Japanese reading report

This week: ten volumes of manga, 17 (effective) episodes of anime, and almost enough of my novel to meet the quota.

First of all, I read 阿波連さんははかれない vol. 9. After the developments in vol. 6 it’s been pretty standard comedy stuff, but this volume brought it back around to shed some more light on the Events. The beach/island trip had me in stitches.

The rest of my manga this week was 鬼獄の夜 (vol. 3-11). I’m honestly kind of surprised I read the whole thing? Every single volume was a solid 3/5, which has never happened before — I typically use three stars to indicate that a series is decent and I’m waiting for it to tip one way or another to see if I’ll proactively continue it, but this one kept pulling me along while never feeling like it justified a higher score. I’m not sure how much longer it’ll continue but it seemed like it could have ended with vol. 11 so unless 12 is the actual final volume I will almost definitely not read any more.

Stayed pretty much on track with 本好きの下剋上 (at 50% now), though I’m still in catch-up mode. This week’s pages had some good development for two new characters who made a very bad first impression last time. It also introduced a whole slew of societal ills that I’m sure マイン will be taking aim at in the near future. Saw 閂, always a highlight.

I’m glad I set my anime goal for one per day because while that’s really pretty low all things considered, it has indeed had the desired effect of getting me watching stuff more regularly, and I’m ahead of pace with a decent margin now. Aside from the weekly installments I’m still following, I also watched all of ミニドラ and お前はまだグンマを知らない, which I counted as one “episode” each since they were made up of 1-3 minute-long shorts. Former was quite nice, latter makes me think that Gunma might deserve its reputation as the worst place in Japan to visit. Seems super scary.

I also got sucked in to うらみちお兄さん and I have to say my initial impression was dead wrong. Maybe the first few eps were just weak but I’ve been really enjoying it at this point.

Japanese reading report

This week: seven manga volumes and eleven episodes of anime, plus a chunk of 本好きの下剋上 (though not as much as I should have).

We’ll start with anime this time: I watched two more episodes of うらみちお兄さん and liked it more than my initial impression. Four episodes of ドラゴンメイドS while exercising and waiting for builds to run at work. Caught up on かぐや様 and 阿波連さん. This week’s episode of Spy Family is one that we’ve been looking forward to for a while and it managed to exceed our expectations. Also two episodes of サマータイムレンダ subtitled (IIRC last week didn’t include the latest one).

First manga was a 十三機兵防衛圏 4koma manga I’d been sitting on for a while. It was okay; the art was cute and it had some funny gags but unfortunately a lot of it was just rehashing jokes that were already in the game. Next up: 阿波連さん vol. 7 and 8. The purest gyaru of them all has appeared on the scene and I really like the variety that the series has built up recently. クプルムの花嫁 is a series by an artist I follow on twitter, and I picked up vol. 1 a little while ago without knowing anything about it besides that the main couple seemed very precious. Turns out it’s sort of a hobby manga (coppersmithing?) with light tourism aspects (it takes place in 燕市 in 新潟). One little thing I noticed was that the local dialect for ごめん is apparently かんべ, which seems likely to have come from 勘弁. Not really gonna devote time to another dialect at this point but it struck me as interesting.

鬼獄の夜 vol. 1 and 2 were free last and I read them both. It’s a straightup horror series and gets pretty uhhh yabai at times but the pages really flew by so I’ll probably read more soon. Last manga for the week was マチネとソワレ vol. 1, which has been a bit of a wild ride. Not sure exactly what it is even after finishing the first volume; maybe it’s about method acting, maybe it’s about the pressures of society, maybe it’s about redoing your life in a parallel world — or maybe it’s all in your head? I’d like to read at least one more volume to see what’s really going on with this one.

I was on the road today and used the time to catch up on 本好きの下剋上, just listening obviously, not reading along while I’m in the car. It’s still spending a lot of time on the politics surrounding the priests and whatnot and the keigo is cranked up to a (literally) comical degree.

