ChristopherFritz's Study Log

I’ve been interested in starting up an online study log for a while now, but I’m not a member of forums where they’re common. Seeing as there are two other study threads on the WK forums now, I see in my mind Sesame Street’s Count von Count eagerly waiting to count “Three study logs!” So, here’s a third study log!

Background

My first experience with anime was probably “Sailor Moon” (English dub), although it’s possible I may have seen “G-Force” (“Gatchaman” English dub) prior. I was in middle school at the time, and at one point borrowed a VHS take with a (subtitled?) copy of “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”. These animations were so different from what I was used to (Bugs Bunny, Flintstones and Jetsons, Ducktales).

When it came time to pick a language class for high school, the moment I saw Japanese was a choice, I didn’t need a second look at what my options were. I took the two years of Japanese language class available, and then I was teachers assistant in the class for the latter two years I was in high school.

I used what Japanese ability I had a lot over the years, but any attempts I made to improve fell flat, thanks in part to my really bad memory, thanks in part to my not knowing any decent study/learning methods, and thanks in part to my general laziness.

Fast-forward to a few years ago, I learned about SRS, and that was a major game changer for me. I get a system that will give me reviews at just the right time to keep them in my memory, and it does all the scheduling for me? Sign me up!

And that brings me to today.

Current Progress

Here’s where I am now, in various tools.

  • iKnow: About 2,000 words in. (Reviewing daily, but mostly on hiatus adding new words as I’ve been focusing on reading manga.)
  • WaniKani: After slowly working my way up to level 11, I started increasing my daily lessons to keep my apprentice at 100 cards. This has sped my progress, to level 15 now, and soon enough beyond.
  • Anki: Spent a year and a half adding and reviewing words from volume 1 of Is the order a rabbit?, but stopped daily reviews to increase my reading time. By the time I stopped, I was mostly reviewing and failing the same 20 to 40 words again and again each week (which isn’t the worst on a deck of over 2,000 cards).
  • Bunpro: Went from easy material to having a lot of similar-meaning grammar I couldn’t keep up with and it was taking up too much time. On hiatus for now. (I do need to up my grammar, though. I’m probably mid-N4.)

Random posts where I talk about my history of learning Japanese:

Tools

Reading

Noteworthy Grammar Posts
Sometimes I write a grammar post I want to be able to refer to later. Perhaps I’ll build up a list of them here.

Edit History

  • 2020-08-23: Added the “noteworthy grammar posts” section.
  • 2019-09-18: Added a “background” section, and collapsed various other sections into detail clicks. It makes things look smaller, but I expect to add a bit more here, so it should be good. Added “tools” section.
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Reading Methods

A lot of time is going into manga reading right now. Each item I read falls into one of three categories:

1. The "Understand Everything" Method

The goal of this method is to understand everything. I look up every word and every grammar I don’t know. There is a focus on understanding of material, quality over quantity.

Look%20Up

Pros:

  • Learn a lot of grammar.
  • Encounter a lot of vocabulary.

Cons:

  • Time-consuming.
  • Have to love the material very much to keep going.
  • Potential risk of burning out on the material.

My experience:

  • I did this with volume 1 of Is the order a rabbit? and learned a lot from it.
  • I probably learned 500 new words in the process.
  • Since I had the electronic book release, I used KanjiTomo to OCR the kanji (no furigana).
  • Being a 4koma helped with the pacing. I was able to go through one four-panel strip per day, regardless of how much text was in it.
  • I chose this manga because I really liked the anime (after watching season one). I love the material, and thankfully did not burn out on it.
☙❦❧
2. The "Keep Reading" Method

The goal of this method is to keep reading. I don’t look up anything, except the occasional word, especially if it’s appeared three times in a chapter. There is a focus on quick consumption of a lot of material, quantity over quality.

Quick%20Read

Pros:

  • Increased reading speed.
  • Increase comprehension speed.

Cons:

  • Don’t learn new material.
  • Can be difficult to follow story.

My experience:

  • I started with with Mitsuboshi Colors. I have not watched the anime, so I went in completely blind. I found I had just the right amount of vocabulary and grammar learned to read without feeling I was missing anything with words I didn’t know. I’d look up any word that came up three times, and sometimes I’d note down something to check online when I got home.
  • I started reading Yotsuba& using this method as well. I’ve read the whole series in English, but it was long enough ago that I’d forgotten many chapters. The easy chapters I follow effortlessly, and the hard chapters I just force myself through.
  • I’m also reading Saint Tail, which I’ve read in English and seen the subtitles anime all the way through. Even though that was a long time ago, I had read/watched each probably both at least two or three times, so I remember the material very well.
☙❦❧
3. The "Compare with English Translation" Method

This goal of this method is to use an existing English translation to help with understanding. I read through a page in Japanese without stopping to look anything up. Then afterwards, I read the page in English. I’ll look up anything I have questions on.

Pros:

  • Increased reading speed.
  • Increased comprehension speed.
  • Learn new material.

