Frederik L. Schodt | フレデリック・L・ショット

Translations — Manga|マンガ|まんが|漫画

The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese Experience in San Francisco, 1904-1924, by Henry Kiyama

『漫画四人書生』--木山義喬(著)

A "documentary comic book" published in San Francisco in 1931, depicting the true adventures of four young Japanese men in America between 1904 and 1924. Written and illustrated by Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama (ヘンリー木山義喬), translated with copious notes and a foreword by Frederik L. Schodt, and published by Stone Bridge Press in 1998 as The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese Experience in San Francisco, 1904-1924.

"These poignant tales of four immigrants in turn-of-the-century San Francisco try for irony in depicting the protagonists' attempts to understand the convoluted whims of their American employers. But the humor hovers near slapstick, and the pie is always in the face of the Caucasians. The illustrations are direct and effective; we see how hard it is for Japanese immigrants to reach the top shelf of an American cupboard. The story is bookended by the dates 1904 and 1924, as in 1924 the immigration laws stiffened and some of the protagonists elected to return to Japan. After 18 years of preparation, this book includes extensive notes historically pinpointing several of the cartoons and an introduction providing an overview of the author/illustrator. Though not quite the first "graphic novel" ever, as it is being touted, this book does have historical significance and belongs in libraries specializing in comics, cartoons, and graphic novels, as well as those focusing on California history, immigrant studies, and the Japanese American experience. The Library Journal More About the Book

Astro Boy, by Osamu Tezuka

『鉄腕アトム』--手塚治虫(著)

Astro Boy, the little boy robot known in Japan as 鉄腕アトム (Tetsuwan Atomu or "Mighty Atom") is the most famous and iconic work of legendary manga artist Osamu Tezuka--Japan's God of Manga. Serialized in manga magazines and in newspapers between 1951 and 1981, Tezuka also turned the story into Japan's first 30" TV animated series in 1963, creating the framework for the entire modern Japanese manga and anime industry. The story was subsequently animated again for television in 1980 (by Tezuka), and also in 2003. In 2009, it was made into a Hollywood-produced theatrical feature, directed by David Bowers. Today Astro Boy remains one of Japan's most beloved manga and anime characters.

Over the years in Japan, the original Mighty Atom manga story has appeared in a variety of compilations and editions. The Dark Horse translation by me of Tezuka's Astro Boy manga is based on Japan's Sunday Comics edition, which is generally regarded as the most complete and authoritative compilation. It consists of twenty-three paperback volumes, with multiple episodes in each volume, most of which are short, and concluding. Tezuka drew the Astro Boy story for boys around ten years old, over a thirty year period. When read today, they not only show Tezuka's extraordinary creativity, but his amazing boldness, for many are shocking in their sophistication, maturity, and prescience about the future. Even adults can enjoy these stories today. For those fascinated by Astro Boy, don't forget to pick up a copy of my The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution. You can also read about him in my book, Dreamland Japan. For extra, super-duper fun, read Naoki Urasawa's spectacular Pluto series, a re-interpretation of a single episode in Vol.3 of the original Astro Boy manga, titled 地上最大のロボット (Chijō saidai no robotto), or "The Greatest Robot on Earth."


Phoenix, by Osamu Tezuka

『火の鳥』--手塚治虫(著)

If there ever was an ambitious and transcendental manga series, this was it. Osamu Tezuka began drawing Phoenix in 1954, and continued drawing it for thirty-five years, almost until the moment he died, in 1989. It was, as he often stated, his ライフ・ワーク (raifu waaku), or "life work." It was his attempt to push the boundaries of what was possible with manga at the time, both intellectually and artistically, and examine the meaning of life. Because the story converges on the present from both the past and the future, it incorporates both history and science fiction, with similar characters appearing in different times in different stories through a form of reincarnation. Central to the story is the semi-mythical and supernatural phoenix, which humans seek in order to gain a type of immortality.

In 1977-78, I worked on translating the first five volumes, as a member of the pioneering group, Dadakai (駄々会, originally composed of Jared Cook, Shinji Sakamoto, and Midori Ueda). At the time, there was no market for Japanese manga in translation, and except for a tiny sample in my 1983 book, Manga! Manga! and also the magazine, Mangajin, these books collected dust in the safe of Tezuka Productions for over a quarter of century. Finally, starting in 2002, the first five volumes were published by San Francisco's Viz Media. At that time, Jared Cook and I began translating the rest of the story, finishing in 2007. Tezuka's entire Phoenix series is therefore now available from Viz Media in English as twelve paperback volumes.

