The final day of the third round was full of surprises. I went to bed on the 30th feeling secure in my rank, but not quite ready to let go of my momentum. It was to be my eighth day playing Ever17, and―if things went according to plan―I was to be moving into the final route as the curtains fell on the contest.
I went to bed with about a 1300 page lead… and I woke up trailing behind by about 1500 pages. So that was a surprise. But what can you do? My highest score for a single day this round was 438 pages, and my highest score in a single day ever is 504 pages (from the second round). For as much as my competitive spirit hated losing my upper hand so close to the end with no hope of taking it back, I stuck with my original plan of attack and pushed through Ever17 as hard as I could. Because, really, that was the more important thing to worry about: reading Japanese like a monster.
And I’ll be damned if that’s not exactly what I did. Even after the contest ended, I kept up the pace for another couple days, until I finally tore down the last of Ever17’s many, many, many mysteries. Holy SHIT is all I can say to that. Beyond just being the best thing I read all competition, Ever17 comes close to having the most satisfying conclusion of anything I’ve read, ever. It ranks up there with the likes of Steins;Gate and ダンガンロンパ―which is something I did not expect to run into so soon after those other two.
To put things into perspective: I started ダンガンロンパ near the end of Round 1, and I played through most of Steins;Gate for Round 2. And Round 3 gave me Ever17. From a reader’s perspective, if I can read or play something as epically fucking mindblowing as them every three months, my life will nothing short of literary bliss. Taking the language-learner angle into account, that’s a recipe for eternal motivation.
Since I started learning, I’ve only ever really been short on motivation once: about a year ago―June and July of 2010. I was working that summer, and my SRS cards were piling up like no other. I had over 1000 reviews due, and hundreds more piling in every day. I couldn’t keep up, and I generally didn’t try. I was doing a little tweeting back-and-forth in Japanese, and I’d bought a couple volumes of the よつばと！ manga (in Japanese), but that was about all the exposure I was getting.
And then I came across the Tadoku contest. As I recall, Liz (of LizLearns) mentioned it in a tweet, or something, and I thought it sounded like a fun way to get back into gear. The contest started in August, and my internship ended just a few days prior to that. I had no illusions of winning―maybe making it through the couple volumes of manga I’d bought. But fate (or luck, or OCD)―bent on denying me my every expectation―had other plans for me. I found an unexplored world of wonder in Ghost Trick and Last Window and J-dramas. Things not yet available in English, but that I could still push my way through, one way or another.
Fast forward to this round. My 2224-page runaway victory looks like a drop in the pond now. I had 2300 pages by the seventh day this round. In the end, I pulled out over four times as many pages as that first contest. Let’s be honest, what is there to complain about that degree of improvement? In the span of a year, my reading speed (and attention span) doubled―twice. (And there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Using some totally un-scientific data-gathering techniques, I’ve ascertained it took me roughly three times as long to finish Rewrite as it would the average native speaker of Japanese.)
In the end, that’s the whole point of these competitions, isn’t it? Motivating people to read like they’ve never read before. First, second, tenth, or seventeenth (not to single anyone out ヽ(´ー｀)ノ). As long as you’re reading, and not just twiddling your thumbs, who cares? The contest works. The numbers speak, loud and clear. And my own motivation and personal sense of achievement provides all the backup the numbers need. I don’t know that it’s possible to provide more decisive evidence than that.