Friday, September 20, 2019

Sleepy Sunday talkback (Maoujo De Oyasumi/ Sleepy Princess vol 2)

Hey all! It's your newly renovated blog owner Sakaki here with yet another Shounen Sunday review! Once again the gracious people at VIZ media have given me a free copy of a manga currently in Sunday to talk about and talk I shall! Sleepy Princess/Maoujo recently got green lit for an anime, so I felt this would be a perfect time to cash in on--er, spread the message! Hahah, yeah, that.

You might be wondering why I'm starting with volume two rather than the first, and the reason for that is I've actually been on a podcast to review volume one with the fine people at I don't think I could really say more about the first volume that wasn't covered there, so I'm just gonna hop right to it. You can check out the podcast here! Now with that out of the way, let's get sleepy.

As with Komi's review (which you can read here) I have purchased the Japanese version of volume two. The same rules apply too --I won't be comparing translations other than to explain little quirks and gags. With the covers I have to admit I like the English version moreso than the Japanese one. The border on the covers of the Japanese version always bugged me, and I like that Viz did away with it and came up with a logo that matches the font of the Japanese original while being significantly more eye catching. 

Those who have been following along with this blog know the premise for this manga, but for the newcomers --Sleepy princess's title is the premise. It takes the "Princess being kidnapped by the demon king" trope and adds a unique spin --the Princess has been kidnapped but the hero is taking a while to rescue her. So what's she to do while she waits? Get some shut-eye of course! The humor of the series comes from the monsters being at a complete loss in handling their captive that at times seems more monstrous than them. 

As an aside, I like that Viz indicates the chapters as nights in the table of contents. The chapters are known as nights in Japanese too, but the table of contents page as featured above just goes with "contents". Good on Viz for adding that little bit of flair.

As far as Sunday series go, Kumanomata has got the pacing down pat --the volume is mostly one off stories where the princess is displeased (or misunderstands her status as a hostage and not a guest) and her efforts to change things to her benefit much to the chagrin of her captives. The first chapter of which is her efforts to create a sho--er, bathing vessel that is more to her liking. 

For that she'll need to gather resources. The first being hot water, which means barging into monster public bath....and their reactions are priceless. Again, they seem much more human than monster like which almost makes you feel sorry for them. I really like the direction Viz's translation took here in being much more direct --the Japanese is a little more vague and I'd have probably stuck with that in a translation if I had done it, but the translation adding in "I'm so embarrassed" and "Hide all sorts of parts!" really adds to the humor.

The next thing is to get a bathtub, and for that a noble Rocket Turtle (lighting the fuse on it's tail causes it to explode) gave up it's life. Although Kumanomata doesn't focus on it too much (at least not now...) I find it interesting that the Princess often comments to herself how confining her old life used to be and how she wouldn't be allowed to do what she wants there. Even in recent volumes there hasn't been too much information on her home life outside of a quip here and there so it does have me curious. Before that --a moment of silence for the Rocket Turtle. 

The encyclopedia entries for the beasts in this series are also a source of good humor. The Japanese version mentions the Rocket Turtle's "problems just slightly before" specifically but the joke is funny either way, if not sad for the Turtle. (Listen I was really attached to that guy for the two pages I knew him.) Glad to read the monsters at least were able to get the Turtle together again.

And now a bit of a multi-layered joke --The word for Seasame Seeds in Japanese is "Goma". In the original, the princess named her new buddy met in the second chapter "Goma-ch" with the rest being cut off. The reason for this is there is a seal character with the same name starring in a series named "Shonen Ashibe Go! Go! Goma-chan" who looks very similar to the critter pictured here. Close call Kumanomata, wouldn't want the anime to get swarmed with legal complaints before it even starts airing! Understandably Goma-chan isn't nearly as well known here so the translation had to work around the joke. 

This is Goma-chan for the curious.

The summer heat ends up being a bain for the princess (and by extension her captors) and as she looks for ways to beat the heat, she just continues to stir up trouble. This comes from a chapter where she's looking to make a water bed and after realizing that any liquid will do tears through the castle draining everything she can. This series and it's humor is so multi-layered while coming off as deceptivly simple. The monsters think that she's drunk (when she's more just desperate), and has gotten her hands on a liquor that heightens the battle readiness of the person who drinks it. It's named after Jackie (yes that one) but clearly has Bruce Lee in the imagery. Let that sink in for a minute.

