Journal VNs in JP: end of the year 2014 update!

Update for the Broaden your view: Reading VNs in Japanese post. This time I’ll review what I’ve accomplished in 2014 and my personal experience with things I’ve read. Also my plans for 2015 and I’ll introduce a difficulty categorizing system. I hope this will help myself and other people to pick VNs by difficulty and learn experiencing Japanese stories in a comfortable way.

Updates for 2014

I have 100% completed Gekkou no Carnevale, the biggest challenge so far. I feel like this was more of a project for me than just a VN I wanted to read. In the meanwhile I also completed Eden* and 40 Nichi 40 Yoru no Ame.

Learning logs of 2014 and before
This will summarize and replace the content now present in “personal experience with certain novels”

Sept 2013 – My reading VNs in Japanese journey started disappointing with Hanahira!Later I figured a moege might actually be hard to start with for me, since I’m not used to some characteristic speech a lot of characters use. So, Hanahira! was not a great choice to start with for me but it might be perfect for others!

Nov 2013 – Not knowing where to start, I just picked a short novel I already read in English; Saya no Uta. I already knew what the story was about, so I focused on recognizing the grammar in the sentences. Since I knew what it was about, I read the Japanese sentence word by word and tried to grasp it’s meaning while having Tae Kims grammar guide on my other screen, ready to review what I didn’t understand. I was surprised how well this worked and thought it was a pretty good method to grasp the meaning of sentences.  Reading Saya no Uta in Japanese still took me a week to finish though, compared to the ~10 hours it took me in English.

Feb 2014 – After not reading any VNs in Japanese for a while I decided to start Gekkou no Carnevale, a VN I’ve been wanting to read for years. While I didn’t know anything about the difficulty, I really wanted to read it so I just tried it. Reading the intro took me a long time (2-3 days) because I had to review the grammar a lot again. After being comfortable with the grammar again I got into the story and read it through, and finally finished it in Dec 2014.Why so long? Impatient would be the best word to put here. I have learned a lot by reading this though and I don’t regret it.

Sept 2014 – Next to Gekkou no Carnevale I started reading Eden* They Were Only Two, On The Planet. I had some trouble with this in the beginning. After searching and asking around a bit I noticed I was thinking too hard on it. I am still reading too much like a “non-japanese person”, how weird that may sound. It is actually easier to read in whole sentences, like you’re doing automatically in your own language. Finished it in Oct 2014.

Learning tips

› Reading and learning is a lot easier if you are enjoying the story, so if you’re looking for a first novel to read in Japanese, pick something that suits your tastes! It will keep you motivated. In general: no motivation = no progress.

› While learning another language you tend to automatically read words or parts of the sentence and try to understand them before you continue with the rest. This worked out if you’re dealing with shorter sentences, but is a lot easier to just “read in sentences”.

› Don’t try to translate to your own language/English while reading. Now this is a hard thing to not do because you want to “convert” the words you do not understand into words you already understand. Try to understand Japanese sentences, translating them is on a whole different level: you can’t do a 1 to 1 translation of 2 languages. Try to punish yourself for this because you will give yourself a hard time later on if you keep procrastinating a true understanding of Japanese words and sentences.

Picking your VNs

As for now I haven’t read many VNs in Japanese yet, but whenever I’ll finish one from now on I’ll be categorizing it in a certain difficulty. After finishing a VN I’ll give it a difficulty and explain why I think that is. I’ll also be categorizing the “plan to reads” in the same way, but of course this is only based on my expectations and other people’s experience, not my own reading experience.

This is a table with difficulties and what knowledge you need to be able to read them

Knowledge  Easy Motiv. Medium Medium Motiv. Hard Hard Hardcore
Hiragana/Katakana +  + + +  + +
Essential grammar + +  +  + +  +
Advanced grammar  (+) + + + +
Common vocab  – (+) + +  +  +
Advanced vocab  –  – +  +
Common kanji  –  + + +

Advanced kanji/
understand kanji

 –  +


note 1: Knowledge needed is assuming you’re using the help of a texthooker and jparser.
note 2: In my humble opinion learning hiragana and katakana is a must before you are planning to read anything in Japanese. It’s in the table for the sake of completeness.

Easy –  For this difficulty you have to understand essential grammar to grasp the function of words in easy sentences.

Motivational Medium – For this difficulty you have to be comfortable with essential grammar in harder and longer sentences. You might want to recognize some advanced grammar and/or commonly used vocabulary to have a more comfortable read through.
note: this difficulty will mostly be given to novels that categorize as medium for other reasons than reading difficulty, like length or sentence structure.

Medium – For this difficulty you have to understand all grammar and be comfortable with common vocabulary.

Motivational Hard – For this difficulty you have to be comfortable with all grammar, know common vocabulary and common kanji.
note: this difficulty will mostly be given to novels that categorize as hard for other reasons than reading difficulty, like length, sentence structure or complex subjects.

Hard – For this difficulty you have to be comfortable with grammar, have a decent amount of vocabulary knowledge and be able to read the most used kanji in it by glance.
note: this would mean you can quickly read over common sentences and only have to look up words written kanji you don’t know yet, you can read regular things without texthooker or parser.

Hardcore – For this difficulty you have to be comfortable with all forms of grammar, have a lot of vocabulary knowledge and understand kanji used in this vocabulary.
note: this would mean you do not longer need the help of any texthooker or parser, congratulations you can now actually read Japanese on your own!

