It's been a while since we've done a commentary document! I've never really found a good reason to do it for some of our latest (well, "latest") reads, but I put a surprising amount of effort into making Signs somewhat realistic. I did a lot of Google Mapping and researching to pull this story together, so I figured I'd make this document so that y'all don't have to have such a hard time going out and doing all the research on your own.
I should warn you ahead of time that this commentary document contains a mix of factual information to help you with the background and context of the story, but it also does contain a lot of mindless rambling. We've split the sections up into the things that I want to talk about, things that Princo wants to talk about, and then some chapter-by-chapter commentary on the end in the style of the commentary that we used to do.
History of Signs
So Signs actually started off as a DN called Language Barrier. Princo and I have a document of random DN titles so that if ever one of us is feeling stuck for inspiration, we can take a random title and try to make a story that matches it. Language Barrier was initially going to be a one-shot about the main character and Shiraishi conflicting because of his obsessive behaviour when it comes to things like punctuality and foundations. I wrote it off a one-line prompt that I made up after reading up about Shiraishi on the Prince of Tennis Wiki and shaking my head at all the stupid and ridiculous things he does (http://princeoftennis.wikia.com/wiki/Kuranosuke_Shiraishi). The prompt is: "A DN where Shiraishi and the main girl are in the same class and he's obsessed with the basics and punctuality and it drives her crazy." Use it if you like LOL.
As the story progressed, it delved into this huge side plot that revolves around Shiraishi and Takako's interactions with people they meet at Asuku no Sato, a nursing home for the elderly who are deaf or hard of hearing. This side plot made the title Language Barrier not really fit anymore, so I decided to change the name of it. (Fun fact: If I'm writing a chaptered story I'll usually plan everything out, but I didn't do this for Signs because I thought it was going to be a one-shot. As a matter of fact, stories like Neo-Citybound, Small Things and Stars in a Bottle are completely planned out—I just haven't gotten around to writing them because I'm a terrible human being.)
I will admit that I did keep in a lot of the conventional romance elements that the story started off with, but at some point they just become lost in the side plot about Shiraishi learning sign language and forming bonds with random strangers because he's a good human being. In the end, I had a lot of fun with this DN. I've never been entirely well-acquainted with deafness and the Deaf community, so I had to do a lot of understand to get a superficial understanding of what the gist of it is. If you're interested in learning more about deafness and the Deaf community, I've summarised some of the stuff I've read in the section below.
Deafness and the Deaf Community
Like I said, I had very little knowledge of deafness, its causes, and the Deaf community—but hey, we all have to start somewhere, right? I personally think the best place to start is learning how to not be a dick to the deafness community because you're either terrible, ignorant, or underexposed (or a combination):
FAQ on the Deaf community (from The ASL App): http://theaslapp.com/faq/
How to not be a dick to the Deaf community (from Rochelle Barlow): http://rochellebarlow.com/13-things-to-never-say-to-a-deaf-person/ and http://rochellebarlow.com/18-more-things-to-never-say-to-a-deaf-person/
Introduction to deafness and hearing loss
So deafness is basically a partial or a total lack of hearing (Infoplease, 2012), and essentially the inability to comprehend speech and language via the ear (World Federation of the Deaf, 2001). It should be noted that deafness is a subset of hearing loss. Hearing loss refers to the diminished ability to hear like someone with normal hearing. It can be mild, moderate, severe or profound; it may either effect only one ear (unilateral) or it may effect both (bilateral) (Medical News Today, 2015). Diagnosees of mild to severe hearing loss are generally termed hard of hearing, and those with profound hearing loss are generally termed deaf (World Health Organisation, 2015).
Hearing loss can be caused by either acquired means or congenital means. Acquired hearing loss means that a person develops hearing loss at any age. Congenital hearing loss means that a person is either born with hearing loss or it develops very quickly after birth; it can be caused by either genetic or non-genetic factors (World Health Organisation, 2015). I won't get hugely technical about the causes of acquired and congenital hearing loss, but if you do want to know more about the causes of hearing loss, then I recommend looking at the World Health Organisation (2015) and American Sign Language Hearing Association (2016) articles, although the later only has information about congenital hearing loss.