Cons:

  • May avoid trying to comprehend material knowing the English translation will be read next.
  • Disappointment with the English translation. (“Wait, what? No, that’s not what he said.”)
  • Disappointment with the loss of nuance in the English translation (such as use of first name vs last name).
  • Disappointment with errors in English release. (“No wonder that scene didn’t make sense when I read it in English a few months ago. They switched his and her dialogue by mistake.” <= true story)

My experience:

  • I started with this Non Non Biyori, but didn’t get too far. More recently, I completed volume 1 of My Love Story!! this way.
☙❦❧

Series I’ve Read

A bit about some series I’ve read:

ご注文はうさぎですか? (Is the order a rabbit?)

Sample panel:

Rabbit%20Page%2029%201-2

What it’s about:

Slice-of-life 4koma taking place mostly in a cafe. With rabbits (occasionally).

Why I’m reading it:

(Unnecessary backstory:) I had seen the first season of the anime for this. I had (and still do) a desktop background image of Chino from the series, and late in the year 2017, my then-nine-year-old nephew asked, “What’s with the girl?” I showed him a scene from the anime, and he asked if he could watch it. I figured it’d be good exposure for him and his then-seven-year-old brother to both see something in another language, and see the importance of being able to read and read quickly (English subtitles). (Since then, the younger of the two nephews has been trained by YouTube that anime is all cringey. I only see them two or three times a year, so I’ve gotta figure out how to unbrainwash him.)

Going into December, I wondered what it would take to buy the first volume of this in Japanese. I had been transitioning my English manga colleciton to digitial through Kobo, and managed to sign up for a Japanese Rakuten Kobo account, and buy volume 1.

How I’m reading it:

Since there was no furigana, I at first figured this would be one of those things I’d read “one day”. However, I decided to look into OCR options, and found KanjiTomo, which meant I would (with a little effort) easily convert the kanji from images to text, which I could then look up. From there, I set up a schedule that (after some setbacks including a computer issue) meant every day I’d type up all the text from a 4-panel comic, translate all the words, and learn any grammar I didn’t know.

I started and completed that project in 2018, spanning 200 strips. I learned a lot of grammar and vocabulary, and can now recognize 喫茶店. I also still somewhat recall 腹話術 (the pronunciation, not the kanji).

Current status:

On hiatus. I definitely want to read volume two (I’m holding off on watching season two until I read the second volume!) I actually have partially read volume two, but I miss out on so much that I want to start over and give it the same treatment I gave volume 1. I’d like to wait until I know more kanji first, though.

☙❦❧
怪盗セイント・テール (Mysterious Thief Saint Tail)

Sample panel:

What it’s about:

Meimi is a typical middle school shoujo manga girl by day. At night, she becomes Saint Tail, a mysterious thief who steals back stolen items to return to their rightful owners.

Why I’m reading it:

(Unnecessary backstory:) If I remember right, I had rented Grave of the Fireflies on VHS from a small Japanese shop near a friend’s house. It was a copy, not the official release. (I own the official release of the movie on DVD these days!) After the movie was the first three episodes of Saint Tail with fansubs (because why not have that after Grave of the Fireflies?) I of course had to hook up a second VCR and copy the episodes. (Didn’t need to copy the movie because it’s so depressing.)

Eventually the series came out in English (thankfully also in Japanese with English subtitles) on DVD, and I bought it as it was released. I also bought the manga in English. I watched and read through them probably two to three times (as I had little money and little anime/manga at the time, so going through something multiple times was common). Later, I also bought the Japanese release of the series on DVD.

I really like this series, and decided to give the manga a try in Japanese.

How I’m reading it:

Since I’m so familiar with the material already, I’m able to mostly understand what is happening even if I don’t know all the words. I’m reading through without looking up anything I don’t know, unless it appears a few times.

Current status:

I’m probably spending more time on this than I should be. I’ve been neglecting continuing my way through earlier volumes of Yotsuba& (volumes prior to nine). I’m keeping a good place.

☙❦❧
三ツ星カラーズ (Three Stars Colors)

Sample panel:

What it’s about:

Three young girls use their free time to defend the peace of their neighborhood. Each chapter puts the girls into a slice-of-life scenario, such as searching for a cat, selling bananas, visiting the zoo, or disarming a (fake) bomb.

Why I’m reading it:

Someone somewhere had mentioned a manga and they provided a link to it. I clicked the link, and on the side were other manga, including volume 1 of 三ツ星カラーズ. I figured with a cast of younger characters, it might be an easy read. And, unlike Strawberry Marshmallow, it has furigana. I decided to give it a shot.

I’ve found that Mitsuboshi Colors is consistently more difficult than the easy chapters of Yotsuba&, and I’ve found that Mitsboshi Colors is consistently easier than the more difficult chapters of Yotsuba&. I think for anyone who finds Yotsuba& easy until the grown-ups get together and converse, Mitsuboshi Colors is a good series to read alongside.

How I’m reading it:

I’ve been reading without looking anything up, unless a word comes up a few times. Sometimes I’m completely lost on what’s going on, so I have to look up enough words that I’m back on track, but I’ve mostly been able to work my way through based on the words and vocabulary I do know, and the artwork.

Current status:

Temporary hiatus while I’m reading more Saint Tail and Yotsuba&. (I do want to continue it soon, though!)

