Whispered Words, Omnibus 1

Whispered Words, Omnibus 1Creator: Takashi Ikeda
U.S. publisher: One Peace Books
ISBN: 9781935548454
Released: May 2014
Original release: 2007-2008

Whispered Words is a nine-volume yuri manga series by Takashi Ikeda published in Japan between 2007 and 2011. It’s probably his most popular work, or a least his best-known work, and the early part of the manga was even adapted as a thirteen-episode anime series in 2009. Despite my interest in yuri manga and the series’ following, I actually didn’t know much about it until I discovered that One Peace Books had licensed the work for English release. Whispered Words, Omnibus 1, released in 2014, collects the first three volumes of the series originally published in Japan between 2007 and 2008. Considering that comparatively few yuri manga have been released in English, I was happy for the opportunity to read more in translation. Because of the excited murmuring from fans surrounding the licensing of the series, I was particularly glad for the chance to read Whispered Words. And, except for some poor editing and lettering by One Peace Books, generally I was not disappointed. Plus, it even has karate in addition to yuri!

Sumika “Violence” Murasame, a high-school first year, is in love with her classmate and best friend Ushio Kazama. Ushio likes girls, too, but the problem is that she only likes “cute” girls. Unfortunately, Sumika has come to the conclusion that she is decidedly un-cute. She’s taller than most people, athletically and academically gifted, and a genius at karate (which is what earned her her nickname). But Sumika would gladly give all of that up to become small, delicate, and cute in order to fit Ushio’s type. That’s not really a possibility, though. So instead of admitting her feelings to Ushio and potentially ruining their friendship, Sumika has chosen to keep them to herself. It’s difficult and can be painful at times, but more than anything else Sumika wants Ushio to be happy. Eventually, other classmates become aware of Sumika’s feelings for Ushio, so it seems that it’s only a matter of time before they become obvious to Ushio as well.

Although at its heart Whispered Words has a fairly serious story about friendship and unrequited love, there is also a very strong comedic element to the series. Personally, I found the silliness of the manga and the characters themselves all to be very charming. For the most part, the underlying story and relationships in Whispered Words are actually fairly realistic. However, Ikeda regularly throws in something completely outrageous, such as an impeccably timed exploding SUV or indulging in his penchant for finding any excuse to dress everyone up in maid costumes. Whispered Words can admittedly be a bit ridiculous at times, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ikeda strikes an excellent balance between the series’ humor and its more serious aspects, making for a read that is both entertaining and heartfelt. Ikeda’s artwork also reflects this duality. He effectively captures the more emotional moments—the tears, the pining, and the heartbreak, as well as the happiness and joy—but he can just as easily slip into a more comedic mode with over-the-top reactions, dynamic expressions, and exuberant poses.

The characters in Whispered Words are what really make the series work for me—not only the two leads, but their friends, families, and classmates, too. I am particularly fond of Sumika and her development, though. She so desperately wants to be something the she’s not, but it’s when she allows herself to really be who she is that she shines. This growth and the evolution of her relationship with Ushio is explored in stages in Whispered Words, often through her relationships with other characters. Tomoe Hachisuka and Miyako Taema, with whom she becomes friends, are a couple that show a lesbian relationship is not something to be ashamed of. Akemiya Masaki and Azusa Aoi are classmates who prove that others already think that Sumika is cute and admire her. The petite Charlotte Munchausen is devoted to karate, follows Sumika’s guidance, and provides an example that strength and cuteness aren’t inherently mutually exclusive. Even when played for laughs, all of these relationships are incredibly important to Sumika and are what allow her to grow as a person and will hopefully allow her to grow even closer to Ushio.


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Comments

  1. George says:

    It’s a great story with huge potential, let down by some extremely erratic translations, very poor editing, and still worse lettering. There’s an error on the second page, an error on the last page, and many, many more in between. Makes you wonder why they’d license this series, of all things, when they seemingly don’t care in the slightest about it. Oh well…

    • Ash Brown says:

      I was very disappointed with the sheer number of errors and the terrible quality control that the first omnibus had. I really hope that the subsequent volumes are treated with more care; I’m really enjoying the story itself.

