Even More Carnage (Narutaru Vol. 10)

Censoring works by way of translation can come back to haunt you, and Narutaru shows that in its later volumes.  I’ve written before of how for some reason or other the official English translation of the manga toned down Tamai’s love for the Russian Su-27 jet.  In the Japanese it’s clear he thinks it’s the best airplane of its kind.  Later on we see Shiina traipsing around in a T-shirt with the Russian word for “airplane” and we can safely guess from it that Mr. Tamai has been to Russia.  In Volume 9 he finally goes there to train with the Russians and it becomes clear he speaks the language fluently.  The presentation of Tamai’s Russophilia flows much better if that very first statement is conveyed clearly.  And if you think it’s odd to even think of this craft as the best in the world, well, his opinion is shared by many [see here and here].

But the most striking way in which translation censorship changes (for the worse) the reader’s experience has got to be the switching of Norio’s dragon child’s name.  In Japanese the child is called Vagina Dentata, a name that harkens back to stories of females with toothed vaginas which make the would-be male trespasser regret his crime.  In the English the dragon child is called Neuter.  Oh brother.

See, we gradually get to learn that Norio is pretty much in love with his friend Tsurumaru, and what’s more, Tsurumaru knows this is the case.  The problem isn’t that Tsurumaru isn’t gay (he doesn’t seem like the sort of person who would get caught up in gender roles and images) but that he is obsessed with impregnating others with his seed.  When Norio warns Shiina not to trust Tsurumaru because he isn’t interested in Love but only in Reproduction, Tsurumaru quips: “But aren’t they the same thing?!”  For him Love = Reproduction, and if Norio is to be loved by him then he needs a vagina.  But he doesn’t have a vagina, so the dragon child becomes a substitute of sorts.

Norio does show his love through the Vagina Dentata, as he basically lets himself get raped and killed as he guides the dragon child to help save Tsurumaru.  That he gets raped is part and parcel of the symbolism behind his name.  If he had his Vagina Dentata with him, the rapist would have regretted it, and this is exactly what the myth of the Vagina Dentata is all about!

I was very shocked to see him die.  It made me unhappy.  Sure, Shiina got torn to pieces at the end but she’s the main character so I expect her to be back in full form in the next volume.  As for Norio, there’s no coming back…

Volume 10 was a weird experience for me.  The basic conflict that shapes it disappointed me a lot, because it was a rehash of the basic conflict in the last volume.  Volume 9: Mr. Tamai helps a woman who is seeking her son (who is associated with a dragon child) while the Russian government is bent on capturing Mr. Tamai.  Volume 10: Tamai’s daughter helps a woman who is seeking her son (who is associated with a dragon child) while the American government is bent on capturing said dragon child.  Too darn repetitive!

That said, the details save it.  The course of the conflict is very well done.  America sends its AC-130 gunships to hunt down the dragon child, and this kind of plane is such a beast that this is truly a case of employing a monster to get another one.  Gunships circle their prey and fire away from the guns on their sides, circling and circling until everything is rubble.  You see the AC-130 doing just that against the dragon child called Tarrasque.  Plus real-life AC-130s boast nicknames such as: Azrael, Ultimate End, Ghost Rider, Grim Reaper, Nightstalker etc.  Dragon children’s names are not as nasty, I don’t think!  And when Hoshimaru whacks the AC-130, the F-16s drop by and start doing this:

I’m excited and horrified at the thought of what the final two volumes might contain~

~ by Haloed Bane on November 30, 2011.

10 Responses to “Even More Carnage (Narutaru Vol. 10)”

  1. One thing I truly appreciate about Narutaru is how the monsters are indeed monstrous and you never feel that they aren’t… perhaps there’s even more dread and ominousness at their onset than a straight-up kaiju show…


    …not at the cost of making humans weak and ineffectual. As you said about the gunships… human weapons are monsters, are dragons, are capable of terrible, monstrous things. Way too often their attacks fail miserably against the monstrous enemy, with or without A/T Fields.