Japanese reading report

Pretty good week for me. I read 僕のヒーローアカデミア vol. 28-34, which catches me up with the volumes that are currently out. I ran across a surprising number of new words in here, and at a rate where they actually made certain scenes impossible to follow without looking some of them up. It’s been a while since that happened and it kind of surprised me. Very much enjoying this current arc, will definitely be following the manga from here on.

I also read Spy Family vol. 9. Very good wrap-up of the last arc and then a bunch of lighter comedy stuff for a little bit. My sister was reading vol. 4 across the room from me and kept giving me dirty looks because I was laughing at stuff she won’t get to see translated until probably next year. Never too late to start learning Japanese!

I started reading/listening to 本好きの下剋上 part 2 book 1 but I’ve only been at it for the last couple of days, so there’s not much to say so far. There was one section where they were going over some of the mythology of the setting and it had me completely blasted to hear all these fancy words being read off without any apparent hesitation. I don’t know how many takes the narrator had to use in order to finish the scene but holy smokes. There were some words I definitely misread right before hearing her say them (杯 as さかずき sticks out in my memory) and I can’t help but wonder if my read would have been wrong per se or if it was just a matter of her picking a word which better fit the current scene, like choosing between いい and よい for 良い. Pretty interesting stuff.

Finally, tons of anime (compared to normal). Ep. 11-12 of ダンベル何キロ持てる? (finished), 7-12 of 着せ恋 (finished), 1 of うらみちお兄さん, 1-5 of メイドラゴンS, 2 of であいもん, 4-5 of Spy Family and かぐや様は告らせたい, and 5-6 of 阿波連さんははかれない. Sitting down to watch/subtitle サマータイムレンダ now since I was a bit too busy to get to it earlier in the week. I’m now ahead of pace on my one-episode-per-day goal and hoping to pivot that into a habit, because it really is a great way to get some quick immersion, if only I would think to prioritize it.

Japanese reading report

Up way later than I would like so hopefully this will be a short report.

Throughout the week I listened to 今、出来る、精一杯, which apparently just came out recently and was recommended to me by the Audible newsletter. I didn’t read along with this one, just listened, and as a result I think my comprehension was lower than it could have been. There were definitely times where I was distracted or ended up spacing out and missing something important, but I found I was able to focus on listening pretty well while driving and washing the dishes. I listened to it at normal speed and I think it was about four hours. Pretty interesting book, lots of human drama and not much of a “plot” per se; the story is told from the perspectives of five or six people who come with a variety of personal struggles. The characterization was very believable and I enjoyed the rhythm of the dialogues.

Didn’t really watch too much anime unfortunately, though part of that is because all my currently-airing shows aired yesterday and today, and my sister was out of town so I couldn’t watch them with her. Will probably have a double load next week to make up for it. I did watch ep. 8-10 of ダンベル何キロ持てる and incorporated some of the moves into my workout routine, which is pretty fun.

I also watched (and subbed) サマータイムレンダ ep. 3, which wraps up vol. 1 exactly. Since I’m going over it so closely (not to mention listening to the audio) I noticed a few dialect words this time that I had missed before, like いっちゃん(一番) and おとつい(一昨日). Have I mentioned I love the way 和歌山弁 sounds? Gosh it’s so good. One little thing I thought was kind of interesting from a translation perspective is that Sou says 落ち着いて to Mio when she starts freaking out, and I know for a fact that “calm down” is not something that women tend to like hearing. I went with “don’t worry”, which fit the scene and would be taken in a much more positive way, I think.

For manga, I read 戦隊大失格 vol. 5 and felt a bit lost. I think I must have missed some key detail a while back, or maybe there’s some unreliable narrator hijinks happening. In any case I think the next arc is going to be pretty interesting.

Also read ゴールデンカムイ vol. 1 and 2. I’ve been interested in this one for a while and just have never gotten around to it, but good grief, I think that was the right move. It’s really pretty difficult and I bet I would have struggled a lot more if I’d tried reading it way back when. I was expecting a treasure hunt story and ended up getting a bunch of lessons about Ainu culture, Hokkaido wildlife (and how to cook it), and a bunch of history involving war with Russia. I’m really liking it so far but it saps my stamina pretty quickly.

