This week I dug in and spent a bunch of time on 十三機兵防衛圏, with the idea of finishing it up before the English version launched on the 22nd. Didn’t quite end up making it in time but I did get there eventually. A 100% clear (including the platinum trophy but not including the optional bonus battle area) took me just about exactly 60 hours, of which over half were put in this week alone. I’m planning to write up my thoughts about it a little later but the short version is: really stunning experience all around, amazing story with a lot of very cool and creative ideas told in a super creative way.
It was a bit close at the end but I did manage to catch up to the WK book club on 本好きの下剋上. We’re past the halfway mark now and I’m still having a great time. This past week hit a page count peak so it’ll be pretty smooth sailing from here on out (especially since I don’t have anything new that I immediately plan to move on to).
This week I finally finished 狼と香辛料, so that’s good news. Once I readjusted to the 10pg/day pace it was much more sustainable, though honestly I wish I had shelved it and spent that time doing something else. Overall I just really didn’t enjoy it, and after thinking about it I can only chalk that up to the author’s writing style — the economics bits are clearly written for someone who already enjoys the topic, and that’s just not me.
The majority of my input came from 13 Sentinels, which just keeps getting better. I’m at 27 hours now and have probably just passed the 50% mark. Some sections are more difficult due to long strings of technical kanji compounds, but for the most part things are still going pretty smoothly and I’m able to pick up new words easily.
Rapid-fire minor contributions: I read a bit more of 本好きの下剋上 but ended up falling pretty far behind the bookclub, so I’ll have to catch up this coming week. Just one chapter this time. Three more episodes of 魔法使いの嫁; almost done with the anime at this point. I feel like it’s not quite as good now as it was in the beginning but I’m still enjoying myself. Also played some more Persona Q2 (my sister suddenly overtook me so I’ve got to catch up); about halfway through the third dungeon now.
Emboldened by the success of my first fast-paced reading challenge, I reached for my stack of unread Japanese books and picked one that I’d been thinking about for a while; Spice and Wolf, which I had randomly inherited from a friend long before my reading was remotely up to scratch.
My original plan was to read 15 pages per day (a one-page increase over my average pace from last time) and finish it in three weeks, but after the first week it was apparent that this was going to be completely unsustainable and re-targeted to a four-week pace, bringing me to an even 10 pages per day. Even this would prove to be a challenge, though I did manage to finish it one day early.
To briefly summarize the broad concept: whereas some fantasy authors set out to create a world in which to play out their unique ideas for a magic system or to explore a web of political intrigue, Isuna Hasekura has decided to spin a story all about the dirty details of being a merchant. Rather than an encroaching dragon, the driving tension comes from the possibility of taking advantage of a currency speculation scheme that turns out to have some very powerful actors working behind the scenes. I really do have to give him credit; “fantasy economics” isn’t a genre I would have ever thought of, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t work. The political tension between neighboring kingdoms, the risk of dealing with multiple merchant guilds, the potential for worldbuilding with regards to supply and demand across different regions; there’s potential here to tell an endless number of deep, interconnected stories (and considering that there are now 20 books in the novel series alone, it seems that’s exactly what he’s done).
Where it all falls apart is…I just have no interest in what is very clearly the entire point of the book.
The two main characters, Laurence (a traveling merchant) and Holo (an ancient goddess of harvest known as the Wise Wolf) are well written and have good chemistry. Holo in particular is delightful with her old-timey speech style and penchant for mischief. Their scenes together are highly enjoyable, but they’re interspersed with what I can only describe as excerpts from a fictitious textbook on medieval trade theory. It’s quite possible that I wouldn’t have been bothered by this if my Japanese reading ability was higher, but as I am right now, it just felt like a series of speedbumps that got in the way of my enjoyment of the story.
Spice and Wolf is…not a book for me. I can understand what makes it tick, and I can even appreciate what the author has managed to do, but quite frankly there were not a few moments where reading this book made me want to die. What I can say for certain is that I now understand why some of my favorite series — the ones that describe the process of cooking in great detail and go into depth about the nuances between certain ingredients — fall so flat for other people. If you’re not interested in cooking, you probably won’t enjoy a book written by someone who loves it — and I have absolutely no interest in economics.