☙❦❧
よつばと! (Yotsuba&)

Sample panel:

What it’s about:

Slice-of-life. Yotsuba is a young girl who’s moved with her father to a city. Having no experience with such surroundings, Yotsuba is constantly learning new things about the world around her, and enjoys everything.

Why I’m reading it:

Way back when, I had watched and later read Azumanga Daioh. I’d been meaning to pick up Yotsuba&, being from the same author, and eventually I did (in English). I enjoyed it very much in English.

It’s often recommended for beginning readers, so I decided to read it in Japanese. That failed miserably back when I tried it, but more recently I know more words and grammar and I’m able to understand most of it now (until the grown-ups get together and have a conversation). It’s been a while since I read through it in English, so a lot of it feels “all new” to me.

How I’m reading it:

I’m mostly reading without looking anything up, unless the word comes up a few times. Sometimes I get lost on what’s going on until I look up a few words, then I find I have to go back a few pages and re-read with a better understanding of the scene.

Current status:

I’m reading with the Yotsuba& book club, which is later in the series. I’m also reading earlier volumes, but that’s slowed down since I started Saint Tail.

☙❦❧
俺物語!! (My Love Story!!)

Sample panel:

What it’s about:

High school romance.

Why I’m reading it:

I’d bought the anime and liked it a lot. Takeo is such a good-hearted person, and Rinko is the most adorable girl ever. I’ve been reading the series in English, but when the first couple of volumes popped up as free for a limited time on Rakuten Kobo, I read through the first. I didn’t get around to the second yet, but it’s free up through July 22nd, so maybe I’d better start reading it!

How I’m reading it:

Since I’ve been reading the series in English, I have it in both English and Japanese. I read a page in Japanese, then read the same page in English and assess how well I did.

Current status:

I plan to continue reading the series in English, so once I read the second volume (if I do so while it’s still free), I’ll drop this series from my Japanese reading.

☙❦❧
あまんちゅ! (Amanchu!)

Sample panel:

What it’s about:

By the end of volume 1, it seems it will center around a high school diving club.

Why I’m reading it:

アクア and アリア are not available as digital manga, and this series is by the same author.

How I’m reading it:

Reading with minimal look-ups. If there’s a word I cannot tell from context, I’ll look it up. If I’m reading away from home, I may screenshot and note a page containing grammar I need to look up later.

Current status:

Volume 1 hasn’t captured my interest as much as I had hoped from another series from the author of Aqua/Aria. Considering it’s up to 14 volumes, maybe it picks up? I plan to check out volume 2 sometime.

☙❦❧

Continuing in English:

These are series I’ve read a volume or two in Japanese, but I’m reading the rest of in English.

一週間フレンズ。 (One Week Friends)

Sample panel:

一週間フレンス。 Panel
What it’s about:

High school story. Hase-kun wants to be friends with Fujimiya-san. Fujimiya-san is always cold and distant toward her classmates. After Hase-kun starts eating lunch with Fujimiya-san, he learns the reason she avoids making any friends: every Monday morning, she wakes up without any memory of her friends.

Why I’m reading it:

I watched the anime, then picked up the manga in English to see where the story goes from there. The first volume came up in the beginner book club, so I decided to join along.

How I’m reading it:

I’m reading during my bus commutes, with minimal look-ups. If I encounter a word I don’t know and cannot figure it out by context, I’ll look it up. If there’s any grammar I’m uncertain of, I’ll screenshot it and write some notes to review when I’m home.

Current status:

The book club for volume 1 has completed. I don’t plan to continue reading the series in Japanese, as I’m reading it in English.

☙❦❧
ポケットモンスタースペシャル (Pokémon Adventures)

Sample panel:
i-0016%20cropped

What it’s about:

A comic series following the Pokémon games.

Why I’m reading it:

I’ve been with Pokémon since before its English release. I’m a huge fan of the series, having played all the mainline games. I’ve seen the anime through the end of the Orange Island, including having rented a handful of the Kanto and Orange Island episodes in Japanese (on VHS).

And, most importantly, the comic in English was not available digitally. I had asked Viz about it, and was given the impression that it simply wouldn’t become available digitally.

(About a month after I bought the first volume in Japanese…the series in English was released digitally. Apparently it had been released previously and then went away for a while.)

How I’m reading it:

I mostly read through without looking things up.

Current status:

I plan to continue reading the series in English. The early volumes are small images that make furigana hard to read. I imagine this is not the case for later series, but for Pokémon I just want to sit back and relax and casually read through.

☙❦❧

Dropped series:

ポケットモンスター (Pocket Monsters)

Sample panel:

i-0093%20cropped

What it’s about:

A gag comic loosely following the Pocket Monsters video games.

Why I’m reading it:

I thought it might be an easy read.

How I’m reading it:

I mostly read through without looking things up.

Current status:

The series is fairly juvenile in its humor, which is not to my tastes. After having slowly forced my way through just to finish the volume I bought, I am not planning buy any more.

☙❦❧

Edit history:

2019-09-18: Added 「一週間フレンズ。」 and 「あまんちゅ!」, as well as added sample panel images.

