Japanese reading report

As expected, the arrival of Elden Ring put a cramp on my reading time. My soft goal for this week was to get caught up on トニカクカワイイ, which I ultimately didn’t succeed at; I read volumes 13-17 and will finish 18 tonight as I fall asleep for a total of six volumes this week, but I had completely forgotten that vol. 19 came out just recently so I didn’t include it in my plans at all. Oh well.

So the story has finally picked up and all the mysteries that they’ve been dropping hints about have been brought to the forefront. It’s actually pretty funny how much of a tonal shift there was around vol. 17 (there’s even an おまけ that features an author insert getting berated by his sister for including such a serious arc in his “sickeningly sweet romantic comedy”) but all things considered I think it was done well. The storytelling in this part was quite gripping and the twist on 竹取物語 was neat. There are still some threads that need pulling together so I’m hoping that’ll come soon.

I finally started watching re:zero season 2 and I’m only three episodes in but it’s pretty wild so far. All I knew about this season ahead of time was that there was a character named Echidna, which I thought was a pretty stupid name, but when she actually showed up I realized it was in reference to the the Grecian monster (エキドナ) and not the animal (針もぐら). A clear-cut case where the original language version is superior.

Japanese reading report

Pretty lightweight week for me, at least compared to my recent pace. Not looking forward to how next week will be once I finally get my copy of Elden Ring. This will also be a pretty light report since I stayed up late to squeeze in some reading today and I don’t want to be up too much later.

First was 夜ふかしの詩 vol. 1. Didn’t really like it at first, the main kid is kind of a bummer. It got better as it went on but I gotta be honest, I’m not really sure what the premise is going to be. I’ll read vol. 2 before passing judgement since I have it anyway. Learned some useful (?) sex words. The art is nice.

Read 珈琲をしづかに vol. 4 and 5, which brought the series to a close. Around the middle of vol. 5 I started feeling like it was getting close to a nice conclusion and was curious how the story would continue past that point, but it ended up ending there instead (I had missed the 完結 badge on the store page and didn’t realize it was over). I’m happy with the way it turned out though. Five volumes felt just right.

I also read 阿波連さんははかれない vol. 6 and wow, the sudden plot development! As funny as ever but I’d actually forgotten how long it had been since anything changed in the status quo so that was a nice surprise.

Tonight I read half of トニカクカワイイ vol. 13 and there has also been some interesting plot development here, though it pretty quickly went back to the standard formula. Haven’t finished this one yet though, so maybe there’s more in store before the end of the volume.

Throughout the week I finally finished watching 赤髪の白雪姫 S2and just…never figured out why it’s supposed to be good. I wanted to give it a good shot since my sister loves it so much but it has a bad habit of introducing a new trial and then resolving it in the very same episode. I think part of the problem is that the きゅん moments in this show just do nothing for me personally. Feels kinda bad. Apparently the manga is better than the book and I have a few volumes of it so maybe I’ll give it a try sometime.

Thinking about the old internet

I used to be a huge fan of Spiderman when I was a kid. The Sam Raimi movie was my first introduction to the character, as well as one of my first exposures to what comic books could be (the DVD release came with a digital copy of Spider Man Blue #1 and Black Cat #1, both of which were quite a shock to the system). My family never got the newspaper, but when we would visit my grandparents I would always have a drawer full of comic pages waiting for me (my grandma, bless her heart, would collect them and set them aside) and I would spend hours cutting out the Spiderman strips and pasting them into a handmade paper album. Maybe it was just a combination of my general attraction to comic books and the fact that Spiderman was the only example that was remotely accessible, but the mythos had its hooks in deep for quite some time.

I had a favorite website around this time. I can’t remember for the life of me how I found it in the first place, but I still remember the url offhand — “alaph.com/spiderman”, aka “Eric’s Spiderman Homepage“, as preserved by the miraculous Internet Archive. It wasn’t even a dedicated site — the actual homepage appears to be some kind of ecommerce site or consultancy business — just a subdomain that some guy decided to devote to writing about his interests.

I think about Eric’s site from time to time but it really came back to me recently thanks to Wordle. It’s currently somewhat of a sensation, which is in no small part due to the clever way in which it displays your result when you solve a puzzle, which starts off inscrutable and quickly strikes home once you play it for the first time.

