Tadoku

Author Spotlight: Misuzu Kaneko

Misuzu Kaneko (金子みすゞ*・金子みすず) was an author I’d never heard of until recently. Unfortunately, it seems that I wasn’t the only one.

Born Kaneko Teru in 1903, Misuzu grew up in a book-loving family and continued her education until age 18, a rare achievement for women at that time. She began to write poetry for children when she was 20. She sadly committed suicide at age 27, the day before her ex-husband was due to gain custody of their young daughter.

Her works were forgotten until the original manuscripts were rediscovered in the 1980s. However, it wasn’t until the March 2011 tsunami disaster that she gained popularity; her poem “Are you an echo?/こだまでしょうか“ was played in TV public service announcements.

Her works are not on Aozora Bunko, but a quick Google search will enable you to read some of her poems. In particular, this link has a lot of Misuzu’s most popular works. Having read quite a few of them, I think she is a good poet for Japanese learners to be aware of. In terms of language, I’d recommend her poems for JLPT N4 learners and above.

There is one caveat: you might find that her poems in their original form are in a style of Japanese that is sometimes different from the modern language. Fortunately, the above link has the poems in modern Japanese.

As I usually do, I have a few recommendations for you to read. I’ve posted the poems below with a brief vocabulary list:

こだまでしょうか (aka ‘Are You an Echo?’)

Obviously, this has to be the first on this list! The following is a reading of the poem as featured in a commercial from 2010.

「遊ぼう」っていうと
「遊ぼう」っていう。

「馬鹿」っていうと
「馬鹿」っていう。

「もう遊ばない」っていうと
「遊ばない」っていう。

そうして、あとで
さみしくなって、

「ごめんね」っていうと
「ごめんね」っていう。

こだまでしょうか
いいえ、誰でも。

Her most famous poem is typical of her style; expressing important messages in a really simple way. It reaffirms the importance of treating others as we would like to be treated – no wonder it was chosen as a poem to support Japan in the wake of the tsunami disaster. In terms of the language, this poem is pretty easy to understand, even if grammar such as 〜っていう isn’t too familiar (it is another way of quoting something, like 〜という).

Vocab list

  • 遊ぶ/ あそぶ = to play, hang out with
  • 馬鹿/ ばか = idiot, silly
  • さみしい = a misspelling of さびしい, ie. sad
  • 誰/ だれ = who
  • こだま = echo

雲 (Kumo – ‘Cloud’)

私は雲に
なりたいな。

ふわりとふわりと
青空の果から果を
みんなみて、

夜はお月さんと
鬼ごっこ。

それも飽きたら
雨になり
雷さんを
共につれ、
おうちの池へ
とびおりる。

A lot of Kaneko’s poems reference the natural world, usually animals. I guess this would be a good poem for remembering how the water cycle works?

Vocab list

  • ふわり(と) = softly, gently, lightly 
  • 青空/ あおぞら = blue sky
  • 果/ はて = extremity, end, limit
  • お月さん/ おつきさん = the moon
  • 鬼ごっこ/ おにごっこ = children’s game known as ‘tag’ in English
  • 飽きる/ あきる = to get sick, bored of something
  • 雨/ あめ = rain
  • 雷/ かみなり = lightning 
  • 供/ とも = companion
  • つれる = to take someone with you, to go along with, to be accompanied by
  • (お)うち = home
  • 池 いけ = pond
  • とびおりる = to jump down, to jump off

私と小鳥と鈴と (Watashi to kotori to suzu to – ‘Me, the little Bird and the Bell’)

私が両手を広げても、
お空はちっとも飛べないが、
飛べる小鳥は私のように、
地面を速くは走れない。

私がからだをゆすっても、
きれいな音は出ないけど、
あのなる鈴は私のように
たくさんな唄は知らないよ。

鈴と、小鳥と、それから私、
みんながちがって、みんないい。

This is another of my personal favourites. The poem very simply illustrates how we all have our own strengths, particularly the last line. 