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2021 Reading Goals

Reading Smaller

漫画 (Manga)

Title Done Notes
あしたは土曜日第1~2巻
おじさまと猫第2~4巻
からかい上手の高木さん第1~3巻
ご注文うさぎですか?第2巻
それでも歩は寄せてくる第1~8巻
たんぽぽの綿毛第1~2巻
ひとりぼっちの○○生活第1巻
ふらいんぐうぃっち第9~10巻
よつばと!第15巻
アオハライド第9~13巻
アリア完全版第2~4巻
セーラームーン第9~10巻+かぐや
セーラーV第1~2巻
ポケモン SPECIAL第2~5巻
マギ第1~3巻
俺物語!!第3~11巻
好きな子がめがねを忘れた第1~3巻
幸色のワンルーム第1~2巻
恋に恋するユカリちゃん第1~3巻
恋文 -山本崇一朗短編集-
日常第1巻
現代魔女の就職事情第1~3巻
耳をすませば
耳をすませば
藤代さん系。第1巻
2020 Reading Goals

漫画 (Manga)

Goal: 30 40 volumes. Completed: 49/40

Title Pages Done Notes
GALS!第1巻 200
GOSICK―ゴシック―第1巻 159
アオハライド第1巻 184
アオハライド第2巻 183
アオハライド第3巻 200
アオハライド第4巻 174
アオハライド第5巻 180
アオハライド第6巻 175
アオハライド第7巻 176
アオハライド第8巻 182
アクア第1巻 175
アクア第2巻 177
アリア第1巻 176
アリア第2巻 182
おじさまと猫第1巻 142
おじさまと猫第2巻 ???
セーラームーン第1巻 292
セーラームーン第2巻 338
セーラームーン第3巻 336
セーラームーン第4巻 309
セーラームーン第5巻 389
セーラームーン第6巻 272 Saving Luna story for later.
セーラームーン第7巻 338
セーラームーン第8巻 345
ハヤテのごとく!第1巻 184
ひとりぼっちの○○生活第1巻 126 Reading.
ふらいんぐうぃっち第2巻 162
ふらいんぐうぃっち第3巻 159
ふらいんぐうぃっち第4巻 157
ふらいんぐうぃっち第5巻 167
ふらいんぐうぃっち第6巻 168
ふらいんぐうぃっち第7巻 167
ふらいんぐうぃっち第8巻 173
よつばと!第12巻 225
よつばと!第13巻 222
よつばと!第14巻 238
よつばと!第7巻 206
よつばと!第8巻 228
レンタルおにいちゃん第1巻 175
レンタルおにいちゃん第2巻 208
レンタルおにいちゃん第3巻 192
レンタルおにいちゃん第4巻 224
三ツ星カラーズ第4巻 145
三ツ星カラーズ第5巻 123
三ツ星カラーズ第6巻 145
三ツ星カラーズ第7巻 145
三ツ星カラーズ第8巻 145
怪盗セイント・テール第7巻 171
異国迷路のクロワーゼ第1巻 179
異国迷路のクロワーゼ第2巻 177
魔女の宅急便 (Ghibli) 442

絵本 (Picture Books)

Goal: 5 picture books. Completed: 6/5

Title Pages Done Notes
ミルキー2:いつのまにか名探偵 146
ミルキー3:あしたからは名探偵 146
ミルキー4:どんなときも名探偵 145
ミルキー5:そんなわけで名探偵 149
わんわん探偵団1 146
にゃんにゃん探偵団おひるね 149 Not counted in goal.
つるのおんがえし

小説 (Novels)

Goal: Um…finish one? (not looking so good)

Title Pages Done Notes
霧のむこうのふしぎな町 ??? On hiatus around chapter 4.
キキ1:新装版 魔女の宅急便 ??? Reading(ish) with the book club.
キキ2:キキと新しい魔法 ??? Not getting to this one this year.
キキ3:キキともうひとりの魔女 ??? おなじく

Learning Books

Title Pages Done Notes
Making Sense of Japanese 129
Japanese the Manga Way ??? Reading(ish).
Mangajin Volume 1 ???
Mangajin Volume 2 ???
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(I’ve wiped out my original study guide post here, and am repurposing it as a place to list my reading guide pages. The new content gets in inherit four :heart:’s.)

Something I like to think about doing, but quickly get bored with when I try, is writing up manga reading guides. Think “book club discussion meets video game walk-though”.

I don’t expect to write up much, but here’s what I’ve done so far:

ふらいんぐうぃっち 1 巻

レンタルおにいちゃん 1 巻

三ツ星カラーズ 1 巻

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This weekend I hoped to get a lot of manga reading in. I had a heavy four-day volunteer schedule at a local convention (two 3-hour shifts Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and one Sunday). My duties: sitting in a small theater-like room swapping DVD’s/BR’s to put on various anime episodes in Japanese, and take down audience headcounts at the eyecatch. I figured I could use these hours for reading more Saint Tail and (earlier volumes of) Yotsuba& in Japanese.

It was during this time when I discovered I have a previously undisclosed 弱点(じゃくてん) (weakpoint): I cannot read manga in Japanese while simultaneously overhearing (unrelated) anime in Japanese. The more I tried to concentrate on reading one. word. at. a. time, the more clearly I could hear each word spoken over the stereo system.

