Absolute Beginners Book Club // Now Reading: Tamamo no Koi!

Tamamo no Koi ・ 玉藻の恋

63b7a99b-b974-4dd8-bdf0-a3330bedaea7

Natively Level 19

Summary

When I visited a shrine on the outskirts of town, a fox-eared girl came back to provide!? A heart-filled comedy of Haru, a student living alone, and Tamamo, a caring spirit!

Availability

Physical (used only): Manga RepublicAmazon JP

Digital: KindleKoboBOOK☆WALKER ebook japanhonto

Personal Opinion

Sometimes I want fantastic world building and exciting, deep stories that surprise me at every turn, making me guess what will happen next. Other times I just want something that’s easy to read and sweet as sugar. And Tamamo, kitsune turned maid, definitely delivered on the sweetness front for me.

It’s not a particularly deep story, but Athakaspen over in the Natively forums said the following about it, and I got to agree - I really enjoyed reading it too.

From a language learner’s perspective this is rather easy to read. Tamamo has some easy to figure out speech quirks, and there are a few religious words scattered here and there, but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a vocab sheet or a few dictionary lookups.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Full furigana
  • Cute art
  • Easy to read
  • Natively Level 19 - not too easy, not too hard!
  • An adorable fox-eared protagonist
  • Only one volume - the story is finished!
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Cons

  • In physical form, there are only used copies available - and who knows how many are left.
  • Only one volume - the story is finished :cry:
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Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



Additional Pages















Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Substantial effort
  • So much effort my head might explode :exploding_head:
  • I don’t know
  • I am an experienced reader, so this is not much effort for me
0 voters
15 Likes

This nomination is オオカミちゃん-approved.

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18 Likes

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12 Likes

One more nomination, before I forget.

ヒナのままじゃだめですか? / Can’t Hina stay as she is?


Natively 20 (But I’m the only one’s rated it so far)

Summary

5th-grade student Hina has a secret she can’t tell anyone - she started menstruating 3 months ago. But her days of keeping it secret from her single father and her friends come to an end when one day, after class, her classmate and childhood friend Daichi notices blood on her chair… is she still a child? Or is she an adult? A serious coming of age story about a girl on the cusp of puberty.

Availability

Amazon
BookWalker

Personal Opinion

Puberty in manga is mostly romance or more often sex comedies, but this is one of the few works I’ve seen that deals with it very seriously, but without being overbearingly clinical or grim. There isn’t a hint of fanservice, but it’s still a sweet story with some rarely-seen-but-still-useful vocab as Hina and Diachi deal with the mysteries of growing up in their own independent way. From a learning perspective, most of the language used (besides the specialised vocabulary) is about grade-schooler level, so despite the more serious tone it’s still fairly comprehensible.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Experience a relatively complex subject in an approachable way
  • Mostly kid talk dialogue that is relatively understandable once you have the vocab down (and some slang)
  • No fanservice, treats its subject matter very seriously
  • Cute co-protagonists

Cons

  • No furigana; you will need to be able to do kanji lookups, OCR or to rely the vocab sheet
  • Art isn’t the best I’ve ever seen to be honest, though I think the actual storytelling doesn’t suffer because of it
  • There’s a certain level of character interiority to this that can be a bit difficult to parse at times (the very first page is a bit of an example)

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



Additional Pages

Chapter 1 on Author’s twitter
Chapters 1-3 here

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Substantial effort
  • So much effort my head might explode :exploding_head:
  • I don’t know
  • I am an experienced reader, so this is not much effort for me
0 voters
9 Likes

With those two nominations, that leaves us with a single slot left!

Just as a reminder, I will close the call for nominations at 2023-10-14T23:00:00Z, so get in your nomination before then if you have one you want to put in!


I will note that a complete lack of furigana would be a first for the club, but it should theoretically be doable so long as the vocabulary sheet is robust. I still hesitate (and have personally discarded potential nominations) to have that as an option, but I’ll leave it in voters’ hands on whether the lack of furigana is a “deal-breaker” so to speak. :grin:

8 Likes

Yeah, I was gonna say, surely that alone would bump it up to Beginner. When the ABBC club split off from the BBC, the general purview of the club was “books for kids”. Since the members of this club are people who are just starting to read Japanese, it made sense to read books intended for people who are just starting to read Japanese. Since then, we’ve increasingly drifted towards “regular books for teens and adults, but slow”.

It doesn’t matter how slow you take it, you’re still getting a faceful of slangy grammar and/or complicated vocab before you’re ready.

And granted, this one does use big font, so I wouldn’t really jump it all the way to Intermediate, but I still think the point here is to ease people in, not toss them straight into the deep end, even if the tossing is slow.

13 Likes

Didn’t want to say at first, but yeah, I’m also somewhat hesitant about introducing any reading without full furigana coverage. Usually that’s how we separate BBC and ABBC from each other besides of course the speed difference.

10 Likes

Should this be made explicit in Guidelines for Proposing Books, though? Also in, when to jump from ABBC to BBC.

The idea is to encourage those early in WaniKani levels to start reading.

8 Likes

It does seem like there’s a pretty substantial opinion trending towards excluding picks if they completely lack furigana. I’m pretty skeptical about it, myself.

In that case, @Jintor, it’s probably best to bump this nomination to the BBC.

