It was only a few weeks ago that I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing ADV’s Azumanga Daioh Omnibus. Today, I have the pleasure of reviewing the Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Yen Press! Reading this same collection twice in a short period of time has given me a completely different perspective on it.
Let’s take a few steps back before we start. Reading the ADV edition made me realize how far we’ve come with translation – and how far Azuma has come as an artist. The cleaned up art in this edition removes an obstacle to enjoyment. As a result, the story seems less rough this time around.
In this edition, Yen didn’t hesitate for a second – honorifics are in place, names remain unchanged. And you know what? It’s *still* not perfect! ^_^ I’ll get into why that is, in a moment.
Let’s first talk about the story itself. Like Azuma’s current hit, Yotsuba&!, Azumanga Daioh ran in Dengeki Daioh, a magazine for adult men. I mention that because as one reads this story of a group of girls moving through high school, it’s hard to avoid some really obvious issues that, when thought about a shade too long, make one feel creeped out. Chapters begin with alternating pictures of the main cast, some of them of a “pinup” sensibility. And there’s a character who represents the readership – an adult male who obsesses about young women inappropriately and who has no mental filter, so does not hesitate to say what he is thinking. This character, we are later told, is a nice man, but it’s hard to reconcile ourselves to that – unless you’re him. Which the original audience was. Nice guys – who just *happen* to be inappropriately obsessed with young girls = the original audience of Azumanga Daioh. I mention this in case you are not this audience and are reading this book thinking “who thinks this is funny?” The Kimura-senseis who were reading it, that’s who. ^_^;
Aside from this persistent creepiness, the story is pretty realistic. This group has a number of extreme characters, but Japanese comedy is largely made up of extremes. A good (legal, free!) example of this is the live-action Moyashimon, in which screaming and flailing make up a large part of the “comedy” every episode.)
Other people have noted that this is really the story of Chiyo-chan and the girls she befriends. Chiyo-chan is a genius at 10, and has been skipped up to high school. During her three years she meets and becomes friends with the rest of the cast, does school festivals and school trip and field days and other normal activities. Because she is an outsider, it makes sense that most of the people she gathers around her are also outsiders – quiet, serious Sakaki-san, loopy Osaka, hyper Tomo and her childhood friend, Yomi. So these normal, everyday activities are seen through the eyes of not-normal people and thus turned into comedy.
I said at the beginning that despite the skill of the translation it still wasn’t perfect. Here’s why. As you fix the really big things, it becomes easier for us to see the small things. ^_^ So, yes, we have honorifics and names and you did your best with the puns, but now we can see things like the problem with Osaka’s accent.
The problem with Osaka’s accent:
Osaka is a big city, with a lot of businesses and is well-known for being a “foodie” town. It’s not the political capital of Japan – it’s considered the business/finance capital of Japan. The people there speak very fast and very loud and are seen as being really wacky and money obsessed. If anything, Osaka sounds more like New York than anywhere else, IMHO. (And having been there for a total of like 2 hours, I’m obviously an expert. ^_^) I’d say that isn’t far off. I liked Osaka a great deal and I want to get back. So, the joke is that Ayumu, who comes from this crazy, energetic, loud, wacky, busy city is kinda loopy and slow and not at all like “an Osakan.” Got that?
When they brought Ayumu over to America, they translated the *wrong part of the joke.* Yes, Ayumu is slow and laconic. But her accent isn’t. The joke is not that she’s slow and loopy – it’s that she’s from *Osaka* and is slow and loopy. Imagine you’re a kid in Iowa and the teacher says, “Hey, we have a transfer student from New York City” and everyone panics because they’ll be CRAZY and probably pack heat and deal drugs and graffiti and gangs and OMG!!!! And then they walk in and they are like, “Hi….my…name…is….Terry.” and they sort of wander off in the middle of their sentence. That’s Osaka.
By giving Osaka a Southern accent Yen has blown that joke completely to hell, thanks. But, hey, we’re all still working on this translation thing, so I give them credit for trying. Just – get a comedian on staff, okay? You’re obviously all too literal. ^_^
Other than that one thing – I have no complaints at all. This book looks and feels good. It made me laugh and got me a little sniffly at the end, like it was supposed to. It has the one of two cats I can stand in manga (The cat in What’s Michael? is the other) and I still grin and say “heh” in my head upon breaking chopsticks evenly.
Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 4
Service – 4
Overall – 9
My sincere thanks to Yen Press for supplying this copy (and a copy of Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime, which I am now reading and really, really enjoying to my utter shock! I may manufacture a reason to review it, just because it is really original so far.)
And FYI – this books *totally* passes the Bechdel Test.
It’s a funny book, the new edition is solid and despite my little discussion of the accent issue, it’s still a very excellent read. I’ll be donating this copy to the AnimeNEXT traveling Manga Library, so if you can’t buy it or get it at a library near you, look for it at an anime show in your neighborhood! If your library has a Graphic Novel section, why not buy this read it and donate it? It’s a great book to share with others. Then they’ll laugh when they break chopsticks evenly, too.