In the end, I read a lot of English-translated manga.

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Routine

My weekly routine seems to be fairly solidified:

  • WaniKani reviews every morning, afternoon, and night.
  • iKnow reviews daily, except weekends when I do a minimum of five reviews, and Monday when I catch up on backlog on my bus commute.
  • Use remaining bus commute time to read three chapters of Chi’s Sweet Home, then spend Tuesday and Wednesday (and possibly Thursday) commute time to read the next chapter of Yotsuba&. Remainder of the week either goes to older volumes of Yotsuba& I haven’t read in Japanese yet, or Saint Tail.

Learning Progress

I want to get back to learning new words in iKnow, but I don’t want it to take up too much of my commute time as I use that for book club reading. Although, that might change a little as I finish up Chi’s Sweet Home. I’ll be reading One Week Friends with the beginner book club, but I plan to do that from home so I can look up every little thing.

  • Vocabulary: I recently started Japanese Core 3000: Step 1 in iKnow. 8% started.
  • Kanji: I’m 21 days into level 10. (Marathon, not a sprint!) I have about 50 lessons sitting and waiting for me. Since my apprentice items are down to 33, maybe I’m waaay overdue on getting through those lessons. Especially when at least a third are vocabulary I know (just need to learn the kanji), there’s no reason not to take on a bunch.
  • Grammar: I’m hoping to learn more as I read through “One Week Friends”. I struggle with learning new grammar unless it’s in context.

Conquering Technology

I originally had two Kobo accounts (one English, one Japanese). When I merged them, I had to manually change my address on file between US and Japan to go between buying English or Japanese comics. When I separated the accounts, the billing/address page broke completely for my accounts, and I had to go through tech support to get it fixed. My Japanese purchases from before then are still merged onto my English account, but new Japanese purchases will be on my Japanese account.

Switching between logins on my smart device means all downloaded comics get deleted and have to redownload when I switch back. However, more recently I installed LineageOS on my smartphone, and it supports multiple user accounts on the device. I created a second user account on the smartphone, and installed the Kobo reader app and use my Japanese login there, with my US login on my main account. Switching between device logins is quick and easy. Now to see if I can get LineageOS installed on my old tablet… (maybe another time).

Reading Material

I recently started keeping a web browser tab open to a search for 期間限定無料 on Rakuten’s Kobo page (sorted by publication date descending, to get the most recently listed items).

This gives me a chance to find time-limited free previews of books. I read the first 25 or so pages of 「キラキラ100%」 last night. I didn’t understand everything, but was able to strongly get the gist of it. I probably shouldn’t continue with the series after the trial period ends, since I have too many manga series I’m reading through in English as it is (let alone Japanese), but I did like what I’ve read of it so far.

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My electronics family for reading Japanese manga (and English-translated manga) on has expanded. This is a good time to list out what I use, in case someone is curious what’s out there for e-manga reading and they also happen upon this study log.

Desktop Computer

My desktop computer is useful for reading manga on for two situations:

  1. When I’m reading a page in Japanese, then switching over to the official English release to read the same page in English.

  2. When I’m transcribing, or I’m writing about the material (such as for a book club post).

You can’t beat the ergonomics of a desktop computer (compared with a lot of alternatives), and I have access to many tools, whether it be software (to OCR kanji lacking furigana), the Internet (such as ichi.moe), and a real, physical keyboard. This also provides the largest screen size of all my devices (even if my monitor is somewhat small by most peoples’ standards).

However, my desktop computer is not suitable for reading in bed, nor for reading on the bus, nor for reading while at a convention. Thus, handheld options are preferable to have around.

Smartphone (Samsung Note II)


(Coin included for size comparison with other images.)

I used to not have a smartphone for the longest time. Finally, I got one for Anki reviews, which led to also using iKnow (even though its offline support has never been the best for me). Since I don’t use the smartphone for communication, I don’t use a data plan, meaning no Internet lookups when reading manga. However, Takoboto is a great Android app for dictionary lookups.

Advantages of the smartphone include:

  1. Due to its small size, I always have it on me when I’d be reading manga away from home. (I keep it in my backpack to take with me each day to ensure I get in at least a few iKnow reviews each day.)

  2. With the battery I have in it, I only need to recharge it two or three times a month.

The main disadvantage is the small screen size. Even if I zoom in as much as the Kobo app I use will allow, it’s can still be difficult to read some furigana.

Tablet (Samsung Note 10.1, first model)


(Coin included for size comparison with other images.)

This is my main manga-reading device. It’s also an early model tablet, and is very slow. It’s a really poor experience going from viewing manga in an e-reader app to looking up a word in Takoboto and back. If I had a newer tablet, this would not be an issue, but I’m cheap, so I endure it. If I use it every day, I typically need to recharge it a couple times a week.

I mostly read English manga (and Japanese Yotsuba&! where I’m not looking up many words), and leave the Japanese manga to my smartphone. Regardless of what I read on the tablet, for some manga I find myself having to zoom in to see the text comfortably.

E-reader (Kobo Aura H2O, first edition)


(Coin included for size comparison with other images.)

