すみません vs. すいません

So, I’m not crazy.

I was re-watching きみはペット (incidentally, one of my favorite Japanese dramas) and I confirmed a long-standing suspicion. A lot of Japanese people pronounce すません as すません.

For years I’ve thought my brain was somehow not computing the み sound correctly until I actually saw it spelled with い in a manga I was reading.

The general consensus from all the language forums I’ve combed through seems to be that すません is a colloquial and more casual way of pronouncing すません. The latter is always used when you’re being exceptionally apologetic (as opposed to simply trying to catch someone’s attention) and/or speaking formally to superior.

Probably because I don’t know the language that intimately, I’ve always assumed Japanese to be a really rigid language compared to Korean. There aren’t any complex pronunciation rules like in Korean, hiragana/katakana spelling is pretty much 100% phonetic, and verb conjugations are shockingly regular…. I guess that’s why this ‘mispronunciation’ surprised me so much.

I am getting to the point in Japanese where I’m finally starting to pick up on colloquialisms and slang, which is kind of cool. (The first bit of Japanese slang I picked up was the word 「ちょう」). At some point I should graduate from reading manga to actual novels so I don’t sound like a middle schooler the next time I’m in Japan.


On a related note, anime has been holding my attention far better than Korean dramas these days. (I couldn’t even make it past episode four of 마녀보감, the last drama I attempted to watch. Sigh.)

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ReLIFE has been my favorite this season (definitely one of my favorites in the last couple years too). The story hits home–a 27-year old man, recently unemployed, gets the chance to participate in an experiment that lets him redo his senior year of high school. The webcomic is also available to read for free on comico! I know I’ve written a ton about webcomics/shows that I never actually finish (heh), but this one I can recommend wholeheartedly.

Cheese in the Trap – 2

So I just finished reading season 1 of Cheese in the Trap, which is kind of a big accomplishment for me because I tend to drop webtoons pretty quickly. That, or I forget to check an update/ author goes on hiatus and it drops off my radar forever.

I like this one. I have no idea how close the author is to finishing it so the possibility may be high that I get caught up and it ends up dropping off my radar anyway, but hopefully not.

I think this is the first time I’ve read a webtoon where I actually really like the main character. Seol and I are actually very much alike. She’s smart but also hardworking, too busy to care about how she looks, struggles with her hair (see below), and is generally well-liked. There’s a part near the end of season 1 that I really identified with – Seol has to complete a big group assignment/presentation for one of her classes and all of her group members bail on her at the last minute. She ends up pulling an all-nighter and doing the whole thing herself… and still ends up failing the assignment.



Seol is very much a people-pleaser. She’s non-confrontational; so much so that even if she’s not okay with something, she stifles it until she explodes. She will go out of her way to check her own behavior and desires to put the other person(s) at ease. It’s part of what makes her so likable but it’s also to her own detriment. She’s very attuned to peoples’ reactions to her and to others. It’s a harsh kind of empathy that makes her question everything she does and says.

Actually me.

At the moment, I don’t really care for Jung. In the latter half of season 1 we get some insight into why he is the way he is. He’s from a really wealthy family; everyone is on their toes around them and for the sake of preserving the status quo, he has to be gracious at all times, even when he’s upset. When people upset him, he can only afford to get angry behind closed doors, so to speak; his comebacks have a particularly sadistic nuance to them.

Seriously, with friends like Jung who needs enemies? Luckily Seol has a wonderful group of friends. I freaking love Bora. When she overhears random guys “evaluating” how dateable Seol is, she completely flips out on them and then decides to set Seol up with the greatest guy in existence, Jung be damned!

엄친아 스타일로ㅋㅋㅋ

I’m guessing there’s going to be an eventual romance between Jung and Seol? Jung definitely seems interested in her (whether that’s in a romantic sense or otherwise). Given the way season 1 ended, I have a feeling the happy times are coming to an end and the webtoon might turn rather dark, rather soon.

Overall I’m still having a ton of fun reading this. Onward to season 2!

Cheese in the Trap – 1

Okay, so I am BLOGGGG-ing about Cheese in the Trap. Only the webtoon, though, not the drama.

(I’m feeling meh about dramas these days. I’m almost finished with 마을 아치아라의 비밀 – a drama that is seriously making me question my liking for Moon Geun-young and one that I would’ve given up if it weren’t so deliciously melodramatic. But I digress.)

