(Trying to) Learn Japanese with Mutazione

Last week I mentioned that I had switched Mutazione from its default English language setting to Japanese to help with my attempts to learn the language. Something else to read and engage with. I’ll talk about how I’m going about it, what I’ve learned along the way and what I need to do to keep it going.

This gif is going to get a lot of use.

This endeavour started off with a restart. Always good. Like a fool I started without a notepad (or any means) of taking notes. It did not take long for me to realise how utterly silly this was. I had an understanding of the first conversation in the game – not complete but it all made sense to me. Then the second conversation happened, and the error of my ways dawned on me. Restart the game, get a pen and paper and go from there. That was the first step. 

Looks like this need a bit of water. (I think).

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, making this play through stick. It’s not too difficult to get a little discouraged something is not understood. That feeling can stack, then frustration beds in and then the urge to give up arises. I’ve felt that before. Hell, it almost happened. After the restart, I played the game the night after and then did not play again for 1 or 2 weeks afterwards. I had to say to myself “You (me) has to stick with this. Regardless of mood, you have to keep at this.” I had to make it a routine, so I started playing it as much as I could. I’ve been playing it most days, and or about an hour day – going up to an hour and half on occasion. After an hour I start to zone out. But, I have an hour down now as the minimum – so I can build on that.

Strange, it’s half buried. (I think).

The consistency is getting there and taking notes is there. Why Mutazione? Why not a game that is written in Japanese first? With Mutazione I am playing a game that was written in English first and then translated to Japanese. Many Japanese games on the PSN store in Britain (of the narrative type) do not have Japanese text backs with them. The voice acting is there but the text is not. So, I’ll play games that have Japanese text – Japanese or not. Mutazione has full Japanese text and is one of my favourite games already – so I’m down to run through it once again. 

I need to get back to writing. (I think).

It’s going pretty well. But there are some things that are of concern. Like I wrote last week, I am pleasantly surprised at how much I am understanding, or at least have a grasp of. I am the sort of person that assumes I’m going to be bad at something, and the sort of person that assumes that on sight, if within two seconds of seconds of seeing Japanese and not understanding all of it that I have failed, so there was potential for this to turn in a catastrophe. But as is often the case anxiety is as anxiety does. It has not been that bad. Any new words are written down – screenshots are taken for things that in the moment I’m struggling to put together – and I’m having fun when something does come together.

They have to pay full attention to their work. (I think).

The big area of concern is that I will be the first to admit my understanding of Japanese is not fully comprehensive. This play through is me on my own in a room trying to figure things out. So, while I am confident on getting somethings right I am sure some nuances and finer points are going by the wayside. I don’t have the means to stream, and screen shotting the entire game is, well, I can’t do that. So, there is there is always some concern that there is some stuff I’m just not getting. And I don’t know how to go about rectifying that. I know I can ask for help but I can’t ask people to translate an entire game for me – that’s unfair – people have stuff to do. Also, Mutazione is a game with branching dialogue – I can’t see all the dialogue. That’s a little frustrating. Not the games’ fault – that’s just a result of this particular play through.

I’ll get back to you about this one.

To end of a positive note though – this whole thing is going way better than expected. I’m having more fun that I expected. It is going to take a while to get through the whole game – but the more I do it the better I should get. Just got to keep at it. Got to keep going. The only way is through.

Returning to Ashina, and Mutazione switched to Japanese Language Settings

Elden Ring has lain dormant for a week now. It’s been pretty nice. I’ve been playing some new games and I’ve been returning to some old favourites. This week’s post is concerned with the return to old favourites. One game returns more or less as I left it, and another returns in a different manner, retooled as an attempt at education and fun.

Every once in a while I catch myself wondering why isn’t Elden Ring my favourite game of all time? I dig the environments; I dig the lore (even if I’m not watching too many lore videos right now) and I dig the combat. I dig the boss fights (well, most of them – twin Gargoyles and Godskin Duo aside). It’s all good. Then I visit Ashina, fight Isshin the Sword Saint on boss rush mode and go “oh, that’s why Elden Ring isn’t my favourite game of all time”. There is more to combat than Sekiro – far more – as an example Senpou Temple is still my favourite place in video games, despite all the brilliance of the Land’s Between.

I love him.

