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自転車男子に恋をした③

四方山哲:自転車男子に恋をした③

I used my Wacom Bamboo to look up kanji (no furigana here!) while reading the third part of Akira Yomoyama’s doujinshi series 自転車男子に恋をした (“I fell in love with a male bicyclist”). It took 2,5 hours for me to finish it, but then I was simultaneously watching Nacer Bouhanni get a double puncture, catch up again and finally win the very slippery Stage 4 of Giro d’Italia (so many people fell in the end!).

Very nice, sweet and simple story as usual, and perfectly drawn. They went to the same bicycle shop (chain?) that I visited last autumn: Y’s Road:

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Bicycle shop Y's Road in Ueno, Tokyo

Soma-kun’s date Hoshino-san wanted to buy a road bike, but Soma-kun was reluctant to help her so she was afraid she would buy the wrong bike. But Soma-kun assured her that there wasn’t a single bad bike in this shop, so whatever bike she chose, she wouldn’t make a mistake.

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  • 巨人(きょじん)giant
  • 体育会系 athlete
  • 罰(ばつ)punishment

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  • はた迷惑・な nuisance to other people
  • 原付(げんつき)moped
  • ノーヘル = ノーヘルメット no helmet
  • 逆走(ぎゃくそう)running backwards (?)
  • 野郎(やろう)ass
  • チャリンコ(チャリ)bike
  • しなやか・な supple, flexible (limbs)
  • サラサラ silky (hair)
  • ツヤツヤ glossy (skin)
  • 体型(たいけい)body type
  • 適度(てきど)・な moderate
  • つき方 ?

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  • 超(ちょう)ultra- (例:超目立つ)
  • 派手(はで)・な flashy
  • 律儀(りちぎ)に dutifully
  • 高橋 尚子
  • 野口 みずき
  • 有酸素(ゆうさんそ)運動 aerobic exercise
  • 日焼け (sun) tan

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I looove realism!

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  • 用途(ようと)use
  • 予算(よさん)budget
  • …に応じる depends on …
  • 種類 type, category
  • 試乗車(しじょうしゃ)test car/bike
  • 原稿(げんこう)manuscript
  • 輝き(かがやき)sparkle

And here’s when I read the second volume:

ウソツキ!ゴクオーくん 第2・3話

I’ve now read chapter 2 and 3 of Liar! Gokuoh-kun and they were actually quite exciting.

第2話

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Chapter 2 is about poor little Tenko’s attempts to jump the vaulting box at height 5. Doya teases her and says that he could jump over it at height 10 – if he only hadn’t hurt himself and walked on crutches. In the end it turns out that he has just made up the crutch thing because he was too afraid of jumping the box. He admits it all after Gokuoh has summoned the Lord of Hell to grab Doya’s lying tongue.

  • 放課後 = after school
  • 球技 = ball game (compare 競技)
  • 跳び箱 = vaulting box (sv. bock)
  • 跳ぶ = to jump
  • 距離(きょり) = distance
  • 松葉杖(まつばづえ)= crutch

第3話

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In chapter 3, all the children look forward to curry-rice for school lunch. They get very disappointed when they find all the curry and the school cook spread out on the floor of the school corridor. Well the cook wasn’t spread out, he just stood there and everyone thought it was his fault, despite he said he was at the toilet when it happened.

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Gokuoh-kun solves the mystery in a thriller-like tour de force – and it turns out that nothing was what it seemed! For example, the incriminating curry stain on Banzaki’s t-shirt actually came from Omusubi’s mouth which he happened to press against Banzaki’s fat stomach when Banzaki tripped over him. Who would have known. And yes, the Lord of Hell appears here as well with his terrifying tongue-gripping metal claw.

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  • 容赦(ようしゃ)する = to pardon, to forgive, to condone
  • 反応(はんのう)= reaction
  • 習字(しゅうじ)= shuji/Japanese calligraphy (which is “a required subject in elementary and junior high school in Japan”)
  • 染み(しみ)= stain
  • 修業(しゅぎょう)= studying, learning, the pursuit of knowledge
  • 飛び散る = to scatter, to fly around
  • 逆(ぎゃく)= reverse (adj.)
  • 悪気(わるぎ)= malice
  • つまみ食いする = to snitch food

We’ll end with these words of wisdom by Gokuoh-kun:

風と同じで嘘はうつるんだよ!

