Black Butler 8 (Manga)

Dear Yana Toboso,

Please don't lose your stuff, okay? I'm asking with all of my dear little heart. There are so many manga I super-duper loved that just petered out around Vol. 8. Please don't let that happen with Black Butler.

I already have to defend this comic with my friends who call it shotacon, (and well, it kind of is but not in that gross sexy kind of way, at least not yet. Please don't let that happen! I'm begging you.).

You see, Yana, it's like this, I just don't think much happened in this volume. It was mostly a bloodbath with Sebastian at the fore and Ciel calling the shots. Yes, I know that you gave us some background on the Phantomhive servants. I appreciate that. They are adorable and bad ass.

But it just dragged on forever, and you had Sebastian kill all the adorable circus kids, who you spent the whole previous volume fleshing out. It just felt like a big build up to an easy end, like you were all: well, this storyline is tiring and going nowhere, I will just kill everyone. Then I'll have Ciel act weak and vulnerable and have Sebastian give his wicked little smile and carry him around like a nice person. Then, I'll put in a fiery, windy kind of epic scene where I show off their contract.

Then something happened with the reapers, but I was so spent from the bloodbath that I didn't pay attention, and then I really didn't pay attention to the last chapter with the tailor, which I'm sure every fan girl on the planet would like to punch me for saying. Sorry. It was boring.

Please, Yana, please, please, please, don't let this manga get boring! Fight for a good strong story that's worth reading! Do it! I believe in you!

<3 William Shakespeare

First Impressions: Psyren (manga volume 1)

This series is so brutal and wild
 that the R had to be backwards.
Let me begin this post just by saying this: I am the BIGGEST sucker for a survival horror manga. If it gets published, and it's about hapless people trying to survive in a hostile environment, I'm there. Drifting Classroom? Yep. Battle Royale? Yessir. King of Thorns? Yeahhh. Cage of Eden? Si! The list goes on but you catch my drift. So when I picked up Psyren on a total whim, just based on snazzy cover fonts and a generally good-looking cover, only to discover maybe twenty or thirty pages in that this is survival horror? A beam of light shot from the heavens and melted my core into a liquid lava puddle that was mad about being a puddle, but happy about this manga.

Psyren is a tight series. It's being put out by Shonen Jump, and Shonen Jump don't fool around, not for nobody! They have a reputation, at least in my mind after reading the magazine for years and following several series, for picking up and running with series that don't spend a lot of time with making airtight plots, setup, all that boring stuff. That's because SJ sells their stuff to young boys, and what do young boys want more than anything? Action without context!!! Young girls/other young boys!!! Shoes with lights in them!!! Now, Psyren delivers on one of those, I'll leave that one a mystery for you to read. ;)

As far as Psyren goes, this is decent stuff and a little intense/bleak for the usual SJ fare, which is why I'm vaguely surprised this isn't part of their SJ Advanced collection of manga. A whole bevy of people die, some of which are slightly bloody, nothing shocking really. (when they die later, their bodies turn to ash, guh)

The story basically goes like this. Ageha is a pretty tough high school dude, who will "save people" for money. He's kind of a hitman? (this literally stops after the first chapter, don't get too attached to the arc) And there's the classic ice queen in his class, Sakurako who is pretty and has blue hair and big moe glasses, typical stuff. She needs him, but doesn't want to tell him. He wants to help, but is a little stupid, so he doesn't know how.

Turns out, she needs his help because she's trapped in a scary-ass game with deadly consequences! I'll leave the details for you, but Ageha becomes a part of the game and gets transported to the game world via phone-warping-Matrixing. This is where it gets all KINDS of survival horror. He gets to the world and there's your usual group, a jock, a yakuza, Adrien Brody, that angry chick from Lost , (just kidding, I'm a Predators nerd, sue me) and some other random guys.

Quick advice for newcomers to survival horror, don't get attached to anyone. The whole fun part of authoring survival horror is giving a character depth and empathic tendencies and making them seem permanent and like it's okay to love them...that's usually right about the time a zombie takes a big ol' chunk out of their neck. I hear the Walking Dead comic is notorious for main characters dropping like flies.

Back to Psyren (which is the name of the place they're transported to), Ageha tries to help out the group of idiots he's saddled with but only manages to pull a couple out of the fire of their own stupidity. Psyren quickly becomes a series worthy of interest. The last few chapters are actually really intriguing, so much so that I'm hesitant to write a synopsis because it has a few really cool twists. I went out the next day to pick up volume two, I usually don't buy on impulse but I was really enjoying where the story starts to go (It does not disappoint).

