English Doujinshi: Witches of the Sphinx Volume 4

This is the shortest volume of the series yet, with 60 pages instead of the 90-100 pages previous volumes had. This volume lacks a short story from Takaaki Suzuki, which is sorely missed. The absence of his leisurely prose heightens the volume’s action-packed feel; this one is all about explosions, unending enemy waves, and dramatic last stands. There are a few pages devoted to Mami and Charlotte’s relationship concerns, though. It’s good to see the side characters get some focus. Not to mention bad ass cameos from Major Miles, the Patton Girls, and the magnificent bastard Patton himself.

It doesn’t quite top the 3rd volume, my current favorite. This one falls in the awkward position of building up to the awesome, “F-yeah!” climax, while not actually being the awesome, “F-yeah!” climax. Still, it’s a must-have addition to the Strike Witches-verse.

The only real bad part of volume comes on the last page. Coming Next: “Vol. 5, the last episode: Know what you want.” Aww! Well, it’s been a great run with these characters. Nogami has given them so much life. With the Strike Witches movie coming out, and the franchise going strong, who knows what’s next? “Africa Witches: The Animated Series?”…I can always dream. Well, on to the 5th volume, and whatever great thing comes after.

 

Buy on MangaPal

List of Nogami Takeshi’s Bilingual Doujinshi

Witches of the Sphinx 4 to be sold online soon.

…and my fanboying over Strike Witches continues. With the dust of Winter Comiket settling, I got an email back from MangaPal:

Dear customer,

Thank you for your inquiry.
Witches of the Sphinx Vol 4 (with English Subtitiles) (by Firstspear) will be available from this or next Friday at MANGA PAL online store.
Sorry for keeping you wait so long.
Thank you very much.
Should you have any question, please feel free to contact us.

Your sincerely,
MANGA PAL

Yay! The wait felt awfully long, after Volume 3’s cliffhanger ending. This installment promises plenty of the hot-blooded, cigar-chomping grit the TV anime lacked. There are some preview pages on Melonbooks; it looks like  my reader response questionnaire wasn’t the only one asking for more of the Patton girls and Major Miles.  America! Bad-ass sword drawing! Heck yeah! And all in glorious imperial English. I’ll post a review as soon as I have a copy in my hands.

Importing Nogami Takeshi’s bilingual doujinshi

Updated 2012 Jan 15: I emailed Nogami Takeshi asking if he could restock some books on MangaPal, and he actually wrote back and did! How nice.

I decided to make this collection of links to Nogami Takeshi’s bilingual Strike Witches doujinshi, to make importing them less confusing. Here’s a list of all books with a full English translation, and links to their item pages on MangaPal and Amazon.co.jp. Ordered by in-series chronology, they are:

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My Little Pony: Fansubs are Magic

As anyone on the  internet knows, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has become freakishly popular. And it’s even getting well known in Japan. A growing number of episodes can be watched fansubbed on Nico Nico Douga, and the response is quite positive.

Someone is also translating the Japanese niconico comments into English. It’s like a trippy recursive feedback loop of fandom, full of “kawaiiiii”s and “wwwwwww”s.

Ep 1. “Friendship Is Magic – Part 1”
Ep. 2 “Friendship Is Magic – Part 2”
Ep. 3 “The Ticket Master”
Ep. 4 “Applebuck Season”
Ep. 5 “Griffon the Brush-Off”

To be honest, I’m not that surprised. MLP: FiM is, at it’s core, no different than slice-of-life moe anime like K-On! or Azumanga Daioh. There’s an all-female cast, with cutesy archetypes like the socially-awkward genius (Twilight Sparkle), the genki high-tension girl (Pinkie Pie), and the the adorable shy one (Fluttershy). There’s the humor and schmaltzy sentimentality. The only difference is, the characters are magical talking ponies in a tripped-out rainbow world. Which, in some ways, is even more awesome than the usual highschool girl setting. And otaku needn’t worry about losing their beloved zettai ryouiki, etc. fetish fuel; there are plenty of other fetishes to gain (Ponibooru actually has a tag for “foalcon,” oh god what).

