Japanese Recommendation Exchange – March 2016 — 19 Comments

  1. Anime:
    * となりの関くん (My Neighbor Seki)
    A serial procrastinator named Seki wastes his time in class in elaborate, unexpected ways. Five-minute episodic gag series.
    ** シゴフミ (Shigofumi)
    The dead’s last thoughts get delivered in the form of letters. An emotional roller-coaster in every twenty minutes.

    *** 池上彰のニュースそうだったのか!! (Ikegami Akira’s News – So That’s How It Is!)
    A variety/quiz show focusing on the news. Very interesting, very informative. Highly recommended.
    Turns out Adam recommended something like this, nearly five years ago:

    • He somehow still keeps going strong after all these years!

      And he’s still one of the easiest people to understand on the news even when discussing the most complex of topics.

  2. Anime:
    ☆☆☆ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 – ファントムブラッド (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – Phantom Blood)
    The story of the manly men of the Joestar famiely fighting manly vampires in very manly battles to the manly death. An over the top, very melodramatic manly fighting anime.
    ☆☆☆ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 – スターダストクルセイダース (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – Stardust Crusaders)
    The story of the manly man Jotaro Joestar (JoJo) fighting with the power of Stand against other Stand users to save his dying mother. Much like the first part.

    Both of these are very awesome in their own crazy (and manly) sort of way.

    Visual Novels

    ☆☆☆ひまわり (Himawari)
    The story of a boy witnessing the landing of a space ship, and him taking care of the amnesiac girl he found inside.
    I have only put four hours into it, but it seems to be a good story. The language is easy enough to understand most of the time, but it can be hard to understand due to all the space/astronomy terms. I am reading the android version. For more info, look at the VNDB link below:

  3. 1. Watching

    * Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, ☆☆☆. Was going to wait till I finished the manga, but wound up watching the first two seasons anyway since I’m reading other stuff right now. It’s really good! Very faithful to the manga.

    * Hunter x Hunter, ☆☆. Re-watching certain episodes un-subbed. Great as always.

    * The Eccentric Family, ☆☆☆ or ☆☆☆☆? This was really excellent series, though I could only find a hard-subbed version of it which is a bummer. I highly recommend it. (I wish I could read the novel, which is written by the Tatami Galaxy guy… maybe I’ll get to that next.)

    * FLCL, ☆☆☆☆. (This is ☆☆☆ in the level guide, but I’m not sure I buy that.) Re-re-re-re-re-watching this one, it’s always amazing and I never get tired of it :D

    2. Reading

    * Inuyashiki, ☆☆☆. I’ve only read the first volume of this so far, but it was crazy. Not sure I’ll say more — in case anyone else is interested, I don’t want to spoil anything.

    * I Am a Hero, ☆☆☆. Got through a couple more volumes of this, which is still pretty interesting. Not my favorite manga, but definitely worth checking out.

    * JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, ☆☆☆ (maybe ☆☆). Picked up the first couple volumes of “JoJonium”, the fancy re-issues of these. I’ve heard the third part is the best but I want to start from the beginning. Really fun and really cool art (if you’re into a more “classic” manga feel, which I am).

    * Fullmetal Alchemist, ☆☆☆. Still my favorite shonen manga, definitely. Had to take a beak from this after volume 15 since Kinokuniya ran out of stock, but I finally broke down and had them order more. It’s awesome, can’t say enough good things.

    * Kino’s Journey, ☆☆☆. Finished my third (or maybe fourth?) novel this month! Technically a light novel, but was actually longer than some of the other “real” novels I’ve read so far. In any case, it was really awesome to get a deeper view into this universe.

    3. Listening

    * Pretty much audio for any of the shows from above. Though to be honest, I’m way behind on updating my immersion playlist…

    4. Playing

    * Nothing, I’m very sorry to say.

  4. So I’m going to write my categories out of order because what I’m listening to is a little bit more exciting as compared to what I’m watching and reading.

    4. Listening – I walk to class and study quite a bit and as such I am afforded many opportunities for listening immersion. The bulk of that comes from audiorips of the anime I am watching, but music is an absolute essential for me. And while I love Perfume and Yurumerumo! as much the next person, I’m always looking for music that is closer to the artistic fringe- bands that are beloved by their fans, but that are unknown or overlooked by the inevitably many more people who don’t listen to them. Here is some of the Japanese music I’ve been tuning into lately. No doubt some of you have heard of these groups but those who haven’t are in for a treat.