Types of deafness
Deafness itself can be broken down into two categories: conductive deafness and sensorineural deafness. It should be noted that one could be diagnosed with conductive deafness, sensorineural deafness, or a combination of both.
Conductive deafness is apparently the more common type, and can be either temporary or permanent. It is caused by the disruption of sound being conducted from the outer to the middle ear, affecting sound before it reache the cochlea and other nerve receptions in the inner ear (Infoplease, 2012). Here's a diagram of a human ear so you kind of understand what's happening here (Medical Health News, 2015):
Sensorineural deafness is a result of damage to (a) the neural receptors in your ears, (b) the nerve pathways to your brain, or (c) the area of the brain that receives sound information. It's usually permanent (Infoplease, 2012). Mixed deafness is, logically, a combination of the two. If you want a simpler and easier-to-understand version of this, I recommend checking out the Deaf Child Worldwide (2016) link. If you want to learn about deafness is greater depth, the Medical News Today (2016) article actually has a lot more pages with useful information that I haven't actually mentioned here.
There is well and truly a lot more to deafness, but I hope this gives a general understand of deafness and wide of a scope it actually is. I'll list the sources that I referenced below:
American Sign Language Hearing Association (2016). Hearing loss at birth (congenital hearing loss), retrieved from http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Congenital-Hearing-Loss/
Deaf Child Worldwide (2016). Types of deafness, retrieved from http://www.deafchildworldwide.info/childhood_deafness/types_of.html (this website also has a bunch of other links that are pretty simple and informative)
Infoplease (2012). Deafness: Introduction, retrieved from http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/science/deafness.html
Infoplease (2012). Deafness: Conductive deafness, retrieved from http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/science/deafness-conductive-deafness.html
Infoplease (2012). Deafness: Sensorineural deafness, retrieved from http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/science/deafness-sensorineural-deafness.html
Medical News Today (2015). Deafness and hearing hoss: causes, symptoms and treatments, retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249285.php
World Federation of the Deaf (2001). WFD Policy: Visions and goals for acces to adult education for deaf people, retrieved from http://www.wfdeaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Statement-on-Adult-Education-2001.pdf
World Health Organisation (2015). Deafness and hearing loss, retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs300/en/
I'd first like to reference this story (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/23/this-is-what-it-is-like-to-be-deaf-from-birth.html), which was written by a person named Cristina Hartmann. She was born deaf and talks about her experiences growing up with is.
I also want to give you guys some links about deafness and the Deaf community in Japan:
https://www.reddit.com/r/japan/comments/27coqa/what_do_you_know_about_japans_deaf_culture/ This is a thread on Reddit about the experiences of some people in relation to the d/Deaf.
https://www.tofugu.com/japan/japanese-sign-language/ It's kind of a long read, but if you have the time it's a really good article. It's on Tofugu, so you can pretty much guarantee that it'll be a good read: there's some cool history about the treatment of the deaf in Japan, and there's a basic introduction to JSL (and other methods of communication).
I don't really have any useful resources to share since Ribbon basically did all that, but I wanted to just express how happy I am that Ribbon decided to write a dream novel with sign language in it. I can go into further details with certain editing points when I was coding the chapter, but I just want to express here how important and just generally awesome it is that we bring light to sign language.
I'm not saying any readers here don't understand or do like, certain things I'm going to nitpick at—but generally, a lot of people don't recognize sign language as a "real language." By definition, language is: "the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way" according to whatever dictionary Google uses when you type it into the search bar lol. I'll go into my thought process into whichever chapter I really started to think about it on, but typically nobody is going to think of sign language when they think language with this definition.