For its time, Tezuka's Phoenix was, in my humble opinion, one of the most amazing comic books, or graphic novels, ever created.

For a good insight into translating Phoenix, check out Alvin Lu's interview in the second volume of the series, Future.


Crime and Punishment. Osamu Tezuka's manga version

『罪と罰』--手塚治虫(著)

Osamu Tezuka created his manga adaptation of the novel of the same name in 1953, while still a medical student and commuting back and forth between Osaka and Tokyo. For someone still then drawing primarily for the young boys' manga market, it was an astoundingly bold subject to tackle. The original Crime and Punishment novel--a classic of Russian literature--was created in 1866 by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and it dealt with very adult subjects of revolution, ideology, madness, prostitution, and murder.

This manga adaptation of the classic is a fun and short read, drawn, without irony, in the cute and endearing style of Tezuka's early days. But it also offers us a wonderful glimpse of how the young Tezuka was pushing the envelop of expression in the manga genre. The English version was serialized in the Student Times weekly, and then published as a book by the Japan Times in 1990. It is, unfortunately, now long out of print, but if you get the chance, for ultimate fun read both the novel and the manga. Here is a review of the manga by D. Merril, on his website, letsanime, from 2012:


PLUTO Naoki Urasawa & Osamu Tezuka/ produced by Takashi Nagasaki

PLUTO 浦沢 直樹 (著), 手塚 治虫 (原著), 長崎 尚志 (プロデュース)

Definitely one of the more amazing manga to be created in the aughts of the new millenium, Pluto is an homage by modern master Urasawa to "God of Manga" Tezuka. This is an eight volume adult manga series, originally serialized in Shogakukan's popular Big Comic magazine, drawn in a realistic style that begs to be turned into a full-blown Hollywood-style theatrical feature or high-end video series. Yet it is also Urasawa's re-imagining and radical expansion of the plot in a single episode of Tezuka's Astro Boy manga (地上最大のロボット (Chijō saidai no robotto), or "The Greatest Robot on Earth"), which was originally designed for young boys.

For ultimate entertainment, read the Astro Boy episode (in volume 3 of the Dark Horse series), then read Urasawa's version. I translated this with good pal Jared Cook, and it was enormously rewarding.


The Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda

『ベルサイユのばら』-- 池田理代子著

Nothing not to like about this lovely shojo, or "girls" manga. The Rose of Versailles is possibly, probably, the most archetypal shojo manga ever created, and certainly one of the most beloved in Japan. It expands on the initial framework established by Tezuka and other male artists in the early sixties, and further developed by the female artists who took over from them. Androgynous and gender-bending beautiful characters, high fashion(!), exotic settings, brilliant visual depictions of inner thoughts, complicated relationships, lotsa romance, and in this case lots of mostly-real history about the French revolution. Riyoko Ikeda started serializing the story in 1972, and when she ended the work was over 1700 pages long, usually sold today as eleven paperbacks or five hardback volumes. The work rocketed to fame in Japan when staged and performed by the all-female Takarazuka theater group, and subsequently has of course spawned TV animation, live action movies, merchandise, bronze statues, and influenced scores of other now-famous artists and imitators, etc., etc.

This is the only manga I have ever translated twice. The first time was around the beginning of 1978. When working for a professional translation company in Tokyo, a request came in for someone to translate the entire manga series lickety-split, not for publication, but simply so that screenwriters in Hollywood--who were to create a scenario to be used by French director Jacques Demy filming British actors in Versailles in a live action film to be shown subtitled into Japanese back in Japan--could understand what the story was all about. With good pal Jared Cook, we whipped out a rough translation in no time flat and turned it in, but we never made a copy. The film was released as Lady Oscar. Great mind- and culture-bending material, if you can locate a copy somewhere. Music is scored by Michel Legrand.

Several years later, around 1980, a small publisher in Tokyo named Sanyusha asked me to translate the work for publication, so they could put out a book for the Japanese market, with endnotes for Japanese fans of the story who wanted to learn English. I obliged, and two volumes were issued in 1980 but then publication appeared because of poor sales.

