One of Jirō Taniguchi’s († February 11, 2017) last manga to be published in translation during his lifetime, Furari has been called (even by the mangaka himself) ‘The Walking Man in Edo’. But is Furari really a masterpiece on the same level as Aruku hito?
Furari (ふらり, lit. “aimlessly”; German title: Der Kartograph)
Language: German (originally Japanese)
Author: Jirō Taniguchi
Publisher: Carlsen (originally Kōdansha)
Year: 2013 (originally 2011)
Number of volumes: 1
Price: € 16
Website: https://www.carlsen.de/softcover/der-kartograph/978-3-551-75102-7 (German); https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=60670
Some similarities can’t be denied, as both manga are about flaneurs, men walking around and exploring their urban surroundings. One difference is the protagonist’s motivation: while the nameless Aruku hito has just moved to a new home and wants to get to know the neighbourhood, Tadataka Inō, the protagonist of Furari, is a pensioner who has taken up pedometry – measuring distances by walking with a constant step length – as a hobby. (Only at the end of the manga does he officially become a surveyor; thus the German title, “The Cartographer”, is a bit misleading.) Also, Furari is a lot wordier than Aruku hito with many thought balloons, as Taniguchi must have felt it necessary to have his main character explain more things to the reader, as it were, and bridge the 200-year gap.
The biggest difference, however, is that Furari is really about something else. In 7 out of the 15 episodes, Inō has dreams/daydreams/visions in which he transforms into an animal (or a tree in one instance) and sees Edo from its point of view, e.g. from the river as a turtle, or from above as a dragonfly. And also some of the other episodes feature such a change of perspective on the town- and landscape, e.g. on a boat trip on the river: “when I’m on water for once, I realise that things come into view that you can’t see from onshore.” Thus I’d argue that Furari is at least as much a meditation on geography itself as it is a portrayal of historical Edo.
This is all quite fascinating, but there is one aspect in which Furari might be inferior to such Taniguchi classics as Aruku hito, Harukana machi e, or Chichi no koyomi: in these, the main character is pretty much a ‘nobody’, or an ‘anybody’, a ‘man without qualities’ from the contemporary real world with whom readers (particularly from Japan) can easily identify. Inō and the things he sees and does, in contrast, feel very distant to the reader, and thus the experience of reading Furari is more detached.
That being said, Furari is a must-read for any Taniguchi enthusiast, especially for those with an interest in historical Japan. Too bad the German publisher Carlsen once more overpriced what is essentially a regular tankōbon.
Rating: ● ● ● ● ○
de la Iglesia, Martin 2016, ‘The Task of Manga Translation: Akira in the West’. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship 6(1), http://dx.doi.org/10.16995/cg.59
There’s also a PDF version.
Translated editions of Katsuhiro Ōtomo’s manga Akira played an important role in the popularisation of manga in the Western world. Published in Japan between 1982 and 1990, editions in European languages followed as soon as the late 1980s. In the first US edition (Epic 1988–1995) the originally black and white manga was printed in colour and published in 38 issues, which were designed not unlike typical American comic books. The first German edition (Carlsen 1991–1996) marked the beginning of Carlsen’s manga publishing efforts. It was based on the English-language edition and also printed in colour, and combined two American issues in one.
This article analyses the materiality of these two translated editions with a focus on three main issues – the mirroring (or ‘flipping’) which changes the reading direction from right-to-left into left-to-right, the colouring of the originally black and white artwork, and the translation of different kinds of script (sound effects, speech bubble text, and inscriptions or labels) – before concluding with a brief examination of their critical reception.
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Max und Moritz, the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hannover is currently showing an exhibition titled “Deutschsprachige Comics von Wilhelm Busch bis heute” (“German-language comics from Wilhelm Busch to the present day”) until May 4. An interesting, ambitious, if not problematic subject for an exhibition. For what is it that unifies the diverse comics that were first published in German? How are German-language comics different from, say, comics in English, French, or Japanese? However, it’s not the use of German language in comics that this exhibition is about. For the most part, the comics on display are represented by pages of original art, sometimes without the lettering, so you can’t even read them.