I'll review volume 2 soon, this is definitely a series that could gain a lot of popularity, even outside the fanbase of survival horror. Give it a read and let me know what you think!

Rainy Day Love -- Satomi Konno

Publisher: DMG
Audience: The cover says 16+ (Due to the amount of naked stickiness, I say 18+)
Localization Team: Cynical Pink

Here on the West Coast, certain manga bloggers aren't immune to romance problems of their own. Sometimes, said manga bloggers, who will not be named, want to just read a cute and ideal love story and fantasize for a moment that love is just that easy.

Tonight I had the opportunity to read Rainy Day Love. It is adorable. Yes. I know, crabby Shakespeare who usually just wants to be critical of everything is saying: this manga is pretty darn sweet.

Older Teen Yuta works in his family's senbai shop. When his younger highschool buddy Shizuno appears, Yuta realizes he has feelings for him. There's not too much struggling here, not too much angst. There's just a little fumbling, a fever and some love. Shizuno's been in love a long time and has some very adorable fantasies about Yuta, which Yuta can't live up to. But, it's okay, because the real Yuta is more adorable to Shizuno than the fantasy one.

The real charm of this manga for me is the older couple comprised of Shoichi, Yuta's older brother who also works at the senbai shop, and the usually intoxicated Seigo, a family friend who had been in love with Shoichi since they were kids.

They are one of those "one part flaky but earnest and lovelorn, one part kind and responsible and terrified to get involved" couples that you just want to root for.

I actually think that the mangaka liked the older couple more than the younger couple, too, because they're drawn a bit better than the younger couple. Or maybe I am just an old lady and prefer to look at more mature male characters.

Speaking of artwork, it feels a little lazy at the beginning, but really gets much better toward the end. Some of the chibi characterizations in this are just cute as cute can be.

On the tail end of Dr. M's translation rant, I have to say that the translation for this story was really great. How do I judge that? Because, I didn't have to think about it. It was natural, well-paced and clear. I was able to get into the story and get away. Sigh.

Certain manga bloggers wish that love would just show up on their doorstep and confess itself or bumble into their workplace and have an outburst or go through some deep soul searching on their behalf. Someday. Maybe. And on that day there will be plenty of wind.

Until then, there's manga.

The Deal with Translations: An Emotional Plea by Dr. M

Here's the thing: words are magic. If you don't think so, consider that pretty much everyone in the world  learns how to write by spelling. We make words by learning to spell...get it? Words are  magic. And they mean very particular things. I feel like admitting some things about myself in this post, so bear with me, Dear Readers, as I have a hissy fit make an emotional plea to translators, and  wax all academic up in this mug  discuss the complications of writing and translating in general.

Now something magics itself into being right?
Aren't you glad I didn't say Avada Kedavra?
(First Harry Potter reference of the day, y'all!)

First, I am an English Professor (not that you'd know it by my improper comma usage), which means that I deal with language all the time. I teach students how to translate ideas in their heads into writing language on the page which can then be translated by another person back into ideas and understanding...WHEW! This process of communicating (translating concepts, experiences and emotions into squiggles someone else can comprehend) is something that is extremely difficult for even the most talented of writers. When I teach I admit that. I actually do have a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing, and I still get frustrated and overwhelmed when I write. As a writer I am always trying to pin down an elusive thought or feeling into the exact right words, and sometimes failing. The reason for the difficulty is not only the nuances of our personal experiences, but the complexities of language itself. I warn students regularly about misusing the thesaurus, explaining to them that although there are many words for what seem like the same thing, but those words are NOT the same.

Every word is a living, adapting, evolving signifier with at least, if not more than, two "definitions." The first is a bare-bones basic definition, the denotation of the word. We can look this up in the dictionary and read about what a word means on its most basic level. But every word also carries within it a secondary connotation, a definition that is not only in flux (adapted, defined and redefined), but which often contains either value, judgement, nuance, emotional connection, or cultural association. What does this mean, well, maybe we should use an example? I'll use something scandalous...I know my audience.

