So I’ve been home for a couple days now, relaxing, (though I probably shouldn’t be quite as carefree as I currently am), reading 우행시, and marathoning Death Note!

I think this is one of those animes that all fans of anime HAVE to see if they haven’t seen it already.  Scratch that.  It’s an anime that even people who are NOT fans of anime have to see if they haven’t seen it already.  I’d read the original manga too but it’s nice to listen to spoken Japanese and my sister says the anime is pretty faithful to the manga anyway.

The plot centers around a seventeen-year-old boy who finds an otherworldly notebook that gives him the ability to kill anyone whose face he knows and whose name he writes in said notebook.  Needless to say, he gets carried away.

death note meme

That meme cracks me up.

Anyway, I think I joke a lot about how my two semesters of college Japanese went in one ear and straight out the other, but surprisingly I can understand quite a bit of the dialogue in this show!  Entire conversations, even.  It’s interesting that listening and speaking was (is) always pretty challenging for me in Korean but comes much easier to me in Japanese.  (And for obvious reasons, *cough* KANJI *cough* reading and writing in Japanese is 10000000 times harder for me in Japanese than Korean.)

Now, Death Note is VERY dialogue heavy which, from a storytelling point-of-view, is off-putting at times.  There’s a lot of “telling” and not enough “showing.”  Exposition is important but too much detail at once can throw off dramatic pacing – and sometimes this show falls victim to that.  But it’s still one of the best animes I’ve seen to date!

One of the nice things about having so much dialogue is that I pay attention more to what’s being said.  And I’ve come to pick out A LOT of Japanese words that sound similar to their Korean counterparts.  Like the following:

  • 結局 (けっきょく):  결국
  • 滿足 (まんぞく):  만족
  • 延期 (えんき):  연기
  • 意味 (いみ):  의미
  • 理由 (りゆう):  이유

Most of the grammar constructions sound familiar, too, because I learned them in class.  Hearing them being used in dialogue, though, gives me more of a sense of nuance.  For example, it helped me understand when it’s more appropriate to use ~(し)てくれる vs. ~(し)てもらう.  And the fact that ~かもしれません can be shortened to ~かも.

Now I understand what my Japanese 先生 meant when she said we should try to watch at least 30 minutes of  an anime/drama everyday – you learn a lot.  I kind of regret not putting in much effort into my Japanese classes back when I was taking them!  But for now I’m okay with this passive learning process.  It’s fun! :)

Edit:  Thanks to Korean Vitamin for correcting my  lousy Japanese haha.

New motivation

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m still studying Korean.  Overthinking it maybe.  I don’t really believe people need a tangible reason to study a foreign language, but most people have some kind of motivation.  한류 seems to be the main driving force for the younger (newer?) generation of Korean learners.  But in my case, it’s always felt like Korean chose me.  I love language.  And I had tried to learn several languages before abandoning most of them; something clicked in place when I first heard spoken Korean.  I grew to like Korean music and dramas as a result of that.

I still like Korean music (mostly hiphop and indie) but 2012 was the year that Korean dramas officially died for me.  Granted, there were some I really liked, but when I think about the zeal with which I watched dramas for the first couple years since I discovered them – the spark’s gone.  I only finished three dramas this year and left behind a slew of unfinished ones.  I don’t regret it.

I realized a few months ago that my interest in Korean has shifted away from pop culture and toward literature.  This was the year of Korean novels for me, with SEVEN new ones lining my shelf since January.  Here’s all of them.


(No need to compliment my photography skills.  I know y’all are awed.)

For me, one of the greatest rewards of knowing a foreign language is being able to sample a whole new universe of writing.  I guess it’s not surprising that I’ve come to love and appreciate Korean literature as much as I do.  There are so many great books to be read.

Reading 桜蘭高校ホスト部

Look at what I have not been reading these days.

