In this series, I have started out with something easy: the first volume of Nanatsu no Taizai in the original language. The level of the Japanese ranks even below Inuyasha in terms of difficulty. Inuyasha happens to be the first manga I recommend beginners for testing their ability to read Japanese. In Nanatsu no Taizai, the only thing remotely amusing about the Japanese is the name of Meliodas’s pet pig, ホーク or hooku–the closest the Japanese can transliterate the English word “hawk.” However, I had no idea the author was going for “hawk”; instead, I took it as a play on the way one would transliterate the word “pork”–ポーク. As you can see, the same characters are used, but the latter one has an accent marker to tell you that the character should be read “po” rather than “ho.”
Now, I should give my opinion on the story as one sees in volume one. Many of my dear readers likely remember my prior remarks on the show, and I shall try to embellish on them here. Volume one of the manga begins with Elizabeth convincing Meliodas, our hero, to seek the members of his gang, the Seven Deadly Sins, in order to oppose the Holy Knights. Then, the hero fights a few battles (admittedly well done) against a Holy Knight and some henchmen before he meets Diana of the Seven Deadly Sins and the manga ends on a cliffhanger. One already sees the common trope of the heroes wearing black while the villains wear white. This is a fine trope which reminds the audience that they must always look beneath appearances in order to perceive people’s true intentions. However, one needs to be as skilled in using it these days as Victor Hugo in Les Miserables, Richard Donner in Ladyhawke, or at least Akimine Kamijyo in Samurai Deeper Kyo. (The last author happened to take the trope too far in Code: Breaker, and the reversals became silly.) When the reversal of the usual symbolism lacks subtlety, it grates on the viewer. Then, the concept our heroes going on a journey in order to find lost comrades and to overthrow the organization which has usurped authority in the kingdom has been done many times before.
But, my dear reader, this is the kind of story I wouldn’t mind watching. Heck, I absolutely love Akatsuki no Yona, and this show has the same plot–just with more of a mythic aura and a different setting. But, Akatsuki no Yona has in spades something that Nanatsu no Taizai lacks: likable characters. Meliodas is an annoying, nonchalant pervert. Elizabeth is painfully dull. (Does she fulfill another role besides being the catalyst for the plot?) Hooku sometimes succeeds at comic relief. On the other hand, Diane’s enthusiasm for Meliodas amuses me, and other bloggers tell me that the story gets better precisely because other members of the Seven Deadly Sins are more fun to watch. Yet, how can I continue reading or watching a story in which the three characters at the center of the action vex me so much?
All the same, I wish that there was more to say about volume one–besides the fact that the mangaka does draw beautifully. It ends in a cliffhanger, which promises a better volume two. Oh, well. I promise to be more enthusiastic about the Nihongo no hon for next month: Silencer by Sho Fumimura. This manga is not for the faint of heart! I read Silencer like the way I read Akame ga Kiru: by skipping over the gruesome bits. Happily, Akame ga Kiru has been less horrific of late, i.e. I don’t feel like I’m watching a scene from the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.