Japanese reading report

This week was super productive. I hit all my normal goals and then some.

For manga, I read 女神異聞録ペルソナ vol. 3, which keeps getting better. They introduced some interesting parallel world stuff which is certainly shaping up to elevate the plot, which seemed pretty standard up to this point. Next up was 阿波連さんははかれない vol. 3, which was as hilarious as ever. Also read とつくにの少女 vol. 3 and wished I had the next volume ready to go so I could move on right away — while it’s light on dialogue the art style is just fantastic and the stakes have suddenly gone up a lot. I remember having trouble with this one on the first volume but it was the easiest one I read this week, so maybe sometime soon I’ll grab the next six volumes and read them all over the course of a week to get caught up. Finally, since I needed something to read while falling asleep for the last two nights, I read 甘々と稲妻 vol. 8. Had to look up a decent amount of food vocab this time around — fortunately all of them were new words though. It’s surprising sometimes just how well a lot of cooking terms have stuck in my memory despite the fact that I haven’t been seeing them too much lately.

Kept up to date with the Wanikani book club on 夜市. We’re actually into a story called 風の古道, which features a different setting, different characters, and even a different perspective, switching from third- to first-person. Compared to the lat story, this one seems like it might be a little scarier based on the hints that have been dropped so far. Still reading it pretty easily, though I’ve learned some oddball words like 小便小僧 that I definitely had to look up in order to get what was going on.

Continued playing Persona 4. Last week I left off at 4/18 and today it’s 5/7. Definitely taking this at a more leisurely pace than P5, but since I can bring my Vita anywhere the pressure to finish it in a hurry is off. I never noticed in the English version, but pretty much all the teachers in this game have super thick country accents or other quirky ways of speaking.

Also read a bit more of 大図書館の羊飼い. I’ve heard that visual novels are super difficult and while I can’t say that this one is really all that bad, it does have quite a lot of vocabulary I haven’t seen before (fortunately no unfamiliar grammar, so it’s not too hard to look stuff up). A few cool phrases that stuck out to me: 溺れる者は藁をもつかむ, 三十六計逃げるに如かず, 虫の知らせ, 黄泉の国. It took long enough but by the point I left off we had finally made it to the titular library and met a handful of characters.

It’s been a good long while since I’ve been to the gym, so 響け!ユーフォニアム has been on hiatus (it used to be the show I would watch while on the treadmill). I decided to pick it back up and watched two more episodes. Still following along with subs2srs but it seems like I’ve been catching more than I used to, so my review workload is lower. Also watched an episode of 魔法使いの嫁. I read the first couple of volumes in English a long time ago and I’ve been meaning to get back to it, but since I don’t want to buy the manga right away I figured I’d start watching the show. Started going through it with subs2srs but I know they use a decent amount of made-up fantasy words so I’m not going to stress about it too much.

Japanese reading report

Putting in my report early this week since I’ll have guests over the weekend and probably won’t get a chance to read much.

First up, I finished vol. 2 of 女神異聞録ペルソナ after running out of time to finish it last week. Now that the base cast has been established they’ve been introducing new characters and they keep impressing. One scene in particular features the newest member shocking the entire party by his ability to avoid fighting demons by negotiating with them, which is basically just an excuse to drop in a bunch of heinous puns.

This week’s chunk of 夜市 actually brings the titular story to a close with half of the book still remaining. When I realized this was published by the Kadokawa horror imprint it set me up to expect some pretty awful developments, but in the end it was more akin to the kind of philosophical emptiness that that Twilight Zone usually instills. I liked it quite a lot and I’ll be looking forward to how the next story plays out (based on a quick skim of the first page it seems to be quite different from the get-go).

