Saturday, September 29, 2018

Five Star Stories - A Japanese Manga Running since 1986... for Kanji Study

The Five Star Stories is a manga that has been running for decades. We have the first 10 volumes,  each some 177 pages.  All in Japanese of course.

I bought the first 4 volumes many years ago when living in Japan,  with the intent of reading them "some time".  My daughter read all those, then bought the next 6 volumes in the last 10 years or so, then read them too.

The way things go with working in Japan, and I was there for 15 years,  meant that I never got around to being fluent enough in written Japanese to read them ( It just wasn't something the company I worked for needed me to do).  These don't have the furigana (phonetic hiragana) along side the Kanji to help young readers as many Shonen (boys) manga do. 

So it has come the time to actually study enough new Kanji to be able to read them.  Current computer based dictionaries and just the front end Japanese processor in Windows makes looking up and entering the printed Japanese  much easier than when I first started learning Japanese.

I also have all the tools for comic development.... so doing some as translated pages is something I'm playing with.   As the current fashion is to retain the right to left reading format when translating Japanese manga, I don't need to swap all the images horizontally.  It does mean in my translations I've added arrows for panel order, starting at top right of each page, and numbers on the speech balloons for reading order within the panel..

I have done my own cartoons, such as Heavy Metal Garage and the comics Terraform.  Been using Photoshop, CorelDraw and recently Clip Studio Paint. Fonts are from Blambot. For the experiments here, I've used CorelDraw to make the balloon plus text overlay.

For me, Japanese has been a thing I've been committed to for a very long time.  But it is just now that written Japanese is something I can devote the effort to.

I do know a few Kanji, and don't have a problem with hiragana or katakana. It is really encouraging to be able to type a balloon from the manga  directly into the editor.  I am working from the printed page, so I am first converting that into a text file.

I then hit a Kanji or two I don't know and have to look them up via radicals. Radical are the bits of characters it is made up from, and the stroke count. I do know how to count strokes, and probably the order a kanji should be drawn, even if I don't know it.

Sometimes getting the right Kanji is fast.... but other times I currently pick the wrong radical to start from, and it isn't in the character list with the stoke count it has.  But this is why I'm doing this exercise, so I get faster at it, and know more so I don't have to look them up.  I keep another file with the kanja, hiragana and meaning, to use in revision.  My "script" file looks like:

It is then I type in what it could be in English.   I put "Aaa, that is probably MORTAHEAD fighting",  but the Japanese is closer to " Aaaa, most likely, the sound of  MORTAHEAD fighting".
The "sound" seemed irrelevant as the question was what is that noise in the previous balloon.

The more I revise, the less the spaces breaking up words is needed and I streamline how I am doing this.

This text script of the manga, and the Kanji study file is my actual goal.  The comic in English above is just "a bit of fun, because I can"  and isn't for distribution , as that violates copyright.

Yes I do know Google Translate. It is just monumentally bad with Japanese! Turning most sentences into meaningless junk. 

Now I have read that there is an English version of Five Star Stores now, but that doesn't help me in my language studies. I can always ask my wife or kids if I get really stuck, but haven't done that yet.

Five Star Stories itself is in the Japanese tradition of the huge powered suits similar to Gundam. But there are twists to that.  The machines are one off bespoke Knights, rather than the mass produced tanks of Gundam.

Not all about giant machines though, this much later page I did as a standalone with a bit of colour shows.

There are also many colourful characters and settings. Just two being:

Their names are actually Ladios Sopp  and Chrome Ballanche, but I haven't updated the above graphic.

The thing about the manga is that the vocabulary isn't exactly the kind of thing you use at the Japanese post office or bank.  But either is the dialogue in Star Trek, Babylon 5 or Dark Matter.
That is one of the attractions and things that makes it interesting to use for study.

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