Ep. 44: Mangasplaining, Listen to Me! With Jocelyne Allen and Ben Applegate

A very special episode as the Mangasplaining team splits up to cover more ground, with Chip and Christopher interviewing manga translator Jocelyne Allen (BL Metamorphosis, Even Though We’re Adults) live and in person at a bar in Toronto, and Deb and David get exclusive behind-the-scenes info on Vinland Saga from manga editor/publisher/localizer Ben Applegate (Penguin Random House). It’s an all-new, all-different episode! Welcome to 2022!

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Mangasplaining Episode 44
Mangasplaining Listen To Me! Special Episode
Featuring Jocelyne Allen and Ben Applegate

Show notes by Christopher Butcher and Deb Aoki. Audio Editing by David Brothers.

00:00 Before we get started…

It’s a special episode, as we take two bonus features that were MAYBE gonna get appended onto the end of other discussions, and we banged ’em together to create a special stand-alone episode of the podcast! We love this content! Our interview subjects are pretty amazing and share some great stories and info… but also it’s the holidays and we really needed a chance to recharge — weekly podcasts are tough, yo! We think it turned out to be a lot of fun, but let us know what you think in the comments. 

02:00 We’re referring here to the shonen manga trope of the hero doing ‘special training’, usually by wearing weighted clothing, or some sort of special strength/training/resistance device. David mentions it happening in Naruto, Christopher mentions it happening in Dragonball Z, and someone out there is like “Oh, like Star of the Giants?”, the never-translated to English classic shonen baseball manga. They actually did a great job mocking it in Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga

05:15 BREAK #1: First of three! We didn’t include an ad here because we love you, so the timestamps should be accurate.

05:29 Jocelyne Allen is a Japanese translator and Interpreter, who splits her time (when there isn’t a global pandemic preventing travel) between Toronto, Canada, and Tokyo, Japan. Readers of this podcast may know Jocelyne as the translator of several of our favourite books that we’ve covered so far, including BL Metamorphosis, Even Though We’re Adults, What The Font!?, Sensor, and a few more.

Jocelyne’s professional website can be found here, and her very fun blog talking about books (mostly Japanese-language manga) is entitled Brain vs. Book, and you should check that out too.

Jocelyne joined Mangasplainers Chip Zdarsky and Christopher Butcher at a bar patio in Toronto this past Fall, when you could still congregate in such places thanks to ample ventilation, to talk manga. This is our first live recording and we learned a lot about background noise, and so I (hi, it’s Christopher) would like to apologize for the sound quality. Hopefully it doesn’t hamper your enjoyment of this very fun interview too much. I can say having listened to it twice now, it’s way easier on the ears via speakers than headphones. If you really can’t deal with the sound quality, again, we’re totally sorry, but please consider jumping forward to 47:30 to listen to segment 2 at the very least.

08:30 We talked a little bit about the honorifics question in manga in our episode on Golden Kamuy, in the Reader Q&A section. Episode is here, scroll to 52:30 for our take on the honorifics situation.

16:00 Christopher is talking about the master-swordsman in Eichiro Oda’s One Piece, who’s name can be translated as either Zoro or Zolo. This is probably the biggest and most notable change in contemporary manga/anime, where the character’s name was translated as ‘Zoro’ in the early anime and in scanlated manga. Then when VIZ picked up the manga series a few years in, they went with “Zolo” because, well, no one wants to get sued for publishing a swordsman character called Zor(r)o. Anyway, the manga calls him Zolo, the anime calls him Zoro, his name in Japanese is ゾロ, so they’re both technically correct.

20:35 Kageki Shojo, created by Kumiko Saiki, is published by Seven Seas Publishing. It’s being translated by Katrina Leonoudakis. We’re hoping to cover it in Season 3, since it’s one of Deb’s favourite titles these days! 