But that combat though. It’s so good. It’s been four years since this game came out (damn) and no other games combat has come near it for me. Sometimes I think it does but then I go back to Sekiro and all it takes is one clash of blades and I’m home. There is an intimacy and flow to Sekiro that is hard to replicate. That being said I still dig Elden Ring’s combat a whole lot – the game gave me Giant Hunt. That alone is worth a lot. I’m not a big fan of people praising something else only by shitting on something else. I’d like that to go away sometime soon.

It’s nice doing a medley of 3 or so boss fights on any given night. I get to keep up my Sekiro skills and getting reminded that Isshin is the best boss fight. That’s nice.

Mutazione is now a Japanese game. Well, not really but I am playing the game in Japanese. This point will be returned to in more detail later. I would like to dedicate a whole post to it in the future, as there a few things I want to talk about in more detail.

I’ve tried playing games in Japanese before with varying degrees of success (read: very little success). Even with Mutazione, I’m still in the first chapter but I am making an effort to stick with it. It’s all I can do – keep at it until it becomes routine. It is dawning on me how big of an effort this is going to be though. But I’ve got to keep at it. The more I do it the better I will get at it – well, I should get better at it.

What is helping is that Mutazione is a narrative game first. In action-based games I get frustrated when I can’t understand stuff and end up just skipping to the game play. Here, that’s not an option. And there is a lot of text. More than I remembered. I’m not going to encounter all of the text – the conversations have dialogue options, so there are branching paths. I shouldn’t dwell to much on this – I should push ahead before the enormity of the whole thing can crush me.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I can read though. I mean, I’m not understanding everything but a lot more is getting through than I was expecting. And I am making notes and taking screen shots of things that I don’t understand.

There will be a lot of messing up.

There is going to be a fair few screen shots by the time this is done. It’s fine though. It’s all in the name of progress. And I get to learn more new words – I can dig that.

Learning Japanese with Mutazione, and trying to translate a letter

I’m sticking with learning Japanese. It’s going…well it’s going. It gives me reasons for doing things, something to strive for. That’s a good thing for someone who honestly wonders why I am here and wonders what the point of…that’s not what we are talking about here. We are talking about me learning Japanese.

There are multiple ways of learning a language, and multiple sources for said learning. One of these sources is video games. Video games have language settings that can be changed. Sometimes one of the languages included is Japanese. Surprisingly, the two visual novels I have tried don’t have this. One being Tokyo Dark Remembrance and the other being 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim – which, let’s be honest is a visual novel. Neither of the option for Japanese text. Some games that do have the option for Japanese text are narrative games (for lack of a better them) – Mutazione and Kentucky Route Zero. Previously I tried this with Touhou Azure Reflections but keeping up with a foreign language while trying to navigate bullet patterns can be a bit tricky.

I like you Hong Mei-Ling but please stop shooting me when I am trying to learn.

These games are pretty good for the purpose of learning – their gameplay mostly consists of walking around and talking to folk so there are not mechanically heavy, which makes it easier to focus on the text. Much easier even. Also, these games focus on narrative and characters which means there is plenty of text to work with. All good so far. The slight problem is that these are games that I have already played and games like this don’t lend themselves to replays – even in a different language. This is not a fault of the game by the by – some games are meant to replayed, some are one and done – all depends on context.

What helps in the case of Mutazione is that it got some lovely DLC in the form of letters from its wonderful inhabitants addressed to the main character, Kai. Lots and lots of text that can be switched to another language. 8 letters in total, between 3 and 4 pages for the majority of the letters. That’s a lot of Japanese language to work with.

Let’s have a crack at the first one. Actually, before we get started a few things to get out of the way. Mistakes will be made. I’m not the best at this, and this combined with my constant self-doubt (what a combination) will result in errors – I’m not making any claims to being an expert. I’ll write everything out in Romanji – so if you can’t read kana you can read along. Lastly, I’m not going into too much detail about how things work – I’m just going for a translation. Partly because this post could become big on me fast and secondly my understanding might be wrong too. As an aside, I am terrible with grammar. I honestly think I might hate the concept of grammar. I don’t really get it in English – I’ve just had it drilled into me that it works, and that’s good enough for me. I don’t know why it works; I just know that it works. So, when I have to learn grammar, it is not a smooth process. Right, now let’s get to it. Now that I think about it, this is an anxiety inducing nightmare. Why did I do this? What am I doing? I could just write about Monster Hunter World again. Actually, I’m going to wing this. I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I have possibly made a huge mistake. Off we go.

