28 January 2014

Good-bye Punpun

Here it is, folks. Say good night and good-bye to Punpun, which draws to an end after 13 volumes. I believe there are some slight dialogue differences and minor changes including one double-page spread in the tankoban release compared to the magazine version, so even if you've read the raws already, it might be interesting to take a look at the release. Now, incoming OPINIONS, so if you couldn't care less about that, I'll give you the dl links here:   Mega;   Sendspace  (another reminder that I do have a mega now where you can download almost everything I've worked on)

Goodnight Punpun is a project I've spent almost 4 and a half years on, and scanlating it has definitely been a memorable experience. To be frank, I don't think I was ready to tackle it when I did. I was still quite new to translating, and I had never debinded nor scanned manga myself before. The lack of experience clearly shows in v2-5 through the poor scans, typesetting, awkward phrasing, and even some name mix-ups such as Yagura/Yaguchi (I will release re-done scanlations of v2-5 once I finish up Joe this year). Still, it wasn't such a big deal back then since the fanbase was too small to care. There was a time when I could post a new Punpun chapter on /a/ and get 0 replies. Since then, it's grown to be the most popular manga I've translated, which is evident from the number of times people have asked me when the next release is, no matter how many times I try to make it clear on my blog about release dates. Though I've always gotten each volume done within about 2 weeks of getting the raws, it clearly wasn't quick enough for many people, and I've even received some hate for "laziness" in not blitzing out releases from the magazine raws. Far from being exasperated by these responses, I've come to realize that Asano Inio's done something quite special with Punpun to attract such a devoted readership.

So what is it about Punpun that's engrossed so many people? It's not without its flaws, after all. I mean, there was quite a radical shift in tone from v3, almost as if Asano changed his mind about the kind of story he wanted to tell. There was some aimless meandering, especially with regards to the cult side-plot, which left me wondering what was even the point. Also, Asano still tends to overdo it with the black boxes with white text that jarringly interrupts the narrative. And the main character isn't even properly drawn! He's just a doodle! ...But these ordinarily detracting aspects seem to work in favour of Goodnight Punpun. The radical shift in tone from dark comedy to just dark tragedy merely accompanied the narrative shift to the adult Yuuichi, and by the time it switches back, Punpun's childhood is over, and he's forced to face life's harsh realities. Meanwhile, Punpun being drawn basically as a doodle paradoxically allows for more creative expressiveness, as exemplified by his pyramid-head or devil-head forms. Their lack of facial features also functions like a blank slate to give room for the reader to project his own imagination on Punpun's emotional state. Even the black box dialogues actually work for Punpun, deprived of actual dialogue bubbles, who has his otherworldly form complemented by these black boxes which further serves to place a distance between him and those around him.

But minor complaints aside, I think the manga's both greatest strength and weakness is the central character Punpun. From what I've seen, people seem to largely fall into two camps. One side, as exemplified by Saibara Rieko and her humorous comments in v4 of Jinsei Garyoku Taiketsu, sees Punpun as the overly-dramatic, woe-is-me youngster-douchebag who's too much of a coward to take real control of his life. The other side is those who can actually empathize with Punpun, usually through similarity of personality and/or experiences, and can understand why Punpun often makes things so hard on himself. If you're in the former camp, I doubt you could have stuck around long enough to finish this manga. But if you've got a little Punpun and God inside you, as I certainly do, this is a story that's likely to stick with you for a long time.