      • Hmm, interesting. Were there THAT many errors? Might have been nice to give a couple examples, especially since that can affect reading it.

        • Ash Brown says:

          I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment in order to give specific examples, but there were typos throughout (most of which were easy enough to figure out what was actually meant), a few lines which were left entirely untranslated (and weren’t romanized, either), and the lettering was often awkward with words divided in strange places.

          I could look past it all for the sake of the story, but I’m probably not as sensitive to it as most. (Though, I guess it must have been pretty noticable for it to have even occured to me to mention the issues…)

          I have a tendency to focus on story content rather than production in my reviews, so that’s definitely something I could work on and be better about.

        • “Were there THAT many errors?”

          Here’s my copy, right before I boxed it up and mailed it back to One Peace: http://t.co/2x6cR6IB6u Each sticky note is a page with an error.

          Most of the problems are godawful lettering by someone who clearly doesn’t speak a word of English, and who broke words up (with or without hyphenation, at random) in completely bewildering fashion. Like, seven pages from the end (there are no page numbers, sorry…) Sumika shouts, while pounding on Kazama’s door: “?! // Kazam // a! // Are you // all // right?!” (double slashes denoting a new line.) Even by the most generous standards, Kazama’s name needs to be hyphenated, and “all right” should be “alright”. And stuff like this happens all throughout the book. (The *very next panel* on the same page has Sumika saying “…fin // e.” WTF?) It’s (very) distracting, and completely inexcusable in a professional publication.

          All throughout the book what should technically be the “Girls Club” is referred to as the “Girl’s Club”. Sumika is referred to periodically as “Violence Murasame”, which is awkward and grammatically atypical; “Violent Murasame” would be much more sensible. (This is like the distinction between calling someone “Sleepiness Smith” and “Sleepy Smith”.) There’s a spot or two in volume one where whoever translated the text randomly anglicized Japanese honorifics, dropping -chan or -san and replacing it with “Miss”. There’s (what should be) a hilarious scene towards the end of volume three, where Lotte asks “What does made out mean?” – only the idiom she’s asking about was translated, earlier on the same page, as “smooched”, instead, completely ruining the joke. And there are dozens of things throughout the book they didn’t bother to translate (mostly SFX, but some dialogue, especially in the “useless extras”), including a lot of things that they didn’t translate at first, then did for a couple chapters, then didn’t again. And a lot of the background sound effects they honestly seemed to have guessed at, and badly. (When Tomoe et al go to the YuriFes, the first panel includes a big SFX across the bottom of what the old scanlation translated -sensibly- as crowd noises of some sort, ‘rumble’ or something. One Peace translated this as, I kid you not, “Dudum!” Um… wat?)

          tl;dr: Yes, there really are THAT many errors. :(

  2. As a long time Yuri fanatic I was glad to see Whispered Words picked up, but I wasn’t sure I’d be spending my microscopic spending money on it for two reasons: 1. I’ve read the entire story before (back when we didn’t expect stuff like this to ever be licensed), and 2. I didn’t like it. I enjoyed the first few volumes for the interesting characters, but the story really felt like it lost its focus and the relationships started to take a backseat to karate and hijinks (not normally Yuri staples… >.>). I probably would have bought it eventually to support One Peace, but given all these errors and lack of decent translation, i wonder now if i would have really enjoyed it much.

    • Ash Brown says:

      Well, certainly if you didn’t enjoy it to begin with, it’s unlikely that you’d really want to buy or enjoy this edition. So far I’m liking the series (and as a karateka, I personally appreciate the series’ inclusion of karate), but I would have liked it even more if One Peace Books’ release wasn’t plagued with errors.

Trackbacks

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