The first letter is from Kai to the denizens of Mutazione. She was meant to visit them, but circumstances mean that she has to postpone her visit. This is her letter explaining everything.

1st page of the letter.

1st Line. Shinai naru minasan.  Shinai (親愛) means deep affection and combined with naru (なる) it becomes the equivalent of starting a letter with Dear in English. And Mina (みなさん) is everyone with the politeness marker of san. So, so far we have greeting for everyone in Mutazione. So far so good (I think.)

2nd Line. Hontou ni gomennasai. Kotoshi no natsu, minna ni kai ni ikuryokou wo enkishinakuchanaranaino!

Gomennasai(ごめんなさい) means sorry – I suspect that is one of those words, like ganbaru which has worked its way into other languages as is – with hontou ni(本当に) meaning really, honestly. Kai is really sorry. Why is that? Kotoshi (今年) is this year, no is a particle that can link nouns and natsu (夏) is summer – summer this year or this summer should work here. Ni (に) is another particle – another aside, particles are things that link or lead to other things. They are weird from the point of view they really don’t have direct translations in English – you only get a sense of them from seeing them in action. On their own they don’t mean a lot. Ni implies a few things – movement or progression are some of its functions. Kai (会) would be a meeting, or meeting up with people, with ryokou(旅行) being a trip. Kai was going on a trip to meet everyone from Mutazione. Wo (を)(pronounced o because why not) is another particle, which links verbs to things – things with a direct line between them. As an example, ラーメンを食べる ― ramen wo taberu – I eat ramen – me eating the ramen is a direct action. Listen, if you want to bail now, go right ahead. I’m bad at explaining things and this post is getting big on me. It’s going to be a long one. So, what is the reason why Kai is sorry. The verb at the end of the sentence – that’s where verbs live in the Japanese language – is enki(延期) – well, a noun that has become a verb (adding suru to certain nouns makes them verbs) – enki means postpone. And it is an unintended postponement.

So, in effect we have I’m really sorry everyone! I have to postpone this summer’s trip to meet with everyone. At least I think that is what we have.

3rd Line. Hisashiburi ni aeru no wo totemo tanoshimitetandakedo, tottemo ku-runa shokubutsu chousa no inta-n no pojishon ni sasowaretano. (Tada suushuukan sanpuru ya mono hakobudakedakedo.)

Another aside, but after spending a whole lotta time with kana, romanji looks awful. I mean, its awful to begin with but good god its an ugly rendition of a language. Anyway, back to what I was doing.

Hisashiburi(久しぶり) is used when something is done that has not been done for a while – i.e. It was the first time I played that game in a good while would feature hisashiburi. Ni is back again, as is meeting but this time as a verb along with a new word, a verb tanoshimu(楽しむ) (here in te form – a verb form) meaning excitement and can be used in regard to looking forward to things. So, Kai was looking forward to meeting everyone. At the end of the verb tanoshimite there is a particle dakedo(だけど) which can work in a few ways – here it looks like it’s working like but would in English. I was looking forward to our first meeting in a while but… luckily after this there is a bunch of nouns – nouns are easy to work with. Tottemo – an adverb(とっても) means very or much, and ku-ru (used as an adjective here) (クール)simply means cool – so very cool. Shokubutsu (植物) means plants, vegetation and chousa(調査) is an investigation, an inquiry and inta-n is an internship and pojishon is position. No(の) is the particle linking these nouns. Sasou (誘う) (here in passive form) is the verb meaning to ask, to inquire. Kai has been asked (offered) an intern position on an investigation on plants. In brackets tada (ただ) means just, suushuukan (数週間) is a few weeks (suu when a prefix works as a few, and shuukan is a week), sanpuru (サンプル) means sample and mono (もの) means things, ya is a particle which lists nouns in a non-exclusive format (collecting samples and things, amongst other stuff). Hakobu (運ぶ) is the verb for carrying, so Kai will just be carrying/helping with samples and stuff for a few weeks.