24:45 Yeah, the translators aren’t allowed to talk to the authors in manga publishing, but in traditional publishing (novels and things), it’s much more reasonable to speak with the author. The times when a North American manga company, let alone a book’s translator, are able to interface with an author are pretty close to what Jocelyne describes, once in every couple hundred jobs. And usually when you do submit one of those questions through the proper channels, you’re often shut down at some stage… Very Aggressively. Anyway, it is what it is, and the reasons why are numerous (though most likely because most manga-ka don’t have time to talk to literally anyone except their editors).

28:00 The take-away from this interview? Junji Ito: Great Guy.

Check out some of these videos that VIZ has made with him, they’re really fun.

29:00 Akino Kondoh is a widely-published manga-ka in French, but only has a few short pieces available in English. A short collection of her work entitled Nothing Whatsoever All Out in the Open was published in 2014 by the alternative small press Retrofit, and she created the cover and submitted a short to Top Shelf Publishing’s gekiga anthology AX Vol 1.  

Jocelyne is referring specifically to two (FREE!) short stories published on the website Words Without Borders. Jocelyne translated both stories, Ladybird’s Requiem, and Noodling in New York. Christopher actually lettered the former! Totally unique manga, worth reading, go click the links!

29:35 Shout-out to manga editor Joel Enos, who works at VIZ Media, is a freelance writer, and works with numerous other comics creators! Find him online at http://joelenos.com/ 

30:25 Snoopy is REALLY POPULAR in Japan.

31:10 So yeah, as mentioned on Mangasplaining Episode 34, we covered the last 3 volumes of Kaori Tsurutani’s manga series about two women finding friendship through BL manga, BL Metamorphosis. We talk a lot about it in the episode and the show notes, and Jocelyne does a good a job of explaining why the Japanese title, “Engawa no Metamorphose” doesn’t REALLY translate.

34:25 I gotta be honest, while I only had one beer at this point I did NOT remember that we asked Jocelyne for recommendations. While they didn’t exactly end up working out that great for this season, here’s the books that Jocelyne mentions, and maybe we’ll cover some of them in future. 

My Lovely Like a Cat, by Haruko Kumota

Actually not in English! It was published in English by defunct digital manga publisher J-Manga, but is no longer available anywhere legally. You can get it in Italian, though! Kumota’s got lots of other manga in English though, including a bunch of digital BL, and then the BL-inflected drama series about rakugo (Japanese comedic storytelling), Descending Stories (which is available from Kodansha now).

[Deb:] Online manga service Futekiya also has some of Kumota-sensei’s BL works, including Shinjuku Lucky Hole and When We Were in the Rose Forest. I also highly recommend the anime adaptation of Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju on Crunchyroll.

Tableau No. 20, by Est Em

Published by SuBLime. We have previously referred to Est Em as the “Neal Adams” of BL manga, due to her attention to creating anatomically accurate, strong male bodies. This one, about sad memory loss, is like… a lot. Maybe we won’t read this one, but maybe you should!

Classmates, by Nakamura Asumiko

A classic of BL manga, that had the rare gift of being ‘license-rescued’ after the original English-language publisher went out of print. I think Jocelyne actually translates this one? Lol. Published by Seven Seas, with 4 volumes in print now. 

38:45 Two sad movies from Chip and Christopher:

The Notebook (2004), directed by Nick Cassavetes, written by Jeremy Leven and Jan Sardi, and starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

Our Little Sister (2015), directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, based on the manga Umimachi Diary by Akimi Yoshida, and starring Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, and Kaho.

40:00 The people in the background got really boisterous at this point for some reason? They quiet down in a few minutes. Sorry again.

42:00 Queer Japan is a documentary film by Graham Kolbeins, following the life of queer people living in Japan. One of the featured players is mangaka Gengoroh Tagame!  Jocelyne didn’t go into it, we keep skipping through questions, but she was the Japanese language consultant and translator for much of the film. It’s available now to buy or rent on like, so many digital content platforms.

