By Video_Game_King 30 Comments
(As I'm sure some of you know by now, I'm teaching myself Japanese for what I'm sure are incredibly petty reasons.) So how's that been going? Well, to be brutally honest: terribly. Ne....only once have I put in so much effort for so little pay-off. But I can probably pinpoint why my Japanese sucks so hard: my methods are shit. I don't know what else to do, so I simply listen to Japanese audiobooks and read the accompanying text, hoping it results in something learned.
Don't look at this as a gloomy waste of time, though. It's actually been pretty fun, as each one has its own little quirks that I simply love discovering. Mayhap the narrator decides to grab a quick bite during his reading, or perhaps they've included some nice sound effects to bring their reading to life. Maybe they did a line of coke before that reading and you have trouble keeping up with them from paragraph to paragraph. But I don't care; that's what makes these so enjoyable in the first place. And that's not even getting into the actual stories, which also tend to have their fair share of eccentricities. So sit back and let me recount my adventures in the world of sort-of-Japanese literature!
A Scandal in Bohemia
Alright, time for a straight-up warning: most of these stories are going to be from the 19th century. In fact, all of them will be from the 19th century. I'd say it's due to copyright laws, but I prefer to think that Japan has a boner for steampunk. As do I. Now before I actually go into the story, I feel it pertinent to state that this was one of the first Sherlock Holmes story put to pen, meaning it was key to establish exactly what type of character our friend Holmes was. Of course, the author chose to make him a condescending asshole, evident from the beginning of the story. After Watson arrives, Holmes mocks the poor bastard over his inability to memorize the number of stairs in his house. Things only go downhill from there. He lets Watson try to solve the case, only to push him aside and let the big boys handle these things (remember that Watson is a licensed medical doctor and not his kid nephew); and then he threatens to light a woman's house on fire so he can commit a home invasion the next day. But it's hard to hate the guy when he gets results in the end.
Only he doesn't. One of the guy's first cases, and he fucks it up big time. Fortunately, it's because he's such a pompous asshole that he screws things up big time. God, that catharsis is amazing. Granted, the story tries to frame it as some type of success (Holmes' client still gets his wish), but trust me: Sherlock Holmes done fucked up......You know, I should probably stop ragging on the poor guy. After all, there's more to this story than that. The whole detective process plays out rather logically and covers all its bases, and...no, that's all I can remember of this particular short story. (It's been a long time.) Still, if you have about fifteen minutes to blow through someday and you forgot your DS, you could probably go to Wikisources and find A Scandal in Bohemia lying a-
Wait, I forgot about the audio part of this audio book. Strange, given the quality of these recordings. (See if you can spot a pattern to come.) I don't know if I said so earlier (because even I don't read this dreck), but this was my first Japanese audiobook, and I'm glad I started things off so well. A piano introduces and outroduces each MP3, the audio is clear, and best of all, it's not just one asshole recording everybody's voices. I know that sounds strange, but you'll learn why I appreciate this soon enough. Suffice it to say that I was surprised and pleased when a female reader voiced the female character. (I was expecting a squeaky-voiced man, if I remember correctly.) The only complaint I have (aside from that one time Holmes chows down mid-monologue because fuck you) is that these recordings seem specifically designed to make me hate Germans. There's only one German character in the entire story, and he's always speaking way too fast for words to be made out. I get it: you sexted a picture to Irene Adler. But slow the hell down. Nobody can understand you. Speaking of being unable to understand a damn thing...
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Unsurprisingly, that has more to do with the source material than it does the Japanese. Perhaps a chronological retelling of the story's events will make it clear. Alice is sitting by the river, complaining about the lack of manga, when she sees a WHITE RABBIT dressed in PEOPLE CLOTHES jump down a NEARBY rabbit hole. Did I mention that Lewis Carroll SHOUTS EVERY OTHER PHRASE AT YOU as a funny means of emphasis? Anyway, she chases the rabbit down the hole, and then eats some treats on a nearby table, because why the fuck not? Then she grows big, then small, then almost drowns, and then she goes to animal Congress or whatever and then she breaks into somebody's house a-
Are you sensing a pattern yet? If not, let me lay it out for you: shit just happens all the time in this book. There's really no causal relation between any of the parts of the story; nobody has any motivation for doing what they do. OK, that's not entirely true for the end, which does try to make events follow each other for a reason, but for the most part, you could arrange everything around differently and nothing would change. Not that this is all bad by necessity. As you should know, I'm into all kinds of weird shit, so personally, I could take it or leave it. Besides, it's a children's story (with some allegorical math sprinkled about), so who cares if it makes no goddamn sense? If it's a fun ride, who am I to complain? My only true complaint is that the White Rabbit isn't as utterly pimp as he is in the Disney movie, but that's hardly something I can hold against the book that was written years before film was even invented.