Finally, I read vol. 27 of 僕のヒーローアカデミア. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that I’ve never mentioned reading the first 26 volumes and that’s because I haven’t. My sister started reading it from where the anime ended and I’ve decided to do likewise. This “first” volume was really great, definitely looking forward to reading more.

Japanese reading report

My main focus this week was 青春ブタ野郎はシスコンアイドルの夢を見ない (book 4 in the series), which I started on Monday and finished just a few minutes ago. I had planned to start it on Sunday, so I was playing catchup pretty much the whole week. Finishing things cleanly between reports is nice but I think I’ll take the next book a bit more slowly. Anyway, enjoyed this one as well, planning to read the next one pretty soon so I’ll be caught up with the anime. This is now the third book I’ve finished using the readalong method and it’s still fun.

Almost no manga this week…I did read 古見さん vol. 25, which was honestly kind of a letdown. This whole volume was basically one arc that served to introduce the new class, which is fine I guess, but it feels like the main story came to a screeching halt in order to facilitate it. Apparently the next volume will get back into things so I guess I’m waiting again.

I also read 月曜日のたわわ because it was free and it was a complete waste of time. I’m familiar with the artist from twitter and I couldn’t really imagine how the work would translate into a story and well…it doesn’t really. The scenarios are cliche and the dialogue is pretty boring.

I did watch a bunch of anime; getting closer and closer to being caught up to my goal for the year. One more episode each of であいもん (great) and 可愛いだけじゃない式守さん (should be called the ハチミツ show). Stayed current with Spy Family, 阿波連さんははかれない, かぐや様は告らせたい, all of which just keep getting better. Finally, I found out I can watch Summertime Rendering for free on TVer.jp if I use a VPN, which dramatically simplifies things from last week. I drove my sister completely crazy by talking about how good the manga was (without giving any details at all) and it’s fun seeing her start to realize why.

Book review: 愚者のエンドロール (Fools’ Staff Roll)

I guess I never wrote a review for 氷菓. It’s been so long at this point that I can’t imagine what I would say if I tried to write about it in retrospect, but I’ve always felt disappointed about how it turned out. The anime is one of my all time favorites, and a big part of my motivation for reading it in the first place (as my first-ever Japanese novel) was the idea that I would catch up with the end of the show and be able to see the rest of the story, but I didn’t enjoy myself at all and pretty much gave up on the idea.

That was two years ago (almost to the day, come to think of it), and I’ve often wondered if the reason I had a bad time was just because I was new to reading and everything was a struggle back then. While this always felt somewhat unlikely (after all, I thoroughly enjoyed my second-ever novel, 夜市 despite surely being at nearly the same skill level), it’s something that I would think about from time to time and feel kind of insecure about.

Well, having now finished the second book in the series, I feel pretty vindicated. While I did warm up to it around the second half, it was only barely enough to bump it up from a two- to a three-star rating, and all of my gripes with the writing style and characterization are unchanged. If nothing else, it’s nice to know that the reason I bounced off 氷菓 is because I didn’t like it, not because I wasn’t good enough to read it.

In terms of the actual story, what is there to say? The actual mystery is not really very interesting. This is the volume where える gets drunk on whiskey chocolates, which is a scene I liked in the anime, and it was just as funny here. There were some entertaining sections presented as chatroom logs, which featured some neat wordplay (I was tickled that える’s chat name was just “L”) and 変換ミス jokes.

I also listened to the audiobook throughout the whole process as part of my readalong experiment, and the narrator (土師 亜文) was quite good. She made several small tweaks to the dialogue to convey nuances in the text that would be lost with a straight read, and her delivery and characterization was great. It seems she’s the narrator for the whole series, so if I do decide to continue in the future it’ll be nice to have the consistency.

I’ll probably give the next volume a try at some point in the near future to see if the upwards trajectory continues. My ideal outcome is that book 4 (the last one covered by the anime) is good enough that I’ll be excited to keep going. We’ll see if that happens.