But the main source of (dark) humor is the princess is downright diabolical in her efforts and means to have a good time. Standing in her way is a sure means of getting hurt! Makes you wonder who the true captives are, really. 

Though in another chapter where the princess has shrunken due to her own hubris (and magical items) they get some revenge by cuddling her to sleep. It's a crowning moment of awesome and "awwsome".  

Kumanomata's strength is that they have a pretty good idea of what our expectations are and how to subvert them. The chapter where the above screenshots come from introduces Harpy who's very interested in human culture and wants a human friend. You'd think that this would be the beginning of a fast friendship between the girls, but the princess basically ignores her until the end of the chapter where she realizes down pillows are amazing to sleep on and she thus invites her to a pajama party --except they're not allowed to talk to or look at each other. I suppose the Princess's actions aren't that surprising, but the direction the punchline goes is hilariously off kilter. Who would have thought that this is the conclusion Harpy comes to (even if she isn't wrong.) The Demon King also being somewhat blase about this as he tries to keep up only adds to the humor. 

The lettering and translation are on point too, I should add. While many publishers choose to translate sound effects via liner notes or on the sides of panels, (and I don't blame them.) Viz goes the extra mile and looks darn good doing it. Not only that but the localization choices are great too. 

"Nightbear" is probably my favorite thing to come out of the translation this volume. It's a cute and cuddly name that could be terrifying if one didn't see what the Nightbear looks like. Plus I'm a sucker for rhyming (even simple ones like this) so it works on different levels for me. 

Unfortunately, Shougakukan doesn't include cover flap art in their digital releases. Viz does  however, so we do get a look at Kumanomata's comments and what would be under the flaps and cover of the manga if you bought it physically. It's a nice little touch that I wish Shougakukan would include since a lot of of artists draw little extras underneath the covers for the fans. They're still getting the hang of digital releases, but Shueisha does include this in their releases so there's no reason why they shouldn't as well. 

That's my talkback on Sleepy Princess/Maoujo volume two! Special thanks to Viz media for giving me a free volume to talk about, Tetsuichiro Miyaki for the great translation, and Annette Roman as well as Susan Daigle-Leach for the adaption and lettering respectively! Your hard work on bringing more Sunday series is appreciated!! 

And on a parting note, this is it. This is the manga.  Until the next update, have a good Sunday, everyone! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Golden Sunday (Takahashi and Noda Interview).

Hello all! It's your "barely there" host Sakaki here with another update! At this point I guess it's safe to say the blog will be where I dump little reviews and interviews while the twitter is where the real action for the weekly magazine will go. I hate to do it this way (especially when I made it seem like I'd at least do weekly updates) but the twitter does seem to be easier for people to go to. That being said, I will keep trying to have things to post here as well! So on that note you're probably wondering what's up today. Well, how does an interview between Satoru (Golden Kamuy) Noda and Rumiko Takahashi sound? I thought you'd like that. As usual this was translated by me so the warnings of accuracy and whatnot are present and I am very open to crtiques and comments. We good? Good. I dunno if I'll be able to translate part two (I hope so!) But if the opportunity comes up I certainly will. For now here's the interview as it was presented in issue #41 of Weekly Shounen Sunday.

(Top text- Commemoration for MAO's first volume: A special project!!!)

Satoru Noda x Rumiko Takahashi

The two artists who draw the “Meiji” and “Taishou” in the Reiwa era –Special Conversation!!

Ms. Takahashi, you're probably familiar with 'Golden Kamui' which is beloved by it's fanbase, but what was your first opportunity to read the series?

Takahashi (To be known as T for now on): My editor really likes the series so they brought me volume one and asked me to read it. I read it and it was great so I immediately went out and bought the rest of them!

Noda(To be known as N): Thank you so much!

T: When I first read it I thought “This is too scary! It's super realistic!” (Laughs) After getting over how scary it was, I thought that the inclusion and research of the Ainu culture was fascinating and carefully implemented. Did you do a fair amount of information gathering yourself?

