我輩はブリートである。

The chronicles of Burrito's bizarre adventure into Japanese.

Tadoku 3.0: The Aftermath

with 3 comments

And I am beat.

Anyhow, my list of reading material by the end looked a little something like this:

  • NHKにようこそ!(novel)  — Complete
  • Steins;Gate (visual novel) — Complete
  • 人間失格 (novel) — Stalled
  • うみねこのなく頃に4 (visual novel) — In Progress (still)
  • Ever17 (visual novel) — In Progress

Not exactly the most diverse of lists, surely, but the experience was every bit as rich as any of the previous Tadoku (or perhaps, Tadoki?!).

This time around, as planned, I used the dictionary less than I ever have. My reasoning behind this decision is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice to say that it worked out spectacularly well. I don’t recall having looked up a single word for NHK, even. I did hit the dictionary a few dozen times for Steins;Gate (a manly man’s visual novel of sizable girth, mind you), but with few exceptions, these look-ups were out of sheer curiosity of a particularly interesting word (most likely containing an unknown kanji, which I eat for breakfast) rather than a compulsion to know every single unknown thing I come across. Pretty sure I only looked up two words in Ever17, despite its surprisingly technical vocabulary, though I’ve really only skimmed the surface of that badboy yet.

I’d wanted to read 人間失格 as well, but just couldn’t really get into it – or rather, I was really craving another visual novel to fill the Steins;Gate-sized void in my heart and 人間失格 wasn’t up to that task. I was encouraged to discover just how readable this book was for me, though! I once thought classic Japanese literature would forever be beyond my grasp, but it just goes to show how far I’ve actually come.

And oh, what’s this? Umineko somehow worked its way into the list! I’ve certainly not giving up on this “little” fellow, and decided to flip through to see how manageable it would be without the ridiculous quantity of dictionary look-ups I’d given it in the past. Again, I’ve come a long way and it actually seems a lot closer to my level now. However, エンジェ is still a very uninteresting character to me and I was unable to keep my interest. Perhaps one day when you’re voiced, Umineko… perhaps then.

This Tadoku also marked the first time I largely ignored competing with my kuh-raaazy peers, and simply looked to beat my last record. Turns out that 3,000 pages (roughly 100 a day) is just about optimum for me, and will probably be my target for each Tadoku from here on out. Thinking about it, 100 pages of Japanese a day is still a little mindblowing to me – I’m the kind of reader who chips away at one chapter a night before bed in my native language (at one point or another, anyway), so unearthing my innate ability to plow through 100 pages of Japanese a day for 31 days is… really something I can’t describe. Was amazing to me when that number was 50, and even 30. Not to pat myself on the back, though – one of the coolest parts of being involved with Tadoku every 3 months is seeing just how much everyone has improved. It’s incredible seeing those numbers of pages logged doubling, tripling since the last competition. Seriously shows the effectiveness not only of the extensive reading tadoku principle, but also the effectiveness of the competition aspect (personal or otherwise) of Tadoku. Color me impressed.

Oh hey, let’s touch on some of the stuff I read, for the heck of it.

NHKにようこそ!

NHK is somewhat special because it marks the first true novel (light or otherwise) I’ve read from cover to cover in Japanese. Somehow, the accomplishment feels a little less impressive after having completed three Umineko visual novels of greater length (and far greater difficulty), but hey, it’s something! More importantly, I loved the heck out of this book and it surprised me on multiple levels.

NHKにようこそ!is a dark comedy about the miserable life of a young man and his misadventures in attempting to escape from it. At first glance, the story sounded downright depressing (and not all that far from home at times), so I’d ignored it despite the anime adaptation being recommended to me numerous times. Indeed, the story is depressing – the cast of characters each has his or her massive collection of skeletons in the closet, from the crippling depression, paranoia and isolation of its main character, to the themes of suicidal tendencies, mental instability, sexual deviance and drug use of his peers.

In fact, this novel contains more illicit drug use and detailed description of said drugs than I’ve encountered in any (perhaps, every) Japanese medium so far. I suppose the world of novels can afford to be more open than the fiction of manga and television about the reality of drugs, but I felt these scenes (which are apparently cut from the anime entirely – bah!) were important in further establishing the human elements that make the characters of this book so damn enjoyable and easy to identify with.

Bleak subject matter aside, the ridiculousness that occurs between the many, many downers of this book as well as the witty, humorous dialogue of its characters almost always keeps the mood hovering well within the realm of comic. It takes a talented writer to turn the screwed up situations of Satou and company into something we can laugh at – perhaps laugh with would be more accurate, as they always seem aware of just how ridiculous things are – but author Tatsuhiko Takimoto pulls it off beautifully.

Highly recommended, and a moderately easy read to boot.

Steins;Gate

Perhaps fueled by an insatiable hunger for more eccentric protagonists, I dived into this puppy shortly after finishing NHK. I’d actually completed the first chapter some weeks prior, so I knew exactly what I was getting myself (back) into.

