While everyone in the anime blogosphere is busy arguing about subs-srs-bsns and rawwatching=imawesomekneelbeforezod, Iâ€™m here kinda reflecting about how I myself am continually losing my proficiency because I donâ€™t have anymore real-world outlets to refresh or retrain myself. Oh, and I decided to skip the JLPT3 this year because of personal scheduling conflicts. Itâ€™s true for me (at least) that anime or any other Japanese visual culturing alone cannot make me brush up on my Nihongo. There really has to be some sort of two-way conversation.
Video, audio and text can only give me â€œhalfâ€ a conversation. It improves my listening skills, trying to pick up every word and process them on the fly to hopefully make a coherent understanding of whatever has been written or said to me. But the other â€œhalfâ€ of it is primarily answering back. Me, talking or writing. Itâ€™s definitely HARDER. So there I was back in mid-2006, on the way to Japan. I really expect this to happen to me. I know fully well that no matter how many hours I expose my eyes and ears with kanji madness and moe~ seiyuu speaking, the real way to learn the language is doing it MYSELF. No more fiction, I have to apply it in real life.
So indeed, my early months were a nightmare. I was trying to speak with the Japanese folk in my workplace, but I was frequently corrected by them in terms of speaking the right words, the formality, timing, diction, etc. Iâ€™m thankful they were patient enough, but I still donâ€™t wanna trouble them too much, so I decided to sign in the slightly formal Nihongo schooling a friend recommended. Every weekend I go by train to somewhere in Meguro, attending lessons. I had initially requested to skip the very basic lessons because I already know something. But because admittedly I only am capable in the hearing part, I had to cram to keep up with the kana and some basic kanji. It was fun because not only can I practice conversation with a teacher, but also with my fellow students. My classmates were of different nationalities, so thereâ€™s definitely no (English) cheating in conversations, I really have to think and speak in Japanese because this is the only common among us. And itâ€™s a small group of students per class so it is easy for the teacher to nitpick about our strengths and weaknesses. I attended those sessions for two seasons (26 weeks), and from there life in Japan was a bit easier.
I was in Japan for about a year, and finally I went back home to the Philippines in mid-2007. With those lessons (and Japan-life in itself) as a foundation, I passed JLPT4. Now I have a certificate to brag right? Well wrong. It doesnâ€™t end there of course. I continually have to find outlets to maintain the skill that I had. Unfortunately, I have no Japanese friends, and I canâ€™t continue schooling because I am busy. I was able to take lessons in Japan, well because, heck, what â€œelseâ€ am I supposed to do there? Aside from work, there is nothing over there. I just canâ€™t hop the densha to be an otaku in Akihabara every weekend, nor do I have the finances to hop the train to be a tourist elsewhere. Back home, weekends can be a million other things because I have more friends to be with, transportation is cheaper, and what the hell, itâ€™s MY COUNTRY and I know it! Another bummer is that there is little chance that I would be able to go back to Japan by my employment. My resignation is more probable than that.
So without an outlet of â€œrealâ€ studying, I had to relegate myself to consuming anime and related stuff. This is where I discovered how it goes down like the economy. The first casualty was about the To Heart 2 ~Another Days~ game. I was supposed to play it and post summaries like before but the extreme complexity of the dialogue astounded me. On that note though, kudos to Leaf. I was able to finish Circusâ€™ Da Capo II without much fuss, and Iâ€™m going through Keyâ€™s Little Busters without problems today. But TH2AD was nightmarish, it has more complex sentences and words. Good writers, Leaf has.
The second thing I discovered was I am watching more subs than raws. I could argue that my anime watching has undergone a bit of a diet, but I was a bit overwhelmed by some anime series, namely Strike Witches, Lucky Star OVA, and Special A. Okay, thereâ€™s military-speak in SW, otaku-speak in LS, and odd shoujo-speak in SA, so it was a bit off of real Japanese conversation material, but for these shows I was willing to wait for the subs. I was fine though in Shugo Chara, Naisho no Tsubomi OVA and Itazura na Kiss, among others, but they feature simpler conversations.