My rating system

Whenever I read something (novels, manga, etc; really anything that I track in Calibre), I always rank it on a five-star scale to indicate that I’m done with it. I know some people like to use half-stars or even hundred-point scales and I’ve always found that to be too granular for something which is ultimately not really all that objective or scientific.

The main purpose of this scale is to help me a way to help me decide whether to continue a series, recommend it to friends, etc. I’m posting it here so I can link to it in other posts where it might be relevant.

Without further ado…

Continue reading →

Book review: 青春ブタ野郎はロジカルウィッチの夢を見ない (Rascal does not dream of logical witch)

The 青春ブタ野郎 series really is my sweet spot, I feel. I was looking for something easy to try out a new experiment with, and I probably couldn’t have picked a better book.

As the anime covers the first four books in the series and this is only number three, this was still review to a certain extent. As usual though, there were some things the show skipped over, such as expanding on the reasons why Futaba (or anyone) might be compelled to post risque photos on social media. I find the social commentary in this series to be handled very well, and I always like the moments where Sakuta suddenly shifts out of his normal jokester persona when it’s obvious that the time has come for him to be serious and supportive. The other thing I was struck by is how the book makes it very obvious that Kunimi is aware of Futaba’s feelings for him. It seemed kind of ambiguous in the anime and I wonder why they made that choice. While it’s possible that they felt it was too difficult to convey in action as opposed to narration, the anime demonstrates on multiple occasions that it’s capable of portraying subtle character acting.

The aforementioned “experiment” that I tried with this book was to listen to an audiobook while reading along. My Japanese reading speed has been slowly improving lately (as evidenced by the fact that I’m ahead of pace to read one volume of manga per day), but I still have a ways to go if I want to even get close to my English reading speed. The plan here was to force myself to read more quickly by introducing a pace-making element (the narrator of the book) which I would have to stay on track with or risk getting left behind. This worked amazingly well and I’ll have to write a dedicated post about it once I’ve tried it on a few more books. The actress (藤野 彩水) did an excellent job and I was shocked and disappointed to see that she hasn’t done any other audiobook work.

Still very much enjoying this series and will be reading more (especially considering how much fun the readalong method is) in the near future.

Japanese reading report

I’ve been slacking on my anime goal recently, and since I’m still comfortably ahead of pace with manga, I decided to shift priorities a bit.

First up, I watched all of かぐや様は告らせたい season 2, plus the two episodes of season 3 that have aired so far. I’ll be following this one week-to-week from here on. I’m really glad this one is on Crunchyroll finally; the only reason I hadn’t watched it already is because Funimation is a hassle. There are still bits that get away from me but compared to season 1 (which I felt was pretty well above my level at the time) it feels much more within my grasp.

I kept up with my current shows (Spy Family ep. 2 and 阿波連さんははかれない ep. 3) and they were both just as good as ever. Gave 可愛いだけじゃない式守さん ep. 1 a try and it was…fine. Production value is good and fortunately the annoying repetition from the manga is gone, but it’s not all that interesting and understanding it is effortless so I might drop it if the 妹 isn’t feeling like continuing. Also watched ep. 1 of であいもん which, I’d watch just for the 京都弁 if that was the only thing it had going for it (it’s not).

My long-awaited サマータイムレンダ started airing this week and of course thanks to Disney it’s not available anywhere but Japan. I managed to get my hands on ep. 1 anyway and spent a few hours making my own (english) subtitles so I could watch it with my sister. Usually I wouldn’t count subtitled anime but I think an exception can be made when you literally make them yourself. It’s a really good adaptation so far. The actress playing Mio is 和歌山出身 and her performance is great; I’ve been looking forward to hearing the dialect spoken and I’m very happy with the result.

Lastly, I picked up ダンベル何キロ持てる? on a whim and have watched two episodes now. I wasn’t expecting much from it but it’s pretty funny and seems to have some decent advice about strength training so I’ll be keeping at it. I’ve been meaning to get back in shape lately anyway.

