Tomorrow we will see the English manga debut of Minoru Furuya, the creator of The Ping Pong Club. Kodansha will be releasing his manga Ciguatera as a fairly hefty book (clocking in at 452 pages), and for a bit more information about this coming-of-age tale I asked a couple questions a few months ago to the translator, Professor David Boyd, who teaches translation at UNC Charlotte, and won the 2017/2018 JUSFC Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature (Hideo Furukawa’s Slow Boat).
TheOASG: How would you describe Ciguatera based on the first volume?
David Boyd: Intense. Ciguatera isn’t light reading. The first volume has some violent moments, but Furuya seems to be much more interested in giving us the moments that come between those moments. He focuses on mental suffering more than physical pain, but that doesn’t mean the experience is any easier on the reader. It’s a great series, and really enjoyable, but it’s also very heavy.
Minoru Furuya has had a number of works released in Japan, but this will be his first manga released in English. What should readers know about him before diving into Ciguatera?
Furuya’s been active since the mid-nineties. His debut, The Ping Pong Club, was turned into an anime series in 1995. Anyone who likes Ciguatera should look into that. At the same time, Furuya’s earlier work is pretty much gag manga. The gags are still there in Ciguatera, but so are a lot of darker elements that weren’t present in his earlier work.
As much as you can — from when you were assigned to when you completed the first volume — how long have you been working on this manga?
I started working on Ciguatera earlier this year. I come back to it every few months. Right now, I’m on Chapter 50 (of 69). It’s great fun to be in that world, but it’s also nice to put it aside for a little while. Every time I come back, it’s a joy to get back inside Ogino’s head. With every volume, his world changes a little…
What were some of the challenges of translating Ciguatera?
Well, for one thing, it’s a very well-written series. That poses its own challenges. The series also switches pretty quickly between intense realism and over-the-top comedy, especially after the first volume. On one level, I think that maintaining that manic quality in English was one of the biggest challenges.
Was there anything that surprised you the most while working on Ciguatera?
In terms of content, I’d have to say the ways in which things escalate. That’s a core part of the genre, I guess, but Furuya really, really knows how to deliver a punch. He takes his time. He gets you fully invested in the characters and then, when the hit comes, it really hurts.
Out of what you’ve worked on, what’s been the chapter that was the most difficult to work on?
There isn’t a single chapter that comes to mind. The book’s ostensible villain, Taniwaki, starts out as a typical bully. In the early chapters, he’s pretty easy to hate. I don’t know if other readers will agree, but I think he becomes likable (even lovable) over time. I wanted to make space for readers to feel that way, but not overdo it.
In that sense, Taniwaki’s trajectory from about Chapter 2 to Chapter 15, by which point he’s showing his goofier side, was something that I thought a lot about. It was a challenge, but I think I’m pretty happy with how it came out.