Something I found fascinating about Wordle is that it in less than a year since its launch, it had managed to become a daily routine for a huge number of people worldwide. Less than a week after I personally found it, @wordlestats was reporting 80k players, and two months later that number is over 300k. In an internet which has become so commodified and platform-driven, it’s amazing to see a subdomain on some random guy’s homepage become so huge.

Of course, as I write this, the link above will instead redirect to the New York Times, who purchased Wordle for a “low-seven-figure sum” and no doubt plan to monetize it or at the very least leverage it to attract a new audience to their other word games. The creator says it’s a perfect fit, and I have to say: props to him for getting his payout. But I feel a bit disappointed that this is the way things have gone. Wordle was a small independent website that managed to permeate the zeitgeist for a few months before being gobbled up by a big company and consolidated. The fact that the thousands-long word list had to be audited to remove potentially offensive words is just the icing on the cake.

There’s a lot of buzz these days about how “decentralization is the future”, which is one of those statements where I agree with all the words but not what people mean when they say it. This kind of line is always tied up with the push for Web 3, which is of course in reference to the distributed redundancy features built into blockchain applications. There might be some use case for a massively redundant database (blockchain or otherwise), but just because something is widely distributed around the world doesn’t make the internet more open or more interesting. In fact, the distributed nature of Blockchain is, is for my money, the single least interesting and desirable type of decentralization.

I’m certainly no hardline social media zealot (I spend a lot of time on Discord and stay somewhat active on Twitter), but the universal move towards centralized platforms doesn’t strike me as such a great thing. I’d like to see more Wordles and Eric’s Spiderman Homepages out there. I have a few blogs and webcomics I check daily and I wish that list was longer. Keeping a blog is a lot of fun, even if nobody reads it. It’s nice to be in charge of when your website theme changes and it’s empowering to know that you retain full ownership of everything you post.

The old internet was weird and interesting. I wish it would come back for real this time.

Blog update

For the past nearly three years (thanks to the magic of backdating) I’ve averaged more than one post per week due to my Japanese reading reports, but since I don’t post about other stuff nearly as often, they’ve ended up taking over the entire feed. I’ve been thinking of posting more regularly, so starting today my reading reports will be filtered from the main page. They’ll still be available from the link above or through the category in the navigation bar.

Japanese reading report

This week I read vol. 3 of 舞妓さんちのまかないさん and enjoyed it enough to buy the next one, which I’ll be reading soon. It’s surprising to me how long this series is actually. Favorite bit in this volume was seeing how Christmas is observed in the 花街 (which is to say, not at all) and how the girls have their own little celebrations during and after the holidays.

I decided to read 可愛いだけじゃない式守さん vol. 2 despite not liking the first volume very much and fortunately this one was a big improvement. The repetitive chapter formula is gone and there are enough new characters now that it’s possible to get some good variety (in particular the way Shikimori interacts with the main character’s mom is funny and wholesome). I still don’t see myself running out to buy more but I could see myself reading it in the future. Maybe I’ll watch the anime first.

I read vol. 2 and 3 of 珈琲をしづかに and decided to catch up with it this coming week. It’s kind of interesting; a lot of “hobby manga” are first and foremost about the hobby and often relegate the story to the sidelines, but this series flips the script. It’s character-driven by default and only as the characters open up and get to know each other does the “hobby” stuff start to play a bigger role. These two volumes touched on cupping and turkish coffee preparation, both of which I already knew about but it’s nice to learn some lingo. The story is going in a nice direction too. Looking forward to what comes next.

戦隊大失格 vol. 4 came out this week so I grabbed that right away. They’re pulling some shenanigans by occasionally switching perspective to follow the supporting cast and then cutting away without giving away all the details. Reading week to week is a pain but whenever a new volume of this series comes out I always reconsider whether I should give it a try.

Throughout the week, a chapter or two at a time, I read 方言って素晴らしいっていう漫画 vol. 1, which is another “dialect manga” except this one prominently features everyone’s favorite 津軽弁. There’s no line-by-line translation this time around and half the time I have no idea what the main guy is saying but neither does the main girl so it’s fine I guess. I’m pretty much just feeling my way through everything and occasionally making connections but it’s still a big mystery (and as a result, it’s kind of exhausting to read). I’ll be finishing this off as I fall asleep tonight, just wanted to get my report done so I can turn in early.