44:30 “The Batman webcomic” we mention is Wayne Family Adventures on WebToons, created by StarBite and CRC Payne. 

45:00 Referring here to Ko Ransom, the first translator we interviewed on Mangasplaining! We interviewed him as part of Mangasplaining episode 30, on Panpanya’s An Invitation From a Crab, published by Denpa. 

48:00 Jocelyne is working on Even Though We’re Adults, by Takako Shimura (which we covered), and the new book by Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer author Satoshi Mizukami, called World End Solte. It’s coming from Seven Seas in summer, 2022.


49:49 THE SECOND BREAK! Time stamps after this point may be off.

Interview with Ben Applegate, Director of Publishing for Pengiun Random House Publisher Services, working directly with Kodansha’s print program. He’s edited a ton of manga over the years, but we’re specifically here to talk to him today about his work on Vinland Saga, by Makoto Yukimura. We covered that manga on Episode 40 of the podcast. We all enjoyed that one so much that Deb and David wanted to go back and dig into more about this manga. 

We EXTENSIVELY glossed and noted that manga in Episode 40, so we’re not going to redouble our efforts in this episode’s show notes. We’ll just gloss or note “new” stuff as mentioned in this interview. We strongly recommend listening to that episode and reading those show notes first!

Also: Lots of spoilers for the series past volume 1 in this discussion.

53:20 David is thinking about these beautiful hardcover editions of Cardcaptor Sakura: Collector’s Edition, the classic shojo manga series by the group CLAMP. Published now by Kodansha.

On that note, Ben mentions the even-more-classic shojo manga Sailor Moon’s new editions are a very sturdy softcover (with French Flaps!) called “The Eternal Edition”. Also published by Kodansha

1:00:00 No one has any enemies. The thesis statement for the entirety of Vinland Saga

1:05:00 SPOILERS! 

They’re making it to Vinland, eventually! They’re going to meet the Mi’kmaq people, in what would eventually become Prince Edward Island, Canada! Very exciting! 😀

1:01:55 The secret of the runes on the cover of Vinland Saga! It was there all along, and the book even includes a “Special thanks to Roderick Dale of the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age at the University of Nottingham.” 

“There was a man called Thorfinn, son of Thors. His uncle was Lief the lucky, who sailed to Vinland. He was a great duelist and warrior.”

Look! We have an ‘exclusive.’ 😉

1:03:20 Ben takes the opportunity to recommend some manga for fans of Vinland Saga:

First up, it’s To Your Eternity, by Yoshitoki Oima (A Silent Voice), published by Kodansha, and available as a simulpub title via Crunchyroll Manga, Comixology, Azuki and much more.

[Deb:] The anime series for this epic sci-fi/fantasy manga is also streaming on Crunchyroll.

Next is Witch Hat Atelier, by Kamome Shirahama. (Kodansha)

And finally, there’s the venerable Buddha, by Osamu Tezuka. (Vertical/Kodansha)

…and that’s the episode!

We’d like to thank both Jocelyne and Ben for taking time out their busy schedules to talk to us for the podcast this week! We had some pretty fun conversations, learned a lot, and we hope you enjoyed listening as much as we did recording. 🙂

We’ll be back next week with a regular episode, including a Reader Q&A, as we discuss Go Nagai’s Devilman Classic Volume 1, published by Seven Seas. Want to pick up a copy? Consider supporting your local comic and manga specialty shop, and you can find one near you at comicshoplocator.com. Also check out your local library for print lending options, that book is print-only!

As always, thanks to D.A.D.S. for their musical accompaniment this episode. Check out D.A.D.S. on Spotify.

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8 Responses

  1. This was great to hear. I’m a huge fan of Allen’s translations–in hindsight I would have bought some titles if I knew she had translated them.
    When I was just getting into manga–it was really through her translations that I found a place where I saw my teen, gay self finally connecting comics.
    Which is my typically longwinded way of saying the importance of translators.
    I would love to hear more if there is a difference when treating a “legacy” title–like Rose of Versailles.

