May 5, 2009

Tezuka's Crime and Punishment

cover

  • Crime and Punishment
  • aka 罪と罰, Tsumi To Batsu
  • By Osamu Tezuka, 手塚 治虫
  • Published by The Japan Times, Ltd. (1990)
  • Bilingual, English and Japanese
  • Reads left-to-right with replaced soundeffects
  • 136 pages
  • ¥1030
  • ISBN: 4789005119
  • Amazon.co.jp

In 1990 The Japan Times published a bilingual edition of Osamu Tezuka's 1953 take on Crime and Punishment. It was one of the first times Tezuka got published in English. Maybe even the first time, I'm not sure. Getting published in the days before Internet it didn't make much of a splash, in fact not a lot of people know this book exist. It isn't even listed in Jason Thompson's (otherwise pretty much) Complete Manga Guide. And those who do know about this edition tend to strategically keep their mouths shut about it, perhaps hoping to increase their chance of getting ahold of a copy. I know I did. You see, it is out-of-print. Second hand copies are scarce, rarely showing up for sale with a fair price on Japanese websites, and pretty much unheard of on eBay (only one listing in the last three years as far as I know). I got my copy from a friend in Japan who came across it in a used manga store.

Two spreads (out-of-order) from the original Japanese edition (right-to-left)

Now about the book. First: I will not say anything about the plot other than that it is an adaptation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Second: it's not that good. A minor entry in Tezuka's oeuvre, the pacing is unbalanced for today's readers and the themes are not fully explored or utilized. However it is intresting to see a young Tezuka experiment with the medium. Most of the manga is very straight forward with plenty of on puns and slapstick humor thrown in to keep the readers (back then mostly boys) from getting bored. The last thirty pages however is a glimpse into the future brilliance Tezuka would produce, with a much darker tone than the rest of the book and much more experimental and grand panels. Those last thirty pages are what makes me really happy to have been able to read the book, the rest of it is nothing special. Howerver I'd much rather read a minor work by Tezuka than by anyone else, for us Japanese illiterates anything we can get our hands on is another important piece in the puzzle that is Osamu Tezuka.

Our main character, Raskolnikov
Duke Red plays the part of Judge Porfiry Petrovich
Buku Bukk as Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin
Hints at future Tezuka themes

The translation by Frederik L. Schodt is good, but that should be expected from a man of his dignity. Tezuka does use a few sight gags in this book and alot of them do get lost in translation, something Schodt also acknowledges in the afterword, but other then that there is nothing that stands out as wierd or unexplained. The book production is fantastic. The page margins are generous, allowing the panels to breathe and the lettering is beautiful. Everything in the panles is translated into English with the original Japanese text at the bottom of the page and all speech bubbles are numbered in order to make it easier to follow for people who read both languages

The lettering is made by hand (thank God) and is beautiful!
The original Japanese text rest in the bottom margin

So how do I secure a copy some of you might ask. Amazon.co.jp's marketplace almost always carry it (and almost always with an unfair price tag) and it occasionally shows up on Yahoo!Auctions Japan, though most of the sellers don't ship overseas and only speak Japanese. This thread at tezukainenglish.com might be of some help as well. But in the end it all boils down to luck and timing. And money. I've seen asking prices ranging from ¥1.000 to ¥70.000 so it is up to you to decide how much you want to spend tracking this baby down. And keep in mind that the manga is from 1953. Back then Astro Boy was only a year old, Princess Knight was just released and Dororo, Buddha and Black Jack where decades away so tone your expectations down to a realistic level.

The artwork is cleaner but also more hollow than in Tezuka's later titles

And I apologize for the images in this post, not at all an optimal way to present comics, I know.

6 comments:

Karel Veselý said...

Hi. Great page with plenty of topics I dig. There seems to be number of bilingual manga published in Japan, which did not get licenced in English at all. I noticed that in Tokyo bookshops. Got myself a Ghost In The Shell, Bakabon & Nodabe Cantabile in bilingual edition. The English is sometimes a bit funky, but it was chaper than the exported books published in UK or US. This Tezuka must be very fucking rare!

zytroop said...

@Karel: Thanks. There is a bunch of bilingual manga people don't know about like OL Shinkaron, a few volumes of GeGeGe, Doraemon, Devilman, Princess Knight.

ryan said...

@Karel: I might be incorrect, but I believe that Fred Schodt also was the translated for the bilingual edition of Ghost in the Shell :)

zytroop said...

@ryan: yup.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing... Thank you so much for sharing it with everyone. Ive just learnt by chance on wikipedia that there is a Crime and Punishment manga by Osamu Tezuka-sama and Im shocked but very excited. How you managed to get a hold of it is also amazing. Thank you very much.
I love the drawings, its so Tezuka-sama-like, of course, but also, more personally, Rodia looks somehow so much like what I subconsciously visualized him to be as I read the book. I like him especially when he sais "No, they look just as everyone else".
I wonder if you also find him somehow cute.
Im really greateful =)

zytroop said...

@Anonymous: Thanks so much for your kind words. Tezuka characters are always cute.