Before I would like to talk about myself, welcome to Mandoran! On the Internet, I’m commonly known as Chrouya (黒夜, kuroya), meaning “Dark Night”. I’m a Dutch student in “Languages and Cultures of Japan” at Leiden University. This university is 50% language and 50% research, although I’m more on the lingual side. As a result, you can find my name amongst the fansubbing community. My current focus is Japanese linguistics, with a view on sociolinguistics in Japanese dialects. This site would be most of interest for people who are keen to modern Japanese culture, but rest assured: My research and works also include anime and manga. For those interested in my CV, please send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
漫働蘭(“mandōran”) is a portmanteau of 漫画(manga), 動画(dōga) and 阿蘭陀(oranda), respectively meaning manga, anime and the Netherlands. Think of this site as some kind of portfolio of mine: I’ll be keeping you posted about stuff I’ve been working on such as translations or reviews, or my experiences related to Japan such as my trip to the Kansai region in summer 2013. You can check a summary of things I’ve done so far on my compact Dropbox site, putting all my public releases in a row.
“Modern Japanese culture…?”
Of course, talking about the term “modern Japanese culture” is a bit ambiguous. My expertise sounds childish, but I am rather serious about it. In fact, I research anime. Aside from watching anime as a delightful time sink, I am a fierce critic that likes to point out any good (or bad) aspects of almost every anime I come across. I believe it’s no wonder that I want to do a Journalism minor studies in my third year of my Japanstudies Bachelor. As of now, however, I’d like to finish up my minor in English – Dutch and Dutch – English translating.
Hence I am not calling myself a “weeaboo“, a label originating from the 4chan boards and frequently put on “Japanophiles“, fervent anime watchers. On the contrary, I believe I can accept the term “otaku“. Although the term “otaku” is given a bad name in the Western society, it just means you have a passion for something. I take this passion as something very serious, and I am not one to follow the mainstream that easily. I have watched a lot of anime since junior high school, and I do not regret my addiction to it. It was definitely a factor in making these future decisions. For the ones interested, you can view my anime list on My Anime List here:
So how did all of this start? Well, roots go back to when I was around twelve. You might even go back further if you count Dragonball Z, Pokemon or Digimon. But as I did not realize the rich Japanese culture in it back then, I am beginning from when I first started watching anime in Japanese (with subtitles) with my brother. The first title that pops up in my memory is Azumanga Daioh, which is not ideal for a first anime as it contains a lot of classic Japanese humour, but it will have to suffice. When Elfen Lied and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien followed, I soon noticed that anime has a diverse amount of genres to choose from. Not to mention that Japanese sounded funny. Couldn’t help but thinking like that when I was still at that age.
More and more anime followed, as I changed to watching anime on my own; my brother was stuck with school work so we barely had time to watch something together. So I met up with new friends I made at school who had the same interests, but somehow most of them only stuck to the massive mainstream series, also known as the Big Three for me. Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece (in random order of popularity). Seeing that there was no one with the same interests in genres as me, I felt kind of sad. To make up for that, I just thought of fantasy stories in my head whenever I was alone. Whenever I could, I wanted to make use of the “Anime Japanese” vocabulary I built up in the years. This might have been the successful step in mastering the basics of the Japanese language.
Another media: Visual Novels.
I continued for my own sake instead. I added another Japanese component to the mix: Visual Novels. I quickly noticed that the “games” that had an English localization were mostly obscene, but that wasn’t my purpose for reading them at all. I was rather fond of this alternative media of making a story interactive to a certain point, with visuals, audio and voices. I found several titles to my liking, my first Visual Novels being Narcissu and Planetarian. Great titles, albeit apparently being a small contribution to the great pool of raw Japanese Visual Novels that haven’t been localized yet (Not to mention that these were voiced!). So, in order to be capable of understanding the untranslated Visual Novels a bit more, I took my self-study one level higher by learning the Japanese morae (hiragana and katakana) and memorizing the basic grammar.
Several years later, with ATLAS Translator and Anime Games Text Hooker(AGTH) installed, I actually tried reading a raw Japanese Visual Novel. This time, Shuffle! and ToHeart 2 were examined. Not really calling it “reading” because the translator was only good for a mere 5% of the Trial-and-Error I had to put up with. Yet I was quite able to figure out what was actually going on. Bit by bit, I was able to follow the flow of the text, and to combine several Kanji with the pronunciations attached to them. Before I know it, I really got addicted to this form of learning Japanese.
In order to express my feeling, I created a blog for this reason called “lol, anime“. In the end, it wasn’t such a huge success because of my lack of motivation to write articles. It was vexing to leave blogging aside as I am horrible at writing. The site is still accessible, and I might revive it in the future…Seeing it has over 10.000 views over the years, I do feel like it still has a bit of value left. One of the reasons I want to study Journalism is to be able to successfully write academic but simple articles that people want to read. Update: As you might of might not have heard, I closed down my former blog, and continued posting on Mandoran in its stead. This way, Mandoran gets its fair amount of interesting posts, and I’ll be able to catch a larger audience. Although I officially called lol,anime “dead”, it’s archived over here:
(abbreviated link: http://lolanime.tk)
Nearing the end of high school, I wanted to see if Japan really was what I had imagined. Having watched and read so much about the fantasized culture of Japan, I was wondering if my real image had not been blurred. I was becoming desperate because I would be empty-handed if I ever would come to dislike the genuine Japan. I felt like I had no choice but to study Japanese after I graduated the next year. After having a lot of discussions with my parents, I contacted Youth for Understanding (abbr. YFU) if there was some exchange program to Japan for a short period. Note that an “exchange” doesn’t mean someone from the other side comes to your side as well (although that is an option). In fact, I actually wanted to go for a year, but this was deemed impossible as I am not allowed to turn 18 while I am staying in Japan.
Fortunately, YFU had a summer exchange program for Japan, and I was also one of the lucky ones to be participating in one of their programs. My parents funded for this because it might have a positive strong effect on me in the future, although I have to pay the next trips myself. In any case, since I passed my year prior to my final year on high school with no problems, I quickly packed my luggage for an unforgettable adventure, once again on my own. You can read all about it in another blog I made, called “Pilgrimage to Osaka“, which you can find here:
Pilgrimage to Osaka
The outcome was obvious; I soon started to focus my whole thinking pattern to Japanese. The final year started, so I too started to stress for all the exams coming up. In the midst of that, we also had to create what’s called a “Profielwerkstuk” (roughly translated as Final Paper), so I took advantage of that. Creating a solo project (you probably realize I’m quite the lone wolf by now) called “Japanologica“, bringing a Dutch explanation of the grammatical logic in the Japanese language. Simply said, I tried making Japanese lessons and homework for volunteers who wanted to learn basic Japanese on a whim. Although I already knew people would forget everything I said right afterwards, it was also a nice rerun of what I’ve learnt so far. To be able to use all of this for school is like killing two birds with one stone (一石二鳥). You can see my results over here (In Dutch, sadly):
My final grade was an 8 out of 10. I actually had hoped for something higher…but frankly my Dutch is pretty bad.
From my graduation onwards, I have been pretty much going straight-forward to my goal: Going on adventure in Japan. That brings me to the present. Student of Japanstudies at Leiden University, member of the Asia committee of the students’ gaming guild “Devil’s Egg”, and a freelance translator/translation checker for anime fansub groups. I hope you have a nice stay on my weblog!