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Life in Japan
Yonda manga 
7th-Jun-2014 11:02 pm
Today I felt proud because I spent the afternoon reading a manga. So, big deal? Well, because I started it, and finished it, today, and all in Japanese. Normally if I read anything in Japanese it's been quite a long-term project - I've had some manga that I read in bits over several weeks, for instance.

The other good thing was that it was a story I'd never read before, and didn't know, and I could follow it, with some dictionary help. Many of the things I read in Japanese are things I have some prior knowledge of - manga based on anime I saw years ago, translations of children's books books I've read in English, books of 'general knowledge' facts I partly knew already, etc.

You've got to celebrate these small milestones!

For the record, the 'new' manga was the 'Genbu' series of 'Fushigi Yuugi'. The original Fushigi Yuugi was an anime I saw; I've been reading a few of the manga of it and quite enjoying it so I thought I'd attempt the author's newer series. It's interesting that it's set in the same world and has the same basic underlying premise (Japanese girl gets sucked into the world of a book ala 'Neverending Story', has to locate her seven protectors to summon a god and save the land) but a lot of aspects are different.

For example, the main character in the original series was a kind of cheery ditz, always blundering into trouble and needing saving, thinking of her stomach, etc. This new girl (Takiko) is a bit more mature - and a little older - with recent sorrows in her life. She's also much more of a fighter and shows spunk and strength right from the beginning. I like that. Another difference is that one of the protectors Takiko will need to recruit is pretty morally grey and currently in cahoots with the enemy - so her mission of finding the seven is complicated from the beginning.

(One thing I don't really care for is the author's tendency - in fact, most manga artists have this tendency, no matter how young the audience of their books - to get her female characters naked for various dramatic, comedic or ?artistic purposes. Already, twice in this first book. Is it really necessary??)

Back to reading Japanese… I had been plugging along at the study until I felt like I just could not *bear* another BORING practice JLPT N2 text. They are such heavy work; they feel like a slog through one sentence after another with the dictionary. I decided, stuff it, while I will need to do *some* 'serious' reading practice, what I should be doing at this time is actually *enjoying* Japanese and the fact that I've now reached the point where I can *read* some things (though I have to choose my texts carefully; there are plenty that are far too hard).

So, away with those textbooks. After all, I spent hours of slogging through them, reviewing them, re-reading them, etc, all through last year, and did not improve my reading score by even ONE point. So how much did I really improve from them anyway?

It's interesting, though, to read in Japanese. In English, I read masses of books, and as a result, I'm very fast at reading, to the point where I can't *help* reading fast and often unconsciously skim over descriptive passages to get to the 'meat' of the story. My sister thinks this means I'm not fully absorbing and appreciating the books, and she may be right, but I can't seem to force myself to slow down.

In Japanese, however, it's more like I'm a child still learning to read well. I don't effortlessly skim over sentences and paragraphs - I wouldn't know if I was skipping something important or not. I go, word by word, carefully. I make my way through one sentence, and then onto the next. The interesting thing is that I find myself feeling very deeply absorbed as I do so. Assuming I fully understand what I'm reading, I really 'feel' each passage as it sinks into my brain.

So there you go, sister, I have learned how to read something slowly again and to appreciate it!
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