Caught up on 着せ恋 and ヴァニタスの手記, and watched ep. 9-10 of 赤髪の白雪姫. 東京24区 was delayed this week so no new episode unfortunately. I should probably pick up some other current-season shows so my week can be a little more populated.

Japanese reading report

Started off slow this week but pulled it out in the end. Nine volumes of manga, fourteen episodes of anime. With my last manga volume this week I’ve now reached my goal from last year (52). Pretty crazy how quickly I’ve ramped up recently.

For anime, throughout the week in no particular order: caught up on 着せ恋, ヴァニタスの手記, and 東京24区. Pretty random distribution of comprehension here as usual; the first two are pretty much perfect but I struggle with the last one. 着せ恋 still has worse pacing and more fanservice than the manga but not in a way that makes it bad per se, more that it just highlights how good the manga is. ヴァニタス is always great but it seems like they’re going to run out of material pretty soon so I might have to start reading the manga since there probably won’t be another season for a long time. Also watched one ep. each of 赤髪の白雪姫 (hit or miss as usual; this time was a miss) and 少女革命ウテナ (definitely the oldest show I’ve watched to date; too early to make a call on how I feel about it).

The first manga I read this week was ココロのプログラム vol. 1, which I think came out the same day I bought it. It had an extended 立ち読み so I decided to flip through it and I ended up impulse-buying it and reading it the same day. It’s a nice little coming of age story about a robot girl learning what it means to have a human heart. I liked it quite a bit, it’s very sweet but also seems like it has potential for some good drama.

Next: 可愛いだけじゃない式守さん vol. 1. Nice art and a funny premise (guy is extremely unlucky, his cute girlfriend is constantly snapping into “cool” mode to protect him), but the gag got old REALLY quickly, like maybe a third of the way through the volume. I have vol. 2 so I’ll probably read it at some point just to see if it gets better but it was kinda rough.

Next up was であいもん vol. 1. Funny story: this was actually part of MAL’s manga translation battle contest way back in 2017, and I (as a complete beginner to learning Japanese) thought I would try my hand at it. Needless to say I barely made it three pages in before totally giving up and then never touching it until this week. It’s pretty interesting revisiting it after all that time; back then I didn’t even know enough to be able to identify that the entire book is written in 京都弁. I got through it pretty quickly and liked it reasonably well. Reminded me of 甘々と稲妻 if the little girl was sassy and mean.

Read through トニカクカワイイ vol. 11 and 12 back-to-back. The very end of vol. 12 finally seems like it’s going to start making some movements in the story area, which is exciting. In the meantime it’s good lovey-dovey comedy and that was the initial appeal of the series anyway so either way is a win.

Finished 呪術廻戦 vol. 14 (it’s been stuck at 2/3 complete for a little while now while I waited for my sister). Now that it’s over I have an enormous need to read the next one but of course I can’t until the english version comes out for her. Life is pain.

Read vol. 1 and 2 of 舞妓さんちのまかないさん, and will definitely be reading vol. 3 this coming week since it’s free currently. Really cute series that follows the cook/handywoman at a maiko house. The art has all these super detailed, beautiful drawings of the scenery and the girls in their attire, and it’s been really interesting to learn about what goes on behind the scenes. Some points that caught my interest in particular: though they can wear normal clothing during meals and downtime, a maiko will keep her hair arranged 24/7, with a shampoo and re-style once a week; you get a new name once you make your debut; and there are restrictions on what kind of food can be prepared in the house — not only because of adherance to Japanese aesthetics, but because you want to avoid reminding the clientele of home. Everyone speaks in the classy old-style variant of 京都弁 and the main character is the cutest. Will likely be catching up with this in the near future.

Finally! at long last! 無能なナナ vol. 9 came out at a hefty 327 pages. I was sitting there looking at it last night, knowing if I tried reading myself to sleep I would not, in fact, sleep. Eventually gave in and read almost the entire thing in one go. Very good and satisfying end to this arc, and of course not without the last-minute reversal. It seems like we’re due for yet another paradigm shift next chapter (or are we?) so I’d really appreciate if we could get to summer sooner vs later.

