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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto 
16th-May-2006 11:59 pm
I was bracing myself for another overrated extravaganza a la Socrates in Love, but the second entry into VIZ Media's "Shojo Beat Fiction" line puts the first to shame.

Takemoto, Novala. Kamikaze Girls. Trans. Akemi Wegmüller. San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2006. (Original Japanese Edition: 2002)
Summary: Originally entitled Shimotsuma Monogatari. The Lolita Momoko and the Yanki Ichigo form an unlikely friendship in the boondocks of Shimotsuma, helping each other to fulfill their ambitions and mature.
Comments: A delightful story made even more pleasurable a reading experience by VIZ Media's star translator, Akemi Wegmüller. She's the best when it comes to quirky writing styles, and, heck, may even improve on them a little bit for all I know. There's only one joke that I went unexplained and lost in translation that I noticed--the reason why Momoko finds the nickname of Ichigo's high school "Omeko" to be so distasteful. (I believe it's because it sounds similar to slang for female genitalia.) Otherwise, it is a delightful story filled with fascinating cultural/historical bits about Lolitas and Yankis (though it's definitely biased in favor of Lolitas; the author is one himself and looks like a chick on the backflap) that is on occasion laugh-aloud funny. Momoko is a character who comes about as close to irony as the Japanese ever come, and the brand of humor particularly makes this novel work wonderfully in translation. In fact, this is the best novel that VIZ Media has deigned to bring over since Battle Royale, and it deserves both mainstream readership AND universal adherence among anime/manga fans. Those with a taste for yuri will note that the novel flirts with homoeroticism between the two girls a bit right at the end. Actually, think separatist-feminist empowerment a la Thelma and Louise. So the message--Be Yourself and Be Unashamed!--is trite, but coming-of-age novels are rarely so entertaining and unusual.
Notes: hardcover, 1st American edition
Rating: 8/10 - Author Takemoto is acclaimed in Japan--for very good reason. If you read one book out of VIZ Media's new novel line, it should be this one.
17th-May-2006 05:48 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you gave this a good review. I read the original a few years ago, before the movie came out, and cringed when I heard Viz had picked it up, because it's a difficult novel to translate. And I'm glad it retained the humor, because I definitely was literally laughing outloud to myself reading the original.
17th-May-2006 01:02 pm (UTC)
The translator in question seems to do best with quirky, pop-culture-laden challenges *coughs* stories, actually. Her translation of Socrates in Love was uninspired, but that may be because the novel itself was uninspired. Not sure. (Have you read that one in Japanese, too?) However, if I recall she was also the person who did Usamaru Furuya's Short Cuts, and THAT must've been challenging. (I've read parts of Short Cuts in Japanese, and the translator did an AMAZING job.)
17th-May-2006 06:22 am (UTC)
peach girl and strawberry. that's cute. ok, i'm reading this....
17th-May-2006 12:46 pm (UTC)
There's some interesting "issues" when it comes to their names, as well. ^__^

Anyway, hop to it, already. You'll love it. ^_~
31st-May-2006 04:27 pm (UTC) - cool!
i really liked the film when it came out, had no idea it was adapted from a novel, thanks for the tip-off!
31st-May-2006 07:16 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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