Sketchbook Mode and the Sudden Fiery Will to Learn Japanese Faster

2011 February 10

So life happened, and by “life” I mean “a bunch of things”. Well, I guess that’s sorta what life amounts to. I’d also like to think that life would give me a bunch of things to blog about, but either I end up pretty lazy, or I become too busy to the point where, by the time I would’ve posted it, the entry in question wouldn’t be as timely as I’d like it to be. Anyway…happy new year, two months in.

Manabi Mode seems like such a 2010 thing, despite what my Twitter says (“I heard [ufotable producer] Hikaru’s coming to SF for a Kara no Kyoukai event!! MAYBE I SHOULD COME UP TO HIM WITH MANABI STUFF AND HAVE HIM SIGN IT AND TALK ABOUT IT WITH HIM MASSUGU GOOOOOO”). But if you check my Twitter, you’ll notice that I also happen to be tweeting a lot about Sketchbook. As of late, I figured I’d start tagging stuff with #sketchbookmode, to see how long this particular round of obsession lasts.

If you know me well, I have a list of three series that I consider my god-tier-will-rewatch-or-reread-any-time-I-feel-like-it-which-is-often series: Manabi Straight, Sketchbook, and Hidamari Sketch. (As an aside, there are two other anime rated 10 on My Anime List — Azumanga Daioh, which is more of a sentimental rating than anything; and ARIA the Origination.) At any point in time, I will be unusually hype for one of those three series. Right now, it’s Sketchbook. For a moment inbetween all of my Manabi hype last year, it was Hidamari Sketch.

As they say, parting makes the heart grow fonder. The three series are in different positions. Manabi, with its thirteen episodes, OVA, and four tankoubon, is completely done; in the end, there’s nothing truly new I can experience from that series. Hidamari Sketch‘s manga is ongoing (on its fifth volume right now); the anime has three seasons and I wouldn’t be surprised if SHAFT animated a fourth.

Sketchbook, however, is somewhat interesting. The manga is ongoing (the seventh volume hit Japanese bookshelves in early October, and it’s understandably not been licensed for the English market); and the anime, full color’S, is a 2007 thirteen-episode release whose only official English release has been on Crunchyroll. Crunchyroll’s license for the series, as of last June, seems to have expired, and thus everything but the first episode has been taken down. The series covers some three to four volumes of scattered content…most of it resides in the shucchouban – a special volume comprised of comics (with most of the content actually not being 4-panel!) that were published in the spinoff Comic Blade Masamune.

I’ve mentioned before that Sketchbook, to me, is a really great series; in fact, I prefer it over ARIA. I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone why, though. Some people have dubbed me slightly odd, but at the very least, we all recognize that to each his own.

Anyway, as of recent, I’ve somehow ended up following a couple of Japanese Sketchbook fans. They seem pretty passionate about the series. I read their tweets whenever I’m bored and whenever they make a reference, I get it, even if in Japanese…but I can’t respond, nor make appropriate replies/comebacks, because despite my ability to read/recognize Japanese text, I’m not very good at actually forming sentences, and thus not very confident about using it, either.

Also: just last week was protagonist Sora Kajiwara’s birthday. The moment it hit midnight on February 4 in Japan, a good chunk of the Sketchbook cluster cheered as much as they could. Some talked about how glad they were to be Sketchbook fans, and to have met like-minded people. Some posted birthday pictures. Some rewatched an episode or two of the series. Some sent congratulations to @KajiwaraSoraBot. Some admitted that Sora’s birthday was the first time they got really, really hyped up over the birthday of a fictional character. Fun times were had.

Somehow, in addition to my wanting to be a great translator/interpreter/teacher of the Japanese language someday, I now have a very active reason to study Japanese. And now, as of late, I’ve been practicing my Japanese to no one in particular, unless someone replies or mentions me in Japanese. Then, I try my best to form a reply. (As an aside, I love you, love you, LOVE YOU, codefromtokyo; his Japanese dictionary for iOS has come in useful when I can’t come up with words or phrases I need.)

So, long story short: due to the fandom, Sketchbook continues to be relevant for me as I continue my study of Japanese language and culture. And so, from time to time, I’ll be posting a handful of notes here on the usage of Japanese, in an attempt to explain it…and maybe it’ll be useful to other people studying Japanese. And, like I’ve been doing lately on Twitter, the examples are probably gonna be Sketchbook-centric…though I could probably go either which way with that.


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