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Saturday, July 12, 2008

A NOTE ON DRAWN & QUARTERLY'S EDITION OF RED COLORED ELEGY

Drawn & Quarterly's edition of Red Colored Elegy, a Japanese-language edition of which I reviewed here, is finally out. (Note that the D&Q book contains only the title story from the edition I reviewed, not the shorter stories that were also collected there.) Unfortunately, I can't greet this occaion with unalloyed joy, because Drawn & Quarterly did the same thing that they did with their Yoshihiro Tatsumi collections: rearranging the panels on each page so that the page (and the book) reads left-to-right, but not flipping the original panels.* Why do they do this? If they aren't going to publish it unflipped, which they should, I'd much prefer that they just flipped everything. That way the relationships between the panels, and the overall design of each double-page spread, would be preserved. I really don't understand. Drawn & Quarterly is clearly publishing this as a labor of love, so why do they deliberately mutilate it?

To be sure, it's not as disruptive here as in the Tatsumi collections, because most of the panels stretch horizontally across the entire page. And I certainly wouldn't make this a reason to not buy the book. But it is frustrating to have to remind myself, when I look at one of the double-page spreads, that this isn't quite what Hayashi drew.

*In fact, they don't do this every time. When a page contains a panel in which two people are speaking, all the panels on the page are flipped (otherwise the person speaking first would be on the right), and occasionally other panels are flipped.

UPDATE: Tom Devlin, Creative Director at Drawn & Quarterly, responds in the comments below; and Chris Butcher has an intelligent defense of D&Q here.

Comments:
fuck, i hate when they do that. It completely ruined the flow of blade of the immortal.
 
How do you even notice it? I read Good-Bye recently and I did not even notice anything. Of course I havent seen originals and I dont read manga so maybe thats why. otherwise it was very good book.
 
Officially, we do this to reach as wide an audience as possible. We don't view these books as specialty fiction but as stories that everyone should read. We realize that many people will view this as "mutilation" but we always run the English version past the artist before publication. In fact, Tatsumi actually rearranges the panels himself. I personally think of this approach to editing as somewhat similar to putting subtitles on a foreign film--it clearly alters the experience but it's often the only way for many of us to experience the storytelling art of different cultures.
 
I knew about RCE being partially flipped because I own the original, and I knew about Tatsumi being partially flipped because the intro to the first volume said so.
 
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