Vocab list

  • 両手/ りょうて = both hands
  • 広げる/ ひろげる = to spread, expand, broaden
  • 飛ぶ/ とぶ = to fly
  • 小鳥 / ことり = little bird, small bird
  • 地面/ じめん = ground, earth’s surface
  • 速い/ はやい = fast, quick
  • 走る/ はしる = to run
  • ゆする = to shake, jolt, swing
  • 音/ おと = sound
  • 鈴/ すず = bell
  • 唄/ うた = song (another form of 歌)
  • 知る/ しる = to know 

A bilingual book of Kaneko’s works was published in 2016, which has some beautiful illustrations to go with it. It is also available in ebook format on Kindle. I’m glad that poets like Misuzu have had their works gain popularity a long time after they were written. 

Who is your favourite poet? Let me know in the comments!

*PS. You might be wondering (as I did) what theゞ symbol means. It turns out that ゞ is just a symbol used to repeat the previous syllable. As the dakuten is also used to change the sound, we know that the name should be read as misuzu rather than misusu.

Easy Japanese Manga Recommendation: Assassination Classroom/ Ansatsu Kyoushitsu

Today’s easy manga recommendation for Japanese learners is Assassination Classroom/ Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (暗殺教室), a manga series created by Yusei Matsui.

Quick Facts

Author: Yusei Matsui (松井優征)

Genre: Comedy, sci-fi

No. of volumes: 21

Recommended for: JLPT N3/ intermediate

Furigana: Yes

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime and live-action film adaptations

Plot Overview

Class 3E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School is a group of misfits who have been given a rather important task. They must kill their teacher, who has already destroyed part of the moon, in order to save Earth. Unfortunately, this is no ordinary teacher; he is actually an octopus-like monster who can move at super speed and regenerate his body parts. Worst of all, he is actually a good teacher who helps them with all sorts of life lessons. He is given the nickname Korosensei (a play on the Japanese: Korosensei is a contraction of 殺せない先生/ korosenai sensei = unkillable teacher). Will the class be able to kill Korosensei and stop the world from being destroyed?

Why do I recommend the manga?

The premise might be off-putting to some, but after I started to read I felt like the manga was more about the pupils’ growth more than anything. Class 3E are the underdogs; they have the worst grades in the year and are widely expected to not achieve much in their lives. This task, however, begins to give them more confidence, even though regularly fail.

The class contains a variety of characters and from the outset are pretty creative in their attempts to kill their teacher. Korosensei is interesting too; rather than the menacing villain you might expect, he actively helps his students improve themselves both in and out of the classroom. It’s a lot of fun to read and has plenty of comic moments.

Recommended Japanese language level

In terms of language, I think that this manga is suitable for someone around JLPT N3 or intermediate level (JLPT N4 learners should certainly be able to follow quite a lot of the plot). As there is a high school setting, it helps to be familiar with casual forms of Japanese. However, there isn’t as much of this as you might expect, which makes it a bit more accessible compared to other manga in the genre.

Not only that, there aren’t many lots of long sentences to read which makes it easier to understand even when there is a lot of action happening. Furthermore, as with other Shonen Jump manga, this has furigana to help you look up words faster.

You can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website by clicking the ‘無料立ち読み’ button.

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments. I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

Happy Reading!

PS. There is an anime and live-action film adaptation of the manga.

Tadoku Tuesdays (5) What I’m reading in May 2019

Tadoku Tuesdays are back! As I did in the last post (which was something like 8 months ago!), I am going to write about a couple of books I have been reading, as well as any new additions to my book collection.

The Novel I’m Reading: 君の膵臓を食べたい/ I Want to Eat Your Pancreas by 住野よる/ Yoru Sumino

I’ve heard a lot about this novel, not least because of its unusual title. I bought the book last year but I only started reading it about a month ago.

The main character (who I only know as boku) finds out that his classmate Sakura is suffering from a terminal pancreatic disease. This secret brings together two characters who are very different; whereas Sakura is sociable and cheerful, the boy prefers solitude. As they spend more time together the boy learns Sakura’s approach to life brings its own rewards.