2012-12-13 22.51.43*squeals*  桜蘭高校ホスト部 (Ouran High School Host Club) is one of my ALL-TIME favorite animes and mangas ever.  It’s cute, funny, endearing, and not to mention the art is gorgeous.  (It’s also the only anime I’ve ever watched both English-subbed and English-dubbed – and the dubbing is very impressive!)  Now shoujo manga can be pretty ridiculous but one of the charms of OHSHC is that it makes fun of its own genre and tropes and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  You have the typical shoujo setup:  a cross-dressing(or is she?) female from a working-class family enters a private academy for the Incredibly Wealthy & Snooty and gets entangled in rich-kid shenanigans – but our heroine Haruhi is far from the typical Mary Sues of shoujo-verse (lookin’ at you, Honda Tohru).  She’s sharp, resourceful, delightfully glib and her deadpan humor keeps readers laughing and rooting for her.

2012-12-13 22.53.02I’m not going to lie – reading this was (is) a very long and painful process.  I’m amazed at how much Kanji I don’t know (heh), but in turn, I’m surprised at how much I do know.  The grammar is very basic and easy to follow; I hardly need to look up anything, even with the mere year of beginning Japanese that I went through.  And the Kanji really isn’t as awful as I make it out to be.  I use the microscopic furigana over each character to get the pronunciation, and I have my Japanese dictionary app open to help with learning the meaning and stroke order.  It works!  I have a notebook that’s solely full of Kanji from this manga and I find myself getting better and better at remembering them without needing to make flashcards.  Yay.

I’m taking just over a week off for winter break (so short *sob*), but hopefully I’ll get around to studying Japanese a little more very soon.  For now, though, my days are consumed by experiments and labwork; I need to get tons of stuff done before Christmas.  Wish me luck.  Sigh.

A peach a day keeps the ghosts away?

If you’ve watched Arang and the Magistrate, you might remember how excited Arang was to eat peaches once she came back to life. I didn’t know this but in Korean (also Chinese and Japanese, I think) mythology/culture, peaches are thought to have special supernatural properties:  They keep ghosts away!

There are a lot of different variations on how and why this story came about, but the general consensus seems to be that peaches symbolize the warmth and vitality of springtime; hence, they repel ghosts which prefer just the opposite.  In fact, one of the ways to exorcise a person thought to be possessed by a spirit is by whacking him with the branch of a peach tree!  The superstition carries so deeply that people don’t serve peaches during 제사, because it scares off ancestral spirits.

Moreover, peaches are considered divine fruits, consumed by the King of Heaven and other immortals to keep them ageless.  They are thought to be a potent ingredient for elixirs and charms for eternal youth, good health, and warding off demons.  Supposedly people used to make everything from bows and arrows to clubs from the wood of peach trees, believing that their weapons too would possess the special powers of the tree from which it was carved.

There are tons more interesting folktales out there about peaches and their “special powers.”  Check them out if you have time!  Personally, I wouldn’t mind some peach cobbler right about now. *sob*

“I remember” – Bang Yong-guk ft Yoseob

AKA The Song That (temporarily) Brought Me Back To K-Pop.

I haven’t cared much about K-pop (not even BIGBANG) since early this year.  In the past couple years, I’ve discovered a whole wonderful slew of indie/rock/hiphop music that I find I enjoy and appreciate much much more than the glitz of K-pop – and so I had all but cleansed myself of idol madness until I stumbled across this song.


And dare I say, this music video rivals my favorite K-pop music video of all time?

Okay, so I know I’m late to the party – this song released last year and I think at the time I had heard of the song but never bothered to give it a listen until a couple of days ago.  I do actually still keep an eye out for certain idol groups because, while I’m not into the fandom madness, there’s still a lot of great idol music out there.  So when my friend Holly told me about Yoseob’s solo mini-album, of course I wanted to listen to it (I like Yoseob and his album is pretty good!) and then by the magic of YouTube’s suggested videos I came across “I remember.”

The fierce red-head in the vid is B.A.P’s rapper Bang Yong-guk and the vocals are by B2ST’s Yoseob.  Bang Yong-guk… wow.  Just wow.  THAT VOICE.  I know zilch about B.A.P – I was really impressed by their debut but promptly forgot about them until now.  Listening to this song made me go and listen to some of their other stuff and I think they’re pretty great.  Am I sucked back into the K-pop mire?  No, but I like these young ‘uns, in a fond noona kind of way.  Haha.