When it comes to language learning, one of the biggest problems is staying motivated. Memorizing 100 kanji for a test next Friday might get you through the work, but memorizing 100 kanji so you can read your favorite comics or talk online with fellow comic-fans will really light a fire under your keister. And we all tend to learn better when we’re having fun! We think someone proved that with science and stuff. It might have been Mr. Sato…he’s been playing with the chemistry set again.
Anyway, we know a lot of our readers are both Japanese-language learners and manga/anime fans. If you fit that description and you’re always looking for something to help keep you motivated to study, why not add these sites to your daily reading list? It might be difficult to get through everything at first, but if you keep with it, you’ll be reading like a champ in no time! Just don’t ignore your real homework! We don’t want any angry Japanese teachers knocking on our doors…
If you love anime, then this is the site for you. Bandai Channel offers “mihodai,” or “watch as much as you want,” for 1,050 yen (about US$10) a month. They boast 660 different titles with over 12,000 episodes, which, if we assume that each episode is about thirty minutes, is worth about 250 days of animated entertainment! Even better, you can watch the shows on your TV with a steaming device, a computer, or even a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone.
Unfortunately, it looks like the website is for Japan only, but you might be able watch it if you have a Japanese credit card with a Japanese address.
The Japanese YouTube, as most people consider it, has one of the most interesting (and bizarre) commenting systems we’ve ever seen. User comments scroll over the video as it plays, so you don’t have to scroll down to see how many times “sugeeeeeeee” has been been pounded into the Internet. It also allows anyone to upload videos, and some companies have even started using it as a broadcast platform–including the new Sailor Moon series!
The site is available in English, and they’ve even implemented user translation tools to make sure everyone can participate.
One of the greatest parts of otaku culture is the fan art. While DeviantArt may be the most well-known place for art of all styles in the western world, pivix is (probably) the largest in Japan. Artists, from pros to amateurs, can upload their art and get ratings and comments from other users. An English version of the site is also available, though it seems that Japan is home to the largest number of users. Unlike DeviantArt, you’ll need a membership to even just view uploaded works–fortunately, it’s free and easy to register.
There is an absurd amount of manga produced each month. It’s mind boggling just how many comics are created on even a daily basis, so it’s understandable that older comics kind of just…disappear once they’ve gone out-of-print. But, you know, some of those back issues might be pretty interesting. Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily find and read all those old comics? Well, apparently a lot of people agree with us, judging from how successful J-comi, a site that hosts out-of-print manga in addition to self-published works. Surprisingly, it’s all completely legal too! While Japan is tough (some might say zealous) when it comes to copyright, the site actually works with publishers. It probably doesn’t hurt that it’s the baby of Ken Akamatsu, the creator of Love Hina.
So far, the site is Japanese only, but they’re working with Google, which may result in the site’s expansion into English-speaking markets.
This site is similar to J-comi, though they offer primarily self-published comics, novels, and photography books, in addition to print copies and original goods. The community side of the site allows users to keep journals, write reviews, and interact with each other.
As much you may love anime and manga, you can’t spend all day watching or reading if you have to go to work–but you can spend all day listening to people talk about it! All you need to do is jump over to HiBiKi Radio Station, an Internet radio website dedicated to hosting programs about anime, manga, and trading card games.
Obviously, all of the programs are in Japanese, but this might be a great way for you to work on your listening skills while enjoying some fun conversations about anime. The site also has a shop where you can buy a variety of goods, including…My Little Pony figures?? Well, all you Japan-based bronies know where to get your friendship on now.
This is certainly one of the more interesting services we’ve come across.
Have you ever wished you could wake up to the sound of an anime character chanting your name or telling you how sexy your eyes are or just chattering whatever nonsense you so desire? Well, now you can!
Moe Voice allows you to select a voice actor from their database and upload a script for him or her to read and record. And, in case you’re wondering, yes, there are actors and actresses who cater to those with more “unseemly” tastes. Each voice actor or actress sets their own prices, so, for example, one actress charges 525 yen (about $5) as a base price, plus another 1 yen (about $0.01) per hiragana, katakana, or kanji character. All-in-all, a very reasonable price! Unfortunately, it looks like they mostly only accept requests in Japanese, though it does depend on the individual.
