Japanese reading report

This week I finished reading Re:zero volume 1.

スバル manages to strike a deal with フェルト, but just as they finish エルザ once again appears and attacks. However, unlike last time, アメリア and パック have also made their way to the scene of the action. Most of the end of this volume was just a fight against エルザ. At the end, they get the insignia back, happy end.

Since スバル ended up saving アメリア’s life, now suddenly not only has he paid back his debt to her, but now she feels like she’s in his debt instead. What could happen next? (not like I don’t already know)

Once I finished, I started on 金色の獣、彼方に向かう. Well, “started” isn’t exactly right. I read about 30 pages back when I was in Osaka a few months ago, but I didn’t find it all that interesting and kept coming across difficult kanji (possibly because the story is set in ancient Mongolia) so I ended up losing motivation. I’ve been feeling like I should go back and properly finish it and decided to try again for my next book. I’ve now finished the first story and I’m partway through the second.

The owner of an inn deep in the mountains of Japan learns about a ritual called 風天孔参り from a woman who comes to stay with him. Allegedly, by reaching a certain location, you can go straight to heaven without dying, and a particular group of people are in pilgrimage to find it. Each time they arrive, the person next in line enters and vanishes. Then it’s on to the next location.

The woman asks one of the pilgrims “isn’t that just suicide?” and receives the following answer:

Suicide is part of culture. It was only in modern times that people decided that suicide is always a bad thing.

Seppuku, living mummification, and journeying to the afterlife by sea are all given as examples of types of suicide that are not necessarily thought of as “bad” even in the modern era. I’m not sure I can agree with the overall thesis, but it’s an interesting worldview to be sure.

Throughout the week I also listened to an audiobook called パットしない子 (four times through, for a total of six hours). I have some complicated thoughts which I’ll probably be writing a blog post about.

Japanese reading report

This week I continued Re:ゼロ vol. 1, reading from page 45 to 164. I’ve already seen the anime (twice) so I already know everything that’s going to happen, but the author’s writing style is enjoyable and I’m quite enjoying this reread.

Having now died once and been revived by his 死に戻り ability, スバル’s debt to the girl who calls herself サテラ should theoretically be wiped out, but he still intends to retrieve her stolen badge and return it to her. He pursues フェルト (the girl who stole it), gets to know ロム爺 (the fence facilitating the exchange), but is ultimately killed again by エルザ, the woman who contracted the theft in the first place, and left with nothing to show for his trouble.

Obviously, once the world resets, nobody will remember スバル or anything he’s done, but through talking to フェルト and ロム爺, he’s come to understand them and even care about them.

There was one particular passage which stuck out to me (translation mine):

His body refused to move.
If only he could, he would rush to Felt's side and tend to her wounds.
Maybe it was already too late.
If only he could, he would reach out and close the lids on her wide-open eyes.

Even paralyzed with fear, in the depths of despair, Subaru’s good character still comes through.

For manga, I read Gantz vol. 20 through 25. The Gantz team has been transported to Osaka this time and end up having to fight alongside the Osaka team, who are all a bunch of awful bastards. There was a lot of overly thick kansai dialect in this arc and was honestly pretty irritating.

Finally, I watched five episodes of Naruto. Rock Lee’s drunken boxing moment was pretty fun but nothing else really stuck out.

Japanese reading report

Was trying to read two volumes of manga per day this week but ended up getting sick and only ended up reading 10. She is beautiful vol. 2 had some tense moments but still hasn’t lived up to the first half of vol. 1. 僕が死ぬだけの百物語 vol. 6 was great like usual; I still can’t get one story in particular, about a troublesome 守り神, out of my head, 魔女先輩日報 seems to have been restarted (vol. 2 was previously 完結) and I vol. 3 was quite nice, though it did feel a bit like a bunch of おまけ chapters which…I guess it is, 阿波連さんははかれない vol. 12 was as good as ever.虎は龍をまだ食べない vol. 3 has pretty pictures and reads quickly. Gantz ended up being the unexpected star of the week. I read vol. 15-19 and finally got confirmation that 系ちゃん was always intended to have a character arc. I hated him for the longest time, just thought he was a brat with no redeeming qualities, but over the past few volumes he’s actually become a pretty good guy. There’s been a pretty big paradigm shift so I’m very curious to see what comes next.

