Japanese 2023 in Review

Discussion post on reddit

Summary (tl;dr)

In 2023, I spent 1780 hours and 20 minutes doing the following:

Videogames1130 hours and 15 minutes
Visual Novels257 hours and 2 minutes
Light Novels203 hours and 58 minutes
Manga112 hours and 53 minutes
Anime50 hours and 56 minutes
Anki25 hours and 13 minutes

Note: I stopped tracking youtube/livestream content so I do not have hours for those, but I probably have at least an extra 40-50 hours doing that, just estimating. I am also not tracking hours spent using Japanese in real life, for obvious reasons.

Same as last year, I have graphed the tracked hours into a monthly chart split by genre and since I spend so much time playing videogames and it throws off the scale, here’s the version without videogame hours tracked.

For a total cumulative hour graph split by months, you can refer to this one.

A few highlights I want to point out:

  • Late last year my son was born. As a new parent, I had a lot of “extra time” off work due to parental leave. I did not work during the months of January and February (although I was taking care of my child). I also went traveling in June, and I took a full month off work in December which shows the peak of my time for the year.
  • If we calculate the cumulative hours and average them over the year, I spent about 5 hours every day immersing in Japanese content. This pretty much tracks with the fact that I immerse mostly in the evening after my son goes to sleep and I am done with work for the day (plus a few extras on weekends and days off).
  • My sleep tracking app also tells me I average about 5h30m of sleep every day, so if people are curious how I manage to get 5 hours of immersion every day at night, it’s probably because I sleep less than the average person


At the end of 2022 I told myself I’d read more manga in 2023. Unfortunately, this was not the case although I don’t regret it. I found a lot more enjoyment with visual novels and games (more on this later) so I’m still pretty happy.

I read a total of 69 manga volumes in 2023 (nice). Some of the highlights of series I enjoyed:

  • Vampeerz: This was a pleasant surprise to me. I totally did not expect it to be as good as it was. Just judging from the cover art, it looked pretty bland, but once I started reading it the artstyle and story development caught my interest. It’s a yuri manga about vampires. It explores both the lore and history of vampires in the world, but also has a lot of slice of life teenage romance beats to it. It’s probably my number 1 manga series of 2023.
  • Frieren: Everyone is loving Frieren. It also got an amazing anime adaptation. Such a great manga, absolutely my number 2 of the year.
  • 新しいきみへ: This also was a pleasant surprise. The manga is very hard to describe without giving away big spoilers but let’s just say it is not what seems like at first. If you liked 20th century boys, this manga is definitely for you and I strongly recommend it.
  • レ・セルバン: I never read Berserk, but the artstyle is very similar/inspired by it I think. It’s a very western-fantasy style manga. It is a “true” fantasy manga in the western sense (think game of thrones, etc) with a lot of dark stuff and mature themes. In a world where isekai is the standard fantasy genre, this manga stands out a lot. If you like western fantasy, you need to read this.


This is the true spotlight for this year for me. Last year I did not have a proper way to track which games I played and finished. In 2023 I created a spreadsheet to record which games I am playing, starting date, last played time, and whether or not I am still “playing” it or dropped it. It helped me get serious and actually finish the games I start as I used to have a very serial new-game-starter problem as I kept starting new games without finishing older ones.

I finished 2022 with the goal of playing through the entire kiseki series which is insanely long and has a lot of reading involved. Each entry is several tens if not hundreds of hours long. I did not expect to get through all of it but… somehow I managed! I played and completed a total of 13 games in 2023. Here’s the list in completion order with playtime:

空の軌跡 the 3rd52h7m

Note: Some of these playtimes are inflated as I sometimes kept my PS5 on pause while taking care of my son and did not notice it kept tracking playtime.

Also I started playing the Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis gacha game, and the Blue Protocol MMO.

So yeah… it’s been a very 軌跡 year for me it seems.

Visual Novels

I concluded 2022 saying I wasn’t a big visual novel fan, and that I only played a bit of them. This year I surprised myself by actually getting more into the genre and finding a few gems here and there.

I played 5 visual novels to completion, although 2 of them are “kinda” games too as they have mild game elements, but i consider them to be pretty much VNs.

  • 穢翼のユースティア - I had Eustia in my backlog for years. I think I started reading it in 2021 and stopped after the first chapter. This year I finally decided to finish it and… wow. It’s probably one of my favorite visual novels of all time. The narrative was amazing.
  • 終のステラ - This was a relatively short (21 hours for me) linear visual novel. I liked it because it was not your typical slice of life story and after Eustia I was looking for some adventure narrative.
  • イハナシの魔女 - I tackled this on a whim as it was one of the monthly reading challenges in TheMoeWay discord server and I was told it would be short (it wasn’t, I clocked 38h27m). The initial parts are full of fluff and slice of life that I did not enjoy much, but the final arc/chapter and epilogue were great. The closure of the story saved it for me. Overall a moderate enjoyment.
  • うたわれるもの 散りゆく者への子守唄 - I clocked 75 hours on this “game”. It introduced me to the utawarerumono universe and… I loved it. A slow start, but the ending just blew my mind.
  • うたわれるもの 偽りの仮面 - With 115h25m of play(read)time, it is the second entry in the utawarerumono series. There is a lot of enjoyable fluff, but once the story picks up towards the end… WOW. Probably one of the best cliffhanger endings I’ve ever experienced. A really solid VN.

