Posted in Reading, Shopping, Video games


Many people have approached me in private messages on either Facebook or Instagram, asking where I buy the Japanese resources I show in my stories or posts. The answer is simple and only singular: online.

I live in Poland and here there are simply no opportunities or places to purchase Japanese resources from – at least, you won’t find a Kinokuniya branch store or a Book-Off here. You can find some books on auctions online, there are also some Polish publications, but I abstain from those – on my level, I stick to resources published in Japan, so that means the necessity of importing them. Here I’m going to discuss what online shops and services I use to purchase my resources, that is books (be it textbooks, workbooks, novels etc.), mangas, games and other resources (like I have an elementary school kanji poster in my office, so I can peek at it while I’m busy working – something always sticks!).

Before I list my favourites, there are some things that I need to underline. First of all, in terms of games, you have to pay attention to what platform the game was released on. Why is this important? Because some consoles are region locked, meaning you won’t be able to play a Japanese imported game on it unless you have a Japanese version of that console. A device of any other region won’t simply read the disc. Yes, there are some ways to bypass region locking, but remember that they are NOT LEGAL (e.g. jail-breaking the console or using special programs like Swap Magic for PS2).

Apart from region-locked PlayStation (1) and PlayStation 2, here you have to pay attention to Nintendo consoles especially, since they used to be region locked almost always, like its latest handheld console, Nintendo 3DS (and its 2DS and XL variations). However, Nintendo Switch did not continue its predecessors’ trend (namely Wii and Wii U’s) and you’re free to import Japanese games for it (I myself am considering purchasing Switch because of it). Also, Xbox games used to be region locked, too (both Xbox and Xbox 360), so be careful with those.

On the other hand, there are several consoles which do not have this region-dependent feature (or it’s limited to some titles, like for PlayStation 3 a game called Persona 4 Arena was region locked). It means that if you have such a console, you’ll be able to play the Japanese version of games on it no problem; yet, be sure to check if a game itself is region free before purchasing! Such ‘unlocked’ consoles include PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Playstation Vita, Playstation Portable, Nintendo DS(i), Xbox One.

What about PC?”, you may ask. However, since I haven’t imported any games for PC yet (and I’m a Mac user so that’s definitely not going to happen any soon), I can’t really tell you about it. The only thing I do know is that there are some games the distribution of which is limited to Japan only. Meaning, even if you found those on, say, Japanese Amazon, if you provide an international address, you’ll probably be notified that you cannot purchase this item because it isn’t shipped outside Japan. This case is quite common with Z CERO rated games (18+ games). However, thanks to proxy services, which I will also cover in this list, you can purchase those but they will cost you a little more money (due to the proxy fee and double shipping).

But consoles are not the only medium which is locked. Be careful when buying a Japanese DVD – they’re also of a different region. Japan is region 2 for DVDs, just like most European countries, but the USA, for instance, is region 1. The situation is just the opposite with Blu-rays: Japan is region A, just like Northern America is, but Europe is region B. So, before jumping at those anime DVDs you’d found, be sure to check if your DVD player can handle reading the disc, so that you don’t have to scream you’d just spent your money on something you can’t use.

Anyway, here come my top online shops for Japanese resources:


What is sold: manga, books, CDs, games, DVDs, light novels, others.

CDJapan is the number 1 resource I use. There are several reasons for that. First of all, they offer a wide range of goods – I purchase my books, games, drama CDs, magazines or other goods like figures or posters there. And that’s not all they offer – for example, I’m not a fan of possessing a physical copy of music CDs, but CDJapan also sells them.

Apart from the fact that I’m able to find almost everything I look for there, I love CDJapan’s Reward Points system. For every purchase, you receive points which directly equal to Japanese yen. With your next purchase, you may use them to get a discount. What’s more, they offer extra points for bigger orders. Usually, when you order items costing over 5000 yen, you get 300 points extra plus the number of points you get from goods themselves (the number of points depends on the type of product – check product’s description for info on points given for purchasing it). As a result, you can stock up on those points quite often and quite easily. I remember that in the era when I was importing tons of otome games, I had several thousand yen collected in their Reward Points which cut the cost of purchasing a game tremendously. Moreover, CDJapan is brilliant at special offers and they often have either sales, coupons for discounts, customer satisfaction surveys available (and they give 50 points for filling those out!) or they give additional points or double the extra points you receive.

I personally like to play with their system and I admit I often split my order into several small ones because of that. First of all, sometimes, due to special deals, they reduce the bottom limit for those 300 points extra to 3000 yen worth of goods and if I order something worth just over 6000 and split my order into two, I get double the points.

The other advantage of this solution is the manipulation of shipping costs and customs. If you’ve ever ordered something bigger abroad, you’re probably aware that customs are just waiting to imply extra fees on you. It’s annoying because the cost of buying this product rises – and you’re buying it just for personal use! But, if you don’t include much in one order and the total price of the purchased goods (be careful, shipping costs, unfortunately, are included in customs’ calculations! At least in my country) doesn’t go over the quota that your country has set as ineligible for customs and tax – you’re safe.