I love e-readers. It’s almost like reading on paper, and even with heavy reading the device only needs to be recharged once every month or two.

Not too long ago, I read a preview of a novel for young readers on the device, and that was a wonderful experience. When I get to reading books in Japanese, this is the device I will use. It’s small enough to fit in my sweater pocket, or into the same backpack pocket where I put my smartphone.

I don’t use this device for manga, however. At 6.8 inches, the screen is simply too small. And the device is a dedicated e-book reader (not a tablet), so it understandably has a processor to match. While I can zoom a comic in, such as to 200% size and rotate it a quarter turn to make reading easier, the whole process of zooming and scrolling a page is too slow.

Honorable mention: this device has a light built-in for reading in dark environments. (Please read in a well lit room.)

E-reader (ONYX BOOX Gulliver)

This is my latest acquisition, and it arrived only today. It’s a 10.3-inch e-reader.


(Coin included for size comparison with other images.)

I wanted a 13-inch, but readers in the 10-inch and up range seem to all be tablet-oriented, with processors and memory to match, as well as having a focus on precision stylus use with a digitizer screen. This all leads to one thing: expensive. Even after I saved up enough money for the Gulliver, I waited three months to be sure I really wanted to spend this much on a device to read comics on, especially when I didn’t know how Japanese comics would appear on that size screen.

With the little amount of time I’ve had to play with the Gulliver, I have a good impression. I can install Kobo and Takoboto. I can easily and quickly switch between the two, as well as a built-in note-taking app where I can write down things I want to look up when I’m online, or mention in a book club posting.


(Coin included for size comparison with other images.)

The screen size looks like it may be a little small for reading furigana on. Since the screen size is just a little larger than my tablet, this was a known possibility. But zooming in and scrolling a zoomed in screen are faster than it feels like an e-ink screen should be capable of, so it probably won’t be an issue.

There’s no built-in light for this which I originally expected to be an issue, but the bus always has lights on, so it’s not like I’m in the dark during my prime reading time.

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Do you use the Gulliver to take notes at all?

It’s too soon to say since the device only arrived today, but I’ll definitely be trying it out for that in the coming weeks. I did play with writing notes a bit, and the main issue for me is erasing requires using the “eraser” backend of the stylus and pressing with force. I’m worried about scratching the screen. That won’t be an issue if the note software has an undo button, so I’ll be checking for that as well.

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If you end up using it for serious note taking I’ll be interested to hear about any problems you run into.

This week, I started taking notes on the Gulliver e-reader while reading through 結婚しても恋してる (with the absolute beginner book club). Here are the obstacles that stood in the way:

  1. The Gulliver ships without support for the Google Play store. Or, rather, it originally supported it, but then Google made some changes, and now a (firmware?) update is needed to use the Google Play store. This required plugging the e-reader into my desktop computer and placing the update file in a specific location, then unplugging the e-reader and following a series of steps to install the update. This also wiped out all my setting and files, but I actually did this the first day I had the e-reader, so I didn’t lose anything. The e-reader’s web site had all the information I needed.

  2. Even after that update, I still cannot access the Google Play store. Since I’ve only been using free software, I’ve downloaded APK’s and installed them manually.

  3. The Kobo reader I use (since I buy e-books via Kobo) doesn’t support noting manga pages. This means I need to take a screenshot, then write notes on the screenshot. This actually isn’t so bad, because all my noted pages are in one place.

  4. While other e-readers by Onyx (the company that makes the Gulliver) expose the screenshot functionality to a physical button, the Gulliver does not. I found a free screenshot program (Screenshot Easy), then downloaded the APK to install on the device. This app is nice because I can have a tiny camera icon overlay on the screen, tap on it to take a screenshot, then it gives the option to open the screenshot (allowing me to get right to taking notes).

  5. I can’t find any functionality to share files (common Android feature). I run the KDE Plasma desktop on my computer, so I have a program called “KDE Connect” installed there and I installed it on the Gulliver. This allows the two to communicate over wifi, and I can use that to easily transfer files from the e-reader to my desktop computer.

So far, my note-taking has been limited to writing on screenshots. I haven’t tried using the built-in note-taking functionality, as that would create a disconnect between my note and what I’m writing the note in reference to.

Here’s an example where I’ve noted on an image:

Some words I didn’t know and I marked them for looking up. I could easy switch between apps, going from Kobo to Takoboto to look a word up, but since I’m behind on my book clubs this week, I focused on pushing forward with reading, and looking up later.

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:smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Latest reading status:

Reading

  • I read 「よつばと!」 volume 5 when I’ve finished my book club reading for the week, and have more than five minutes of reading time on the bus. I typically start my book club reading for the week with 「よつばと!」 volume 10 Monday afternoon and finish up Tuesday morning on my bus commutes.

  • I’m a bit on hiatus with 「キラキラ100%」. The story is fine, but haven’t had time for it. Although I do plan to finish it, I currently am not planning to continue on to volume 2, due to the amount of other things I am reading and want to read.