Thirdly, I got tired watching jdorama. I donâ€™t have much interest in those anymore, especially since I am not frequently exposed to Japanese TV anymore unlike when I was in Japan. Back in Japan I â€œalwaysâ€ have the TV on, and so I absorb things like the quirky variety shows, random owarai, dramas, movies, showbiz gossip, etc. How I miss the gossip part lolz, especially when the trend is that many idol girl celebrities have owarai comedy actors as boyfriends. I noticed more of those than having a jpop or regular actor boyfriend. Cute girls go more for the funny not-so-handsome man eh? (self: chansu?) Similarly, my jpop music consumption has been lowered, with Animax-Asia not showing Music Station lately. Have they canned that already?
The active and passive form of my Japanese training fails me, so today Iâ€™m witnessing my return to innocence, and at this point, Iâ€™m still not sure what kind of solution Iâ€™ll take. Wellâ€¦ maybe I can relate this to the recent US Election perhaps? Suppose my time in Japan was the Clinton era, and after that, my Japanese skills going downhill is the Bush era, perhaps this is the time for â€œchangeâ€? Maybe a different kind of outlook, a higher purpose and a greater sense of responsibility.
Self-reflection: So why was I learning Japanese in the first place?
Yup, it was the animu. I was too engrossed in Japanese entertainment in general, that I want to understand more, consume more, and enjoy more of those things. As I grow up, and my real-life responsibilities increase, I had to sacrifice some time away from my hobbies, resulting in some lack of interest in the entertainment. You can also notice that in my sparse blogging. And so that kind of answer, â€œall because of the animuâ€, doesnâ€™t apply anymore. So the solution is changeâ€¦ a change in the answer to that question of self-reflection. Do I still have a reason for learning it? For nowâ€¦ Iâ€™m not sure yet. Who knows, maybe Iâ€™ll have a Japanese girlfriend, or another job going to Japan, or taking interest in other aspects of the culture aside from animu. Whatever reason it may be, itâ€™s not there yet. Just like Obama, all I have for now is â€œhopeâ€, that I can revive my interest in learning the language through another reason.
I am looking through my own blog archives now and then, and reading them as well. I have quite a case of amnesia when it comes to old anime series after all. Interestingly enough, I had touched upon a few anime/manga series that I have actually forgotten or dropped. So I went on a little trip down memory lane and see what’s up with those old stuff.
Well good riddance, I’ve started playing the game again. I heard there’s the new Da Crapo II Second Season anime, so I should pick up my slack.
On another note though, I think my likehood towards these games is slowly fading for some reason. I don’t think it’s because of my busy real-life schedule, and I recently got my copy of Another Days too. Is this bishoujo game/eroge/galge industry in some sort of recession? I don’t find any new game particularly exciting. I don’t see many posts about them in english anime blogs either. Somehow there’s doesn’t seem to be much energy in the game genre at all, and I would wonder why. Please read on for my random thoughts.
… just waiting for another day…
It’s been half a year since I came back to my homeland after the one-year stint in Japan, and I can say that I lost the memories too easily. I guess there is really no place like home, but still there are some things to think about. Like, was the whole year exposure to Japan worth it? Did I fulfill all my wants, needs, and err fetishes? Also, would I want to go back? These are some of the things that bug me everyday ever since.
I’m still working in the same company that brought me there, and so there is still a minimal need to speak and understand basic Japanese. I also tried the JLPT Level 4 (results pending) to see if Konata-style test cramming and general anime viewing works in a language test. Despite that, the best language learning style aside from formal education is really by experience. You have to be in Japanese areas and talking to Japanese people. I can say that I lost some of my knowledge indeed. Today I tend to get fansubbed stuff more than raws, and even if I watch the raws, I would still watch the subbed ones to confirm minute details. On one hand, I could say that I’m getting more meticulous in learning the spoken language by repeating what I have heard, but on the other hand, I was frustrated to discover that even I am struggling to understand dialogue on simple-dialogue shows like Clannad. What more if I go into complex-dialogued anime? Even worse is my ability to read kana and the few kanji I know. I feel so much ‘slower’ today in comparison. I remember every night I turn the TV on and tune to primetime Japanese shows. They have LOADS of text on-screen. It was fun to try to read those quick text, especially when my forte was in hiragana (simple Japanese alphabet) rather than katakana (alphabet for foreign-borrowed words) which is an unusual case for most people I know. Well I read less of them of course, but imagine the pain of inching my way through untranslated Shugo Chara manga. A minute for two pages is a very very turtles pace. Never mind the kanji. JLPT required me to memorize 100 of them. After the test… I basically forgot them all. Give me a pat in the back if I pass it ok?
