Let’s Learn Japanese Basic II:Yan and the Japanese People

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Ah, it’s finally time to review the second series of Yan and the Japanese People.

I have to admit that when I first moved on to the new version, I was rather disappointed. It’s not that they really changed the formula; I think it has more to do with me disliking change. Still, it’s to be expected when they’re coming back after 10 years to create the sequel.

I have quite a few nit picks about this version of Yan, but I think I’ll start off with the parts I did like first.

I think my favorite change to the series was making the secondary characters in the skits far more enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed following the Kato family around, but they seemed rather bland and we didn’t get to know them very well. They decided to make the skits play out a little more like a day time drama this time around. Instead of just following around Yan, we got several episodes dedicated almost entirely to the Hori family. And I have to admit, the episodes following them were my favorite of the bunch. I’m not sure if this had more to do with Yan becoming less interesting, or with the fact that I had an easier time understanding the children.

The story this time around is about Yan switching over to school in an attempt to come up with the perfect design for his home country. Now, I’m not sure if I missed it somewhere, but we weren’t actually told where his home country was. Ah well, I guess I’ll never know now. =P It seems that somewhere along the way he left his incredible house and moved into a tiny little apartment overlooking the Sumida River. We get to see him interacting with his friends, and every now and then he spends a little bit of time with some people that he knows around town.

Still, the story takes a turn for the worse as Yan is dumped by miss Okada. This was actually the worst portion of the series in my opinion. They end up dedicating several episodes to Yan getting drunk and just sort of staring off blankly. I don’t think I would have minded so much if they didn’t have like 5 episodes dedicated to this theme. I mean, the whole idea of the skits is to see people interacting, which he didn’t do much of during that time.

Still, things do eventually look up for Yan, and while I’m not going to spoil what happens, he ends up leaving Japan in the final episode.

So, what changed aside from the storyline of Yan? Actually, quite a bit. This time around our teacher is Umino-sensei. I actually didn’t like her nearly as much as Althaus-sensei. She just lacks that “teacher” feel that Althaus-sensei seemed to outright radiate. To make matters worse, she had the strangest habit of pronouncing Yan’s name like we pronounce the word “yam”. I’m not sure why she didn’t do the standard Japanese “a” (which even Yan uses when pronouncing his own name), but I’m sure I’ll never get to find out.

To assist Umino-sensei, we are provided with three new helpers: Andô-san, Koyanagi-san, and Kodama-san (although much to my delight, they do manage to bring back Kaihô-san for several skits). Now, their roles are fundamentally the same as from the previous series. I think my biggest problem with their skits was that I didn’t find them funny. I mean, they clearly tried, but it just seemed way too forced.

For what it’s worth, they do still have the same general usage (allowing you to see the sentences used in new and exciting ways, while trying to make the whole effort rather enjoyable). I mean, this could easily be a difference in sense of humor, so I can’t fully count this as a mark against them. I will, however, slightly complain about them being far less creative with these skits. In the first series they loved to throw little tests at you that they would have you purposely lose, just so you would remember it (for those of you that have actually used Yan and the Japanese people, my favorite was when they were teaching us imasu and arimasu. =P).

Now for this last point, as much as I personally disliked it, I imagine many people will love the change. They decided to cut the content of each episode rather drastically. Where we were learning three new sentences and six new verbs in the last series, they only cover adding “mite” before “kudasai” to ask someone to try something. And I don’t mean that this will be the main portion lesson, I mean it’s literally the only thing they cover.

Speaking of them not covering much, they seemed to have removed the lessons for teaching Hiragana/Katakana. I didn’t mind them doing that, having already learned both of those, but I found it interesting that they didn’t decide to move on to Katakana (or at least some Kanji) after the first series.

So, do I recommend it? Yeah. I still think it’s a great series. Even with all the changes (which I still think a lot of people would love the reduced work load) and complaints I had, I still really enjoyed it. I have yet to find any other language learning program that did what Let’s Learn Japanese Basic did. They simply made the experience fun. I’m sure if you enjoyed the original, you’ll still enjoy the second, even if you don’t like it as much. Besides it’s really interesting to see how so many of them changed after 10 years. =P

-Felirc-

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