Crest of the Stars:Princess of the Empire

Posted by DiGiKerot in Novels at September 30, 2006 on 6:32 pm

I love the fact that all these US manga publishers are releasing all these Japanese novels in English. Okay, so it does end up resulting in annoying situations like the Slayers novels going web-only, but I guess its better than not getting them in English at all. Anyway, Tokyopop have just released their version of the first volume of Crest of the Stars trilogy, the precursor the the Banner of the Stars series.

For those who haven’t seen the anime (or manga) adaptations, the series follows Jinto Linn of the planet Martine as it is conquered by the Humankind Empire of Abh. When his father brokers a deal whereby he makes himself the Fapyut (Sovereign) of the system, Jinto finds himself a member of Abh nobility and, therefore, required to go into military service.

Jump several years later, Jinto, having finally drilled himself on the Abh language and the most basic rules of Abh society, he is about to be thrust into a society he is more than a little inadequately prepared for.

I’ve been reading a lot of military SF recently as it is, so I’d be pretty much in the right mindset for reading this regardless, but I’m also a big fan of the anime adaptations as well. To say I’ve been really looking forward to reading this since the English version was announced is really something of an understatement. Now having read it, I can’t say I’m particularly disappointed, though that isn’t to say its perfect by any margin. Part of the problem is that it’s just rather short – it lands at just over 200 pages. In terms of other books, thats shorter than Harry Potter and the , or in military SF terms about the third of the size of one of David Webbers Honor Harrington books. Its hard to do a direct comparison in terms of the quality of the writing for what is essentially an incomplete work – this volume only goes up the to halfway point of Lafiel and Jintos stay at the Febdash estate, ending on a cliffhanger.

That said, I do think it holds up better than most other Japanese novels being published in English at the moment. Boogiepop may be cracking, and Slayers is at least entertaining, but most of the others are a pretty mixed bag to say the least (remind me to write a review of the Vampire Hunter D novels some time). Crest is actually a good, well thought out and interestingly written book. It has an underlying tone of sarcastic humour to it which makes it amusing to read, and a lot of the dialogue reads rather well. The book rewriting makes it flow rather well, but by most accounts the translation seems to be rather, well, loose. There hasn’t been a particularly through comparison between Tokyopops version and the original published anywhere yet, but mention has been made that perhaps the attempts to remove some redundancy in the text has been a little overzealous in places, resulting in a loss of information on a couple of occasions due to disappearance of a few lines of text here and there. There is a apparently a wee bit of rewriting here and there as well, with a few sentences rearranged or rewritten entirely for the sake of something which reads better in English.

To be honest, I’m willing to give the them a bit more leeway in translating novels then when it comes to manga, as when if comes to a medium that requires text to relate the entire flow and content then an entirely literate translation often fails to capture a lot of the tone of the original work. I don’t think its anything to be overtly alarmist about anyway (nor is the apparently re-ordering of the chapters in the forthcoming English Kino no Tabi – they have a very good reason for doing it, and it’s all episodic anyway). What is a bit out of place is a few of the colloquialisms used in the text – it just seems a bit anachronistic to be comparing the colour of the Crown Princes hair to that of a tasty frozen pudding snack (no, seriously). They really shouldn’t be using comparisons in dialogue what seem completely out of place in the world in which it is set. Whilst the the use of colloquialisms isn’t all that prevalent, it does seem kind of jarring when it does occur. The thing is, this book is being counted as part of Tokyopops older, not-exactly-successful Manga Novels line, so they are aiming at a younger audience than their forthcoming and probably far better handled PopFiction line, and as such seem to have been told to adapt for that audience. It mostly isn’t noticeable, but considering its a genuinely good SF series I have to wonder if it was a bad choice not to hold off to release this as part of the PopFiction line.

What does kind of break the flow of the writing somewhat is the use of Baronh, the language of the Abhs. Once we get amongst the Abhs, the text is full of the stuff. Whilst most words are explained in parenthesis the first time they are used, they elected not to do the same with any of the words which appear within actual dialogue simply because it would seem incredibly unnatural, meaning you’ll often end up having to consult the dictionary in the back of the book in order to keep up with what is being said. Its not exactly ideal, but then again there isn’t really a better way of doing it – I suppose they could have used footnotes, but with a lot of terms frequently reoccurring I can’t help but think that would just make things more of a pain, and getting rid of the Baronh would just result in confusion, like in Bandais release of the anime version, thanks to some of the terminology not really having an easy to use English equivalent.

Whilst on the subject of Baronh, I should mention that Tokyopop have elected to use the same romanisations as Bandai did for the character names. From what I gather, these are essentially direct romanisations of the katakana (or hiragana or however the names were written in the Japanese version), and apparently vary from the original intent somewhat. Jintos name, for example, is apparently supposed to be Jint in his native Martinese language (which is supposed to be a derivative of British English), whilst in Baronh it would be rendered as Ghintec. They’ve chosen to render the character names solely in the phonetic fashion used in the anime. It’s an understandable move to avoid confusion, I guess, but it does have a lot of fans moaning somewhat about it.

Anyway, its a good read. I recommend picking it up, particularly if you like the anime version as you’ll get so much more background out of this. I could, however, just be saying this because I want Tokyopop to sell enough copies for it to be worth them licensing Banner…

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