8 Likes

That’s fair, although personally the only difference I find between furigana and non furigana picks is the amount of time it takes to look things up increases sightly (though given the general state of digital copy furigana often it’s basically the same…). Perhaps this is due to my own bias with having an okay kanji writing recognition app and a writing knowledge of stroke order though.

Anyway, I can move the nom to the BBC and free up the slot if there’s demand

4 Likes

Certainly, but you also probably recognize at least the top few hundred kanji already. With absolute beginners, you can’t assume that they recognize any, because they just don’t. Even if you theoretically learned the kanji, having it actually appear in a manga (with a potentially different font) might completely throw off the new reader.

For me, I believe the first manga without full furigana that I’ve read was with the Shadow House book club. I clearly remember it being painful to do, even though it’s a simple manga and it was very much a few months into me actually reading stuff, and with the nice tools I had at my disposal to boot. It’s just another step in difficulty we would be asking almost or actual complete beginners to scale.

Btw, ran the manga through my tool

Difficulty-wise, it seems to be in the same ballpark as the club average. So that probably puts it closest to それでも歩は寄せてくる at lvl 19 on natively. Having 0 furigana though I’d think at least bumps that up a few levels, so it’d actually be perfect for the beginner book club at a maybe faster rate than what we do here in ABBC usually.

7 Likes

Sure, there’s tools to make it easier, but that’s still a lot of overhead when you’re even struggling with deciphering sentences in which you technically know ever word.

I’m not an absolute beginner anymore, but it definitely makes it harder for me too! My biggest challenge is that I’m decent at learning new vocab (i.e. associating the reading with the meaning), but not good at learning new kanji (i.e. associating the kanji with the reading/meaning). So with furigana I look up a word once or twice, but with non-furigana kanji I will look up the word dozens of times. And don’t get me started on when the tools fail for small or weird fonts…

I think pretty much the only absolute beginners who’d be okay with a non-furigana manga as their first manga are those who don’t realize yet what a pain it will be.

And if this is left here, I think we need a “(no furigana)” after the title in the polls to avoid a recurrence of ロジカとラッカセイ ・ Rojica and Rakkasei 🥜 (Beginner Book Club) - #14 by Pitapi (I’m still sorry this happened to you, @Pitapi!)

9 Likes

All good points and makes sense. I am sort of beginning to think we actually do need a Beginner (Primer) intermediary book club though because the zone from, say, 小さな森 to 舞妓ちゃん is one hell of a drop kick.

6 Likes

Generally I’d say any manga with no Furigana is likely a better fit for the BBC, as lookups do take longer, and a sea of kanji can be intimidating to new readers. Reading your first native content is always going to be a bit gruelling, but ideally the ABBC should be an encouraging experience for first time readers.

In theory a really good, comprehensive vocab list would solve these issues, but its hard to guarantee how well populated a vocab list is going to be in advance since it really depends on who is participating in the club, and how actively they are contributing. Especially when the lookups being tougher may discourage some people from contributing…

If the club decides against having a blanket ban against nominating books with no furigana, then I think @TobiasW 's suggestion of adding (no furigana) after the title in a poll is a really good one.
If we do go furigana-only though, I really hope you re-make that nomination in the BBC @Jintor, because it sounds really interesting.

11 Likes

That’s one of the easiest picks the ABBC ever had (Natively L15) to one of the hardest BBC picks (L26). Usually it’s a lot more reasonable, and getting a second ABBC under your belt is all the primer you need for a regular-level BBC pick.

5 Likes

This is a bit of an aside on this note, but for anyone who’s participated in a few ABBC, but can’t keep up with a BBC, I highly recommend finding something you’ve already read in English that you liked well enough to re-read in Japanese and feel like reading through again.

Having the base of knowing all the context makes it easier to skip over unknown words while still building up reading speed and recognition of common grammar, two things that are really necessary for BBC picks and pacing.


As for the wider topic of (lack of) furigana, the most important thing for me is to remove as much friction from the reading process as possible.

Before I nominated Whisper of the Heart for BBC, I considered and debated with myself over why it should or should not be an ABBC nomination.

The main sticking point for me was that it only uses partial furigana:

image

I determined that it would be a bad fit for ABBC (many readers won’t yet know the kanji) and good for BBC (includes readers aiming to break into no-furigana material).

Very comprehensive.

Unless the vocabulary list repeats words, you get the situation where a word appears on multiple pages, and first-time readers immediately forget the kanji after the first appearance. It becomes difficult to find it on the vocabulary list when it shows up again later in the week’s material.

8 Likes

first-time readers and me :face_holding_back_tears:

10 Likes

I was also thinking of myself when I wrote that!

8 Likes

Agreed! In the BBC vocab lists I try to avoid duplicating words - in the ABBC I figure that if I’ve forgotten it from a previous week others probably have too :grin:

:raising_hand_woman: And me!

9 Likes

It is good to bring this back around to reemphasising that the ABBC is indeed for Absolute Beginners and nominators (I) should be thinking of every book as someone’s very first book. Obviously something I remembered for my first nomination but not the second…!

*I am a little ambivilent though because I think this cuts out my much earlier nomination 幼なじみに/Childhood friend which I think is also way too easy for BBC but also doesn’t have any or much furigana iirc

4 Likes