back then, it was praised by ranobe bloggers as an interesting fusion of fantasy and mystery. That’s why, when its animated adaptation was announced in November 2014, I knew I would give the anime a go once it got out. At the beginning of Summer 2015 not only did I check the first episode, but I ended up watching and enjoying the entire TV series. In July 2016, long after the Rokka no Yuusha anime left its impression on nerds from both sides of the Pacific, Yen Press announced during the Anime Expo that they got the rights to translate and publish the novels in English, under the title Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers. I’m a picky bastard – I don’t buy every single light novel that’s being put out in English, but I was sure I’d like to get my hands on this series as soon as possible…

The word “yuusha” in the title might give you the (correct) idea that Rokka belongs to the “yuusha versus maou” subgenre, which has had a few popular representatives the last few years. If you’ve watched MaoYuu or Hataraku Maou-sama, you know what I’m talking about. They’re stories obtained from extreme simplification of a typical fantasy story – there’s the Hero (Yuusha), the courageous embodiment of everything good and there’s his antagonist, the Demon King (Maou) – the unambiguously evil being who exists to be slain in the name of everything pure and just. There’s something video gamey about this idea. The “minimalism in design” that’s an inherent feature of those narratives encourages writers to come up with an original spin to put on the story to balance out this done-to-death barebones skeleton with something new and interesting. And thus, Rokka no Yuusha isn’t a classic tale of sword and sorcery. It’s a mystery.

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The Quilt and Other Stories by Tayama Katai


The cover.

I think I first learned of Tayama Katai from a book on history of Japanese literature in 2012. The book seemed to present him as an important and influential figure, so when deciding on what Japanese books I’d like to read, his stories landed on the list easily. Or maybe I got the idea of wanting to read him from THIS. Anyway, after some googling I found a translated collection of his most important works – he primarily wrote short stories. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a rare and expensive book, so it took me several years until I finally decided to buy the thing, read it and decide whether it’s worth any attention…

Katai was born into an impoverished noble family long after its prime. If that wasn’t enough, his father died when Katai was 5, making his family’s condition even worse. Being supported by his older brother, the only breadwinner of the family, made him feel deep shame for a long time. Having become an adult, Katai decided to pursue a career in one discipline he could do best: literature. Katai managed to establish himself as a professional writer, but the feeling of inferiority and chronic unhappiness, which accompanied him since childhood, never really went away. Soon after that, the writer got married, which only added to the pile of his misfortunes…

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Shoujo Manga as Sumo Wrestling or “Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga”


From page 12.

“Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga” is an old comic from 1990 created together by two artists also dabbling in essays and critique, Aihara Kouji and Takekuma Kentarou. Japanese nerds call it “SaruMan”, which is short for “Saru Demo Kakeru Manga Kyoushitsu”. It was translated into English and published by Viz in those glorious days when they published cool stuff like Banana Fish or Yamamoto Hideo’s Voyeur. Or Pulp Magazine, where the comic in question was serialized. Myself, I stumbled upon its pirated version sometime when I was fifteen to seventeen. I’m not exactly sure, but I probably was looking for resources to help me learn to draw. Or maybe I was just combing through completely scanlated/scanned seinen manga (there wasn’t that much of it around 2006) and that’s what I found. I didn’t get what I was expecting, but I was still very satisfied by my find. Recently, after all those years, I tried searching for a physical copy of the comic. It wasn’t cheap, but I finally erased the disgrace of reading this magnificent piece of paraliterature for free. The title might suggest a textbook about drawing, but SaruMan is something… different. Before anything else, it’s a comedy. One stylized for an entertaining piece of educational material which teaches about comics while being a comic.

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So I read Missing v1 in Japanese…

The cover.

A while ago I bought the first volume of Missing in Japanese as a challenge. It’s the first physically existing book in Japanese that I own. I have to say, reading English releases of light novels all the time made me surprised to notice that the book is pocketbook-sized – it’s the standard among LNs in Japan.

Take a look at the cover. Looks oldschool and kind of creepy, doesn’t it? The cover and the illustrations were made by Midorikawa Shin. There’s one picture at the beginning of each chapter and a few color pages at the very beginning of the book – they show the members of the Literature Club in fancy outfits with way too many belts, aesthetically reminiscent of CLAMP’s works like X/1999. And they double as the table of contents. Utsume is a cutie.

After having read through the entire novel, I can attest that the English translation leaves nothing to complain about. If you’re interested in Missing for the story, there is no need to go out of your way and read the Japanese original. Utsume’s title, “Dark Prince” is “Maou-heika” in the original, which made me chuckle the first time I saw it. The translation also made me suspicious about the name for the supernatural world threatening ours – it had no single term and used a whole bunch of them. Turns out that the original did the exact same thing – sometimes it’s referred to as “mukou” (“the other side”), sometimes it’s “ikai” (“otherworld”)… There is a reason to read Missing in Japanese if you’re interested to some extent in how it’s written. The linguistic aspect of it gets lost in translation, out of necessity. Kouda Gakuto loves to make things complicated for the reader. He tries to use obscure vocabulary and obscure runes anytime he can. Be prepared for words like 痩躯. Or writing “wakaru” as 判る. Or “warau” as 嗤う. Or my personal favorite: using three different runes for “uta” on one page: 歌, 詩 and 咏. He’s really trying hard. Reading it probably isn’t a good idea if you’re a beginner…

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku or Cute Girl Colosseum

A pic by Edoya Pochi (@pochi_edoya), the creator of the MahoIku manga
(http://www.pixiv.net/member_illust.php?mode=medium&illust_id=60410217)

Sup. Today, I would like to write about my favorite anime of Fall 2016: Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku, also called MahoIku. It was based on a novel by Endou Asari and illustrated by Maruino. Before my customary “watch all first episodes of the season” bonanza in October, I hardly knew anything about Mahoiku apart from it being a dark mahou shoujo story. It formed a vague cluster named “Madoka clones” in my brain, together with works like Mahou Shoujo of the End or Anti Magical. I had no way of knowing that it would turn out to be this season’s number one for me. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

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