“Isn’t the April announcement too short?”
Thus the comment.
No comment on this.
Truth be told, RL issues have been pressuring me. Well, I ain’t exactly spring chicken at this point. I can still flip the switch when I want to, but with more difficulty since I’ll probably end up with broken hands the next day.
Ow my bones ache.
Allow me to reflect on a work I had done, but not posted here.
Tada, Sore dake de Yokattan Desu.
And before you continue reading this part, please turn away if you are expecting a light-hearted commentary.
I shall spare with the synopsis and such since the series can be found on Baka-Tsuki, and frog-kun wrote a review of it. In fact, I am inspired to write this little reflection because of that particular review.
Do note that whatever that follows is my opinion another, and I am not trying to pass it off as gospel in any way.
Why I translated this one was simply because, I felt I wanted to work on different stories.
Post-retirement (no.1) back in 2012, I wanted to translate atypical stories. I was sick and tired of translating stories that involve just superficial fighting and shallow harems that are clearly the fantasies of authors. It is by those fantasies that we do have bestselling works, but I was quietly rejecting them in my mind, either for fear of getting my immature hopes up, or to refrain myself from being biased while working on these series.
I do consider Hikaru a relatively successful venture, since it is a story that goes further in-depth with regards to a harem, which had to be the case given it was based on Genji Monogatari. Magdala is another since it is a story of outcasts trying to fit into the world. Clockwork had an interesting premise before the gears fell off somewhere…
So, this series called Tada, grand winner of the 22nd Dengeki Novel Contest. A nice break from the norm, and one of my three favorite novels. It includes three themes.
- School bullying, an issue prevalent everywhere, yet often a topic people would not touch upon.
- Suicide, another prevalent issue, especially in Japan. Again, not a topic people like to talk about.
I might say it is not easy to write about such issues, let alone a fictional work. To me, these themes are pretty risky because there is a likelihood of them being executed poorly, being too superficial in particular. I mean, what normally happens after a bullying/suicide in school? Oh, police investigation of the school, some hoorah of the PTA, and after 2 weeks or less, everything goes back to usual until another bullying/suicide happens.
First, school bullying.
There are students of various kinds; the geniuses, the dull ones, the popular folks, the loners. Such categories are not exclusive in any way. As I always like to say, we’re all idiots to varying extents.
Many have asked, why go to school? To learn? To find oneself? To establish social relationships? To instil discipline?
Truth be told, there is no absolute answer I can give.
The concept of the Human Power Test in the novel will sound silly, elitist and decadent to many, but I do feel is that it is mostly a reflection of society as a whole. Groupthink, cliques, personality clashes, people tending to gravitate to those with successes (and I do consider popularity to be a form of success), hoping to latch onto the coattails, and also the one too conceited of themselves in thinking they do not want to be like the others (which our little devil here just so happened to be). I do agree with frog-kun however that it is hard to take this part seriously, and I do find this part to be the biggest flaw. Perhaps the execution of the story would have been better if there was another way to include the bullying, for I mean, people can bully others for petty reasons.
With regards to the bullying, I was glad the author did not justify ‘beating’ the bullies, and instead showing the consequences of a kid who have assumed himself to be smarter than he was, only to end up more hurt than he was. It would have been easy to resolve it the cheap way out, and ignore the wounds that would never heal completely. Many bullies never received their comeuppances, so the lack of resolution on this part was acceptable for me.
I was fortunate enough not to witness any during my school days. I was unable to avoid seeing them in my previous line of work.
It is never a good thing to witness such things. It is a terrible thing to become numb to them.
And that was what I felt.
Given the context, an amateur writing contest, it was certainly interesting to use suicide as a theme, especially in Japan where it is relatively prevalent. Of course, since the story was initially portrayed as a sleuthing mystery, I supposed the judges went along with it. I do not claim to be an expert psychologist in this field, and I do not want to be an expert on such a matter. As much as I want to blame somebody for what happened, it happened, and I have to move on, no matter how painful it was. Thus, despite it being a mystery, my mentality when translating this novel was basically “You guys have to move on, somehow.”
Many killed themselves for various reasons, and in this case, it was out of guilt. Guilt because these kids did not know any better.
Again, I do feel many such cases could have been avoided, and this one (though fictional) was no exception. I wish to say emotions cloud our judgment on such matters, but emotions make us who we are.
And again, though contradicting, I do feel there is no hard and fast way to resolve such matters, unfortunately.
There are lots of introverts. I should know; I am one.
But at this point, in a modern society where communications are key, I do suppose that after food, water and shelter, social acceptance is the fourth need. There are prevalent social media platforms after all, and no man is an island.
In the case of Taku Sugawara, I translated his parts using a particular mentality: the old me, for being deluded enough to think I could do everything, and that I refuse to be like the other idiots.
In fact, I would say it was a mentality of mine when I was in my teenage years, and I do admit that I have yet to grow out of it completely. Perhaps I was too pessimistic when I realized I could not fight the system, and acted aloof to hide my own pain, my lack of popularity, and my unwillingness to act like others, which I suppose was me being rebellious to the norms. Of course, being a teenager where being rebellious against rules was the cool thing to do, I supposed me thinking being rebellious to their rebelliousness was my way of acting ‘cool’, and let’s face it, it’s stupid.
To me, consciously isolating oneself is basically a self-delusion, to think that one has no need for acceptance, and to hide the pain of the lack of acceptance. By that point, my mind had turned me against everyone else.
Perhaps the outcome in the story would have changed if someone did try to reach out. In my old case, I did, luckily. In this story, it was too late, a fact that would have left many lamenting.
And thus, the attempts to hide one’s own pain results in self-depreciation from our protagonist, the utter lack of self-worth, which is not helped by his own family circumstances.
Nevertheless, there is a takeaway I want to encourage everyone with, and that is:
Everyone can have their own happiness.
For that alone would be good enough.