Hmm…this gives us an idea for a great way to prank Mr. Sato!
Being an otaku can be lonely at times, so wouldn’t it be great if there were a service to help like-minded geeks find each other? Of course it would–and that service already exists. Called “Otakuma,” the site is a “social matching service,” rather than a “social networking service.” The “SMS” purports to help users meet others with similar interests, whether as friends or…whatever you may be looking for.
While Otakuma is more of a matching service, Otaba is a proper SNS like Facebook or MySpace, if you happened to be a teen in 2001. However, unlike other SNS services, Otaba is geared specifically towards otaku, as you probably guessed. In addition to providing a place for fellow geeks and nerds to talk about their favorite topics, the site also has questionnaires and “otaku news.” It also hosts games and has an area dedicated to…maids?? Yes, that’s right, there’s a directory of maid cafes featured at the top of the site.
Obviously, the site is in Japanese, but if you’re looking for a way to practice interacting with Japanese people but are scared of face-to-face conversation, this might be a good place to start!
These are both less a social networking services and more accumulators–the sites trawl Twitter for tweets containing hastags pertaining to anime currently being broadcasted and posts them for users to read. Why you would want to use them instead of simply checking Twitter, we’re not entirely sure, but we suppose it could be easier than constantly hitting refresh. Anilavi also seems to allow you to log-in via Twitter making it easier to respond to tweets, but otherwise they’re both basically the same.
Now, we’re sure that some of our readers love cosplay. And it’s always amazing just how elaborate and beautiful some of the costumes can be, but we have to admit that it’s slightly intimidating thinking about making a costume. Fortunately, you can always buy your costumes, but we don’t all have time to go to Akihabara to go shopping. This is the Internet, after all: We want it all and we want it at our convenience!
Fortunately, Vesty can help. Like the Amazon of cosplay, Vesty offers a wide range of costumes with everything from Hatsune Miku to magician costumes.
If Vesty is the Amazon of cosplay, then Moetaku! is the Amazon of otaku figures–and trading cards and giant pillow covers and Bikkuriman stickers.
One of the more frustrating aspects of reading manga can be tracking down all the books you’re missing. If you happen to get into a series but find that there are 30 volumes to catch up on, it can be pretty daunting trying to find them all. Fortunately, Manga Zenkan Dot Com sells full collections of manga! Even better: They sell both paper and digital versions! So if you’d rather carry all of your comics in your pocket than leave them at home on your shelf, you easily can. Though the site is Japanese, they do accept payment via PayPal, so you might be able to use the site even if you live overseas.
Of course, you might not want to just run out and buy a whole $60 set of new comics without at least seeing what others have to say about them. While it can always be a tricky game deciding whether or not to trust reviews, if you are interested in seeing what others think, these are the sites for you! As you probably guessed from their names, one is for reviews of manga and the other is reviews for anime. Obviously, these sites are both Japanese only, but we would recommend checking out the reviews for shows or comics you’re already familiar with. You can learn some new vocabulary, see how well your favorites were received in Japan, and get in some “real Japanese” reading practice! Maybe you could even get your teacher to give you extra credit for doing all that work.
Now, if you’re feeling up for some longer, more in-depth Japanese reading, this might be the site for you. Purachina focuses primarily on news for and interviews with game, manga, anime, and novel creators. You can find articles on everything from using Wacom tablets to discussions on the newest trends in anime.
In case you haven’t heard the term before, “fujyoshi” refers to women who really like homoerotic comics about men. We suppose it’s like “lesbian” porn, but in reverse. The site features news for women, as well as reports, reviews, a dictionary of terms for “fujyoshi” and…”real BL (boys love) experiences.” We would advise treading with care…
And that’s it for today’s list! There are tons of great resources out there for otaku language learners looking to expand their skills, knowledge, and number of Internet friends. If you happen to know of a great site that’s not on the list, be sure to share it in the comments below!
Sources: J-comi no naka no hito, Naver Matome
Images: Bandai Channel, Niconico Douga, pixiv, J-comi, Manga on Web, HiBiKi Radio Station, Moe Voice, Otakuma, Otaba, Tsubuani, Anilavi, Vesty, Moetaku!, Manga Zenkan Dot Com, MangaReview, Anime Hyoka Database, Purachina, Fujyoshi