    This, to me, only increases the net dread and verisimilitude of the work, and this is the capital that Narutaru deploys. Too often we’re in the dark about what our war machines can do because anime imposes that simplistic, but powered up heroes, monsters, robots, are superior by default against present-day conventional weapons and ordnance.

    • And now we have drones. The concept along gives me the shivers. Also, a few years ago the U.S. Army was testing a little remote-controlled robot that would go around shooting people, and I think it was meant for Iraq. I saw it on TV, but haven’t heard from it since. Scary.

      • Macross Plus is the anime exploration of this.

        Gundam Wing did so too with its Mobile Dolls, but let us not sully this conversation with that garbage.

        You noted correctly that Luca has his saintly trio of drones… this technology hasn’t appeared since Macross Plus. It would seem that not being completely automated is a kind of reassurance.

        In Macross Plus you get the Ghost unit with its lack of human pilot, perform maneuvers that incur enough Gs to turn a human pilot to goop. But of course it’s a cautionary tale with the expected flavor of 2001 A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Terminator, etc.

        • Oh yes, them cautionary tales. I don’t think the world’s major militaries pay more attention to them 😉

  2. I think I may need to reappraise my assumptions regarding Narutaru. The Flanker angle (and the generally lavish exhibition of modern military aerospace hardware) was not something the summary of this series gave me an impression of, but I really should have known better having marvelled at Kitoh’s rendition of future aerospace designs in Bokurano.

    The man really has the mechanical chops; I’d love to see him do some sort of Area 88-esque manga someday.

    In regards to the drones; some activists feel the current generation of remote control ones are monstrous enough already. After all, the currently deployed MQ-9 flies itself – all the human operator does is pull the trigger to snuff out the target with a precision-guided munition.

    • They even look evil, those drones! They really do!

      Now this is really interesting. This morning somehow it came to me: hey wait! Isn’t the angel in Evangelion designed by Kitoh kept in Russia?! I looked it up and yup, the 3rd Angel in the movies, designed by him, is in Bethany Base, which seems to be off the northern coast of Russia. This man seems to have a connection with that country.

  3. Dark Horse’s translation censorship in Narutaru is some of the most egregious I think I’ve ever come across. Drawn-on underwear, whole chapters missing, etc. It was all apparently just too much for the US comics industry’s delicate sensibilities!

    Stuff like changing “Vagina Dentata” of course reflects the typical mindset of American comics readers (who are not necessarily the same as American manga readers). It’s an image that the industry and comics lovers say they want to change, but aren’t willing to execute on (see: the fracas surrounding DC’s treatment of female characters in their recent reboot).

    More than the concept of these young kids molesting and killing each other — which can be minimized but never eliminated since it’s kind of core to the story — the word “VAGINA” is truly off-limits. Sure, Western comics are all about sex and violence, but from such a kiddie “snicker snicker he said penis” perspective that it shouldn’t surprise me. Then again, I can’t say manga is different too much of the time…

    • Since the word “vagina” as such is foreign to the Japanese (Kitoh writes it in katakana), I wonder now if Kitoh would have been allowed to use the native equivalent to name a dragon child in Narutaru. I’m not sure, but I guess he could have gotten away with it..

      I wish American manga translation companies would only pick projects they are willing to sell as is. If they feel they will need to censor, I’d rather they just didn’t bother and let scanlators pick it up.

  4. Hi. I’m afraid I’m really confused as to what you guys are talking about. I faithfully bough the US Dark Horse translations back in the day, and they DID retain the name “Vagina Detenta.” Where’s this English translation where that name is changed? It sure wasn’t in the US…

    • I’ll have to check again. If they did retain it then obviously I confused the version with another one that had Neuter instead. Or maybe they called something else Neuter?! It’s been such a long time I read this I can’t remember…

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