Tenzen Momoko: Flutter

I bought Flutter on Saturday and have already read it 12 times. When I first saw the cover, I was trying to figure out which one was the seme because from the looks of it, it could be either one. Once I started reading, it didn’t take long to figure out, but, in a way, it was still surprising.

Tenzen Momoko’s Flutter tells the story of Asada and Mizuki: two ukes who fall in love. That’s not a typo. Seriously, even Tenzen-sensei thinks so. But it’s funny how it works. I can see the two of them having a really great friendship on top of all the physical intimacy you expect from the usual seme/uke relationship. With this type of pairing, you don’t get the uke’s struggle to be seen as an equal or the seme unnecessarily spreading his alpha-maleness all over the pages. It probably seems like the story would be without conflict, but such a union has its own points of contention. Issues like, who’s more adorable? Who gets to blush more? Should I moan or should you? Just kidding; there are real problems that Asada and Mizuki have to face and the story isn’t lacking just because the pursuit of dominance is.

Then there’s the dialogue. Sensei is really good at writing the kind that’s really sweet, but she’s also good for the kind that makes you laugh out loud. You’re not laughing because it’s funny, though it may be; it’s more likely that you find yourself cracking up in an “OMG! No he didn’t!” kind of way. Her characters often engage in playful banter and teasing and they say the kind of things one of your friends would say. And it’s that part that gets me. It’s so familiar and comfortable. Asada and Mizuki are such a cute pairing. I was blushing right along with them. I love Tenzen Momoko; I always fall in love with her characters. That really sums it up.

HOWEVER. As much as I enjoyed the story, my enjoyment wasn’t the only reason I’ve already read it 12 times. During round no.01, when I was reading the last chapter, I was confused. Very. Is it the fault of the mangaka, the translator, or is it just me? I don’t know for sure, maybe someone can chime in on this. I felt that there were several panels where the dialogue didn’t match. That is to say, their faces expressed one thing, but the dialogue and/or the punctuation did not concur. It made me feel like I missed a panel or two. Even after 12 reads, I still think so.

The other bone I have to pick was the conspicuous absence of honorifics. It’s the kind of thing that you understand will happen in English releases, but you still hate it. I suppose it is because I’ve been spoiled by translation initiatives with purist or cultural preservationist leanings that I am taking this so hard. Even though I do not read Japanese, my mind now seems to be hard coded to pick up on the social nuances and class differential indicants that are built into the Japanese language. With that I am able to better understand the circumstances under which the characters are operating.

The sans-san (as I like to call it) translation does not spell doom for every English release–there are many that are not affected by the removal at all. It may be because the translators and literary editors were able to work in just the right amount of casual and elevated speech to accurately convey the various levels of social intimacy and familiarity between the characters. It could also be because–though less likely–the original work did not rely heavily on the interpersonal relationships of the characters. Whatever the reason or method, there exists volumes that read perfectly well sans-san.

Unfortunately for me, as I mentioned earlier, the honorifics in Flutter were conspicuously absent. I’d liken it to trying to read while riding on an unpaved road. It didn’t stop me from enjoying it, but I did lose my place a number of times while mentally adding suffixes and that didn’t start until round no.03 or 04. Before that, I was just trying to scratch the itch caused by something I couldn’t quite figure out yet.

At first, Asada and Mizuki came off as rude and overly familiar and even though I was convinced by their courtship, I was hesitant to really give in. However, by the time I got to the end, I was stuck right in the middle and unsure of which way I should be leaning. Eventually I just settled there and hoped I’d figure it out on the next read.

Each subsequent read was a result of my determination to really enjoy the story. Though I’m still put off by the lack of honorifics. And not just because of my preferences either. I believe that there are a few scenes that lose their significance because the sans-san translation replaced the foundation that is required to grasp what is being implied with the underpinnings of a “we’re all equals” western point of view. Is this going to stop me from reading it again? Not at all, but while I love the story, it makes me love this edition just a little less.

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