This is my first solo attempt at translating, so please forgive the rough spots.
I bought this manga some years ago in Japan, and recently noticed that it wasn’t being translated, so I decided to make this a project of mine.
A word of
caution, while I *do* have the original manga, I have, where possible, used scans
that I found online. I don’t want to mess up my manga scanning them since I’m
back in America and can’t rebuy them for cheap. ^.^;; I have the first 9 volumes
as provided by Fox-Kitsune/Shou-kitsune. After getting annoyed at the small
size of the images, among other things, I decided to scan my own copies. I
appreciate that someone else went through the work of scanning the pages, but I
found there were several minor, but annoying differences between the Chinese
versions that I found online and the Japanese version I have.
First, please note that I’m translating from the Japanese version of the comic, which I believe (based on the sounds drawn into the art) is the original production. The topic, however, is actually ancient China. The title translates to something roughly like, “Record of Northern Song Affairs” but the suggested title I found was simply “Justice Bao.” The story focuses on one Bao Zheng, said to be one of the few honest officials of the Northern Song Dynasty. He is a really very interesting historical figure, whom you will probably become at least passingly interested in as you read the story. He was, indeed, called black-face or something like Charcoal, which would indicate dark skin. I’m not sure if the crescent shaped birth mark was real or if it is merely tradition, but he is typically portrayed as having the birthmark (and a statue commemorating him appears to have the mark). If you need a reference to the time period and the like, just do a random search and you’ll be able to place it. For those who are really into period dramas, this is before the Jin took control of Northern China (which is why it’s called Northern Song).
Anyway, a few bits of information –
In a few places, such as titles, I have no real way of knowing what the title means or I get something like “Shubo: An old Chinese title- in the Central government office, this official deals with managing and administering the books and keeping records.” It’s not very informative, especially since I know that that particular title also refers to an advisor for the Justice. I’ve decided, rather than go nuts looking them up, translating the usually very complex description, and trying to find equivalents, to leave the title as it is. In most cases, Takiguchi wrote in rough equivalents in parenthesis. I have, therefore, done the same. ^.^;; Sorry. It is important to note that Bao/Houjou's offical title is "Kaihoufuin" with the "Kaihoufu" referring to the physical building he is assigned to. I'll translate this as the Kaihoufu Official, though I know that is clearly incorrect. I just can't figure out the correct title. The -in shows up as a kanji in my kanji list, but my dictionaries, even my formal and historical Japanese dictionaries, have no usage information.
In the story, the Japanese reading of the main character’s name comes out to Houjou, which I’ve used rather than the more proper Bao Zheng (you can’t really look up Houjou to find information about the person, though). I don’t want to get mired in trying to remember what the real names of the characters are, because *all* of them are different from the 'real' names, much like many words or names that end up migrating languages.
Remember that Bao is considered the “perfect” official, and is similar to Sherlock Holmes in his ability to figure out difficult cases. He has six main supporters that you will see in the story who are also generally regarded as incorruptible officials. His body guard Zhan Zhao is called Tenjou in the manga; as you’ll see, he is one of those legendarily strong sorts. His scribe/aide/assistant/advisor Gongsun Ce is Couson Saku in the manga. He is highly intelligent and very merciful. Finally, there are four guards that often flank Bao when he holds court. They are properly Wang Chao, Ma Han, Zhang Long, and Zhao Hu (or at least those are the most common four) and in the manga they are referred to as Oochou, Bakan, Chouryou, and Chouco. I have no idea which is which, but I haven’t found much information about the four to indicate that it is important to know which is which, so I’m not worrying about it.
Also random fact to know – Bao was highly regarded by the previous (3rd) Emperor and was given several items of importance from him. One that you’ll see in the first manga is a set of beheading devices/guillotines. Each one was stylized into a different animal, and each one was used for different ranks. Royalty was beheaded with the dragon, government officials were beheaded with the tiger, and the commoners with the dog. In the manga, despite this Emperor being the 4th Emperor, it seems as if we are to think the items are from the 4th Emperor (the current one in the story line).
Please note that while the manga is based off of historical characters, and
some of the cases may hold some similarities to actual cases that he had, this
is largely very fictionalized. This series is largely considered a comedy, with
some touches of romance.
In a couple of places in the Japanese manga, the author has added explanation notes. For the most part, rather than translating these separately, I have tried to incorporate that information in the line. These notes were mostly to inform Japanese about aspects of Chinese history that the reader might not know (and they actually are not even present in the Chinese version I am working from). Since English readers probably won’t know these things, I’ve tried to just add them in. Otherwise, I’ll have a notes section like this (hopefully shorter in the future) with explanations.
The Ghost in Chapter 1 calls Houjou “Seishu-sama.” The Kanji are “star” and “master” in that order. This is a plot device that will be explained a little later on.
One of Bao’s nicknames is “Blue Sky Bao” and has become such a popular phrase that “blue sky” has come to mean justice. For the most part, I use the literal “blue sky” since that is what the period reference would still mean.
Also, I hesitate in the use of "Prefecture" but couldn't think of another similar word. The kanji indicates something like a state or a county, but they don't translate exactly as I'm not sure exactly of the size approximation or even the relative level of autonomy. Just understand that where I use prefecture, I'm just trying to relate the kanji to a modern-ish idea.
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