This week I spent basically all of my free time reading わたしの幸せな結婚. I honestly picked this one up just based on the cover art and the fact that it was a best-seller that I had never heard of. I’m about 40% of the way through now and I can easily see why it was so popular. I’ve heard it described as “Meiji-era Cinderella” and that’s not a bad description but it’s definitely an oversimplification. The two main characters are really great; he doesn’t believe in love (having spent his adult life being pursued for his wealth and status) and she doesn’t believe herself worthy of love (having spent her entire life being treated as a slave). Both of them are wrong, of course, and the development has been really sweet. It reminds me a bit of ねねね in some ways, which was a nice surprise.
I also watched 19 episodes of ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 part 4. As always, not a lot to say here.
This one was weird. After enjoying 夜市 and 秋の牢獄 as much as I did, I was super excited to read a full-length novel in the same style. The title had me intrigued from the moment I saw it, and I’ve had it on my shelf for almost a year now, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it, I was surprised to find that I didn’t like it as much as I expected to. That’s not to say it’s a bad book, by any means, just that perhaps I had set the bar a bit too high.
The titular “thunder season” is a phenomenon unique to the town that the book focuses on, a remote Japanese village called 穏 (meaning something like “quiet” or “peaceful”). Of course that name is a complete lie: during the Thunder Season, demons roam the streets as the locals lock themselves in their homes; people go missing and that’s “just the way it is”. The book largely follows one character who has two people close to him go missing in this way, and as he starts to look into what actually happened to them, he stumbles into one mystery after the other.
The story is told from three perspectives (comprising about 50%, 40%, and 10% each) and they tie together in a satisfying and engaging way. I somewhat frequently see criticism about 恒川光太郎’s reliance on flashbacks to resolve twists, and I think the approach of weaving together multiple different stories (each one setting up or paying off for one of the others) is a great way to accomplish the same goal without bringing the whole thing to a screeching halt.
Ironically, I think the thing I was most looking forward to — the format switch — is actually the thing that weakened the whole experience. The momentum felt wildly inconsistent, with interesting story developments being punctuated with sections that just dragged on and sort of killed my motivation to keep reading. Thinking back, the parts that stuck in my memory were all enjoyable and well-written, so my overall opinion of the book is still good. I do feel like it could have done with a bit of fat-trimming, but perhaps if my reading speed was better I wouldn’t have gotten bogged down so much.
In any case, I would still recommend this book and will definitely be continuing to follow the author’s work in the future.
This week I finished 雷の季節の終わりに, one day ahead of schedule. Overall impression of the book is that it’s good but not great; my enjoyment of 夜市 and 秋の牢獄 was very consistent whereas this one had highs (where I would get swept along and read over my daily quota) and lows (where I had trouble finding motivation to put in my time). Fortunately it ended on a high. Will be writing up a full review on that a little later.
I also read ゆるキャン vol. 4, which also means I’m caught up with season 1 of the anime. Not really a lot to say here I guess. I always enjoy this series but it’s rarely a source of new words etc.
Watched episodes 26-48 of ジョジョの奇妙な冒険, finishing up part 3. Never heard so many instances of わい in my entire life.
Actually got quite a lot of reading done this week. I think I’ve finally gotten back into the swing of balancing my Japanese input with my work schedule after not having to worry about it for a while now.
First thing I did was finish シャドーハウス vol. 2 (didn’t actually finish it last week after all). I really enjoyed it but darn it’s not anything like I originally expected. It’s starting to remind me of what I’ve heard about 約束のネバーランド, which is unexpected. I don’t think I’d be able to continue if anything bad happened to the main characters.
I watched 20 episodes of ジョジョの奇妙な冒険, 5-25. I’ve actually reached a point where my memory is a lot hazier and the last few episodes have been almost totally unfamiliar, so I’m gratified that I can still keep up with what’s going on (especially considering that most of this was done on my second monitor while I was working and I couldn’t give it my full attention). For some reason I always assumed this series would be really hard to follow and it’s nice that that’s not the case.
I also watched about six hours of a vtuber called 微睡みうと streaming 大逆転裁判. I’d like to play this game myself so I think I’m going to hold off on watching anymore until I catch up. It’s a cool way to get voiceover for a game that doesn’t have it, though it was pretty funny when she choked on the pronunciation of 総天然色. The game is set a good hundred years ago so there are some outdated terms I’m sure. One that tripped me up for ages was 写真（ほとがらひい）which I couldn’t find any definition for…until it was pointed out to me that it was just the word “photography” rendered awkwardly, and in hiragana no less!
