Archive for January 9th, 2010

Lessons with Rereko.

I'm beginning to suspect that part of the reason why I appreciate the Manga Guide books so much is because the audience surrogate character tends to be female. Not only that, but a cheerful, energetic, never-give-up, let's-positive-thinking female character. It means that she gets the majority of the screentime, and so people like me can ogle the eye-candy while our brains try to work out the concept being explored.

An unfortunate side-effect is that the smart teacher doing the explaining is generally a guy, of the Young Nerd-type Everyman variety seen in plenty of anime. While this is obviously to provide a little romantic comedy into the entertainment, it's probably best not to look too deeply into the gender roles.

Of course, MGTDatabases has several more characters than the teacher-student duo of MGTPhysics and MGTDatabases, and the explainer is a little (female) fairy. I wonder if I need a bigger sample size.

The Manga Guide To Electricity is a little harder for me to understand than MGTPhysics and MGTDatabases. Which is odd, since I didn't have trouble in school with this bit of my Physics classes (my problem areas were in Chinese, Literature, and non-calculus higher math like Statistics). I can only imagine what Molecular Biology would be like.

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Scanned in.

Having accidentally missed out on Negima volume 22 the last time I went to Kinokuniya, I picked it (and volume 24) up the next trip there. Also picked up were, among others, The Manga Guide To Electricity (still unread so far), and the first two light novel translations of Shakugan no Shana.

I don't know if I'm just used to the Little Brown Books translation of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but the Shakugan no Shana novels, distributed in English by Viz Media, feel more… stilted. I get the feeling that the translation is more literal, rather than the liberties in flow taken for TMoHS. Then again, I have the TMoHS books in Japanese as well, so I can compare. For Shakugan no Shana, I arm myself with nothing but idle curiosity.

The differences in the story from the anime are about what I'd expect: characters are introduced in a different order, and events have different motivations. I can't fault the changes in the anime, since (at least for the bits I've seen in the novels) they tell a story of equal value.

And yet, I can sort of see the underlying Japanese beneath the English text. It is almost as though my experience in watching anime has re-translated the oddly-worded exclamations and dialogue into something more familiar, if in another language. The primary reason I couldn't watch Shakugan no Shana raw without help was because of the jargon, which is explained in slightly more detail here.

I do have to raise a sci-fi-reader eyebrow at the way the paragraphs of infodump are presented in the middle of the action, though. In English-language science fiction and fantasy, it's a sign of inexperienced writing (since it brings the flow of action to an abrupt halt, losing momentum), but maybe the culture is different in Japanese.

It's too early for me to tell whether the odd tediousness of the light novels is due to the translation, or if it is inherent to the original. What I can fault the distributors for, however, is the lack of any sort of volume numbering on the outside, be it on the spine or blurb. The Haruhi novels have something like that, although at least they mention which volume it is in the promo blurb at the back of the book.

As it is, I had to guess from the titles and blurbs, which required prior knowledge of plot events from the anime (or research online, which does not bode well for impulse buys like mine). If you're wondering, The Girl With Fire In Her Eyes is the first volume, and apparently the spectacularly uninformatively-named Fight Day is the second.

Shana put her hands on her hips. "It's called melon bread because of the way the top cracks when it bakes. Real melon bread shouldn't taste like melon — that's heresy!"

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