As in any country, a Japanese newspaper’s credibility often rests on a very fine political line. If their reporting leans even a little left or right, they run the risk of being called a stack of toilet paper scribbled on by talentless hacks by half the population. It’s a precarious position, and one in which releasing an app wherein you dress up school girls as a reward for current event awareness only seems to provide fuel for your detractors.

And yet on October 14 one of Japan’s leading newspapers, Asahi Shimbun, released just such an app called Kikasete Tensei Jingo. It features several moe girls reading from selected editions of the paper’s long-running Tensei Jingo editorial column. However, as pointless as it may appear on the surface there is some heavy language practice potential buried in there.

■ Why?
The aim is probably obvious even if it seems iffy to succeed. Asahi is trying to bolster readership among the younger generations by providing a more attractive medium than black ink on paper. As a result we may have the world’s first ita-news app.

The name Tensei Jingo roughly translates to Voice of Heaven, Word of the People and it is an op-ed column that started in the Osaka edition of Asahi Shimbun back in 1904. In this section, Asahi reporters are free to express themselves even if it goes against the political leanings of the paper as a whole.

The column is also notable for appearing in university entrance exams, making it highly recommended reading for any college-bound youth. And what better way to brush up on your academic vocabulary than with the bubbly enthusiasm of these three aspiring broadcasters, Yuyuka Fushimi, Hinata Ise, and Miko Izumo voiced by Natsumi Yanase, Ari Yunohara, and Kei Mizusawa respectively.

▼ The girls are a diverse mix of hair colors and sock lengths.

■ Gotta help ’em all!
In the app, you must help the trio practice to win a school recitation contest by listening to them read aloud a Tensei Jingo column. After hearing them out you are then given a five-question quiz on current events. It you answer correctly you are given unlockable items like new costumes for the girls…just like they do in real broadcasting school!

Even getting occasional answers right will earn you stat points that you can assign to your favorite reader, thus improving her voice quality. Also, if you get tired of the threesome provided in the free downloadable version there are extra story-lines available for purchase as well. It’s pretty much the same plot but with idols instead of students and the voice talents of Shiori Mikami and Ayana Taketatsu.

■ Good for higher-level students of Japanese
Having tried it out, I found that this app could be useful for higher-level Japanese learners as well. It lets you train both your reading and listening comprehension at a high speed, but has a handy set of controls at the bottom to allow you to move freely through sections of the text if you need some repetition.

The quiz is also quite challenging and requires very fast reading skills to get through. The variety of questions is also good and they change each time so that you don’t gradually memorize them all. If you do try this out I’d like to point out the handy “skip” button at the top corner of the screen. The girls’ chatter in between passages can get tedious pretty quickly.

▼ “Skip” you say? Don’t mind if I do…

■ Public reaction
While I was unexpectedly pleased with Kikasete Tensei Jingo, the reaction among Japanese youths online was overwhelmingly negative.

What garbage.
So they want to boost their ‘gross otaku’ reader base?
Do they read some of the pre-war propaganda columns too?
It looks like one of those erotic games.
This is blatant exploitation to get our money.
Creepy…is this like brainwashing?

Alright, “brainwashing” is a little harsh, but surely Asahi must have expected this kind of blow-back while developing Kikasete Tensei Jingo. While it doesn’t represent the pinnacle of journalistic excellence, it does have some potential as a study tool. And gosh darn it if I didn’t feel a sting of pride when Hinata nailed her read on the never-ending festival.

Source: Kikasete Tensei Jingo Website, iTunes, Internet Watch, Itai News
Top Image: Kikasete Tensei Jingo Website
Inset Images: iTunes, RocketNews24