The last thing I want to touch on is the ending. I can imagine the general reception to it being... lukewarm? Maybe even depressing? Personally, I think it's uplifting. As happy as an ending a story of this kind can get. Both Punpun and Yuuichi are social misfits. For them, the act of living is like an outsider passively staring in at the world through a window. Even when they form relationships, there's always a window, a barrier that prevents them from feeling like they're an active participant of that very relationship instead of a passive receiver. Their self-consciousness only makes them feel more out of place, and to be "normal" couldn't be any more unnatural. But what really is "normal" anyways? I think that's a key question this manga brings up, which is asked to readers at both the beginning and the end of the story. Many of the characters are seemingly normal but they're only putting up a facade, while other characters are usually normal, and yet they exhibit very abnormal behaviours under stress. It's a question that almost all the central characters wonder, from Seki to Sachi to even Harumi, despite his lack of page-time. Punpun and Yuuichi, in particular, both sink further and further into depression when agonizing over how abnormal and consequently worthless they are, which leads them to embrace their deviancy momentarily. But to fail, be rejected, hurt, angry, or upset are all just a normal part of the human experience and not necessarily something unique that they've been unfairly burdened with. By the story's end, both of them have learned not to fuss over what "normal" is and merely take things one step at a time, which brings them relief and hope as defined in their own way. I feel that what Asano's trying to tell any introverts or those suffering from depression who may be reading his story is to not let your self-consciousness agonize over how far you've deviated from normalcy, and to just take things one small step at a time. You may not achieve the idealized happiness that society imposes, nor even the lofty dreams you've once imagined for yourself, but it will lead to a better future than the present prison.

Of course, these are merely my interpretations and I can only speak for myself. So instead of the usual thank-you comments, I would quite appreciate hearing what you thought about the series as a whole or about its ending.

P.S. Thank you Entropy-Scans and Mangascreener for originally starting this project, as well as the generous anonymous who provided me with scans from v6-13. Lastly, a thank you to gar expert, for dumping the first few chapters so many years ago on /a/ and introducing me to Punpun.

Goodnight Punpun v13:   Mega;   Sendspace

11 January 2014

Black Museum Springald

As I hinted in my previous post, the new 1-volume project between Happyscans and me is done, and it's called Black Museum Springald. If you're French or Italian and am disappointed that I've translated yet another manga already available in your native language, then fuck you, go translate some shit for us Anglophones. In any case, it's a Fujita Kazuhiro (Ushio & Tora, Karakuri Circus)  manga about Spring-Heeled Jack. I am a fan of Fujita and I've been meaning to translate something by him for quite a while now. Moonlight Act was ruled out since it was too long and still an ongoing series while I didn't care for the way Karakauri Circus' story developed, so I originally planned to do Wicked Eyes Fly to the Full Moon, but just a week before I started, Evil Genius beat me to the punch. Fortunately, a kind anonymous linked me to the raws for Springald shortly after, which I had been then unaware of, all the way back when I still had my fluffypress site for releases. It's just taken me many years to actually get around to translating it. 
Now, I quite like Fujita's art for mainly two reasons. The deliciously insane expressions and his rough linework in key "impact scenes," which gives a great raw feeling. Very stylish. It's similar to why I like Hirano Kouta's art, though he has smoother linework and makes more use of high-contrast shading. Now I mention Hirano because there is one panel in Springald (shown below) where Fujita's art very much resembles his. 
Oh, what I would give for Fujita to do more scenes in that high-contrast style with thick, bold lines. But oh well, I still enjoy his stuff even without it. Enjoy the manga, folks!

As for Punpun, the poll seems to be pretty clear. Full volume on January 31. Don't bother me until then about it.

Black Museum Springald:   Mega;   Sendspace

6 January 2014

Snow White and other Grimm-Like Fairy Tales

I intended to have this done by New Year's but oh well, at least it's finally done! I hope you enjoyed your first taste of Morohoshi Daijirou. Feel free to tell me which stories you've particularly enjoyed. His other works Personal Illustrated Reference of Fish and Birds which I mentioned before here, contain a similar range of sci-fi, comedy, mystery, fantasy oneshots along the same line as this book, so I eventually intend to get around to those in due time as well (assuming no one else beats me to it). That's it for now. Expect another new 1-volume project to be out in late-January (hopefully).

Also, based Illuminati-manga said they'd pick up Umibe so everyone can now (hopefully) shut the fuck up about it.

Sneewittchen and other Grimm-Like Fairy Tales:   Mega;   Sendspace
Sneewittchen c10-12:   Sendspace