I also read vol. 9 of Flying Witch, which I was very excited to get (it’s a monthly manga so we only get a new volume about every ten months). There were lots of opportunities to pick up new words through context alone, which is always fun. Picked up a new grammar point, がてら, which appears in my N1 新完全マスター grammar book. There were quite a few good chapters in here; in one, Makoto’s mini mandrakes are causing hilarious mischief and a new character from America is introduced, leading to a few pages of very broken English until it’s revealed that she can speak Japanese too. Interestingly, both of the manga I read this week used horizontal text to indicate when characters were speaking a foreign language that was being translated into Japanese for the benefit of the reader. There was also a chapter featuring the samurai ghost Okada, who was much easier to understand this time than when I first met him in the last volume.

I also jumped on the Persona 4 train, though I’m actually picking up from an old save on my Vita rather than the new Steam release. Some friends of mine are starting to play it in English so I figured I’d follow along and get some practice in. Most of my time this week was spent idly grinding to get a good set of personas for the Yukiko fight so it was a bit light on actual reading, but worth mentioning I think.

Japanese reading report

This week was pretty busy so I wasn’t able to quite meet all of my goals (at least at the time of writing; I’ll probably wrap up another one before the end of the day).

First up, I did finally finish Persona 5: Royal. The post-game content was really really good and I’m happy to report I was able to follow along with all of it (and then later discuss the ending with some friends and make sure I hadn’t missed anything major). Very very happy with the way everything wrapped up; it was down to the wire with a few social links but I did manage to do a 100% coop, all-missions-clear run so I’m satisfied that I saw as much content as possible. On that note, I’m pretty sure that over the course of this game I’ve seen every grammar point I’ve learned to date, plus a bunch of new ones and a ton of new vocabulary. I was especially tickled to see ~わ~わで for the first time in the wild after learning about it ages ago.

I launched immediately into 大図書館の羊飼い, which I’d bought almost a year ago but had dropped pretty quickly due to the immediate onslaught of difficult material. I’ve been holding off on visual novels until I can read them without too much difficulty (and without any kind of external tools, since all my VNs are for Switch and PS Vita). This time around it was much better and I think I’ll stick with it at a leisurely pace.

I read about half of 女神異聞録ペルソナ vol. 2. The characters are great and I really like the art style. Not knowing much about Persona 1 and 2, some of the plot developments so far have been kind of surprising and I can definitely see how this was sort of prior to the series finding what made it distinct from mainline SMT.

Finally, I read all but one page of the allotted chunk of 夜市 from the Wanikani book club. A pretty major development has just taken place and it’s gone into a sort of flashback mode. This upcoming week will wrap up the first story in the book so I’m looking forward to seeing how everything comes together.

Honorable mention: finished the last two sidequests in Persona 5: Scramble, which I had been sitting on for a while (a high-difficulty repeat of the final battle, plus a fight against the Reaper), which unlocked a super cute cutscene with Lavenza and brought the post-game content to a close. Loading this clear save allows for a proper NG+ mode along with a new extreme difficulty, which I briefly tried only to die in two hits in the pregame sample battle. I’ll probably go back to it in the future but for now I’m calling it quits.

Read fast and skip things

This post originally appeared as a comment on the WaniKani forums

Reading broadly, rather than reading deeply, is what helped me the most when I was first starting out.

Let’s say in your reading, you come to a page that has 10 sentences:

  • Four sentences are completely comprehensible. They contain vocab and grammar you’ve studied, or they’re just common phrases that you’ve seen many times in the wild.
  • Three sentences are i+1. You know almost all the words and can infer the last one by context, or there’s some new grammar that you’ve brushed with before, and it’s just about to click into place.
  • Three sentences are incomprehensible. There’s some unfamiliar slang, a weird pronunciation, or a bothersome 和製英語 that’s going to send you off on a wild goose chase.

That’s a decent mix of difficulty and if you sat down and dug into everything, you’d certainly come away with more knowledge. But let’s simulate what might actually happen:

  • You open up your manga and the first sentence you read is easy. Things are going well.
  • The very next line is incomprehensible. You pull out your dictionary, search around on the internet to see if there’s some new grammar point that would help…but it takes a while because honestly, you’re not even confident in what you need to be looking up. If you’re determined to understand everything you come across, maybe your reading session actually ends here because you run out of time or get frustrated.
  • But what a shame! The third sentence is i+1 and you would have understood it with just a fraction of the effort you just spent on the last one. To make matters worse, this sentence actually provides valuable context that immediately clears up any confusion you would have had – a character “pronounces” (in kana) an unknown word that had been written in kanji, and now you suddenly recognize it; or an ambiguous construction is suddenly clear because of context that wasn’t available yet.