Instead, the exhibition simply assembles the most notable comics by creators (i.e. artists – the writers are often not even credited) who happen to be from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. This criterion becomes even more questionable when manga creator Christina Plaka is introduced like this: “the Greek Christina Plaka is living in Offenbach since her birth…”. The relations between nationality, comics and other artworks, and authorship are complex (as I’ve tried to show in my 2010 article “Authorship, Collaboration, and Art Geography”) – maybe a museum exhibition isn’t the right place for such theoretical issues.
And at any rate, this exhibition does have some interesting things on display:
- Possibly the most notable exhibit is a magazine with “Famany, der fliegende Mensch” by F. F. Oberhauser and E. G. Hildebrand – a German superhero comic from 1937, one year before Superman.
- A decision that probably won’t go down well with every visitor is to show propaganda comics from the NS era and the GDR together under the same heading. I don’t think the condemning text accompanying GDR comics such as Atze and Waputa does them justice either.
- Naturally, Matthias Schultheiss is also incorporated, but the label text says he is “almost forgotten today”. I guess this shows the different perceptions in comic historiography (in which Schultheiss is still regarded as an important figure) and the actual comic scene.
- On a side note, I was surprised to learn that Chris Scheuer is from Austria. Somehow I always associated him with Hamburg, but apparently he only moved there in 1988, according to Lambiek.
As I have said, most exhibits are original drawings, which is a pity as I would have preferred to see the original publications instead, or both alongside each other. (The examples from Fliegende Blätter seem to be shown in the original issues, but these were unfortunately bound together at a later point in time, so they are presented as thick books, which gives a wrong impression of these pamphlets. A digitised version can be seen at UB Heidelberg.) Apart from that (and the aforementioned lack of any theory or statement), this exhibition is well worth seeing.
It’s always interesting to keep track of references to one’s publications by using Google Scholar’s “My Citations” feature. Not only does it tell you which publications have received the most citations so far, it also tells you who has referenced them in which text. This can give you a clearer picture of how people read, understand, and use your publications.
I consider myself still very much at the beginning of my scholarly career, so unsurprisingly Google Scholar lists only two citations to my publications, both for my 2010 journal article “Authorship, Collaboration, and Art Geography”. It turns out that these two citations are quite different.
The first citation is from the 2011 article “Comics and the Graphic Novel in Spain and Iberian Galicia” by Antonio J. Gil González. The sentence which contains the reference reads:
“Until the mid-twentieth century, comics were understood as a genre of popular culture, but since the 1970s they have come to be viewed more and more as an avant-garde genre (see, e.g., de la Iglesia; on sexuality in comics, see, e.g., Peters).”
However, my referenced article doesn’t make the claim that comics have become an avant-garde genre. In contrast, the comic I analyse there is Marvel’s 2006 “event” miniseries Civil War, a mainstream comic if there ever was one. The reference to Brian Mitchell Peters’s article on “sexuality in comics” seems odd, too. The most likely explanation why Gil González references these two apparently irrelevant publications is: all three articles, Gil González’s, Peters’s, and mine, have been published in the same journal. Naturally, it is disappointing to be cited in such a way, that is, for reasons other than the relevance of the content of the referenced text.
I was all the more delighted about the way in which “Authorship, Collaboration, and Art Geography” has been referenced in a dissertation titled Truth, Justice, and the American Way? The Popular Geopolitics of American Identity in Contemporary Superhero Comics (PDF) by Mervi Miettinen at the University of Tampere. In her chapter on Civil War, she repeatedly references, paraphrases and sums up my observations on this comic, which are clearly relevant to her work.
I have to end this post with a caveat, though: as informative as the Google Scholar citation listings are, they are by no means complete (and sometimes they contain erroneous citations, but that’s another story). For instance, my 2007 IJOCA article “Geographical Classification in Comics” is referenced in the book The Media: An Introduction, the full text of which is even indexed in Google Books (including the list of referenced works), but Google Scholar fails to recognise this as a citation.