JRPG Japanese Characters: Ken!

Greetings, heroes! I am sooooo excited for this progress update, because today is the day! The day I introduce you to JRPG Japanese: A Language Learning Adventure!’s lead character, Ken!

JRPG Japanese: A new character appears!

These past few weeks, I’ve been working on characters’ design drafts with my illustrator, shugulupsketches. Though we have a few other character rough drafts figured out, we’ve ultimately decided on showcasing Ken to you all, since we’ve pretty much got him aallll figured out by now.

Ken’s design

His design was inspired by many of my favorite game protags. We were inspired by the rugged, peasant look that Rudy from Wild Arms and Jet from Wild Arms 3 had.

Then we combined the outfit with the cute, young facial expressions from Fiel from Sword of Etheria/OZ. Fumi Ishikawa being one of my absolute favorite game artists (the lovely artist behind titles like Castlevania, Suikoden, and of course, Sword of Etheria), I couldn’t help but reference her material when working on characters of my own.

fumi ishikawa's fiel
Fumi Ishikawa’s Fiel from Sword of Etheria

We went for blue hair. ‘Cuz you GOTTA have blue hair 😀 And a red outfit, since he’s the hero (other references to the red hero theme: Lloyd from Tales of Symphonia and Dart from Legend of Dragoon). In the spirit of inheriting the nostalgic charm of RPGs while adding some originality to my babies, my cast of characters are planned to be color-coded. As RPGs do.

He has a massive scarf, and since I also have a major soft-spot for a bandana-clad protag (it seems like all heroes had something to cover their foreheads back then), he had to have one.

Ken’s name

His name, Ken, means “sword” in Japanese, giving you all a hint about the type of weaponry he mains in. In JRPG Japanese: A Language Learning Adventure!, his name will be written out in katakana, because that’s the most common way we see character names in JRPGs. But if his name was written in kanji, “sword” or “ken” would look like this “けん”.

As a theme (and to dish out a quick spoiler for other character introductions), the joinable character names will relate to the weapons they use. I thought using this “weapons-as-names” system would be a cool way of helping you heroes remember common weapon names easily, as you can associate them with a character.

Ken’s speech style

Each joinable character in JRPG Japanese: A Language Learning Adventure! will have their own Japanese personal pronoun and speech style to teach you different ways of speaking Japanese depending on personality. Which is awesome on two main levels:

  1. Instead of being taught ONLY formal “desu/masu” Japanese (like you’re getting ready to be an employee or exchange student), JRPG Japanese will teach you Japanese language you can use with your friends or family – the way you’re comfortable with speaking it depending on your own gender or personal identity!
  2. Once you learn some basics behind different speech styles, you’ll be able to read and understand the characters of your favorite Japanese games better in dialogue.

Unlike a LOT of other Japanese textbooks I’ve used in the past (where I learned for years that “わたしwatashi” was the only way for me to express “I”), personal pronouns will most definitely be covered in JRPG Japanese!

I currently have four joinable characters planned, and though I won’t go into too much detail, the personalities are planned as follows:

  1. Young, masculine, informal, humble
  2. Masculine, informal, confident
  3. Young, feminine, cute, confident, informal
  4. Feminine, formal, humble

Anyways, Ken’s Japanese personal pronoun will be “ぼく boku to fit #1 of this list. Boku can be used by lots of different people, like a young, humble boy character, a tomboyish girl, or a male who is reflecting some humility to his listener. Since I already have an “おれore” (#2) planned, I figured our teenage, cute Ken would be boku.

Ken’s three-word personality breakdown

  1. Enthusiastic: once he gets his mind set on accomplishing something, he’s focused and motivated
  2. Headstrong: unafraid of making mistakes
  3. Open-minded: always open to try and learn something new

My reasoning for giving each character three-word personality breakdowns is because I want each character to exhibit certain aspects of language acquisition. In Ken’s instance, I wanted his character to show enthusiastic focus (AKA you can learn anything if you’re motivated), headstrong will (to keep trying), and open-mindedness (to accept differences with an open-heart).

Since the language learning is different for everyone, I recognize this is where my personal opinion comes in. But I thought it would be cool to take the typical RPG character personality and reflect it towards what traits I feel are important during your quest of language acquisition. Think of it as a little behind-the-scenes message of encouragement to you, the readers!

Three, random Ken tidbits

  1. He may or may not be blood-related to a villain character.
  2. He may or may not wield a legendary sword somewhere down the plot.
  3. His secret power is always being able to “continue”. This comes from his sheer willpower that guides him through any difficult situation and is always able to save him and his comrades in the nick of time.

The reason his power is of “continuing” is came from:

  1. Video games’ subtle encouragement to save/load/continue when the going gets tough for the gamer.
  2. The realization that willpower is an actual superpower that guides all of us language learners to strive towards improvement.

So I made “continuing” Ken’s superpower. And hopefully, that way, you’ll be infected by his enthusiasm and eagerness to learn more Japanese yourself, as we journey together through JRPG Japanese: A Language Learning Adventure!

Ken’s bio is now up on the characters page, so to get better acquainted with him (and to get some surprise Japanese practice in while you’re at it), give it a read!

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