Obviously this is a contrived example and it won’t always be the case that every difficult sentence will be followed by one that holds the key to unlocking its meaning. But here’s the thing: in each of these scenarios, it’s the third, the i+1 sentence, that provides the greatest learning boost. For my money, reading should be all about seeking out those moments. If you get bogged down by difficult sentences, you’ll be encountering i+1 material less often simply by virtue of the fact that you’ll have less overall coverage.

I’m a firm proponent of skipping stuff you don’t understand. Pick your battles of course; some words will be easy to look up, and if you run into multiple incomprehensible sentences in a row it’s probably a good idea to slow down so you don’t get lost. Overall though, I find that the more reading you do (not merely the more time you spend reading), the better.

Now that my blog supports Japanese characters I can finally start posting the reading reports I’ve been accumulating. Over the next few days, a large number of posts will be back-dated across the last year and a half.

These reports were originally intended for 日本語と英語, a Discord community for people learning Japanese or English.

The long drought

It’s been about four years since I’ve posted regularly on this blog, and the reason is as simple as it is uninteresting: I really didn’t have that much to say. My former job, which dealt with anti-money-laundering and financial compliance, had me under heavy NDA to the point where I couldn’t discuss any details about the technology we were working with, let alone the day-to-day. We were in a continual state of slipping behind; always pushing back against management in an attempt to stop incurring technical debt, and always being rebuffed. It was a vicious cycle that I fed into by being willing to work extreme hours at the cost of my own mental and physical health — which only served to embolden upper management as they saw that we were capable of “working miracles”.

During this time of working long hours and fighting to keep RSI at bay, my motivation to work on personal projects was at an all-time low. I released the odd update for Glide but besides that, I did very little coding at home. Not only was I unable to write about my professional work, but my passion projects were so neglected that there was nothing to write about in the first place.

Something had to fill the gap left by my hobby programming, and by happy coincidence I had begun studying Japanese around the same time that I started my job. I made lots of missteps the first two years (more on that in a later post), but at around the two-year mark I had a breakthrough and started reading extensively, which turned out to be incredibly effective. I’ve been part of a reading club for over a year now (and have submitted a reading report every single week), but when I tried to crosspost my reports here, I found that my ancient WordPress install was still using a latin database charset and everything I typed would show up as ????????. Unwilling to risk losing my existing posts, I left it alone.

Last night I bit the bullet, nuked my entire website and reinstalled WordPress fresh. Fortunately my posts imported without issue (though some media references are still broken).

Since leaving my job I’ve had a lot of free time to work on personal projects; watch this space more details on that front. And with a shiny new database that supports non-latin characters, I should have a lot more freedom to write about what’s been going on with my life lately.


Japanese reading report

This week, same as last, was basically dedicated to P5R. Since last week I’ve finished both November and December and am currently working on the post-game content that was added in Royal. The hardest part this week was definitely the final boss’s philosophizing, which is par for the course so far (it’s the same in both Scramble and Q2). Fortunately this was also a lot of fun; I love learning new (old) words and the way these ancient gods speak always gets me excited. I’ve been cruising through the new content too; a lot of it is voiced and I’m able to keep up with it in real time despite obviously not having played it before. I hope to beat the game today or tomorrow.

On the same track, I’ve started reading 女神異聞録ペルソナ, the manga adaptation of the first game in the series. Finished vol. 1 the other day and it’s quite enjoyable. Based on what I’ve seen I don’t know that I would be able to get into the gameplay of 1&2, so it’s nice to be able to catch up on the lore.

I skipped 夜市 this weekend (the book club updates on Fridays, which only gives me a couple of days until reports are due). Still keeping up with it but I’ll read this week’s section during this week to reset the schedule.