Posted on May 21, 2020
Recently, manga translator Jocelyne Allen joined us for two livestreams to talk about Akino Kondoh's autobiographical series "Noodling in New York." The comics depict Akino sampling new foods, meeting a friend's cat, struggling with English, and navigating life between two cultures -- a familiar challenge for many of our students.
Jocelyne's Manga Reading Recommendations
Downfall by Inio Asano, which I mentioned in the first session, is a depressing look at the inner workings of the manga industry and how capitalism affects art.
Our Dreams at Dusk is a beautiful series written by a non-binary artist, an LGBTQ coming-of-age story with a wide cast of queer characters.
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness [translated by Jocelyne Allen!-Eds.] and the sequels are very powerful memoir comics about mental illness and sexuality. They’re hard to read at times, but so worth it.
Rokudenashiko’s memoir comic What is Obscenity? is a great look into double standards for men and women and the freedom of expression.
Junji Ito’s adaptation of the Osamu Dazai novel No Longer Human is pretty powerful, too.
Saint Young Men is a fun look at religion in modern society, with Jesus and Buddha as roommates in a crummy Tokyo apartment.
What Did You Eat Yesterday? is part cooking manga/part slice-of-life story about a middle-aged gay couple trying to navigate a world that’s not always welcoming.
More Q & A With Jocelyne
The responses below came from two live events we hosted with our friend at Re-imagining Migration: #LunchGlobally at 1 pm on May 18th and #TeaGlobally at 5 pm on May 20th. If you're interested in attending future events, sign up for our mailing list here.
From Adam Strom of Re-Imagining Migration: How mainstream is the manga scene in Japan? Are they read like more traditional forms of literature?Manga is quite mainstream in Japan. It's sold in pretty much every bookstore, and there are many, many more genres than what gets translated into English. There is fiction manga of a wide variety of genres, and autobiographical and non-fiction manga on various life experiences ranging from child-rearing to alcoholism to living as a queer person. There’s really a niche for every reader. So yes, they’re seen as another form of literature, essentially.
These sound effects are actually a really integral part of Japanese. A wide variety of noise words are used in regular conversation in Japanese, which is part of what makes them so hard to translate. For instance, “shin” is the sound of silence, but it is also used as a word for “silence”. But when it’s in the background of a panel of manga to indicate how silent the room is, an English reader expects some sort of sound word and not just the word “silence” spelled out. The sound effects are part of the art, but they’re also part of the language, so there’s a fine line to walk there in how best to convey this dual meaning. As always with translation, it depends on the context and the intended audience.
From Leann Stover Nyce of the Plymouth Friends Meeting School in Philadelphia: I am so impressed with your ability to translate. I am curious about your own immigrant experience in Japan. I am imagining it was quite a learning curve.It was a very steep learning curve! I didn’t speak more than a handful of words (think “hello” and “my name is”) before I moved to Japan, so it was definitely tough going for the first couple of years. I taught at a junior high school, and the English teachers I worked with were about the only people in town who spoke any English, which meant that I was forced to learn Japanese whether I liked it or not. I was fortunate enough to have a workplace that helped me set up the basics of life (apartment, bank account, etc.), but they mostly did for me rather than actually help me, so when I moved away to a larger city, I was forced to figure almost everything out again from square one. I’m also a vegetarian, which was very uncommon at the time in Japan and especially in rural Japan, so I had a lot of unwelcome food mishaps. Unsurprisingly, the better my Japanese got, the easier my life became. I moved to Tokyo, got an office job, and began the shift into full-time translation. Now Tokyo feels more like home than Toronto.