Japanese reading report

I got back home from Japan last weekend and I’m still struggling a bit with jetlag. I’ve been waking up early, taking long afternoon naps; my whole schedule is in shambles. Despite all this, I somehow still managed to finish ランドセルガール (which I started last week). All my reading this week was done while listening to the audiobook (6:46).

Originally, I thought this book would be about the resentment that Mai feels towards her mother, but I was a bit off the mark; it’s actually Sakuta’s mother who takes center stage here. Having never gone to see her during the whole time that Kaede was suffering from 思春期症候群, at some point it was as though Sakuta had completely forgotten about his own mother.

However, just as Kaede’s recovery makes it possible once again to live together as a family, Sakuta finds himself seemingly invisible to everyone around him. As he tries to figure out what the cause could be, Sakuta realizes — even when he went with Kaede to see his mother that first time, his mother only ever spoke to his sister and never to him. Now, Sakuta needs to figure out a way to overcome his unfortunate invisibility and reunite with his mother.

I watched five episodes of Naruto and they were all filler. Probably don’t need to go into any depth here.

Japanese reading report

This week was the end of my Tokyo trip and I didn’t go too hard on reading; just about half a volume of manga or so per day. I ended up reading six in total, with three of those being on the flight home.

First off, gantz 27-28. I would have kept going but this was all I’d put on my ereader. It’s well and truly the final arc now and things are pretty spicy. I have to admit it’s been hard to keep track of all the characters at this point. I was pretty sure one guy in particular had died but he’s playing a pretty important role here so… I must have missed something earlier. Might try to read the final 10 volumes next week in one go.

The third volume of ココロのプログラム came out a little bit ago but I finally just got around to reading it. At first I was thinking it was about to become just a typical love triangle but I think it was actually a pretty nice setup for some 切なさ that was paid off at the end of the volume. Something I didn’t realize at all until it was pointed out by one of the characters is just how much time has passed since the beginning. The characters are starting high school now and it seems like they still have a lot to learn, but it’s progressing in a nice way.

On the plane, I read 戦隊大失格 vol. 6, felt very lost, and decided it might be a good idea to catch up sooner than later so I have a chance of helping stuff stick in my memory better. Some fun fights in this one.

Read うずまき vol. 1 and it was great. I read this in english years and years ago on a long car ride so it’s kind of funny to read it again in japanese on a plane. Fortunately it’s mostly faded from my memory at this point so a lot of it feels fresh. Two words I thought were particularly fun: えも言われぬ and 組んず解れつ.

Last manga of the week was 幼馴染とはラブコメにならない vol. 4. The new girl is pretty fun. As usual with this series, the first 75% is mostly fluff, then there’s a pretty good character building moment, and then it resets to (close to) the status quo.

I also started reading (readalong) to 青春ブタ野郎はランドセルガールの夢を見ない. Currently 32 pages in, considering whether I should try to finish it by next report/jlpt day. So far it’s been mostly setup but I assume it’ll be exploring 麻衣’s resentment towards her mother for the direction her career was steered in her early years.

Japanese reading report

This week I finally finished 三日間の幸福.

I’ve heard great things about this book but honestly, I have no idea why it’s so popular. I started reading it in the hopes of getting a tear-jerker, but aside from the last three pages I had literally no emotional response whatsoever.

If there was one point I felt was worthwhile, it would be the idea that “the value of one’s life is based on the happiness they can experience, and the happiness they can bring to others”. I do think this is a good perspective to have (if a bit self-evident). But the protagonist is such a complete moron; his relationship with Miyagi is far too convenient; the story is full of pointless moments… overall it just left with just a bad taste in my mouth.

If the value of one’s life is really tied to their happiness, I’ve definitely lost value by reading this book. Absolutely not worth my time.

I watched Asakusa Kid, the movie about Beat Takeshi’s history with manzai. Can’t say I understood even half of what they were saying but I enjoyed myself.

Finally found myself in the mood to read manga again. I read GANTZ vol. 26. Things are getting pretty bad as we get closer to the end of the story.

Japanese reading report

Another week of reading 三日間の幸福. I’m really not seeing the appeal. What I had identified as a transitional phase last week has carried on almost all the way up to what I’ve read (73%). At this point it kind of feels like it’s just killing time in the three months that lead up to the titular “three days”. At the very end of today’s reading there was a reveal of sorts that not everything is as it seems, but the scene it took place in felt so disconnected from the rest of the story and (unless I’m majorly missing something) the information required for the conclusion wasn’t properly foreshadowed. Still holding out hope for the ending to be a big turnaround.

I also watched two movies: ゴジラ-1.0 and 見えない目撃者. I’ve never seen a Godzilla movie before so I didn’t really know what to expect but I thought -1.0 was pretty good. Very human-focused, not a ton of actual destruction sequences like I expected. The horror of the aftermath of an attack, along with the dread of another to come, balanced with the human tendency to try to find happiness and normalcy after a disaster, were all conveyed in a compelling way. I definitely missed a lot of military vocab but it was pretty manageable.

見えない目撃者 was also pretty good. It’s a suspense drama about a blind woman who “witnesses” a kidnapping and tries to get the police to take an investigation seriously despite the fact that her only testimony is based on what she smelled and heard at the crime scene. Apparently it’s loosely based on a korean film called “blind”. There might have been one plot contrivance that didn’t make much sense but it’s also possible I missed something. Overall enjoyed it a lot. I’ve been thinking it would be good to start watching more live-action movies so maybe this will start a trend (or a new goal for next year).

