Japanese reading report

After nearly running out of physical manga last week and not feeling especially motivated to continue with what I have on hand, I decided to focus more on other stuff this week to try to get ahead of schedule a bit. It’s probably unrealistic to always have margin on my moyase goals, but having them in yellow bothers me.

I watched all 13 episodes of 後宮の烏, which was pretty good. It has a lot of interesting old-fashioned language and the characters and scenarios are fun. Royal court intrigue is a cool genre and the supernatural elements are generally pretty understated. Unfortunately about halfway through I kind of lost my ability to fully appreciate it because everyone started calling the main character 娘娘(ニャンニャン)and it killed any sense of gravity that the scenes were obviously going for. Chinese aesthetics really are not for me.

I also watched episodes 1-3 of もののがたり (all that are out at the time of writing). I wasn’t sold by the trailer but I like the “corporate demon hunters” aesthetic so I’m giving it a try. So far it seems fun but also a bit by-the-numbers and I’m not sure if it’s going to have anything that sets it apart from the average battle series. The main guy at least is not very interesting and the (ostensibly) main girl has barely been in it.

All my literal reading this week was 青春ブタ野郎はゆめみる少女の夢を見ない, which I started and finished in six days. Since I haven’t seen the movie yet this book was uncharted territory for me and as usual it’s a pretty easy read. I was reading along to the audiobook (5:47) but I think even if I hadn’t been I probably would have been able to finish it just as quickly, or maybe a little slower. The themes in this one were “self-sacrifice” and “selfishness” and how they can be intertwined in unexpected ways. I wasn’t really sure where it was going until about the 2/3 mark when suddenly everything fell together and a bunch of foreshadowing from across the series paid off all at once. It ended on a cliffhanger so I guess I’ll have to jump right into the next one pretty soon.

Japanese reading report

A bit of a light week for me. I felt like giving my ereader a break and reading through my physical manga collection for a change.

First up was よつばと vol. 12. This is the volume with the famous paint arc and it lived up to the hype. The camping arc was fun too. I like how Miura’s over-preparedness paid off in the end; she was very cute sitting there all smug with her proper plate.

Next I read 少年のアビス vol. 1. A friend of mine actually bought this for me as お土産 a long time ago simply based on the cover, but I’d never gotten around to reading it until this week gave me the perfect opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read of 峰浪りょう’s work so far and this one is no exception. Very strong first impression, some great panel layouts and as expected the motifs and visual metaphors are on point. Excited to read more.

I also read vol. 1-2 of 亜人ちゃんは語りたい. I’ve had four volumes plus two anthologies on my shelf since barely a year after I started learning Japanese, but they were way too hard for me back then and I haven’t touched them since. The jokes and expressions are still fun even though I’ve seen the anime twice at this point. It’ll be fun to get caught up so I can finally achieve that original goal of reading past the end of the show.

For anime I finally finished 俺好き (ep. 9-11 + an hour-long OVA) and thought it was alright. The OVA that served as the end of the show was kind of dumb but to be fair the whole show was kind of dumb. I’ve had this one in limbo for over two years so I’m glad to be done with it.

Lastly, six episodes of the usual seasonal anime lineup; 文豪ストレイドッグス, 僕のヒーローアカデミア, 虚構推理, and buddy daddies. シュガーアップル・フェアリーテイル is still a surprise standout and I ended up impulse-buying the first five volumes of the LN, so I might be reading that soon.

Japanese reading report

This week I finished 人間失格 and I’m somewhat at a loss. I don’t understand why people like this story at all. If the writing style, then maybe his long, run-on sentences that frequently flow into rabbit trails of definitions and footnotes. If as a character study, then maybe it can be worthwhile to get an intimate look at the mind of someone so thoroughly troubled. All I can say for myself is that I never once felt sympathy for the protagonist, nor, by extension, the author.

The one portion of the book that I felt was compelling and worthwhile was when the protagonist, feeling guilt for his actions (not least of which is his involvement in the death of a woman with whom he attempted double suicide) is trying to determine a “true antonym” for 罪, only to fail over and over again as he finds that each word he considers can be seen as a synonym as well — but the moment is cheapened considering that the author would go on to carry out the same exact crime he allegedly regrets so deeply mere months after the novel was finished. To wax poetic about guilt with no intention to reform is nothing but masturbatory self-pity.

