Strawberry Panic, Volume 1 was a fascinating example of translation and adaptation of a Japanese manga into English. Before I get into the details of why I say that, I’ll give you (and the folks at Seven Seas, for whom I have to thank for the review copy,) the sound bite – this was a very entertaining book. :-)
For an overview of the plot, please see my review of the Japanese edition of Volume 1 from June, 2006. This review will cover the adaptation and translation only.
There are a very few small differences in the Japanese and English versions physically – the English cover lacks the tagline “Girls School in Full Bloom” nor does it list the names of the main characters. And the art, both on the cover and the inside appears to have been scanned in from the original. (You would *think* that, when a company licenses a series the Japanese company would send original digital files to works from, but in my experience they don’t. That’s partially why the borders on English translations are often cut off, or have white space when the original pages don’t.) In this case, they opted for small additional white space edges across the whole book. It really doesn’t change anything – I just happened to notice it. And even though the English edition does not have a dust jacket, the original Japanese edition has the world’s most boring under-jacket cover ever, so we lose absolutely nothing by it.
The Seven Seas edition includes the color page, something I think really sets their volumes a step above Tokyopop’s. It’s not like this color page is especially *exciting* or anything, lol, it just looks nice.
Here’s the interesting bit, though. :-) The original Strawberry Panic manga was run in Dengeki’s G’s Magazine, a bishoujo gaming magazine. This is a pretty hardcore “otaku” audience. These are not people with social lives, or indeed skills. As a result, they tend to have little to no sense of humor about their passions. They take anime/manga/games and their obsessions with them *very* seriously. This latter quality is reflected in western fandom as well. And, as I’ve pointed out several times here, *no one* likes to think that the story they love is worthless trash or obviously a joke, when they themselves take it so seriously. (This applies to everyone about *something*. Whether it be sports maniacs, car crazies, people who obsess about the lives of celebrities or royals, whatever.)
So, when Strawberry Panic was first released, despite the obvious parody elements, people took the story at face value. That it involved sexual harrassment, evil psycho lesbians, total memory loss amnesia, former lover dying from an unnamed disease, openly stolen scenes, characters and symbols from more than a dozen other series, etc, etc, was irrelevant. This, I have been repeatedly told, is an awesome story.
*I* can see that it’s a parody. Many *other* people can see that it is a parody. Some people don’t care because they are not familiar with the series being parodied or, they just don’t care. But the majority of SP fans, both here and in Japan, take it quite seriously. They do not see that it is a parody and don’t like it when people, especially me, point out that it is.
Bear with me here – I do have a point. The point is this – Seven Seas knows SP was a parody and they *adapted* it like it was one. Sorry it took me so long to get there, but you have to appreciate the underlying issue. By adapting it the way they did, Seven Seas runs the risk of alienating the majority of their readership. HOWEVER, thanks to cognitive dissonance and the human ability to ignore all facts that don’t fit in with our preconceived notions, most of the people who might possibly be alienated will simply ignore the clues in the text and continue to take the story at face value. So phew for them.
Here’s what Seven Seas did. The first few chapters of Strawberry Panic utilize both italics and bold letters to subtly offer a few “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” moments in the text. It’s only in the first few chapters, then they back off. If it had continued it would have become annoying, but by laying the foundation in the beginning, anyone who *can* see it, is let in on the joke. It’s true that some of the worlds they emphasize are also emphasized in the Japanese text – but not all of them. I’m not sure why they did it, but I think it worked. ^_^
I have only two complaints about the translation itself – can someone explain to me why Hikari says “golly” instead of something more like “oh, no”? It does give her a bit of a provincial aspect, but I never really got that from the original. Maybe I just missed her accent?
Also, I am deeply disappointed in Yaya’s criminally smart “Amane wannbees” (with “wannabees” being the actual word she chose) changed to “Amane nuts.” This is small, but they missed two things by changing it. One, in the context of the story, they’ve missed that Yaya’s understanding of human nature is pretty sharp. But more importantly, they’re missing that it was meant to parody Tsutako’s equally sharp understanding of her fellow students by labeling them “Yoshino wannabees” in Maria-sama ga Miteru: Kibara Kakumei. Seven Seas gets one point off for that and another because the word “wannabees” is so fun, why would anyone ever chose a different one? lol
With those two teeny exceptions, Strawberry Panic is otherwise a very decent translation and adaptation.
Seven Seas regains one of the lost points above for doing something which was technically incorrect, but for which I thank them with all my might. In the original Japanese Nagisa, our preposterous heroine, refers to herself in third person. It was meant to accentuate her childlike naiveté and girlishness. It also made it nigh on impossible to like her. For whatever reason it was decided that she *not* do that in the English edition. And while it changes her personality, it does so for the better. Yes, it’s “wrong.” Thank the gods (woops, I mean Maria-sama,) it was done. Amen.
Art – 7 (too moe for my taste, but not *bad*)
Story – 7
Characters – 7 (Chikaru is rapidly becoming my hero. She really doesn’t care what happens, as long as it’s a good show with lots of fireworks.)
Yuri – 9
FanBoy – 7 FanGirl – a completely different 7
Overall – 8 (7, plus one point for the amusing adaption)
Regardless if you admit to (or even notice) the satirical emphases, Strawberry Panic is an amusing, brainless read full of groping and service among privileged female students. Clearly, something to be taken *very* seriously. ^_^