Another pretty busy week…boy am I looking forward to finishing up 狼と香辛料. I was out all day yesterday and barely had any chance to read at all, so even after the work I had done to catch up (reading 12 pages per day instead of 10), I still ended up behind at the end of the week. Oh well. Honestly, the last few days’ worth of reading has been a huge drag. There’s a lot of scheming about how to get Holo out of a scrape, but it’s all politicking and economics talk which I am having a lot of trouble following. I basically just have to remind myself that I learned a lot by reading at low comprehension way back when, so theoretically this is all still beneficial.
I also managed to keep up with 本好きの下剋上, which is fortunately much easier and more enjoyable to read. I’m a little under halfway through the book now. The descriptions of the antiquated customs and technology continue to impress…some standout moments this week were a hog slaughtering party, hand-dipped candles, and an attempt to make papyrus (one of what will likely be many failed attempts at creating something like paper).
My favorite bit of reading this week was definitely 十三機兵防衛圏. I’m about 10 hours in and enjoying myself immensely. Pretty much every line is voiced, which makes it really easy to look up unknown words, but I’m having very little trouble following along (which was definitely not the case when I first started seeing trailers last year). It’s not a very long game so I expect to finish it pretty quickly if I can put the time in.
Played a bit of Persona Q2 with my sister, just cruising through the third dungeon. As usual, not much to report.
Watched the first 17 episodes of 魔法使いの嫁, which I’m enjoying quite a lot.
Last up, since I wanted to keep on track with at least one manga volume per week, I read ギャルと恐竜 vol. 1, which was just good fun. Super easy, not a lot of text, but the art and pacing are both hilarious. I could easily see myself recommending it as a first manga.
Earlier today I happened to see this tweet from an artist I follow:
To summarize, it’s a post looking for someone to do some (volunteer) translation for an upcoming comic. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity and sent off a message offering to help. One thing led to another (the fact that I had done a translation let’s-play of Persona 5: Scramble probably didn’t hurt), and they accepted my offer. My translation of the original Japanese text can be seen in the English version of the comic in the tweet below:
Even though it’s just four short lines, this is technically my first proper translation gig and it’s pretty exciting that I was able to be in the right place at the right time!
I somehow missed this when it first came in, but the itch.io page for Iridescence received a comment that linked to this walkthrough video. During development, I put a lot of effort into the visual design of each component so as to not require any text on the screen, which apparently paid off seeing as the title of this and other videos on the same channel are in Japanese.
While I never expected Iridescence to be a great critical or commercial success, it’s always nice when somebody stumbles across it and seems to enjoy it.
This week I kept on track with my 10 pages of 狼と香辛料 per day (except for today, whoops!), bringing me up to 180. We’ve been introduced to what I suspect is kind of the driving force behind the story; a kind of speculation/price-fixing racket having to do with money devaluation. My enjoyment of this book continues to fluctuate…just wish there were more scenes with the two characters and a bit less economics stuff.
Also kept up with 本好きの下剋上, which is still a delight. I’ve been timing myself during my reading sessions and was surprised to find out that I’m reading both novels at about the same speed, but this one feels a lot smoother and faster. As someone who was a huge book nerd with all kinds of random knowledge as a kid, I find myself relating a lot to the heroine in certain ways.
I watched a TON of anime sort of by accident, starting by finishing ハイキュー！. The final act of the tournament was great and I’m looking forward to the next season. Next up I finished 響け！ユーフォニアム S1 (a rewatch) and then all of S2 (totally new); compared to when I was watching it originally six months ago, I barely missed anything even without subtitles. Tangible progress is great. Next, all of かぐや様は告らせたい S1, which I passed on ages ago after being unimpressed by the first episode, but I really liked it this time around. Comparatively low comprehension, but certainly enough to enjoy it. Finally, three episodes of たまこまーけっと, which seems to have been designed to irritate me. I was understanding everything effortlessly so I don’t feel bad about dropping it.
Played some more of Persona Q2 with my sister, finishing the second dungeon and starting on the third (along with knocking out a bunch of sidequests). Nothing much to report here.
Today I read すいとーと vol. 2, which (since it’s been a while) is basically an advertisement to get people to come eat in Fukuoka. I was actually somewhat surprised to see this get another volume — I originally bought the first one on a whim because it had just come out the same day, but it struck me as something that might be too niche to continue for very long. It’s fun learning little bits of 福岡弁 along with all the food vocab and stuff.