Which brings me to the audio files, I guess. All I can say is that they're competent, but not glamorous. Just kidding! I can say a lot more about them. For instance, only one person did this recording, sadly enough. And as there are multiple characters in Alice's adventures, prepare for all kinds of memorable impressions. Squeaky Alice! Stoned Caterpillar! Husky Gryphon! Stoned Cheshire Cat! Stoned (or Possibly Very Tired) Dormouse! Upon reflection, a good portion of the characters sound like they lit one up before speaking with the protagonist. Incredibly fitting, given the material we're talking about, but if I can be a stingy asshole, technically only one character was smoking anything in the entire book. But I can't hate on this too much, because on a technical level, everything's fine. She speaks at a reasonable pace, so I can make out what she's saying, and the audio's clean and clear. Not as glamorous as A Scandal in Bohemia, or even as good as the next audiobook, but whatever. It gets the job done.
And back to Sherlock Holmes we come! Don't worry, though; I'm not gonna lay out my complaints about the world's greatest detective or whatever his alias is. Hell, I'll even go so far as to say that this is better than A Scandal in Bohemia. Two reasons: first, the case is a lot more complex than getting a picture back from some lady.....OK, just one reason: Sherlock Holmes having fun. That shit about the case being difficult and complex? (I might as well tell you what the case is right now: a murder case and a horse was captured.) That's still true, but Holmes solves it in about half a page. This leaves the rest of the story open for Sherlock Holmes to systematically fuck with every character he comes across. Don't worry; it's all ultimately harmless, and a few of them have it coming anyway. So yea, it's miles better than the last Sherlock Holmes story, and I include the audio portions in that statement.
Though on that subject, surprisingly enough, the MP3s here are like some strange combination of the previous two audiobooks. On the one hand, we have the general quality of A Scandal in Bohemia. The quality is by far the best of any of these, and while there aren't any fancy intros or outros, Silver Blaze gets its sound effects on, what with the train noises and deathly air of British moors resounding throughout. On the other hand, like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, only one person does this. Yet unlike it, this guy doesn't even really bother with something so petty as multiple voices. You want to differentiate the characters? He'll change his inflection slightly, and that's it. But I guess that's to be expected when you have a voice as cool as this guy's. It's hard to describe the exact qualities of a voice (smooth with nine Os?), and I'm not sure I can link you guys to the MP3s I was listening to, but trust me: the guy reading Silver Blaze has a great voice. I'd call him the definitive Sherlock Holmes if Sherlock Holmes spoke Japanese.
Little Match Girl
Oh god, this was terrible. If ever there was a worse audiobook, I have yet to listen to it. Not that I can say I listened to this particularly well, given the dreadful quality. It sounds like the people involved in this all recorded their lines from halfway across the room, and given the prevalent sound of lips smacking throughout, I'd guess they're using the same piece of crap microphone I use for the Mumble servers. For those of you who remember what the beginning of that sentence is like, congratulations! You remembered that I said the word "people"! Since A Scandal in Bohemia had multiple people in it, this one oughta be just as enjoyable, right?
WRONG. Just....wrong. Let me list my experience with these participants. First, they decided to read the title, author, and some other shit all at the same time, possibly in an attempt to be cute. (This is a children's story, I've been told.) Obviously, that had to be edited out immediately, and with it, I edited out any enthusiasm the readers put into this. After that, they all read their lines like...well, like they're reading lines. Worse yet, I couldn't edit all these people into the same person. I would if I could, since it would make things easier on me. I know it sounds trivial, but trust me: it's a trifle distressing to be reading a paragraph and suddenly hear somebody else's voice for no reason. There are only two lines of dialogue in this story; there's no reason to have nine separate people recording it.
Oh, right. The story. I've been putting this part off for a bit, and for good reason: it's depressing as hell. What's wrong with you, Hans Christian Andersen? You couldn't call up Lewis Carroll and have him write you a decent children's story? Actually, now that I think about it, this is about as far as you can get from Alice in Wonderland. Remember how that was a whimsical adventure utterly detached from reality? Well, Little Match Girl is as gritty and down-to-Earth as you can get. It's a cold British night, and a little girl has to take to the streets to sell matches, or else her father will beat her. That's not a joke, but an actual line from the story. And the worst part? It's not the most depressing part of this tale. Spoiler alert: the little girl lights herself on fire and burns to death. I'd say that this could qualify as a memory item short story in Fragile Dreams if it wouldn't make the game oppressively sad in the process.
Yet I have to admit that there's still something a little sweet that I like about this story. Despite essentially being a snuff film put to print, there are some touching moments to it. For instance, the girl meets her dead grandmother, and a hallucination goose offers its flesh to the starving child. I know that sounds messed up, but it's actually emotionally appropriate. In fact, remember that Fragile Dreams comment from earlier? Little Match Girl is exactly like that: utterly depressing and sad, but uplifting in a strange way. For those of you who haven't played Fragile Dreams, yet, shame on you. Haven't this ought to approximate the Little Match Girl experience. Not that I'd recommend skipping out on this story; only skipping out on the audio parts of it.'s ramblings taught you anything? But, for those few shameful people out there,
To be continued, if this proves a good enough feature.