At the very least, I’m glad to have read this with the aid of the audiobook to keep me on pace because I’m quite sure I would have dropped it out of frustration otherwise. I’m not sure that this was the best 太宰治 work to start with because I find myself left with absolutely zero motivation to read any of his other works.

18 episodes of anime this week; ep. 1-12 of イジらないで、長瀞さん (horrible). 7-8 of 俺好き (a criminal lack of 津軽弁 girl). Buddy Daddies ep. 2 and and Sugar Apple ep. 2 are still the highlights of the new season. 虚構推理 ep. 1 was decent if somewhat recappy. 僕のヒーローアカデミア ep. 15 was basically on in the background while I did other things.

I did read a lot of good manga this week, so fortunately it wasn’t a total wash.

First up was さよなら絵梨, the last major 藤本タツキ work that I hadn’t read yet. I didn’t like it quite as much as Lookback but it was still nice. I liked how the “true” events of the story were revealed incrementally, and I never felt like I had the whole picture. It’s very much about how movies are made in the editing room, and how that applies to the way people remember us as well.

ナナとカオル doesn’t seem like something I would read just based on the premise, but I gave vol. 1 a shot and I actually really enjoyed it. It’s funnier than I expected and very sweet. The two main characters have nice chemistry and I like how even when they get into character it’s not a perfect persona switch; they’re still awkward and real with each other. Cute first impression, will probably read more.

ダンダダン vol. 8 was great. Fortunately the musician “arc” didn’t overstay its welcome and the way they’re handling 邪視 is pretty funny. Next arc seems fun.

よつばと vol. 10 and 11 were both great as ever. My favorite part in 10 was how her dad spent the whole day helping her make her first perfect pancake. It was a nice slow chapter that could have been at home in 甘々と稲妻 and I liked it a lot. 11’s obvious standout was the ジュラルミン tragedy, though bubbles in the park with Yanda was pretty cute too.

Finally, あせとせっけん vol. 4 was the best one yet. I really liked the part at the bar when 名取’s friend is talking about how he lost his longtime girlfriend because he got so focused on his career (out of a desire to support her!) that he lost sight of what mattered in their relationship. It’s a kind of thought process that I could easily see myself getting lost in and I appreciate how many directions the series approaches the importance of communication in a relationship.

Japanese reading report

Me: I won’t push myself to read one manga volume per day this year.
Also me: So this week I read ten volumes of manga.

First up: Fire Punch vol. 1-8 in an uninterrupted blitz. I’ve heard a lot of bad things about it and I think if you go in expecting an action hero romp after Chainsawman you’ll definitely be disappointed, because that is definitely not what this series is. It’s an unrelenting tragedy about the inevitability of the abuse of power, the nature of guilt and culpability, and the human tendency to believe whatever is necessary in order to survive, along with a bit of metacommentary on how stories are told. The tone is very bleak and even the humorous moments are heavily wrapped in irony. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would encourage anyone considering it to go into it with no preconceived notions about what it’ll be.

I had started reading ミステリと言う勿れ vol. 3 last week and just couldn’t prioritize it for one reason or another. It took me a few more days this week to finish it off too. I’m not sure why; I liked the first two volumes a lot but for some reason this one was really slow. There were still a lot of good moments though. My favorite bits are always when 整 makes some simple statement that totally changes the perspective of the person he’s talking to. The one I liked most this time was when another guy is talking down to a little girl and he tells him “Don’t treat children like they’re stupid just because they’re young. You weren’t stupid when you were a child, were you?”

Last manga of the week was ルックバック. What a beautiful story. I loved how it portrayed the isolation that comes from giving yourself singlemindedly to something, the organic and raw relationship between the two leads, and the way time can pass around you without you realizing it. I’m quickly running out of 藤本タツキ material to read.

My audiobook for the week was カスピアン王子 (7:33, medium focus). There were a few points that stuck out to me as being interesting translation decisions; one example is Dr. Cornelius correcting Caspian’s use of んだ to のだ (the original English featured a correction of “who” to “whom”).

I watched a fair amount of anime this week; しっぽな ep. 7-13, 俺好き ep. 6, ロマンティック・キラー ep. 6, 僕のヒーローアカデミア ep. 14 (the half that wasn’t a recap episode) and イジらないで、長瀞さん ep. 1-3, along with one episode each of a few new series from this season; 文豪ストレイドッグス, 氷属性男子とクールな同僚女子, シュガーアップル・フェアリーテイル, and Buddy Daddies. Buddy Daddies is a potential standout as the tiny child anime of the season but I think sugar apple has promise in being a shoujo fantasy series that actually hooks me.

