[2024] 多読/extensive reading challenge

I finished last month’s Harta! A bit on the late side…

ハルタ 101号

ハクメイとミコチ hit 100 chapters with a nice story capturing some of the pleasure of travel.

I really liked the first chapter of 黒巫鏡談 by 戸川四餡. It’s about a naive second-rate Japanese novelist visiting Korea during the occupation to research material for a book, and getting haplessly involved in a supernatural mystery of some kind. Occupied Korea is an interesting location for a historical manga to cover, and it seems like the author’s handling it with detail and tact, and it’s interesting to get lots of information about Korean folklore instead of Japanese for a change. Not represented by the panel I chose at all. It’s to run for a short serialization - seems like probably 3 chapters total.
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The mermaid series アビスアジュールの罪人 concluded this issue. If you’re into mermaids, check it out! If you’re not into mermaids, well it’s very about mermaids so maybe don’t check it out.


I finally finished a game I’ve been picking away at for quite a while! Arguably it’s more extensive listening than reading, but I’ll put it here I guess…

Policenauts

Definitely something I wanted to do with Japanese someday was to emulate a PC-98 game, since the aesthetic of that computer line is so specific and so not quite like any other computer I’m familiar with. My interest in older computer has waned a bit in recent years (partly because of reading Japanese taking up so much attention), but it’s definitely still there. Anyway, one positive of my backlog system is that it does give me a reason to tackle something like that now, rather than endlessly waiting until later when I’ll feel more prepared and then never getting around to it. And so Policenauts came up in the random draw…

I had, at some point, at least set up the emulator and gotten the game running to prove that I could do it, and been very charmed by the opening but my listening skills were not up to the task at the time.

Now though? Not too much problem! The game is split into two kinds of text: fully-voiced dialogue with no subtitles, and written dialogue and flavor text with no furigana. So it’s a bit of a full-course meal of advanced language learning challenge, and I thought it was pretty cool that at this point that did not make the game inaccessible to me. Certainly some particular details about the convoluted schemes at the heart of the mystery maybe didn’t fully get internalized, and I might have been slightly quicker to lose endurance and skim quickly through dialogue options, but otherwise I was perfectly fine.
And thankfully, wrangling the emulator was a lot easier and more smooth than I feared. Once I figured out how to get things going (and kept a README for myself), I could reliably make progress over and over, with crashes only occurring at the optional shooting range. The one glaring drawback of the process, was that something was definitely busted with the audio - it sounded great at first, but in 10-15 minutes, it would reliably have a desynced ghosting effect that gradually made dialogue unintelligible. Also I think the game is supposed to have lip-synching, but that part’s completely broken, presumably for some same underlying cause. I was unable to fix this (but it’s not like troubleshooting a game I’m exactly the same age as, for a computer I’ve never seen or used was going to be in my wheelhouse), and while thankfully the game is easy to play and extremely generous with the ability to save, the pressure to stop and restart every 10 minutes certainly did not help me keep momentum. But hey, another obstacle it’s kind of cool to clear - pretty neat I could make out the dialogue sorta okay even as it started to glitch!

And there is a LOT of text and dialogue. This is a Hideo Kojima game (successer to the earlier Snatcher, which I haven’t played), written and directed by him, and one way that certainly shows is the sheer amount of codec-like flavor text about different facets of the sci-fi setting. The idea is that colonies (similar to the ones in Gundam) are in orbit, and you’re a cop who had a cryo mishap that’s ended up with you a couple of decades or so younger than you would have been otherwise, and you get to investigate a murder and disappearance that takes you into space again. It’s a really fun setting, and the game almost boils down to “hey, want to play an 80s cop movie (the character designs seem VERY Lethal Weapon inspired) set in one of those cool Gundam colonies?” which I’m totally here for!

It’s a visual novel though, and my initial enthusiasm I confess did wane as the first chapter dived headlong into lots and lots of setup, and it took my wandering around confused for a while to figure out that of course - this is the kind of game where you’re supposed to exhaust every dialogue option and investigate every detail, before the game will then let you forward to make progress. That’s the kind of model that I don’t mind… once I figure out that that’s what’s going on. I really have to make a mental note to expect it as a possibility going forward, since I think it caused friction with Ace Attorney too.
Eventually I recovered momentum and pressed forward to the end, but that first chapter or two after the initial murder and gunfight is definitely the slowest part of the game as things build. I would have been happy to have a bit more of things like the bomb-defusing sequence which was a really fun thing. And anytime there was a little bit of a puzzle I got a kick out of solving it (when the game quized me on mon knowledge I was all smug since a handful of mon like the Tokugawa one or Hojo or Takeda are in my anki… but it was definitely expecting me to have internalized the entirety of the mon listed in a different part of the game, so alas I resorted to google rather than backtrack). But it’s mainly lots and lots of talking and simple mouse-click shooting sequences.

