This week it felt like I didn’t have much time to read, but I actually got a lot more done than I usually feel I do. I read vol. 1 of 被虐のノエル, a manga adaptation of a free web game that’s being serialized on 電ファミニコゲーマー (the same site as 殺戮の天使, if that rings any bells). I found out about it through a friend of mine; there’s an English translation of the first 8 episodes on Steam (no longer for free), but it smells badly of a quick machine translation job. I’ve been working on tools to help her give the game an editing pass, but up to this point I actually didn’t know much about the story at all and I figured reading the manga would be a good way to go about that!
The basic plot is that the main character, Noel, decides to make a highly illegal contract with a demon in order to get revenge against someone she’s been lead to believe has wronged her. In actuality, Noel is just being used by a crooked politician who’s been able to rise to power by manipulating other people into making contracts that ultimately benefit him, all without getting his hands dirty. The contract’s cost ends up being the loss of all her limbs, and she nearly dies before being saved by the demon himself as he interprets her 「た。。。 たすけ。。。」 as a second contract. It sort of becomes a “girl and her monster” story in the vein of とつくにの少女 or 魔法使いの嫁. Caron, the demon, is a great character with a lot of flowery archaic language and his dialogue is fun to read (even if it’s kind of hard to understand).
I probably won’t continue reading the manga — the writing style is interesting and the art is very creative and expressive, but the pacing feels a little bit too much like a video game and I think it detracts from the experience. Since the company in charge of translation has evidently abandoned the game, I might try doing a fan translation of Episode 9 on my own.
I also read half of Flying Witch vol. 2, which is still pretty easy. I did have a few stumbles last night though; I was on a flight that had to make an unplanned fuel stop and my brain was just barely crawling along. I misread a few easy words and got stuck for a little bit, but besides that it was pretty smooth. There was one point where I seriously doubted my comprehension because nothing seemed to make sense, but it turned out that it was all a dream sequence anyway and it was supposed to be nonsensical.
Finally in the audio immersion category, I listened to another couple of episodes of きくドラ on my ride to and from work one day. My comprehension here was pretty low but I did hear a few N2 grammar points that should hopefully review better now that I have a concrete use for them. I also listened to the first…episode? of the Persona 4: Golden Drama CD, which is a totally new scenario that doesn’t appear in the game. My comprehension for this was was honestly surprisingly high. I only missed a handful of lines and it was a lot of fun to listen to. I’ve got another episode (each one is about an hour long) and I’ll probably listen to each one a few times over for reinforcement.
I don’t usually turn in my report until Saturday, but I’m very excited this time — after six months (on and off) I’ve finally finished Persona Q2, with three weeks to go before the English release. The last session ended up being almost five hours long and I felt like I was in the zone the whole time (okay, most of the time — in the grand old Persona tradition the final boss uses a lot of archaisms and grandiose speech). I’ve browsed JP wikis and message boards for quest prerequisites, finished all the sidequests except for three or four, and pored over the official strategy guide to learn the locations of rare materials so I could put together the ultimate dream team. In terms of practical application this is the most comprehensive thing I’ve done with my Japanese knowledge to date.
Aside from that, I’ve done a fair amount of dabbling around to decide what I want to fill my reading time with from here on out. A few more chapters of 甘々と稲妻, a few of からかい上手の高木さん (which I haven’t tried reading in a while but I’ve found is much easier to follow than last time).
Just like last week, most of my immersion came from Persona Q2. I’m really close to finishing it — I have a handful of side quests to wrap up, one more floor of the last dungeon, and then the final boss + epilogue. Since I haven’t had time to stream this week I’ve been knocking out side quests whenever I have some downtime at work. My intention is to complete the full game and then make a review video before the official English launch on June 4th, and it seems like I’m on track to make that happen. Similar to what Liquid said above, it’s interesting to notice when a writer has a penchant for certain words. I’ve come across めでたしめでたし and 名残惜しい a couple of times throughout this game, which incidentally works as a kind of SRS in and of itself.
Instead of picking up the next volume of Flying Witch, I decided to try and polish off some of the other manga I’ve accumulated (some of which I’ve previously put on hold due to their difficulty). I read half of 甘々と稲妻 vol. 4, which is only getting easier and easier. At this point most of the new words I’m coming across are pretty obvious in context; the most difficult part is that the dialogue text will occasionally switch to handwriting for dialogue that’s going on “in the background” or is otherwise non-critical.
I also started ３月のライオン vol. 1, which I really enjoyed as an anime but have always been intimidated by — being as the whole series revolves around Shogi matches, I’m expecting some serious jargon. So far though, that seems to be the least of my problems. The presentation is so eclectic, jumping between long stretches of silence when Rei is alone, and total chaos when the Kawamotos are in the picture. There’s also some interesting kanji “wordplay” on the very first page; 「家も無い・家族も無い・友達も居無い」. Between the two different readings of 家 and the non-standard (?) spelling of 居無い, it feels the author likes to have fun with the way words tie together on the page.
The majority of my reading this week was from Persona Q2, which is getting ever closer to the end. Last night I finished the fourth dungeon, including the post-boss cutscenes. It was a 4-hour session with no chance to save my game, and I spent at least 3:30 of that time doing continuous live translation (I’ve been streaming my playtime on Twitch). Completely exhausting, but the pace was really good — it probably would have taken me twice as long a month or two ago. This last dungeon has had multiple scenes where the dialogue advances automatically and I was glad to see I was able to keep up without too much trouble. In addition to my 7 hours or so of stream time, I also played through four or five sidequests (which are usually 90% dialogue). All told I probably spent 10 hours on PQ2 this week.
I also began and finished Flying Witch vol. 1. I was really surprised by just how accessible it was — compared to ５花嫁, my reading speed is much higher and my comprehension is close to 100%. I did pick up a few words here and there via context (realizing that 音痴 can be used as a suffix; intuitively understanding 新米; even realizing that 〜べ is a way of expressing the volitional in 津軽弁), so I want to say Flying Witch is precisely at my reading level, maybe even a little below it.
Finally, I spent the time on my bike to and from work by listening to ラジオドラマ on the Google Podcasts app. I actually just clicked on the first one I saw that was about as long as my commute and ended up with きくドラ. They seem to have a wide variety of material; the first one I listened to was a dramatization of the story of Sampson from the Bible, and I had a really cool moment of epiphany halfway to work when I actually realized just which story it was. My listening comprehension is still pretty week in isolation but I plan to make good use of these going forward.