Sunday, August 19, 2007


It's been too long since I've done one of these posts. This, though, as the title says, is just a brief note. I can't do a full set of notes for vol. 17 until I can borrow a copy from the library, but flipping through a copy at my local bookstore I noticed one important difference between the original and the translation. I can't discuss it without revealing a major spoiler involving Akito; so don't proceed unless you've read at least through Chapter 98 (the third chapter in vol. 17).

Some people may have come across this post via a search engine, without seeing either of the "cuts." And since the book just came out and this is a major, major spoiler, I'll leave some spoiler space.


In Tokyopop's edition, in the pages immediately preceding Kureno's revelation that Akito is female, he repeatedly uses masculine pronouns when speaking of her. So does Shigure (on p. 70), who also knows the truth about Akito. Even after Kureno tells Tohru Akito is a girl, he calls her "him" on p. 97. Not only is this inconsistent on Kureno's part, it may make readers question whether Akito really is female. In the Japanese original, Kureno never refers to Akito by the Japanese equivalent of "he" or "him," and says nothing which would imply that Akito is male.

In fairness to the translators, it's a lot harder in English than it is in Japanese to have someone talk at length about someone else, avoid revealing their gender, and still sound natural. Japanese, like English, has third-person pronouns, but they are used much less frequently than their English counterparts. Most often, the person being talked about is left to be inferred from the context. For instance, in the sixth panel on p. 70 Kureno says in English: "I couldn't leave him." In the Japanese, he says "Tsukihanasu nante dekinai," which translated word-for-word is "forsake anything-like cannot." (Note that this sentence is missing a subject as well as an object.) It's also much more common in Japanese than in English to use the person's name, rather than a pronoun, something Kureno also does in these pages.

Still, this is such a crucial point that I would have preferred it if the translators had avoided having Kureno speak of Akito in male terms, even if the result is somewhat unnatural-sounding. (I only noticed one spot where it would be really awkward.) And the references on p. 97 to Akito as "him" were presumably just mistakes.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007


In my last post I said that I had hated the Christopher Nolan-directed movie The Prestige but that was a story for another day. Today is that day. Like a science fiction monster that takes on the form of what it devours, the film superficially resembles Christopher Priest's novel, but on the inside it's pure Hollywood: the sets, the acting, and above all the dialogue, which is full of confrontations staged to make a point and fake "emotional moments."

That alone would be enough to make me dislike the film, but I have other problems with it as well. They're spoilery, and hence below the fold.

I don't object to the movie's reordering of the plot, though contra Abigail Nussbaum, this doesn't make its story better than the book's, it just makes it a different kind of story. Nor do I object in principle to turning Angier into a murderer, although I wasn't convinced by his transformation as shown in the film. But his being so obsessed with revenge upon Borden that he's willing to not only risk murdering Borden's assistant Fallon -- who as far as Angier knows is entirely innocent -- but kill himself up to one hundred times just to set a trap for Borden? Sorry, but I can't buy that.

In addition, the movie makes a change in the Borden plot which creates two plot holes. In Priest's book, the two Bordens are never seen together, even for a moment. It is this that makes their sharing one life necessary, as Angier deduces: the "out" Borden swaps places with the other Borden each time the trick is performed, and there's no opportunity for them to switch back until the next performance. In the movie the duplicate Borden, disguised as Fallon, is regularly seen with the undisguised Borden. This eliminates any need, except perversity, for them to share "Borden's" life and Sarah's bed. Also, wouldn't someone figure out that Fallon is Borden's double in disguise?

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007


An explanation of the ending of The Prestige (the book) below the fold. Spoilers, obviously.

First of all, the man in the vault is Rupert Angier. To be precise, he is the reunion of the "spectral" Angier with the corpse of the "corporal" Angier, as the former describes at the end of Part Four. This is shown by the fact that the handwriting on the label of Nicky's prestige is Angier's.

Second, and more importantly, the prestiges in the vault are not dead, but, in Andrew Westley's words, "frozen in life, made inert without being made dead" (from Part Five, section 4). That Nicky's prestige can communicate with Andrews means that Nicky's mind is still inside, and presumably the same is true of Angier's prestiges.

I've seen complaints that Angier's section overshadows Borden's, but the ending makes it clear that this is intentional: Angier is the principal protagonist, and Borden the secondary protagonist.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Haphazard, spoiler-laden thoughts on Fruits Basket vol. 20 (chapters 114-119) below the fold.

Almost my first reaction to the volume, before I even started reading it per se, was "Oh my God, is that Tohru? She's grown! When did that happen?" (This was prompted by the shot of Tohru on page 10.) And, looking back at vol. 19, her maturation still seems rather sudden. But I'm not opposed to Tohru's new look in itself, though I suppose this is the "new style" I've seen people complain about.

One of the difficulties in reading Fruits Basket is figuring out who is saying or thinking what. Reading vol. 20 a second time really helped me in this respect. I'll record my conclusions here, for the benefit of those still perplexed (or who may wish to take issue):

1. The text printed against a black background on pages 49, 59 and 60 are Akito's thoughts. I think so, anyway: I'm not entirely sure, but I can't think of any other possibility that makes sense, and the black-background text in Chapters 117 and 118 is clearly Akito's thoughts.

