SPOILERS!!!!! IF YOU ARE WAITING UNTIL FEBRUARY TO GET THIS GAME, DO NOT READ THIS!!!!

The party members for the first dungeon, posing, as they are wont to do.

Hello All! It’s been a while since I last posted, but things have been busy. I started working at Starbucks, and as a result I can finally afford to take some courses to get certified as a teacher (well, after my next paycheck, that is...). Anyway, there hasn’t been a lot of time to do things besides adjust to work. Starbucks is a bit more extreme than my last job, but I like my coworkers, and the workload and immediacy of it is slowly getting easier to manage.

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That said, using what little free time I’ve had, I did something I’ve never done before: I imported a game from Japan. Now, before we move on to that, some backstory is necessary, I think.

When I turned sixteen, I transferred to a high school that offered Japanese as one of its language learning options. I had previously taken Spanish for a year, but growing up with Toonami, Digimon, and Final Fantasy, I wanted to learn something that let me gain access to certain media I loved before my fellow Americans. I saw how games especially would often take forever to be localized (not that I’m complaining; I understand that localization is a tiring, thankless job), and figured that if I could just bypass the language barrier, I’d be in a magical land where Final Fantasy-s and Pokemon games would be in my grasp way before I would have gotten ahold of them in English. This never really materialized though, since importing is expensive, and I never felt my Japanese was good enough to ultimately invest in it.

Yeah, this guy made me want to learn Japanese... haha

Enter Persona 5. It’s no secret that I love the Persona series, having written about it in the majority of my posts. Persona 4 opened up a whole new vista in my gaming life, showing me that games could not only have dramatic storylines like Final Fantasy and excellent gameplay like Pokemon, but also deal with real life issues like sexuality, public vs private self-image, and the ways that our own thoughts can turn against us, especially if we give into the negative ones collectively. It was awesome, and as soon as I discovered that Persona 5 was out in Japan, I couldn’t help myself (and I could actually afford a new game, for once).

Not even a significant fraction of how many Kanji there actually are.

So far, playing the game has been... interesting from a linguistic standpoint, but my rusty Japanese is coming back bit by bit, and I’ve gotten some good help from Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji, Tae Kim’s Japanese Grammar Guide, and Tradukosoft’s ongoing fan guide. I’ve completed the first dungeon, clocking in at 13 hours, and have been able to understand most of what’s going on in the story and “cooperations,” which are the new social links in P5. Honestly, I think the game so far is better than Persona 4, with at least the first few hours having higher stakes and more personal issues than P4 had with Yosuke wangsting over Saki, or Yukiko worrying about taking over the family business. While these plot points were and are still poignant, compared to a narcissistic teacher who sexually and physically abuses his students, a classmate attempting suicide over the powerlessness she feels because she was assaulted by said teacher, and a protagonist who fell from grace because of a corrupt politician, Persona 4's early story seems almost frivolous (almost; I still love it). Everything just gels really well with the theme of imprisonment and freedom in Persona 5, and I already feel like I can call the characters friends (in the game’s setting), while it took me a while to warm up to the cast of Persona 4.

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Understanding the plot has also taken on significance for me personally, outside of the game, since every sentence I understand is another victory for my Japanese language skills. It feels good to flex those mental muscles after such a long hiatus, and the game’s social aspects help me feel more immersed in the language (re)learning experience. I will say this though: if I did not have my previous experience with Japanese, this game would not be all that enjoyable. So much of it is text, answering questions, talking with people, negotiating with demons... I mean shadows, and so on and so forth. I would not recommend importing this game unless you have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Japanese; at least to the intermediate-advanced level. If you’re at that point, go for it! If not, wait until Valentine’s Day 2017.

So, yeah, I’m enjoying the importing experience. I feel like I got something I wanted really badly earlier than I expected to get it, it’s helping me hone some skills I haven’t used in a while, and it’s shown me that this kind of thing is not impossible after all. Thirteen-year-old me would have his mind blown. I feel the same way, if I’m being honest.

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Anyway, until next time! じゃまた!