The chronicles of Burrito's bizarre adventure into Japanese.

October: Great success!

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To say I’ve met some success recently would be a sickening understatement.

October began and ended with quite a bang, especially after such a frustratingly stagnant September. I had gone into last month with the promise to myself that I’d get back on track no matter what – I just wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to go about that. Coincidentally, my favorite manga, Berserk, resumed but a day or two later, along with the announcement of a gorgeously redone anime version. If you ever want to get me motivated, then dangling something as irresistible as this in front of my nose is the way to go.

Previously, I had been intimidated to jump into the Berserk manga. I’d only read a few volumes in English thanks to the horrendous quality of scanlations, and swore I’d wait until my Japanese was at a good enough level to read it before I sank my teeth in and savored the sweet, sweet juices. In fact, I recall thinking to myself that, when the time came that I was able to read and enjoy this manga in its original language, I’d be content with my ability.


Although among one of the more difficult manga I’ve tried to read (being a seinen manga, the only furigana is over ambiguities and, especially, the many archaisms and obscurities that mangaka Miura loves to use), I made the decision that I’d bite the bullet and just read the damn thing. I was motivated. I was ready for this. The sooner I was caught up, the sooner I could read brand new Berserk! Brand new Berserk, before all of the unclean, heathen swine and their filthy scanlations! It was, as they say, go time.

So I made October my own personal tadoku, with reading as much Berserk as I could my goal. I had initially tried to squeeze in at least one volume a day (roughly 250 pages), which proved to be unsustainable after the first week or so, but paved the way for an incredibly enjoyable, incredibly educational (if learning words such as “world engulfing conflagration” and “human sacrifice” can be considered such) experience that I’m still riding on.

Frankly, this manga is still a few steps above what I’m comfortable reading. The amount of words I jotted down per volume (which would later go into my SRS) averaged around 50 per, and that’s skipping plenty of unfamiliar words I didn’t bother looking up. The cool thing is that it still didn’t matter much – even during chapters where my comprehension took a nosedive, I still understood the gist of the story at all times, and that was in the worst case scenarios. So I came away with the most amazing manga experience I’ve ever read, and around 700 new words in my lexicon. Not a bad deal, I’d say.

A word on my SRSing habits for this “project”: all of these suckers went into a brand new, Berserk themed deck, in isolation. And although they were isolated from context, it was never a big deal. Why? Because the vast majority of the time, I can recall the context in which the word was originally used. It’s difficult to forget a words such as 黙れ、生贄 or 勝鬨 when they arise in such intense, memorable scenes. While reviewing these words in isolation, specific scenes pop up in my head and it becomes surprisingly natural to recall the word. Never underestimate the power of meaningful context.

By the end of the month, I was well into the 14th volume, having completed the epic 鷹の団 arc and really, really needing a break for something a little more… less depressing.

It’s amazing how much progress resulted from what was essentially a relatively small amount of reading – not to mention a shot in the arm, motivation-wise. I’ve been hopping between half a dozen manga since, having recently settled on both Mushishi and Berserk, with the brunt of my focus on the visual novel Umineko no Naku Koro ni which, quite frankly, makes Berserk look like Curious George in comparison in terms of language level. Time permitting, I’d also like to squeeze in a few hours of Chrono Trigger here and there, a game which I’m surprised I can understand to a reasonably high level now, which gives me a sensation of joy I can’t possibly begin to describe.

I’m trying my best to stick to one or two things at a time rather than go for the salad bar approach, also affectionately known as the ADHD approach, of reading a dozen manga, playing half a dozen games and not really making any progress in any of them – it just doesn’t work for me. So, Umineko will be my little project for the rest of November – I have about 20 more days, so it’ll be interesting to see how far I can go. I’ll also be making a new, Umineko-specific SRS deck of vocab, using J-J lookups (made very easy thanks to BlackDragonHunt’s amazingly handy assisted reading guide, and GoldenDict thanks to the frequent pimping of resident pimpmaster e_dub_kendo) for the first time in a while. Once again, it is go time.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I’ll never tire of “polyglot” drama.


Written by ritobito

November 11, 2010 at 1:31 am

One Response

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  1. Cheers for progress! Thanks for sharing. I’ve added blackdragonhunt’s blog to my rss reader, so i can keep up with him now. I’ve been really cracking down on portions of my studies lately too… maybe it’s just that time of year! ha ha…

    Chad McElligott (hotsw4p)

    November 11, 2010 at 10:25 am

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