Also… let’s say “a PC-98 game written by Hideo Kojima” isn’t a phrase that inspires me with a lot of confidence about how it’s going to handle female characters (not to regret my words and deeds or anything) and uh, yeah it’s not great. It’s not that kind of PC-98 game or anything, but it is very… leery. All of the receptionists, stewardesses, waitresses etc. are ladies for you to ogle, and there’s interactivity to hit on them or observe them, and I didn’t love the way that the game gating me behind dialogue options I hadn’t exhausted and hotspots I hadn’t clicked on, inherently made me feel pressure to plumb that interactivity for all its worth, just in case that ended up the one thing the game withheld progress for later. All of the main female characters are also… something, either standard noiry femme fatales doing the cross-leg thing from Basic Instinct with a fly-swatting game encouraging you to touch her boobs, a character who’s cast pretty much explicitly as both your (same age as you because of cryo business) daughter and potential love interest, an action girl who is just Meryl from Metal Gear Solid, who says you can touch her boobs if you beat her score at the shooting range, and she gets a very shallow romance with a dorky guy who’s always eating a sandwich and gets killed with his dying words encouraging her to show more femininity… that’s not quite all the female characters (Ed’s daughter is handled mostly fine I guess), but… it’s still a lot writing it all out like that. And anyway – what I was going to say is all that about the actual characters was somehow less off-putting to me (I suppose since it’s more what I expected) than the ancillary service worker leeriness I was talking about before.

So although it was super exciting initially to be able to play this this way at all, and there is a lot about the aesthetics I am taken with, and I enjoyed the game through it. I definitely am not without qualms, and didn’t finish feeling as positively as I hoped. It’s neat though! And someday I very very likely will play Snatcher! And it’s certainly not the last unusual JP-only detective game or visual novel I wanna check out…


other manga report:

  • BANANA FISH (1-2)
    I finally started Banana Fish! It’s been very high up my next to read list for a long time albeit in part because it’s ahead of ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 in my backlog system… and I have a strange, slight connection to it over the years since when my dad briefly lived in Japan, one of the souvenirs he gave me was, for whatever reason (I think just the name sounding unusual?), a volume of Banana Fish (translated), which I absolutely 100% did not make heads or tails of, lacking any context at all and having no frame of reference for really any manga at the time, much less one this far removed from the shonen jumpy stereotype of the form. The name is so memorable that it stuck in my head and whenever I saw it mentioned through the years as, for example, a shojo manga BL-precursor, I got more intrigued, and maybe more confused.
    So anyway it feels good to finally actually dig into it with much much more context and confidence! Some of the trouble I had getting in to it does make new sense though - it’s pretty dense and full of characters, and introduces a lot of them out of the gate without a clear sense of where things are going to go. To the point that I adopted a strategy I’ve used and enjoyed recently with mystery novels, and started taking notes to make sure I was tracking everything and to safeguard against long pauses between reading sessions. That helped a lot!
    Yoshida’s art style feels very 80s in a very particular way – I was trying to place what it reminds me of, and I think it’s Dave Gibbons’ work in Watchmen, or maybe Otomo. Like… extremely grounded, non-exaggerated, occasionally punctuated by very posed larger action panels (like Ash firing a gun, or kissing Eiji look great) in a way that suits a big cast of characters interacting with each other. I like how it looks a lot! I suppose part of that Watchmen association in my head might be the New York City and prison system settings here though.
    In any case, with these two volumes I think probably the main engine of the series (or at least the beginning of it) is in place Ash and Eiji, resisting Dino, uncovering Banana Fish mysteries and I’m fully on board! It definitely leans heavily on Ash’s extremely troubled and traumatic background involving lots of sexual abuse with the romance of the story sort of coming from him being both a cool rescuer and someone in trouble to rescue, but I’m curious to see how it ends up handling everything, and what the strands of mystery lead to.
    I also reread the Salinger short story it’s named after. Pretty bleak! The parts of the web of elements here involving the Vietnam War and trauma from are the first thing in the series but are mostly in the background… I wonder if it will come back around to be extra important based on the themes of the short story?
    The volumes I’m reading have afterwords, but I remember seeing a Japanese review on amazon complain about them spoiling stuff later in the series so I guess I might as well hold off on reading them.
  • 大ダーク (5)
    Dai Dark’s cool! I feel like reading volumes as they come out instead of in bulk might not do them great favors though… I feel like they’ll blend together, since it’s mostly the characters sorta screwing around, relatively free of driving danger. But it’s cool and fun!
  • EVOL (2-5)
    I caught up on this Monthly Comic Beam series I started! I think it’s really neat! Obviously Atsushi Kaneko’s art style is extremely striking, and that’s a lot of the draw - even the typography of the table of contents is always fun and wild and pops. And while a hyperviolent, cynical take on superheroes is again, extremely well-trodden ground, I found myself caring enough about these frustrated teens as their backstories got filled in, to really feel for them as things developed. I wouldn’t call any of it… like, the most complex or original character work ever, but I think it captures well the exaggerated emotional highs and lows of being a teen and an outsider, and works well on that level - like Nozomi imagining himself as a 1950s b-movie space alien to show he’s alienated, and confessing to the guy he has a crush on and getting badly rejected is an example of what I mean. Or how the title is Evil misspelled and also Love backwards. It reminds me tonally of the tv show Misfits, which I remember liking (although boy am I not sure if that holds up, I think I only saw the first one or two seasons and then stopped hearing about it)
    Anyway, I’m also really intrigued where things are going to go - the especially sinister, sort of… divine? sci-fi? like… hero council? is some really cool stuff that is starting to take it farther away from just the usual cynical superheroes. I don’t know if I’ll really get going with Beam when I have plenty of things to read without another magazine at the end of the day, but if I do I’ll be happy to get new installments of Evol in the mix.
    A character in the comic listens to the band Discharge a number of times, and I found that the two do pair well.
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Finished この本を盗む者は this evening – I’d been following the club pace but after doing this week’s reading there were only 50-odd pages left so I figured I might as well get it out of the way.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to report that I’ve finished 雪国 (a classic of Japanese literature). Like @Naphthalene said in the advanced book club, I didn’t hate it, but reading it wasn’t very enjoyable for the most part. Mostly I found it really hard. There’s a lot of "stupid“ vocab for Japan-only stuff (around clothing, plants, geishas, and other traditions), and more importantly it’s written in a way that makes you constantly struggle to figure out who is doing what where and what the hell they’re talking about. A lot of things are simply implied, including a lot of time skips, and you’re like wait, they’re back at the inn now? Oh this is the next day? (or month, or year). Never having lived in 1930 Japan also means you lack the cultural context to guess most things. I think I got most of the plot in the end, but I didn’t really get what the book is about (where’s @rodan when you need him?) The difficulty also means that some (most?) of the poetry was lost on me, but I did note this bit that I liked: 静けさが冷たい滴となって落ちそうな杉林. I would need to reread it to understand it better but I can’t be bothered. Overall it was an interesting experience I guess and gives you a glimpse of pre war Japan… But also, good riddance >_<

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:upside_down_face: guess we all had a similar experience with this book. Sure takes me back. :crazy_face:

I’d hoped it would take you a bit longer to get through this book, though. I bet you’ll finish 本好き before I even have the chance to start 海辺のカフカ.

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:tada:

OK glad that it’s not only me :woozy_face:

I guess it’s … art? :sweat_smile:

I don’t blame you for that :rofl:

Maybe you’re interested to hear that I was very reluctant to try out the other Japanese Nobel prize laureate, Oe Kenzaburo, based on my experience with 雪国 - but I started his Akutagawa prize winning story 飼育 the other day and so far I truly love it :star_struck:

I’m sorry for skewing this race so badly by withholding the book :cry:

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:joy:

Truly, how dare you!

Lies, I’m super grateful you’re letting me partake of your library. :wink:

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I am halfway through 僕が愛したすべての君へ and I have to say, not only did it really pick up pace midway, it does hit hard in the feels.

I just started my day at work and am really looking forward to continuing on my way back home :stuck_out_tongue: . Looking forward to reading vol 2 and 3!

Spoilers tags added in case book club mems see this.

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Finished 鼠、狸囃子に踊る – another in the 赤川次郎 Edo-period thief series. Theoretically I should probably have read one of the many books I’m partway through right now, but I’ve been dealing with a mild bout of covid this week so I wanted something easy and comforting. This volume was oddly short at only 170 pages, so it only took me three days or so.

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Wishing you a speedy and full recovery! :face_with_thermometer:

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I finished コンビニ人間. I wasn’t sure where to write about it (so many threads would fit), but since I think it was discussed here most recently, and it also happens to be the 10nth book I’ve finished this year, I think this is as good a place as any).

I really liked it! Reading people’s thoughts on the dedicated thread and elsewhere, this may be an unpopular opinion, but to me it read, at least on some level, as a comedy. In fact, it even changed my perception of 地球星人 a little towards the funnier. It’s obvious the author enjoys experimenting with people having trouble fitting in and following society’s expectations, taking this basic premise to all sorts of directions and seeing what happens.