Personal reading experience

 40日40夜の雨 (Easy)
40 Nichi 40 Yoru no Ame is a <2 hour story with really easy and mostly short sentences. I think it’s a great VN to start with or to just test your understanding of basic grammar.
It took me 3 hours to finish this and I was everything but fast.

Eden* They Were Only Two, On The Planet (motivational medium)
Eden* has a ~10 hour story and is a supposedly not too difficult kinetic novel. The sentences are longer and there are a lot of sub sentences so being comfortable with essential grammar is necessary to comfortably read this, therefore motivational medium.
This took me 13 hours to finish.

Gekkou no Carnevale (medium – motivational hard)
Categorized it as medium. The sentences were short, this makes it easier to read through grammar wise. There are a lot of different speech patterns used so a good understanding of grammar is not an unnecessary luxery. I’d say to read this somewhat comfortably you also need the common vocabulary. You probably already have to look up a lot of uncommon words (it’s about werewolves, mechanical dolls and alchemy in an Italian city, fill in the rest yourself), if you go in without any vocabulary knowledge you won’t get through without reading 1 sentence/min.
Why motivational hard, it’s a really long playthrough; it has a long common route and a lot of routes and endings with new content. Knowing common kanji just helps you to read through it faster. It’s not unreadable if you don’t know common kanji, I know this because I was one of the stubborn people to go in without it. This resulted in me taking a really long time to finish. So, do yourself a favor and learn the common kanji before diving into a long VN of medium reading difficulty.

Saya no Uta (motivational medium)
Saya no Uta is a story of ~10 hours. Because I was a beginner in understanding essential grammar when I read this, I noticed it’s better to get more comfortable with essential grammar before reading this. I think most people already read this in English though, so it might be a good practice since you already know what the sentences are supposed to mean!

Update for the to-read list!

Planning to read in 2015
1.  H2O -Footprints in the Sand- Expecting Easy, might be Motivational Medium
2. Hikari no Valusia ~What a Beautiful Hopes~ –
Expecting Motivational Medium
3. Draculius –
Expecting Motivational Medium
4. Fake Azure Arcology – Expecting Motivational Medium

Planning to read in the near future
1. Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi. – Expecting Medium
2. Aiyoku no Eustia – Expecting Motivational Hard
3. Ludesia Spidering with Scraping – Expecting Easy
4. SINCLIENT – Expecting Easy
5. Gothic Delusion – Expecting Easy
6.  Sakuya – Expecting Easy
7. Subarashiki Hibi ~Furenzoku Sonzai~ – Expecting motivational hard
8. Tokeijikake no Ley Line -Tasogaredoki no Kyoukaisen-
Expecting Medium

Planning to read eventually
1. Root Double -Before Crime * After Days- – Expecting Hard
2. Soukou Akki Muramasa – Expecting Hard
3. Baldr Sky Dive1 “Lost Memory” – Expecting Hard
4. “Hello, world.” – Expecting Motivational Hard
5. Ikusa Megami Zero – Expecting Hard
6. J.Q.V Jinrui Kyuusai-bu ~With Love From Isotope~ – Expecting Hard
7. Jingai Makyou – Expecting Hard
8. Bradyon Veda – Expecting Hard
9. Fake Azure Arcology – Expecting Motivational Hard
10. Ken ga Kimi – Expecting Motivational Hard
11. Rose Guns Days s3 +4 – Expecting Motivational Hard

Planning to read but depending on difficulty: so far difficulty unknown
1. Hatsuyuki Sakura
2. Souten No Celenaria ~What a Beautiful World~
4. Shiei no Sona-Nyl -What a beautiful memories-
5. Ourai no Gahkthun -What a shining braves-
6. Ourai no Gahkthun: Shining Night
7. Vampirdzhija Vjedogonia
8. Irotoridori no Sekai
9. Himawari (Blank Note)
10. Gensou no Avatar
11. Futagoza no Paradox

For the complete article see: Broaden your view: Reading VNs in Japanese


5 thoughts on “Journal VNs in JP: end of the year 2014 update!

      • Maybe. The guy behind it is also the main writer of the Grisaia series. I remember one non-native English speaker complaining on VNDB that even the English translation of Kajitsu was difficult to understand for him. Heck, I watched the first few scenes of it on YouTube and even I didn’t know what some of the terms there meant, which is something I have never really had much of a problem with in other VNs.

  1. Also, from what I’ve heard, the WAB series is unsuited for beginners. I know a guy who runs a German VN blog and he has read several rather difficult VNs in Japanese such as SubaHibi and J.Q.V., yet he thinks the WAB series would be too tough for him.

    • Yes I agree the WAB series is not a good VN to start with. I read a bit of Hikari no Valusia and I felt the use of grammar is really.. weird, because it has to fit into the poetic flow I guess. I understood what they wanted to say and the idea behind the sentence, but.. I don’t know if reading this now will result in the optimal reading experience.
      On the other hand, I don’t know if you can actually learn that. Like you say, the guy you know is able to read and understand difficult VNs like those two, but he’d rather not touch this specific series. I guess it’s like poetic things in any language, you have to feel the flow of words. If you’re not able to feel that flow, which only makes things seem more cryptic, you’re probably not able to fully understand/enjoy the story.

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