Are you the Yamcha of Studying Japanese?

In the past few years, the unbelievably popular manga/anime Dragon Ball has made a major comeback. A new lengthy (and currently ongoing) series after almost 2 decades of nothing, and as of last week, a 3-chapter parody spin-off manga on the most unlikely of characters.

In Dragon Ball, the main character and hero Goku is the unquestioned “winner.” Then there is Yamcha, who was an important and strong support character in the early days. He eventually lost/died multiple times (it’s a Dragon Ball thing), couldn’t keep up with anyone’s growing strength, and became the joke of the series.


The new parody manga 転生したらヤムチャだった件 (Reincarnated as Yamcha) is the story of a real world Japanese high school student that wakes up one day reincarnated as Yamcha, right near the beginning of the series. As a huge Dragon Ball fan, he knows exactly what will happen.

This got me thinking about studying Japanese and how you’re the hero of your own Japanese studying adventure. But are you a hero like Goku? Or more like Yamcha? Goku is too strong right from the start (think Superman), and he always seems to succeed (even when he loses). This can be hard to relate to. But Yamcha? Who can’t relate to repeated failures?


If you were going to be starting this new adventure, you’d of course want to be Goku the hero, or maybe his bad-ass rival, Vegeta. Not puny Yamcha.


With Japanese studying, you aren’t super human. You don’t get any special bonuses or early boosts. You don’t get to be the main character who is of an alien race that automatically gives him special strength and fighting ability from birth. In other words, you weren’t born in Japan, or raised at a young age learning the language, with the powers of the elastic brain of youth. You don’t get to cheat.

are-you-the-yamca-of-japanese-studying-4What can you do as Yamcha? Destined for defeat? Or are you?

This is the beginning of the series, when everyone is on somewhat equal grounds. Goku, Yamcha, and his then to-be girlfriend Bulma just finished their first small adventure together hunting for the magical dragon balls. Bulma and Yamcha plan to return to the city to celebrate, relax and take it easy for a while. They invite Goku to go with them.


Goku realizes through his first adventure that he needs to get stronger. So he decides instead to go training with a martial arts master.


Unbeknownst to Goku, this would become the start of his path in becoming the strongest person in the universe. Yamcha chooses the city life of leisure. It’s easy to say here “Yamcha! What are you doing? Go train with him!” But training is hard. Japanese study is hard. Choosing the easy path is easy. And it feels good.

Just as the newly reincarnated Yamcha was ready to tread down the same unfortunate path as the original, he had a flashback of what his character was to become.


It’s clear to him.

This is Yamcha’s turning point.

This is the point where his life can be changed. He could be destined for something greater. By changing one thing, his entire fate can be changed. And maybe one day he could become the strongest person on earth?


He makes the leap. Yamcha decides to go with Goku to start training, and to see his true potential.


When you study Japanese, it’s easy to fail. It’s easy lose confidence and accept the “Yamcha fate.” However, the road to Japanese greatness is open to everyone. It’s up to you to take it.

Even if you have been studying for a few years, and have slowly become Yamcha, you too can be reincarnated. It takes one decision to change. The sooner you can make that decision, the better. Don’t head to the futuristic city with your new girlfriend. Sometimes you need to ride a flying cloud with a small strange monkey boy.


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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Are you the Yamcha of Studying Japanese? — 13 Comments

  1. After reading this I really feel like reading Dragon Ball :D I read the 42 original manga volumes in Danish as a child and it was really what kicked off my interest in manga and later sparked my interest in Japanese.

  2. When the going gets tough, like right now, I feel like I’m heading towards the ‘Yamcha path.’ It’s probably boredom and frustration at the same time; a bad combo that beats you up and make you want to ‘quit’. Then again, I’m rewatching one of the anime series that I loved before I studied Japanese. It makes me feel a bit better that I can understand it well even without subtitles.

    • All it takes is one turn to steer clear of the Yamcha path. Find that anime, that series, that book, that manga that keeps you going in the right direction.

  3. When the going gets tough, like right now, I feel like I’m heading towards the ‘Yamcha path.’ It’s probably boredom and frustration at the same time; a bad combo that beats you up and make you want to ‘quit’. Then again, I’m rewatching one of the anime series that I loved before I studied Japanese. It makes me feel a bit better that I can understand it well even without subtitles.

    • Try to focus on those type of things (anime series, etc.) that make you remember why studying Japanese is such a beautiful thing

  4. I’m really struggling with Japanese at the moment.
    I feel that I am trying, but there is no progress. I keep reviewing material but it just isn’t lodging in my brain. About 11% of the cards in Jalup Intermediate are marked as leeches in my deck. That doesn’t sound right.

    Forward progress has stalled altogether as I seek simply to keep reviews of old material under control. But the review burden isn’t shrinking and the material isn’t staying in my brain.

    Any advice?

    • Forgetting stuff is OK. It’ll stick given enough time.

      One thing that you can do which will help a lot, is to be more lenient on your card grading. Remember that Anki is not a school exam. You’re not giving yourself a grade. The only purpose of the answer buttons is to decide “when do I want to see this card again?”, and if a card’s not sticking it can be really helpful to space it out with a different answer.

      In other words, trying using “Hard” when you get a card wrong instead of “Again”, especially if it’s a card for which you basically get it but the reading just isn’t sticking. Only use “Again” when you feel like you’re missing something that’s really important to focus your study efforts on sooner than later.

      This extra space between reviews on tough cards will lighten your daily review load, reduce your frustration, and won’t hurt your ability to learn those cards within a reasonable amount of time (maybe a few months, but that’s OK!).

      Good luck =)

    • One thing I do to keep my reviews down is I always hit “good” if the interval says 18 days or less (since it will not mature the card [that is, give it a 21+ day interval] even if anki’s “interval fuzziness” adds a couple extra days). By doing that, I also make it easy to tell how much I remember: I just check how many young and mature cards I have.

      You might think you’d remember less, but you actually remember more because you aren’t trying to cram so much into your brain every day; you’re allowing it to rest from that card for a bit.

    • Have you continually tried moving forward, despite getting stuck at points in Intermediate. A lot of people as they go through intermediate have a 70-80% accuracy, which is completely fine. Sometimes you just need to move on, and you’ll start to it later.

      Are you also making sure you get a healthy balance of fun Japanese through immersion? So that you remember why you are studying in the first place?

      And I would remove the leech counter. I don’t think it is helpful knowing that in a situation like this.

  5. Keep in mind, in canon, Bulma would leave Yamcha if he didn’t come with her to the city. We see in canon, she gave Yamcha tons of crap just for leaving for months, let alone for years of training with Goku. It also took bribery from Bulma for Roshi to even accept Yamcha as a student, so another mistake in this poorly written mess.

    Rather then use strategy, and remember Saibaman were less powerful then Yamcha in canon, but they’re self-destruct attack is double their power, Self-Insert simply dares all Saibamen to self destruct on him in the manga, and then laughs it off because he has plot armor. This is again, Bullcrap, because in canon, all the Saibaman exploding on one individual at once would’ve even killed Piccolo.

    So no, this manga, isn’t a good self help. It just shows any idiot can write a bad fanfic about his self insert. Its not even redeeming Yamcha as its actually a lame self insert, yet we’re to believe not even Puar whose known for Yamcha for years notices his friend is gone? Anyhow the manga is a fail on all levels, and you can’t apply self help to it.

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