Feast your eyes on anime eye candy and learn some Japanese at the same time.
The Japanese language system is made up of three different classes of characters, one of which is hiragana. Unlike kanji, which represent complete words and ideas, hiragana are strictly phonetic, with each representing a single syllable. They’re also fairly simple, with each hiragana taking no more than four strokes to write.
However, there are 46 hiragana you’ll need to remember for modern Japanese proficiency, which can feel like a lot when you’re used to the mere 26 letters of the English alphabet. Some people like to use mnemonic devices when learning the set, and now you have the option of thinking of each hiragana as a handsome young anime-style man, thanks to the upcoming Hiragana Boys (Hiragana Danshi, in Japanese) smartphone game.
The premise of the game, from Japanese developer Tabot, is that a mysterious incident causes written characters to disappear from the world. As one of the few scholars left in society who’s able to read, it falls to you to seek out the Hiragana Boys, hiragana that were reborn as human men when the art of writing was lost.
Among the characters announced so far are A, the embodiment of the hiragana for “a,” written in Japanese as あ. Seeing as how あ is the first character in the standard order in which hiragana are organized (much like A is the first letter in alphabetical order), it makes sense that A is also the first Hiragana Boy the player meets.
Many of the Hiragana Boys have character traits based off their names. For example, U (representing the hiragana う) boasts that he’s skilled in fortune-telling, which in Japanese is uranai. People think his claims are fishy (usankusai, but he insists he’s not telling lies (uso) or exaggerating his powers.
Meanwhile, Chi (ち) is known for his intelligence (chishiki)…
…and No (の), despite being a farmer (nomin), says his favorite food is actually seaweed (nori).
Some of the connections are based more on grammar than vocabulary, such as with the aloof, dismissive Nu (ぬ) who gets his name from -nu essentially meaning “not” when tacked on to the end of Japanese verbs.
Ostensibly, the entire lineup of all 46 hiragana will eventually be included, each with side story content to unlock in order to deepen the player’s bond with them. Character designs are courtesy of Yukiko Horiguchi showing off a talent for drawing good-looking men after contributing to “cute girls hanging out” anime series K-On! and Tamako Market.
In addition to the eye candy, the Hiragana Boys smartphone game will also provide a bit of mental nourishment. To make progress in the game, the player has to trace lines through hiragana icons floating about the playfield in order to form Japanese vocabulary words.
▼ An example of tracing the hiragana for, appropriately, the word “hiragana”
▼ Preview video for Hiragana Boys
Hiragana Boys is scheduled for release this fall for both iOS and Android devices.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where “What’s the best hiragana?” is just the sort of linguistic debate he’s always up for.