Life in Japan is certainly hard, but if you have high ambitions to embrace its culture, I think you’ll do fine. Well, at the very least do it in moderation, especially if you are into anime and stuff like that. Remember, despite the Densha Otoko boom and the mainstream popularity of anime and manga elsewhere in the world, any otaku-ish tendency is really frowned upon among the majority of Japanese. On the positive side, being in Japan, you would discover things that are possibly way more interesting than your lolis and animu. Come on, you are in another country! See the sights, go to nice places, meet interesting people. There’s so many stuff to do over there, and even I haven’t broken out of the Kantou or Kanagawa regions yet. It’s so easy to go places, most anything is just a train ride away. If you’re out to live in Japan doing the hikki, otaku or any similar way you’re clearly wasting your time, and life. If that’s really your drift though, let me tell you that Japanese are more likely to ignore a gaijin anyway, so mind your own business as they really are minding their own too. It’s an interesting culture that embraces social interaction and politeness yet at the end of the day they basically don’t care about people who are strangers to them. It is an extreme reverse of our own “bayanihan” (good samaritan-like) culture in my country, and is an interesting thing to notice.
Whenever I ride a train in Japan I have practically no one to talk to. It’s not just the language barrier that hinders me, but of course even a Japanese won’t talk to a stranger Japanese unless weird situations happen. Here in the Philippines though, everyday commute is a busy and social experience, from the random cab driver talking crap about politics to you while listening to the radio, to fellow commuters who always seem to ask questions to other commuters when they don’t know where to go. After a year of gloomy air outside my workplace it feels rather refreshing to interact with a lot of people when I came back home. Of course, maybe my faint tunnel-visioned view on social Japan is too uninformed, but the experience was really different for me.
Well, weird situations do happen though. One time I was commuting in a train at night when one ‘very drunk’ middle-aged man… well… started to pu*e inside the freaking train! If it continues on it would be a smelly mess inside the cramped and crowded room. Thankfully some old-aged grandma helped the guy while a teenage girl gave her paper bag to do the thing. I understood their conversation a bit, and even though it wasn’t their stop the grandma escorted the man outside the train when it stopped at the next station. Why is this rare? I’ve seen other drunk people having a hard time holding it in, and other bystanders merely just give them space… yep, they run away. Even if they have plastic or paper bags. Even me. I ran away. I wouldn’t, and other people wouldn’t, if we were in the same situation but in a different country. I can gladly say this is one example when losing a Japanese quirk can be a positive thing. Who would want to be anti-social? Sometimes I wonder why they look down on their own lowlifes or otakus when in hindsight they are essentially the same anti-social being on certain situations. Again, this is a very tunnel-visioned opinion based on experiences and it doesn’t necessarily show the whole picture to me, so if I’m wrong about social Japan, sorry, and please correct me.
Sometimes being a gaijin in foreign land can have some advantages. Since we are more clueless than their own clueless people they can be more courteous sometimes. Sometimes I ask directions from the police, and they were so polite trying to hard to understand my broken Japanese speech. Sales persons are so attentive whenever I browse their products and ask questions. Ok, maybe it is not biased at all towards foreigners, service folk in Japan may be really good, but that’s where the difference lies. I miss that kind of service. Here in my country, sales persons are so lame. sometimes they can’t even sell their products right. There is a very notorious local tech shop here where the salesladies don’t even know the products they are selling. It’s horrible service… even if some of them are cute (lol). Also, some police here are control freaks, and their arrogance gets to be mile-high. You can’t rely on them too much on mere asking of directions (that’s why we do it on our own common folk). I certainly like the way sellers take my money away due to impulse buying because they really know how to market their stuff. Having a reliable policeman around would be very helpful too, which adds to the general peacefulness of Japan.