Japanese reading report

This week I read nine volumes of manga and started watching some shows week-to-week. I’ve gotten so into the habit of waiting and then watching stuff in big batches, but since I’m paying for a crunchyroll sub so I can watch 鬼滅の刃 and 進撃の巨人, I might as well put it to use for other stuff. I haven’t been mentioning them in my reports since I’m watching with subtitles (with my sister) but I figured out that if I sit on my bed across the room, I’m too far away to read them. Anyway!

I watched the most recent eps of both 鬼滅の刃 and 進撃の巨人. The former had some extra scenes that weren’t in the manga and even so I was able to follow it no problem. The latter had both of us pretty confused though. I’m planning to read the whole manga at some point this year so maybe it’ll become clear at that point. Watched one (long) episode of 東京24区, which managed to make the trolley problem actually kind of interesting. Very cool visual style, gonna catch up soon. Three episodes of ヴァニタスの手記, very fun. One episode of 着せ恋 to see how it compared to the manga…not super impressed honestly; the art and animation are both very nice but the pacing feels like a downgrade from the manga. I’ll probably keep watching it anyway.

For manga, I read 着せ恋 5-8, which catches me all the way up with what’s been released to date. Very good and precious. The last volume got into the crossdressing side of things which is kind of a bummer (I feel robbed of a cute Marin payoff), but the story is going in very nice directions. Looking forward to the next one.

トニカクカワイイ vol. 8-10 were next. They keep dropping hints about the big “secret” and I’m wondering when it’ll actually take more of a major role in the story. Probably gonna catch up pretty soon.

I remembered I still hadn’t read おとなりに銀河 vol. 3, so that was next. They eliminated a pretty major plot element which I had assumed would be adding tension throughout the whole story, but also kind of turned that new absence into an important bit of its own. Wish this one would release more frequently, it always makes me feel wistful and happy.

Finally, 天つ狐と封印詩 vol. 2. I bought vol. 1 ages ago after seeing someone asking a question about it but was sort of underwhelmed and never got around to continuing it. This one was nice though, still a little weak in terms of plot beats but it introduced some more characters and ideas which were pretty fun. I noticed the series concludes with vol. 3 so I’ll probably read that soon.

I’m 43 volumes of manga into my goal of 100 for the year and I had decided that if I hit 10 this week again I would officially upgrade it to 365, but I decided to take it easy today and not push myself. Might still be making that change in the near future. We’ll see what happens.

Japanese reading report

This week’s manga total is 11. I thought it would be fun to one-up myself from last week but didn’t really expect to do it — but here we are.

I read 呪術廻戦 vol. 10, 11, 12, and 13 back to back, and a little over half of vol. 14. My sister is reading this one a chapter at a time and I’m not allowed to overtake her so I’ll be picking away at it for a while I suppose. The whole arc has been nonstop and I would almost definitely be caught up by now if I could.

Also read ふろラン vol. 1, which I picked up a long time ago and finally remembered to read. It’s basically just two girls who like to run and then go to an onsen once they’re about to collapse, which I guess is supposed to feel amazing. Maybe I’ll give it a try sometime. Didn’t have to look up a single word; even at one point when they did a 古文 gag (いとをかし)apropos of nothing, it was something I already knew from 阿波連さん. Not bad but I didn’t love it. The art is real nice though.

Finally remembered that I had one more volume of Spy Family (8), so I’m all caught up with that now. Possibly the best one so far? Every scene was either hilarious or relevant to the story and it definitely made up for the lackluster vol. 7.

I wasn’t expecting my next binge series to be about cosplay, but 着せ恋 is so great and I’m very glad I gave it a try. I read vol. 2, 3, and 4 and will likely be catching up with it next week. It’s very easy reading but I’m also learning a bunch about the cosplay world and a bit about the 雛人形 world as well, which is pretty neat. Most importantly I adore every character in this series. There were a few times I was dreading some particular trope but it always surprised me — the pretty popular girl is also super nice and supportive! there’s a new character who’s a little bit tsundere but not all the time! an opportunity to introduce a boring jealousy subplot is played as a joke and then abandoned! I like it a lot.

