Okamoto Ippei – Woman’s Hundred Faces – 2 – Kindai Manga Translation

“Woman’s Hundred Faces” – 「女百面相」

from Woman’s Hundred Faces: Film Stories – 『女百面相:映画小説』(1922)

Pt. 2 (pt. 1 here)





Pt. 3, the finale!

Eiga Shōsetsu – Film Stories?

Even naming the form that Ippei’s [manga] take can be a translator’s nightmare, in part because he regards [manga] not even primarily as a visual form but rather as an aesthetic attitude or orientation.  This means that what we see on the page as Ippei’s [comics] can be any of a number of things, even that which seems quite clearly to poach on the visual expression of some “other” form, as above with his use of the film strip as a framing device.  I say that with great hesitation, though, because in Ippei’s work I get the distinct impression that these forms are not meant to be read as “other” at all.  Their purpose is not, strictly speaking, to parody but rather to draw all visual media into a messy domain where distinctions between them are neither hard nor fast.

I have chosen to render eiga shōsetsu as “film story” partially due to the vagueness of the term shōsetsu, which makes no distinction concerning the length of a work of fiction in the way “novel,” “short story,” or “novella” do in English, but also for a more technical reason I will discuss at length below.  In other words, after looking at other, roughly contemporaneous examples of eiga shōsetsu and concluding that this was not a designation Ippei himself had created (as is sometimes the case), I determined that the only appropriate course of action was to be as imprecise as possible, while still giving a general sense that what we are dealing with is a kind of cinematic fiction.

But cinematic how?  Well, first, in that common, metonymic sense in which “film” is often used, as synonymous with what might otherwise be called a “motion picture,” but also in the sense of the material basis of cinema, the strip of celluloid whose presence projection seeks to render invisible but which here is all too apparent.


from Hito no kokoro (1923)

Some “film stories,” such as Hito no kokoro (One’s Heart) above, append large chunks of text to a single still image, resulting in what might otherwise resemble a chapter in a longer story.  The image, then, becomes a kind of illustration for the text, or might easily be read that way in the context of other forms of contemporary fiction illustrated in analogous if not entirely identical ways.  No matter how you parse it, though, it would be clear to the reader from both the subtitle to the book (i.e. eiga shōsetsu) and what one sees on the page that this image is a movie still and not a contemporary photograph.  Other examples use much larger and more numerous stills, with text relegated to the status of captions or, extrapolating somewhat from the contemporary milieu of silent film, the literary equivalent of intertitles.


from Araki Mataemon (1925), story by Ikeda Tomiyasu

Yet even this example from Araki Mataemon does not closely resemble what we see in “Woman’s Hundred Faces.”  Digging a little deeper, I discovered in a screenwriting manual from 1926, Kawazoe Toshimoto’s Eigageki suji to kyakuhon no kakikata (How to Write Scripts and Scenarios for the Screen), an even more technical sense of eiga shōsetsu.  He describes it as that which explains the relationship between script (what appears in the film and intertitles) and continuity (how the film gets edited together), which is to say a “novelization of the film script” (eiga kyakuhon o shōsetsu-ka shita mono [p. 142]).  According to Kawazoe, eiga shōsetsu turns a film and its antecedent texts into a legible, cohesive narrative, which fact sheds even more light on Ippei’s “film stories,” yet still does not explain them in their entirety.

Without clear historical guidance, I labored for quite some time over how exactly to layout Ippei’s text, which, it should be noted, is rather different from what one sees in the collected volume I rely upon.  Yet, I would warn you against taking that presentation as the gospel truth, for it neither resembles what the text looked like in its initial serialization in Fujokai, where the text of each episode ran together in a set of columns, separate from the images, nor does the printed text on any given two page spread always correspond to its image set on the left.  In other words, in the book form of Woman’s Hundred Faces, you have to expend extraordinary effort at times just to determine what is what, often having to flip forward or back 1 to 2 pages in order to find the appropriate text.

My layout, then, is meant to serve two purposes: 1) to ameliorate the unnecessary difficulty that resulted from chopping up the strip and publishing it in book form but also 2) to evoke the appropriate cinematic milieu, namely silent film, through the use of intertitle-like captions.  Moreover, I meant to save myself a nasty bit of work later on, should these ever find their way to print publication, by creating something that works well as a page.  Earlier efforts tried to present the text as another of my manga benshi, but I received the criticism from a number of other translators that the [comic]-ness of the text was getting lost in the presentation, whereas my Ninja bugeichō translations actually heightened it, this despite the approach to each being identical.  It became clear that what I needed to do was not replicate Ippei’s text in one of its extant forms nor one purely of my own invention but rather relate to it in a manner analogous to how his own eiga shōsetsu do not quite resemble other contemporaneous examples of the “form.”

In other words, I had to remember for myself and, more importantly, show how Ippei’s manga represent an aesthetic attitude, not just a visual format, an orientation that has as much to say about how we might approach translation as how we might regard [comic] form.


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