For manga, I read 怪物事変 vol. 4, which finished out an arc about Shiki’s childhood and gave him some nice character development. He’s been kind of the boring Bakugo character from the beginning but I think we’re past that now (nice!). Also read からかい上手の高木さん vol. 5 one night when I’d been busy all day and just needed to speed through something to check in for the day.

I’ve had Orange (the whole series) on my backlog for actually years at this point and I decided to finally get to it. I read this really slowly and I wish I could figure out why. Part of it might be that I combined all six volumes into one ebook and it’s discouraging to see the slow progress through the whole thing, but even when I’m not paying attention to that I find myself taking a long time to make much progress.

Lastly, 東京卍リベンジャーズ vol. 27 came out this week so naturally I snapped it up and read it in like an hour. Time for more waiting.

Finally, I finished 愚者のエンドロール (reading along to the audiobook). While my initial impression of this one was not very good I have to say I ended up enjoying it more than 氷菓 so maybe I will pick up the next book in the near future. Compared to 青春ブタ野郎 there was definitely a lot more that I didn’t catch, and I got lost much more often (mostly when I would see an unfamiliar word and get distracted). Regardless, I think the narration was the key factor in my increased enjoyment level this time around. In particular, the author’s writing style leads to a lot of sentences that I would have had to do a double-take on in order to get the right meaning, but being able to hear the intonation eliminated that problem. Another success for the readalong method.

Japanese reading report

Another big record for me this week. Seventeen volumes of manga, up two from last week, plus a light novel and a bunch of anime.

I finished ヨコハマ買い出し紀行 vol. 14 and I have to say it wasn’t the greatest sendoff ever. I still liked it quite a bit; a few small timeskips showed off some nice growth in some of the characters and also did some setup to make it easy to imagine where things could go. I feel like the ending arc started a bit too late and didn’t really give everything enough time to breathe but ultimately it’s a mild complaint. Very good series, glad I read it through to the end.

Next up was an uninterrupted blitz through 東京卍リベンジャーズ vol. 11-26. It’s now my longest series so far (beating 古見さん by one) and I was held in rapt attention the whole way through. There were multiple nights this week where I found myself thinking I would just read another chapter or two as I fell asleep and then found myself at the end of the book. The next one comes out this week and I’m champing at the bit to get my hands on it. Some new vocab that stuck out to me: 六波羅 梵 口裏合わせ 世も末 弔い合戦, not to mention our old favorite 鎮魂.

Anime this week was the Spy Family ep. 1 and 阿波連さんははかれない ep. 2, which were both really good, and the last three episodes of 東京24区, which was stupid. My sister and I both burst out laughing at what was supposed to be an emotional scene in the last episode and just ended up trashing it until the end credits. It had its moments and the very beginning was pretty strong but I guess it couldn’t stick the landing.

I finally signed up for Audible because I’ve been trying to find something to fill my time with when I have to take the occasional long drives out of town, and as the first book in my new subscription I picked 青春ブタ野郎はロジカルウィッチの夢を見ない (book 3 in the series). I also wanted to try reading along with with the audiobook to see if I could force myself to read more quickly, and it was a pretty interesting experience. I only ended up doing pure listening for about 40 pages worth (in the car) but found both modes to be equally enjoyable. I think I’ve said it before but this series really is right at the perfect level I think. I was able to follow along no problem both reading along at 1.25x speed, and purely listening at 1x speed.

And finally, immediately after finishing my first readalong book, I jumped right into the next one. It took me a little bit to settle but I ended up going with 愚者のエンドロール, book two of the 古典部 series. As I’ve mentioned before I really disliked 氷菓 (the book) despite the anime being one of my favorites, and I’ve always wanted to “fix” that because the prospect of reading past the end of the anime is very appealing to me. I’m about 25% through this one and…I dunno, maybe it’s too early to say but I don’t think my feelings have changed all that much. In any case, I’m still planning to stick it out to the end if only to give the process some more testing.