When I was 13, I wanted to be a manga creator. Between college and Japan, I forgot that dream. After reading Jamie Lynn Lano’s The Princess of Tennis, that 15-year-old dream cried out and I realized why: Lano never forgot her dream and became a manga assistant for Takeshi Konomi’s The Prince of Tennis, or TeniPuri by some fans.
Lano’s journey starts with already living in Japan for 4 years as an English teacher before applying to Konomi’s call for manga assistants. Throughout the book, Lano not only talks about how manga is made (it’s less technical than I thought) but also the ups and downs of being a 6-foot-1 foreign woman in Japan.
The Princess of Tennis is an easy and fun read. Lano keeps the tone light and friendly, and when she turns to darker themes–the invisible red tape for foreigners, real Japanese customs, and women’s 1950’s role in Japanese culture–Lano always remembers that this true story is a happy one, minus the tinted glasses.
While Lano makes her book accessible for all readers, The Princess of Tennis best fits otaku and aspiring manga creators and editors. She uses Japanese words and emoticons that anyone can find in a manga. For readers outside of the manga-reading audience, this book comes off as a borderline Young Adult novel or fanfiction, especially when the grammatical errors are considered. Because Lano’s voice and amiable nature is consistent, readers can forgive the missing words, incorrect punctuation marks, and passive sentences.
As with many books about Japan, The Princess of Tennis uses many Japanese words. Some might find it charming, but I believe that if a book is for the English-reading community, it should stay in English. I wouldn’t say, “Konomi Teacher”. Even “Mr. Konomi” is passable. Still, I’d just omit the word. In the West, using someone’s last name is also a sign of respect. Untranslated Japanese words with simple English meanings–“ohayo” (“Good morning”), “hajimemashite” (“Nice to meet you”), and “ganbare” (“Good luck” or “Do your best”)–are still in the book. I think I removed every romanized word with corrector ink just to polish the text.
Aside from the mistakes, The Princess of Tennis was entertaining and inspirational for me. Remember my dream of becoming a manga creator? Maybe my TeniPuri call is waiting for me to answer.