Steins;Gate is a time travel-themed science-fiction visual novel, but the time travel elements are executed in ways I’ve never even imagined, and consistently blew my mind into the stratosphere. Most fascinating to me is the fact that S;G not only uses heaps of real scientific theory (quite liberally) to explain the phenomenon of time travel, but also real-life conspiracy theories such as the exploits and predictions of John Titor. It’s a super intelligent, brilliantly written visual novel that, while certainly taking more than a few liberties, successfully suspends disbelief often enough to almost make the events of the story seem plausible. Almost.

I’d rather not go into great detail about this VN, as I believe it’s best left up to the reader to experience how the story unfolds, and how manipulation of time – even the seemingly limited act of sending text messages to phones back in time – ultimately impacts the story. Simply put, this is a story of cause of effect – for every action, there’s a reaction; the butterfly effect; karma, even (in fact, one can probably draw some fairly convincing philosophical parallels, but I’ll leave that to sharper minds and/or bored English majors).

Steins;Gate was actually the first visual novel I’ve read with fully voiced characters, and quite honestly, it’s difficult to imagine trudging through another non-voiced VN any time soon (Umineko being a lucky exception), because the voiced element helped my comprehension tremendously. I really can’t overstate just how beneficial a voice acted visual novel can be to a learner of Japanese. I hadn’t intended on beefing up my listening comprehension during this Tadoku, but by the end of S;G, I could seriously feel a massive difference. It doesn’t hurt that the voice acting in this game is utterly incredible, most notably that of the main character, whose over-the-top eccentricism took me a while to warm up to, but ultimately became one of my all-time favorite protagonists.

As for language difficulty, Steins;Gate can get a little brutal, especially during the scenes involving SCIENCE!, of which there are many. Some rudimentary knowledge of the theory they go into certainly helped me, but I’d be lying if I said that a few of the science-y scenes weren’t a little hazy to me. Scientific terminology aside, though, S;G didn’t pose much trouble to me. Unlike, say, Umineko which goes into incredible detail with abstract concepts very frequently, S;G is much more straight-forward and dialogue-based in comparison.

Though I can’t claim to have read all that many visual novels yet (Tsukihime in English several years back and three and a half Uminekoes and currently making my way through Ever17), Steins;Gate easily reigns as my most memorable one yet. It’s not without its flaws – pacing feels awfully trudging at times, and I wasn’t a big fan of two of the characters (take a guess which ones!). Some may find it difficult to stick with the (nearly) first half of the visual novel that is dedicated to establishing characters and building up for the (ultra-exciting) latter half of the story, which tears it all down mercilessly with hardly a pause. By the end, though, trust me when I say that these are all trivial complaints, and holy crap you need to read this. I plan to marathon the anime shortly, which is superb from the two episodes I’ve seen so far.

Ever17

This is a visual novel I’ve heard many speak highly of for some years now, yet one I knew little about until recently. Turns out the story is right up my alley – like Steins;Gate, Ever17 uses plenty of gen-you-wine science to establish an almost-believable situation. In this case, a group of people become stranded in an underwater amusement park of sorts known as LeMU, with only a matter of roughly 6 days to escape. All the while, various sections of the park are falling apart around them to ever-increasing water pressure and mechanical failures. Of course, all the while, mysteries abound… which I’ve only scraped the surface of.

I can’t really give a more thorough review of the VN yet, as I still have quite a bit to go. I can say that it immediately clicked with me and I’m really enjoying it, however. It begins almost deceptively whimsical – this is an amusement park, after all – but unlike, say, Steins;gate, Ever17 gets into the thick of things very quickly. Compared to every other VN I’ve read so far, E17 is relatively fast paced and seems almost a little jarring in its transition between scenes at times. Even so, this is an incredibly meaty VN with about as much text as Steins;Gate, so there’s room for a massive amount of substance in this sucker.

Ever17’s language level seems to begin on the easier side of things, but quickly becomes quite difficult when it goes into the technical side of LeMU, or during one of the several medical-related scenes and explanations. I was honestly expecting an easier, more relaxing read as Steins;Gate, but Ever17’s language might quite possibly be the more difficult of the two!

At any rate, as of right now, I’m working my way toward one of the endings and have tons more to see, so I’ll have to leave it at that for now. Excellent, highly recommended visual novel (with voice acting, I might add) all the same.

I suppose that just about wraps things up. I have a heck of a lot more to post in the coming days, especially regarding a certain anniversary, and current/future plans, among other things. For now, I think it’s high time to veg the heck out with some of the many animu episodes I’m behind on.

And how was yooour Tadoku?

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Written by ritobito

August 1, 2011 at 4:35 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Looks like you had a good Tadoku there. I didn’t beat you by too much, kinda glad it’s over so I can concentrate more on language study.

    Neksu

    August 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    • Heh, I was ready to kick back and relax after I finished Steins;Gate, myself, which probably explains my rather anemic finish. At the very least, I can now (and oh, have I been) marathon animays raw without that nagging feeling that I’m missing out on some sweet, sweet #subs action lingering over my shoulder. Even so, I’m already planning ahead on what to read for 4.0…

      And wait – you beat me? 貴様ああああ(ノ`Д´)ノ彡┻━┻

      burritolingus

      August 2, 2011 at 11:22 pm

  2. […] it? Motivating people to read like they’ve never read before. First, second, tenth, or seventeenth (not to single anyone out ヽ(´ー`)ノ). As long as you’re reading, and not just […]


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