This is the first in my ongoing series of translations of kindai manga from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, beginning with the work of Kitazawa Rakuten. Unless otherwise noted, the originals are taken from the Rakuten zenshū published in 1931 by Atorie-sha, though they originally appeared throughout Rakuten’s earlier periodical work.
Having recently completed one lengthy critical, pseudo-academic book project, I had thought that I’d be well on my way to something new and different, more creative, less taxing of my thought processes, but then I casually started reading Andrew Cunningham’s translation of Anno Moyoko’s (or Moyoco, if we must) Bikachō shinshi kaikoroku as Memoirs of […]
I am not going to get into an extensive post mortem of [Comics] as Reading at this time. I do not yet have the distance from it to accurately assess whether I believe now that it was worth the while or how I should have approached things differently. I will say, on a purely visceral level, that I am far more satisfied, emotionally that is, with this effort than many of my previous endeavors.
It is a question incumbent upon you—not some hypothetical “you” but rather you reading this statement at this moment—to answer, even if only imperfectly and provisionally, and that answer may very well guide you toward vectors of understanding I have yet to see or may never see. For Rakuten’s [comics] mirror within, with many facets, as well as without, to a larger world as well as to yourself as reader, because the many potential readings his [comics]—really all [comics] and therefore all texts—seem to anticipate are only there insofar as you are primed and willing to see them.
The question of textual subjectivity, then, is not distinct from questions of reality or, if we must, ontology. The contradiction of being subject of one’s own experiences while being also the object of others’, of understanding how texts are both embedded in an array of media while also manifesting that array in part, finds a satisfying if still imperfect resolution in this reading of Mizuki’s-after-Bechdel’s text, in a mutual reality. This reality in which [comic] and human subjects might co-exist is neither strictly empirical—though it can be observed—as with something purely objective, nor strictly subjective, in that it is solely a conceptual construct superimposed upon the material encountered in the world. It is mutual, because it is shared and therefore depends upon our invigorating it and investing it both with that which we are and that which we presume others to be. It is not dependent upon us, though, or a particular subset of us, since it has the potential to live and breathe anywhere it might forge or be used to forge interconnections among us.
[Editorial Note – Today’s post apparently coincides with the third anniversary of the existence of this blog. Hurray? Anyway, I have to apologize for the interval between when I finished posting chapter 4 and now, but I was just not satisfied with what I had originally written, and so proffer this much longer and hopefully […]
Nimona, then, is a clear example of [comics]-as-web, a mode of [re]production in texts whose many historical iterations make apparent how textuality is not merely an empirically observable and objectively verifiable essence to be deciphered (even if, in the particulars, we might still observe and verify, as, admittedly, I have here) but rather as an interpretive construct, an ongoing project of re-arrangement and contextualization in which texts develop, in time, as they are read and re-read both by human subjects and as a function of frameworks in which they come to be embedded and re-inscribed.