VIZ Media reaches the next stage in the development of its VIZ Originals imprint. Aspiring artists and writers are invited to apply for portfolio reviews taking place at some of North America’s biggest pop culture shows. The VIZ Originals imprint will develop innovative, English-language creator-owned graphic novel content for a global market, and is committed […]
Last year, I made 5 resolutions:
1. Lose weight. I managed to lose 15 pounds from July to November by exercising 3 to 4 times a week. Injuries got in the way. I injured my left knee twice in June and July and strained my neck in December. Even though I’m starting from zero again for 2014 (at 154 pounds, only 1 pound lighter than last year), I’ve figured out the exercise program that works for me.
2. Learn Japanese. I had planned to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), but I missed the deadline. Still, this year, I finished one full journal in Japanese, applied for a Japanese speech contest for foreigners, and re-started organized Japanese studies with an advanced course.
3. Save more money. I didn’t save more money this year. I spent more money (yikes!). I did, however, started seriously paying off my student loans and my husband saved the majority of money.
4. Travel more. Because of our savings, my husband and I decided not to travel.
5. Get to reading and writing! 2013 was a good year for me in regards to writing and reading. I won a science fiction writing contest and one of my stories was selected for a science fiction anthology. I also read 32 books out of my Goodreads’s goal of 30 books in a year. Along with my writing and reading progress, I took two very insightful Coursera classes: Comic Books and Graphic Novels (University of Boulder) and Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World (University of Michigan). They helped me improved my writing style and approach to fiction.
Now that I’m staring my 2013 resolutions in the face, I understand why most of these goals failed. They’re so broad! I need concrete, realistic goals, not general ones that can be transposed from me to another person.
So here’s another shot at my resolutions:
1. Lose 25 pounds in 2014 and keep it off. If I exercise 30 minutes 3 times a week every week for a year, that’ll make 144 workouts in a year. This is possible if I look at it as in half a pound a week is lost in 48 weeks (a year). Luckily, I’ve found some great workouts online for free (save money!) and I can put my birthday gift to use (Nike Plus Fitness on Kinect). And, since my husband and I have decided to only eat meat in one meal a day, we’ll be helping each other stave off the pounds.
Ultimate goal: Weigh 130 pounds.
2. Take the lowest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). I missed the deadline last year, but I have another chance in July. I have a tutor to help me with this resolution now, and I can concentrate on kanji (Chinese writing system) and grammar through old textbooks.
Ultimate goal: Pass N1 of the JLPT, finish 2 Japanese journals, and pass my Japanese advance course.
3. Pay off 100% of my last credit card, pay off 95% of my student loans, and save at least $1,000 a month. This is totally possible if I ignore the horrid yen-to-dollar exchange rate. From October, I already implemented my student loan pay off. This year, I have to take the reigns of my budgeting plans by creating monthly bill deadlines and alerts.
Ultimate goal: Have $0 on all credit cards, have $700 left on student loans, and have $10,000 in savings.
4. Read 50 books this year and win 2 writing contests. I’ll have to pace myself and read more e-books while I’m at school. I need to develop a writing schedule and stick with it for the year.
5. Create 8 manga podcasts on Anime 3000. I’m a manga podcaster for Anime 3000’s Manga Corner. I was able to release only 4 manga podcasts last year. I’d like to re-vamp the show a little and interview 8 different guest stars. If you’re an anime, manga, or Japanophile podcaster, you can contact me (mangacorner [ at ] anime3000 [ dot ] com) about being a guest star.
When I first became interested in Japan, I was only interested in Japanese animation and manga. It wasn’t until college that I decided to read Japanese authors to get a better perspective of Japan. Although I think that anime and manga are great ways to learn more about a culture, books have a unique way of presenting cultural information in a gentle manner; the reader gets to walk in the footsteps of a Japanese person, not just look at drawings of Japanese people. The thoughts and mannerisms of a Japanese are ingrained in the writing–if readers can read between the lines.
Murakami is one of my favorite writers in general, let alone, Japanese writers. His works are very famous around the world, and almost every book I’ve read by him has amazed me. His most popular books include 1Q84, Norwegian Wood, and Kafka on the Shore. Each of his stories deal with the surreal, whether they encounter dreams, ghosts, or the character’s own tormented psyche.
Though I would say that Yoshimoto is a female version of Murakami, her works stand well on their own. She also writes surrealistic stories, such as n.p., Goodbye, Tsugumi, and Kitchen, but she focuses on a situation that leads the main character towards different relationships with people. What I like about Yoshimoto is that her work is really honest and straightforward, something that’s difficult to find in writers nowadays. Her work is easy to digest, but don’t be fooled. There’s always a deeper concept playing beneath the surface of her words.
