Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Call for Localization: Kuma to Interi by Basso

I was surprised and delighted to find that this month's Manga Movable Feast was to feature one of my favorite artists, Natsume Ono. If you haven't yet heard of the Manga Movable Feast, it's basically a week-long virtual book club held by manga bloggers once a month. Some great content has been contributed so far this week, and I'm excited to dip toes in the water and join the party!

Natsume Ono is most famous in the West for House of Five Leaves and Ristorante Paradiso, two enthralling and expertly-crafted manga series. Little known outside of Japan and her ardent international fans, however, is her work under the pen name Basso (sometimes written BASSO). While some manga artists might choose a pen name to hide their identity, Natsume Ono's style is so distinct that one would be hard-pressed not to recognize her (though there is a noticeable difference in the style she employs as Basso). To the contrary, I see Basso as a way for Natsume Ono to clue her readers in on the content of the manga before they read a single page. For you see, Natsume Ono's pen name Basso is exclusive to her boys' love titles.

As basso, Natsume Ono has published a plethora of boys' love manga, but today I would like to focus on one of my favorite collections of BL short stories, which happens to be basso's Kuma to Interi ("The Bear and the Intellectual"). Kuma to Interi is a collection of short, interconnected stories that all share a few common themes: Italy, men, suits, glasses, politicians, and gelato. One of the most delightful segments of the book is the section devoted to stories centered around the theme of gelato –– they're short but sweet, with a hint of melancholy, just like the iconic Italian dessert they were inspired by.

You won't find any traditional BL in Kuma to Interi, much like the rest of Basso/Natsume Ono's works. Her characters range from grey-haired politicians to gangly waiters, and the erotic content is much more fluid and real than most BL. An interesting example of this is the first story, Conte, which contains a "reversible" couple –– BL is so set in the seme/uke (top/bottom) dichotomy that they actually have a word from when a relationship deviates from that stereotype. Kuma to Interi is refreshing in its raw, non-idealized look at life and relationships, and is one of the most satisfying BL short story collections you can read.

Probably my favorite page in the whole manga.
Or could read, if it were localized in English! I'd argue that above all of Basso's BL titles available, Kuma to Interi would be the best place to start for any publisher looking to jump into Natsume Ono's BL manga library. Fans of her work will undoubtedly be delighted to see that she gives the same depth and care to her BL stories as she does her more mainstream work, and BL manga aficionados looking for a change from the overwhelming bishonen fare now available in English will both find much to like about Kuma to Interi.

I know I'm not the first person to put out the call for Basso's works to be localized into English, so somebody make it happen! I'd love to see more people read this collection. For now, I'll tantalize you with gorgeous pages like this:


Bryan Ochalla said...

I know next to nothing about BL, but I'd still love for this kind of thing to be translated/localized -- either officially or unofficially. I'm actually surprised some enterprising blogger out there isn't doing this already (translating BL manga, etc., for Western audiences). I follow a blog that does this for/to bara manga, so obviously it's possible. Anyway, I certainly hope your wish comes true with this one, as I'm curious to experience/see how Basso's works deviate from the BL norm :)

apricotsushi said...

Hey Bryan! Thanks for your comment –– I especially appreciate it since I know BL isn't exactly your thing ;) (though I bet you know what the "bear" in this manga's title is referring to!)

Actually, I'll admit -– this has been unofficially translated by some fans already (perhaps numerous times). I think it's great that it's available for people who might have the original Japanese volume and want to understand it, but I'm not really a proponent of mass distribution of fan translations online. This call for localization is my way of saying I hope some publisher picks it up eventually, so people can purchase it in English and support the original creators, rather than just reading fan-translated scans online.

Of course, excerpts and things are fine! I was thinking of putting up one of the shorter stories with my own translation, but I don't have a scanner (as you can see by my poor page samples in this post).

What's the bara blog you follow? I'd like to check it out! said...

(sighs) I would soooo love to see Ono's works as a bl author be translated into English. I would soooo buy this. ^_^

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hello again, Anne! Yeah, BL isn't really my thing. Of course, in real life bears aren't my thing either! For some reason I prefer bara games/manga/etc. to BL, though.

Anyway, I understand where you're coming from RE: not being a huge fan of fan translations. You'd rather have the real deal translated and released, right?

I didn't think your page samples were at all poor, BTW. Just thought you should know :)

Oh, and this bara blog I follow is called Intermittent Bara Translations. As I'm sure you can tell from its title, it focuses on fan translations of various bara manga (mangas?). All of the translations are done by the blogger himself, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, here's a link to the blog: He doesn't update that often -- just to warn you!

apricotsushi said...

Hi animemiz! Thanks for reading and commenting!

If you're really interested in seeing Ono's BL works in English, consider sending your favorite manga publisher an email telling them so! It wouldn't hurt :)

luzy-fool said...

I knew the art in House of Four Leaves looked familiar. I have to admit I've read the fan translation but if it does come out in English I would probably buy it, especially since I think the translation was never finished. Bit I kinda prefer something that was never translated.

apricotsushi said...

Hi Luzy-fool! Yeah, before I knew Basso and Ono were the same person, I was really surprised how uncannily similar the two were ;)

Hopefully an official translation happens in the near future so you can read the rest! It's a great manga.