    But I hope anyone interested has heard Allen’s own interview on ShoujoAndTell about translating Claudine… the Ikeda short story that was released a few years ago. https://www.shojoandtell.com/episodes/claudine

  2. And, cuz I can’t shut up…

    I think Classmates, by Nakamura Asumiko is a great intro BL title. Some issues may occur in later issues with the teacher Hara and his future relationship. Regardless, it’s a great mix of relationship manga with just a bit of BL sex–and I think a good intro into BL. (I have been trying to find print copies for a friend for a while, but it seems to be a victim of the current stock issue)

    But howabout a proto GL manga? The Heart of Thomas. It’s hard to find now, but will be reprinted (apparently)–and is a great intro to BL-ish stuff.

    Otherwise I’d recommend another title that is now about to come out–which as a gay teen looking for BL representation, well, this was as close as I could get (despite the facts that the characters had nothing to do with me–they dealt with gay issues) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_New_York_(manga)

  3. https://kodansha.us/volume/utsubora-the-story-of-a-novelist/ Has a BRILLIANT manga that was released at the same time as Vertical seemed to, kinda, sorta, wanna touch on josei material. It’s completely different than her Classmates, but *or and should be read. It’s great manga. https://kodansha.us/volume/utsubora-the-story-of-a-novelist/

  4. Ben Applegate says:

    Maiden Railways is another great, lighter Asumiko Nakamura manga available from Denpa: https://denpa.pub/manga/maiden-railways

    I don’t want to spoil anything but it has a little bit of very sweet LGBTQ content!

    My favorite intro BL might be Antique Bakery, though whether it’s “really BL” is an open question (the author herself says no).

    My Summer of You is a more recent, more “really BL-ey” choice: https://kodansha.us/series/my-summer-of-you/

    • I’ve been meaning to check out My Summer of You.

      Despite what Fumi Yoshinaga says, I think Antique Bakery actually is pretty ideal as an intro BL–though the print copies seem hard to find now (if that’s an issue).

      And coincidentally, I got Maiden Railways with my Christmas haul–though I haven’t cracked it open yet. Looking forward to it!

    • I liked Maiden Railways, we mentioned it once in season one, but I wasn’t sure about it. We went with Even Though We’re Adults as my josei pick instead, and it hit. Maybe for season 3? – CWB

  5. Miguel Corti says:

    Thanks for an episode focusing on the people bringing manga to the English-speaking world. I think Jocelyne did a wonderful job explaining the difficulties of translation with the example of engawa and BL Metamorphosis. It perfectly encapsulated how the process works, and while you want to be true to the source material and the authorial intent, I feel not going with a localized version would be disservice to the creator in many cases. Titles get rewritten all the time in literary translation, so I personally don’t think it’s a big deal when manga does it. I guess some people are worried it’s done with commercial interests instead of artistic, but who’s to say the source language title wasn’t chosen by an editor for commercial reasons? Anyway, great discussion, and I hope you can have Jocelyne back again.

    LIkewise enjoyed the talk with Ben Applegate. It really struck home that manga is now a global production, and as such, there has to be care and thought put into the packaging of localized versions. Kudos for getting a scholar to add some catchcopy in runes!

    I don’t think I’ll ever have the time read all the great manga recommended on the show, but I can certainly try. I’ll be on my deathbed saying, “Wait… I still haven’t read Dave rec from episode 2204 yet…”

  6. KC says:

    You drop the most awesome factoids on Mangasplaining. So cool to hear about Makoto Yukimura getting to interview actual Mi’kmaq people and Kodansha’s use of real Futhark Old Norse runes on the cover. I never would have learned this anywhere else. Thank you!

    ‘It’s just Garfield’. Oh now you’ve done it, Chip. You’re gonna incur the wrath of thousands of Garfield otaku in Japan who demand only faithful Japanese translations of the comic.

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