Personally, I feel sign language isn't respected as a language. I'm not saying that you, the readers, don't respect sign language and take it seriously; but in general, I find no one generates the same types of reactions as when someone says they want to learn like, Chinese or something. Like, it's just undermined as a language I feel. Anyway, my spiel is basically my frustration with the lack of sign language appreciation and me being happy that Ribbon used it.
Since she linked great resources for JSL, here are resources for ASL:
http://www.lifeprint.com/ This site shows you some sign language as well as practice with word searches and quizzes.
http://www.handspeak.com/ Dictionary, vocabulary, tutorials, culture.
http://mashable.com/2014/04/21/how-to-sign/#i21y_Txb1ZqH and https://www.gallaudet.edu/clerc-center/info-to-go/asl/learning-asl-books_media_classes.html I haven't tried them out myself, but these have recommendations for resources that could be useful to learn ASL.
Also popular countries I think our readers are from is Malaysia and the Philippines.
BIM (Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia) Resource: http://www.malaysiansignlanguage.com/ There are multiple sign languages within BIM and unfortunately, I have no clue which is this; however, I think it'd be a great starting resource.
Within the Philippines, apparently there is a fight between using Filipino Sign Language (FSL) and Signing Exact English (SEE-II)—which makes no sense to me because why would you... anyway.
FSL Resource: http://filipinosignlanguage.webs.com/ ; https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCk5j0w8Uo0PdS0D6PCrYdA/feed (very few videos though)
I found it difficult to find free resources for SEE-II, but here is an interesting thread on the difference between ASL and SEE-II: http://www.alldeaf.com/threads/signing-exact-english-see-resources.70173/
Ribbon: I can't say there's anything too special about the prologue. I originally intended for the entire story to focus around Takako and Shiraishi both at work and at university, so there's nothing much I can actually say here. What I will say is that the original premise for Language Barrier was for Takako and Shiraishi to disagree on basic ideas like punctuality and basics and things like that, so the prologue started off with Takako getting the job at the florist, getting frustrated with Shiraishi's antics, and then quitting the florist a year later. The inspiration for a florist setting may have come from an anime that I recently started watching on Princo's recommendation called Natsuyuki Rendezvous, which is a well-written and well-drawn josei anime—with really good music (Aimer does the ending theme!). Watch it if you have time.
Princo: Before anyone gets POSSIBLY confused (but probably not, pretty sure you could infer), but we named our main character Sakai Takako. So, yeah, Takako is whomever you named the main character. We just decided to leave OC names in commentary just to get to know our characters who may feature in other dream novels in our own fabricated worlds.
I was a bit worried about having the management be so lax in the prologue/dream novel since it felt very... anime-esque. I was thinking about it, and then I realized it really does happen in real life. You know, like... how in California (America?) the legal working age is 16, but there are a few places that'll hire like... people below 16 and just pay them through cash (ILEGAL AF BUT IT HAPPENS). Then there's also where I work, where we can literally just recommend a friend to our manager and she'll tell them to stop by her office in the hours she'll be there that particular day—and she literally just takes their resume for their information and hands them a uniform. Like, okay, that's if we—trusted staff—give her a recommendation BUT IT'S SO LAX. So, that's how I decided that maybe it's fine to just leave it as Ribbon wrote it. HAHA. Natsuyuki Rendezvous is on Crunchyroll if you want to watch it legally by the way! I watched it on a whim and I was pleasantly surprised.
Ribbon: For those of you that are curious, I'll explain the university situation for Shiraishi and Takako. In order for it to make a little more sense as to what's what, I'll do a really quick (I hope) geography lesson: so Shiraishi and Takako go to Osaka University, which is in Osaka. Now bear in mind that there is Osaka Prefecture (大阪府) and Osaka City (大阪市), the latter of which is the capital city of the former. Osaka University has three campuses in the Osaka Prefecture: one in Toyonaka City (豊中市), one in Suita City (吹田市) and one in Minō City (箕面市). Since the Minō campus is pretty irrelevant to the story, I won't say anything else about it.