Shipping is another reason why I tend to make a few small orders instead of one big order on CDJapan. The cheapest method is SAL, but this is an unregistered parcel, meaning if it’s lost, you won’t get your money back. This is why I tend to send 1-3 books in one package maximum. If I lose them, it won’t hit me that hard. Moreover, I’ve been ordering at CDJapan since 2011 and I’ve NEVER had a package lost! They come pretty quickly too (as for SAL) and I usually have a package in 2 weeks (though they can come even 8 weeks after the purchase).

The other reason is that if you buy books or magazines, those are heavy and quickly add up to the shipping costs! So if you don’t want to pay a fortune for sending 3 thick magazines, check how much it costs to ship them separately – it might be a better (and cheaper) option. I’ve also used SAL for my games, so don’t be afraid to use it for that too, especially that games are very light (unless it’s a limited edition – then definitely choose at least registered air mail so that you can get a refund in case anything happens to it).

However, there’s one more reason why I love CDJapan – they have a shipping calculator included at the checkout and if you select your country, you’ll see all the shipping prices presented in a nice table, making it easier to choose your shipping method. I often use this calculator to check how many books I can fit into a package without increasing the shipping costs at all or increasing it slightly, so that it still pays off to send them together. For instance, if adding one more book to the order makes the shipping costs equal or more expensive than ordering that book on its own, I’d order that book separately or leave it for the next batch.

It’s also worth mentioning that CDJapan, as of recently, is offering proxy service! Of course, as it is with all proxy services, you have to pay a fee for it. However, I’d say that they’re quite fair about it and don’t ask you to pay too much. For example, I had to proxy Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, because that was the only HP volume they were missing in the shop. I chose my desired copy (you can choose where CDJapan is supposed to buy the copy from, its condition and other details as well – it’s all listed in the proxy request form) and because it was proxied from a Book-Off, I didn’t have to pay for the double shipping, only for the proxy service fee and for shipping the package me. This was a pleasant surprise since normally when you use a proxy service, you have to pay for: the goods, the shipping from the seller to your proxy service provider, the repackaging and checking the goods’ condition (if chosen and available) and then the shipping costs from the proxy service provider to you. CDJapan wins in terms of proxy service because they do the repackaging and combining the proxied item with other items you bought in their store FOR FREE. Normally you have to pay for that.

As for payment, there are several choices. They do Paypal, so if you’re a user of this one, CDJapan accepts payments via Paypal. They also do cards (debit, credit), Alipay or they can wait for money sent via registered mail. There’s a difference when you’re doing Paypal, though. You have to pay for the goods immediately, even if it’s a preorder. If you choose to pay by card, however, the payment is postponed until the preordered item has been released – then the proper amount is blocked on your card and finally taken as payment. For items already on the market, it makes no difference – you’re paying right away, even if it’s stated that the goods are back-ordered, meaning you’ll have to wait up to 3 weeks till they’re finally shipped.

There is one last thing I forgot to mention, especially that I’d just told you about preorders – in case of games they often include special bonuses (pictures, drama CDs(!), booklets or any other extras). The bonus is stated in the item’s description. Careful – the numbers are limited but if you pay attention and check frequently – you’ll definitely make it in time.


What is sold: everything!

Amazon works kind of similarly to CDJapan for me. Actually, I tend to check both places before I purchase anything. Yet, I usually order from CDJapan because Amazon has three major disadvantages: high cost of shipping, the import handling fee and limitations on sending stuff abroad.

The cost of shipping is self-explanatory. They use courier service (for me it’s usually DHL) and thus its fee runs high. On the other hand, you receive your items fast, even within the same week (especially if you order on Monday – I often get the package by Friday).

The import handling fee is something very annoying if you’re not used to Amazon. Basically, they take some additional amount in your name and if customs or taxes are applied when the package arrives in your country, you don’t have to pay extra anymore – it’s covered from that handling fee. And if no there are no extra customs to pay – you get the money back. YET! In my entire history of Amazon purchases (that counts for both Japan and the US branches), I had that extra money given back to me only ONCE. And I do believe that, in my importing experience, there were orders that were not applicable for customs – because I know my country’s laws and limitations in that department and that money was, well… It’s enough to say I expected it to come back.

The last thing is something I’ve already mentioned before – some items are blocked by the system as those that can only be shipped within Japan. That’s something I found very disappointing because there were quite a lot of things I wished to buy but was unable to do so because of Amazon’s limitations. Buuuuut… There’s a way to go around it and you already know it – proxy service! CDJapan doesn’t do proxy from Amazon, but Buyee does. I’ve written more on this service below.

Apart from Amazon’s huge selection, there’s one more advantage they have – ebooks and emanga. I won’t be writing how to obtain them, I could dedicate a separate post to that. However, as you probably suspect, those are region locked. Meaning, if you try to purchase them from abroad, the system won’t let you buy more than 5 volumes. After that, you’ll see a nice notification that “you’re probably travelling outside Japan and as of now are unable to buy more ebooks and emanga”. There’s a way around this, but as I said – maybe I’ll write on that later.


