Review for GTO 14 Days in Shonan volume 1,
For most of my reviews of localised publications, I think I’ll predominately stick to analysing the work of the English language publisher rather than actual story content and work by the original publishing company in Japan.
General Description of dimensions and cover format
The page width of Vertical’s release matches that of Tokyopop’s original GTO volumes, however the height is almost a centimetre shorter. Compared with the original Japanese release, Vertical’s page size is larger in both height and width, however the dimensions of the printed content within is roughly the same, which just results in larger borders of white around each page. The cover is considerably similar in layout to the Japanese version, although following normal American graphic novel conventions, there is no dust jacket cover. Also the colour tone of Vertical’s cover is slightly different. It is particularly noticeable when comparing Onizuka’s skin tone. On Vertical’s cover the tone seems slightly faded and more of a pale yellow, whilst the Japanese version is more pink. Seriously though, unless you’re one of the most pedantic of fanatics something like this shouldn’t bother you much. The coloured pages have been retained at the beginning of the volume, and they look very nice.
Paper quality – 8.5/10
The paper quality in Vertical’s release is rather decent in my opinion, although it appears to be a little yellowed, though only very slightly. Apart from this point, it appears to be very close to the original paper quality used in the Japanese release. I think it’s far superior to what Tokyopop used to print on. The paper used for the colour pages is great.
Printing – 5/10
The printing in Vertical’s release is slightly more contrasted than the Japanese. This has crushed the blacks more, and resulted in a slight loss of detail and harsher appearance. Tokyopop was at fault for this kind of thing as well, however the problem was more severe in their case. Compared to Tokyopop, in this respect the damage done in Vertical’s release is minimal. However, my foremost criticism of Vertical’s printing lies in a pervading distortion of screentones.
Much of the screen tone throughout the book has suffered from this sort of mottling checkered effect. I’m not sure what caused this issue exactly, but since it is so prevalent throughout the book it’s a rather large problem that requires some attention I think. Unfortunately it makes the publication look a bit cheap and on the scrappy side.
Handling of unspoken text – 8/10
Vertical has chosen to translate most sound effects, scripture and signage through out the volume. The original Japanese sound effects have largely been left as is, while a small translation is given within the panel close by. Much of the written text and signage within the story have been completely replaced by an English translation however. I’m unsure where I stand with changes like this, so I suppose my opinion of this change is rather neutral. I can definitely see the benefits of having these translations in some spots in particular though, for example when Onizuka visits the sexual pharmacy. Without any signage translation, that amusing double page spread would have lost all meaning for someone who doesn’t read Japanese.
Translation – 8/10
Overall the translation has been done fairly well I think. Sometimes there were phrases that seemed a little out of character for some members of the cast, but it was a pretty minor issue and only occurred occasionally. There were a couple of spots where I detected some small mistakes, for example the following quote of the TV host Imori describing a prank he pulled in his student days: “I also liked putting traditional school jackets on Jizo statues and calling them ‘Punch Perm’!” From my understanding, the line should read that he gave the statues punch perms (a type of hair style), rather than calling them that.
There were also some instances of slightly awkward phrasing, the following being one example:
Here it almost sounds as if the child being taken home is the “apeman” rather than the parent himself. Changing “Especially if they’re apemen like you.” to “Especially apemen like you.” would rectify this problem.
There were certain small localisation choices which didn’t really agree with, for example the emergency number to call on Onizuka’s wanted poster is changed from “110” to the American “911”. Regardless of what the number is, I think context makes it pretty clear what it’s for, so I don’t think changing it to the American equivalent is really necessary. I’m not sure if Vertical actually distributes overseas as well, but for those of us who do not reside in America the change doesn’t really make much of an enhancement.
I don’t think it’s really fair to call it an issue, but just as a side note I was a little disappointed that one funny gag in particular was lost in the translation process. Onizuka’s athlete’s foot has almost become a running gag throughout GTO, and in chapter 3 he mentions that he is keeping a bug – his athlete’s foot – like a pet, which I found quite hilarious when I first read it. Unfortunately this reference has been lost in Vertical’s translation, and the athlete’s foot has been changed to a stomach bug.
Font, text layout and phrasing – 4.5/10
I have to say, my biggest issue with this release is related to layout and phrasing of text. If nothing else I think this is the most important issue that requires some attention at Vertical. Unlike any other issues raised here, these ones actually interfered with my enjoyment and comprehension of the book. On quite a number of occasions I found myself having to re-read sections, and stumbling across passages which required a pause and some mental processing before I could figure out how they were intended to be read. This was due to poor phrase grouping across speech bubbles, and a lack of grammar which continuously interrupted my natural flow of reading. Here are a few examples of poor phrasing and text layout:
As it is the dialog has become fragmented and does not flow naturally. Fixing this would be quite simple. All that needs to be done is a quick position switch of the word “where”, resulting in something like “Onizuka,” “where are youuuuu?!”, which reads much more smoothly. The text could also be easily styled to fit the bubbles without needing to hyphenate any words.
Again this is a very jarring panel to read, and it could be fixed very easily. There are a few options as always, but the most simple of which would be to do something like this:
“Fired up as a teacher,” “to do my thing.”
If they wanted to retain one bold word in each bubble as it appears in the original Japanese version, another solution could be something like this:
“Fired up…” “…as a teacher to do my thing.”
This one is perhaps a little more complicated to fix, but with a little creativity it shouldn’t be much of an issue. There are a few options, but I would probably set it out something like this:
“If you don’t mind the intrusion…” “…I can show my face…” “…at the children’s home place every day.”
It would probably require readjusting the font size of the middle part to fit the smaller bubble, but a small adjustment like that shouldn’t be much of a hassle.
This one is quite tricky to deal with, but in my opinion it’s still something that needs to be fixed. I’d actually be inclined to play with translation a little differently and come up with something that both fits the bubble layout and still stays true to the original meaning. I would probably shrink the font size and do something like this:
“Well,” “just watch me.” “I’ll grab their souls.” “You’ll see!” “Ha ha!”
Also notice how the “Ha ha!” touches the borders of the bubble. This is something that occurs quite frequently through the book and I think it looks rather ugly. It looks amateurish and not very visually pleasing. A small adjustment and vigilant quality control should fix it quite easily.
Overall I think the font size is poorly adjusted to fit the speech bubbles, and is often too large. Aside from the border-touching text, there is an incredible amount of hyphenated words that could easily be avoided by a few small adjustments, as mentioned earlier. Really, the book is inundated with these hyphenated words and it makes for some choppy reading. Aside from these sizing issues though, I think the font style is generally fine and fits the series well.
Translation notes – 9/10
First of all I’d just like to point out that I’m thrilled they have translation notes at all. With a series like GTO and it’s dense amount of references to pop culture and culture alike, I think a designated space for translation notes is essential, and it makes for some very interesting reading. I think it’s great to have the opportunity to learn some new things while enjoying your favourite series. I suppose if I really had to make a suggestion, I think it would be interesting to have some notes that explain some aspects related to the Japanese language itself rather than just reference explanations. For example, an analysis of Sakurako’s unique speech quirk along with an explanation of how the translator has decided to handle it might be interesting. An explanation of the television show that “It’s OK to ASK!” is a reference to might have also been nice.
In conclusion, Vertical’s release of GTO 14 Days in Shonan volume 1 is a fairly decent product, and while I may have nitpicked a few other small points, my only major concerns with it relate to the screen tone quality issue and poor text layout decisions.
Despite its minor shortfalls, Vertical’s publication of GTO Shonan 14 Days is superior to any fan scanlation that is available and is definitely the best option out there for those wanting to read the series. Although we’d never recommend reading a fan scanlation over an official localisation, and we will always encourage supporting the author and respective publishers in any circumstance, the truth is Vertical has done a fairly decent job with this volume overall. Even if it does have some faults, I’m sure Vertical will make an effort to rectify the issues and make improvements, provided that the demand for the series still remains strong. In other words, I think the first step in getting them to make any changes is to show your support by purchasing the books, then contacting them with any suggestions and feedback you might have. If demand is low, they may not even bother trying to please the readers and will either continue to produce the books cheaply or drop the series altogether, so it is essential to show your love for the series and buy these books!