I read COLORLESS vol. 3 and it was mostly decent. It’s been a while since I read vol. 2 so I’m a bit unclear on some of the supporting details but at this point the action has moved beyond smalltime and it seems like there are some clear stakes. Not a lot to say here. Art style is nice as always.

Finally, I read vol. 1 of Witch Watch, which I bought a while back in an attempt to be an early adopter and then…forgot about. Basic premise is that the main girl is a witch (but a very clumsy one) and the main guy is her familiar who’s supposed to protect her from some kind of unknown disaster. All of her spells have some kind of silly side effect which naturally leads to a bunch of comedic peril. It’s very cute and quite funny. Not sure if I’ll be prioritizing it but I would definitely read more.

Japanese reading report

This week I read ten volumes of manga, and I had to actually double-check that number when I went to type it in because I felt like I must have counted wrong, but this definitely breaks my record and I have a feeling I might be at a tipping point. Feels pretty good.

In no particular order this time: read 呪術廻戦 vol. 9 (wrapping up the flashback arc), 古見さん vol. 24 (featuring nothing of major importance but was still highly enjoyable; now the longest series I’ve read), and その着せ替え人形は恋をする vol. 1 (certified Pure Gyaru™, surprisingly nice, will probably read some more).

I also read 虚の記憶 vol. 1 and hated it. It’s getting the first one-star rating in my library and I’m pretty disappointed. This is a manga by EVE (the guy who makes all those crazy music videos) and I was expecting something really off-the-wall and visually interesting. What I got instead was a totally boring story, very bland characters who are clearly supposed to be cool but simply aren’t, and like…only one monster design that was actually interesting at all? If there was one positive experience here, it’s that I’ve often wondered if I would be capable of identifying poor/amateurish writing in Japanese, where I can obviously do it easily in English — and now I know. Huge letdown and I’m actually pretty mad that I already bought vol. 2.

Fortunately, this week also had Summertime Rendering vol. 8-13. This series went from barely on my radar to being potentially my favorite series of all time in the first week and this past week has only solidified that position. I went ahead and bought the full set on Mandarake just so I could have it on my shelf despite the fact that I was down to the last volume before the package even arrived. Seriously can’t overstate how much I love it and I think I’m going to be chasing this feeling for a good long while.

Japanese reading report

This week I accidentally averaged one volume of manga per day, plus a bit of anime here and there. For anime I think it was just a few more episodes of 赤髪の白雪姫 (I watch it on my laptop when I’m cooking or if I have a big batch of dishes to watch). It took an entire season but things have started to get interesting finally.

It hardly bears mentioning but I read 呪術廻戦 vol. 0.5 (the bonus manga that came with the midnight screening of the movie). Just eight pages and I didn’t count it towards my yearly manga goal but I wanted to log it somewhere at least. Next I read かいじゅう色の島 vol. 1, which I actually thought was a oneshot at first. I grabbed it on a whim based on a very pretty animated trailer. It was fine, probably won’t read any more. Also got back to reading トニカクカワイイ with vol. 7 since my sister has been hounding me to catch up to her.

Most of my manga this week was Summertime Rendering because holy crap, I don’t think I’ve ever been this obsessed with a series before. I read volumes 2-7 in what feels like no time at all. Some nights I would literally tell myself “okay I’m just going to read a chapter or two as I fall asleep” and then find myself at the end of the book. The storytelling is amazing; really good foreshadowing, complex characters, pulse-pounding momentum. There have been quite a few points where I either picked up on some small detail and then saw it pay off an entire volume later, or went back to grab a screenshot and noticed a detail I had missed before.

All that aside, I’ve also been having a ton of fun with the dialect. Every character is native to 和歌山 and only two of them have actually been off the island where the story takes place, so nearly every piece of dialogue and exposition is all in 和歌山弁. There’s a lot of shared DNA with 大阪弁 but there’s also some brand new stuff. Fortunately (and surprisingly) I’ve never reached a point where I was actually stuck. Just by reading it I’ve been captivated by the rhythm and wordfeel and I’m really excited for the anime adaptaion so I can hear it all voiced. It’s seriously so good and I’m probably going to binge the remaining six volumes this coming week as well.