Thursday, 3 March 2011


Sazae-san is known by virtually every man woman and child in Japan, but is completely obscure in the western market. Starting in 1946, the title became a staple of post-war cultural entertainment Japan, and even though the manga stopped running in the 70s, the anime has been running constantly for over 40 years and exists as the longest animation series in the world. If it were ever to stop Japan would probably break down into a civil war or something

Sazae-san depicts the everyday lives of a twenty something woman and her family who all live under the same roof (this being her siblings, parents, husband and own child). As a 4koma, it is a comic strip in the truest form with visual gags, puns and observations on life in postwasr Japan very much appealing to people who went through similar experiences at the time. Despite being unreservedly Japanese in its approach, instances of Sazae appearing unladylike or failing to keep up appearances are universal, with only the odd cultural note needed to help things along. It could be seen as being a little dry as its fairly conservative by todays standards, but theres no denying its cultural significance as well as offering insight into the more mundane instances of contemporary Japanese life.

The only reason this title has even made it to western shores is through bilingual editions translated by Kodansha itself. With the English in the speech bubbles and the Japanese sitting next to each panel, the idea is that this could be used as a learning aid. 12 volumes are out there somewhere, predominantly from second-hand sources at variable prices. The educational value as a language learning really depends on the reader, but for some gentle entertainment and cultural insight this is filled with charm.

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