Advanced Japanese Book Club (Coming Soon: 乳と卵)

Are you saying you want more hard stuff?

checks bookshelf

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Them’s fightin’ words. Put up your dukes nominations!
Checks own bookshelf

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狼と香辛料 isn’t even over the intermediate book club’s limit! (Though any time we read a book for 20+ weeks it can be frustrating).

So I don’t really bother reading samples or voting in the difficulty polls anymore, but I’m curious how people vote. So far 狼と香辛料 has probably been “moderate effort”, but that “moderate effort” has been to get an okay, but not great, understanding of what’s going on. In order to actually get a deeper understanding of the events I’d have to put in “significant effort”. In that situation, what would you consider the difficulty for me?

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檸檬 (角川文庫)

Author : 梶井基次郎

Summary

Japanese

私は体調の悪いときに美しいものを見るという贅沢をしたくなる。香りや色に刺激され、丸善の書棚に檸檬一つを置き–。現実に傷つき病魔と闘いながら、繊細な感受性を表した代表作など14編を収録。

English

(My rough translation)
When my physical condition gets bad, I feel like indulging in the luxury of looking at beautiful things. To be stimulated by fragrances and colors, to put a single a single lemon on a shelf of Maruzen (note: shop name)… While being hurt by reality and fighting against a chronic illness, (the author) recorded 14 short stories including the eponymous masterpiece, displaying a delicate sensitivity.

Length : varies; if we go for the 14 short stories selected by Kadokawa, 276 pages
Category : hard

Availability

Amazon: the book is here but all stories are available in the public domain
Aozora bunko (eponymous story; all others can be found the same way).

Personal Opinion

I do not know anything about this book or author. I was checking the length of books from 夏目漱石 and 太宰治 on amazon and it just popped up as a recommendation. According to Wikipedia:

“Lemon” is one of Kajii’s few works to have been translated into English. Although he was a relatively unknown writer during his short lifetime who published in a few literary magazines, Kajii’s poetic short stories are recognized today as masterpieces in Japan. The eponymous story “Lemon” is known as his representative work.

I’m pointing specifically at the 角川文庫 collection, so that we all read the same set of short stories :joy:

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • Public domain!
  • Older writing, so may be challenging?

Cons

  • The “poetic” part and mentions of disease in the summary make it sound like it might be on the depressing side. May not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Pictures “Sample” (aka the whole thing)

Again, public domain

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

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That makes me wonder if the difficulty varies a lot over time. I did not check the additional pages because they were past the 100 pages mark and, well, spoilers I guess, so I don’t know about the rest, but the very beginning didn’t feel bad at all.

To answer your question, I would say “moderate” in that situation, since you can rely on the discussion thread to go further. :thinking:

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TBH I don’t really know what the true limit of the Intermediate book club should be as I have posts in mind like this:

but I guess the current consensus is more like

:woman_shrugging:

Apart from that, I would probably not nominate Spice and Wolf in the Intermediate club because of its difficulty - I tried to read it about a year ago (I guess around the time when or shortly after we read Kino in the club) but I found it way too hard. So I still think it’s a better nomination for a fast read here than for a struggle there…

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*sees Naph put “significant effort” so voting “so much effort my head might explode”*

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The first paragraph wasn’t that bad so I’d probably have put like moderate effort - but then I saw that! :joy:

I should probably read some more before voting.

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クォンタムデビルサーガ アバタールチューナーⅠ

(Quantum Devil Saga - Avatar Tuner 1)
Author : 五代ゆう (Godai Yuu)

Summary

Japanese

荒廃の地ジャンクヤードでは、勝利者を楽園へ迎え入れると説く〈カルマ教会〉の支配の下、
6つのトライブがいつ果てるとも知れぬ戦いを続けていた。
しかし、そんなトライブのひとつ〈エンブリオン〉のサーフらが交戦中、
謎の蕾と黒髪の少女セラに遭遇した刹那、世界の掟は根本から覆される。
彼らは状況を探るべく抗戦相手の本拠地を訪れるが、そこで悪魔の力が発動し……

English

In the post-apocalyptic Junkyard, a mysterious religious order known only as the Church watches over the brutal competition between warring tribes as they vie to unify six territories and thereby gain access to Nirvana, the promised land. In the wake of one particularly unusual battle, Serph, the leader of the upstart Embryon tribe, rescues a strange girl and discovers that he and his fellow fighters have gained the ability to transform into terrifying demon warriors. But these new abilities, along with this enigmatic girl named Sera, threaten to upend the balance of power not only in the Junkyard, but within the Embryon itself. Avatar Tuner, Vol. I opens the Quantum Devil Saga, a series inspired by the Shin Megami Tensei video games, which are widely popular in their native Japan and have gained a considerable following in the West. Translated into English for the first time, experience the story of Serph and his tribe as they fight not only to win, but to understand the supernatural forces that govern the Junkyard.

Length : 372 pages
Category : probably fast&easy

Availability

amazon.co.jp
eBook available

Personal Opinion

So I’m a big Shin Megami Tensei fan, and I heard about this series way back. It’s written by Godai Yuu, one of the scriptwriters for the Digital Devil Saga series of games. She unfortunately had to leave the project before finishing, but her contract apparently allowed her to write her own DDS novels, so she did, writing the story how she wanted, unconstrained by the needs of being a video game. Godai is originally a novelist, so no worries there.

This is not a novelization of the DDS games; the story line starts to diverge quite a bit even in book one (of five), for those familiar with the original games.