I did finish 本好き vol. 7 a few days early. Some pretty big changes came out of seemingly nowhere. マイン has been “adopted” and is now officially nobility, with a brand new name to boot — and her family is magically compelled to act as though she’s dead. The “epilogue” started with almost 100 pages left in the book and consisted mostly of small vignettes about the fallout from the final events from the perspective of some supporting characters. In particular, one story focusing on ルッツ made me wonder if ジルベスターisn’t as bad as he initially seemed (maybe just when マイン is around). This was also an audiobook; 10:18, full focus.

Started reading Re:ゼロ vol. 1. It’s been pretty easy so far. I was surprised to find that while the first chapter lines up almost entirely with the first episode of the anime, the entirety of Subaru’s life in Japan wasn’t mentioned at all. He just suddenly finds himself in a fantasy world and never questions it. Kinda weird.

Japanese reading report

This week I started reading 本好きの下剋上 vol. 7 and got a little past halfway through it. マイン’s baby brother has been born, and another baby has appeared at the temple. マイン has been working on colored ink and 鈴-style bells (I learned the difference between 鈴 and 鐘) and having yet another altercation with the nobility. Unfortunately it seems my least-favorite character is going to be sticking around for a while. Hopefully he improves.

I listened to a short essay collection audiobook called いい匂いのする方へ (3:07, medium focus). It had some interesting stories about the author’s life, including reflections on minimalism, being raised Catholic, and what it’s like to be a single father. I’d like to listen to it again, maybe even a couple of times.

It’s been a while but I finally got back to FFX. Played about two and a half hours last night, learned all about シーモア老師’s backstory.

I also read six volumes of manga. Getting close to being back on schedule.

葬送のフリーレン vol. 10 dropped a pretty interesting reveal about マハト’s pact with the 黄金郷 and then moved into a pretty intense boss fight. The end of the volume has me very hyped for what comes next.

ダンダダン vol. 11 was as entertaining as ever, but somehow felt a little lacking. チェンソーマン vol. 15 was sort of the same. The new devil was interesting and I liked the look at Asa’s past trauma but it felt a little weak to me. Nothing really to say about 最近雇ったメイドが怪しい vol. 7.

新しいきみへ vol. 5 was great as always. Just really good characterization and tension which I can never talk about because of spoilers. This volume ended with a cliffhanger and I can’t wait for the next one.

呪術廻戦 vol. 23 had some good moments. I’m honestly feeling a bit of fatigue with the current arc.

Only watched one episode of Naruto. Unfortunately Akamaru seems to have survived his battle.

Japanese reading report

This week I started and completed 狼と香辛料 vol. 2, reading along to the audiobook at a rate of about 35 pages per day.

I read vol. 1 a very long time ago and didn’t really enjoy myself. Thinking back, I wondered if the reason was that I was still relatively new to reading Japanese, but around that same time I was also reading (and very much enjoying) 本好きの下剋上, so I think a more likely explanation is that the economics portion of vol. 1 was much more complicated and not nearly as interesting.

As with vol. 1, I found the slow, character driven moments to be charming and well-written, and this time around the economics parts were much more straightforward and gripping. The urgency of a bad margin purchase; the threat of an encroaching do-or-die deadline; the tension of a smuggling operation — the moment-to-moment drama was very good and I enjoyed myself a lot.

I also watched 16 episodes of Naruto. Chouji’s big fight scene was surprisingly great.

Japanese reading report

Due to popular demand, this week’s report is also available in Japanese.

Today I finally finished 面白ければなんでもあり. My favorite parts this week were:

  • ベストを尽くして失敗しても、次の打席は必ず回ってくる
    • Failure is never fun, but it always provides an opportunity to move on and improve. This chapter had a real stoicism vibe.
  • 伝えたい誰かのために
    • About the author’s gratitude to his late father, and the support he feels even from beyond the grave. The takeaway was essentially “Having someone to share your successes with gives you strength to go on.”

I’m not interested in Sword Art nor A Certain Magical Index at all so unfortunately a bunch of the last few chapters were pretty uninteresting. Overall though, I enjoyed my time with this book and I’m glad to have read it.

Audiobooks this week were 育ちざかりの教え子がやけにエモい vol. 1 and 2 (10:00, high focus), 水族館ガール vol. 4 (10:31, low focus), and 狼と香辛料 vol. 1(8時間5分, medium focus but I’ve read it before). The standout this week was easily 育ちざかりの教え子がやけにエモい. The characters are charming and they’ve gone through some nice growth already (fighting, making up, moving beyond insecurities). The later volumes don’t have audiobooks unfortunately but I might read on at some point soon.