What is sold: manga, light novels, doujinshi, CDs, DVDs.

Did you know you can order from Mandarake now? No? Well, now you do! I’d visited Mandarake in the past but I’ve recently discovered that they’re opened to international orders too! And this is a great place to get your mangas, light novels, drama CDs, anime DVDs, artbooks or even DOUJINSHI from. Basically, it’s otaku galore. And if you’re open to learning from otaku media, Mandarake’s your new home. And your wallet’s new home.

The site offers an English version of it, so browsing is nice and easy. Pay attention to the goods’ conditions, though – they’re mostly used, but you’ll find new ones here and there. Just so that you know, Japanese “used” is nowhere near “used” you probably know. The mangas have almost mint condition – if it’s more used then it’s clearly stated in the item’s description, so read those carefully! What’s more, they often include the same bonuses that were featured with the items originally! For instance, my Love Hina set turned out to have all the stickers, booklets, cards or bookmarks that were included with some volumes! And no sticker was missing. AND, what’s absolutely best, the whole set cost me 2000 yen. Plus shipping, of course, but even considering shipping the cost of each volume was quite low. Purchasing manga pays off so much here I don’t buy them from CDJapan anymore.

Speaking of shipping, they offer a variety but I recommend using DHL. What, a courier service?! Yes! Because they have the cheapest shipping fare plus you get the goods within a few days (I usually receive them in around 5 days), so you can quickly dig into that title you were looking forward to.

Mandarake is yet another site (like CDJapan) where I like to play with the shipping cost. It pays off more to purchase more here, since the basic shipping cost is over 2000 yen anyway, so spending around 5000 yen in total (goods + shipping) is the most optimal solution.

However, be sure to check how many mangas you can fit into a package without increasing the shipping costs to another tier – just play around with the checkout a little. Being able to add even 1 more manga is beneficial because their prices start from even 50 yen to around 500 yen per volume in case of some titles (it really depends on the title). Manga sets come much cheaper but they also sell out fast, especially the popular titles (e.g. I’m still hunting for Haikyuu! and Yowamushi Pedal sets).

But even when spending that 3000 yen on manga (plus around 2000 for shipping), you can get so much! That’s how I have 18 volumes of Chihayafuru, complete Love Hina set (with bonus stuff), complete Kangoku Gakuen set and a few light novels on my shelf now. Of course, there are more titles in my favourites list that I’m looking forward to in the future. I’d definitely buy more but I simply don’t read them that fast (yet)!

There’s one last thing you have to know, especially if you’re choosing DHL. They usually impose customs on you, unfortunately. Those are not high costs – for all the orders I’d made at Mandarake, I usually paid around 20-30 PLN (that’s less than 8 USD) extra at delivery. However, it still pays off because thanks to cheap manga, relatively cheap shipping you still pay way less on the whole than at other shops.


What is sold: books, games, CDs, DVDs, manga, light novels

I haven’t got much to tell about YesAsia since… I don’t shop there anymore! It was useful to me a few years back, but today it’s become too expensive (they’d increased their prices). However, that depends on a person so you might find it different and thus I’d decided to include it in this list anyway. It’s a general shop like CDJapan with a variety of goods to choose from, Chinese and Korean included! So it might be used for other languages as well.

I used to shop there in the past because the exchange rates were pretty good, but not so much anymore, unfortunately. Plus in terms of e.g. manga or books, I feel that their choice has declined and I’m rarely able to find what I look for.

They’ve also resigned from free shipping which was eligible for orders over $35. What was more, you could get extras for larger orders (I still have tiny Haikyuu! figures I got from them as a bonus!) – but again, it’s not so fancy anymore.

But if you’re willing to use it, go ahead – I had no problems with their service. I received all my packages without any issues, so that’s one thing I’m sure of – it’s safe to order from them.


What is sold: everything is possible!

Ah, Japanese auctions. Unconquered territory for foreigners. The descriptions are in Japanese, the delivery address must be Japanese, sometimes even your credit card must be Japanese… But the goods that are on offer! Here’s where you’ll find basically EVERYTHING. Things out of print, limited editions, things that are not supposed to leave Japan’s territory (well, in my case I mean Japanese school textbooks and some games). It would be great to be able to use that, right? Especially that they’re auctions so you can buy stuff for very cheap if you’re lucky!

But that dreamland can be achieved.

You just have to use a proxy service provider. I personally have only used Buyee and I can definitely recommend it. I used it to import Japanese chuugakkou (middle school) textbooks for history and geography so that I can practice reading and get to know more about their country from the same perspective they learn about their own. I’ve also found some limited edition of games I was looking for thanks to the auctions and Buyee’s service.

I’ve already told you how proxy works – they purchase an item in your name and it’s shipped to their facility, then repacked and checked (if chosen, at Buyee that’s optional and costs extra 500 yen; however, if they check and the item was damaged in transport between the seller and them, they can apply for compensation for you) and finally sent to you. However, because of that, you have to pay for two shippings and wait a little longer to get what you want (even if you ask them to send it to you via courier service). Don’t worry, though, because the costs of Japanese post within Japan is not that bad. When you’re buying something light or small, the costs are around a few hundred yen.