I’ve read the first two books of this series in English (the rest not having been translated…); it, like the video games, is couched in Hindu and Buddhist terminology and concepts. The book’s not super philosophical or anything, but there will almost certainly be names and proper nouns thrown around.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • If you’re a fan of the Digital Devil Saga games, this is written by one of the games’ initial scriptwriters
  • Modern Japanese
  • Sci-fi/fantasy
  • There’s an English version (though it appears to be out of print…)
  • There are four more books if you like this one
  • Probably going to be some religious, specifically Hindu and Buddhist, terminology to learn

Cons

  • Probably going to be some religious, specifically Hindu and Buddhist, terminology to learn
  • The books revolve around characters turning into demons and eating each other; I don’t remember the descriptions being too over the top or anything, but slight content warning there
  • Sci-fi/fantasy if you don’t like the genres
  • This being book one of five, expect cliffhangers and such

Pictures/Sample

Bookwalker sample

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

3 Likes

I’d recommend hard stuff, but I’m not familiar with any. :man_shrugging: Doesn’t seem unreasonable for the club to work its way from easier to harder in the beginning, at least; people will almost certainly keep finding more and more good recommendations as we read a broader variety of books.

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Aaah. :heart:

I never played the 2nd game (I don’t think I finished the 1st, come to think of it - my PS2’s somewhere in storage so it’s a bit inconvenient to get back into :sweat_smile:) but I loved what I did play of it. The concept, the gameplay - I suppose the only bit relevant to this book is the concept and story, which -

I love you for even suggesting this. I wasn’t aware these existed. :heart: I’ve seen a lot of comics for games, but now I see I need to do some more research. :blush:

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Aaah, another fan!! ^o^

I’ll admit, the books came to mind because while volumes 1 and 2 are in English, it’s looking less and less likely we’ll see the last three books translated. I bought vol. 3 digitally, but have honestly been a bit afraid to start it. :eyes: I figure if there’s enough interest here and we decide to read it, that’ll be the motivation I need to read through the rest of the series.

There are other SMT-related novels out there as well; could be fun to suggest the original Digital Devil Story books the first games were based off of, here or in the Intermediate club.

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No translation being available looks like a perfectly good reason to read it in Japanese to me! :smiley: So… you’d start the 1st volume with the club it it got chosen? And then the 3rd? I got a bit confused there. :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t know how big the fan base is here (especially the older games (or, well, anything before Persona 3 I suppose) are niche, especially mainline SMT, but we also have an above average number of people interested in Japanese games in general, oviously), but I’d definitely be interesting in finding out what inspired these games. We’ll see how much interest there is in the general club. ^^

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Whoops, I wasn’t clear, haha. If the book’s eventually picked, I’d read them in order, 1, 2, 3… If it’s not, then I might just re-read books one and two in English and try the third in Japanese. I believe book #3 deals more with story that happens before the main events of books 1,2, 4, and 5, so it might not actually be a bad place to start.

Thankfully these books don’t really require any outside knowledge or interest in the games. If you like high school students unleashing demons on their classmates, etc., you’re good to go. :+1:

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Thanks for tagging me, @Azmo! I haven’t been active lately (not even passive, heh) and haven’t read a lot recently, so I’m definitely interested.

Several of the suggestions sound appealing. 雪国 has been the #1 of the “classics” and I’ve wanted to read it for a long time now. Reading something from Murakami was also on my 2020 to-do list, so that’d be 一石二鳥.

I’ll also have a suggestion coming in a bit.

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風立ちぬ (The Wind Rises)

Author: 堀辰雄 (Hori Tatsuo)
Year: 1938

Summary

Summary

The Wind Has Risen (風立ちぬ – Kaze Tachinu) is a Japanese novel by Hori Tatsuo, written between 1936–37. It is set in a tuberculosis sanitarium in Nagano, Japan. The plot follows a main character identified only with the pronoun “I” as he takes care of his fiancée, and then wife, Setsuko, who has been diagnosed with the disease, deciding to stay with her until her death.

The main character meditates about life and death as he sees her beloved’s condition deteriorating, finally moving with her to a sanatorium surrounded by beauty, and finally discovering that just like the wind rises he can still keep living after her death through the strong bond of their love.

Length: 110 pages
Category: short & suitable for “deep reading”

Availability

Free on Amazon, aozora.jp and other places

Personal Opinion

Hori Tatsuo is a beloved author in Japan. I’m not familiar with his writings, but I think his works have a very poetic melancholy to them I imagine I’ll find very appealing.

This novella is fairly short and not overly hard to read. I think reading it together will help us to notice small details or historic/cultural backgrounds we might miss if we just read it casually by ourselves.

The book also partly inspired the eponymous Studio Ghibli movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki. While the movie is no adaption and mixes things up quite a bit, I’m curious about the similarities.

Pros

  • very short (novella-sized)
  • free
  • beautiful language
  • famous classic
  • gentle (?) introduction to the melancholic appeal often found in Japanese literature
  • tons of material background material available (not sure how much in English, though)

Cons

  • occasionally dated language & kanji usage (e.g. 唯 for ただ and 其処 for そこ)

Pictures/Sample

In HTML format here: https://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/001030/files/4803_14204.html

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

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Hey, welcome back :slight_smile:

image

Now that explains a lot…

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Busted! :laughing:

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I feel like my criteria for what constitutes what level of effort have changed a bit this past week, haha. Maybe I should read through the sample pages again…

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Title drop!

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