Manga this week was 葬送のフリーレン vol. 9 and よつばと vol. 13.

The focus of this volume of フリーレン is マハト. As a demon, he’s incapable of feeling either malice or empathy, but one day he suddenly developed a curiosity about what they could possibly mean. He’s interested in humans in almost a scientific sense, trying to discover more about these alien emotions despite the fact that he’ll probably never be able to understand them. Very interesting character and I’m looking forward to what comes next.

The part where Yotsuba’s grandma went home from her visit was so sad. Poor Yotsuba.

I’ve played a little of Armored Core 6, but I’m not sure if I’m going to continue it in Japanese. The language is pretty tough and I miss a lot during gameplay.

Meals this week

I’m mostly settled into my new apartment and the time has once again come to get serious about meal prep. The first week or two in the new place, my options were somewhat limited as I was still lacking some crucial items that didn’t come with me where I used to live (and I was doing enough physical labor that I often allowed myself to indulge in a big burger after a hard day of lifting boxes). But with another trip to Japan on the horizon this autumn, I figured it was a good idea to start saving money again.

My shopping trip at the beginning of the week ran me about $80; mostly on staples that would last a few weeks, like bread, eggs, and a few different types of meat. I took a look at the reduced-for-quick-sale shelf in the produce section and picked up a pound of green beans and broccoli, a bag of plantains, and a bag of poblano peppers for about a dollar each. I also decided, last-minute, to pick up a rotisserie chicken. I usually don’t find the price to be quite as good as people make it out to be, and in most cases would rather prep my own chicken. However, this time I got a pretty good deal and the convenience was enough to push me over the edge.

One of my big plans from the beginning was to make Kapuśniak; a cabbage, bacon, and keilbasa soup that gets a lot of its flavor from sauerkraut. It takes no time to throw together and only gets better in the fridge. I made this on Sunday and ate it throughout the week.

I sauteed the poblano peppers with onions to make a fajita mix, and baked the plantains with some Creole seasoning for a nice mealy bite to mix into burritos (with the rotisserie chicken and black beans). At the end of the week, I finished off the mixture by making a quesadilla — always fun to be able to combine the same ingredients into a new format to keep things fresh. I also ate beef burgers for a few of my meals on days when I was working out particularly hard.

Blanched green beans and broccoli were a quick addition to just about any meal, and I would sometimes just eat them out of the fridge if I was in the mood for a quick bite.

While $80 is definitely higher than I want to be spending every week, this coming week should be much cheaper (I can almost make the meals I want without any additional ingredients). Hoping I can keep up the momentum.

Japanese reading report

I’m suffering from some minor RSI and would like to keep my typing to a minimum today, so this report will be (hopefully) fairly short.

Anime: three episodes of Naruto. The Idaten race arc seems to be over and I’m glad; I never really cared about him.

Audiobooks: おさまけ 9 (7:18, medium focus); another girl has fallen for the main character but ultimately fails to confess to him, twice, with the same gag both times. 水族館ガール 2 and 3 (combined 20:31, low focus); lots of discussions about making an aquarium that can attract customers by striking a balance between providing valuable services and not wasting money and effort on things that could be better provided elsewhere. The past two volumes have had a lot of 関西人 characters and it’s always nice hearing them speak.

Manga: next week…for sure…

面白ければなんでもあり: I read 63 pages this week. I liked the part about things a good LN must not do (読者の気分を徒に害する was one point that particularly struck me as one that more books could follow). I also liked the chunk about what separates good writing from bad, and the difference that 役割語, environmental descriptions, and third-person pronouns can make when painting a picture in the reader’s mind. Still lagging behind my intended pace but I’m going to try really hard to catch up and finish by next report.

Meditations: moving day

I recently moved into a new apartment.

My housemate, whom I also lived with a few years ago, rented a U-haul truck to do his move. A number of his friends came over to help, including me. We packed the truck as full as it could go and fit most of the remainder into our cars. From the time I arrived to the moment the final box had been brought inside, the entire move took no less than eight hours of constant work.

My move took place the following weekend. It took me about an hour to load my hatchback with everything I own, another hour to make the drive, and about half an hour to unpack.

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Red beans and rice

This is a dish I make pretty often. It’s quick and easy and the rice stretches it into a number of meals at low cost. I’ve made a few simplifications and will often make it with what I have on hand rather than going to the store for specific ingredients, so it’s not exactly traditional, but it’s quite good.

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