So, at the end of all that it should read I was looking forward to our first meeting in a while, but I have been offered a really cool internship position on a plant (I guess it’s a plant finding) investigation. It’s just for a few weeks helping with samples and stuff.

4th Line. Sore wa 「shinpontekina jizokukanousei」wo te-ma ni shitamono node – hontou ni kyoumibukai monona node, zettai ni nogashitakunaino.

The big words in the brackets are shinpontekina (こんぽんてき) (here working as an adjective) meaning fundamental, basic and jizokukanousei (持続可能性) meaning sustainability – basic sustainability I guess. Te-ma(テーマ) is theme and I’ll admit it, shitamono(したもの) is confusing me. I know it’s a combination of the past tense of suru (the verb to do) and mono for thing, and suru is working as a noun modifier – so maybe done thing? The rest I have a grasp on. Hontou ni is back with kyoumibukai(興味深い) being a combination of kyoumi (興味) meaning interest, and bukai, normally pronounced fukai (深い) but here bukai (I presume because here is it back of a combination) meaning deep, so a deep interest. Mono follows, with node meaning since or because. Zettaini (絶対に) means definitely, with nogasu (逃す)(in this sentence in a negative verb form – I think) meaning to miss out on (a chance for example.)

Which should give us something to the effect The investigations theme is basic sustainability and since I have a massive interest in that, I absolutely cannot let this opportunity go.

2nd page of the letter.

1st Line. Tsugi ni modotta toki ni sugu hanashi ni oitsukeruyouni, suushuukan no ma ni henji wo choudaine. Narubekuhayaku ai ni iku kara.

This could get messy. Tsugini(次に) should mean next, modotta is the past tense of modoru (戻る) – to return and toki (時) means when in this context. Sugu(すぐ) means immediately, hanashi (話) in this context should be talking or exchanging stories with the oitsukeru (追いつける) that follows meaning to catch up with, so here it should be in the context of catching up with someone after some time away. Suushuukan as established before is a few weeks. I think ma in this context means for a duration of time, but I’m probably wrong. Henji (返事)means reply and choudai (ちょうだい) means a few things, but I am guessing it means receive here, as in receiving replies to a letter. It is also used to make requests, so Kai could be requesting that her friends from Mutazione send her letters. Narubekuhayaku(なるべく早く) is an expression meaning as soon as possible, ai again is meeting and iku is the verb for going ie 旅行に行く – ryokou ni iku is going on a trip.

So, after all of that Over these few weeks please reply to me. When I next return I want to catch up quickly with y’all (Not sure y’all is a technically correct term.) As soon as possible because I’m going to a meeting.

Maybe it’s that. Probably not.

2nd Line. Minna ni ai wo komete.

Minna is everyone. Ai is lover. Komote is the te form of komeru – one of its meanings is to put in.

This would appear to be something along lines of With lots of Love.

3rd Line. Kai.

And that’s Kai’s name.

Boom. Done. I’m going for a lie down. This was way more stressful than I anticipated. For completions sake, here is the letter again and my attempted translation before – all in one piece.

Dear everybody,

I’m really sorry everyone! I have to postpone this summer’s trip to meet with everyone.

I was looking forward to our first meeting in a while, but I have been offered a really cool internship position on a plant finding investigation. It’s just for a few weeks helping with samples and stuff.

The investigations’ theme is basic sustainability and since I have a massive interest in that, I absolutely cannot let this opportunity go.

Over these next few weeks please reply to me. When I next return I want to catch up quickly with y’all. As soon as possible because I’m going to a meeting.

With lots of Love,


Notes and Asides:

Why did I do this? I guess a few reasons. I thought it would be fun – if fun means stressful then yes, it was fun. I did not think it would reach in excess of two thousand words. I changed course halfway through – I started explaining things (badly) when I said I would not. And there is plenty I did not explain. I think I preserved because this is a good way to fight my anxiety about all of this. I don’t tell a lot of people I’m learning Japanese. I mean, I have posted about on the blog before, but I don’t get many visitors, so it mostly goes unnoticed. But I don’t talk about learning Japanese a lot, so I don’t talk with many people about learning it. I mostly learn by myself. So, I figured I might as well face up to some nervousness and just put this out here – mistakes and all. All the mistakes.