    — Pizzicato 5. This band was a driving force for the Shibuya Kei movement of the 90’s and draw on influences from Western pop of the 60s. Luckily for us the vocals are crisp and well recorded making for excellent immersion material. (Very occasional English language use in samples.) [Three Stars ***] {Recommended album: “The Fifth Release from Matador”}

    — After Dinner. After Dinner is arguably among the most influential Japanese bands of the modern age, but I will say they are not for everyone. They were pioneers of Japanese 80s avant garde and their music is often atonal with wide, unusual harmonies, percussion breaks, track reversals and other studio techniques. They dramatically diverted from traditional ways of making music. It’s the kind of music that influences other musicians and not the other way around. Very interesting stuff. [I’m guessing this would get **** four stars]{Recommended album: “After Dinner”}

    — SAWA. Now for something easier to digest. SAWA is a wonderful, funny, and talented indie-star. High quality production and unfairly catchy lyrics and melodies. I can listen to this any time of day on any day of the week. [*** three stars]{Recommended album: “Welcome to Sa-World”}

    — Burgh – underground garageband from Tokyo. It sounds influenced by the lo-fi skate culture of the United States, but there is something unique going on here in the edgy and jumpy guitar sounds. Unfortunately the vocals on their only album to date are almost indiscernible by someone at a level as low as mine so I give them [****-***** four to five stars]{Recommended album:「テクノ・ナルシスのすべて」}

    — フレネシ – another Shibuya Kei band here, this time one that is still active. Sweet(er) tones, catchy(er) melodies, and (more)playful electronics separate this band from the many bands like them.[*** three stars] {Recommended album: 「メルヘン」}

    — the pillows – Really special band here, despite being pretty much straight ahead 90s indie rock. After I had been listening to them for months, thinking that they were the archetypical J-Rock band that every other J-Rock band wishes they could be, I learned that they did the soundtrack for FLCL, thus amplifying my love for them. They broke big in Japan in the 90s, and although they have faded away from the public mind quite a bit, they are still active. [*** three stars]{Recommended album: Happy Bivouac{{BUT REALLY ANYTHING}}}
    The rest of my Japanese media consumption is a little bit more standard fare for the late beginner on JALUP.

    4. Listening continued – My non-musical immersion has consisted of nothing but the first two episodes of Toradora! and the first two episodes of Nichijou.

    1. Watching – Right now I’m on episode seven of K-On!, but at the beginning of this month I was finishing up Sound! Euphonium. Lucky for me the music/band specific lingo was not confusing due to my participation in high school band (soo much nostalgia from that show :’| I also watched Toradora! in March. I don’t hear Toradora! talked about much on this site, so I guess I’ll just say briefly that it’s one of the most enjoyable high school romances I’ve watched and has a level of two to three stars depending on the episode. Then I watched Nichijou and cried laughing for a straight 10 days. And now we’ve come full circle back to K-On!.

    2. Reading is a little bit beyond my Japanese skill level right now, but I have the first three volumes of よつばと!sitting on my bedside table and a couple times a week I flip through those. To my delight, I always know more than the last time, but it is still clearly beyond me. I also browse JALUP and check for new posts quite a bit.

    3. Playing – I don’t play any video games yet but maybe after I graduate from university in July I will.

    Whew first time posting was a long one. Hope somebody enjoys the tunes.

  5. Watching – like 200 episodes of Fairy Tail. This is shonen anime at its best. I started watching them because I couldn’t read the manga fast enough.

    Listening – An audio drama アンダー・ザ・ブルー ( This is, for some reason, a pretty challenging listen for me. I just keep looping it and getting more and more of the story. From what I can tell, it’s the story of a boy whose a bit of a loner, the girl who befriends him, and the feelings that grow between them over the course of a summer.

    Playing – いけにえと雪のセツナ. An RPG with gorgeous art, that was deliberately created to feel like classic JRPG’s. The gameplay reminds me a lot of Chronotrigger, and there’s a good story. Dialogue is not too difficult to follow. I’m only a few hours in, but can already recommend it if you like games like FF2 and Chronotrigger.

  6. I’m going to re-recommend the one-shot manga コンビニの清水 because it is so funny and every one should read it. I just lent it to my roommate and I could hear him laughing from two rooms over. He’s the 5th person I’ve forced to read this manga and they’ve all really enjoyed themselves. Plus it’s good timing since the mangaka 津村マミ has a new manga (series) out called コタローは一人暮らし which is proving just as funny!

    So yes, please get these!

    Otherwise, this month I caught myself up with the アイ・アム・ア・ヒーロー manga series which is amazing. Volume 19 just came out a few days ago and volume 20 is apparently going to come out next month. I’m guessing they’re getting it out before the movie which is actually worrying me ’cause it feels like volume 20 might be the end. We’ll have to wait and see.