  • I’ve added 「 一週間フレンズ。」 from the Beginner Book Club. This title I planned to give more attention to understanding every bit, but knowing the story from having watched the anime (English subtitled) and read this volume in English previously, I find that hinders the effort. Sometimes I’ll read something I don’t fully understand the grammar behind, but I’ll think I do because I know what’s being said from previous English exposure to the scene. I’ve decided I’m fine reading through it like this.

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  • I’m just reading a tiny bit of 「俺物語!!」 here and there. My focus is reading the series in English, so there’s no big push to finish volume 2 in Japanese.

  • I’ll read a little bit of 「怪盗セイント・テール」 when I finish my iKnow and WaniKani reviews on the bus and have under five minutes left for reading time.

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  • I’ve added 「結婚しても恋してる」 from the Absolute Beginner Book Club. I’m enjoying the light material and easy pace of this entry for the ABBC.

  • The newcomer to “reading” is 「ブレス オブ ファイア 竜の戦士」. But wait, isn’t that a Super Famicom game? Yup. All ひらがな dialogue is a lot easier than I expected, even if there are still plenty of words I don’t know. I do wonder if I would have benefited from taking a copy of the game’s script (if I can find one) and extracting the top x most used words, filtering out those I know from WaniKani and iKnow, and doing flash cards on those before I started playing. Well, too late for that! Since this is the first RPG I owned (on SNES) and I’ve played through it numerous times (in English), I know enough that I can pick out the words I know and fill in the rest with context and English-version memory. I’ll look up words I don’t know if they come up a lot.

Upcoming

  • I’ve added 「ふらいんぐうぃっち」, as that’s coming up in the Beginner Book Club.

  • Every time I see 「三ツ星カラーズ」, I really want to go buy volume 4 and start reading it. I have to remind myself: 1) I went through the first three volumes fairly quickly, 2) it’s only six volumes long right now (although I imagine it’s due for a volume 7 to release soon), and 3) I have a lot of other things I’m in the middle of reading right now.

  • I should probably list 「よつばと!」 volumes 5 and 11 under upcoming, since I have 「怪盗セイント・テール」 volume 5 listed here.

Considering

  • I’ve added 「GALS!」. It was free for a preview period, and it looked readable for me. I saw the anime on DVD with English subtitles about a decade ago, and then bought and read through the manga in English. I’ve been watching for the English manga to get a digital release so I can read through it again. Looks like I may be going at it in Japanese instead. Although these book covers on my bookshelf screenshot are mostly sorted alphabetically, I pushed 「GALS!」 to the first slot to show it’s my highest consideration.

Completed

  • I finally finished volume 1 of that 「ポケットモンスター」 manga. I did not care for it one bit at all, and am glad to be done with it. I wasn’t opposed to dropping it midway, but wanted to at least give it a chance. (Not to be confused with 「ポケットモンスタースペシャル」, which was released in America as “Pokémon Adventures”, and I plan to continue to read in English.)

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Some time ago, I read through Aria/Aqua in English only to have the series be dropped by the publisher (which is extra sad as this was the second publisher to give the series a chance in the US). I bought the series in Japanese, and followed through it by reading along with the anime, but my vocabulary and grammar were far too insufficient to really get anything out of the experience (Japanese-wise).

Fast-forward to 2019, and I wish I were reading along with the book club, but alas my paperback comics are currently in storage (probably until sometime in 2020), and Aria still has no digital release. (Edit: I notice Rakuten has an option to request a digital release for physical-only manga. If Aria suddenly gets a digital release, it’s thanks to me for requesting it :wink: )

Because clearly I’m not reading nearly enough series (I’ve barely even touched anything English-translated in forever!), I decided to check out あまんちゅ!(にせアリア). (No, that’s not actual furigana.) It’s another manga by the same author, and is available digital. And, no sci-fi atmosphere for me to skip over stumble through.

Two chapters in, and it’s too soon for me to tell what the manga is actually about. It’s not for lack of understanding on my part (I’ve mostly followed everything); there just isn’t much at all going on! It seems the main characters ひかりさん(あかりじゃない) and ひどりさん(あいかじゃない) are both into diving as a hobby, which seems like it may be the basis for the manga to revolve around.

The low amount of dialogue made the first two chapters really easy to read through. Anyone who’s read Aqua/Aria will recognize the use of narration panels, and (what feels like massive overuse here) gag faces for characters.

Sample Page (featuring アリアじゃない)

Reading chapters three and maybe four should keep me busy until the weekend when the ABBC and BBC each level up to their next week of reading material.

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I’ve been using the Flaming Durtles Android app to do offline WaniKani reviews on my bus commutes. Aside from this reducing the amount I do at home (bad, because I know I’ll just catch up on the bus), it’s been a great asset, and one I plan to keep using.

When I first saw there was an Anki mode, I tried it, didn’t like it (for my own personal use), and switched back to “input answer”. But I’d like to try something faster for use on the bus (or else all my manga reading time goes to iKnow and WaniKani). So this morning I tried out the Anki mode again, and here’s my experience with it:

Cons:

  • In WaniKani, I don’t pay attention to whether I’m being asked for meaning or reading. I find out when I go to enter one, and my meaning comes out in hiragana or my reading doesn’t, then I switch over to the other. With Anki mode, if I think of the meaning when it’s asking for reading (or the other way around), I end up seeing the answer I didn’t try to recall yet.