I am only about a quarter of the way through the book, but unfortunately I haven’t been captivated by it just yet. I want to like this novel more but the idea that boku is an anti-social high school boy feels like a very familiar trope. I will finish the novel as I want to see if the story develops into something a bit more interesting.

The book has been pretty straightforward to read so far, especially as there has been lot of dialogue between the two main characters. Based on what I have seen, it seems pretty accessible for JLPT N3 learners.

There are also manga, live action film and anime film adaptations of the novel which I would like to watch when I have finished with the novel. The anime film seems to have a lot of positive reviews so I will probably watch this first.

The Novel I Recently Finished: 三毛猫ホームズのクリスマス by 赤川次郎/ Jiro Akagawa

This is a collection of short stories by famous author Jiro Akagawa. Every so often I find myself wanting to read a mystery, but I am not always interested in tackling a whole novel (especially if I am focused on reading another novel). Jiro Akagawa has written a huge amount of books, with the Calico Holmes series being the biggest and most well known. I happened to buy the book before Christmas and chose this one based on the title (only the last story is related to Christmas though).

Despite the title, we read the story from Yoshitaro Katayama’s perspective. Yoshitaro Katayama is a detective who probably isn’t a natural fit for the job – he isn’t good with dead bodies or talking to women.

Together with his sister Harumi, they often find themselves involved in some strange situations which call upon their investigative skills. Whenever the Katayama siblings are stuck, their cat Holmes usually helps point them in the right direction. There are also a few other returning side characters who also provide support as well as comic relief.

I enjoyed the variety of stories and the relationship between the Katayama siblings. Yoshitaro and Harumi often make up for each others’ shortcomings, even if they do bicker a lot. I was surprised that Holmes wasn’t really the main character but I think his role in the stories works really well. From a language perspective, the writing style is easy to follow too. I’d recommend this for JLPT N3 level learners who like mystery stories that aren’t too demanding.

I found out this week that there is a live action drama adaptation which I am interested in watching, although reviews seem to be mixed.

Books added to my To Be Read pile:

Again I am staying focused on my goal of buying fewer books, but I did pick up one eBook a couple of months ago as it was on sale – ペンギン・ハイウェイ/ Penguin Highway by 森見登美彦/ Tomohiko Morimi.

This novel was released back in 2010, however a manga and film adaptation was released last year. I know that the novel is about a boy who wants to find out why penguins have suddenly started appearing in his town. Since the main story is about a young boy, the language used seems to be pretty simple with short sentences.

I’m looking forward to reading it as it seems like an odd but charming story. I’ll probably follow it up by watching the anime film adaptation at some point too.

So that’s it for today’s post – you can take a look at these books on the ebookJapan website and read the previews (look out for the “試し読み” button) if you are interested in checking them out.

What are you reading at the moment (in Japanese or otherwise)? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Easy Japanese Manga Recommendation: Silver Spoon/ Gin no Saji

Today’s easy manga recommendation for Japanese learners is Silver Spoon/ Gin no Saji (銀の匙), a manga series created by Hiromu Arakawa.

Quick Facts

Author: Hiromu Arakawa (荒川弘)

Genre: Comedy, slice of life

No. of volumes: 14

Recommended for: JLPT N3/ intermediate

Furigana: Yes

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime and live-action film adaptations

Plot Overview

Yuugo Hachiken is a boy used to city life in Sapporo, Hokkaido. After failing to get the required grades for high school, he enrolls at a school called Oezo Agricultural High School.  

At first, Hachiken immediately stands out from his classmates as he doesn’t have any real desire to work within agriculture. Not having farming experience, the early mornings and plentiful homework come as surprise to him.

As Hachiken gets used to life at the school, he learns about the realities of working in agriculture. His classmates become a welcome source of support and through this he realises the importance of strong friendships.

Why do I recommend the manga?

Hiromu Arakawa is probably best known for her manga Fullmetal Alchemist. After completing Fullmetal Alchemist she intended to challenge herself with a different type of story. Silver Spoon is partially based on her own experiences growing up on a dairy farm in Hokkaido.