What’s more, because this is a service, you have to pay for it. Shipping is one thing, but you have to pay them for doing their job – buying an item in your name and sending it. The costs are not super high, however, I usually pay around 500 yen for that but it depends on where you ask them to purchase from as they offer more than just Yahoo auctions (the most popular auction site in Japan). You can even ask them to order from Amazon and send it to you (via cheaper shipping method than Amazon uses AND without that import handling fee I told you about). It really depends on you and your calculations. Of course, you don’t have a choice with some items, like I didn’t have with the Japanese school textbooks – that was the only way. But take a look at their site to find out more about their prices and how the whole system works. After you do it once, it’s quite easy, I tell you!

Moreover, they offer browser extensions, so if you’re visiting Japanese Amazon, you can add an item to Buyee cart instead and later check how much would it cost you to order it at Buyee instead of Amazon directly. Sometimes it pays off more to go with a proxy rather than Amazon itself.


What is sold: games, soundtracks, walkthroughs, consoles, game merchandise

The last shop I frequently use is Play Asia. It’s a shop targeted at gamers as it offers a diversity of games and other items connected to gaming, that is video consoles, soundtracks, toys from game franchises, books (mostly walkthroughs, artbooks or other books based on a game) as well as… gift cards for various services such as Amazon (and its many branches), Netflix, Apple, Playstation Plus and so on – and for different regions, too! That’s great news if, like me, you’ve gained access to, say, Japanese Netflix or Amazon, but the system does not accept foreign credit/debit cards. That’s when gift cards come in handy since you can still pay for the service or orders BUT you don’t have to possess a credit card issued in Japan, for example. And Play Asia allows you exactly that – by selling gift cards.

Play Asia is also the shop where I buy my US and European games, especially for Nintendo because, unfortunately, Nintendo is not really present in my country and thus I have to import games for its consoles from abroad. They also have games for different game regions and since my consoles are all PALs (European versions), I need PAL versions of Nintendo games too. And, rather than importing the games from Amazon UK, I prefer Play Asia – the shipping is much cheaper (especially since game boxes are very light and small in size) and they give you a $5 off coupon with every purchase. So if you want to buy more things at their shop – you can basically get free shipping in exchange for that coupon (because the cheapest fare is around $5 for a SAL).

There’s also but so far I’ve only purchased anime figures from there – I’m waiting for my first ever game bought from them to come to me sometime in mid-November, so this list will probably be updated with my experience at this site, too.

Posted in Languages, Reading, Study methods, Video games


Last week I introduced visual novel games’ usefulness as a language resource to you. This week I’m going to reveal my top list of visual novel titles, sorted into three different groups of language proficiency: relatively easy, intermediate and hard games (language-wise). With some games, I’ve also considered the game mechanics as well, since, in my opinion, this factor also influences whether the gameplay is hard or not. In this entry, I will also be talking about Japanese CERO rating which can be useful in deciding whether any other game that you want to play will be appropriate for your language level (ergo, if you can play it without throwing the pad, or the console itself, at the wall in frustration).

However, as I was writing this post I realised that this entry turned out to be tremendously long and thus I decided to cut this post into 3 separate posts which will be published later this month. In return, instead of only 3 titles I initially planned to recommend for each language level, I’m going to introduce 5 titles instead. This solution would, in my opinion, be better than cutting down the list that greatly exceeded 3 titles for every tier anyway. Not to mention the fact that I’m in the middle of playing some visual novel games and I wish to include them in the higher tier lists when I have played enough of them to form an opinion.

The first category I came up with covers games that can be tried quite early and the language in which is relatively easy to understand – the recommendations for this category will be covered in today’s post. For example, at this level, some words are written in hiragana instead of their usual kanji writing or the language used mostly contains informal Japanese. I, personally, had started playing games in Japanese very early when it came to my Japanese level – as far as I remember, I imported my first game just when I was out of N5 level and began my N4 studies. That was very early, only about 2 years into learning the Japanese language, with around 200 kanji known to me and many important grammar structures which are introduced on N4 level, still unknown to me.

What’s more, the setting of those „relatively easy” games is often the school/student setting, so basically most interactions the game protagonist has are connected with their family life, school, first love or hobbies. Those topics are usually covered quite early in Japanese studies and if you’re watching anime or dramas OR reading mangas, then you probably know lots of vocabulary from those topics already. As a result, such games would prove easier to play for you.

The second tier is intermediate. Here I placed games that provide more linguistic challenge than the first group OR the game’s gameplay gets more complicated, thus increasing the difficulty of the gaming experience in general. For instance, I included Code Realize, which uses steampunk setting, in this level’s list. It is because some vocabulary appearing in this game might cause trouble when playing (AKA you have to open that dictionary of yours). What’s more, I’d consider this vocabulary quite useless – unless you really need to know how to say „steam engine” or some other technical/mechanical stuff in Japanese.