Finally, I decided to start on my first novel of the year with 人間失格. I’m not too far in yet, basically just meeting the narrator and learning about his childhood. I’m listening to the audiobook at the same time and it’s going pretty smoothly so far. Coming across some crazy words like 頗る and old orthography like 一人々々. My takeaway from the book so far is that the author needs to find his 生きがい (an ancient japanese concept).

2022 in Japanese

2022 was a fun year. Certainly in the sense of “I enjoyed myself during 2022”, but also in the sense of “it’s a year to have fun”. Everything I did this year, I did because I wanted to do it. I know I have a long way to go with Japanese, but even if I never improved from this moment forward, I would still be happy and proud of myself.

Continue reading →

Japanese reading report

Slowly pulling into the station at the end of the year. I got sick right after Christmas and focusing has been hard all week, which left me with a bunch of manga started but not much finished compared to my rate for the rest of the year. I’m doing my best to let myself off the hook for not being an overachiever 100% of the time so we’ll say this is a good thing.

Anime: spy family 13, しっぽな 6, うる星やつら 9-10, ロマンティックキラー 5.

My first manga of the week was 怪獣8号 vol. 3. This is still the most difficult series I read simply because of all the military vocab and long kanji compounds. It’s hard to shake the feeling that I’m accidentally reading in chinese sometimes. Regardless, it’s a lot of fun. Good expressions and nice art, and the three main cast members (with maybe a fourth coming?) are always funny. I wish it wasn’t quite so exhausting or I would read it more regularly.

Next up was よつばと vol. 9. A few favorite moments: Yotsuba waking up crying and very angry at dad for eating her snacks (in a dream); the entire coffee saga and the reactions of all the girls drinking it (when they finally succeed in doing so); Yanda getting bullied at the restaurant; Yotsuba charging full tilt at a hill and ignoring the stairs completely, reaching the top covered in burrs.

Last completed manga of the year was あせとせっけん vol. 3. This is another series I keep picking away at very slowly. It’s really nice seeing the two main characters open up and get more comfortable with each other, and the presentation has a sense of maturity to it that sets it apart. The two of them are on a romantic getaway to Hokkaido now and it’s fun to recognize a few spots from my first trip. I particularly liked one scene where Asako is confiding in her section chief about her insecurities in comparison to Nattori’s previous girlfriends, to which he replies “But you are the one he’s in love with now, and it’s not fair to him if you don’t have confidence in yourself to be worthy of those feelings.”

Japanese reading report

This week I polished off both of my remaining goals for the year (manga and novels).

I’ll mention 探偵はもう、死んでいる first; I started reading this a long time ago after enjoying the anime adaptation, but the novel itself fell flat for me. I had a long stretch in the middle where I couldn’t bring myself to read any at all and I kept extending and extending the deadline, eventually resolving to finish it on the 31st at a pitiful pace of two pages per day. This week I managed to find the motivation to dedicate a couple of days to finishing it off. There are definitely moments of effective writing and the characters are largely enjoyable. I’m not really sure why it didn’t click for me but ultimately I did finish it, marking my 12th novel of the year and completing that goal.

A little anime today as well; one episode each of romantic killer, blue lock, mob psycho, and 僕のヒーローアカデミア. Mob was the standout yet again. A really great ending to the series with lots of great payoffs.

For manga, I continued with chainsawman vol. 6-11, finishing up part 1 and putting me 1 over my manga goal for the year. What a wild ride. Despite having had a few key events spoiled for me before I planned to read it, there were also some really powerful moments that I didn’t see coming at all. The snowball fight scene was incredibly artful and had me sobbing, and I think the line at the very end where Makima says that the world would be better off without クソ映画 was a perfect summary of what I took away as a core message of the series; that pain and darkness in your life can make the moments of happiness even more meaningful.

Lastly, I read よつばと vol. 8. Nearly every page had me screaming laughing. Top moments: Dad running around outside the diner looking for Yotsuba after she follows Torako inside; Yotsuba absolutely thriving in the typhoon and then getting blown away; shouting いらん! at the girl selling yakisoba at the 文化祭; Dad getting defeated by a tengu at the festival. I love this series.