I think the manga does a great job at being entertaining whilst introducing information on a topic that is not known by most people. Since Hachiken knows nothing about farming, we learn about a variety of things as he does. This is helped by the easy to understand explanations – perfect for tricky pieces of vocabulary!

Some scenes are hilarious to read and they blend in seamlessly with the informative and heartwarming parts of the manga. Silver Spoon is very much a coming of age story. Fortunately Hachiken is a very likeable lead character, always going to great lengths to help out his classmates. You can’t help but root for him as he adapts to his new way of life and how he grows as a person because of it.

I am a little biased towards Hokkaido but it was nice to see a bit of Hokkaido dialect in the manga (eg. the ~べさ ending). Fun fact – the name of the school is also a reference to Hokkaido. The word (Y)ezo (蝦夷) is a Japanese word which was the previous name for Hokkaido and refers to the islands north of Honshu.

Recommended Japanese language level

I would probably recommend this to someone about JLPT N3 or intermediate level. As there is a high school setting, it helps to be familiar with casual forms of Japanese. For example:

マジっか = まじ (です) か? You serious?

There is some specialist farming vocabulary (although a lot of it gets explained). Fortunately, there is furigana so looking up words is a breeze. As mentioned earlier there is some Hokkaido dialect but this is pretty easy to understand as Hokkaido-ben is pretty similar to standard Japanese.

You can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website by clicking the blue ‘無料立ち読み’ button.

The Silver Spoon anime is available to stream at places like Crunchyroll. There was a live action film released in 2014 – the Japanese trailer is below:

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments. I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

Happy Reading!


Easy Manga Recommendation: Tsuredure Children

Today’s easy manga recommendation for Japanese learners is Tsuredure Children/ Tsuredure Chirudoren (徒然チルドレン), created by Toshiya Wakabayashi. This is a very funny but heartwarming manga which those who are upper beginners and above should be able to enjoy!

Manga Quick Facts

Author: Toshiya Wakabayashi (若林稔弥)

Genre: Romantic comedy, slice of life

No. of volumes: 12

Recommended for: JLPT N4

Furigana: Yes

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, an anime

Picture Source: ebookJapan website

Plot Overview

This 4-panel manga is a series of short stories involving different students at a high school. The stories are usually to do with romance, mostly relating to awkward confessions of love and first dates. They often remind you of how hard it can be to show your feelings for someone as a teenager. Some stories follow the same characters and are loosely connected to each other.

Tsuredure Children started as a webcomic when it started in 2012, which was then serialised in Shonen Jump magazine.

Why do I recommend the manga?

The premise is really simple, but the manga is genuinely amusing and accurately portrays all of the awkwardness and excitement of high school romance. The cast of characters come across as a bit wacky but ultimately charming and relatable for the most part. You really do come to root for a happy ending when reading these stories! I think that the 4-panel manga format is effective in telling these stories – they are just the right length for them to be entertaining and engaging.

Recommended Japanese language level

Thanks to the straightforward plot, this manga is very easy to follow. There is furigana for all kanji and speech tends to be short and not too grammatically complex. On the other hand, the characters are in high school and speak casually.

On this basis, I consider this manga to be appropriate for JLPT N4 or upper beginner level and above.

As always, you can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website to get a feel for its difficulty by clicking the white ‘無料立ち読み’ button.

The webcomic is actually available online to read for free on the official website – the only difference is that this version does not include furigana.

There is an anime adaptation of this manga which is available on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

If you do try reading any of my recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments. I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

I’ve written a few different posts on easy manga to read (check out the posts under the manga category). If you do like this recommendation, you might also like:

Happy Reading!

Tadoku Tuesdays (4) What I’m Reading (in Japanese) in Sept 2018

As I did in the last Tadoku Tuesday post, I am going to write about two books I have read recently or am reading. I’ll also include any new additions to my book collection. Both of the novels I focus on here happen to be by two famous contemporary Japanese authors, Banana Yoshimoto and Kotaro Isaka.