The final group covers difficult games. That difficulty can origin in various factors of the game: complicated plot, tricky game mechanics, used vocabulary, frequent formal language, vast narration to read, numerous kanji used in sentences and so on. That’s the category where I put most mixed-genre games, especially RPGs or point-and-click games, since the latter usually requires logical thinking and when you don’t understand something, you’re basically quickly on your way to either a dead end or a bad end (because visual novels usually include numerous bad ends which cause instant game over – don’t worry, if you save your game often, you can just load that save and you’re fine. For this reason, I recommend keeping numerous saves though, as some bad ends occur even after a few wrong choices made – and that could be a few hours of play!). In consequence, the amount of time you have to spend with such a game increases dramatically, not to mention the frustration if one misunderstood detail drags you away from making progress in the game.

As for where to purchase video games (as well as books, mangas and other Japanese resources), I plan to write a post on that in the nearest future, so be sure to check it out if you’re eager to import some of those titles I’m going to suggest today! However, if my list does not satisfy you, do not worry, I won’t be mad. Nobody likes everything they’re served and I find it perfectly fine to choose some other game you are looking forward to playing instead. But I’m going to give you a little tip on choosing games for your language level anyway.

Here’s where this CERO rating, which I’ve mentioned above, comes to play.

CERO is Japan’s video game content rating similar to PEGI (Europe) or PG (the US). It ranges from A to Z. Well, technically it ranges from A to D and includes Z as a special, restricted category. The letters represent the recommended minimum age for play. And thus CERO rating corresponds to:

A = up to 12 years old
B = 12+
C = 15+
D = 17+
Z = 18+ (the only one officially restricted, meaning you might have to show your ID when purchasing, as these games usually involve heavy violence, erotic content or any other content that is suitable only for adults)

Why is this important? Because if we apply the Japanese education system onto CERO rating, we’d get:

A = primary school (ages 6-12)
B = middle school (ages 12-15)
C = high school 1st and 2nd grade (ages 15-16)
D = high school 3rd grade (ages 17-18)

If you know a thing or two about the Japanese school system and especially about the tempo of their kanji acquisition, you’ll start connecting the dots at this point. Japanese kids learn around 1000 kanji throughout 6 years they spent in primary school. The second 1000 kanji are learned throughout their secondary education, that is middle school and high school.

As a result, games with A or B CERO rating are easier to read and understand than higher-rated games. That’s because during their secondary education, apart from more kanji, the Japanese also learn more advanced vocabulary (as you probably did during your mother tongue classes at school, too), while games targeted at primary school kids would be easier to read (less kanji and simpler vocabulary) and comprehend since these kids have just started learning to write in their mother tongue, just like the beginners in Japanese have.

I figured out this relevance when playing games in Japanese. I noticed that B rated games usually use simpler language and some words are swapped with their hiragana spelling (instead of using the kanji the word is usually spelt with). The plot is usually simpler, too. In contrast, C or D rated games usually include a more complex story with multiple subplots (and also the game itself is vast and rich in details, taking longer time to beat it). The language used (especially the kanji load) is obviously more difficult, too.

This relationship can be clearly seen in the list of games I prepared for you. So, if you want to play any other game which is not included in this list – check out its CERO rating first. This will give you a rough idea on its language level. Taking a peek at the gameplay itself can also give you a clue whether the game would be tricky for you or not. Youtube is a very good source for this one, even if the game hasn’t been released yet, the producers usually upload promotion videos (プロモーションムービー) or so-called „play movies” (プレイムービー) with sample gameplay. I often check those out before deciding on a purchase. Of course, watching sample gameplays comes AFTER I decide if a game picks up my interest at all! 😉

As for the price range of visual novels, the cost really depends on the platform. I mostly play on Playstation consoles so I’m most familiar with them. The average cost of a game starts at around 5800 (for a Playstation Vita/PSP game) to over 20000 yen for a limited edition of the title. However, regular editions (that means only the game software itself, without any additional bonuses) cost between 5800 and 7000 yen. That price does not include the shipping if you’re importing the game. You can, of course, also buy them cheaper, especially if they’re on sale or you’re buying used copies. It really depends on where you’re buying them from. But I’m going to cover my game shops in the future post (about the shops I purchase my Japanese resources at), not here.


Platform: what gaming platforms this game was released on,
Genre: what game genres, apart from visual novel, it includes,
No. of games: how many games (e.g. prequels, sequels, side stories, spin-offs) were released in the series,
Limited edition: whether a special box with the game’s software as well as a few bonuses, such as CDs, booklets, artbooks, postcards, files, plushies etc. was released,
CERO: official CERO rating of the game (visible on its box),
Anime: whether anime based on the game was released (this might be helpful if you’re not sure you understood the plot well or if you want more fun since often the anime and the game’s plots vary at some points),
Drama CDs: whether drama CDs were recorded for this title (apart from drama CDs available in the limited edition of the game),
English version: whether the game’s been translated to English and released to the western market (it can also be useful to check if you understood the game, especially if anime hadn’t been made; there’s such a case with game titled „7’s Scarlet”, which got English release but no anime or manga),
Synopsis: Short summary of the plot,
My comment: my additional remarks, info or warnings about the plot, the gameplay and so on.

