Mirror Images

Looking at the picture of the manga-filled bookshelf that Dr. Lieblang featured in his lecture slides, I laughed a quiet and somewhat embarrassed laugh, for my bookshelf at home was very similar in appearance. Sandwiched between a battered copy of Katherine Stockett’s The Help and Margret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake sits volumes 54 to 72 of Masashi Kishimoto’s ninja manga Naruto. Okay, so I know Naruto is not the most intellectually rigorous read, but one thing that I find worth mentioning is that–unlike the Arts One copy of volume one of Tezuka’s Buddha, which is read left to right–English renditions of Naruto are read from the right to the left. For the most part (or, at least, what the editor in my copies of Naruto claims), the original formatting of the book is preserved in attempt to display each of the images in the way that the author had intended them to be viewed. For, when translating a manga from its traditional right to left form into the American left to right format, the publishers invert the image and the panels so that they appear as though one was looking at the picture in a mirror. As a result, a character who has a shirt that reads “MAY” in the original Japanese version will appear in the English copy wearing a shirt that says “YAM”.

In Buddha, one place where this is particularly noticeable is on pages 162-173, where Chapra is first trained by General Budai’s soldiers to use a sword. Throughout the scene, one notices that both Chapra and the solider he fights are left handed, as they brandish their sword in their left hand. This might seem kind of strange, considering that the majority of people on Earth are right handed, yet Chapra and the solider are not exceptions. On page 162, excluding three soldiers, all of the warriors are holding their weapon in their left hand. This was not because Tezuka decided to draw more right handed people than left handed people, but because all these characters originally were right handed; when the manga was “flipped” into the left to right reading format, all the images were inverted and the right handed characters became left handed (you might have also noticed this when Dr. Lieblang included the original image of page 53 in his lecture slides, as the image in the text and the image on the slide were mirror images of one another). Thus, with this in mind, I am wondering how you think inverting the panels and images could possibly effect the way in which the images convey meaning and elicit a response in the reader (beyond the simple analysis of the right handed, left handed switch that I described above).