Experience/Data from Reading First Visual Novel - CHAOS;HEAD NOAH

I wanted to share my experience of reading my first visual novel. I chose CHAOS;HEAD NOAH based on recommendations I found and interest in getting into SciAdv.

Since I knew this was a much bigger time than other activities, I decided to track reading length per chapter. This also helped me understand how much I had to read in a given week. I started early December and finished early Feburary, total it took me ~91 hours to complete.

The “standard” comes from a YouTube longplay. This is still likely a bit slower than a normal reader since some content is missing, and their time is approximately the HowLongToBeat average (of 41 hours and 30 minutes).

Going in, I was at around 400 cumulative hours of study, and was at the point of reading entry level books (Girl Who Lept Through Time). I started studying in May 2023.

I would try to play every day for around 2-3 hours. I found contiguous segments the most effective.

My reading went through three “phases” throughout the process.

Phase 1: Learning Reading Style
I previously studied Chinese, and I found whenever I started a different author it would take me a few days to be able to be able to comfortably learn the writing style. That can be clearly seen in week 1 where I read significantly slower than any other week. My advice to other learners, is not to just give up right away if something seems too difficult, it can take a bit to adapt. I’ve had the experience multiple times now of reading something, not really comprehending, coming back a day later, and having high comprehension.

Phase 2: Adjusting to Reading Flow
In this stage (chapter 2 - chapter 5), I was trying to balance how much do I free read versus stop and assess. I eventually feel I found a comfortable point. Also during this stage I was adding a lot of new vocab to Anki (20 words a day). This was an increase for me, but very helpful. Something I want to do going forward is assess which words to add based on a vndb frequency deck for that piece of media.

Phase 3: Reading “Normally”
The final phase was just reading without assessing my approach too much. I found that by the end when I knew the context of the story and it was conversational, it went very quickly, sometimes within the character talking, but when it was technical or a complex story point I could get a bit lost. One thing I recommend is to not spend too much time on the really difficult sections, but instead do your best while still being time efficient, and then looking up the parts that were confusing later. Personally, I think it’s more important to keep a regular flow, than fret over ensuring 100% comprehension.

By the end of the process, I was pretty shocked at how much my reading speed improved. I would definitely encourage others to get into reading longer visual novels. I think the domain being constant is really helpful.

However, I likely wouldn’t recommend CHAOS;HEAD NOAH. The story can be a weird (mainly difficult for comprehension), the multiple endings felt grating, and sometimes there were subtle text difference. I would likely recommend something more slice of life focused. The other big issue is there is not a lot of VO in the game, especially since the main character is in his head a lot. I have found a significant (maybe as bit as a 2x increase) in comprehension when there is associated audio with text. I would highly recommend that people find visual novels that are heavily narrated.


Thanks for such a detailed post!

Can I ask for more info about your Anki stats? How was your vocabulary going in and how much did you end up mining? Diving into Chaos Head after ~400 hours of study must’ve been really hard. According to JPDB this VN has ~14600 unique words, that’s a huge hurdle to overcome. Basically, almost every sentence must’ve had multiple new vocab words.

I went in with around 2500 words. Because of my Chinese background, I can usually identify loan words so that helps a bit. I should mention that I used Agent: 0xDC00/agent: Universal script based text hooker (powered by FRIDA). (github.com) with Migaku Migaku. At first there probably were quite a few more than 1T sentences, but by the end most were 0T or 1T. I added ~800 Anki cards from CHAOS;HEAD NOAH while reading it.


I also read NOAH fairly early into my journey. Takumi’s inner monologue was by far the hardest part of it all, mostly because of the complexity of the text and content compared to pretty much any spoken dialogue. Not to mention that’s the bulk of the text in the vn. Granted, I was already aware of that heading into it.
NOAH was one of my main reasons for learning the language to begin with though, so I didn’t ever have any motivation issues at all pushing through such a fairly large hurdle.

I very much agree with the reading style segment. I believe the fact that pretty much every author has set patterns for you to get used to, is what makes reading more accessible than it’s generally seen as. Visual novels generally being an even more time consuming medium than standard novels or manga, makes them great for this very reason. In other mediums, just as you’re starting to get used to the writing style and specific vocabulary used, you’re finished with it and move on.
But with visual novel’s insane length, you can spend most of the time (70-80% or so) reading at a good pace in that magical phase of “already being used to the author’s writing style,” and this is where I’ve always felt the most gains.

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