So anyway, Cheese in the Trap.

We’re following the story of Hong Seol, a college student heading back to school after a long leave of absence. She’s pretty normal. She’s smart (though the circumstances behind which she received her full scholarship is one of the mysteries of the story) and has a decent social life with a tight-knit group of friends. Surprisingly she’s not dirt poor like most K-drama protagonists, but she’s trying her hardest to not burden her parents with tuition fees (there’s a story behind that too).

There’s one thorn in her side though – the campus Mr. Perfect, Yoo Jung, who happens to be the reason she ended up taking a break from school in the first place.

This dude is weird. Outwardly, he’s bizarrely perfect: good-looking, smart, polite, kind… all the girls love him and all the guys want to be him. Except Seol notices some inconsistencies in his behavior. Sometimes he’s nice, sometimes he seems cold and condescending, and sometimes he’s outright mean to Seol. I’m 30 chapters into the webtoon and I don’t know what this dude’s deal is. Seol thinks he’s playing mind games with her by orchestrating situations that make her highly uncomfortable. But she has no proof and sometimes she just thinks she’s being overly sensitive. That was a year ago. Now she’s back in school, and he seems like he’s trying really hard to be her friend for some weird reason….

So there are basically two different timelines being told in parallel – we’re privy to Seol’s flashbacks from one year prior ago as well as the present day storyline, so I don’t know (yet) what it was that made Seol quit school, but it definitely had something to do with Jung.

I’m still at the start of this series (about 75% of the way through part 1 of 3) but I’m enjoying it so far. There’s a touch of mystery, touch of comedy, touch of romance…. The characters are great, including Seol. She’s hilarious.

Seol freaking out about selfie she took with Jung.

Also this random sunbae of hers. I don’t know if he’s going to play a bigger role later in the webtoon, but look at him. You can’t not like that face.

입이 찢어질 듯

It seems like figuring out what the heck Jung’s deal is will be the focus of the bulk of the webtoon. My guess is that he’s the really sheltered son of a mafia boss who is on some kind of undercover mission at the university. Never mind, Jeannie tells me this isn’t true. I could’ve sworn… he’s so good at those arcade shooting games too!

I’ll probably blog on and off about the webtoon here. Is anyone else reading this or watching the drama? Let me know what you think (but no spoilers please).

And if you’re not comfortable with reading it in Korean, there’s an English translation too!

Mandarake – (Used) Manga Paradise in Japan

Okay, so imagine you’re in Japan.

For lovers of Japanese fiction/non-fiction, there’s Kinokuniya.  For lovers of manga, light novels, and anime merch, there’s Animate.  And then, my friendsthere is a store for those of us who like all of the above but are on a budget.  That’s Mandarake.

Image courtesy of Lisa Pinehill (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ginkgraph/8093211245)
Image courtesy of Lisa Pinehill (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ginkgraph/8093211245)

Mandarake (まんだらけ) is a multi-story anime/manga media store found in a number of locations throughout Japan.  The store is chock-full of anime CDs, DVDs, even VHS tapes (it’s true!), collectible figurines, cosplay gear, toys and cell phone charms, fan-made doujinshi and, best of all, a jaw-dropping quantity of used manga.

I went to two different Mandarake’s when I visited Japan: one in Akihabara (Tokyo) and one in Namba (Osaka).  The photo above isn’t mine, but that’s the Namba branch of the store.  And no, your eyes do not deceive you:  Those are shelves of used manga literally chilling outside the building.

I very often delude myself into thinking I know Japanese better than I actually do, especially when it comes to reading.  I’m horrible at reading Japanese.  You’d be amazed how undeterred I am by that fact when I am in store such as Mandarake.  One of the most difficult things about this store was actually navigating around and trying to find a specific title.  The manga seemed to be classified by genre first, and then by the magazine it was serialized in, and then by author.  So basically, I was wandering like a lost sheep most of the time, under the guise of “browsing” casually.

I did spot some familiar titles.

Throwback to early high school.  You will not believe how emotionally invested in Marmalade Boy I was.  Funnily enough, it’s one of Theo’s most memorable mangas too.  We don’t overlap a ton in terms of what we’ve read or watched so that was pretty interesting to find out!