Just like the wind, a lie will turn around!

ウソツキ!

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I bought ウソツキ!ゴクオーくん (Gokuoh-kun the Liar!) by 吉もと 誠 (Yoshimoto Makoto) at Yodobashi (and sent it home with sea mail) partly because its tagline in English:

“A small lie is useful in some cases.”

It seemed like a smart shounen manga, a bit like I pictured the PCP (Perfect Crime Party) manga in Bakuman.

Last night I read the first chapter, page 1-40, while looking up all words I didn’t understand or was unsure about. It took a bit more than 2 hours.

The manga began with an introduction of the characters. The main protagonist is of course Gokuoh-kun, who is described as a constantly lying elementary schooler and transfer student. The other two characters are his classmates Tenko Ono, a cute and too honest girl, and Banzaki, the school bully.

登場人物(とうじょう じんぶつ)= character (in a story)

謎(なぞ・ナゾ)= mystery

転校生(てんこうせい)= transfer student

見破る(みやぶる)= to detect

正直・な(しょうじき・な)= honest

頑張り屋(がんばりや)= hard worker

側近(そっきん)= assistant

After the introduction, the chapter starts:

第1話:ウソツキ転校生現る!

Chapter 1: The lying transfer student shows up!

現す(あらわす)= to show
現る(あらわる)= to show up

Banzaki rages through the corridors until he finds Tenko in the classroom. He starts abusing her.

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It turns out someone has posted a note on the blackboard saying: “Banzaki got 0 points on the test!” The message is written on a paper from Tenko’s notebook, and it’s a unique notebook since she won it in a lottery.

こっそり = secretly

覚悟(がくご)= resolution

懸賞(けんしょう)= lottery

非売品(ひばいひん)= not for sale

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Banzaki’s case is strong, and all the classmates turn against Tenko, screaming “liar, liar” at her. Tenko say’s she lost her notebook the day before, but no one believes her.

暴れる(あばれる)= to rage

下らない(くだらない)= worthless

給食(きゅうしょく)= school lunch

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Then Gokuoh asks Banzaki to show him his test. He refuses, saying “I’ll never show my points to anyone!” So how could Tenko know his scores, Gokuoh asks, if he hadn’t shown them to anyone? The mystery deepens.

ぼける = be blurred/play dumb/pretend not to remember

宝物(たからもの)= treasure

まるで = like (how use?)

答案 用紙(とうあん ようし)= answer sheet

捨てる(すてる)= to throw away

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Gokuoh concludes that only one person could know Banzaki’s scores is the teacher, who denies Gokuoh’s accusations.

まさか = surely

好物(こうぶつ)= favourite food or thing

まみれる = be covered (in something)

仕業(しわざ)= work (“this is your work/workings”)

ふざけん・な!= The motherfucker! Give me a break!

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Then Gokuoh summons the Lord of Hell, who grabs the teacher’s tongue and throws him around. At the same time Gokuoh’s pet, the Cat Crow, flies to the teacher’s desk to get – tadaa – Tenko’s notebook!

ネコカラス = cat crow

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The principal enters the classroom and asks what is going on with all the sounds. Since the Lord of Hell has made the teacher’s tongue speak the truth, he frantically tells the whole story about how he stole Tenko’s notebook and posted the paper from it on the blackboard so that Banzaki would abuse her. This was the teacher’s way at getting back at Tenko for making a fool of him in front of class, when she corrected the teacher.

担任(たんにん)= homeroom teacher

指摘 する(してき する)= to point out

評判(ひょうばん)= reputation

分際(ぶんざい)= social standing

The chapter ends with the principal dragging the teacher in his ear through the corridor.

本人(ほんにん)= (school) principal

初代(しょだい)= founder

悪漢(あっかん)= villain

(Sample scans from コロコロ.)

Finally reading Yotsuba to!

I finished volume 30 of Yowamushi Pedal and to be honest, I was a bit tired of it in the end. It takes such long time for me to read in Japanese! So I blame that, not the manga.

Then I started reading something I found at Ayumi Books in Gotanda: 湯神くんには友達がいない/Yugami-kun does not have any friends. It looks like a new high school manga, this was volume 3. I like realism and the school setting, but this one – or shall I say the first 14 pages – wasn’t that exciting. So far just girls talking about the lonely Yugami-kun in some kind of Bechdel orgasm. I guess this is shoujo. (For the record: I find the Bechdel test, or rather how it’s used, the conclusions drawn from it, ridiculous. I might explain why in a later post.)