The word Bitch means, quite literally, female dog. That's one of its denotations. The other denotation is that it is a pejorative term for an aggressive or contentious woman. Lots of words can mean two things. Unless you're a dog breeder, you aren't really thinking of the first definition, so let's look at the second one. Bitch can mean a lot of things, and the connotation of the word depends on the situation, speaker, audience and implications. If I am poking fun at my best friend (something I cannot help but do) and she laughs and calls me a bitch, I'm okay with that, because the context of the situation (our relationship, the mood, the tone of voice, and the implications of that word) makes it fine. If my sister puts a sticker on the back of her car that reads "Super Bitch," I might roll my eyes, but I know that a sticker like that is actually doing something very subversive; it is re-appropriating (redefining a word that is hurtful within the dominant culture for positive use within a minority culture) that term in a way that she can identify with, and implying that she is a strong, independent woman.
It might be interesting to discuss,
but I don't want this sticker on my car.
(Image from
If a waitperson at restaurant calls me a bitch, though, he or she will NOT be getting a tip (and I should probably check my food for spit)...the context of their comment is wholly negative, critical and could even be sexist depending on the gender and intention of the server. If someone at a bar calls me this, I will wind up in a fist-fight (I told you, Dear Readers, I am admitting things today). The word itself does not change, but the meaning does all dependent on the speaker, audience and context. Over time language can morph and move in and out of popular use, it can completely change meanings in remarkable ways because language is alive.
Ichigo is confused by all of this.
Let's just let him go fight bad guys.
He's not really a semiotics/sociolinguistics fan.
(Image from Anime Vice News)

So, if writing is hard even within one's own language, imagine the difficulty translators face when attempting to move not only from artist to audience but between languages which might have very different understandings of what words mean. To be a translator you have to know a culture very well and understand not just what words mean, but how they are used in day to day interactions, between various groups of people (among whom a particular word may mean something different in different contexts). The language of a culture reflects the ideas, values, and texture of a culture. There are words for things in some languages which simply do not exist in another language because there is no cultural equivalent, or because such a language has no use for a particular word (check out this list of 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Jason Wire at Matador Abroad). There are also cultures that are naturally multi-lingual in a sense, adopting words from other languages and absorbing, adapting, redefining them into their own daily use. Both English and Japanese adopt words regularly from other cultures when there is no equivalent in their own language. Although the words adopted are often used in similar ways to the original language's meaning, there are subtle differences in connotation. There are even cultural groups who technically speak the same language, but their use of it is so different that it causes translation issues. English is spoken in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, England and some island nations. And yet even close neighbors like the USA and Canada have language differences significant enough to cause translation and comprehension issues. Even within a single country like the USA, there are regional and cultural differences reflected in language. I live in the rural Southeast of the United States. Shakespeare lives in an urban environment on the West coast. We both lived in the upper Midwest for a while. I am from Appalachia. Each of those places has different speech patterns, dialects, regional speech, and values reflected in word usage, syntax, etc. People in different social, economic, cultural, regional and even social-specific groups can have an impossible time understanding one another, despite speaking the same language.

Shuichi is mad that Dr. M's poor fansubbed
Gravitation didn't do his story justice.
(Image by shubear88)
Translation IS hard. And I admire anyone who attempts it. In order to get my degree one of my requirements was to translate poetry (a slippery genre if there ever was one), and a snippet of critical theory from French into English. I had a hell of a time, despite knowing both languages rather well. I had a decision to make too, would I translate literally (this word is equal to this equivalent word) or would I translate for meaning and nuance (this word implies this meaning with this related word)? The whole thing is baffling and takes a careful, patient willingness to engage with original text, language and audience. I admire and respect translators to the utmost. Especially those translators who started out as unpaid fans of anime or manga, working only for love of the genre and a selfless desire to share the thing they love with their fellow fans. Fansubbers/Fanslators helped build a market for anime and manga. Now, as both traditional and digital publishers scramble to keep up with the demand of hungry fans like me, those amateur translators are starting to receive recognition for their work. They become parts of translation groups, and places like Digital Manga Guild hire them, finally paying them for their talents and dedication. Some groups are phenomenal (our new pals Cynical Pink, for instance) and produce translations that take into account the complexity of language. Some groups, on the other hand, need an editor and proofreader NOW! (Incidentally, I charge around $3.00/page for proofreading and $12/hr for editing, if anyone is interested. I have a lot of experience, and I expect people to pay for it.)

