かいけつゾロリ やせるぜ!ダイエット大さくせん
Incredible Zorori: I’m Going To Slim Down! The Great Diet Strategy
作/絵:原 ゆたか(はら ゆたか, Hara Yutaka)
Level 3 本, 103 pages, 3,000 words (rough estimate; see difficulty section) ★★★★★
Hardcover

When I got this book out from the library it was low on my priority list, because I thought it was some preachy book designed to explain calories and nutrition to kids with the help of cute cartoon animals. After all, there was the title, and the back cover also had a chart showing a list of foods, their calories and how long you’d have to do various exercises to burn them off. Bored now, I thought as I evaluated the cover, but two seconds of flipping through it revealed that it was one of my prized level 2.5 books. I’ve officially classified it as a level 3 book just due to its length and relative complexity, but it has a lot in common with level 2 books: tons of illustrations, big, spaced text written mostly in hiragana, with barely any kanji and furigana even for katakana words. I can finish a book like that in an evening and if I was Queen of the World I’d have a new one every night, so even though it looked lackluster it went right into my bag. If I had taken two minutes and not two seconds, I would have seen that I had judged it quite wrongly: it’s not a nutrition textbook, it’s an adventure story! It turned out to easily be my favorite of the level 2.5 and 3 books I’ve read so far.

I didn’t know it at the time, but there’s a whole series of books about Zorori, an anti-hero trickster fox, and his two followers, the boars Ishishi and Noshishi. (The word for boar in Japanese, it should be noted, is inoshishi.) At the moment there’s a great Wikipedia page about Zorori that I do hope won’t be bothered by Wikipedia guardians anytime soon. In this book, the trio realize that they’ve gained an awful lot of weight lately and resolve to diet, but first they misinterpret a dozen different diet books, then spend all their money on scams; desperate for cash and diet tips, they take on the job of delivering three weight-loss gadgets to a “Madame Diet” for her daughter’s birthday party. When they run into a giant catfish along the way, those gadgets get put to some decidedly non-traditional uses…

Difficulty
I found it hard to classify this book as either level 2 or 3; I think of it as level 2.5 but I thought that as long as I’m going with this classification system it should be one or the other. It shares in common with other advanced level 2 books large, spaced text, lots of illustrations and almost no kanji, but I think the length and complexity of vocabulary makes it more of a level 3 book in the end. You’ll note that the estimated word count is two or three times higher than those of other advanced level 2 books I’ve read. (Because there are four text sizes, some pages have considerably more text than others; my estimate is that there are about 30 words per page on average, but it’s probably a fairly low guess.) Even though the only kanji used are ones taught in first grade, there were a good number of words that I didn’t know, and at least one pun that I could almost see sailing right over my head. For an extensive reader at an intermediate level or for one who can cope with a whole lot of unknown words this series should offer a lot of value, but don’t be tricked into thinking these books are easy just because they look like they should be.

The format is nice for an extensive reader, too: I’m not really into manga as reading practice material because I’m not really into manga they’re centered on images and dialogue and I like to have all the surrounding words and descriptions a book provides, but this one reads something like a manga-book hybrid. The majority of the book is in prose with illustrations, but some illustrations have a comic-style arrangement, and while part of the dialogue is mixed into the prose lots of it is given in speech bubbles. The result still feels more like a book than a comic to me, but it’s dynamic, playful and easy to follow.

Running the sample text through Reading Tutor, its vocabulary level is rated “normal” and of the five kanji, two are old-JLPT level 3 and three are old-JLPT level 4.

Sample text
Note: All kanji and katakana have furigana in the original.
「ああ、この 町 すべての たくはいびんやさんに ことわられてしまった この しごと、 あなたたちに つとまりますかねえ。」
「しつれいな! この かたを どなたと こころえるだか? けわしい 火山から きょうだいな 「きょうりゅうの たまご」を はこびだした ことの ある ゾロリせんせとは、 この かたで あるだ!」
#くわしいことは「かいけつゾロリまもるぜ!きょうりゅうのたまご」をよんでみてね。
「それは しつれいいたしました。 じつは はこんでいただきたい ものは、マダム・ダイエットの ひとりむすめ、 スリムおじょうさまの たんじょうびプレゼントなのです。 ただし、こんや 八じまでに、むこうぎしの おやしきの うら口へ、この ボートで こっそりと というのが、じょうけんです。」

How to get it
On Amazon.co.jp, this book (as well as the other Zorori books) is ¥945, or $11.41 at the time of this writing. (That’s before the handling fee of ¥300 – raising the price to $15.03 – and shipping.) Kinokuniya has it for $15.75. Even better, they have a lot of the Zorori books in stock at around the same price; just search for かいけつゾロリ for the full selection.

