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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Barefoot Gen

I noticed one of the new editions of Keiji Nakazawa's BAREFOOT GEN (HADASHI NO GEN) published by Last Gasp in a store the other day. I have older editions of the original four books, but I wasn't aware until I saw the new edition that there are actually ten books total, all of them to be published in the new series. I also thought that something looked unfamiliar about the new editions as well, in addition to the new translations/lettering.

Fortunately, a check of my library revealed they had all four of the re-released books, so I could take them home to compare. The most important change seems to be that the older editions were abridged pretty heavily, with massive chunks of the third and fourth books being "new" (and different breaking points between the books). The new editions are over 150 pages longer combined. So it looks like I'll have to pick up all of the new editions at some point.

The new editions are also completely re-translated and re-lettered, of course, but that's not too much of a change. Nakazawa's text was always pretty straight-forward, and most of the changes I've noticed have been minor variations in word choice. A few were better, more natural sounding bits of dialogue, a few places I thought the old version captured the scene better, most are neutral. The new lettering (mixed case, typeset) is more consistent across the books now, but overall I probably prefer the hand lettering of the first few old books, especially in the more frantic emotional scenes, which seem colder with the typeset letters.

A more interesting change is in how the art was flipped from the original Japanese. Compare these pages, first the original English edition, then the new version:


As you can see, the layouts are the same, flipped to read in standard English order, but most of the individual panels are mirror images, but sometimes not (the second panel on this page). I think the old editions flipped the whole page, and then flipped the individual panels back only if they needed to get a particular bit of dialogue in a certain order (and sometimes they touched up the art to fix the main asymmetrical feature, Gen's chest pocket/badge, but inconsistently, so it floats from right to left sometimes). The new version, then, I guess flips the layouts, but keeps each panel as it was drawn (again maybe flipping a few if needed for dialogue purposes). So the original probably looked like this:

I'm not certain though, and I might have them reversed (in fact, I'm almost certain looking at it now that I flipped the wrong bit there). Does anyone know for sure (or have a Japanese original to compare a page)? Anyway, I'm not sure yet which I like better. I'll have to read some sections in both to see if there's any big difference.

Anyway, the important thing is that the books are back in print, in very handsome, well designed new editions, well worth checking out, and there are six more never-translated books to come. I'll be re-reading them in the next few weeks, with particular attention to the previously unpublished bits, and will post more later.

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