For years non-Japanese fans of The Rose of Versailles have asked me why it has never been made available in English in North America, and I honestly don't know why. I love the story, and the history behind it, and I learned a lot when translating it.

You can read a short English excerpt of the Rose of Versailles in my book, Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics


Barefoot Gen, Vol. 2 by Keiji Nakazawa

『はだしのゲン』-- 中沢啓治著

In 1977-78, there was one other group of people in Tokyo, in addition to Dadakai, involved in translating manga into English. That was Project Gen, a group of volunteers, both Japanese and foreigners. They were working on Keiji Nakazawa's 『はだしのゲン』 (Hadashi no Gen, or "Barefoot Gen"), a semi-autobiographical story about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Project Gen was initially led by peace activists Masahiro Oshima and Yukio Aki. It was a heroic effort to not only translate, but publish, the multi-volume series and make it available to English readers. In addition to simply wanting more people to read the gripping story, it was part of the global anti-nuclear movement, and the books were initially distributed overseas by both church groups and anti-nuclear groups.

Jared Cook and I were asked to translate the second volume in the series, and it was published in 1978. For many years after that, I was affiliated with Project Gen in the United States, which was headed by dharma buddy Alan Gleason, who served as both editor and translator of several subsequent volumes, and worked valiantly for two decades to keep the project alive.

Early in the new millenium, Barefoot Gen was retranslated by another; generation of volunteers in Japan, and the entire ten volume paperback series was republished in the United States by San Francisco's venerable and revered Last Gasp.

In December, 2012, Keiji Nakazawa passed away of lung cancer. He created many outstanding manga stories, and worked his entire life to let people know about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and the horrors of nuclear weapons. He will be forever missed. For a great interview with Nakazawa, by Alan Gleason, see The Comics Journal, #256, October, 2003. Also read manga scholar Matt Thorn's memorial article on the TCJ website, dated January 1, 2013.

You can read a short English excerpt of Barefoot Gen in my book, Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics A portion of Barefoot Gen, retitled Gen of Hiroshima, was also published by Educomics (run by dear friend, Leonard Rifas) in 1980-81, as two issues of an American-style comic book. In 2013, vol. 2 was still available from Last Gasp.

In Japan, Barefoot Gen has also been made into multiple live action and animated feature films. The original manga is also one of the most widely translated in the world, with editions even in Esperanto.

For those wanting a short taste of Nakazawa's work in what is arguably an even more realistic and powerful format than Barefoot Gen, I recommend the autobiographical 『おれは見た』, published in the United States in 1982 by Educomics as a 48 page, colorized, American comic book-style work, titled I Saw It: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, a Survivor's True Story. Copies can be ordered directly by mail, for $2 plus $3 for postage and handling, at Educomics, Box 45841, Seattle, WA 98145-0831.


Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow

『『攻殻機動隊』-- 士郎正宗著

When Ghost in the Shell first appeared in translation in North America, it created a shockwave. Shirow's tongue-in-cheek cyberpunk story, his effortless draftsmanship, his strong and sexy female heroine, and his detailed depiction of a frighteningly realistic dystopian near-future--all fit perfectly with the pent-up desires of many science fiction fans, or at least mine!

The work was first issued in American comic book style, then compiled into paperback. Here's the blurb used by Dark Horse Comics--the initial publisher-- on the paperback edition.

In a world where the human min can be programmed like a computer, at what point does the human soul end and the cybernetic machinery begin?

What does it mean to be human?

From Masamune Shirow, the creator of Appleseed, Orion, and Dominion: Tank Police. An epic, dystopian tale of politics, covert operations, and cyborgs with too much attitude.

I frankly think that this was one of the best jobs of packaging English-language manga done in the mid-1990s, before the huge mass market manga boom, and before publishers figured out that they could actually get away without putting much effort into localizing their productions. This was a left-to-right production, chosen for and tailored to the tastes of American comic book fans by the late Toren Smith, of the legendary manga packaging company, Studio Proteus. I did the core translation for Toren, who then edited, massaged, and carefully stylized the text. Lettering was done by the awesome Tom Orzechowski and Susie Lee. And the book was designed by Lynn Adair.

Currently, Ghost in the Shell is published in the United States by Kodansha Comics.

Don't forget to watch the fabulous Ghost in the Shell anime, by Mamoru Oshii, and also to check out my Ambient Masamune Shirow Space web page, and the interview with Shirow.

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