Tadoku in Practice: The 2012 Chronicles (Part I)

As some of you might remember, my New Year’s Resolution for 2012 was to read 50 Japanese novels before the end of the year. While I am pitifully behind schedule (it’s been 15 weeks, and I’ve only read 11 novels), I’m still trucking along, and I haven’t given up on the dream yet.

In any event, I thought–since I’m not doing anything with this blog anyway–that I’d do a quick update about what all I’ve been reading, and what I thought about it. (Hover over any Japanese for English.)

ダンガンロンパ/ゼロ by 小高和剛

Series Overview

A prequel to the ダンガンロンパ PSP game. Anything more than that would spoil things. If you played the game, then you should know what to expect here.

Vol. 2, 296 pages — 8.5 / 10

Jan. 1 – Jan. 9 (9 days)

I made the mistake of reading the first book back in October, before I had access to this one, so I had forgotten a lot of important details. As a result, I was confused as hell for a really, really long time, but it was still a really good read.

とらドラ! by 竹宮ゆゆこ

Series Overview

I figure most people are probably familiar with this one by now, so I’ll just direct you to the Wiki article (Japanese above, English here) if you want to know more.

Vol. 1, 264 pages — 7.5 / 10

Jan. 10 – Jan. 16 (7 days)

I have a weakness for romantic comedies, and I initially bought this figuring it would be an easy read. While it certainly wasn’t terribly difficult, the author has a unique style of writing. It’s almost like she’s trying to see how much she can describe using onomatopoeia while still making sense. This gives the prose a somewhat playful feel to it, which I thought fit quite nicely.

The book took about a hundred pages to pick up, but once it did, it was really enjoyable. The characters felt real, and their emotions were realistic and believable.

As a side note, I’ve decided to watch the とらドラ! anime as I read through the books. The first book in the series was adapted into two episodes, cutting out pretty much everything I liked and destroying the pacing. Hopefully later novels are handled better.

空ろの箱と零のマリア by 御影瑛路

Series Overview

Actually, to talk about the series in any significant fashion would require spoiling things, so I’ll just be vague as hell.

Vol. 1, 331 pages — 10 / 10

Jan. 17 – Jan. 25 (9 days)

Amazing. I can’t give this enough praise. It currently stands as my absolute favorite Japanese novel of all time, and it’s up there with some of my favorite English works, too. The prose is crisp, and it makes excellent use of its structure to tell a uniquely compelling story. Saying any more than that, though, would require spoiling things.

Vol. 2, 313 pages — 6.5 / 10

Mar. 31 – Apr. 4 (5 days)

I didn’t expect this to come anywhere near the first book in quality, because that would essentially require it to be the same book. So, I kept my expectations low coming into this, and–while it was interesting–it was still somewhat of a letdown. The concept was good, but the characters felt somewhat weak, and the conclusion was kind of cheap.

I was hoping to go on to something else after this, but the epilogue sort of forced me to read the next one.

Vol. 3, 331 pages — 8.5 / 10

Apr. 4 – Apr. 6 (3 days)

A big step up from the second book, but still nowhere near the first one. The concept is great, and the twist at the end was brilliant. There was some weird, hard to accept character development, but nothing overly problematic. However, this is only the first half of the story, and things continue in book 4.

Vol. 4, 317 pages — 4.0 / 10

Apr. 7 – Apr. 16 (10 days, though I took five off because I was sick)

What a disappointment. Due to circumstances of the story, the protagonist decided he wanted to be proactive this time around, but apparently that means cranking the dumbass meter up to 11 and discarding all logic and reason. I could neither comprehend nor believe a large portion of the decisions he made, the conclusions he reached, and the fact that it all ended up working anyway.

The bulk of the story was tied up with deus ex machina, and the big emotional crisis was brushed under the rug with memory loss. The worst part is, I saw at least two valid solutions to the problem, neither of which required any deus ex.

The climax generated a gigantic web of plot threads, none of which were touched on in the epilogue, instead opting for a sequence like something out of a harem anime. Four neatly divided sections of the protagonist being a dumbass in front of four different girls that obviously want to jump him. Ugh.

This book had a lot of potential to be really good, but that was all pretty handily squandered.

サクラダリセット by 河野裕

Series Overview

The basic gist of it is you’ve got this town called 咲良田 where roughly 50% of the population have special abilities. The main male character, 浅井ケイ, has the ability to remember anything he’s experienced with perfect clarity–sensations, scents, the weather, the clothes people around him were wearing, anything. The main female character, 春埼美空, has the ability to restore the entire world to the state it was in at some point within the last 72 hours, which she calls Reset.

She has to have consciously “saved” at a particular moment to Reset to it, and saves only last for up to 72 hours–or until they’re used. Further, she can’t save for 24 hours after using Reset. The kick here is, the restoration is so completely thorough that even her memories are reset to the point she saved. So she works with ケイ, whose ability to remember is able to overcome the effects of Reset, to make it into an actually useful ability.

