In late 2015, word came out that prolific North American based Hentai publishers, FAKKU! had acquired the licensing rights to Toshio Maeda’s magnum opus Urotsukidōji. News of such a release was very warmly welcomed since the existing Central Park Media release of Urotsukidōji was long out of print and becoming increasingly hard to find. (Well, for a sensible asking price anyway.) Within just a few months of the initial announcement, FAKKU! came through on their promise and launched a kickstarter campaign allowing fans to help fund the project whilst simultaneously giving them the chance to pick up some pretty nice perks along the way. The page had some interesting stretch goals too including one ensuring that Toshio Maeda would go back and revisit his manga and then “uncensor” the original artwork by drawing in the genitals that he obviously couldn’t draw first time round due to censorship laws being what they are over here. Buoyed by the promise of a new, revised translation, and the opportunity to own a possibly uncensored version of Urotsukidōji as drawn by the original creator himself, people from around the world began to back the project. The campaign was a success and all 4 volumes were successfully funded but, for better or worse, the $87,000 stretch goal to uncensor the manga was not reached….
Fast forward to December 2016 and Volume 1 of Urotsukidōji was finally released by FAKKU! in both digital and printed format. Like everyone else, I was excited to get my hands on a copy for two reasons; firstly it’s one of my favorite titles by Maeda and the story that introduced me to his works, and secondly because as a translator myself, I really wanted to see how it was handled. I don’t own the CPM graphic novel releases from 1999 aside from a couple of random issues but I have read enough of them to see that the translation quality was pretty low, not to mention the below par touching up of the artwork. The flipping of the images didn’t do it many favors either but, for the longest time, that was all that non-Japanese speaking readers had to enjoy the story. With these feelings in mind, I immediately set about procuring a copy of the new FAKKU! edition but ran into a few problems due to my geographical location. Firstly, it’s impossible to access FAKKU’s website from Japan without using a VPN client. Secondly, upon registering with their site and creating an account, I then learned that Japan isn’t an acceptable location for when selecting shipping options. Since the book wasn’t available to purchase on amazon.com either I was a little frustrated and soon took to twitter to ask about a work around. Thankfully, in a fortunate twist of generosity, FAKKU! CEO Jacob Grady got in touch with me personally and ensured that I got a copy! (Thanks again, Jacob!). With my brand new book in hand, I then sat down with a large cup of coffee and began to revisit Nagumo, Akemi, and Amanojaku…
Before I start, let me just say that I’m not going to write anything about the actual story since I already went into great detail a couple of years ago when I added the title to the works page on this blog. My focus this time is on the actual release of the FAKKU! edition and my thoughts upon reading it so, with that in mind, I’ll cut straight to the chase. My very first impression of the book upon removing it from it’s packaging was “Wow!”. The cover artwork is the same as the Suzuran Comics complete edition but the FAKKU! edition comes with a nipple-less girl on the front and some very stylish embossed lettering for the title. The quality of the paper used is also very high (more on that later) and the color pages included are also beautifully presented. As I started reading the story, I noticed a couple of things straight off the bat; the first of which being the sound effects also translated in English. It’s been a number of years since I’ve read manga in English so this was something I’m not used to seeing much of these days. When I first noticed them, I wasn’t sure if it bothered me or not but thankfully, after 30 pages or so, they didn’t bother me nor distract my attention any longer so I was pleased by that. The second thing I noticed was the unfortunate spelling of Amanojaku’s name. In the story he gives a fake name upon joining the school and most people refer to him simply as “Amano” too in the original Japanese release but it seems there was a conscious decision made to split “Amano” and “Jaku” like they are his first name and family name. His name is taken from an existing demon in Japanese folklore of the same name so it’s a bit of a shame that his name was changed in this way. Speaking of names, I also noticed that the characters are called by their family name first (for example, Togami Kitako) but then later on this rule is switched to first name first when mentioning somebody so that momentarily threw me too. Those small gripes aside, I’m very relieved to say that the translation in the FAKKU! edition is a huge improvement on the Central Park Media effort. The translation is very faithful to the source material and the juvenile language used by some of the characters is generally befitting of their age since they are mostly high school students. Amanojaku is an exception of course since he’s at least 300 years old so sometimes he can sound a bit too juvenile in places but, on the whole, I think the translation team did a pretty solid job in presenting him in a way that reflects his “Osakan” roots whilst maintaining his strong character. Two things I was VERY happy with though would be the decision to NOT use honorifics in the translation. I personally hate seeing them in localized manga since they usually lead to laziness on the translators part, and they also sound totally unnatural in English so I applaud FAKKU on it’s decision to omit any use of those. Secondly, it’s a tiny thing I know but, I rarely saw any words split by a hyphen to fit the dialogue inside the speech bubbles. For somebody with a fine eye for uniformity and detail, this is something I was very pleased to notice.
In summary, FAKKU! have done an admirable job in bringing this classic to the English speaking world. If there is anything I’d like to see change for the next release aside from Amanojaku’s name, it might be the redrawing of the store signs into English. I feel they are best left in Japanese since they barely add anything to the plot and help retain the overall feel of the setting. I may be in the minority when saying this but I was personally very happy to hear that the stretch goal wasn’t reached. I feel that no penises was exactly how the manga was intended to be drawn and many of the angles in the panels were drawn with precisely that in mind so, to go back and add them later, I feel, would be meddling with Maeda’s original vision a little too much. Also, I may be alone in thinking this too but, as amazingly well-made as the book is, I did find it rather stiff and turning through the pages hurt my fingers a tad so maybe slightly softer paper next time would be better?
All said and done, this is a very solid release and I feel confident that the ensuing three volumes are gonna be just as well presented. The great news also is that I compared this page by page alongside the Suzuran Comics complete edition and it was exactly the same which means the full ending and epilogue will be getting a full English release for the first time too! Awesome!! FAKKU have said they are planning on releasing Toshio Maeda’s “entire” works in English (though I wonder if they really can since much of it has been lost to the passage of time) and, judging by this release, I think it’s safe to say that his work is in good hands. Great job guys!
Volume 1 of Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend is available now on the FAKKU! store so be sure to pick up a copy! Here’s the original cover artwork: