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A rarity in English: a collection of business and salaryman manga. Or, well, excerpts from business and salaryman manga.

Business manga is one of the genres of manga for which there is no American comics equivalent, except maybe Dilbert, though comedy isn't business manga's only forte. It doesn't get translated much because the art is not usually pretty, the subject matter is quotidian, and the cultural references are very specific. Honestly, that's one reason I find it interesting. It's usually very interesting to see what people don't translate because they don't think it would travel.

Bringing Home the Sushi is, I think, a collection intended for American businessmen. It's meant to throw some light on Japanese business culture and practices. It came out in 1995, so I'm sure a lot has changed. The nine pieces here are excerpted from famous and long-running work, mostly; Tsuri-Baka Nisshi (Diary of a Fishing Freak), for example, has been serialized continuously since 1979 and has been made into twenty-two live-action movies. It's one of the two manga in here I'd heard of; it focuses on a man who is a total loser at his office, except that his obsession with fishing means a) that he doesn't care and b) that his company can use him to mollify clients who also fish. It's kind of a triumphalist ode to hobbyism, and I think is both escapist fantasy and expression of a real belief that there has to be something important in a person's life. The art fascinates me because it is as caricatured and anatomically squished as American newspaper comics, which is not an art style one sees much in translated manga.

The other work I'd heard of is OL Shinkaron (Evolution of the Office Lady), which is a four-panel gag manga about the lifestyle of the office lady, who is generally a young woman working until she gets married and whose job is to make tea and be secretarial. As an artifact of the eighties and nineties and the way women thought of themselves and work in Japan at that time this is priceless. We own a volume of it in a Kodansha bilingual edition, which I recommend to people who can find it (good luck). It exists here, anyway, and it miiiiiight be very slightly easier to find this book than the Kodansha. Maybe.

And the other highlight is Torishimariyaku Hira Namijirou (Director Hira Namijirou), in which a middle-level functionary at a Japanese auto company is paid a visit by the very thinly disguised head of Chrysler, who proceeds to behave exactly like every conceivable Japanese stereotype about Americans except that I don't think he actually fires any guns at anything. The art and writing are wildly surrealistic-- it's exactly like an action manga, people keep throwing furniture and crashing through walls; but there are special touches such as the American wearing a flag as a suit jacket-- but they are all talking very earnestly and sincerely and passionately about the trade deficit. Comics just don't do this sort of thing much and it is kind of profoundly entertaining.

Oh yeah and there are also some essays in English by various experts about various aspects of Japanese business culture, most of which focus on 'you know that thing that happened in panel x of this manga? here is the explanation'.

Anyway. I think this book is totally awesome, but I have spent the last six months plotting to obtain the manga biography of the inventor of cup ramen. (Which has a real English translation and everything!) So your mileage may, as they say, vary.


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March 2017

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