Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Line' is an interesting thriller marred by lazy translation

Line (American edition published by ADV Manga, 2006)
Story and Art: Yua Kotegawa
Rating: 6/10

Chiko, a typical high school girl, picks up a lost cell phone. It rings, and the voice on the other end tells her of a gruesome death that only she can stop, one that will happen in just minutes. Chiko ignores the warning, but the death occurs as predicted. More calls follow and the voice on the phone tells her when and where suicides are going to occur, and that she is the only hope of stopping them. Soon, Chiko and her bookish friend Bando are on an all-night quest, rushing all throughout Tokyo to beat the clock and save lives.

"Lines" is an unusual graphic novel that takes the standard thriller premise of the mysterious voice on the phone with a threatening of ambigious message and uses it to tell a suspenseful tale that explores teen angst, the twin dangers of isolation and dehumanization in the internet age, and the risk of being swept along by a thrill-seeking adrenaline rush. It also has a nice thread about how Chiko gains more insight into her self and her life while she attempts to grasp the situation she has been thrust into and why so many kids want to kill themselves.

It's a fast-paced book that doesn't quite manage to maintain the suspense to the end, but it's entertaining enough. Kotegawa's art is crisp--if somewhat generic--art is easy on the eye and makes the story easy to follow.

My biggest complaint with the book is that it's been shoddily translated. It reads from back to front, because ADV was either too lazy or too cheap to either mirror or re-arrange the art so the book flowed according to English langauage and publishing standards. I can't fault them too much, however, because they're simply doing what has become industry standard.

A few years back, some clever executive somewhere decided to market Japanese translations without mirrored art (books that read from right to left as they do when in their original Japanese) as "authentic translations." The foolish consumer bought into it, the publishers took advantage of the cost savings, and now the majority of translations available are lazy and shoddily done.

I don't care that Japanese books are read from right to left. English books are not. The graphic novel imports should be translated properly and the consumers should have demanded that the be so. (At this point, it's too late. Only holdouts like me refuse--for the most part--to spend my good money on lazy work. No one stood up and said that the Emperor was authentically not wearing any clothes... or, if they did, no one paid attention. Marketing once again won out over quality.)

[left]But, my rant aside, if the akward presentation of "Line" doesn't bother you, I think and you enjoy Japanese comics, I think it's a book worth checking out. (It's also might be suitable for that young teen girl in your household who is into mysteries and manga.)