Believe it or not, it wasn’t too difficult to walk away empty-handed from normal bookstores like Kinokuniya.  One tankoubon at Kinokuniya is $6.20 in the U.S. and roughly the same price in Japan; I wouldn’t save money by buying manga or novels in Japan.  But used manga in Mandarake run as cheap as ¥200 (1.60 USD) and are in practically new condition.  That was true temptation.

In the spirit of bonding over manga that we’ve both read, I picked up volume 1 of a couple of Theo’s favorites.  Orange in particular was quite popular, probably because the final chapter release a few months ago.  There’s apparently going to be a live action movie too, releasing in Japan this December.

IMG_0616-1 copy

Slowly, but surely, my Japanese bookshelf grows.  One of these days I’ll actually finish something on it.  My first ever Japanese novel was 告白 by Minato Kanae, the novel which gave rise to one of my all-time favorite movies.  A friend gave me the novel… oh, three or so years ago.  And I still can’t make it past the third sentence without stumbling across kanji that I can’t read.

One of these days!


It’s been a really really long time since I’ve been this obsessed with an anime series.  Last month I started watching Shingeki no Kyojin on a whim and… well, my life hasn’t been the same since.  Heh.


その日 人類は思い出した、 ヤツらに支配されていた恐怖を。 鳥籠の中に囚われていた屈辱を。
On that day, humanity remembered the terror of being ruled by them, the humiliation of being held captive in cage.

Thus started the first episode of arguably the most epic anime of 2013.

SNK is so hyped these days that even I somehow came to know about it, even though I have been totally out of loop with anime/manga since high school.  I watched it with no prior knowledge of the plot and, let me tell you, that first episode sucked me in so fast that I spent 6 straight hours watching all the episodes that had aired in one day.  I resisted reading the manga for a couple weeks before caving and spending 2 sleepless days catching up on all the chapters.  I now spend a considerable amount of my free time sobbing over fan art, watching interviews with the seiyuuswriting fan fiction, agonizing over cosplay, and listening to every rendition of “Guren no Yumiya” I can find.  This anime has one of the best OSTs I’ve ever heard, in addition to gorgeous animation and a gripping story.

In a line, the plot is about humanity fighting to survive in a world populated by strange, man-eating giants called titans (kyojin).

And it’s so good to hear Japanese again.

Honestly, I never focused my efforts enough in Japanese to progress past the beginning level.  That, and I just find Japanese very difficult.  Mad respect for my fellow language learners who are studying Japanese.

But I am starting to realize that I can recognize more and more grammar patterns and I can pick up more and more nouns/adjectives/verbs quickly.  I can recognize words that sound similar to their Korean counterparts.  Radio dramas are getting slightly easier to understand too.

When I’m watching a show and hear a string of dialogue, I can more often than not figure out the meaning of single words using the subtitles.  Then I’d jot them down and later use a dictionary to make sure I got the definitions right.

This isn’t exactly exciting news except that it occurred to me today that I remember doing this exact same thing with Korean.  I’d make vocabulary lists in the middle of watching a drama and, depending on the drama, the more specialized the vocabulary would be (i.e. a detective drama would teach me words like ‘murder’, ‘detective,’ etc.)

I don’t do this anymore with Korean (though I should) but doing this for Japanese, especially with this anime, makes me feel accomplished.  I think my listening skills have improved a lot!  It also helps that SNK has a number of memorable lines.


I will exterminate them… from this world… every single one!

One thing you miss out on if you use subtitles, is the derisive language Eren uses to talk about the titans, despite how fearsome they are.  Take the line above for example.

  • あいつら is a plural pronoun that has a very informal, almost contemptuous nuance to it.
  • VERB + てやる:  Doing a favor for someone lower than yourself; can sound insulting
  • 一匹「いっぴき」:  counter used for small animals

I think the use of 一匹 is pretty interesting, considering that the titans are gigantic.  You would think 一頭「いっとう」 would be more appropriate… but then again 一匹 is used also for demons and monsters so maybe titans fall under that category too.

There’s more vocab I picked up from SNK under the cut.  These are words that I heard repeated so many times, they just stuck.  Most of them are specific to the story, but still kinda fun to know.  If you’re at all into anime, I HIGHLY recommend this series.

Continue reading “進撃の単語”


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.