Light Novels / Books

It was entirely coincidence but just like with videogames, I managed to read 13 light novels. I ended 2022 with the plan to finally finish the entire kuma kuma kuma bear series and I am happy to say I reached my goal for 2023… however a new volume was released as I did that so I will have to read that too in 2024 (and I am looking forward to it).

Here’s the list of what I read:

  • Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear volumes 13 -> 19
  • 槍使いと、黒猫 volumes 2 and 3: I started this series at the end of 2022 and kinda got interested in it. However after two more volumes, while I do not dislike the narrative style, I feel like I won’t be continuing to read it. I’m not a big fan of litRPGs and isekai although I do like fantasy
  • こわれたせかいの むこうがわ: I bought this physical LN years ago back when I couldn’t read much Japanese. Finally, after all this time, I decided to challenge myself. It was also my first physical Japanese book as I am used to reading digital on kindle instead. It was a very good experience and the story was really good. The writing style was very interesting. I strongly recommend this little unknown mini-series. There’s a second volume but I have not read it yet. The first volume already feels like a standalone story so I am happy with how it ended.
  • 狼と香辛料 volume 2, 3, and 4: I read the first volume of Spice and Wolf back in 2021. It was my third ever light novel in Japanese. Back then I could not fully appreciate it as the story was hard and I could not understand a lot of words. This time, however, I decided to challenge myself and continue the series and I was pleasantly surprised at how easily I could read it and enjoy it much better. The dialogues in this series are incredibly witty and a true pleasure to read.


I am still tracking the anime I watch on my annict account, although I haven’t watched as much anime as I used to do back in the day. Some of the good anime series I watched and enjoyed in 2023:

  • Trigun Stampede: I was not into it at first as an OG trigun fan the reboot didn’t sit right to me… but after giving it a few more episodes and getting to the end I have to admit it was very well done.

  • 天国大魔境: I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories with weird shit going on and this one delivers exactly that.

  • Frieren: after already having read the manga, I was amazed at how good the anime adaptation is. This is my highlight of the year for sure

  • Kenshin remake: I’m a long time kenshin fan and I think the anime remake is very well done. I’m looking forward to season 2.

How much did my Japanese improve?

It’s harder and harder to measure how much “better” I am getting. I think at this point I really stopped caring about my Japanese ability (at least when it comes to input). Continuing from how I felt in 2022, nowadays I don’t really think about whether or not something is too hard or not anymore. I just find stuff I want to watch/read/play and just do it. It’s pretty much become a normal part of life for me, same way as English is. This is not to say that I understand everything and I know every word etc because I am far from it, but it doesn’t feel like something I think about anymore.

Output-wise, I started using Japanese a bit more in real life as well. Circumstances had me use it at work and at other work-related activities. Also I’ve been a bit more active on discord using it with friends (but not as much as I’d like) and in other online communities. I still have a long way to go though, but I feel like I’ll be saying this every year.

Plans for 2024

Same as last year, I’m not a fan of making new year’s resolutions, however there are a few things that I am looking forward to in 2024 that I want to tackle.

Being able to marathon and complete the entire kiseki series in 2023 gave me a new level of confidence that I can “finish” things, so I want to follow a similar theme for 2024. Since this is the year of the dragon, and I left off the 龍が如く (yakuza) series with yakuza 2 after enjoying 0 and 1 years ago, I have decided to play the entire yakuza series for 2024. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish all of the entries, but I will do my best. Actually 2024 has already started and I already managed to finish Yakuza 2 (I was already halfway into the story though) at the time of writing this.

Game-wise I am also looking forward to the second FF7 Remake entry in March, so that will probably take most of my time. There is also the new Kai no Kiseki game planned for (I think?) September, so that’s something else I am very much looking forward to as I’ve become a kiseki-obsessed fan.

I also need to finish the utawarerumono VN series as I am now reading the third entry. If I have extra time, I will try and tackle the Monochrome Mobius game which is a spin-off JRPG from the utawarerumono series.

On the light novel front, I want to continue reading the entire spice and wolf series (I’m already halfway through volume 5). I bought all the volumes on kindle a few years back, so now it’s a good time to properly enjoy them.

Other than this, I really don’t plan to change much for 2024. I’m just going to keep enjoying Japanese media and my hobbies. 2023 has been a year full of surprises for me and I had to adapt my lifestyle to those changes, but I somehow managed. Who knows what 2024 will hold, maybe my plans will be completely thrown off course, but that’s alright too, it’s life.

あけましておめでとうございます everyone!