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.

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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.

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.

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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!

デスノート鑑賞中

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.