Mononoke is for many, once even for myself, a sacred object, a relic that embodies a transcendent anime ideal and to which, much like the bones of martyrs, the “true fan” must pay obeisance after a long pilgrimage. Even now with my ideological misgivings I have to admit that the film is breathtakingly beautiful, its pacing clear and direct–it tells its story well. But the question as to whether it’s a good story, one that bears the ceremonious retelling that an anniversary would seem to demand, remains an open question.
There were–and remain–then, two forms of sexual expression that were both mandated and directly overseen by the Imperial (now “democratic”) state: motherhood and prostitution. With motherhood, the state controlled the means of reproduction, the means by which imperial subjects were created and inculcated with certain values. Prostitution was sanctioned by the state in order to appease the all male military and keep them in line. Stability in the military was important given the frequency with which splinter factions within it mounted insurrections meant to “restore the Emperor,” a polite euphemism for “our ruling on his behalf.”
As the result of a recent spike in traffic, despite me not having posted anything in quite some time, I noticed, through the wonders of analytics, that a MOOC which shall remain nameless had identified me as a critic of Frenchy Lunning or, more specifically, as a critic of her conception of “the shōjo,” which I have to cop to, since the evidence for it is as plain as day. This identification also caused me to wonder whether it had anything to do with Professor Lunning putting in an appearance in the comments a full three years after the post to which she was responding had been posted, though, I suppose, it could just have been a coincidence.
In the spirit of translative promiscuity, letting no one way of doing things become an ossified norm, I thought this week I might make use of a selection of translated single page manga from Rakuten’s oeuvre to illustrate an argument in that way that used to be my weekly habit not so long ago.
It is, perhaps, a bit unfair, even if useful and necessary sometimes, to pick apart someone else’s translation, to linger creepily over its supposed faults, and generally slap it about with the sloppy phallus of your smug superiority. I myself only started to eschew these bouts of accusatory dick-waving once I had spent a considerable […]
There is quite a bit to unpack in this week’s offerings, so I’ll leave my commentary for next week. For now, I hope you enjoy the [comic]!
When thinking about how to approach this translation, it occurred to me that I am somewhat blessed in having Rakuten’s own tri- and bi-lingual manga to work from, to see how he works multiple sets of text into his [comics] (often haphazardly), so as to free myself, as he does, from a slavish devotion to sense in order to work from the perspective of effect. The original of this text is, of course, entirely in Japanese, yet its translation by my own hand would not be out of place with any of Rakuten’s bilingual manga.
On their surface, Ippei’s film stories might be read as quaint domestic comedies, fodder for the much maligned and quite often stereotyped pedestrian predilections of bored housewives, and a superficial understanding of women’s magazines in prewar Japan would certainly buttress that reading. However, the historical print milieu in which Ippei’s manga quite often found itself was neither decidedly middle brow nor exclusively for women, even if the print matter where they appeared was a woman’s magazine. In fact, given what is readily apparent about the kinds of stories regularly published in newspapers and magazines, it is entirely possible that Ippei’s manga aspired to a certain high literary status.
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.” 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.
Pre-war manga, like pre-war modernism, requires us as readers to shed most if not all our presumptions about what Japanese [comics] are, to rethink them from the ground up in a manner than is neither clichéd nor dwells obsessively on well worn tropes, as so much thinking about manga as style does nowadays.