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Some Light Novel-related News and Views (Qualidea, Kizumonogatari, Moeyo Pen)

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Hey, guys! I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but I’ve uploaded the entire translation of Qualidea of Scum and a Gold Coin on the Nano Desu website. Please give it a read if you haven’t already.

Meanwhile, I’ve started work on the next volume in the Qualidea series: Itsuka Sekai wo Sukuu Tame ni by Tachibana Koushi. Unfortunately, I’ve been quite busy lately and I have other translation projects to deal with, so I haven’t progressed very far yet. I can’t tell you when the next Qualidea update will be, but hopefully it won’t take too long before I get back into the swing of things.

In other news, I recently got my English copy of Kizumonogatari. Unfortunately, as soon as I began to read it, I was reminded why I dislike Nisio Isin’s writing. It’s personal taste, but I find the smugness in his writing style off-putting. I do plan to at least finish the book, but I’m not sure if I’ll be buying the rest of the series.

I can’t comment deeply on the word choices in Ko Ransom’s translation yet, but one thing that strikes me is how the translation goes out of its way to preserve the Japanese syntax and punctuation. Here’s an example from the very first paragraph:

JAPANESE: 高校二年生から高校三年生の狭間である春休み――僕は彼女に出会った。それは衝撃的な出会いであったし、また壊滅的な出会いでもあった。いずれにしても、僕は運が悪かったのだと思う――勿論、僕がその不運をたまたま避けられなかったのと同じような意味で、その不運をたまたま避けられていたとしても――僕ではないほかの誰かが同じ目に遭あっていたかと言えば、多分、そんなことはないのだろう。

ENGLISH: During the spring break between my second and third years as a high school student—I met her. It was a shocking meeting, and it was a catastrophic one. In any case, I must have had terrible luck—of course, in the same way that I was unable to avoid that bad luck, even if I somehow had, I doubt someone else would have met that fate.

Japanese uses punctuation differently from English at times, so this paragraph comes across as unreadable, ungrammatical nonsense in English. This is one of those cases where adapting a novel for an English-speaking audience should extend to more than just translating words. As it stands, Nisio Isin comes across even more gratingly in English than he does in Japanese.

In more positive news, I recently finished all five volumes of Ore to Kanojo no Moeyo Pen. I enjoyed it! I wrote a review/summary of the series a year ago, but I’ve updated the original post so that it addresses my thoughts on the entire series. Since it’s a bother to click an extra link, I’ve copypasted my review below:


Ore to Kanojo no Moeyo Pen (or Moeyo Pen for short) is the second light novel series by Murakami Rin, the fellow who brought you I’ll Make You into an Otaku, So Make Me into a Riajuu! It was published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko and ran for five volumes.

If I could describe the plot of Moeyo Pen in a phrase, it’s OreImo crossed with Bakuman. Although the plot focuses on the struggles of two high school students struggling to find success in the manga industry, Moeyo Pen has a much more niche appeal than Bakuman ever did.  The heroine, Ikoma Matsuri, is a hardcore otaku with a tsundere streak, though mercifully she’s not nearly as abusive as Kirino of OreImo infamy. The characters are drawn to be extremely cute and their personalities don’t stray far from the harem genre norms. Longtime consumers of light novels should know exactly what to expect from this kind of work.

The first volume of Moeyo Pen is by far its strongest and most focused from a storytelling perspective. The subsequent volumes lack a clear sense of direction, probably because the main characters have already achieved their main goal by the end of volume 1. Only in the final volume does the manga subplot come to the fore once more. Unfortunately, the volume was also very abridged and rushed, leading some readers to speculate that the series was cancelled. Whatever the case, Moeyo Pen makes for a very uneven reading experience; despite the foreshadowing, many of its more interesting side characters get little to no development. And for most of the story in volumes 2-4, the main plot is totally ignored in favour of ecchi romcom antics.

If you’re mainly interested in the manga aspect of this series, my advice to you would be to stop reading after volume 1. If you can’t read Japanese, I’ve included a summary of volume 1 in this post. Alternatively, you can read the manga adaptation, which covers the events of the first volume, though unfortunately the manga artwork is far inferior to the fantastic illustrations Tsukako drew for the LN.

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While the illustrations are clearly the standout element of the light novel, I do also enjoy Murakami Rin’s writing for its simplicity. He keeps the story moving in every scene. Moeyo Pen is also arguably one of the easiest light novels to read in Japanese. If you can read manga comfortably without a dictionary, you should probably be able to handle Moeyo Pen just fine.

Another point in Moeyo Pen‘s favour is that it’s not obsessed with clever-sounding dialogue, so the trope-y moments came across as rather innocent instead of smug and self-aggrandising. On top of that, some of the trope-y moments actually make sense from a characterisation perspective. Our heroine is a socially awkward geek, so she only feels comfortable exploring her sexual curiosity by contriving what she calls “staple romcom events”. Many ecchi tropes revolve around non-consensual sexual situations, such as accidentally encountering a girl naked, so it was quite interesting to have our main characters agree to them beforehand. My favourite volume in the series was actually volume 3, which was full of such contrived (yet consensual) ecchi situations.

In the end, I do like I’ll Make You into an Otaku, So Make Me into a Riajuu! a little better, though. The manga industry aspect of Moeyo Pen is never shown in-depth, even when manga is the focus of the story. From what he wrote in the afterword of volume 1, it seems Murakami has familiarity with drawing manga, but since he and his friend only pursued their goal casually, he doesn’t have anywhere near the level of industry insight as the creators of Bakuman. Moeyo Pen is at its best when it manages to balance its serious plot with light-hearted romcom antics, but it lacks the interesting core themes of OtaRia. 

