Azumanga Daioh: Omnibus, by Kiyohiko Azuma

I have mixed feelings about the recent omnibus edition of Yotsuba&!'s Kiyohiko Azuma's Azumanga Daioh. I'm all for anything that exposes this wonderful series to a wider audience, but Yen Press's "improvements" to ADV's original translation failed to warm my cold, judgmental heart.

Azumanga Daioh is one of my favorite manga titles. Over the course of four volumes, Azuma chronicles the everyday life of a group of Japanese high school girls. The series is told through four-panel strips, although many of the "punchlines" only make sense in the context of the ongoing storyline. In addition to being ridiculously funny, Azumanga Daioh knocks the Bechdel Rule out of the park. Boys come up in conversation occasionally, but Azuma's heroines spend most of their time chatting about homework, culture festivals, and vacation plans—with frequent breaks to discuss vital issues like Santa's treatment of his reindeer (is taking advantage of Rudolph's red nose comparable to using the shine on a bald man's head?) and the mystery of what "I.T." actually stands for.

The now-defunct publishing house ADV published their translation of Azumanga Daioh in 2003 and 2004, selling the volumes for $9.99 apiece. Yen Press picked up the license last year, and priced their omnibus edition at a mere $24.99. Normally, I'd be nominating them for publishing sainthood, but several things about Yen's translation rubbed me the wrong way. Some of their extremely literal translations worked, but others will be distractingly unfamiliar to Western readers—and I'm never going to forgive replacing one character's Kansai dialect with a wince-inducing Southern accent. (Think "Ah ain't" and "Ah reckon".)

ADV's translation frequently erred in the other direction, making too many adjustments for English-speaking readers*. On the other hand, I understood all of their jokes, and nobody talked like Elly May Clampett—two significant virtues, in my opinion. Both versions have their faults, and I sincerely appreciate Yen Press's efforts to keep this series in print... but I'm sorry to say that if I could only save one version from a burning building, ADV's translation would still get my vote.

*Plus, their books were chock-full of spelling errors and typos. There were a few screw-ups in the Yen translation, too, but nowhere near as many.
Posted by: Julianka


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