The Novel I’m Reading: 「アムリタ」 Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto

It’s a little bit difficult to give an overview of the plot for this novel, but I have tried my best!

Sakumi is dealing with two major events in her life; memory loss caused by an accident as well as the death of her younger sister Mayu. Prior to the accident Sakumi had been making ends meet with a part time job, but then realises that she wants to pursue a career in writing. Her little half-brother Yoshio then develops telepathic abilities. As her memories begin to resurface little by little, she begins to come to terms with the circumstances of her sister’s death and gains the courage to work towards what she truly desires in life.

My thoughts

I’ve previously written about another of Yoshimoto’s novels before, which had not been translated into English. This time I thought I would try reading one of her more famous novels, which on the whole has been well received.

I wouldn’t say that the plot is particularly enthralling, although there are some interesting characters which help keep the narrative engaging. There are lots of dream like passages, which give the novel a mystic feel and are vividly depicted. Despite this, Sakumi as a narrator feels very grounded and relatable, even though situation she finds herself in is not.

This is a fairly long novel that has been split into two parts. I have finished the first half of the book and enjoying it so far, but knowing that there is another 200+ pages to read I do wonder what developments are going to occur which will keep me interested.

Language level

If I had to estimate the book’s difficulty in terms of language I would probably put it at JLPT N2 level. Banana Yoshimoto’s writing style is on the whole quite straightforward, although at times there can be long rambling sentences that might take a bit of careful reading.

The Novel I Recently Finished: 「神様の制度」 Kamisama no Seido by Kotaro Isaka

This novel is actually a compilation of several short stories, which all involve the same narrator. Our narrator is only known as Chiba and works as a agent of death (a Grim Reaper of sorts). As an agent of death, his task is to spend time with the person he is assigned to, and decide within seven days if that person should die.

My thoughts

This is the first novel I have read by Kotaro Isaka, and I really enjoyed it. Like Amrita, this novel also looks at the themes of life and death. Having said that, the tone of this novel is completely different. Isaka has written stories spanning many genres, and elements of this come into play in the novel. He somehow manages to infuse the variety of short stories with suspense and comedic moments in a very satisfying way.

Being a death god, there are a lot of ‘fish out of water’ moments where he is trying to understand human feelings and motivations. This provided a lot of humour that I was not expecting. There is a wide variety of characters presented in the stories and through the narrator’s eyes, we get to learn a lot about the people he is assigned to. I found it very easy to get engrossed in each of the stories.

Language level

In terms of language level I’d probably recommend this for JLPT N3 level learners. I think this would make an ideal choice for someone looking to read their first novel in Japanese!

I find Isaka’s writing style easy to follow; he tends to write in shorter sentences that still manage to convey a lot of information. Being a series of short stories, it is much easier to digest than attempting to read a longer novel in one go.

There is a sequel called 神様の浮力 “The Buoyancy of Death” which was released a few years ago. I would like to read this in the future, although the novel seems to have more mixed reviews from fans of the original.

I will certainly be reading more of his works in the future, although with such a large catalogue to choose from I will struggle to decide what to read next!

Books added to my To Be Read pile:

I am trying my hardest not to amass too many books (because then it gets even harder to decide what to read next!) and have only added one book to my collection recently:

「舟を編む」 Fune wo Amu / The Great Passage by Shion Miura

Mitsuya Majime is an introverted man with a passion for reading. He takes the opportunity to transfer from the sales division to the dictionary department, where he is under the guidance of the highly regarded editor Kohei Araki. Araki’s team is undertaking the task of completing a dictionary called “The Great Passage”. The book follows the team’s pursuit of making the very best Japanese dictionary.

This has been on my wishlist for a long time, so I was super happy to finally buy this book! Given the subject matter, this could be a bit of a tough read in Japanese. Fortunately, I also purchased the ebook version of its English translation (“The Great Passage”) which I can use to help me with any tricky parts. I haven’t yet decided whether to try and read both versions in parallel or not.