Moeyo Pen is an enjoyable romcom series that seems to say more about the awkwardness of teen sexuality than it does about manga, but I wouldn’t have it any differently. It certainly has its trashy moments, but it has just enough earnestness that its ecchi moments have a touch of honesty about them. This is the kind of writing that I have come to expect from Murakami Rin. I’ll be looking forward to his next work.


If you like my review, I’d appreciate it if you rated it as helpful on the novel’s MAL page. By the way, if there are any untranslated novels you’d like me to read/summarise, do let me know. While I’m always on the lookout for an interesting series to cover, I’ll definitely prioritise your request if you send me a commission.

That’s all for now!

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Posted on March 5, 2016, in Reviews and Impressions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. “From what he wrote in the afterword of volume 1, it seems Murakami has familiarity with drawing manga, but since he and his friend only pursued their goal casually, he doesn’t have anywhere near the level of industry insight as the creators of Bakuman”

    Yeah but it also seems like a bajillion times less sexist and puritanical than Bakuman.

    Also now I’m stuck reading I’ll Make You Into An Otaku, thanks a lot Froggy

  2. Interesting take on the translation for Kizumonogatari. I always felt that the text was going for a very “stream of consciousness” style, and often assumed the translator was taking a lot of liberties in the sentence structure in order to achieve that. But perhaps that’s not the case after all! At any rate, I kept thinking that it all read a lot more “Western” than your average light novel translation, which I’ve typically found not nearly as stylistic.
    I also always took the prose to be rather silly(?) and a bit self-deprecating, even to the point of breaking the fourth wall at times. But perhaps that can come off as smug in a sort of “hipster” way?* I might just be more easily impressed because there’s a different feel to this book; it comes off as a breath of fresh air, and I was able to read through it all without any issue.

    *For something that DID rub me off that way, I recently watched the first ep of Tatami Galaxy anime and had a sort of mental meltdown from just how far it seemed to go out of its way to be as different as possible, with what I took to be an extraordinarily convoluted style for presenting its story. But regardless, I can see people really liking it specifically for that reason!

    • I think the reason why Kizumonogatari feels a lot more stylistic than your average light novel translation has a lot to do with Nisio Isin’s writing itself. LNs are generally known for having minimalistic prose, with Isin being one of the major exceptions.

      I can’t tell you how a person should represent Isin’s style in English, but it is interesting to compare different translations, which offer different interpretations. For example, Andrew Cunningham’s translation of Death Note: Another Note doesn’t hew quite so closely to the Japanese sentence structures while still being rather wordy. I’m also interested in the Zaregoto translation, but unfortunately that’s out of print…

      • I’ve read Kizu, Another Note, and the first volume of Zaregoto (and own the second volume, but still need to read it). I personally think Another Note is a relatively bland read compared to Kizu, though the plot was certainly a wild ride (which fits for Death Note, you know?). I feel that Zaregoto is kind of halfway between the two extremes. Zaregoto definitely seemed restrained compared to Kizu, though the prose was still strongly driven from the protagonist’s viewpoint (with multiple pages devoted to his train of thought, that sort of thing). But the plot itself is very much a murder mystery story, so it doesn’t feel nearly as slapdash as Kizu, if that makes sense. I suppose you can argue the Monogatari series is the author’s more self-indulgent set of stories, and perhaps fully-intended to eschew writing conventions.

        Perhaps this could make an interesting article? I’ll have to look at each of the books again and put something together.

  3. Those are some really fantastic illustrations.

  4. Yeah, I really like Tsukako too, his illustrations are really cute. I’m really expecting more works from him. (and please from an anime that i like, since i’m not watching idolmaster…)

  5. During Kizu’s reading, I was too displeased with the grammatical choices. It definitely changed my mind on the book, since it sticked to Isin’s writing which isn’t the nicest style to read. People with lesser english knowledge would have problems reading it without double-checking the sense…
    Shoot, I’m almost writing my review here. Teehee.
    I did get my hand on some other works (Zaregoto & Faust publications) so I’ll check if his writing changed drastically. (I think Katanagatari could also be a good LN to see a change in his writing style…)

  6. Regarding the Kizumonogatari translation, as others have said, Monogatari is absurdly narrator-centric. From watching the anime adaptation of the series w/ the official subs, it seems like Koyomi’s narration has more of that kind of “flair” (for lack of a better word) that you don’t care for, whereas in later arcs when other characters narrate, that doesn’t come across as strongly. Now, I don’t know Japanese, so I have no idea how much of that difference comes from the translation versus NisiO’s actual writing (style). From my experience watching the series, some of it seems to come from the characters’ tone of voice, though I know there’s only so much I can glean from tone in a foreign language. You said you’ve read other works he’s written aside from Monogatari, and that at least a good part of the writing style is simply due to that being how he writes. If you’ve happened to have read any of the non-Koyomi-narrated arcs in Japanese, I’d be curious to know if the amount of “flair” in Kizu is present when Koyomi’s not the narrator, or even if it’s present in differing amounts in different arcs he narrates.

    Random afterthought: I just figured out the perfect description for Koyomi’s narration style: faux-grandiose.

  7. I was just wondering if you’ve heard any news on oregairu? Is there any talk about a new volume?

  1. Pingback: Light Novel Notes (March 2016) | English Light Novels

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