There’s only one Japanese graded reader out there that I’ve found so far, so I really like the idea of finding a series you like at a level you can read and sticking with it – which is a big part of why this book gets its own review and other books I’ve liked just as much just get a mini-review. I find myself eyeing a link on Kinokuniya’s page where a set of 44 Zorori books can be had for a mere ¥39,600. At the time I write this, that’s $477.93, which is about $277.93 more than I ought to be spending on books all this year. Still, I can’t help but do the math and wonder if $10.86 per book might not be a real bargain… It won’t actually happen, but it’s a pleasing daydream. Even more pleasing is the daydream where I pick up a bunch of used Zorori books cheaply — the low prices for second-hand books on Amazon.co.jp have not escaped my notice — but I don’t think I could swing that without navigating some sort of proxy service or burdening one of my friends… Well, it’s not like I’ve run out of library books yet!

4 Responses to Review of かいけつゾロリ やせるぜ!ダイエット大さくせん (Incredible Zorori: I’m Going To Slim Down! The Great Diet Strategy)

  1. emmie says:

    hi Liana, this is emmie from tadoku.org. If I remember correctly, you’re the second having written an entry at that site. I’m really pleased to know you.どうぞよろしく!
    Now, I dropped by your blog and WOW! it’s ゾロリ!!!
    You know, ゾロリis definitely a good choice to know Japan and its culture and people well, I bet main-stream teachers of Japanese, who blindly believe there is nothing better than textbooks and schools to learn languages, won’t agree with me though, because almost everyone, younger than me ^^;, should have gone through this series, and furthermore, the series is packed with おやじギャグ、which is deeply inscribed in the heart of Japanese men^^.

    というわけで、一緒に多読を楽しんでいけるといいなあと思っています。

  2. Liana says:

    Hi emmie ^^ Thank you for your comment — especially because it’s the first comment on my blog!

    I’m glad to have another enthusiastic recommendation for the ゾロリ series ^^ When I first started reading it, I thought “Wow, this is great fun… it’s not too hard… there’s a lot of the series available from Kinokuniya, and $15 isn’t a horrible amount to pay for a new book. I bet other extended readers would appreciate this too!” I put in an inter-library loan request for two others that another library in the area has… I can’t wait for them to get here ^^

    By the way, if you can recommend other books or series that might be good to look into, I’d love to hear about them ^^

  3. emmie says:

    Hi Liana-san, It was really nice to see your comment on the tadoku.org. There are many tadoku doers all over Japan, but not many write comments in such a public space, so it’s really good to welcome newbies^^
    I think you’re quite into tadoku and best of all, you understand how important and also intriguing to read books for children and picture books to make your second language more usable and pleasing. You know, there are many doers of extensive reading these days, but I don’t think many realize the importance of reading books for children, those books are filled with a core of languages and many times much difficult to understand for language learners than they do with books for adults, though.  

    I wonder if you’re interested in getting used books by snail mail from me? I’m a mother of two kids, and now they’ve grown up and children’s books are in no use anymore, just sitting quietly in my library. I had many ゾロリ books but I’ve thrown them away when I moved to Tokyo four years ago, unfortunately, but still I have some good children’s books and I can gather some books from my tadoku friends too. The only problem is the high cost of sending. If you’re interested in, please let me know.

    というわけで、もし私や私の友達がもっている児童書や絵本が役に立つようであれば、日本から送ってもいいですよ。送料を負担してもらわないといけないけれど。送料が高いんですよね、10冊で5000円ぐらいするかもしれませんね。それでも新しい本を買うよりは安くすむかな?私は時々、日本のドラマCDとか切手とかをアメリカやカナダに住んでいる友達に送ってあげてますよ。

    では、また!

  4. Liana says:

    That would be amazingly wonderful :D Thank you so much for offering!
    I’ll e-mail you! ^^

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>