Well, without further ado, here are my recommendations:


(can be tried on early/mid-N4 level)


Japanese title: プリンス・オフ・ストライド
Platform: Playstation Vita
Genre: visual novel, romance (otome – targeted at women)
No. of games: 1
Limited edition: Yes
Anime: Yes (1 season, 12 eps)
Drama CDs: Yes, multiple
English version: No
Game’s website:

Synopsis: The series Prince of Stride: Alternative revolves around the extreme sport “Stride”, a sport where a team of 5 plus a relationer runs relay races in towns. The story takes place at Hōnan Academy where first-year high school students Takeru Fujiwara and Nana Sakurai try to re-establish the school’s “Stride” team by recruiting 6 members. Their goal is to join other schools to compete and win Eastern Japan’s top Stride competition, called the “End of Summer”. Takeru asked Nana to become a relationer as well as a manager. They asked Riku Yagami to join the team, but he turns them down stating that “Stride” is something that he does not want to do, but has to after finishing in a dead-heat against the upperclassmen. (source:

My comment: Prince of Stride started as a special joint project by Dengeki Girls’ Style (a popular otome game magazine) and Reject (a well- know otome game and other otome-themed media producer). As a result, everything is just different about this game. First of all, there is rarely a sports otome game created. And a GOOD game, too! This title has AMAZING plot, it glues you to the screen. As I mentioned in the previous post – I couldn’t put this game down for a few weeks in a row, until I played all the routes! The main stride team is a fun bunch and the relationer, that is you, is a very well-written protagonist. Which is a valid point, because otome games protagonists tend to be quite irritating to western players, especially women. We’re just different from Japanese women in terms of behaviour and shyness. This is why I find Nana, Prince of Stride’s main character, a great advantage to the game. She also has her own special skills – she’s an integral part of the stride team and does her job very well. Speaking of her job – as she’s a relationer, so she doesn’t exactly run in the relay. Other members do. But as stride is run throughout the city, the runners don’t see the upcoming runner and thus a third person is needed to time and tell the next runner to set and go. That third person is a relationer, who observes the track and the runners on a map displayed on monitors and is in contact with the team via wireless technology (just like, for example, F1 racers are with their team). This part, the race, is my favourite part of the game, As for a visual novel, it was done very well and the races are exciting and engaging. Your job, as the player, is simple – you have to time the relay correctly to get the best score possible for the race. Other elements of the race, like choosing the team’s order or cheering on your team members are also taken into consideration. Basically, the more points you have, the more likely you are to win the race. If you don’t meet the minimum requirement – it’s an immediate game over, but you can reload the race of course. The producers also thought of replays and put an option to skip the race if you’d beaten it before. It’s a plus since the race takes around 20-30 minutes of play to finish it!Another important thing is that for most of the game, I didn’t feel that I was playing an otome game at all. In fact, the first signals of a romance appear in the second HALF of the game! So that’s a big chunk of the story you first read before you get into your guy’s route. Still, the love growing between the protagonist and one of the guys was entertaining and well incorporated into a very sports-themed game. Actually, there were lovey-dovey scenes I almost wanted to skip (like when they go on a date just before the last relay) because I was more interested in the competition itself rather than characters’ romantic relationship developing. But the ending, oh, the ending made me scream, it was so GOOD and satisfying!
Also, I’ll be mentioning soundtracks a lot in this list, as I find BGM important in the gaming experience, but Prince of Stride’s soundtrack is just un-be-lie- va-ble! One of the best visual novel game soundtrack I’ve ever encountered for sure. The only disadvantage of it is that it was NEVER released as a CD or something!So the only choice you’re left with is to listen to the songs in the extras section in the title menu (it’s a standard for otome games to have a soundtrack player included in the menu). It’s no wonder this project was a huge success which resulted in anime production launching right after the game was released! Yet, because of that popularity, it’s a bit difficult to get a hold of a copy of the game now. I still regret that I hadn’t ordered the limited edition when I was considering it. Unfortunately, I completely underestimated this game’s potential and went for the regular edition when preordering. Damn!