Japanese reading report

This week I mostly read 三日間の幸福. I’m a bit behind schedule (about the 40% point) and I have to say it’s not especially holding my interest right now. The initial premise was really strong, and the “what could have been” part was…I guess somewhat tragic, but it didn’t really get the weight I felt it could have had. I did think it was an interesting perspective to basically say “if you could somehow know for a fact that things would never get better, there’s no reason to tough it out”, though I feel like the applicability of this idea to real life is very limited (and the optimist in me hopes that it ends up being overturned later in the story). At this point it feels like it’s in a transitional phase where nothing much is happening but there’s still a lot of time to kill before things start getting more interesting. It’s still going pretty smoothly when I do find the motivation to read it so I’ll keep it up.

I read バカップル vol. 1 and it was fun. The whole premise is that the titular couple wants to be lovey-dovey but they have no experience and they keep knocking themselves out by being “too lewd” (i.e. imagining going further than 間接キス). The gag got a little tired towards the end but I was still enjoying myself throughout.

I rewatched three episodes of 響け!ユーフォニアム and it’s still as good as ever. There are definitely still a few points where I’m carried by my memory of doing subs2srs with it (feels like a lifetime ago) but I also noticed several points where I easily understood a sentence that I had previously struggled with over and over again.

Japanese reading report

This week I read about 25% of 三日間の幸福. I’m on a pretty leisurely pace for this one (just a few pages per day) and it’s been smooth so far.

At the beginning of the book a teacher asks “how much would you sell your lifespan for?” and the characters immediately start thinking about it in terms of how much could they earn by working their whole lives. One character even says something like “[one classmate] probably wouldn’t even be able to sell it at all; she’d have to pay someone to take it”. Of course that premise is challenged later with the postulation that it’s the happiness you experience, and the happiness you cause others, that truly determine your life’s value.

The writing is a little dense at times but I’m enjoying it. I have to say the very beginning set me up to think the protagonist would be insufferable but it was a ruse.

Ended up watching spy family ep. 3 instead of 2 by accident. I’m not a big fan of Yuri episodes but the shorts at the end were fun. I also watched Pluto ep. 1 (one hour). I don’t know anything about the source material but the first episode was pretty nice. Lots of quiet moments and striking frames.

Japanese reading report

Another very busy week. I’m down to the wire trying to make time for a bunch of responsibilities and unfortunately reporting in japanese didn’t make the cut.

On Sunday I started reading また、同じ夢を観ていた. I’m currently 74 pages in, a little under halfway done — a little behind schedule but I’m pretty sure I can still finish it by next week. Right from the beginning I knew I was going to like this one. The main character is often funny in a way that you think she’s doing it on purpose, but other times the joke is clearly that she has a lot to learn about the way the world works. Her 人生とは lines always get a smile out of me, even when they don’t quite make sense either at first glance or on further scrutiny.

It would be easy to stop there and let the whole gimmick be “little kids don’t know what’s going on”, but the emotional core of the story comes largely from adults in her life who gently correct her misunderstandings without quashing her curiosity. I especially like アバズレさん. Her voice is always so kind but there’s an understated sadness behind every line. I’m very much enjoying myself and there have been several points where I’ve gotten lost in the story and gone over my quota for the day.

I also finished 女生徒. I definitely enjoyed the first half more than the latter half, but it was pretty good overall. One bit from the last page stuck out to me in particular:


On my list of all 太宰治 works read to date, it gets #1 spot easy.

Today I was doing some prolonged programming and decided to watch Naruto while I was at it. I watched 24 episodes, covering four arcs: Mizuki, Bikochuu, Kurosaki, and Gosunkugi. Was nice to see Hinata in the spotlight for a little bit. Mizuki is a great villain; really good delivery on all his lines and the ruthlessness in his character comes through very strong.

Finally I listened to ナベちゃんのヨメ (4x 1:00, high focus) by the author of パッとしない子. Blog post coming soon (maybe).

Japanese reading report

This week I finally finished 金色の獣、彼方に向かう.

Of the four stories in the book, the third, 森の神、夢に還る, was definitely my favorite. Ostensibly, the protagonist is called 森をさまよう幽霊, but the narration comes in the form of a letter to a girl, and is largely written in second-person (“you do this, you do that”). I’ve never seen this before in Japanese literature and I thought it was pretty interesting.

I’ve gotten a bit curious about mahjong lately, so I thought I would try reading a manga about it. I read vol. 1 of マジャン 〜畏村奇聞〜, a series I got a long time ago (but had never read). I didn’t really learn any mahjong rules but the story was kind of fun.

I read 人間失格 at the beginning of the year, and even now I don’t understand why people like it so much. However, for some reason I found myself curious about another Osamu Dazai work, 女生徒, and decided to read it this week. I’m actually enjoying it so far. Dazai’s perspective into a high-school girl’s thought process is pretty interesting. I had planned to have finished it by now, but life got in the way and I’m only about halfway done.

Watched ep. 1 and 2 of 葬送のフリーレン, and ep. 1 of SHY. The sakuga in Frieren is gorgeous. SHY is definitely not in the same league but the story had me tearing up.

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.