I swear to you that this is true. Last week I said to myself – y’know, I haven’t read Azumanga Daioh in forever, let’s crack open the old Japanese editions and re-read them. And that afternoon, the English-language Azumanga Daioh Omnibus was delivered.
Do you know, I have never read the English edition of Azumanga Daioh? Well, not entirely true – I scanned the first volume when it first came out, shuddered with distaste, and didn’t buy it. I understood why ADV made the choices it did. And in many ways, I agreed with those choices, as they made the manga more accessible to a wider audience outside the core fandom. By calling Yukari-sensei “Miss Yukari” and when the students called her Yukari-chan, “Yukari baby,” they would make it easier for a non-manga fan to follow the comic. I never disagreed with their choice. I just didn’t enjoy it for myself.
Once again, allow me to clarify – I do not believe that fans want “literal” translations. What we want is an authentic reading experience. This is a subtle, but critical difference.
A literal translation of an idiom won’t kill us (unless it’s a particularly bizarre or obscure idiom. For example, try thinking of a cute way to translate “pig in a poke” to another language.) It doesn’t really matter if you write “staring off into the middle distance” or “staring off into the day after tomorrow.” Readers will get it, whichever way you chose.
However, Kaorin is a nickname, and therefore doesn’t really need to be translated. It’s more authentic just to leave it. We have nicknames – we get it.
Why honorifics? Because Yukari-sensei, Yukari, and Yukari-chan all mean completely different things. It’s perfectly respectable for her mother to call her Yukari-chan and perfectly not respectable (or respectful) at all for her students to do so. As ADV learned, when we all wrote to tell them so. And they listened, as we can see with the lovely translators’ notes, explaining the choices made (and the personal touch they provide) for later volumes.
Azumanga Daioh manga was the first real battlefield where this particular war was fought. The fans have mostly won this now, although there are still pockets of resistance among publishers. Ironically, one of the few instances left that *really* bugs me is in Yotsuba, by the exact same author. “Miss Stake” would only have been good localization if the character’s name was “Chigau.” “Shimau” is a form of the verb “shimasu” and as a result, the choice of translation is irrelevant and annoying. But not to the mythical people who read manga who know nothing about it, might potentially walk in off the street and grab Yotsuba off the shelf because it’s cute. They won’t, because they don’t exist and Yotsuba, which is wonderful and deservedly won all sorts of award nominations, is buried on the far right bottom corner of manga shelves because manga is shelved alphabetically by title, where no one who isn’t looking for it will ever find it.
So, anyway, ADV caved and as a result, later volumes of the English adaptation were much less irksome. And, interestingly, as ADV was carving a tighter niche in translation/localization, the artist was doing the same thing with his art.
As a result, reading the omnibus volume of Azumanga Daioh, the manga, is like a little historical retrospective of both ADV’s learning curve and Azuma Kiyohiko’s.
I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Many times I find myself laughing out loud – at 4-koma comics? Is it possible? Yes – possible and probable in this series. I can say just about anything and it’ll make you smile – “Get out of the way, Oji-san!” or mention an iriomote cat named Maya or anything Osaka ever says or, heck, just hold out two evenly broken chopsticks and say, “hehhh.” And you’ll laugh.
Because where most 4-koma comics are amusing, Azumanga Daioh is *funny.*
The absolute best part of this volume is that I cannot *wait* to donate it to my local library. I hope that many people will take it out and enjoy Chiyo-chan in a penguin costume and The Red Raccoon Dogs in gakuran and the Morons.
Oh wait – that’s the second best thing about this volume, The number one best thing is that we have a new Okazu Hero to add to our list. Thanks Kevin R. for your support of Okazu and sponsorship of today’s review! Email me so I can send you your Okazu hero’s badge and my thanks to you personally.^_^
Art – starts 5 evolves to 7
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 4
Service – 4
Overall – 9
The manga industry has come a really long way since Azumanga Daioh and so has Azuma’s work. But it’s still hard to top this series for belly laughs.