Feel free to add your opinions and experiences as you go by.
Part One: Stories
The apparent general consensus at this stage is to burn through these as fast as possible and enjoy it while you can, since you should have very few reviews here, and you can't feasibly be tired already!
Lesson 1 [+15] [→15]
- Frony0: It is hard to imagine anyone would have any problems here, nor need any guidance. Just go for it
- Necrojesta: One through ten are the easiest characters you'll get. This is a set not much time is needed on, and you won't forget what you've learned.
Lesson 2 [+19] [→34]
- Frony0: You first start using primitives here. It's a simple concept, and only two new primitives appear at the end, so again, just blaze through it.
- Necrojesta: I had trouble with 'generation' and 'gall bladder' initially but they are nothing to the characters you'll learn later on with ease. The thing I had a problem with is not looking at the primitives, I only saw 'gall bladder' as a complicated mess, if you just look at the primitives things are a lot easier. Just get through it, won't take long at all.
- Captainporridge: Here, probably with 'gall bladder', you'll start to realise his stories aren't always good and you'll begin to make up your own better ones. You'll find more and more like that as time goes on, so don't be shy to replace his story just because you didn't have to do it earlier, it saves you more grief than attempting to force his down when it doesn't work (which isn't the point of his book in the least).
Lesson 3 [+18] [→52]
- Frony0: I had some trouble with two or three of these primitives later on, so make sure to learn them well. It's otherwise an easy lesson (a vital one nonetheless)
- Necrojesta: Here, just make sure you nail specialty quickly. Pay attention to the stories and don't forget it because it's something I had trouble with when I initially started. I've also had the problem of forgetting the strokes slightly later on so I'd make sure to get that one learned well.
Lesson 4 [+18] [→70]
- Frony0: Nothing surprising here either, though a few more primitives than you may have expected
- Necrojesta: Honestly, this was quite an easy one. More primitives but nothing too huge, I found this one comfortable to get through. It also uses more primitives than the last three lessons and feels quite satisfying to complete.
Lesson 5 [+24] [→94]
- Frony0: A little longer, but nothing shocking. With even vaguely good stories, these should stick easily.
- Necrojesta: A good few of these Kanji have tripped me up in the past, like 'bribe'. This is an easy lesson to remember if you do it right, so make sure you do.
- Captainporridge: By now you've probably noticed that what he may call the 'same' primitive can sometimes look very different depending on where it is in the kanji, without him explaining all the alternate forms. A consolation is that most of them do show up often so even if you're confused at first, eventually you see enough of them that you easily remember (the same is true for any alternate meanings things get when in primitive forms).
Lesson 6 [+10] [→104]
- Frony0: A breather after the last lesson, just 10 kanji. Short and sweet
- Necrojesta: A short chapter, but I've gotten mixed up between 'fond' and 'likeness' before now, quite annoying. Another thing I've had issues with is writing woman. I didn't pay attention enough to the different strokes and went far through RTK without actually being able to write it correctly. It is a short chapter though so it should be easy to return to if you have a problem with any characters.
Lesson 7 [+22] [→126]
- Frony0: Back on the treadmill. Some people prefer not to use heisig's "st. bernard dog" for the 'large' primitive, but it's just a matter of preference. Take care to really learn the meaning of the 'cliff' primitive as cliff, and not anything else; it's easy to mix up later on.
- Necrojesta: Here Heisig introduces his first heavily used primitive meaning. St. Bernards, I hate it. As I haven't read the book very thoroughly I prefer to remember 'large' without any story. At most I've learned it as a man outstretching his arms and legs to look big but nothing more. I see St. Bernards used a lot in future stories and it bugs me to no end because I see it as an over-complication of a simple character - my preference anyway. Other than that it's a lesson filled with great stories and it shouldn't be too difficult to finish, although 'untensil' is quite a tricky one on first glance.
Lesson 8 [+46] [→172]
- Frony0: More than double the previous in length, but full of some very easy and common kanji, some of which like 'water' you will probably already know.
- Necrojesta: The fire and water primitives are used a lot in the future, learn them well. You'll probably know water already or won't have any trouble learning it and fire is a simple pictograph. Beyond that most old primitives come together and create new meanings, it's an easy lesson. The meadow primitive needs some attention.
Lesson 9 [+22] [→194]
- Frony0: Some non-english definitions here. Just go with it, it doesn't cause any problems later on, promise.
- Necrojesta: Make sure to research what 'Rin' and 'Ri' mean before you continue. You'll find it easier to learn a character if you understand the meaning better.