There’s also an anime adaptation and a live action film, so I think starting with one of these two to give me a grounding in the plot and characters will make reading the novel a little bit easier.

So that’s it for today’s post – you can take a look at アムリタ and 神様の制度 on the Amazon JP website and read the first couple of pages if you are interested in checking them out.

What are you reading at the moment (in Japanese or otherwise)? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Easy Manga Recommendation: Let’s Dance a Waltz

Today’s manga recommendation for Japanese learners is ‘Let’s Dance a Waltz’ / Warutsu no Ojikan (ワルツのお時間), a manga series created by Natsumi Ando.

Quick Facts

Author: Natsumi Ando (安藤なつみ)

Genre: Romance, slice of life

No. of volumes: 3

Recommended for: JLPT N4/ upper beginner

Furigana: Yes

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: No

Plot Overview

Tango Minami is a high school student whose family run a ballroom dance studio. Having danced from a young age, he teaches at the studio to earn pocket money but keeps his connection to the dance studio a secret from his school friends.

One day, a girl turns up looking for a trial lesson. The girl, Hime Makimura, is a shy student who is looking for a way to break out of her shell. Hime falls with love with dancing from the very first lesson, but Tango realises that they are both in the same class at school! Can Tango manage to keep his ballroom dancing a secret, whilst helping Hime to become a better dancer?

Why do I recommend the manga?

First things first, this is in many ways a typical shojo manga – the female protagonist is a shy girl who learns to find confidence in herself, assisted by the charismatic and popular male lead. The plot develops pretty much exactly as you would expect from this genre of manga. Having said that, the ballroom dance aspect helps to keep the narrative feeling fresh.

Hime (meaning ‘princess’) really hates her name as she feels she could never be a princess in anyone’s eyes. Therefore it is heartwarming to see her find a natural talent and passion for ballroom dancing. Whilst this is a ballroom manga, the manga is more focused on the emotional impact dance has for Hime. Tango also grows as a person through his interactions with Hime, which helps him feel like a more rounded character by the end.

At just three volumes, this manga is a short but enjoyable read.

Recommended Japanese language level

I consider this manga to be appropriate for JLPT N4 or upper beginner level and above. You may be surprised to learn that the vocabulary used in this dance-themed manga is not too difficult. There are a few terms that are specific to dance, and these terms tend to feature a lot of English loanwords. As the main protagonists are high school students, there is a bit of slang used but if you are used to manga slang conventions, this should not pose too much of a problem.

As always, you can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website to get a feel for its difficulty by clicking the blue ‘無料立ち読み’ button.

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments. I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

If you do like this recommendation, you might also like:

Happy Reading!

Tadoku Tuesdays (3): What I’m Reading (in Japanese) in May 2018

tadokutuesdayMay2018

This post is going to be a bit different from previous posts (you can find my previous posts in this series here and here). Normally I write about 2-3 books that I have been reading recently. I really want to narrow down the number of books that I am trying to read at any one time so that I can focus on the books I want to finish. My aim is to read one book at a time, with a manga for the days when I want to read something a bit different.

So going forward, each post will cover is one novel and one manga that I am currently reading, and I will probably also touch upon a couple of books I’ve picked up and will be excited to read in the future.

 

The Novel I’m Reading: 「神様の定食屋」 Kamisama no Teishokuya by Satsuki Nakamura

The main character is 25-year old Tetsushi, who leaves his comfortable office job to help his little sister Shiho run the family restaurant after their parents suddenly die in a car accident. Not having helped out at the restaurant or had any experience with food, he struggles to adapt to this new way of life. One day, he makes a wish at a shrine for help which has an unexpected consequence. After leaving the shrine, he ends up sharing a body with the soul of a recently deceased woman called Tokie.

Tetsushi shares his body with the souls of different people, through which he not only learns about food but also about the importance of life itself. Despite the supernatural theme, there is something very realistic about the main character’s reaction to the situation he finds himself in. As he hadn’t been very involved with the restaurant previously, he quickly develops a greater understanding of his sister, his parents, and how important their little restaurant is to its patrons. There is a lot of time taken to describe some of the dishes served at the restaurant; the dishes themselves play in nicely with the theme of how food can bring people together.