I stayed mostly on track with 雷の季節の終わりに, putting me maybe one chapter from the end. If I read ten pages per day for the upcoming week I’ll still finish by the end of the month, so that’s my new target. The threads that were being gathered last week have come all the way together at this point, and it’s left me wondering if there’s anything else (which I didn’t ascribe much importance to at first) that might be tied in as well. One standout kanji moment was seeing 幌 for the first time outside of the word 札幌! Fortunately that makes the reading really easy to remember. I also came across 微睡み shortly after learning it from the mouse vtuber’s name, which is always fun.
At the end of the week I picked up 東京都立呪術高等専門学校, aka 呪術廻戦 0. It’s basically a oneshot that served as the “pilot episode” for the main series, and was re-published as a prequel at some point. Quite enjoyed it; it works quite well as either a standalone work or for fans of the main series. Finishing this volume brings me to the 50% point of my yearly manga goal, two months early.
Lastly, I took a gamble on the US release of Nier: Replicant including Japanese text (like Automata) and it paid off! I got it on release day aka yesterday and have only played about four hours so far but I’m planning to keep at it. So far it’s pretty standard fantasy stuff, nothing too crazy. A little archaic grammar here and there but nothing I can’t handle. One fun thing to note: seeing 敬う here literally an hour after I also saw it in 呪術廻戦 0. I’ve apparently looked it up before but these kinds of coincidences usually help things stick really well.
Whoops, almost let the day go by without posting my report.
Had some tough days this week between my new job and some overall fatigue and let a couple of days go by without reading 雷の季節の終わりに at all, but I managed to hit a flow state for the past few days and got caught up again. The two storylines have started to converge I think? There’s been some good development lately both in terms of characters and also the setting itself. I might try and read at a faster pace and finish it up this week. As much as I’ve been perpetually having trouble sitting down with this book, it does go pretty smoothly once I’ve started.
The only manga I’ve read this week was シャドーハウス vol. 1 and about half of vol. 2 (will be finishing it as I fall asleep). I actually grabbed this a while ago but had let it sit on the backlog until a friend of mine mentioned that it was getting an anime adaptation this season. It’s swinging crazily between cute and creepy and I can see some interesting potential in some of the ideas they’ve hinted at. Really enjoying myself with it so far.
Watched ep. 22-26 and (moving on to part 3) 1-4 of ジョジョの奇妙な冒険. Still not much to say about it. I’m understanding it pretty well (much better than I’ve always anticipated) but it’s always hard to say how much of that is based on my memory of the subbed version.
At the beginning of the week, I kept making headway through my backlog with 大きくなったら、結婚する！ vol. 1 and からかい上手の高木さん vol. 4 back to back. I actually picked the former up almost exactly a year ago and shelved it because it doesn’t have much furigana, but this time it was nice and easy (always a nice feeling). I’ll probably keep reading it pretty soon; it’s cute and there aren’t too many volumes out yet.
Right after this, I started reading うちの師匠はしっぽがない vol. 1, which I’ve been curious about for a long time now but was always too intimidated by. All in all it went pretty smoothly aside from a few 落語 sections. 大阪弁 is pretty neat and not too different from what I’ve heard spoken in Kyoto, so that was fun. Definitely planning to continue it in the future. I read this one over the rest of the week, about a chapter per night as I was falling asleep.
I had a terrible time staying on schedule with 雷の季節の終わりに again, despite really enjoying it by this point…I missed two days and had to make up the difference today. A little behind schedule now but I’m past the halfway point which always feels good.
Watched ep. 15-21 of ジョジョの奇妙な冒険. Not a ton to say, just truckin’ along.
Finally, today I read からかい上手の（元）高木さん vol. 3. I’m surprised I don’t see it recommended more often as a beginner manga. It’s super easy and quite adorable and barely has any surprise N1 西片 monologues at all.
Stayed current on 雷の季節の終わりに again, slowly slowly reading ahead of my goal (probably not enough to change the projected end date, but enough to give me a bit of margin). It’s turned into quite a different book than I expected and I’m quite enjoying it. The last two chapters have actually followed two different characters which is something I hadn’t expected. In addition to the supernatural horror stuff that has been introduced, there’s also a decent amount of more mundane or psychological horror happening. I’ve been looking up a lot of words but a lot of them have just been in order to verify pronunciation since the meaning is evident in context, which is nice.