Vol. 2, 410 pages — 8.5 / 10

Jan. 26 – Feb. 12 (18 days)

I really liked the first book. I thought the setting was fascinating, and the way special abilities were handled very unique. By itself, サクラダリセット1 was a competently written and interesting story. The first half of the second volume felt much like the first, in that it was a mostly isolated, stand-alone story.

But about halfway through, threads between the two books started coming together in a way I totally didn’t expect. And it was spectacular. 河野裕 makes brilliant use of his setting and characters and fleshes out the world and the story in a way I never saw coming, but it turned out utterly phenomenal.

Vol. 3, 365 pages — 9.5 / 10

Feb. 13 – Feb. 19 (7 days)

To avoid spoiling anything, I’ll just say this: unbelievable. A nearly flawless continuation of the already excellent story developed in the first two books.

Very heartrending and emotional, without treading into “depressing” territory. The characters develop nicely, and are very believable, despite being rather unusual. Also, this book–as with the others in the series–asks some really difficult philosophical questions (without being pretentious about it), and it makes you think hard about what has happened, what is happening, and what is going to happen, which gives the series a satisfying layer of intellectual and emotional depth.

Vol. 4, 313 pages — 8.0 / 10

Mar. 6 – Mar. 15 (10 days)

A collection of short stories. Most of them are pretty good, but the best story, ホワイトパズル, wasn’t even set in the サクラダリセット universe.

戯言シリーズ by 西尾維新

Series Overview

Quirky action/mystery novels. Actually, they’re a little more complex than that, but it’s hard to really describe. This is 西尾維新’s first series, so if you’re familiar with his other works, like the 物語シリーズ, then you have a decent idea of what to expect.

Vol. 4サイコロジカル(上), 256 pages[!] — 7.0 / 10

Feb. 20 – Mar. 5 (15 days)

Felt a little drawn out, but that probably has to do with how complex the writing was, making it much more difficult to read than anything else. However, 西尾維新 never fails in writing interesting, quirky characters and excellent dialogue, so I had a good time reading it, even if it took a while.

Vol. 5サイコロジカル(下), 304 pages[!] — 8.0 / 10

Mar. 16 – Mar. 30 (15 days)

More mystery-oriented than the last couple volumes, which was nice. I almost felt cheated as I came up on the end, and I was getting kind of frustrated with the protagonist, but the last chapter cleared everything up in a way I felt was very satisfying.

Statistics

I read 11 novels, totaling 3500 pages[!], in 107 days. That’s 32.71 pages[!] a day, and 9.72 days per novel. Each novel averaged 318.18 pages[!].

To meet my goal, I need to read 39 more novels in 258 days, reading at a rate of approximately 6.6 days per novel, or 48.09 pages[!] per day.

Despite having a fairly slow start to the year, that’s actually not all that unreasonable. During my last three books, I had several days where I read over 100 pages fairly easily, and I peaked at 130 pages on April 6th. So if I can keep even half that pace on a regular basis, I’ll make it to fifty by the end of the year with no problem.

Results

I’ve started to get a lot more comfortable reading novels and prose, which was one of my major goals with this (as well as the last Tadoku contest I participated in), so I’m really happy with my progress. I’m starting to notice some obvious improvements in my vocabulary–something I haven’t seen in a while. I’m skipping fewer and fewer words, and I’m finding I can read almost every word I come across that doesn’t have furigana on it. Since I like to “say” each word I see in my head, knowing how to pronounce most of them helps me maintain a smooth, consistent flow as I read.

I’m also starting to pick up on colloquial uses of words/phrases. Things that don’t quite mean what they might appear to. However, there’s still a lot I don’t recognize, and I know I’ve got a lot of work to do there. There are also a number of constructs and ways to organize sentences that I’m not quite used to and that trip me up from time to time. More complex sentences, metaphors (especially extended metaphors), and things of that sort frequently give me pause, but I believe it’s just a matter of exposure and a conscious desire and effort to understand. And I’ve got plenty of that.

Anyway, I just thought I’d drop in and give a “short” update on what I’ve been doing. I’ll probably be back in 3-4 months when I’ve read a bunch more and have some more to talk about.

You can keep up with what I’m reading on my Bookmeter page, and all the novels I’ve read this year are listed on this shelf.

Until then. (ノ`Д´)ノ彡┻━┻

This entry was posted in Books, Japanese, Masochism, Tadoku and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Tadoku in Practice: The 2012 Chronicles (Part I)

  1. ksaiydt says:

    Wow, some interesting looking stuff here. I’ve actually been looking for some short novels to read. Nice post, and can’t wait to see the Japanese god emerge from all that reading. You’ve actually inspired me to do a lot more reading of novels. Much respect and good luck!

    By the way, would you happen to have any other SF author or book recommendations? The only genre I’m knowledgeable in is Mystery/Detective stuff.

    • Thanks! 🙂 I really enjoy science fiction, too, but I haven’t really read much in Japanese yet. I’d like to change that by the end of the year, but I’ll have to buy some more before I can do that.

      扉の外 is light sci-fi in its setting, though it’s more psychological and character-driven. The first two books are great, really well written, with outstanding atmosphere. The third one is pretty good on its own, but it doesn’t really fit in with the tone of the series. 涼宮ハルヒ is always a good choice, too.

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