N: It felt like I had to go around all of Hokkaido at least once. Even then it wasn't enough so I find myself making time during the serialization to gather more info. It was during that time too that I wanted more information on Horses, so I went looking for that too. The Dosanko are horses native to Hokkaido, but western horses are smaller and wider like in this photo....

T: Ahh yes, it's like....they're taller but a bit smaller too. Is it so that one can put a saddle on them and go for a ride?

N: That's right. However the Dosanko are different than the western horse in that when they walk the front legs move simultaneously with the back, and there is little fluctuation in their movements.

T: Oh? So that's how the Dosanko moves, but the western horse isn't like that?

N: One can ride the western horse too, but because they're so tall they move a lot when they run and it can be scary.

T: So then you'd probably go with the local flavor, right?

N: I'm not quite sure. Since all Hokkaido has are the dosanko, their distinct way of walking is all I know. So I went to Hokkaido to do research so that I don't carelessly draw a horse and readers can tell I'm drawing a western horse.

“What were your thoughts when you first started drawing 'Golden Kamuy' Mr. Noda?”

N: To put it simply my Grandfather went to 203 Hill, and I wanted to draw that. My editor went and got a novel about hunting and I thought it was really interesting, so I combined that with the story I wanted to draw. Furthermore the Ainu culture was still very prevalent during the Meiji era –in short a story that isn't modernistic.

T: However the Ainu culture has a certain relevance to it too. It's the kind of world that you have to depict properly without fail. I think it's amazing you tackled such a subject forthright, and furthermore kept it interesting.

N: The editorial department also put their resolve on the line. There were a few folks who spoke up and said it'd be fine if it were a fantasy work, though. In the end we said that fantasy Ainu isn't the same as real Ainu and stuck to our guns.

T: Sounds like everyone had plenty of resolve. So then was the first thing you gathered research materials on the Ainu culture?

N: I inquired with the Hokkaido Ainu association, and it was there that I was introduced to and linked with a very dependable person. Though from the very start I was simply told to draw what I wanted to, and since then no one has interfered. Not a single time was I told to draw this way or that way. “Whether it be good or bad, let Satoru draw whatever he wants without fear.” Is what they said. So since I was given so much freedom, I was somewhat nervous to ask about doing research. Though when I had a few drinks in me I was a bit more frank.

T: It's thanks to that we're able to read “Golden Kamuy”, right?

“So then, how were you able to create the protagonist Sugimoto and the others?”

N: I just thought that a guy returning from a war had an appeal to him. Beyond that I thought about what kind of feelings my Grandfather felt after the Russo-Japanese war, and that ended up being Sugimoto. After creating him I wondered if I needed a character that acts as his guide to the Ainu culture, but then after some discussion we thought a manga filled with just old guys wouldn't be very popular. (laughs). So I came up with a girl –(Asirpa). Although she's a young girl, she's still a hunter and very well versed in the Ainu culture.

T: Huh? Really?

N: For the Ainu, the duties men and women had were completely different. However even knowing this for the sake of entertainment I thought it was okay to have a little lie. Of course there were objections to this at the beginning of the serial. It was only after some time in the distant future that we knew of stories where girls were hunters.

T: That's true.

N: It might seem surprisingly bold, but stories like that are real and amazing.

“Now then. Ms. Takahashi what was your reason for choosing the Taisho era as the stage for 'MAO'?”

T: The origin of the setting came from the head editor of Sunday being a big fan of the Taisho era and implying to me “how about this” for my next story. I thought to myself that he really does like the Taisho a lot doesn't he? (laughs). I said I'd think about it. From current time that's about 100 years ago. Since the sticking point was the Taisho, I started thinking to myself that this would be my first opportunity to draw it.

N: Is that so! Do you have reference books on the subject?

T: I've read all kinds of books on the Taisho era, but I forgot most of them. In any case I figured since I had forgotten them that I'd just draw all kinds of things like the books I had and proceeded that way. By the way, Mr. Noda, I recall your previous work about Ice Hockey “Supinamarada”. It must have been a lot of hard work for you, but it was a lot of fun. On that note it feels like from when Supervisor Nihei appeared the standard of overwhelming characters rose and the series suddenly became more light hearted.