    I also read a book called いつか海に行ったね which is about a pandemic that spreads through Tokyo. Nothing zombie, like, just a pandemic that looks ends up looking like cancer. It’s not so much about the horror about the pandemic as it is about the horror about how Japan is not prepared to deal with anything of the sort. That by the time Japan’s government would respond, it’d be too late. But this book is really good for getting to into novel reading as it is short (174 pages) and the grammar is super simple. You just have to learn a few words for yeast/fungus and a few body words for an autopsy but it’s a smooth read.

    In any case, I think everything I read should be at the 3 star level.

    • What I want to know is why they haven’t made an anime out of I am a hero. I’m a little behind recent volumes but I’m a big fan.

      The movie also looks pretty exciting:

      • Yeah, I don’t watch anime so I wouldn’t watch it anyway but I do plan on seeing the movie next month in theaters. The trailer clip scenes seem faithful to the manga so that’s comforting but it didn’t show what the ZQN’s look like so I’m still a bit concerned with that.

        You really should catch up if you can. You’ll read right through them like water. Exciting stuff going on right now. But hey, I’m reading the series due to your recommendation on this site so thanks.

  7. Dear Friends (**): A story about how a party girl’s life changes when she gets cancer. Understanding some of the medical terminology helps but its not required in order to enjoy it.

    箱入り息子の恋(*): A love story completely with hilarious but happy ending. There is one tough scene because the parents are throwing around insults in keigo but aside from that the two main characters speak fairly slowly, clearly, and plainly. There are very few movies for adults that are this easy to understand.

    (Both are on Netflix Japan.)

  8. I picked up the comico phone app recently, and I’ve been really impressed with the content it offers so far. In the last two days I powered through 乙女的シンドローム (~3 stars) up to the current chapter, and really enjoyed it:

    The story follows Otome Tachibana, a high-school girl and hardcore gamer whose entire knowledge of love and romance comes from playing literally hundreds of Otome games. She dreams of finding a blonde, blue-eyed prince to sweep her off her feet. But this is Japan, so the odds of finding a guy like that are almost ze… Wait, what’s this? A new transfer student? Enter Ouji Towada, aka everything Otome has ever dreamed of. But winning someone’s heart in the real world isn’t as simple as following a strategy guide, and for that matter there’s nothing simple about Ouji…

    Anyway, comico (コミコ) is awesome and you should totally check it out. Free service, no ads, lots of great original content. Really no downside at all – I kind of wonder how they make money 0_o

    • Level of that story? You should definitely find some material for us newbies. Also, what consoles do you play your games on? If you play on ps vita, how do you pay? Do you use debit/credit card, paypal, psn cards? If psn cards, where do you buy them from? Sorry to bombard you with questions.

      • No worries! Happy to help =)

        I’d rate it ~3 stars overall. It’s largely “daily life” vocab, but there’s a heavy dose of slang/gamer-specific terminology that may be difficult to follow, depending on how much immersion you’ve done and with what kinds of material.

        I play JP games primarily on PS Vita, but also PS3/PS4. I actually import physical copies of all my games. You’d think that’d be cost-inefficient because of shipping, but I buy from a site called Play Asia, and their sale prices are a lot more generous than PSN. Even paying for shipping it works out to be the same if not cheaper. I also try to buy 3-4 games at once to save on shipping =)

          • When it comes to games, it’s less about what’s “beginner friendly” and more about what kind of games you’re interested in playing. No matter what you’re going to have a tough time until you learn some of the core vocabulary for menus, navigation, basic actions, etc.

            As a beginner the best thing you can do is start by playing games you’ve previously played and loved in English. That way even if you run into things you don’t understand (and you will), you can lean on your previous knowledge of the game without getting stuck and frustrated.

            Once you’ve got some experience and game vocab under your belt, you can move on to “unfamiliar” territory around level 30-40 and should be able to find your way around and understand enough story to enjoy things.

            If you like JRPGs, a good “my first RPG in Japanese” is 超じ次元ゲイムネプテューヌ. It’s very light-hearted and silly, and the language is pretty straightforward most of the time. If you’re more inclined toward VNs, Manan could probably give you some good starting suggestions. Once I get some time, I want to do a write-up on the subject with more detailed info and recommendations.

            • While I’m a JRPG fan at heart, I will say that one of the simpler VN’s is a good starting point because tools like ITH make lookups so easy. Agree about replaying games you know well in English though.

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