Anyway, almost the same day I stumbled upon the Yotsuba to series at Book Ruue in Kichijouji. This is the children’s manga that opened my eyes way back here. However, I didn’t really read it then. My Japanese was too bad (despite I had it in scanlation too), but most of all I find it very hard to read on a screen; you’re always distracted by something. So I bought the first volume, just as I promised the publisher in my earlier post: “Don’t worry, Yotsuba-to! publisher, I will probably buy the print versions eventually”, I wrote.

I started reading on the train, and I was immediately hooked. Yotsuba is the girl’s name and “to” means “and”, so each chapter is about Yotsuba and something else; moving, greetings, global warming, TV, etc. The girl is five years old. And I adore her like a little kitten! Me who usually find kids a nuisance, but I guess I can stand them in manga form. In some ways Yotsuba is like a younger Pippi; a characteristic haircut (though all manga characters have that actually) and quite wild, climbing out of windows and up electricity poles.

Both the art and the story are fantastic. They make me smile on the train! I especially like the frames where Yotsuba is reduced to a few strokes and circles. I love how the artist manages to convey the exact feeling through such a minimal expression.

Oh, and I forgot a very important thing: That I can read it pretty fast (already halfway through after maybe 5 reading sessions on the train) and understand 100 percent of it! Ok, maybe I miss a word here and there, so let’s say 95 percent. But still. What a feeling!

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It’s so good!

I first found Yotsuba to through this post on Sankaku Complex, but it’s a very famous manga in Japan and once made the cover of Idea.

My moment with Yowamushi Pedal 30

Yowamushi Pedal 29 & 30

I just finished part 29 of Yowamushi Pedal, the bicycle manga. (I haven’t read part 1 to 28.) It’s the first thick, normal, mainstream manga that I read in Japanese, so it feels like an accomplishment. I never looked up words, because I read it mainly on the trains and while eating my tendons. But I think just reading without looking up words is as important as reading carefully and looking up every single word. Both ways are good ways to study. The first one gives you flow, the second one deep understanding. The doujinshis are perfect for the second method, because they are so slim. Likewise, it would spoil the fun in a thick manga since you would get bored reading a full volume at such a slow pace.

Anyway, my interest in manga and anime isn’t actually that genuine. Or at least it wasn’t in the beginning. I wanted to read manga because it’s a vital part of the Japanese culture, but a novel by Mishima or Murakami is more what I consider my culture. Or used to do at least. All the more fun when you actually take real pleasure in anime and manga.

For anime, this has been the case for some time now. I used to say that anime simply wasn’t my kind of art form, just like opera isn’t. But now I would say it is. In the last three years, I’ve watched more hours of anime than of feature films and tv series. Maybe anime make up for 60 percent of my screen time. In the beginning it was a strategy, I wanted to get to know this famous art form. But then it started to come naturally and then I started to love it. It was Ashita no Joe and Bakuman that really got me hooked. I discovered anime through Loveless, but even though I love the theme in that anime, the actual watching was a bit like enduring an opera.

I’ve watched some Japanese drama with real actors too. They’re all terrible. Actually, I’ve only watched two; the first episode of a bowling series and the first four episodes of Attention Please, about a flight attendant school. Oh, and an episode of a sushi drama as well, that was the worst one. It’s the acting/directing that sucks. It’s amazing to me that anime can be so well done – because it almost always is – whereas drama sucks so much. (This goes for the first feature film of Ashita no Joe too.) I mean, anime demands acting too, by voice actors. It’s amazing that the creators of an anime can get exactly the right facial expression where a real actor fails.

Anime is usually considered a superficial art form, at least from a Western perspective. It’s often pointed out that this is because we connect it to children’s television and Donald Duck. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that everyone watches anime in Japan no matter the ages (as the defense often goes), because most anime is actually made for young people (though teenagers rather than children), which goes for many tv series and other pop culture as well. But to claim it’s like cartoons for children or superficial is just ignorant.

