Putting “Kotoba!” through its paces

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The best part about owning an iPod Touch (or an iPhone, for those lucky enough to live in places where it isn’t sold at an extortionate premium) is being able to download all those clever applications that keep marching onto the virtual shelves of the iTunes App Store. From war games to financial tools to the complete works of Shakespeare, there’s bound to be an app for almost any requirement somewhere in the App Store’s massive 20,000++ item catalogue. What’s more, some of the best apps are available at no cost to the user.

Today, we’re throwing the spotlight on a free dictionary app that students of the Japanese language will find useful: Pierre-Philippe di Costanzo’s Kotoba!.

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ABe doujinshi on the iPod Touch (first peek)

Writing on his blog, graphic artist Abe Yoshitoshi (Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmei) recently announced that his doujinshi Yakkyoku no Pochiyama-san (Pochiyama at the Pharmacy) had just been released for the iPod Touch and the iPhone via the iTunes App Store (53 pages, USD 4.99).

(And yes, it’s also available on the Philippine iTunes App Store. All you need is an iPod Touch or an iPhone, the iTunes software installed on your PC, and a credit card.)

According to ABe, the doujinshi app includes both the original Japanese text and an English translation bundled into a single package. Users can’t choose between Japanese and English themselves since one of the two languages will be triggered automatically depending on your iPod’s configuration. (For example, my iPod is set to English so the text appears entirely in English.) The doujinshi can be manipulated like an iPod Touch photo album: slide right or left to change pages, pinch in or out to zoom.

I purchased the doujinshi within seconds of hearing about it, but I haven’t had the chance to flick through more than the first few pages. I like what I’ve seen so far. The images are crisp and clear, the text is sharp and perfectly readable (even on the iPod’s relatively small screen), and of course the art is excellent. On the other hand, the English translation is a bit awkward in places (“You are impolite to customer!”, “I can’t cuz I’m a social withdrawal”), but it’s still good enough to allow readers to follow the story without doing more than the occasional head-scratch.

EDIT (6:51 PM): I’ve finished reading the doujinshi, and I regret to report that the translation DID provoke a lot of head-scratching. “What the heck is he/she trying to say?” came up in my head almost as many times as there were panels. But the art IS good – so good, in fact, that I’m diving in again (shaky translation notwithstanding) and redirecting all of my brain’s processing power towards the single objective of trying to make sense of the story.

I’ll write a full review just as soon as I finish reading the doujinshi. For now, you can view some sample pages here.

Image credit: Abe Yoshitoshi, from a blog entry announcing the debut of Yakkyoku no Pochiyama-san on the iTunes App Store. A higher-res version (800×800) can be accessed through Abe’s original post.

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