Japanese reading report

Despite falling short of some (very optimistic) goals, I did a ton of reading this week.

First and foremost, I launched right into 狼と香辛料 on Sunday, with the idea of reading 15 pages per day and finishing the whole book in three weeks. A few days in and I realized this was technically doable, but it was going to suck up a lot more time than I wanted to spend. I slowed my pace to 10 pages per day, which is a lot more sustainable, totaling 120 pages for this week. As for the content itself, I’m enjoying it quite a bit. The two main characters have good chemistry and ホロ’s speech is quite eclectic and charming, which makes it fun to read no matter what’s going on. Between this novel and my last, I’ve noticed a lot of んばかりで, which I’d previously never seen in the wild. Lots of unfamiliar vocab to look up here, mostly in relation to all the economics stuff.

Throughout the week I watched 12 more episodes of ハイキュー!, bringing me up to S3E2. I believe we’re up to the final match of the championship, so everything’s been getting steadily more exciting. I’m still not sure that I understand all the rules of volleyball yet but I’m deliberately not looking anything up so I can learn it organically. Honto has the first 10 volumes for free right now so I grabbed them; might read some once I’m out of episodes.

(Re)played a bit more Persona Q2, but I’m taking care not to overtake my sister and she was pretty busy so we didn’t make a ton of progress. I mostly did sidequests, which have been fun. There are some things that I’m certain I didn’t pick up on in my first playthrough but which are now plain as day.

Just like last week I ended up neglecting my manga until the last minute, so I spent the afternoon reading SPY x FAMILY vol. 2. I love this series and I don’t know why I didn’t immediately start reading it again when I bought the rest of the volumes a little while ago.

Finally, I read three more chapters of 本好きの下剋上. The Wanikani bookclub is synchronized to Fridays now, which throws a wrench in my plan to keep in sync with my typical Sunday reports. It’s looking like I’ll need to read six chapters this week in order to get to where I want to be, but it shouldn’t be a problem because I really like this book. The main character is maybe a little too obsessed about books but I would be lying if I said she wasn’t relatable. She’s started tackling the problems around her with the knowledge she’s picked up from books, which I imagine is an isekai staple (haven’t read one before) — but the narration style is so engaging and I’m just flying through. I have a paper copy on the way and I’m pretty sure I’ll be following this series beyond the end of the club.

Japanese reading report

This week I finished しあわせの花, which suddenly brings my best time for reading a Japanese novel down to exactly two weeks. I averaged 13 pages per day throughout the whole book and it was quite manageable even with the other reading I wanted to do. I’m planning to keep up the momentum and jump right into one of the other books I’ve accumulated. Overall this book was pretty smooth; I learned some new grammar just through context, and came across some other N1 grammar that I don’t see too often. For more on the actual contents, I wrote a detailed review here.

At the beginning of the week I read another chapter of 本好きの下剋上, so now my normal reports are in sync with the wanikani club. From this week onward the pace will be a good deal higher. Nothing really to report for this chapter; it’s definitely a pretty easy book.

Watched twelve more episodes of ハイキュー!, bringing me up to S2E15. For all of season 2 I’ve been watching without subtitles and not looking anything up, so there’s definitely a decent amount I’m missing, I’m still following along well enough though, and I think it’s interesting how I’ve managed to mostly learn the rules of volleyball despite hardly know anything about it before I started the series.

Since I wanted to have read at least one volume of manga this week, I went back to 古見さん again and read vol. 12 over the last few evenings. I think I originally paused this series because the 単行本 were coming out really slowly but it seems there are three more that I don’t even own yet, so maybe I’ll pick up the pace again. I always forget how much I enjoy it until I’m in the middle of reading.

Finally, since my little sister has started playing Persona Q2 (in English), I’ve decided to do a parallel playthrough with her. Hopefully this time I’ll actually be able to keep up! We’re both on the second floor of the second dungeon now, making very good time. I keep finding things that I know I didn’t understand when I originally played it but which are totally obvious now. Some of the translations in the English version are quite horrendous though…

Book review: しあわせの花 (Flower of Happiness)

My third Japanese novel this year comes to a close in much shorter order than my other two. Upon finishing Night Market, it suddenly occurred to me: “I’ve been reading each week’s quota of ten-or-so pages in one sitting — why not keep up that pace for the whole week instead of just for a single day?”

And so, I cracked open Flower of Happiness, which is a light-novel spinoff of the manga series 鬼滅の刃 (aka Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba). My original goal was to read 8 pages per day and finish it by the end of the month, but I ended up getting swept along and ended up reading about 14 pages per day, which allowed me to finish it in just two weeks. This is obviously the fastest I’ve read a Japanese novel and I’m excited by the prospect of keeping on this track.

