Kindai Mahjong (Takeshobo)

This month I have a publication that I really a mixed bag. I walked into a Lawson (convenient store) and happened to see this sitting on the shelf. Never knowing if it’s existence before then, I was very excited to pick it up. Thinking there may be people like me that don’t know of it’s existence, I wanted to review it asap to make it known to the world.



近代麻雀:Kindai Mahjong Semi-monthly Mahjong Manga Publication
http://kinma.takeshobo.co.jp/

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Introduction:
近代麻雀(Kindai Mahjong from here on out) is released on the 1st and 15th of every month in Japan. Usually you can find it on the following days at any convenience store or book store for 315 Yen. I will also provide some links of where you can order it online later in the article. All of the manga’s (comics) featured inside of Kindai Mahjong are of course reach mahjong releated. I called this a mixed bag because of the comics contained inside. There is really something targeted at everyone. For example there is a comic called “Mahjong Cos-play” that is clearly aimed at females and younger audiences, but that’s immediately followed by “Hero”, which is a really down to earth tale about a really good player, obviously aimed at people that just want a straight mahjong comic, then followed by Washizu, which will make you hate your own very existence with how much of a violent and twisted person he is.
Note though that for review purpose, I picked up 3 issues, and every time the comics contained within were slightly changed. I’m not sure if I caught the publication at a bad time or if this is a normal habit, but the comics mentioned above are on the website so i’m assuming they are what is currently running.

Presentation:
Active ImageThis is the area that originally hooked me into buying the first issue. Note that I am not a big manga reader. I find about one series a year that I truly enjoy. There are many parts about this publication that even someone who doesn’t normally get into mahjong can enjoy though. Like I mentioned above, there is a very wide range of tales featured in this book. I won’t take the time to review them all, but basically they can be categorized into 3 types: Normal stories about good players, supernatural stories about things that are just not possible, and ultra-yakuza stories, which fall somewhere in between. Usually the yakuza stories involve alot of cheating and tricks, but can still be very interesting.

The other thing that I really liked about this publication, is scattered through the book are “What would you discard?” Quizzes and “Tally this hand.” Quizzes. They come every few pages and are great for mahjong players to test themselves. The following page always explains what is considered the “correct” answer, and provides a nice explanation as to why. Also, it provides an estimate in seconds on how long it should have taken to decide what to discard. This alone is almost worth the 350 yen it costs to pick up an issue in my personal opinion. If you look really hard, you may even be able to find a picture of Jenn and Garthe scattered throughout the pages!

Useful Information:
Active ImageUnfortunately, this is the area where I came out a bit disappointed. While some of the stories in this book are very interesting, I found myself questioning from time to time how much of this can actually better my personal game. There are parts of the comics that I really, really enjoy. Such as one part in Hero where it gave you a 5 turn breakdown of a player’s hand showing his path from draw to tenpai (ready). This can be very beneficial to a player in order to see new possibilities. Personally, every time a tile is drawn in the comic, I try to decided for myself what I’d discard and then see if the character discarded the same. If you use this publication in this way, there can be literally hundreds of quizzes scattered through this book. Also, whenever a big decision comes, there is almost always a great (albeit sometimes farfetched) explanation as to why a particular tile should be discarded. One such situation came to mind in Hero where a player was able to successfully read another player’s Kokushi Musou (13 orphans) based on his body language. This reminded me alot about Konno’s columns on reach mahjong, and it was nice to see a “real world” application. Obviously though, this is very high level play, which can sometimes be just as frustrating for a beginner.

On the other hand though, there are times where you read something and simply go… “I don’t buy it. ” Then there is the cheating comics. While sometimes interesting, there is very little you can (or should be able to) bring into your game.

Comprehension Difficulty
This will ultimately be the deal breaker for me. This publication is tough to understand. Frustratingly tough. For somebody at around a JLPT2 level, you should be able to grasp the meaning, or at least the flow of what’s happening, but many of the explanations are psychological analysis, and thus very difficult to follow in a foreign language. The Yakuza stories use very difficult Japanese that I pretty much gave up on half way through. I showed a few of them to some of my Japaneses friends and even they were like “oh…” If you plan on using this publication to quiz yourself, then I believe you can still find some enjoyment, but anything short of a native level of Japanese, and I have a feeling you’ll be scratching your brain very hard to pull the meanings out of some of the stories.

Conculsion:
There you have it. A full mixed bag of tricks. I think due to the cheap price and simple shock value, everyone should pick up at least an issue, but it will be up to you if you actually want to follow it. Also note that many of the comics within have been translated online at one time or the other. A few google searches can probably land you upon them. With the translation, this would turn into an excellent source of knowledge for mahjong players, but in the original news stand form, I will give it a 5 / 10 due to the difficulty and sometime far fetched content.

You can track issues for purchase down on various websites, but probably the easiest would be Rakuten

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