I actually found almost no character unlikeable, unlike what others commented. Even the obvious sleazebag that was Shiraha was more pitiful than horrible. And hilarious - how he had this whole theory that in his head justified him living off someone else as a parasite (it was an ideal to work towards, even), and how he was convinced that he was God’s gift to Keiko, who would have the unique opportunity to work for the whole purpose of feeding him. Keiko was very relatable, and the cool detached logic with which she viewed the world made for some shrewd and funny social commentary. I made the mistake of worrying for her in the beginning, but it was obvious that nothing could actually touch her. Especially hilarious how an incredibly mean and offensive comment from the sister-in-law was actually taken gratefully as valuable life advice, which in Keiko’s case it really was. She would be so miserable trying to navigate the chaos of the million unwritten rules of raising a child. I can picture her years from now telling someone that a kind lady once taught her that it’s best to keep her genes to herself, just like the shop manager taught her to keep her body healthy for work. :joy: As for the rest of the characters, they were just …people. None of them was ill-intentioned, they just operated according to a different set of rules (that they happened to have in common), and made assumptions based on their own subjective views and experiences. Everyone was flawed, no one was a villain.
One part felt like it dragged on a bit, and that was because I had already read 地球星人. (mild spoilers for both books) The whole theory of “society expects you to be useful by either working or reproducing or both, and casts away those who are not contributing to it”, explained to death by a man who has evidently spent too much time fuming and theorizing about things he can’t change instead of finding things to enjoy, felt very much like a repetition. I get that it’s a common theme, and it was ultimately treated in a different way, but there were parts that were way too similar in the two books.

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I finished this month’s Harta!

ハルタ 102号

The table of contents highlights いやはや 熱海くん as 好評連載 and I assume the magazine will call literally anything within its pages 好評 but I will choose to believe anyway that this means everyone likes いやはや 熱海くん and it will run for a very long time.

新連載 #1 this issue is 悪魔二世 by 志波由紀.
It’s about a mysterious girl who reportedly is the child of the devil. The kind of first chapter that leaves more questions than answers!

新連載 #2 this issue is 犬火の兄弟 by 吉田真百合, involving roughly, a lone human among canine guardians of a mountain, cast out along with his best friend. Seems intriguing! The artstyle mixes fantasy and cute characters in a nice way. The author’s previous work is ライカの星, which I have but have not read.

ことり文書, by 天野美樹 ends this issue after three volumes. It’s about the growing bond between a rich girl neglected by her absentee parents, and her butler. It was never one of my outright favorites, but it’s very good-natured and was always pleasant to come across in the magazine.

Dungeon Meshi is sure looking like it’s near denouement territory at this point! I felt a little emotional at the book potentially being closed on the main setting this installment. The developments in the last couple of chapters have been… pretty wild!


I also read 超ビジュアル! 歴史人物伝 西郷隆盛, a kid’s biography of Takamori Saigo, from the same series as a general history I enjoyed in the past. I read this one because in my backlog system, the television slot drew the taiga drama 西郷どん next, since I’m curious about those and that happened to be the one first in the queue. I’m intimidated at the prospect of a long historical drama listening-wise though, so I read this as background preparation, essentially.

I think it works pretty well in that capacity! It’s brisk and easy to read and I’ve found I’m a sucker for reading about history so I went through it quite quick once I got going. Saigo seems like an interesting figure. Since he played a role in the 幕末 period, I was vaguely familiar with him from past history books, and from 龍が如く維新 (where his stand-in is Goda for what that’s worth). This is a decent way to get more familiar with the highlights, roughly: an important Satsuma domain leader, twice exiled or run off to islands amid the power/ideological conflicts in the wake of the arrival of the black ships and the lead-up to the end of the shogunate, involved in quelling Choshu forces in the 禁門の変, but at Ryoma Sakamoto’s instigation, negotiated the alliance between Satsuma and Choshu that brought success during the Boshin war that ended the shogunate, during which he negotiated a bloodless end to the siege of Edo Castle. Then left the subsequent Meiji-era government over his plans to be sent as an envoy to Korea being nixed, and led a failed war against the Meiji government, 西南戦争, ending in his death.