I also read two volumes of manga; 見える子ちゃん vol. 5 and トニカクカワイイ vol. 5. Both were quite good. Regarding トニカクカワイイ, they rearranged some stuff for the anime adaptation but the last chapter was also the last scene in the anime, so I’m all caught up now. One interesting thing that stuck out to me: my first-ever (that I can remember) encounter with 勝手に that had a positive connotation. I’ve always seen it used in a disapproving way, at least when applied to humans.
I had planned to watch four episodes of ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 per day this week, but I started late and then had a bunch of work to do so I couldn’t dedicate as much time as I wanted. I did still manage to watch 14 episodes though. I was definitely expecting it to be harder to follow but I was surprised at how much I was able to keep up with without any effort. The fact that it’s entirely review likely helps with that, but I feel like having latent memories of the English translation has helped me make some connections I might not have made otherwise.
This week I just read one volume of manga, 怪物事変 vol. 2. Kon is great. I love every scene with her. Shiki and Akari have gotten less annoying too.
Most of my reading was from 雷の季節の終わりに, which I managed to stay on track with this time. The story has picked up and I’m quite enjoying it now; I’ve been feeling compelled to pick it up more often so I’m feeling a lot better than last week. Compared to the other two books I’ve read by this author, it definitely took its sweet time building up the setting and laying the foundation, though I guess that just comes with the territory of long-form fiction rather than the short story format I was used to.
This week I read three* volumes of manga and started a new novel.
First up was 古見さん vol. 20, which I really enjoyed (they need to release these faster! seriously there are like six months of chapters that haven’t been collected yet). I think I picked up a bit of skiing-related vocab and that’s about it. I liked how they subverted the typical ski trip disaster and came up with something a bit fresher. Also Hitomi needs to be nerfed.
Next was ヨコハマ買い出し紀行 vol. 5. Still really good. It’s surprising how understated the “post-apocalyptic” elements are; it’s a real slow burn and I have a lot of respect for the way the storytelling and worldbuilding is done.
My last manga of the week was 罠ガール vol. 1 (I’ll actually finish it as I fall asleep tonight). It’s pretty interesting; set in a seemingly realistic 田舎町 and written by an actual farmer apparently. Each chapter has to do with trapping animals in various ways, and then (more often than not) actually killing and eating said animals. It’s definitely not the standard fare for a cute-girls-doing-cute-things manga so the incongruity was a little odd at first, but I’ll probably keep reading it at some point.
My next novel is 雷の季節の終わりに, which I’ve been wanting to read for a while. For some reason I had a really hard time getting started with it though…not sure if it’s just more difficult than I’m used to or if I’m still in a bit of a slump. I was planning to read it at a pace where I would finish it by the second week of April but I decided to slow down and take the whole month. Reducing my daily goal down to 8 pages helped me feel a little less overwhelmed and I actually ended up reading a little over, so hopefully that fixes things. I’m only about 55 pages in, but so far the worldbuilding is interesting and that’s the main appeal of a 恒川光太郎 book to me, so I’m looking forward to the rest of it.
About halfway through my watchthrough of Holmes of Kyoto’s anime adaptation a few weeks ago, I found myself checking Amazon Japan on a regular basis to see if the first book in the series would happen to be listed for free (as occasionally happens for promotional purposes). It got to the point where I literally decided to buy it instead of waiting just because I was getting tired of checking. And so, once I finished 風の道しるべ, I jumped right into this series and finished book 1 in just over two weeks, finally catching up to my novel goal with three books down.
As much as I enjoyed the Holmes of Kyoto anime, the main thing running through my mind as I read the book was “the show did not do this justice”. Between the mysteries and character moments that make up the majority of the screentime, we also get tidbits of local history, descriptions of various locations visited throughout the story, and small vignettes with characters who, despite having no major importance, help deepen the overall experience. The author mentions in the afterword that she started writing this series out of a desire to share the beauty of Kyoto, and it shows.
The anime covers material from the first three books, so naturally there was a lot of review here, but there were also a fair few scenes which I don’t remember from the anime at all; my favorite involved a confession of love, and then a rejection of that confession, both performed through the medium of tanka from the One Hundred Poets where both parties relied on the subtext of each poem, rather than the literal words, to send the desired message.
Before I had finished reading the last chapter, I’d already gone back and bought the next five books, so it goes without saying that I’ll certainly be continuing with this series. There’s also an official English release, which I’m sure is also good; if I’m not mistaken, the translator was chosen during the Manga Translation Battle contest, and the samples I saw looked quite well-done. Heartily recommended.