Japanese title: ブラザーズ コンフリクト
Platform: Playstation Vita, PSP, Nintendo Switch
Genre: visual novel, otome
No. of games: 3 (actually 2, as Precious Baby is a remake which includes first 2 games)
Limited Edition: No
Anime: Yes (1 season, 13 eps)
Drama CDs: Yes, multiple
English version: No
Game’s website:

Synopsis: Ema Hinata (or later known as Ema Asahina) is the daughter of the famous expat, Rintaro Hinata. One day, Ema finds out that her dad is going to remarry a successful clothing maker named Miwa Asahina. Rather than bothering them, she decides to move into the Sunrise Residence complex that is owned by Miwa. From there, she discovers that she has 13 stepbrothers. As time moves on, her stepbrothers develop feelings for her and compete in ways to win her heart when all Ema wants to have is a loving family. Can she make all of her 13 stepbrothers happy or will she only pick one of them? Ema has a pet that helps her when times are tough and only her and her new brother can understand. She is faced with many challenges like finding out she adopted and having to apply for college. (source:

My comment: A very simple but enjoyable game with a very good soundtrack and fantastic cast – you’ll find real male seiyuu (Japanese voice actor) stars here! The scenes in the game usually involve daily life and everyday activities so we will find the characters preparing food together, going shopping together, celebrating birthdays together, going to the beach together etc. The great advantage of this game, especially of Precious Baby for Playstation Vita and Nintendo Switch is that it incorporates two games in one. The first two games in the series were released as separate titles, each including 6-7 romantic routes with different brothers (1 route per brother) plus 1 secret route for somebody else. As a result, if you purchase Precious Baby, you’ll get two games (and all possible boyfriend material) for the price of one. And because there are many brothers to choose from, you’d definitely find your type. Each brother also has their own, iconic BGM track. The gameplay can be a bit tricky, especially during the first playthrough, as you have to choose your activities in a calendar. What you choose to do influences the gameplay – meaning, if you choose to interact with a particular brother on a specific day, you can get a special chapter with him. The more those chapters you find and experience, the closer you get to the happy ending with your chosen one. However, it’s difficult to predict WHEN someone will have that extra scene with the protagonist so honestly, I used a walkthrough with this one. IN JAPANESE, so I forgive myself for doing this. You should too.


Japanese title: うたの☆プリンスさまっ♪
Platform: PSP, Playstation Vita, Nintendo Switch
Genre: visual novel, rhythm game, otome
No. of games: 10 (6 main games and 4 spin-offs)
Limited edition: Yes
Anime: Yes (4 seasons, 53 eps + 1 movie)
Drama CDs: Yes, multiple
English version: No (but there’s an English version of a spin-off mobile game)
Game’s website:

Synopsis: With dreams of becoming a composer and someday writing a song for her favourite idol, Haruka Nanami enters the Saotome Academy, a prestigious performing arts school. Surrounded by potential idols and producers, Haruka gets to know six of her classmates, who are all competing to become idols. For her project, she must team up with another student as an idol-producer team, and if they are successful, they will join Shining Agency after graduation. Besides, romance is strictly prohibited at their school. (source:

My comment: Uta no Prince sama (or UtaPri for short) is the only game in this set that involves another game genre – a rhythm game. That’s kind of understandable, since UtaPri is set in a music school for idols and music composers and the objective of the game is to get paired with one of the main guys and do a song together (him – singing, you, the protagonist – writing the music and the lyrics). Consequently, there are several occasions in the game when you’ll encounter a rhythm game where you have to push specific buttons when they appear on the screen – just like you’d do in Dance Dance Revolution (though this one involves a special dance mat and you dance for real). I loved this mini game! The songs created for these games and just awesome and they quickly went to my playlist. Also, the game lets you choose the difficulty of the mini game – which is a great move by Broccoli, the producing company, because if you’re not very musical or have no experience with such games – you can choose the easy mode (the other’s hard). However, the difficulty of the mini game increases over the play anyway – it still is considered “easy”, but with time you get more buttons to push with the song. It’s as if each mode had level 1, level 2, level 3 – each time this mini game appears, you need to get more skillful. But don’t worry, you can practice the mini game, choosing it in the game’s title menu. At one point I was so into it, I stopped my progress with the plot and kept on playing the rhythm game… As I said, the songs are SO GOOD.
As for the plot, since you get paired with your guy as a part of your school assignment, you’re obviously gonna fall in love. I really liked the “no love allowed” rule imposed by the school here, since you and your guy are trying so hard at first NOT to let those feelings grow and later you decide to fight the system! Will you succeed? Check it out yourself, but I got to admit, that this plot point added this extra spice to the story.


Japanese title: ディアボリックラヴァーズ
Platform: PSP, Playstation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4
Genre: visual novel, otome, dark fantasy (vampires)
No. of games: 7
Limited edition: Yes
CERO: C or D (depends on the title in the series)
Anime: Yes (2 seasons, 25 episodes)
Drama CDs: Yes, TONS
English version: No
Game’s website:

Synopsis: The main heroine, Yui Komori, was just a normal teenage girl until high school when her father, a priest, has to go overseas for work. As a result, Yui is sent to a new town and arrives alone at the mansion she was told will be her new home. At the mansion, no-one greets her however the door swings open on its own accord. Yui enters the mansion to find herself alone, as she explores she finds a handsome young man sleeping with no heartbeat on a couch. To her shock, he awakens and five other young men gradually appear. Yui soon notices something different about all of them, she discovers that all six of them are brothers but by three different mothers, and they all turn out to be sadistic vampires. (source:

