Pop Japan Travel-Essential Otaku Guide Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 150
  • ISBN: 1-56970-942-4
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Left to Right
  • Series: Pop Japan Travel-Essential Otaku Guide

Pop Japan Travel-Essential Otaku Guide Vol. #01

By Sakura Eries     August 16, 2007
Release Date: August 30, 2007

Pop Japan Travel-Essential Otaku Guide Vol.#01
© Digital Manga Publishing

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Makoto Nakajima
Translated by:Amelia Cantlay
Adapted by:

What They Say
Based off the hit tours arranged by Pop Japan Travel, explore the streets of Tokyo and experience Japanese pop culture in this new manga. T.M. Revolution makes a guest appearance along with a couple of yakuza in this whirlwind tour of Japan. This travel guide also includes tips and maps to experience the best in pop culture that Japan has to offer.

The Review
The front cover design is a montage of different places one would see on a Pop Japan tour: Mount Fuji, Shibuya, Tokyo Tower, and Asakusa. Running amok these tourist sites are the four members of our Pop Japan tourist group in cosplay with their horrified tour guide looking on. The most prominent of the group is Isaac, our main character, in a mecha type outfit. Arranged around him are Jack and John in Japanese swordsman garb and Anne wearing a sci-fi costume. At the very top is the red, yellow, and black company logo for Pop Japan Travel, which is an actual travel company affiliated with Digital Manga, Inc., whose ads are occasionally found in DMP manga. At the very bottom are the title and the mangaka credits.

The back cover has a red-tinted photograph of a Japanese city scene as the backdrop. At top center are the Pop Japan Travel logo and the manga title followed by the story summary in white font. At the very bottom are genre designations, age rating, and ISBN code.

Interspersed through the manga are five pages of traveler's tips. At the very end of the book are ads, including one for Pop Japan Travel. The copy quality is excellent. The binding is a little close on certain pages, but materials are otherwise satisfactory and seem sturdy enough for a traveler's backpack.

Surprisingly, the artwork is quite appealing visually. Lines are clean, and the quality stays consistent throughout. Character designs stay in the realm of realistic, and while there are some exaggerated facial expressions, deformed figures aren't used. Clothes, which range from cosplay to traditional Japanese to Western tourist, are nicely detailed. I especially enjoyed Isaac's assortment of headbands. Tonework and pacing are excellent. Most backgrounds are hand-drawn, but for some panels, photographs of the actual tourist attractions are used.

Because this is a story of Americans touring Japan, characters speak in both Japanese and English. To differentiate between the two languages, translated Japanese dialogue is shown within brackets. English translations are placed beside some but not all Japanese signs. Sound effects are translated beside the originals, and Japanese terms and cultural references that are not explicitly defined by the characters in the manga are explained with footnotes.

I had mixed feelings about the text/translation job for this title. On one hand, DMP has done an excellent job of placing sound effects translations, which use lettering styles that imitate the style of the original, and the dialogue translation effectively conveys the different personalities of our zany tour group. However, the editing was lacking other areas. The footnote defining "gaijin" is inserted several pages after the term is introduced, “Mandarake" is mentioned in the story but never explained, and the term "dojinshi" is not adequately defined. There are also glitches with punctuation and dialogue bubble formatting as well at least two spelling errors. In addition, there is one translation that particularly irked me. Anime Expo is referred to, not once, but twice as "The Anime Expo." I've never heard that particular convention referred to as anything other than "Anime Expo" or "AX", and it just sounds strange with the definite article stuck in front of it.

Isaac Lew is about to embark on the vacation of his dreams: a Pop Japan Tour! This young gas station attendant from Sweetwater, Texas is a diehard anime fan, but he doesn't know much about the country from which anime originates. But this tour, which incorporates traditional tourist sites, such as the Imperial Japanese Palace and Asakusa, with distinctly otaku destinations, such as Comifest and Akihabara, is about to change that.

Excited as he is about the tour, Isaac is not quite sure if he'll be able to enjoy himself when he meets the other members of his tour. He finds himself stuck with a self proclaimed Japanese expert from Los Angeles, a taciturn 19 year old girl with a penchant for yaoi, and a musclebound contractor who's a bishoujo figurine collector. And it doesn't help that he immediately gets off on the wrong foot with their tour guide. But Isaac's opinion of this crowd of "losers" changes dramatically as they wind up in all sorts of escapades. See Japan through the eyes of our otaku group as they cosplay on the streets of Akihabara, defend their favorite manga creator from a bunch of biker hooligans, and escape a brush with the yakuza!

When I first read the title and summary for this book, I assumed it was going to be an actual travel guide along the lines of Lonely Planet or something like a tourist version of The Anime Companion. It's not. It's a manga about a group of Americans taking a Pop Japan Tour and reflects an actual tour experience as much as Karekano or W. Juliet depicts actual Japanese high school life. In other words, the story takes place in locations and involves activities associated with such a tour, but the characters are extreme and wind up in extreme situations that would never happen in real life (at least I hope not).

You do learn about the places you can go and the things you can do in Japan, but I would hardly call it "essentially everything the otaku needs to experience Tokyo at its best" as claimed by the cover summary. There are no city or neighborhood maps included, and the Tokyo Rail Map provided is grossly oversimplified. There are a page of travel tips and a page of helpful words and phrases, but these you could probably find in a more comprehensive travel guide. Probably the most useful tourist information is the addresses of stores and attractions of particular interest to the otaku. If I was actually traveling to Japan, I wouldn't waste precious luggage space on this book. Instead, I’d write down the addresses of the places I was interested in checking out and pack a more standard tour book.

As for the story, a first-time traveler to Japan may be able to relate to the characters and enjoy reading it, but it probably won't hold much interest for seasoned travelers to Japan or those uninterested in traveling. I'm still trying to figure out what audience this manga was originally intended for. The title and synopsis gave me the impression that it was written specifically for an American audience, but given the fact that it had to be translated into English, it appears to have originally been written for Japanese audience. I find it curious and really wonder what kind of niche manga market group would want to read a story about the misadventures of a bunch of foreign tourists.

This manga is rated for all ages. However, I probably would have rated it teen as there are some swearing, mention of yaoi, a girlie bar, and a nasty scene where Isaac gets threatened with a scissor blade up his nose.


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