Library trip

So I’m dropping by the library to check in books, and not coincidentally pick up a book I had requested several months ago, but that someone had apparently returned. It’s the first volume of E.C. Segar’s Popeye – yeah, I’m reading them out of order, but that’s how they were presented to me. As I’ve mentioned before, these things are huge without necessarily being massive. 14.5 inches by 10.5 inches. A tad ungainly, but that format shows off the strips well.

While I’m there, I might as well see if there’s anything else I’d like to sample (not that I don’t already have a ton of stuff of my own to read at home, you understand, but a library presents such a buffet of possibilities…). This particular branch has the Bloom County omnibuses, but I’ve already got the Popeye book, which is a pretty dense reading experience. I check to see if the manga section has anymore Osamu Tezuka I haven’t already read, and then I light upon something I’d meant to check out for a while – Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kajima’s Path of the Assassin. Having finished up reading Lone Wolf & Cub years ago, I was glad to learn that these two had other series out, and Dark Horse was translating them into English. Of course, like their Lone Wolf collections, these were small – 6 by 4.

So I exited the library carrying one really big book and two tiny ones. I appreciate contrasts like that.

I’m going to be a total gaijin here and say that wrapping my head around the now-standard way that American editions of manga is bothersome. Japanese books are read from right-to-left, and the books are arranged similarly. Opening an American edition is the traditional Western fashion greets you with a page that says “Stop! This is the back of the book!” Doubtless there was a lot of additional, costly man-hours involved in reversing the artwork for a Western layout, so the American editions now preserve the original layout, and simply slug in the English translations.

I’m willing to bet this also prevents any adulteration of original artist intentions that would result from simply reversing the art’s image. I’m no artist myself, and when more knowledgeable people talk about black masses on the page and the elements of a page drawing the reader’s eye to a focal point I go Wowwwwwww and Fancy that! It’s invisible to me, but I can feel and appreciate their effect.

One of the Tezuka books I had checked out, explaining the Japanese layout of the book, exclaimed, “Trying new things makes you smarter! Try it and see!” and I find myself adapting easily enough to the right-to-left, but the multi-tasking – there’s a small part of my attention that is devoted to constantly reminding me to read right-to-left – is also a little distancing, and I’m not feeling as connected to the manga as I do to other comics read in the traditional way.  I can only look at that as a personal failing, and work to correct it.

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