My comment: I personally didn’t like this game too much and for this reason, I stopped collecting it after the 2nd game (which I bought only to play the route of my favourite character). The plot is silly and repetitive, as the protagonist usually gets cornered in every chapter by one of the brothers to be abused, bad-mouthed and have her blood forcefully sucked. If you’re sick of males trashing women and treating them as if they were his possession – don’t play this, because the main „hot” guys are sadistic (and sexist) garbage beings and they DON’T CHANGE over the course of the plot, unfortunately (I was very disappointed when I ran the 2nd game and expected the continuation of the budding romance that began in the 1st game only to discover than the whole progress of the main protagonist and the guy of your choice made went down the drain because they have a kind of AMNESIA). What’s good about this game, then? It’s very easy language-wise! Because of the repetitive plot and scenes as well as reused vocabulary, this game is very easy to adapt to and play. There aren’t any unusual game mechanics, either (there are only the standard questions with choices to make once or twice per chapter). The art is just GORGEOUS, not only the special CGs, but the sprites themselves as well as the art used in e.g. the opening and ending videos. This game also has fantastic songs sung by the voice actors (and the game’s cast includes the best male Japanese voice actors!) – you can just play those songs on constant repeat, great music! Plus the job those male voice actors did is just marvellous: the sucking noises, the moans or the sighs of the vampires are just ecstatic poetry to your ear – and exactly everything you’d want from an otome game. No wonder this entire series sells like hotcakes – I’d really recommend playing it on headphones and while you’re alone unless you want to get hot while other people are around.


Japanese title: 熱血異能部活譚 Trigger Kiss
Platform: Playstation Vita
Genre: visual novel, otome
No. of games: 1
Limited edition: Yes
Anime: No
Drama CDs: No
English version: No
Game’s website:

Synopsis: In the future, some people are born with superpowers. Akizuki High School won the national championship in superpowers club fights but was banned from the tournament for 2 years due to heavy violence of the members during the championship finals. Two years later, the club’s captain, Azuma, is told by the principal that the club will be disbanded if they do not win the national tournament. At the same time, a second-grader named Futaba Sendou, who also has superpowers, is transferred to Akizuki High School. Even though Futaba hates her abilities, she is tricked into joining the club and competing in 3-on-3 battles with different schools.

My comment: This actually was my very first otome game and also first pure visual novel game in Japanese I manged to finish (after the fiasco with Norn9 which is DEFINITELY a higher difficulty tier game – you’ll see this title in future posts). I still hold it dear and enjoy it. There are several factors which make this highly underrated game quite attractive for language learners. First of all, the graphics. Instead of a typical text box in the lower parts of the screen, the characters’ lines appear in typical comic bubbles all over the screen. This makes the game appear to be a kind of interactive manga than a visual novel. Secondly, the language used by the members is quite simple and repetitive – after you get used to some vocabulary used to describe the superpowers and battle, it gets pretty easy. Thirdly, the female protagonist is one of the best if not THE BEST protagonist I’ve met in any otome game. She’s strong, she’s independent and she’s not shy. She doesn’t have a problem to tell the boys that they’re acting wrong. She also takes the initiative herself, rather than waiting for a knight in shining armour to save her ass – which is something most otome game protagonists lack. Also, she throws great punchlines – she’s so sarcastic and playful! As a result, Futaba is one of the reasons why Trigger Kiss is so fun to play. The game mechanics don’t add anything special, too – the only new thing is touching the screen when the protagonist chooses to use her superpowers (and it feels quite awesome to do that!). The game doesn’t require any special skills to play, really. I mean, I played it when I’d just began my N4 course and I was a total newbie in visual novel games department at that time, too, and I had no problem enjoying this game. The plot is interesting, the interaction between the members of the club is quite… standard (I mean, you’d definitely seen such club members’ interaction scenes in anime or manga before, so you’d have no trouble understanding what’s going on even if you can’t grasp what the characters are saying word-for-word). The soundtrack is also good – I have several tracks from this game on my motivational tracks playlist. The only tricky part is the lengthy narration during the battles, but as I’ve said before, after a few opponents you more or less start to recognise and remember the vocabulary used for describing them.


The titles above are all, as you’ve probably noticed, otome games, that is games targeted at women which usually concerns a single female protagonist surrounded by hot men who, obviously, start to have feelings for the protagonist. However, since easy games usually score A or B in CERO rating, that means that the romance itself is slightly subdued and in some titles very shallow, especially if the title focuses on something else other than just romance. And that’s actually the case with Prince of Stride and Trigger Kiss which follow adventures of two school clubs participating in national championships and that competition is what the plot strongly revolves around. The romance involved is very minimal but is still present. What’s more, B rating means that the game involves nothing more than a love confession and the usual kiss after a confession. So if romance is not your thing, but you’d like to play some game with relatively easy language – give these two titles a try, the plot, apart from its romance component, is definitely worth it and very entertaining.

Other story genres than romance will be included further in the list – it’s just that romance is very easy to read and follow while more sophisticated and complex stories require higher level of language proficiency. So if you’re up to the challenge, read my upcoming entry for other types of stories and more game genres mixed in!