Nausicca approves of decent translations!
So, translations are hard, I understand that! They take time, and there are deadlines and rushed jobs, but regardless of those constraints they need to be thorough. Some publishers are very good at providing final edits and proofreads for their translators, and some are, well, some's up with the bad translations lately? I find the whole thing rather dismal, and I hope that it isn't the trend of things to come. Rushed translation jobs with multiple errors in usage, syntax, and grammar (not to mention the questionable stylistic choices) are not the answer to a growing interest in the genres. I would rather have no manga and anime, than poorly translated, formatted or (for whomever's sake!) edited works. I hate slop. Slop is hard to read. Slop does not do credit to the original work, and it does not successfully convey the complexities and nuances of a story. A consideration of language, the medium by which a story is told, is CRUCIAL! For this reason, I'm glad that Shakespeare has chosen to highlight the translator, or translation teams, working to bring us manga and anime when possible. I plan on following suit, and giving credit where credit is due. Kudos to those translators who love the genre enough to pour their time and effort into the difficult process of moving between languages. And shame on those who don't take it seriously. Poor writing is sometimes the fault of the original author, but more often than not, it is sloppy, unconsidered language that can make the difference between a good story (with bad writing) and a great story. I want great stories. I think we all do, so I'll end with that plea I promised.

Dear translators,

Thank you for your efforts to bring us stories we might never have access to, but please do remember to take your time.

Dr. M

First Impressions/So-Weird Sunday! Thermae Romae (Anime Series)

Dear Readers, I have yet another brand-new series to review. This one Thermae Romae is currently running on Fuji TV. This anime series is based on an award-winning manga series of the same name by Mari Yawazazi. The manga series itself was popular enough to spawn a live-action feature-length film (scheduled for release this year), and this anime series.  After viewing the first three episodes of the anime, and watching the trailer for the live action film (embedded below for your amusement/bafflement) I have to, uh...what just happened? Well, Thermae Romae just happened, I guess.
The title sequence shows some nice examples
of Roman Art and Architecture.
The central figure of Thermae Romae is Lucius Modestus, a Roman architect living during the rule of Hadrian.  He seems to be suffering from architect's block.  Frustrated by his lack of inspiration he seeks relaxation and recharging at one of Rome's many baths, only to find them anything but relaxing. Whilst (yes, "whilst") dunking his head under the water for a little peace and quiet, he notices a strange drain in the floor of the caladrium and is immediately sucked down the drain (yes, "down the drain") only to emerge in Modern Japan.

This is the plot. Now far be it for me to pooh-pooh a time-travel adventure, because honestly, I love me some wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey time travelling. But, still being honest, this is a weird anime. Even if we ignore the absurdity of the plot (yes, that is the plot...architect sucked through time drain), this is still pretty silly. It is also the kind of silliness that I know Japanese audiences enjoy, a "fish-out-of-water" comedy.

The old man is right. Lucius doesn't understand Japanese.
That's hilarious! 
These kinds of comedies are nothing new to fans of anime or manga. We've seen similar plots and oddities in series like Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (a favorite of Shakespeare's) and in Ramen Ikaga (a favorite, I don't know who likes that one...silly CAN go too far). The thing is, I'm not positive that these types of comedies translate well. They just come off as punny and hyperactive, and many of the "jokes" are perhaps too culturally-specific to resonate with a foreign audience.

In episode 1, Lucius emerges in what he believes is the "slave's bath" and is given a fruit milk to drink. He is a fan, to say the least. His response to fruit milk, which I think sounds gross, is pretty dramatic.
(I apologize for that outburst, but that's all I can explain this as.)
The fruit milk stuns him into unconsciousness, and he awakens again in Ancient Rome (which to him is just Regular-old Rome) inspired to take what he's learned on his time-travels and introduce them to his own culture. Fruit milk is such a hit with bath patrons that he has to buy another cow. The end.

Episode 2 begins one year after Lucius's new "avante-guarde" (the anime's words, not mine) bath became a hit. He is called to the bedside of Consul Lepidus...and OH, MY GOD, IS THAT STEVE BUSCEMI?
Not Steve Buscemi.
No, I guess it isn't, but would it really be that weird? I mean this is an anime where monkey attacks at hot springs seem unsurprising (that comes in a minute, Dear Readers). Anyway, he is called to the Consul's deathbed and is asked to construct an open-air bath, something unheard of in Roman times (I did not know that, I learned something! This is educational!). While searching the grounds with Steve Buscemi look-alike, Regulus, he discovers a natural spring that's heated with the waters of Vesuvius. He enters the spring and SHAZBOT, he's whisked back to modern Japan, and is attacked by monkeys (I always deliver on my promises, Dear Readers).
Lucius fell into the monkey bath, instead of the people bath.
Now he's going to need Rabies shots.
I hope he gets them while he's still in the "future."
Aside from discovering the benefits of hot springs, Lucius also discovers hot-spring boiled eggs and warm sake. He relaxes into a slumber and awakens again in Rome. Inspired he builds the bath which not only restores the Consul's health, but renews his vigor entirely. Hooray! Also, somehow a monkey got sucked back into Rome with Lucius, but no one seems to worry about that.