This is a book that I bought on a bit of a whim from Bookwalker a couple of months ago and started to read fairly recently. I like how the themes of food and family are woven together, and the souls that Tetsushi meets are nicely fleshed out characters with interesting stories of their own. I am excited to see how this book ends!

If I had to estimate the book’s difficulty I would probably put it at JLPT N2 level, as the vocabulary used can be quite tricky and more literary in tone than most stuff I read.

 

The Manga I’m Reading: 「のだめカンタービレ」 Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya

Megumi Noda (nicknamed Nodame) is a talented although eccentric pianist. She crosses paths and instantly falls in love with Shinichi Chiaki, the top student at the music college she attends. Shinichi finds it hard to appreciate Nodame’s sloppy approach to music playing at first, due to his perfectionist tendencies. They both have their own musical challenges to face, but ultimately have a positive influence upon each other as time passes.

I saw the drama adaptation of this manga some time ago; in fact, it was probably one of the first Jdramas I watched (it is available to watch on Crunchyroll if you are interested). I absolutely loved the drama version and now that I am reading the manga, I can tell that the adaptation has been pretty faithful to the source material.

The main characters Nodame and Chiaki are great together and it is interesting to see how their relationship develops. I am not particularly musically minded, but I still love the musical setting of the manga and how music is used to bring people together.

In terms of language level, I’d probably put this at JLPT N3 – musical terms aside, the vocabulary isn’t too tricky, but the lack of furigana increases the difficulty a little bit. I believe that there are bilingual versions of the first few volumes available.

You can read a sample of the manga here.

 

Books in my To Be Read pile:

There are two physical books that I have purchased recently:

  • 「ホームレス中学生」 Hoomuresu Chuugakusei by Hiroshi Tamura

I’ve wanted to read this book for a very long time, so I was really excited to find this book on eBay a few weeks ago. I know that this novel is based on a true story, where the author (now a famous comedian) recalls his experience of finding himself homeless as a young teenager. The book was very popular when it was first released in 2007, and there were a drama and film adaptations made soon after.

  • 「ステップファザー・ステップ」 Steppu Fazaa Steppu by Miyuki Miyabe

I’ve only recently ordered this book and it hasn’t arrived yet, so I can’t really comment in much depth on this one. I’ve never read anything by Miyuki Miyabe before (and she has such a huge body of work!) so I will be excited to read it when I finish my other books.

As convenient as it is to buy ebooks, it is nice to sit down with an actual book when I get the time, so I am very much looking forward to reading them!

 

So that’s it for today’s post! What are you reading at the moment (in Japanese or otherwise)? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Manga Recommendation: Oremonogatari

There’s been a bit of a delay getting my latest blog post out, apologies.

Today’s manga recommendation for Japanese learners is My Love Story!!/ Oremonogatari!! (俺物語!!), a manga series created by Kazune Kawahara. This is a nice comedy/ slice of life manga that I think is pretty simple to follow, even for upper beginners.

Quick Facts

 

Author: Kazune Kawahara (河原和音) and Aruko (アルコ)

Genre: Romance, comedy, slice of life

No. of volumes: 13

Recommended for: JLPT N4/ upper beginner

Furigana: Yes

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, anime and live-action film adaptations

 

Source: ebookJapan website

 

Plot Overview

This manga is about a high school student named Takeo Goda. Takeo is very tall and muscular which can make him look intimidating, but he has a very kind and caring personality. Whilst his athletic prowess earns him the respect of his male classmates, he is used to his best friend Makoto Sunakawa getting all of the female attention. One day, Takeo crosses paths with Rinko Yamato who actually appears to be interested in him. Is this a chance for Takeo to have a love story of his own?

 

Why do I recommend the manga?

