Anyone who has ever studied Japanese as a second language can tell you that it’s a difficult language to learn, and the textbooks currently available on the market don’t make it any easier. Japanese textbooks are largely outdated, not to mention sleep inducing. Not even the most dedicated language students find joy in flipping open the dry and uninteresting pages of their workbooks or assaulting their ears with the drone of their practice CDs.
Luckily, that could all change, thanks to the ingenious writing of Yumiko Akeba and the online manga distributer, Otome’s Way. This start-up company specializes in “boys’ love” manga and is hoping to bring the appeal of Asian pretty boys to the learning field by creating a series of Japanese textbooks that use everyone’s favorite manga tropes as effective teaching tools. They call it A Fujoshi’s Guide to Japanese.
Otome’s Way is an online distributer of BL manga from Japan. They got their start early this year, translating and distributing bi-lingual versions of homosexual manga from talented artists not otherwise found on the mainstream market. Many of the works contained within the Otome’s Way library are in full color, and some even make use of the digital output by incorporating animated touches, really bringing the characters to life. Recently, in order to attract more fans to their site, Otome’s Way has also created an online reader for weekly releases of one homoerotic novel and three free web comics, all available in both English and Japanese.
As was mentioned earlier, in addition to all of the traditional manga, Otome’s Way is also putting together a Japanese learning series called A Fujoshi’s Guide to Japanese. In contrast to the stuffy sorts of texts that are representative of today’s textbook market, Fujoshi’s Guide tries to focus more on the conversational side of the language. So, rather than teaching for a test, it helps people improve their actual conversation skills, not to mention, pick up on the sorts of phrases used commonly in TV, anime, and manga.
The first volume of A Fujoshi’s Guide to Japanese came out in May of this year. It uses manga as its primary teaching tool, following the story of Alexis, a cute American boy, and Shou, his beautiful Japanese butler. This first book is mainly a primer, covering the phonetic writing systems of hiragana and katakana, as well as common greetings, self-introductions, counting, and some interesting cultural anecdotes. The downloadable file includes interactive charts and professional Japanese voice acting for every page of manga! For a teaching tool, it’s quite engaging!
▼ Here’s the promo video for A Fujoshi’s Guide to Japanese Volume 1
Now, Otome’s Way is trying to build upon the points covered in volume one by bringing its customers a brand new book. A Fujoshi’s Guide to Japanese Volume 2 promises 180 pages of intermediate-level lessons, including both polite (-desu/-masu) verb forms and common speech (-da) patterns, adjectives, possessives, and the start of kanji. That is, if they can raise the money to actually make it. Otome’s Way is in the midst of a big Kickstarter project, trying to raise the US$13,000 necessary to pay for all of the writing, illustrating, translating, editing, and voice recording necessary. After one week, the team is just over one-third of the way toward reaching their goal, but it’ll take a strong influx of manga fans over the next two weeks for the project to come to fruition. At least they’re not asking for money for nothing! Rewards for donating to the Fujoshi’s Guide Kickstarter include a digital art book, downloadable copies of both textbooks, posters, t-shirts, and even a cameo appearance in the textbook or hotel accommodations in Tokyo!
▼ These are the sorts of pages we can expect to see!
I have to say, it’s great to have found a company that’s willing to make a worthy attempt at bringing both relevance and interest to the Japanese textbook market. A Fujoshi’s Guide to Japanese is fun to read even outside of the teaching aspect, especially for fangirls and fanboys who appreciate some pretty boys in their anime and manga. And who knows. If this sort of project finds support, perhaps a miniskirts and mecha-type guide to Japanese could come next!
▼ This is the Kickstarter video for Fujoshi’s Guide 2.
▼ To help promote their Kickstarter, Otome’s Way has also begun posting extra mini-lessons, like the one below, to their Facebook page.