N: Thank you. Even though chapter one is precious to me it was also the most painful. Well, I'd say really the first three were painful, but chapter one especially. I'd love to go back and correct my mistakes. Well, no not only that, but the character designs and stuff too. Everyone was wearing helmets, so the shape of their hair and their silhouettes are important. Being able to see into the crevices of the helmet means getting a peek at the angle of their eyebrows, the width and size of their eyes...unless you were a person who really liked them it'd be hard to tell them apart.

T: Is that how “Golden Kamuy” stayed alive?

N: I had decided from before the serial's start that this time relative ease would be the most important thing.

T: Through that the character's individual quirks stand out quite easily and it makes them interesting.

N: It really pleases me to hear that.

“On that note, Ms. Takahashi have you ever used celebrities as models?”

T: I haven't used celebrities as models, no. Surprisingly enough they're all in my head. Because my art is manga art. For me molding characters is first and foremost having them stand out, and beyond that causing reactions. “How will folks react to this character” is how I decide on when I'm creating them.

N: Reactions?

T: People are surprisingly akin to the way they look. Like upon seeing someone one immediately thinks “Oh they must be this way” and such. That's why one does the character design before the storyboard to keep from over designing a character. A storyboard can get pretty messy when one is adding this, that and other various things.

N: It's at that time that you come up with the finer points of the character design?

T: Well, it's one of the points you do hammer out as the story progresses. For the most part one just wants to get their quirks and such solidified. A long time ago when drawing manga they'd tell you to create a character that's easily identifiable by their silhouette, but that seems unnecessary nowadays.

N: That's true. That kind of character doesn't really show up in seinen manga.

“Ms Takahashi, you've drawn a myriad of characters with different personalities. Have you ever up until now used a person you've met as a reference for a character?”

T: I haven't. Honestly speaking I have a tough time remembering people's faces, and since names and faces are usually linked together well, (laughs). Though if I dare to say it myself, the characters that I admire in the manga I've read up until now have deep down had some similarities to me.

“Then what did you have trouble with in conceptualizing the characters in MAO”?

T: From the very beginning I haven't been able to get a handle on what kind of heroine Nanoka is, or what kind of person she'll be....though when I was redrawing the storyboard for chapter one for the umpteenth time...

N: Whoa. You have to redraw storyboards over and over again?

T: Yep (laughs) It was around the fourth time when I was drawing the scene where she drank the vegetable drink that her reaction came to mind and I realized “this is what kind of person she is.” Maybe we had finally got to know each other after being so stiff around each other at first. It really did feel like I didn't know anything about the world at that point.

N: I see.

T: That's why after doing the character design doing the storyboard became surprisingly easy. Other than the three leads no one else really appeared so I didn't have any more difficulty after that.

N: On that note, you have many series that are 30 volumes and 50 volumes long. Do you decide from the start that they'll be that length?

T: Ah no, that's just how things end up in the end. My previous series “Kyoukai no Rinne” was more of a comedy manga so I thought to myself “It's probably better if this one doesn't go on too long” and ultimately decided on 40 volumes.

N: It's incredible that you're able to continue all of your works and allot a proper ending.

T: No, no, I'd say that “Golden Kamuy” is pretty incredible too. Everyone has a unique personality and I think that's great. I love both Sugimoto and Asirpa, but lately Koito has been really entertaining too.

N: Koito! I knew it! I thought you'd like him most as well.

T: Oh? Why's that?

N: Because in “Urusei Yatsura” and “Ranma 1/2” you had characters like him –young lords who are mischievous swordsmen appear. Mendou, and Kuno and such. They were the most foolish characters, I think! So I figured you must like those characters the most.

T: (Laughs) It's not just that. During the circus troupe arc he got so caught up in being entertaining that he forgot the reason he was there. Watching him negotiate with Sugimoto was really funny.

N: Thank you so much! Though while thinking that I brought the signed present for Sunday readers –an illustration of Koito. I'm glad I was right on the money!

T: Amazing! May I have a copy?

(The continuation of the interview will be in Weekly Young Jump Issue #42 out September 19th).