To be honest, I didn’t know anything about this book at all when I bought it — I essentially bought it on a whim after I caught up to the KNY manga and was itching for more content in the same universe (though it would be some time until I actually got around to it). As it turns out, it’s not one full story at all, but rather five short vignettes depicting various characters from the main series.

The first chapter, which shares its name with the book, is set during the time that Tanjiro, Inosuke, and Zenitsu are recovering from their battle in the tsuzumi manor. Upon being invited to attend a wedding in the local town, Tanjiro finds himself wondering whether Nezuko will ever be able to become a bride herself — just in time to hear two girls talking about a rare flower that is said to bring happiness to any woman who carries it…

The second chapter, For Whom, follows Zenitsu on one of his ill-fated attempts to escape from his slayer training. Unfortunately, on his way down the mountain he runs into his greatest weakness — a lady in distress; promised to a demon in order to save her cowardly stepfather’s skin. Zenitsu can be pretty insufferable when it comes to women (and this is definitely the case later in the book), but this story shows him at his best. He seems genuinely concerned about this girl, and considering how terrified he is of demons (not to mention how eager he is to continue with his escape), you can tell it takes a lot of courage for him to help her out.

Next up, The Trouble with Fortunetelling was definitely the most entertaining story of them all, but unfortunately also the most annoying. Set after the events of the Infinity Train arc, Zenitsu is accosted by a fortune teller at a crossroads and told “stay away from women for the rest of the day, if you value your life”. He then spends the rest of the chapter in hysterics, which is somewhat disappointing considering how well he had been written immediately prior. There are some great moments here though — Inosuke picking up a menu at a cafe and immediately exclaiming “I can’t read!” (followed by Tanjiro’s futile attempts at teaching him some letters) had me laughing out loud.

Aoi and Kanao is a great little expansion on the two titular characters, and it’s too bad that more people won’t read it. While Kanao sees significant character growth throughout the manga due to Tanjiro’s positive influence, Aoi feels somewhat neglected despite being set up as an interesting character at the end of the rehabilitation arc. This story gives her a little extra time in the spotlight and serves to flesh her out between manga chapters.

Finally, Kimetsu Academy Stories is a goofy re-imagining of the setting as a typical middle/high school. If you’ve seen the anime, you may recognize this concept from the shorts at the end of some episodes. As might be expected, nothing of importance happens here at all, it’s just a chance to have some fun with the characters. It got a few laughs (my favorite bit was Yujiro pretending to be sick every day so he could see Nurse Tamayo), but this was definitely the weakest one for me.

Overall, despite the fact that it doesn’t add a lot to the story of KNY at large, I liked this book quite a bit. The writer’s style is enjoyable and she did a great job of capturing the characters. I rarely read afterwords but I decided to read this one and it seems like she really likes KNY and was super excited to write a novelization, which was cute and heartwarming. I already have one of the other books (片羽の蝶, One Winged Butterfly) and I’ll be looking forward to reading that as well.

Book review: 夜市 (Night Market)

I’ve recently finished reading Night Market as part of the WaniKani book club and wanted to write up some thoughts. This was my second-ever completed Japanese novel (the first being Hyouka, which I didn’t care for too much despite having very much enjoyed the anime adaptation) and we read through it at a pretty leisurely pace; just about exactly three months for a short 200-page book.

In retrospect, Night Market would have been the perfect introduction to the world of Japanese prose. Compared to Hyouka, which seemed to revel in its vagueness and non-committal narration style, the writing here is snappy and straightforward. Some of the sentences feel even a bit too easy, like they were plucked from the pages of a textbook. While I think it’s still broadly true that novels are more difficult to read than manga, comparing Night Market to Hyouka is enough to show that the difficulty is still a spectrum.

There are two short stories in this book, of which only one actually focuses on the titular market — a setting which, counter to my expectations, has nothing to do with bright lights and street food vendors. When the Night Market opens, those who visit will find themselves unable to leave without making a purchase — and anything, from weapons, to talents, to years of life, can be bought and sold here.

The second story, “The Old Wind Road”, was where the book really took off for me. It follows a nameless boy who is separated from his parents in the park and ends up stumbling into another world for an afternoon. This “old road” has entrances and exits here and there across our own world, but they open and close according to their own rules — and when the boy decides to revisit it years later, he discovers that the exit he had planned to use is only open while the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

The worldbuilding in this second story is fantastic. The Old Road is home to all kinds of strange creatures and spirits, and most of it is unmapped and shrouded in mystery. Even so, there are other humans here too; some simply passing through, others eking out a living by providing services to those brave or foolish enough to venture in. You get a real feeling of the scope of this world, its denizens, and the possibilities for what else might be out there, but the details are left intriguingly vague.