Ahh, peace and quiet. While socializing is okay, there can be times when you want to isolate and refresh yourself. Japan’s the perfect place for that. Even in noisy cities, there is an air of peace and prosperity such that you feel like nothing ever goes wrong. While there are rare crimes like any other country, Japan is very, very, very peaceful. I could go most anywhere without fear of robbers or stuff like that. Again, this might be tunnel-visioning, because I don’t go to every street corner on the map. Anime and drama may depict yakuza or biker gangs or violent youths, but I don’t see those often. In any case, when compared to my country the difference would be very vast. When you come down to it, this is a dangerous country, and I always have a sense of paranoia. I have ipods and cellphones which are thief magnets, so I hide them from plain view often. And I have my share of near misses coming from other people around me getting robbed and such. Again, it would depend on the viewpoint. A foreigner coming to our country may regard it as fairly safe in the same way I regard Japan as perfectly safe… mostly because we are going only to popular and usual places.
Finally, there’s the animu. Admittedly, because of the busy life I lead over there in Japan, rarely do I give my fandom some refreshments, aside from the almost weekly Akiba trip. I rarely watch anime, and tune in to TV shows like some mainstream prick. I didn’t buy a lot of Akiba goods, and some of those I even sold to other people by now. Basically, I didn’t go all-anime frantic. Back at home though, I have lots more free time, and started to eat anime like crazy. I’m actually lagging in blogging anime reviews because I finished a lot of them lately. If I may so summarize some of them in one word:
Lucky Star: Fansservice.
Gurren Lagann: Epic.
Genshiken 2: Ogiue
To Heart 2 OVA: Ma-ryan!
Nanoha StrikerS: Lolis?
Lovely Complex: Nandeyanen?
Da Capo II: Zzzzz
School Days: Niceboat
Hayate no Gotoku: Spoof-fest
Shugo Chara: Unlock!
Myself, Yourself: Backlogged
You’re Under Arrest: Nostalgia
Winter Anime: LAAAME
While I am lacking in the Japanese gaming area (bishoujo blood not boiling yet), the past few months have been relatively fine. Consider the fact that I was so into gaming last year (it was an awesome year for PC games), having equally enjoyable anime time has been wonderful.
And so we go to today, having lost a bit of Japanese within me, and yet gaining memories of those times, some wonderful, some sad. Would I want to go back? ABSOLUTELY! Why not? It has been a very fruitful year, and a very transitional half-year after that. I hope you got a little glimpse of Japan through my tunnel-vision, and maybe you could share your own experiences too.
Minatsu the tsundere robot. Surprisingly, this episode is quite faithful to her actual canon story. Having recently finished her scenario, I was quite happy so see this annoying brat animated.
Yume’s character design is really dropping. I don’t like her face, she really looks so Nemu now. Otome is oh so out of the loop… and Nanaka is NOWHERE. Is Anzu really relegated to being a side-character? Say it ain’t so!
I think Wataru’s reaction to Yoshiyuki X Koko is a wonderful sign of things to come. I’m eagerly awaiting the now-eventual Wataru-Koko-Yoshiyuki-Nanaka love quadrangle. Very exciting stuff!
YAY for banana jokes? This is the first sign of fanservice in this anime, and as a non-fanservice fan, I hope it will be the last.
Please keep in mind the opening sequence of this anime. WHY the heck is Minatsu the “last” girl in the OP? This is something really fishy. What’s more, she is looking at the sakura tree in the sequence… something which I didn’t even encounter in my playthrough of the game. Don’t they dare cut off the true Otome-Yume-Da Capo stories unless they announce a second season or some other sequel… otherwise this will just be To Heart 2 all over again. And my bold prediction will be for Yume, but that is my Yui Horie bias talking.
But this episode was rather good, except the sappy Koko-Yoshiyuki scenes. Yoshiyuki here is a wuss for not taking their relationship any further. I mean… “holding hands”? they are freaking childhood friends, that’s something rather easy to get over and done with right? It’s a wonderful intro to Minatsu though, considering that she probably has the least fans. She’s not (To Heart) Multi level, but at least tsundere+robot=rare… right?