Episode 3 begins two years after the first accidental time tubing, with a history lesson about Hadrian and his homosexual lover Antinous and a description of a strigil (a Roman bathing tool that looked a little like a shoehorn and was used for scraping oil and dirt from the body). See, we are learning stuff. Lucius is having a discussion with his friend about creating baths in the home when...SHAKAZULU, he's whisked again back to modern Japan. This time he emerges in a soaking tub in a regular Japanese home.
Taking a soak! 
He is mistaken for a caretaker by a very old man who introduces him to amazing things like washrags and beer. Again, he passes out, this time awakening with a washcloth in his hand and a plan for a home bath and shower for his friend's aging master.

And use it he does!
Inventive, but still disgusting. 
And I stopped watching here. Cow Bowels.

All in all, Thermae Romae isn't SO-Bad. It is a little funny. The episodes are short, even by Japanese norms--they run around 12 minutes each, and the artwork is different enough from the standard fare to be interesting. It is weird though. Purposefully weird. And I'm not exactly clear what's special or compelling enough about this series that it deserved a live-action version...then again, I'm not sure why people watch Adam Sandler movies either. So, take my impressions of this series with a grain of salt and a full-awareness that this isn't something I'd be super into no matter what form it took. It is a fun bit of fluff, but not much more.

Now here's that live-action trailer I promised you, enjoy!

Full Bloom, Vol 1. Rio, Saori Mieno

Publisher: DMG
Audience: 13+ (totally fine for a younger teen; no sex, just longing)
DMG Team: Acolytes of Adaptation

Hello Dear Readers,

I've been busy, busy, busy this week and also full of insomnia. One of my goals, though is to try and review a good number of DMG titles. I'm also going to try and give props to the teams who do the work of translating/localizing these titles, so you'll see that up there in the attributes from now on.

Full Bloom, Vol. 1 is a high school love story with light (so far) themes of gender fluidity/confusion. From what I can tell there is a boy/girl identical twin pair that like to swap clothes. Both of them go by the name Nagi because their parents couldn't tell them apart as babies, which I have a hard time believing if one is really a boy and one is really a girl.

Anyway, this guy Shima Masaki, fell in love with the "girl" twin like three years before and confessed his love, but "she" ran away -- I guess to America, and Masaki has been pining after her ever since.

One day, the twins show up at the school, and Masaki's heart goes all aflutter driving him into straight up stalker mode. His friend, Akira, who I think the comic is trying to portray as a bit of a player, is often around making observations or something and his other friend, Yuki, aka Prince, a manly woman who all the girls swoon for, is also around making observations.

To be honest, I found this manga kind of hard to follow.

The twin swapping was difficult to keep tabs on. I think because the twins have the same name and you never know if the boy is the girl or the girl is the boy because they change out their hair and their clothes outside of the panels.

There was a lot of talk about which bus which character was riding, and we find out at the very end that Shima Masaki is like a super amazing karate champion. It would be nice for character building to know that earlier, I think.

I don't know about this manga. I sort of followed the story, but toward the end, I just couldn't figure out anything to do with the twins, like if it was the boy who liked Masaki or the girl or if they were both actually girls or boys. I know one of the pair was clearly annoyed about something, but I couldn't quite put it together.

This was a cute, well-drawn manga, with a plot that I think is interesting. Maybe Vol II will bring it all into clearer perspective? I hope so!

Did anyone else read this? Was anyone else completely bewildered?


Why Manga Publishing is Dying...

Dear readers,

We shared this on our Google + page a few days ago, but I think it really could use a share here.

For anyone who loves manga as much as we do, Jason Thompson over wrote a really great article about the future of manga. You should read it!

Why Manga Publishing Is Dying (And How It Could Get Better)

Really. Go read it now.

<3 Shakespeare