BRR (Badass Raw Reader) Evolution

July 8th, 2015 by Author

I had “大阪万博”, conventionally known as “Osaka World Fair”, for about three years, unread. Then, I picked it up a few days ago, and surprise! I can read it well enough to enjoy it {for the curious, it’s a compendum of tributes by famous manga artists, and they are all excellent}. I remember vividly that it was entirely impregnable before, or at least no fun at all. So, what happened?

I think it’s basically the technology or the way I exploited the technology, specifically two key pieces: IMI and Kanon. Both rely heavily on the modern tablet technology in general, and only became available recently.

Kanon is well known; it was around for a while, on desktop. But a tablet edition is portable, so it is available when I’m not sitting in front of a PC. It is unvoiced. Previously, I only played VNs that were fully voiced, because I could not read. Kanon makes you read. However, it is not forceful at that. It is a light enough reading if you don’t know anything, but it has a depth that is fun to exploit. So, at first I only looked up 1 kanji at a page, focusing on verbs. Then, 2 kanji per page. Then, every kanji on a page.

I tried out a few other VNs, but the vast majority are just not any good; the good ones are not available for an easy purchase or downloads. Most of the remainder are ported poorly from PC — they run on an unsufferable emulator. Controls are unusable, fonts are unreadable. Or they are too short like Hime-Hime Booking (which is also voiced). Or they are not amazing enough, like Airs (and light on good kanji). Kanon, in contrast, can be trawled for months, literally (post about it at Ani-nouto is more than a year old, yet I completed another route a month ago). And it’s rendered in the most beautiful fonts that are easy for my aging eyes to read. All these features make a world of difference together.

IMI seems not terribly groundbreaking either, at first. I used the traditional tools previously: The New Nelson dictionary and the Wordtank. However, they weren’t convenient enough to use on the go or in bed. The New Nelson is very nice and easy to use, but it’s absolutely massive. It’s great for a serious student, but I’m not dedicated enough to use it recreationally. Putting all that into the same tablet where Kanon lives makes it significantly easier. In addition, IMI adds its own polish. It’s not the first dictionary app that I picked, but it has few bugs, the UI is useable, and it allows the lookup by component. It was pioneered by the JDict, I believe, and allows for easy and efficient search. I’m all for traditions, radicals, and stroke order, but I’m also lazy.

The main lesson here is the balance of fun and challenge. If you digesting kana, you might want somethiing heavy on kana and okurigana first (like e.g. whatever material Steven is using). Motivation is a tricky thing: even a person of excellent willpower is unable to mobilize for long stretches. Fortunately, we have the technology.