    • To combat this, I’ve set lessons to show meaning and reading back-to-back, and I think of both meaning and reading at the same time at the first card. This does have what feels like cons, but I don’t know if they are:

      • I get less mental exercise versus when I have to think of meaning and reading separately, at two different times.

      • If I get a card wrong, I’m immediately given the same card again. This doesn’t give me time to drop the card out of mind and then have to recall it again later.

  • I have trouble with じゅ vs じゅう, and I don’t properly think of it being one or the other before revealing the answer.

Pros:

  • I’m exposed to see all meanings. If a kanji or vocabulary has multiple similar but slightly different meanings, and I always use only one when inputting the answer, I’ll not be familiar with the others. This gives me a chance to see them and have them in mind as similar or alternate meanings.

  • When keying in a meaning, sometimes I put in a wrong answer, but it gets picked up as right. This can contribute to me learning the wrong form of a verb (such as “separate” vs “separately”). This isn’t a problem on the web site where it tells me if my answer is a little off, but I wasn’t getting that in the app possibly due to my settings. With Anki mode, since I see the answers, I can tell if I thought of a wrong variation of the word.

I’ll try using Anki mode a bit more and see if I want to stick with it, or if it feels like actually inputting the words is beneficial (even if it means dealing the slowdown of entering typos that I need to fix before submitting an answer).

I will say, getting a bunch of burns in a row while in Anki mode (I was going from card to card pretty quickly) felt really nice.

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Anki Mode and Manga Reading

Since switching to Anki mode in the Flaming Durtles app, I’ve been able to get reviews done a lot faster, which has allowed me to make a lot of progress in reading 「怪盗セイント・テール」 volume 5, to the tune of about 100 pages in four days. Because this is a series I know very well, I’ve been able to overlook most words I don’t know, look up anything I feel I should know, and keep going forward without feeling I’m missing anything.

Video Game Reading

I’ve paused playing 「ブレス オブ ファイア」 since 「ゼルダの伝説 夢をみる島」 (Link’s Awakening) came out. I’ve been playing that in Japanese, and feel I’m doing well. (On the Japanese, not the gameplay. Why, oh why, did I chose hard mode? About 50 deaths already.) I’ve played the original version of the game enough that I can sometimes better understand the Japanese by recalling that part of the game from a play-through of the original.

WaniKani Review Session

I think I had my worst review session ever, getting 37%. But it was only about 10 reviews, and mostly all new material. Some people might get down from a percent like that, but not me when I have support from people like マリン from 夢をみる島.

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Wait, what was that, マリン?

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…right.

The other 70-something reviews I did today went much better than this mini-session.

WaniKani Leveling Goal

Although I’m looking forward to reading 「ふらいんぐうぃっち」 in the Beginner Book Club soon (I bought the series on DVD a while back, but haven’t gotten to watching it yet!), I also wanted to see what kind of prep I might like to do for the club’s following read, 「霧のむこうのふしぎな町」, which will be my first Japanese-language “book” book I read all the way through.

Reading starts December 14th. Once I reach the start of level 16, I’ll know (or at least have been introduced) to 90% of the total (not unique) kanji used in the book. This means my goal is to reach level 16 by mid-December.

I think I’ve read one week per level is about the fastest one can hope to achieve, but I have room to complete a level every three weeks and still reach level 16 in time. Considering my level-up average is 3.8 weeks per level, I think I can manage a tiny increase to the pace.

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…but maybe I’ll look into the self study script for leech-studying. Just in case.

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Since I finished level 10, I’ve managed a 19 or 20 day level by doing 11 items per day.

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I am using the WK Lesson Filtre, which lets me do 11 items in one batch (it overrides the WK batch limit of 10) and it lets me do (my preference of) 3 radicals &/or kanji and 8 vocab items each time (except for the couple of days when I have run out of kanji just before levelling up). I find it a more consistant workload than whole lessons of nothing but kanji.

I’ve been really bad at getting new lessons in. Since I’m now using the Anki mode on the Android app for faster reviews, I need to use some of that freed up commute time to get new lessons in each day (although I don’t think I can filter lessons in the app). Or else in the morning do lessons first thing on the computer with filtering to ensure I’m getting a good mix of radicals/kanji and vocabulary in each day. But for now, it’s all vocabulary lessons until I reach level 13. I did 40 this evening, which I otherwise wouldn’t have without my new goal!

I think one of my main issues is I don’t do vocabulary lessons as soon and as many as I should, and that hurts my reading retention for kanji, which holds me back. Hopefully in the next few months, I’ll create lesson habits that will push me acquire kanji and vocabulary at a faster rate than my current trajectory has been.

Day-later edit:

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Is that review count really right? With Anki mode speeding things up, it’s amazing how fast I can review, and I feel I’m not any worse off for not taking the time to enter in my responses (and constantly have to fix typos). But it also helps that I have a bunch of new vocabulary that I either already knew or can remember easily.

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(Have I been really unobservant until now, or is the hat new?)

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Halloween Month = Halloween Hat

I just wish I saved more avatar screenshots before Nintendo shut down their Mii app.

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