A New Edogawa Translation by Eugene Woodbury: Interview with a Translator, Part I

The Bronze Devil by Ranpo Edogawa, translated by Eugene Woodbury, is now gearing into action!

In longstanding tradition, Interview with a Translator returns:

1. As you mention in the introduction to The Bronze Devil, there are multiple clues in the novel that the events are taking place post-war (despite no direct references to the Occupation)—from the empty lots to the orphaned children to the backstory of some characters. What was Edogawa’s opinion of World War II? The Bronze Devil has a youthful, energetic, and optimistic feel. Is that attitude exclusive to Edogawa? In any way reflective of a general attitude at the time?

I haven’t studied Edogawa enough to know what he thought about the war itself. One of his stories was banned by government censors but he remained active in his local neighborhood organization (he wasn’t a rabble rouser). He mostly wrote under a pseudonym during the war years and set aside his franchise Boy Detectives Club and Detective Akechi series. He was obviously taking a wait-and-see attitude.

The years immediately following the war were hard ones. The economy had literally burned to the ground. The “Reverse Course” starting in 1947 put the idealistic objectives of the Occupation on hold and focused on the economy. This included fiscal austerity measures to counter skyrocketing inflation. The effects were brutal in the short term but laid the foundation for Japan’s future economic growth.

In 1948, Japanese voters rejected plans to continue down the planned economy route—inspired by socialist-leaning New Deal bureaucrats in the Occupation—and voted in a slate of free-market economic conservatives, who have pretty much remained in power ever since. By the end of the decade, Japan’s economy had returned positive growth, even before the outbreak of the Korean War gave it a huge boost.

So in 1949, the year The Bronze Devil was published, things were looking up. This change in attitude is reflected in the “Showa drama” genre. The Showa drama takes place during the reign of Emperor Hirohito (1926-1989), with a focus on the post-war years. I am a big sucker for feel-good Showa dramas, in which the upward arc of the story parallels the economic recovery of Japan after WWII.

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