I would argue that anime in a way is “higher” (if we’re using those labels) than movies and tv series with real actors. Anime is closer to a book, and books are usually considered to be a higher, or let’s say harder to consume art form. Isn’t watching people (real actors) the thing that demands the lowest resistance for a human being? Whereas anime distils that world to simple pictures, a process that is taken even further in manga (even fewer lines) and furthest in novels (the world distilled to kanji images). (I’ve discussed this process before in the post My epiphany with Yotsuba to!)

So the scale from lowbrow to highbrow culture should actually go like this:

drama → anime → manga → novels

Over to manga. Maybe I’m in the same process with manga now as I’ve been with anime for the last years, going from reading it “because one should”, via actually enjoying it, to finding it fantastic and brilliant. I had such a moment today, as I continued the roadbike race between Naruko and Midousuji that began at the end of volume 29. Is it only because I bike myself that I find it so fantastic? I hope not. This is what it looked like when Naruko had taken the lead and Midousuji suddenly felt his powers grow:

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Looks almost avant garde, but keep in mind this is a mainstream manga and that it’s not SF. It’s just brilliant. I love how the drawing looks so rough despite all the strokes are in the right places to convey this extreme feeling to the reader. What a moment. I’ll remember these pages, and how they made me smile on the Chuuou train.

I’d like to add a couple of things about “Western manga”, but I’ll save that for another post. It’s just about to become “otsukaresama desu” at the coworking space where I’m sitting today, and apparently we will drink some beer together afterwards.

自転車男子に恋をした②

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Tonight I read Yomoyama Akira’s new (released today!) manga 自転車男子に恋をした②, the highly anticipated sequel to 自転車男子に恋をした①. It took me three hours to read it (including the afterword), because I look up all words that I don’t understand. They become fewer and fewer though!

I really like this series. It has humor and warmth, and is very well-drawn. In addition, I like the main character Soma-kun. He’s a quiet guy but who always attracts attention. The author writes in the afterword that the idea was to make the manga a bit BL, so that male readers would want to be Soma-kun, and female readers would want to fall in love with him. I guess a bit of both applies for me. ^^ Not least, the biking scenes make me long for spring… but I’ll try to suppress those feelings, it’s much too early!

I hope Yomoyama Akira will continue to draw this series. The next Comitia is in February.

Swedish girls adore Entartete Shota

Just wanted to share this picture with you, taken from this fierce Swedish mangaka’s blog. I hope she doesn’t mind that I republish it (and spiced it up a bit). She writes (in Swedish):

Här ser du bilder på de böcker jag köpte. En femtedel Yaoi denna gång och så var jag nog ganska olaglig också…fast de kan jag väl inte vara när man kan köpa den lagligt…eller??

Jag refererar till boken längst ner till höger som är en Ocensurerad Shota Doujinshi på engelska, och finns på Adlibris :O  Han som gjort den är “Tsukumo Gou” och har gjort väldigt mycket och bra korta serier till en massa olika tidningar. Har läst en hel del av hans serier och gillar dom men är inge större fan.

Blir nog inga böcker åt mig på ett bra tag nu :´C

It makes me really proud to see Entartete Shota among the other titles she ordered from Adlibris:

Bra om mangadomen

Råkade genom Animeradion snubbla över Tomas Antilas blogg och detta inlägg om mangadomen. Läs! Det är inte bara vettigt, det är rörande också. Tomas skriver bland annat:

Jag vill att den här lagen försvinner OMEDELBART! Jag är inte pedofil och vill inte klassas som sådan. Jag är inte ett dugg intresserad av riktiga människor, och i synnerhet inte yngre personer. Verkliga människor lyssnar på mig, kramar mig och får mig att må bra och känna mig trygg, och börjar sedan hata mig och säga elaka saker om mig. Tecknade figurer gör ingenting. Dom varken hatar eller älskar. Dom existerar enbart i min fantasi. Det är det som är det magiska med tecknade figurer.

Han fortsätter:

En tecknad figur är inte en verklig människa, det är en symbol. Tecknaren kanske säger: det här är en skolflicka hon är femton år. Men när jag ser figuren tolkar jag symbolen på ett annat sätt. I mitt huvud gör jag om figuren till något jag kan relatera till. Jag ser aldrig åldrar, jag jämför alltid med mig själv. Jag ser det lite som teater; det finns en massa roller och sedan finns det folk som spelar de rollerna. Tecknaren är i regel alltid mycket äldre än den tecknade figuren. Det är tecknaren som spelar den yngre figuren, det är inte på något sätt en verklig ung person. Det är blott en tolkning, en skev verklighet, på sin höjd ganska trovärdig.

