February 2010

Back in the halcyon days of the early 1980s when America was still climbing out of the 1970s, the hot trend in movies (between Star Wars movies) was the Ninja movie. Despite the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment garnered by the economic problems of the USA, the ninja was adopted whole heartedly by American teen boys looking for a new martial arts hero. The trend was started by the Golan and Globus brothers production of Enter the Ninja with Sho Kosugi. Two more films were made in the Ninja series with Sho Kosugi going on to star in followup Revenge of the Ninja and several more martial arts films. Even in the cheap and somewhat shoddy Cannon films productions Kosugi’s work as a martial artist stands out. He garnered much praise and he still stands out in the pantheon of martial arts stars. It also pays to remember how unusual it was for a Japanese to star in an American movie production. From the Sho Kosugi website:

The Ninja sensation was so big that when Pat Rod, of the Hollywood Reporter, was in countries like Greece and Turkey she said,”Movie enthusiasts there never asked me about Stallone, Cruise, or Harrison Ford; it was always,’Have you ever met Sho Kosugi?'”

He did recognize that the ninja craze was a fad and moved on to more general action movies by the late 80s. But his sense of timing left an indelible impression on the ninja craving fans.

Sho Kosugi went on to found the SKI Institute in Hollywood teaching everything from taiko to gymnastics along with other martial arts schools in Japan. His two sons, Shane and Kane have also appeared in movies and are occasionally competitors on the Sasuke TV show in Japan (Ninja Warrior here in the US).

Let’s tackle the bottom of page 1 today which seems to be a thought bubble for Kyon on initial glance. Japanese is read from right to left and vertically from the top to bottom. This is a little disorienting at first but you find it quick to get used to. For the sake of brevity lets do only the first line starting from the left. (BTW, clicking on the image at left will get ypou to the higher res version)

Taking advantage of the furigana we have So no “ore” wa (ha) yoko ninatsute.  Japanese use those sort of half brackets as quotation marks. Sono translates as “that”, ore the kanji in brackets is an informal for man or male person. Wa (hiragana is “ha” but it is pronounced “wa”) means is. the second kanji is yoko or side. The string of hiragana after is ni na tsu te. Plugging this into Google translate is comes out as “the summer to”

Broken English translation is That man is the summer to. Which doesn’t make a whol;e lot of sense as is. So we are going to hold off on trying to translate that into plain English from the broken until we get the rest of the lines translated and can see what the other lines are talking about. Japanese often does not have a word for word translation into English and this makes translating an art instead of a science.

What kind of Apps are available for the Android smartphone crowd wanting to learn or practice Japanese? and more importantly what can we get for a budget. Even though the Android market is relatively new compared to the iPhone’s there are a lot of apps available for the study of Nihongo. Two of the ones I have tried just recently and like:

Robert Muth’s Kana Drill. The basic demo version is complete for Hiragana for free with a paid upgrade to include the Katakana syllabary. The app is simply for review of the kana syllabaries. A hiragana symbol appears at the top and the user has seconds in which to match it to the romanji pronunciation. The options allows you to set the time and the number of rounds and alter the number of rows that the kana are used in the drill. A very simple and effective free app that I have been using quite a bit to learn kana.

Survive! Japanese Lite is a little adventure game for learning basic hiragana, vocabulary and common phrases. This is a nice little adventure style game that puts the player/user into daily situations that would occur in Japan and uses both audio and text to teach basic Japanese. Very simple and fun idea, the basic game is free with the full version as a paid upgrade. The game begins with the user disembarking at Narita airport after flying into Japan and a little adventure awaits. Very highly recommended little game. The company also makes other study Japanese related apps.

These are just two of the better free apps available for Android, surely more to come as the developers come into Android.