Since Shiraishi and Takako are doing Pharmacy, they're doing a six year degree. I'm pretty sure it's just university policy that they have to spend the three semesters of their degree doing General Education. This General Education is done at the Toyonaka Campus. In their fourth semester (second year, second semester), they get to start their basic pharmaceutical course work at the Suita Campus. Confusing, I know. If you want to read up about their course structure more, here's their curriculum structure (http://www.phs.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/school/curriculum.html) and a general overview of the course (http://www.phs.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/school/subject.html).
I don't really know how the general education works, but there are a bunch of interesting courses that you can do in a bunch of different fields, from Applied Physics to Languages to Social Science. I couldn't be bothered working out if there were specific General Education courses that you had to do for Pharmacy, so I just used this fancy tool (https://koan.osaka-u.ac.jp/syllabus_ex-e/campus) to pick out subjects that looked semi-relevant for the future studies and interests of Shiraishi and Takako.
Also, I'm also not entirely sure what year this story took place in (I usually leave the timeline details to Princo), but I based the activities in the story off the timeline from the 2015-16 academic year at Osaka University (http://www.eng.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/pdf/student/calendar/2015_calendar.pdf).
Last note for this chapter from me LOL. I get most of my information about florists and how they work from a Reddit AMA, but obviously I didn't read through the whole thing to get inspiration for situations that I could write about because even for me, that's way too much effort for a DN LOL. Here's the AMA: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2teiql
Princo: I... didn't click on Ribbon's link for JSL, but I think this is also a great website to learn JSL (http://www.kyoto-be.ne.jp/ed-center/gakko/jsl/). Also, based off our timeline, this takes place in 2014. Also 2.0, man Shiraishi pissed me off so much with his punctuality LOL. Am I the only one who got annoyed by her showing up early?! Probably a Shiraishi thing to do, but GOSH. I shouldn't be getting so upset over a fictional character, but LOL.
Ribbon: I honestly don't have a lot to say about this chapter, other than I like that I extended the first date section between Shiraishi and Takako HAHA. It was originally much, much shorter. Also, Shiraishi getting a watch from Takako was originally going to be a much bigger part of the story, but in the end it just became that little bit there LOL.
Princo: Okay, I adored this chapter. To be specific, I adored the part where Shiraishi signs "I like you" and Sakai signs "I wish I were cross-eyed so I could see two of you." It's supposed to be cringey and just generally BAD, but I think it's the cutest thing ever—and how could you not especially be chuffed by it when it's in a different language??
I'm also curious to know what the Arctic smells like. It seems kind of subjective, doesn't it? I guess maybe it's like grapes though, where you just create a flavor and popularize it to the point everyone just links that scent/flavor to the name. (You know, since that artificial flavor isn't what grapes actually taste like.)
I also hope you all find someone who's curious enough to learn sign language/any language (particularly an unpopular one) and buy you dessert and skirts behind your back.
Ribbon: Okay, so I used LINE a bit in the previous chapter as well, but I feel like it's more necessary to talk about it in this chapter. LINE is basically just a cross-platform VoIP (voice over IP) and IM (instant messaging) app made by a company called Naver (http://line.me/en/). It's mostly used in East Asian countries (like Japan or Thailand), Spain and Chile (apparently). On top of being just an application, LINE has a bunch of mascots (called LINE Friends) who feature in their stickers (kind of like Messenger stickers, but there's like way more and way better stickers on LINE if you ask me #biasedopinion). The main characters are Brown (a bear), James (a blond guy), Cony (a rabbit) and Moon (a white guy I guess). There are lots of other characters, but those are the basic ones you need to know. Here's some information (first link) and what the characters look like (second one):
I'll talk briefly about adding other people. There are multiple ways of adding people on line, but the most common way of doing so is with a QR code. One person will open their QR code, and the other person will scan the QR code. You add the name that pops up and then you guys are friend. It's kind of the same as adding people on Snapchat: if you take a picture/hold your camera over another person's ghost thing, you can add them.