Och avslutar:

Men jag är verkligen ledsen Asuka, jag kan inte älska dig längre. Jag föll för dig redan när jag var i din ålder, och har älskat dig sen dess. (förutom ett kort Ayanami Rei-uppehåll 2005) Men tyvärr blir jag bara äldre och äldre för var dag som går, medan du fortsätter att vara fjorton år. I min fantasi är du 25 och ständigt sur över att jag inte tar itu med mitt liv. Men lagen säger att du är fjorton och jag inte får ha bilder på dig. Jag kommer ta bort dig, jag önskar bara att jag kunde ta bort dig från mitt egna minne lika lätt. Jag kommer aldrig glömma hur mycket du betydde för mig, och hur mycket jag älskade dig. Jag minns när jag såg “You can (not) advance” i våras. Jag älskade verkligen scenen när man förstod att du likt alla andra också var väldigt, väldigt ensam, och inte ville sova själv. Jag hoppas att du nån dag kan förlåta mig, men jag kunde aldrig vara den du ville att jag skulle vara.

Verkar finnas mycket mer att läsa på den bloggen, men det här var väl en bra början!

When will Tokyopop release Loveless volume 9?

I just finished Loveless volume 7, the English translation of the Japanese manga. Even if it felt a bit like a “transport” volume, I still liked it more than volume 6, which was more of a “background” volume. I already own volume 8, but I don’t look forward to the black hole of loss that I fear might open up beyond it. Because there is still no sight of volume 9 in English. Look at this timeline:

What are you doing, Tokyopop? It’s been well over a year since the Japanese volume came out, and the English translations always used to precede the German and French ones.

A user writes at the Tokyopop Loveless page:

So why do other countries get volume 9 of Loveless but we’re left hanging without so much as a word about it being released into English? Don’t add this to the ever growing long lists of series that have canceled due to ‘issues’. I’m forever being let down by this company, why pick up heaps more contracts when there are so many that have yet to be fulfilled? Tokyopop is a joke.

Is Tokyopop having an issue? I hope not!

Loveless was the first anime and manga I seriously watched/read, and subsequently fell in love with, in 2004 or 2005. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but I’m happy I did.

Wait a minute. Does this mean I’m supposed to read volume 9 in Japanese? God, you’re so hard on me!

My epiphany with Yotsuba-to!

This was supposed to be a post about practicing your Japanese by reading Yotsuba-to! (よつばと!), a popular manga which according to this post is ideal for Japanese learners, partly because of the furigana (small hiragana letters printed next to the kanji characters, thus revealing how the kanji should be read).

I managed to find the comic both raw (meaning in Japanese) and translated into English. I’m reading them on my computer and keep the window with the English version under the raw one. It’s perfect to have a key handy!

(And don’t worry, Yotsuba-to! publisher, I will probably buy the print versions eventually, just like I did with all volumes of Loveless after having discovered the manga through filesharing. Or some merchandise.)

However, something happened as I started to read. I suddenly found myself staring at the frames at the top of this post for a long time.

First I realised that they are slightly different; they added some details on the right frame, or took them away on the left one.

But that’s not the point.

The point is that this difference made me realise just what an art it is to reduce as much as possible from a picture without losing its expression. Yes, the art of reduction! The left frame is even more expressive than the right one – you can really see that little enthusiastic girl in front of you!

So this is how you should read manga. This is their allure. Manga readers don’t see cartoons – they see real characters, created with the help of lines that the manga readers’ brains know how to parse just in the same way as the novel reader’s brain knows how to parse words and sentences expressing the same thing. It’s really just the same! And the step to expressing something with a picture instead of with words is of course smaller in Japan, since kanji actually linger somewhere in between text and drawings. After all, kanji is nothing but very reduced pictures.

This made me think of Donald Richie’s Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics. Yotsuba-to! is a perfect example of the Japanese aversion to our Western mimesis, and of the Japanese “tendency to value symbolic representation over realistic delineation,” as Richie puts it. What an art!

This might be obvious to all of you, but I actually haven’t read that many manga, except Loveless. This was my epiphany, and I will always remember it. The moment when I fell through the paper and into the manga.