The conflict in both stories is simple yet compelling — you’ve found yourself in a dangerous world that plays by rules you don’t understand, and you can’t leave. In each case, there’s a great tension between wanting to leave as quickly as possible, and the knowledge that the only way to get out is to push deeper and learn more about what you’ve gotten yourself into. It works really well and kept me engaged throughout the entire book.

When I realized that Night Market was published by Kadokawa’s horror imprint, I was expecting something…a bit more grotesque than what I actually got. I’m actually happy about the reversal though. It reminded me of the kind of lingering existential dread you get by watching the Twilight Zone…rather than trying to shock or horrify, it aims for a sense of unease that sticks with you after you finish the story.

Night Market has no English translation, and considering it was published in 2005, I wouldn’t hold my breath. As I always say, the best time to start learning Japanese is three years ago — the second best time is right now.

Japanese reading report

Earlier this week I decided that I wanted to ramp up the pace of my novel reading. Since I’d been polishing off each week’s quota of 夜市 in a single day anyway (10-13 pages), I decided to extend that out and make it a daily goal. I figured I could read the entirety of しあわせの花 (one of the light novel side stories in the 鬼滅の刃 setting) by the end of the month if I read 8 pages per day, and I’m actually way ahead of pace. I ended up reading 100 pages total and I fully expect to finish the book this coming week.

I also started reading 本好きの下剋上, also with the WK bookclub. This schedule has us reading up to 44 pages per week and is split up on chapter boundaries. Since the book club started yesterday I’ve only read the prologue so far so as to stay in sync with my normal reports.

I also watched 9 more episodes of ハイキュー!, closing out the first season and bringing me up to S2E2. It finally hooked me around the middle of the last match of the season, so I’m looking forward to continuing it.

This week I barely read any manga at all — I read 1/4 of 女神異聞録ペルソナ vol. 7, but I ended up being busy with other stuff and didn’t get around to finishing it until just now at the end of the week. I was wondering how they were going to fill one more volume but I guess we just wrapped up the fakeout final boss and are on to the real one now. Some interesting plot developments happening right at the last minute. Looking forward to wrapping this up.

Japanese reading report

First thing this week I read vol. 12 (final) of 甘々と稲妻. It’s one of the very first series I started reading (actually, looking at my bookshelf on Honto, it may have been the first series I read after よつばと), so to finally get to the end was bittersweet. This last volume did a lot of time-skipping, ending with Tsumugi graduating highschool and heading off to college to study nutrition science. Some aspects of the ending felt a little vague to me but I’m overall happy with how everything came together.

Next up I read vol. 2 and 3 of 少女終末旅行, which I started almost a year ago and never finished (despite having seen and enjoyed the anime). I had intended to finish the series this week but I got distracted by other things.

Throughout the week I watched some more ハイキュー!, finishing 11 episodes (up to 17 now). I gotta say I didn’t really like it for a good chunk of the first season but it’s becoming more enjoyable as it goes on. I’m really kind of antipathetic towards sports and it’s tough to get invested. It’s good practice though and I’m following it decently well.

Last up, I read two weeks’ worth of 夜市, which brings my second novel to a close. I really enjoyed this one all the way through, but the second story, 古道, was definitely the star of the show. Lots of cool worldbuilding, good pacing, and in my opinion it did a better job of setting up plot threads than the first story in the book did. Would highly recommend. I already grabbed a couple of other books by the same author so I might move on to another one pretty soon.

Japanese reading report

This week I decided to start watching ハイキュー!after hearing good stuff about it from one of my friends. Currently 5 episodes in, hoping to do at least that much next week too. I’ve been using subtitles this time around and it’s helping me follow just about everything, though I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it up as I continue.

I also ended up reading some manga, probably because it’s a tough habit to break. 甘々と稲妻 vol. 9, 10, and 11 brings me just shy of the end of the series, so I’ll be finishing that up this coming week. The character development has been really good as we approach the finale and I’m super excited to see events I predicted at the very beginning finally coming to fruition.

Getting back on the Persona 4 bandwagon, I played through 11 in-game days, bringing me up to 6/5.

Finally (literally; I only finished at the last minute) I caught up with 夜市. We only have two weeks left until the book is over and I’m honestly expecting a not-so-happy ending. Still very interesting and fun to read; learning new words and getting lots of repetition.