Master Merchant, Japan Does Dominion

Master Merchant (大商人) is a board game first sold at the 2011 Summer Comiket, just one more piece of, “No, Comiket isn’t just for porn.” Not only that, but it’s a board game that makes me go DO WANT.

Master Merchant is heavily influenced by Dominion, possibly my favorite tabletop game ever. Like Magic: the Gathering before it, Dominion created an entire genre: the “Deck Building Game,” or DBG. Unlike CCGs, with DBGs you ‘ll never spend your life savings on artificially-scarce chase rares. Instead of bringing a deck beforehand, you build your deck as you play. And instead of booster packs, all players draw from the same pool of cards, which changes every game. Dominion’s elegant gameplay won it the 2009 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year), as well as many other awards. It’s also become huge in Japan, spawning everything from a licensed Touhou version to moe maid variants.

The same card, in classic Dominion and Touhou version. Superior?

Tanto Cuore, on the other hand, takes more liberties.

Master Merchant owes a lot to DBGs before it, but with real twists on the classic mechanics. First of all, there’s no random drawing from the deck, and no shuffling. Instead of drawing 5 random cards each turn, your draw your entire deck at once, and draw it all back from the discard once you run out. It’s really more of a “Hand Building Game,” in a sense. It gives the game a very different feel, since you can plan around your opponent’s moves with exact precision. For components, instead of huge piles of each Kingdom card, the most copies of any card is 4. That keeps print costs down, making it easier to release expansions (which hopefully they will). All in all, the mechanics seem to be much tighter and tactical. Although, they also risk making the game more solvable.

Luckily I won’t have to wait too long to see how they play out: it also has English subtitles on each card, alongside the Japanese. It’s still hard to import a copy, though. It’ll be sold at the Essen Game Fair 2011 in Germany, and hopefully get a wider international release after.

Moe Propaganda

Otaku culture is often interpreted as a postwar reponse, but moe’s roots definitely predate General MacArthur. Just look at this Imperial officer’s oddly otaku-ish comments:

   “The Government of Japan attempted many times to alienate the allied forces protecting Australia. The Japanese aimed their ‘Divide and conquer’ tactics at the Aussie Troops fighting in New Guinea and Papua. Their attitude toward this subject is mentioned by Lieutenant Colonel Mahmood Kan Durrani in The Sixth Column, Cassell and Company, 1955. The LTC was a prisoner of the Japanese and quotes a lecture given by a Japanese officer on how leaflets should be prepared. One of his six recommendations was:
    ‘The leaflet should have, if possible, the picture of a beautiful woman, after the method used by the Germans in the First World War. This device would insure that the soldier would be attracted and would be unable to resist looking at the picture over and over again. This would rouse his passion, and his heart would be inclined for love and to hate fighting.’

The text and image are from the fascinating page, “Sex and Psychological Operations,” composed by Herbert A. Friedman, about sexual propaganda in WWII. His conclusion, ultimately, is that sexual propaganda doesn’t work. At least, it didn’t work in WWII. I reckon in modern times, outside a military context, it could be much more effective. Back to otaku culture, 55 years later, we find that officer’s sentiment in a much nobler vision:

From 『サルでもわかる都条例都条例対策 ~Monkey Business~』, or An Idiot’s Guide to Tokyo’s Harmful Books Regulation, by Nogami Takeshi

Now that’s the sort of propaganda I can get behind (despite all the grad school critiques to be made about its feasibility). Speaking of propagation, this doujinshi’s author actually gave permission for it to be freely scanned/reproduced online, with a unique “copyleft” notice:

“The book has received the copyright protection under the Japanese Copyright Act and international treaties such as the Verne Treaty. However, taking into consideration the contents and purpose of this book, the authors of this publication provides expressed permission for others to reproduce, share, redistribute the contents of this publication so long [sic] such activity does not result in financial or material compensation for the agent conducting the activity.