CONTRARY TO PRINCO'S ASSUMPTIONS I DID SCREENSHOT THE STICKERS THAT SHIRAISHI AND TAKAKO USED IN THEIR CONVERSATION LOL. Princo and I simulated it ourselves on LINE. She was laughing at me while I decided which stickers to use :( Here it is HAHA: x
Princo: I just think it's really touching how Ribbon brought in reactions from people who communicate in sign language. I guess it makes sense, but I think it's just a nice... thought? I never really thought about how people who speak in sign language must feel about finding someone who doesn't need to being able to. I know a few people who attempt(ed) to learn ASL, but I never thought much of it since I never met anyone who I'd have had to use it on/them having to use their skills. I understand the frustration though—of wishing to speak a language because you and the other person just have so many miscommunications.
I'm from a really diverse area, so there are just people EVERYWHERE who speak like, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. And I just feel so terrible because I can't speak any of them. It's just a huge relief when like, there's like, a look of just defeat and you surprise them like HEY HO. I can speak or at the very least understand. And I feel people who communicate via sign must feel that so much more strongly.
Maybe it's a naive or ignorant point of view, but that's what I think must be felt. Speaking of feeling things, Grandpa and Shiraishi made me tear up. Was it just me?
(Does anyone else find it weird that Ribbon uses words like "noble" and "harrowing" or is it just me and the limited vocabulary I tend to just stay within in regular life.)
Ribbon: I wanted to point out the irony in picking a name like Kiyo. So the name Kiyo (清) means like purity, which is ironic, considering that her brain is being eaten away thanks to the Alzheimer's.
Princo: I think it was mostly in chapter four that I started to question what words I should use when Mama Sakai and the elderly sign. If you look at chapter three, Ribbon tended to use "sign" when well, they signed. However, here, you can see she starts to use "said" alongside "signed." I guess I just got really conflicted and confused with how I should edit. In the end, I just left it all as is. I still wonder if I should have edited it to make it all "said" or "signed," but I felt it would have been overkill to just use one verb. I also think it would have been inconsiderate of me to segregate people who communicate via sign and people who communicate verbally.
Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with deaf people or any well, any typed of impaired person. (Oh god. Is it okay for me to describe them with impaired? I'm sorry if that sounded rude I don't know what's okay to use and not I'm sorry.) So I... don't really know what people prefer for me to do or not.
I just hope everyone is okay with how I left things post-edit and that I'm just overthinking.
Ribbon: This was kind of hard to wrap up because the original ending I wrote was kind of cheesy HAHA. I hope this new version is a little bit better. Honestly, Shiraishi and Takako actually getting together was kind of an afterthought in light of the whole nursing home side plot. I knew it needed to happen eventually, so I spent literally the entire DN trying to build it up, but it just didn't feel that important in the wake of everything that happened. That's why I threw it into an epilogue HAHA.
Princo: The first scene in ∞ with that fem customer made me cringe a little, but you know. That's okay. It showcased their resolutions and... respect (I don't know where I'm going on with anything). We also all probably expected Kiyo's death, but it was still a sad thing to read. Those things happen though.
It was a nice reminder though—to cherish your elders and spend time with them because you never know when they'll leave you. Or just, elders in general. Smile and/or say hi when you pass by an elderly; it'll brighten their day and you never know if their own children or grandchildren visit them. Personally, I feel extremely warm when people (especially old people) smile or say hello to me. There are random people on the street I'm temporarily living on for August who say hi to me (maybe they're customers at where I work and I just don't recognize them lol) and it was a little confusing at first, but it really is a good feeling! (I swear they're not dangerous people out to kill me one day lmao.)
So be kind to people and!! Yeah!! I have no idea where this little tangent was heading.
Thank you for reading!