Nobel Prize winner, Kenzaburo Oe, is a well-known Japanese writer with many of his works translated around the world. A prolific writer with heavy themes, Oe captures the depth of human psychology while infusing existentialism into his stories. His works include A Quiet Life, The Changeling, and A Personal Matter. Although his works are more difficult to read–his audience seems to be for people above a tenth-grade reading level–Oe’s works are worth reading, especially for readers looking to find the gritty side of the human soul.
Though this writer, actor, poet, and film director was born in the early years of the 20th century, Mishima’s works still breathe of lives that face the same issues of loss, death, and reality. Similar to Oe’s dark-themed works, Mishima faces his readers with brutal honesty that isn’t easy to absorb sometimes. Still, his books like Death in Midsummer and The Sea of Fertility tetralogy are worthwhile reads.
Although Amy Yamada isn’t so popular like Murakami or Yoshimoto, Yamada’s books are engaging and interesting. Her books, like Trash and Bedtime Eyes, appeal to older women–many of her titles embraces life as a Japanese woman in the U.S. and the relationships she engages in. What I like about Yamada is her confidence in writing about gritty subjects, like sexuality, racism, alcoholism, and interracial coupling. She’s not shy about the reality of relationships, good or bad.
Author of popular stories that spawned multiple anime and movie titles, Tsutsui’s books are more suited for the complicated teenage mind. It’s not the plot lines that I would suggest books like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time for the teen-book section. Simply, the English versions I’ve read are written at a fifth or sixth grade reading level with the same level substance. Like Murakami and Yoshimoto, many of Tsutsui’s books have a surreal quality, but more fantasy or science fiction is weaved into the stories. Unlike Murakami and Yoshimoto, who use simplistic vocabulary, Tsutsui hasn’t mastered how to create depth in the stories. As I mentioned before, I would only suggest Tsutsui’s books for complicated teenagers.
As an English teacher in Japan, you realize:
1. How horrible your penmanship is.
2. How difficult it is to explain English grammar
3. That English can be fun in class
4. How hard English is to learn as a second language
5. How hard English is to teach as a second language
6. That the Japanese teachers write on the blackboards way straighter and better than you
7. That English is a strange language
8. That you’re no speech therapist, but you sure as hell have to try to teach kids how to say “R” and “L” words
9. That your whining about your classes or students will probably go unheard
10. That stickers and candy can get the laziest student to do the activities
2011 is coming to a close, and I couldn’t be happier. With the U.S. economy in a downturn and the politicians doing more to make the situation more disgustingly difficult, this year has been a year of ups and downs.
Since I’ve become used to Japan, being there is like a lifesaver for a recent college grad as myself. I’m still doing a good and comfortable job in English teaching that grants me a relaxed atmosphere in both my work life and my personal life. Professionally, I’ve made a few good decisions, like renewing my contract for another year of teaching in case the U.S. economy continues to be a sanctuary for severe underemployment. Although I did well to continue with a good job and stable income, I’ve tried my hand at writing and art while in Japan. It’s a bit laughable how I haven’t won even one simple writing contest or that I’ve left my favorite manga writing position for writing for myself, but regrettable things happen like that every year, so it’s no big deal.
Financially, my life could’ve been better starting out. I didn’t really know how to save, and when I finally found an attainable goal, I learned. Still, my husband likes to make fun of how much I blew before he came to live with me and how bad I was at money. Now that I’m saving, the future looks a little brighter financially for the year 2012.
As for my personal life, I think my life went in the direction as the economy, with fluctuations here and there, and I’m not sure how I should feel about them. I can’t say I personally became a better person this year. I usually concentrate a lot of energy on my overall goals in my professional life while balancing a healthy relationship with myself. I usually dig a little bit deeper into my psyche and try to fix damaged areas, finding more and more reasons to be comfortable in my own skin. But I don’t think I’ve actually repaired anything within myself this year. I feel like I’ve taken a step back, and at times, I feel like I’ll break. I’ve thought that maybe 2011 was for me to change and break down and rebuild even stronger than before, like a fatigued muscle. But people don’t operate the same way as muscles.
As 2012 looms, I have no resolutions. They all seem futile when I look at the scheme of life. But there are things that I want to accomplish while I’m trying to live. I want to go back to volunteering in my community so I can feel connected to people somehow. I want to make a difference somewhere in the world, and going away from that makes my heart feel heavy. I also want to work on being less selfish. My husband says I’m a brat and selfish. I won’t discount this because it’s true. I have an expectation of what I deserve, and there are a lot of things that I don’t feel like I deserve just because of certain nonsense things. And I have to work on being more loving and caring for my husband, being more understanding and be like an extension of him. If not, I’ll probably be a bad wife or a continuous selfish person. We won’t have to fight about my selfishness. We can just be a happy wedded couple. If I keep my professional life separate from my personal life, keep my finances controlled and abundant, and become less selfish and more understanding, I’m sure 2012 can be a great year for everyone and myself.