Manga in Translation: Missing Masterpieces

Digital Manga made a Kickstarter appeal for funding to reprint Osamu Tezuka’s manga Swallowing the Earth. Yesterday the $3,950 total was surpassed with 23 days to run.

One might ask, as blog Manga Worth Reading did despite their support for the initiative, why a professional publisher would need to turn to fans to raise funding for a project whose only costs will be paper and printing. The biggest upfront costs – translation and origination – don’t impact reprints unless a book carries forward losses. One must, however, be glad that a remarkable book by an author whose adult works remain largely unexplored will soon be back on the market.

Over on Twitter, manga critic Deb Aoki greeted the news with a question: what other classic/niche titles would you like to see? Restricting myself to reprints of titles already translated, both in the spirit of the question and to short-circuit my usual rant about the need for an English-language edition of Tezuka’s Barbara, here are three lost masterpieces I’d love to see revived.

Of course, there are many more – what would your choices be?

Covr © Riyoko Ikeda, Sanyusha

1) The Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda, translated by Frederik L. Schodt

OK, my including this is a cheat. It was never meant for the native English-speaking market. It was published in 1983 as a teaching aid for Japanese students of English.

I don’t care.

The only quibble I have about this amazing book is that Schodt only got to translate the first two volumes. I’d like to see them reprinted as the first stage in a project to get the whole of The Rose of Versailles out in English. Until then, Kana have a nice three-volume edition in French from Amazon France or Amazon Canada.

2) Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida

Japan’s view of New York, crooked politicians and cover-ups, the fascination of a good bad boy and what it’s like to go down the mean streets as a tourist and find oneself part of the action: Yoshida’s heady brew reminds us that shojo manga can go far beyond pretty. That’s one of the reasons why shojo translations worked such magic in the moribund English-language girls’ comic market and why I love this book so much. 19 volumes, out of print at Viz, long overdue for a revival.

3) What’s Michael? by Makoto Kobayashi

Out of print from both Dark Horse and Eclipse, and richly deserving of another outing, this charmer is an ideal gateway drug for people who don’t like manga, but adore Snoopy or Garfield – or, come to that, LOLCats. Slice-of-life observations of human-cat interaction mixed with off-the-wall fantasy and sly glances at the absurdities of 80s pop culture. Kobayashi’s funky feline made his home debut in 1984 and began English-language serialisation in 2000. He deserves another chance to strut his stuff.

14 thoughts on “Manga in Translation: Missing Masterpieces

  1. I’ve got some volumes of What’s Michael, I wish I could get the them all! I’ve spoken to people over the years who like me are really keen to get more copies of this title. I’m sure with Chi’s Sweet home they’ve proved that there is a modern market for cat themed manga!

      • My tastes are very eclectic. I’m not into one particular genre of anime or manga. I generally go for high quality titles, or something with that something extra, or unusual, or something that I’m sentimental about.

        I’d also like some stuff that’s never been in print. Like Mai Mai Miracle! ^_-

        I’m going on a nostalgia kick at the moment.

        The old Saban release of Samurai Pizza Cats (not the original Cat Ninja Legend Teyandee) I actually want the cheesy American remake.

        I really want to see a special edition of Flight of Dragons. They gave the Last Union the special edition treatment, but the US Flight of Dragons DVD release is very basic.

        What’s really screaming out for a reprint is Emma by Kaoru Mori. I missed it first time around, it was one of those titles I wanted to buy, but always at back of my list. Now it’s out of print second hand copies are expensive. With A Bride’s Story there’s even more interest in Kaoru Mori’s work, so I don’t think they’d have any trouble selling copies of Emma.

  2. Since we can only choose “reprints”, my vote is for Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura to finally get the English-language edition it deserves. Of course, since the rules seem a bit bendy, my other vote is for Osamu Tezuka’s Crime & Punishment – it was printed in a bilingual edition in 1990 (also by Fred Schodt) 😉

    • Well, the point of Deb’s question was reprints, but what the heck, go for a list of manga you’d like to see make their English-language debut! Here’s two for starters: Ashibe’s ‘Crystal Dragon’ and TEZUKA’S ‘BARBARA’!!!!

      • I’ve read Barbara in French… it totally matches up with Vertical’s style. I’d like to see them alternate releases between Tezuka’s “mature” and his “fun for everyone” works. So, since Book of Human Insects and Princess Knight came out, and Message to Adolf is next… I say Jungle Emperor, Barbara and then W3 (Wonder Three).

      • I’d like to see a cheap English edition of Tezuka’s ‘Norman’. The pre-teen boy market just can’t get enough stories that will keep boys reading.

        Wouldn’t it be great if some philanthropist would put up the money to run a big weekly/fortnightly English version of a Japanese kids’ manga anthology for a pocket-money price – say a couple of quid? There’s a ton of reprintable material, not just in Japan but worldwide, and the educational and entertainment value would be massive. I remember racing to the shop on the day my favourite comics came out to grab them and devour them. Imagine if seven to ten year olds could get that same experience with a wide variety of comics made for them, instead of just overpriced TV-advertising mags?

  3. All three are excellent choices Helen and I’d probably would’ve picked those myself. Reminded I picked up the first volume of Banana Fish when it came out but never did continued past that volume, shame that I didn’t buy anymore back then since I thought it was quite unique.

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  5. Nodame Cantabile from Del Rey. I was hoping Kodansha USA would pick it up, but no. I wouldn’t feel right giving them money over kickstarter, either, since they’re linked to big book publishers.

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