This manga has the right mix of funny and heartwarming to keep you reading. Takeo as the main character is so charming and likable that you find yourself rooting for him from the very beginning, despite his obvious lack of common sense. The manga goes straight for the type of humour you would expect from a character like Takeo, although it always feels good-natured.

His best friend Makoto acts as a nice counterbalance to Takeo’s headstrong personality, helping to keep him grounded. I like how the manga sidesteps the all-too-common love triangle; Makoto very much encourages the budding relationship between Takeo and Rinko.

Similarly, there are a variety of other supporting characters who are mostly there to support the romance in one way or another. As a result, the story can seem a bit formulaic in parts, but the way the characters are written helps to keep things engaging.

 

Recommended Japanese language level

I consider this manga to be appropriate for JLPT N4 or upper beginner level and above. Most of the dialogue is short, and aside from the way Takeo himself talks, there isn’t too much slang to deal with.

In addition, being a slice of life manga, there isn’t any specialist vocabulary to contend with. Together with the presence of furigana, I think this is a great manga to try and read in Japanese if you are looking to read manga in Japanese for the first time. It also helps that the manga volumes aren’t too long, and I find that once I start reading I can get through the volumes pretty quickly.

As always, you can read a sample of this manga on the EbookJapan website to get a feel for its difficulty by clicking the blue ‘無料立ち読み’ button.

There is an anime adaptation of this manga which is available on Crunchyroll. The live-action film adaptation was released in 2015 and you can find the trailer for it here.

 

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments. I am always on the hunt for beginner friendly manga, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

If you do like this recommendation, you might also like:

Happy Reading!

Manga Recommendation: ダーリンは外国人 / My Darling is a Foreigner

Today’s manga recommendation post for Japanese learners actually contains pictures from one of the physical volumes of the manga (thanks to eBay!). I normally buy my manga digitally but do own some physical volumes, which I might cover in another post someday.

Quick facts

Author: Saori Oguri

Genre: Slice of life

No. of volumes: 6

Recommended for: JLPT N3

Furigana: Yes (mostly)

Anime/ drama/ film adaptations?: Yes, a live action film.

Note: There is also a volume of the manga in English

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Plot overview and my thoughts on the manga

This manga is about the author (who is a manga artist) and her husband, Tony. Tony is an American who came to Japan in the 1980s and is a bit of a language geek. The manga centers on their daily life and relationship, usually from Saori’s perspective. In some ways, Saori and Tony are very different to each other, and not just because of the language difference. Later volumes of the manga focus on how the couple adapts to having a baby and moving to Germany.

I was initially a bit apprehensive about reading this manga, as I thought that perhaps the manga would fall into the common trope of ‘a foreigner struggling to adapt to or understand Japanese culture’. However this is not the case – there is no dumbing down to explain things to Tony as he is fluent in the language (the target audience is Japanese after all). The general tone of the manga is lighthearted and whilst it does mention their cultural differences, it is never done in a way which implies a certain way of thinking is more superior than the other.

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As you will see from the photos, the art style is not typical of most popular manga. I think that this only adds to the charm of the manga. Both Saori and Tony as central characters are interesting to read about, as they have their own quirks and it is their interactions which make normal situations quite humorous. The manga reminds me of the Korean webtoon “Penguin loves Mev” which is also about the daily life of a Korean/British international couple.

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Language level

In terms of language level, I would put this at JLPT N3. There’s quite a lot of slang as it is mostly dialogue – having said that, the language used is usually everyday level. Whilst there is furigana, the manga has a mix of printed Japanese and handwritten Japanese (the handwritten Japanese parts usually reflect Saori’s thoughts as opposed to what she says out loud). The handwritten parts do not come with furigana and therefore may be trickier to understand.

There is also a live-action film starring Mao Inoue as Saori. I’m not really a fan of the film, having watched it sometime before I actually read the manga it was based on – I didn’t feel like the film was able to convey the couple’s personalities enough. You should be able to find the film on YouTube if you do wish to check it out.

As always, you can read a sample of the manga on the EbookJapan website.

Happy Reading!

If you do try reading any of the recommendations, please let me know how you get on the comments.

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