You are free to spread the word, but please don’t rip us off.
If you would like to reward our efforts, please attempt to buy this book in its physical form at doujinshi consignment shops or Nogami’s online doujinshi mail order service, and find out more about the other books we publish.”

So download a copy without guilt if you’d like; it’s pretty interesting.

English Doujinshi: Keiko Kato North Africa Military Photos 1943, by Nogami Takeshi (Strike Witches)

Like Nogami Takeshi’s other doujinshi, this one is bilingual, with a complete English translation alongside the Japanese text. Unlike the others though, it’s not being sold online. He kept it an event-only book, sold only at Comiket for one day…to preserve the intimacy or specialness of the experience, I guess. Luckily, I managed to get it via deputy service. Very expensive deputy service, orz…but it was worth it!

The book is wonderfully printed, with textured covers and metallic embossing on the title. Since it’s written as an actual book in the show’s continuity, this helps the “authentic historical item” feel. It’s a collection of photographs and writings by Keiko Kato, who worked as a journalist before returning to service on the North African front. The photographs are candid and realistic, showing witches and servicemen in their daily routine. And, of course, glamor shots of famous aces for promotional/propaganda use.

The paragraph-long captions are full of detail, technical and logistical, from the Second Neuroi War. If you love Strike Witches for the historical references, this is the book for you. Its details flesh out the characters, too, like Charlotte‘s last name (“Leuder”), and that Marseille finds it cute when Raisa drools in her sleep.

Some large-size previews can be found at Nogami’s blog. It seems to be sold out at most second-hand doujinshi shops, but you might be able to find it on Japanese auction sites.

Driftwood in the Internet Sea: Translations of Foreign Comments

As a US fan of anime, I can’t help wondering what “the other side of the pond” thinks. It took me a long time to realize, though, that the Japanese feel the same way. There’s a surprising number of Japanese blogs translating the comments of foreign anime fans into Japanese; I list some at the end of this article. What’s even weirder, though, is seeing your own comments translated back into Japanese. I hope I don’t give a bad impression…!:

Responding to a criticism of Strike Witches, “without the moe, nobody would watch it”:

http://seichi-nippon.com/anime/strikewitches/s2-ep1

俺はこのアニメのすべての要素を楽しんでる。萌え要素がなかった時は、一般的な第二次世界大戦の事件を。軍事ネタがなかった時は、一般的な百合ファンサービスアニメとして。このアニメがユニークなのは様々な要素が調和しているからだね。

一方で、俺はストーリーやアニメでのポジティブな教訓なども心から楽しんでいる。このアニメには癒しの効果があるね。そして戦争や歴史が女性中心化しているのは記号論的にとっても魅力的だよ。俺はストライクウィッチーズを多くの視点から楽しんでいる・・・これからもファンを続けていくだろうね。SW(ストライクウィッチーズ)のことを素晴らしいアニメだと思っていないと書いている人がいたけど、俺は正直言って素晴らしいアニメだと思っているよ。

(俺がストライクウィッチーズの抱き枕を3個持っていることについては触れるべきなのだろうか?そして他のキャラの抱き枕も手に入れたいのを我慢しているということも?)

Original English:

“I enjoy all the parts of the show. If it didn’t have the moe aspect, it’d be some generic WWII drama. If it didn’t have the military aspect, it’d be some generic yuri fanservice show. It’s their union that makes the show unique.

On the other hand, I also genuinely enjoy the story and the show’s positive messages. The show has a healing effect. And the whole feminization of war and history is just really fascinating on semiotic level. I enjoy Strike Witches on tons of levels…I could fanboy on and on about it. Someone else said they don’t think SW is a “brilliant” show. I honestly do think it’s brilliant.”

(Should I mention that I own three SW dakimakuras? And I’m trying to restrain myself from getting more of the cast?) (Their emphasis)

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