- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing (October 4, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 156970208X
- ISBN-13: 978-1569702086
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.5 x 7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #900,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Demon City Shinjuku: The Complete Edition (Novel) Paperback – October 4, 2011
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It's for good reason that Kikuchi abandoned all the characters that show up in this work aside from the brilliant Dr. Mephisto since you can find their ilk in any volume of action oriented boys manga, but those same reasons have undoubtedly inspired him to include his unintentionally ironic vision of what at the time was near-future Shinjuku in something like 2/3 of his written works.
Unfortunately the lousy localization job that Digital Manga Publishing did on this book took it from the relatively mediocre (compared to Kikuchi's later works) to the outright abysmal, and their slapdash efforts with Yashakiden (see my lamentation of a review of the 5th and final volume of that series for more details) have quite possibly consigned the rest and best of Demon City Shinjuku to the other side of the Pacific for good.
At this point in the review I almost hate to pick up picking on Eugene Woodbury, the translator, from my review of Yashakiden volume 5 (which I wrote a couple hours ago), but even though his background gives me no reason to doubt his intimacy with either the Japanese or English languages, and at that rate the caliber of human being he must be, the projects he's worked on with DMP leave me questioning his ability to put his own ego as a writer aside to the degree required to pleasantly render Kikuchi into English.
I myself am not even enough of a linguist to accurately convey the quandaries that Kikuchi places his prospective translators into, but hopefully if I say it comes down to the difference between relaying what someone is saying and trying to explain WHY they might have said it in the first place you'll be able to comprehend the issues Kikuchi presents. Put another way, Kikuchi's dialogue is by no means his strength, but at the same time it's by far the most straight forward part of his works to translate (making the incoherent dialogue in DMP's English rendition of this work all the more mind boggling). On the other hand Kikuchi's prosaic narrative passages, his descriptions both of the engaging atmosphere his beguiling characters are ignoring the majesty of and the intense violence which functions as the engine that propels his works to greatness, are at once what define him as a writer and prove to be the stoutest obstacles to rendering his works in English. Of course the greatest irony of all this is that Kikuchi has far more western sensibilities than the average Japanese writer. I'm at a loss to compare him to a modern English writer (definitely not Stephen King, if anybody's the Japanese version of King it's probably Banana Yoshimoto), but even though I've been called crazy for making the comparison, Kikuchi always puts me in mind of Byron, only better.
I would say the opposite, that their strength is dialogue and their weakness is imagery, of just about any other Japanese writer that's found popularity in English. Haruki Murakami (who in the first place is probably the most American man to ever emerge from Japan's "student protests" scene) in particular essentially writes glorified monologues that work even more brilliantly in English than they do in Japanese DESPITE how hard Jay Rubin tries to inject himself into the translations (if you have money to burn grab his nearly unreadable translated collection of works by Akutagawa to see what I mean, I like Alfred Birnbaum's translation efforts just fine by the way, not least of which since back in the day he managed to make Pinball 1973 into something that's actually worth reading).
Having firmly gotten off the topic of the work I ostensibly set out to review, I'll conclude by saying that not unlike Haruki Murakami's debut work Hear the Wind Sing, the only people who this book can possibly entertain are die-hard Kikuchi fanatics who grew to appreciate him due through Vampire Hunter D since the contrast between the two projects is positively stunning, but the qualities that Kikuchi has since gone on to master still manage to shine through in spite of the low quality English localization.
Also check this out if, like another reviewer here on Amazon, you actually managed to enjoy its anime adaptation. Come to think of it, the stuff that Streamline Pictures did to the anime adaptations of Kikuchi's works in the late 80s and early 90s is not entirely unlike what DMP is doing to his novels (with the exception of the joint publication of the Vampire Hunter D series that Kevin Leahy's adoration and Darkhorse's firm hand have been able to deliver to us more or less intact) now.
Oh man. Seriously. I used to laugh every time I saw the word "gorgeous," and phrases like "D's sword limned an arc" and "paraffin white skin" re-used ad nauseum in all the volumes of Vampire Hunter D that Kevin Leahy has translated, but reading THIS THING actually succeeded in making me long for the idiosyncrasies of that particular translation project...