Japanese reading report

This week: chipped away a little at 探偵はもう、死んでいる, watched a few of my weekly shows (one each of mob psycho, spy family, うる星やつら, and 僕のヒーローアカデミア) as well as the 11 remaining episodes of がんばれ同期ちゃん (probably 20 minutes total of dialogue across the whole thing; it’s really not worth watching vs just reading the webcomic), and finished the audiobook for 裏世界ピクニック 7 (7:44, medium focus). I thought 裏世界ピクニック might be wrapped up with this book but it ended up being left open and another one is coming out in January, so that’ll be fun to look forward to.

First manga of the week was 幼馴染とはラブコメにならない vol. 3. Pretty cute. It flirts pretty hard with the line between satire and straight-play but it’s done pretty well. This volume ended with a tease of yet another 幼馴染 entering the cast and she seems like she could be fun.

The rest of my manga this week (four volumes) were all チェンソーマン vol. 2-5. I read the first volume all the way back in January and simply did not get what all the fuss was about — nothing about it felt all that special or unique and I ultimately couldn’t even muster the motivation to see if it got better. In my report at that time I said “I’ll probably read vol. 2 just because I have it in my library but it would have to see a dramatic improvement for me to go any further with it,” and well…that’s exactly what happened. (Mild spoilers follow).

There were two moments that flipped me from a doubter to a believer, and both in the same way. The big thing that turned me off from reading further originally was hearing about the infamous ゲロ scene, but another thing was how people would say stuff like “Denji is so relatable, he just wants to touch some boobs”, which really is not a very compelling character trait to me. The moment I first started to consider giving the series another chance was when a certain someone showed me a page from after the ゲロ scene, about how “bad first experiences might never fade away, but so many good experiences are still out there waiting for you that you don’t have time to waste dwelling on them”. It’s a really touching scene and it genuinely made me reevaluate my expectations — could it be that the aspects I didn’t like were actually in service of something greater. Reading vol. 2, reaching the scene where Denji does achieve his lifelong dream of touching boobs — and is then left empty and directionless as he realizes it wasn’t all he ever hoped it would be — convinced me that there was actually something more to the series than I saw at first. I don’t think my vibe from vol. 1 was wrong, honestly, and if it had continued on the same track I probably still wouldn’t be a fan. But vol. 2 was really good and after I finished vol. 3 I decided to pull the trigger and buy the rest of the series with the big cmoa coupon this week.

I finished vol. 5 just a few minutes before sitting down to write my report but it’s gone on for long enough so I’ll cut it off here. In short: enjoying myself a lot and have been surprised by how well developed the characters have become in a short amount of time. The humor and action are entertaining but the emotional moments are also executed really well. I’m very glad I gave it a second chance.

Japanese reading report

The end of the year is getting pretty close and my reading goals are in pretty good shape. My Moyase manga goal is steady at “one every two days”, so I’ve decided to slow down a little bit and not feel so much pressure to stay ahead. I’ll be aiming to finish my last volume on the last day of the year.

Quick mention: two audiobooks (裏世界ピクニック6, 7:14 and わが家は祇園の拝み屋さん, 5:33; both at low-med focus) a few pages of 探偵はもう、死んでいる and the latest ep of Mob Psycho (yikes! again!).

I spent this week catching up on ダンダダン (vol. 4-7), and since this is the only series I read I’ll take the opportunity to go into a bit more depth than usual. This series rules and I’m extremely glad I decided to take a chance and buy vol. 1 instead of waiting for it to go free. The story has been a crazy roller coaster from the very beginning and it’s still surprising me with the kind of creative scenarios it comes up with. The humor is impeccable; it’s not uncommon to enter a stretch where every page has me laughing out loud — but every now and then I flip the page and it’s like the author has pressed the “you will cry now” button. I don’t think I’ve read another series that so consistently nails emotional highs.The downtime is super comfy, the action scenes have great momentum, and it’s not afraid to pull punches when you need to feel like the characters are in danger.

I think the series’ biggest standout feature though, is the characterization. モモ and オカルン are obviously the “main characters”, but only in the sense that at least one of them is on screen at any time. There are no “side characters” in this series. Each arc has brought a new character I expected to be one-and-done, and each time I’ve been surprised by the depth of development they get. I love the budding romance between the two leads, but it’s nearly as much fun seeing モモ’s two friends alternate between teasing her and being her biggest allies, or watching オカルン developing a male friendship for the first time in his life.

Highly, highly recommended. I’m eagerly awaiting the next volume.