I’m a lot more used to reading history in Japanese, including for more advanced students and adults, than I was when I read that general 超ビジュアル! volume, and the for-kids tone does rankle more now than then, and it’s probably less appropriate for a biography like this in general.
No matter how accurate and measured your history-telling is, attaching friendly handsome character art and manga to it is going to color the narrative at least a bit, and I did feel that here. The book portrays Saigo mainly I’d say as a kind and thoughtful leader, with his love of dogs highlighted, and an example where I think that colored things is during the bit about the dispute in the Meiji government around Korea, my impression from this book was that Saigo was probably against those wanting to use military force against Korea, and his wanting to go there was to prevent that. Whereas I get the impression from other sources that rather he was on the side of using force, and his going there was in some way to further or threaten that.

I guess what I mean is I feel like I know better various famous details of Saigo’s life story, but didn’t feel like I knew how to feel about him, and was still hungry afterwards for analysis. Looking for other books I found one that’s specifically about various intellectuals interpreting Saigo’s life in the years since his death (since it’s confusing if you look at it from a simple perspective of the conflicts of the era being tradition vs. modernity or that kind of thing, since he both was important in the successful revolution, and fought a seemingly retrogressive subsequent unsuccessful revolution afterward), and that seemed very very dense but interesting in exactly the kind of way this one was never going to be, and so I bought it and read a bit and the background of this book did seem extremely useful to have to understand that one. So anyway we’ll see if I make any additional headway into that one, and how it turns out if I do.

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Not super motivated these days.
I read a few things but slowly (as in, only a few pages per day).
I’m reading a book about how they made the 7th edition of the 広辞苑 dictionary right now… it’s interesting (I really like the bit about font design, in particular) but somehow I can’t get in the mood to read.

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This is one of the signs of the apocalypse.

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Yay I finished five video games in japanese this year. Okay they were all bullet hell games with hardly any text to read but it should still count.

All five games are part of the Psikyo Shooting Stars Beta Collection. The uk version has selectable japanese text for five of the six games. The japanese was pretty easy to understand although some rarer kanji were used and one of the games has a super hard to read japanese font at the end.

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I finished the 上巻 (380p) of this yesterday and dove right into the 下巻. It has a very different feel from ユージニア, but the writing pulls me along the same way. (Also, I am doing better at following what’s going on since it isn’t jumping around in time AND it is telling me whose POV I’m seeing from in any given section.) I’m enjoying it a ton.

There is a big question in 消滅 that is posed to a group of people. In turn, I posed that big question, along with some notes from memory on all the characters, to my coworkers. I now have 20+ bets on which of the characters will turn out to be the 〇〇. :joy: I’ve been putting little updates on the break room fridge. Beforehand I specified 1. there is no English translation, or else I wouldn’t be spoiling them so thoroughly and 2. the prize is eternal glory with $0 cash value.

Who will win!? Also, please let someone win. I’m worried there will be a twist ending that means the entire question is invalid. I mentioned that worry to a coworker and she said in that case I should just make up my own ending. :thinking:

Anyway, the attention of my coworkers on the (very complicated in terms of plot though not writing) story means I’m motivated to read toward the top end of my reading speed spectrum. 280 pages to the end! I put a bet in, too, but my pick is not looking good. :grimacing:

Also, tonight @rodan and the legendary Bri and I finished the first volume of 伯爵と妖精! :star2::congratulations::star2: Next week we’ll start volume 2. … I was going to make a joke but only @rodan (and @Naphthalene, depending on their memory) would get it, and also it wasn’t that funny anyway so: 以上.

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I think I remember really well the content, so I don’t mind hearing reading it :eyes:

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Oh no, the time since thinking of the joke has only confirmed it doesn’t need to be shared. However, @rodan has graced the L B and I with many a 伯爵 joke, so maybe they’d be willing to step in. :grin:

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uuuuuhhhhh uhhhhhh how about

伯爵 と 妖精 ?
more like
悪役 だ ろうぜ !

says Nico, probably.

:drum: :drum: :accordion:

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I feel like it would need to be ぜ〜 to match the length of 精, but not bad!

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Oh, and since I’m here

I finally finished it. I averaged 10 pages a day on that book :joy:
It turns out it’s not a book for sale, but instead was a bonus given away if you preorder 7th edition of the 広辞苑 dictionary. I tried to ask the staff about it when I returned it. They obviously weren’t sure, but they mentioned that the library would definitely pre-order copies of the dictionary, which may be how they got it.
Looking it up, it turns out they have 25 copies of the 7th edition (across different formats, like compact, extended, etc) including 10 that are listed as having a separate supplement, which corresponds exactly to the number of 広辞苑をつくるひと books they have… so that’s how.

Other fun fact, the book was written by 三浦しをん. I thought I had heard that name somewhere, and it turns out that she is the one who wrote 風が強く吹いている which I saw mentioned on the forum before. I like her style! I may pick that book at some point.

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