2. The narration in ordinary boxes in Chapter 115, beginning on p. 50, is Kureno's. (The first time around I thought it was Ren's, but in panel 1 on p. 52, it refers to Ren as "kanojo" ("she").)

3. On p. 69, the balloon in the first panel is Akito's and the others are all Momiji's. (The first time around, I also failed to grasp that in the last three pages of this chapter, the panels with Akito and the panels with Momiji are separate scenes, and that Akito is woken by psychically sensing Momiji's curse being lifted.)

4. Even though Takaya does tend to put very small tails on her word balloons, I'm pretty sure that the almost-invisible mark on the upper right border of the first balloon in the last panel of p. 139 is just a stray bit of ink, and both balloons in this panel are spoken by Ren.

5. The text in boxes on pp. 164-168 is Kyou's thoughts.

Until I read this discussion, and especially this comment, I missed the significance of Akito's shocked appearance in the last panel of p. 124. But I'm afraid I still don't feel sorry for the adult Akito. Yes, she had an unhappy childhood. Yes, her upbringing was twisted and messed her up psychologically. But she's not so messed up as to not be responsible for her actions, and these actions were evil. She deliberately tried to break the juunishi down psychologically by playing on their weaknesses, to prevent them from being happy with anyone but her.

Events in Fruits Basket cast long shadows before them. One example is Tohru's realization that she loves Kyou (though unless I'm mistaken, she still hasn't actually said "I love him," even to herself). To anyone familiar with the symbolism of shoujo, the last page of vol. 18 was a dead giveaway that Tohru loved Kyou, even if she didn't realize it yet. But even before that, in vol. 13 (which I've been rereading in preparation for the next batch of translation notes) there are plenty of signs of how the Tohru's developing feelings for Kyou.

But a more dramatic example is Kureno's stabbing. This took me completely by surprise; and, judging from the reactions I've read on the web, so were most readers. And yet Kureno's death was foreshadowed as early as vol. 2, long before Kureno even appeared. On p. 40 (Tokyopop edition) of that volume, we read this narration: "Whether good or ill will come of this venture even God doesn't know." The leftmost panel shows a close-up of a dead bird -- one that resembles the dead bird on p. 153 of vol. 20 (though they're not identical). And as a further connection between the scene in vol. 2 and vol. 20, on the same page Akito says: "After all, I'm asking for the unattainable." (My own translation, because Tokyopop's translation is wrong; the Japanese is "Douse boku wa naimononedari sa.") And on pp. 129-30 of vol. 20, Akito thinks: "from the beginning I was asking for the unattainable." (In Japanese, "hajime kara naimononedari datta koto.")

I deliberately said "Kureno's death." When I first read the volume, the possibility that Kureno might not be dead didn't even occur to me. In fact, I thought that the dead bird Arisa and Ayase found was Kureno, who had somehow regained the ability to transform with his imminent death. These threads made me look again, and now I realize that the bird can't be Kureno. I still think Kureno is dead, though. The scene with the dead bird in vol. 20 implies his death so strongly that it would feel like cheating on Takaya's part for him to turn out to be alive. And we saw him deliberately walk away from potential help -- presumably his way of "taking responsibility" for the way Akito turned out. Moreover, the foreshadowing described in the preceding paragraph would make no sense if Kureno were to be merely injured.

One very interesting thing Takaya does in this volume is to set up parallels between Kyou's story in ch. 119 and Akito's story in the preceding four chapters. Some are verbal: both accuse other characters of betraying them, and both claim at one point that something is not their "sei": a word that in this context can mean both "fault" and "responsibility." Some are visual: the placing of the character's thoughts against a black background, and the symbolic splattering of blood on the page (pp. 130-31, 184), a fascinating variation on the traditional shoujo rose symbolism. These similarities point to a deeper similarity: both Akito and Kyou cut themselves off from a character who wants to rescue them, though they do so in completely different ways and for different reasons. Of course, all these similarities only emphasize the enormous differences between Akito and Kyou.

The reservations about ch. 119 which I mentioned here have nothing to do with any of this, but rather with the sheer improbability of the chapter. It didn't bother me to learn that Yuki had met Tohru as a young girl, long before he began going to school "outside," or that Kyou had known Tohru's mother. But that Kyou, after not having seen Kyouko for several years, ran into her by chance just in time to witness her death, is just too much of a coincidence. It may seem strange that I'd be criticizing improbability in a manga about people who turn into animals, but it's easier for me to accept outright fantasy than excessive coincidence. (It's conceivable that Kyou's running into Kyouko then will turn out not to be a coincidence, but the result of some mystical connection between Kyouko and the Sohmas, and that again is something I would accept more easily.)

In my main blog, I haven't had comments. Here I'm going to allow comments on selected posts, including this one. PLEASE don't include spoilers for anything after vol. 20 (ch.119 for those who read the chapters as they come out). I haven't seen later chapters, and I don't want to know anything about them until I can read them for myself. Also, I suppose I should say for the record that I reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason, though I don't anticipate having to do so very often.

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