Taking the world less travelled

Learning Japanese Through Hana Kimi

Posted by on Mar 10, 2009 in Reviews | 6 comments

Hana Kimi manga cover At the moment I’m tackling Hanazakari no Kimitachi e – the manga.

While I was in Japan I bought home.. *ahem* 75 manga. Yes, it was heavy. You can check out a crappy phone photo here. All this manga goodness was thanks to the wonders and delights that is Book Off. It may just be the most wonderful place in the whole world. It sells second hand books at an awesome price. Just don’t go there on Lady’s day and expect to come out empty handed…

Never the less, looking at my wall of manga, I thought I better get started on it properly or else I all the exercise I got carrying the things around Japan would have been for nothing. I have flicked through a few, “read” a few as well, but apart from some frustration, little has been gained. I really need to sit down and “study” these books without trying to make it into too much of a chore.

So I’ve decided to tackle Hana Kimi first.

The Good

Hana Kimi is a wise choice. I’ve read it before, although in translated English. It was also a billion years ago, so I can’t quite remember the little plot points. Of course, also, I’ve watched the TV series. So I know the basic outline of the story which will definitely help.

It’s also a story that I enjoy, which will help a lot! I think that learning to read this will be exciting as I get to finally read it in it’s native language. The book is 99% of the time better than the movie/tv show!

The Bad

Hana Kimi manga contents Today, when I got up to where Nakatsu is introduced I remembered that in the manga he has an Kansai dialect. Which, I guess, will be good in helping me learn the Kansai dialect, but will also be very tricky! We’ll see how I go…

The length is another bad thing. I got the new super awesome deluxe edition which has three or four books in the one. So while manga are usually short, sweet, and to the point, this one is a whopping 368 pages. I might not come out the other side (if I make it through at all) alive!

Another bad thing is all the casual language. Yes, I know my だ from my です, but I guess I’m talking about more colloquial language that I can’t find in my dictionary. It’s something that will hopefully become easier as I learn through context – from lots of encounters both in manga and in other sources – but the first time I encounter them is always a bit baffling. I do like to read aloud though, and sometimes through reading aloud I realise I do know the word from having heard it in dramas.

The Method

The method is rather simple. I am confident that I will have encountered most grammar points before, so I am hopeful that I will be able to work out most sentences. What I will need to do is learn to recognise new kanji and to learn new words.

Hana Kimi colour with my notes I am literally just going through this with a pencil and a dictionary. I am reading through, and when I don’t know a word I will look it up and pencil in an English translation near the Japanese word. Some times I need to look up almost every word in ever bubble. Other times I only have one word a page. I am hoping as I go through more and more I’ll have to rely on the dictionary less and less. But for now I don’t know enough words to gain the meaning most times through context.

I have no plans to add any of this to an SRS program or study it in any other form but to just read read read. I hope I don’t get too bored with it, but if I do, I will no doubt move onto something else and you’ll be able to read about it here! But for now, I am just going through and reading. After I have done a section I go back and read it with excitement. I am breaking down complex sentences, translating it into English to make some meaning from it. I know from past experience so far that the more exposure I have, suddenly I can just read things and understand it in Japanese. I am hoping this too will get easier the more I do!

I have noticed already, only a few pages into it, that words I didn’t know before are being repeated, so it is already acting like a natural SRS program in some sense. I am making no effort to memorize or learn the new words/kanji. I am just reading, checking an English translation, and moving on. I hope to learn them through exposure, both here in this manga and in other contexts.

In the future, if I read through and realise I don’t need my note there any more for a particular word, I will erase my pencil scribbles. I can always look it up again if I forget (kind of like failing a card in SRS!).

This is my study method at the moment and it is a lot of fun :)

Hana Kimi Manga - inside page


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  1. M-Kat

    It’s a great way to learn I think. When I went to Japan I bought the Death Note mange (which I’m sure isn’t the best manga to start off reading in Japanese:-p) and the Hana Yori Dango manga and began to read that. Also if you ever go to NYC there is a Book Off with tons of reading material.just the same as in Japan. When I was living there I think I was at book off maybe 3 or 4 times a week :-p

    I should try reading Hana Kimi though. I’ve seen the show and have the English manga but I agree reading something again in it’s natural language is very helpful!! I wish you success in finishing it ^^

    • GoddessCarlie

      Actually, it is quicker, cheaper, and easier for me to go to Japan for book off than NY. Yay for being at the arse end of the planet :P In some ways I am glad that I don’t live close to a book off, it would be very dangerous indeed!

  2. Hao

    I’m doing the same with Love Hina, watched the anime a long time ago and now I’m reading the manga, my recommendation is just to skip parts that you don’t understand when you don’t have an online dictionary or something accessible, in any case slang won’t appear…

    BTW, have you seen Hana Kimi Jdrama? Great stuff, I recommend it ^^ (can share link if you need) Lemme know if you need the link :)

    • GoddessCarlie

      Hao, I love the drama! I’ve even reviewed some of it here:


      And have the photo book from the series :luvfly:

      Yeah, I’m not too worried if I don’t understand something completely. Some slang I can find, some slang I know from hearing elsewhere – that’s when it helps to read a loud as some times when just reading I don’t get it, but when I say it out I realise I have heard it before.

      After I’ve gone through it a couple of times I would like to go through with the English translation so I can see how much I have “got” and perhaps understand a bit more.

      Eventually I hope I will need no dictionary at all!

  3. ChocoCat

    Carlie-san, I salute you! I wouldn’t have enough patience to read all of Hana-Kimi in Japanese! Lol. Sugoii..
    I have not seen the duluxe edition before..is it expensive?
    Btw, did u see YouTube clips of Ikuta Toma playing Danny Zuko in the Japanese version, Grease? (a musical though, not movie). If I remembered correctly, it was played last year Oct-Nov in Japan. I wished I was there to see it!~ It would have been awesome! (^__^)

    • GoddessCarlie

      I’m not sure I’ll get through all of it!! Besides, I only have the first five volumes atm.
      The deluxe edition came out about the same time as the TV series. The difference is it has some images from the picture books at the front in colour, and they have three or four editions in the one book.

      I was in Japan when he was in Grease but very sad because I couldn’t get tickets. I really wanted to see it! I will have to hunt around for the you tube clips!!

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