- Captainporridge: For me, things started getting to where I kept thinking his stories were pretty off or bad and I was having more difficulty remembering the kanji (sometimes bad existing stories seem worse for my memory than having to completely make stories up from scratch), then suddenly at 180 he started getting really imaginative and it helped me a lot. That also gave me a lesson in good story creation.
Lesson 10 [+40] [→234]
- Frony0: This shouldn't worry you in the slightest. Not all very obvious kanji towards the end, but you should be pretty good at internalizing the kanji now, so just-do-it!
- Necrojesta: Not my favourite lesson, a bit of a struggle, even now. If it's done right it shouldn't be a problem in the slightest. I just didn't spend enough time on it.
Lesson 11 [+15] [→249]
- Frony0: Heisig gives a little lecture about here. Lessonwise, the kanji are a little vague, but I haven't had a problem with most of them. Just learn them well and all will be fine.
- Necrojesta: They may take a little while, but this lesson set is short and it won't be too difficult to learn them all.
Lesson 12 [+27] [→276]
- Frony0: Quite an enjoyable lesson, in my opinion. No problems here, and also the end of Part One!
- Necrojesta: Easy lesson, not much to deal with. Quite easy and enjoyable.
Part Two: Plots
By this point chances are you're tired of Heisig forcing his stories down your throat, so you'll be glad to hear that he at this point begins to just give you ideas, indications for stories, rather than actual stories.
Lesson 13 [+23] [→299]
- Frony0: A very common primitive to begin with. Most kanji here seem to "make sense", so this should be easy overall.
Lesson 14 [+24] [→323]
- Frony0: Some odd, forgettable kanji, but overall not so bad. I would be careful not to start being too careless with your learning.
Lesson 15 [+29] [→352]
- Frony0: The taskmaster primitive is almost a gift from god here, I think. Consider the cruellest superior you have ever had, and imagine him with super powers and a wrath that rivals hell itself. That should make most kanji with this primitive stick like glue. We also learn some kanji you might already know and have been looking forward to here, like the "go" in nihongo
Lesson 16 [+17] [→369]
- Frony0: I would call this the first "tough to draw" primitive. Having said that, I enjoy drawing it now, after much practice. It's all subjective really.
Lesson 17 [+26] [→395]
- Frony0: I don't remember any problems here, but these are forgettable, so watch out.
Lesson 18 [+80] [→475]
- Frony0: Your first WTF chapter, I guess. I have no clue who's idea this was, but at the end of the day, you just gotta churn through these 80 kanji. Honestly, they're not even that hard for the most part. It may be an idea to (if you haven't already) start breaking lessons up into chunks, and learning by primitive instead, since I hear the usefulness of learning by chapter dies out at around 500. Personally, I continued chapter by chapter until lesson 44.
Lesson 19 [+33] [→508]
- Frony0: The last of Part Two. Not quite cool-down time yet, but these kanji are all simple and just build upon your knowledge already. I would do this right after the last chapter. This also takes you past the 500 mark, quarter of the way there! Worth celebrating by posting in the "500 frames and counting" thread. Well done!
Part Three: Elements
By the same token as Part Two, by here you are likely bored of hearing Heisig's ramblings altogether, and want to come up with your own stories. At this point he simply gives you a list of primitives, and let's you do the work (besides a few kanji where he just can't resist).
Lesson 20 [+6] [→514]
- Frony0: Time to relax. This is an easy chapter, maybe even Heisig saying sorry for the last two. I wouldn't call the kanji themselves easy, by no means, but there's only 6, so you might as well get them done
Lesson 21 [+63] [→577]
- Frony0: We start to set a new pace here. Chapters generally are more around 50 in length, rather than 25. Luckily, this chapter is full of animals which provide wonderful mental images, so this should all in all be a reasonable lesson.
Lesson 22 [+59] [→636]
- Frony0: A horrible chapter. It starts well, but the heart primitives are generally considered to be horrible both to draw and to use in stories. Take it slow and learn them very well.
Lesson 23 [+130] [→766]
- Frony0: Ignore the suicidal thoughts. Really, Heisig isn't trying to kill you. With this lesson, you'll be easily a third of the way there, and this is the longest lesson there is. Just get through this, and you're at the plains, from here on in it's smooth sailing. I rather liked the finger primitive anyway, I may be alone on that one. There are also some kanji you may have been looking forward to here, such as the "tomo" in tomodachi (friend), so just summon the effort and get through it.
Lesson 24 [+29] [→795]
- Frony0: This was a really enjoyable lesson after the last; short, and generally simple. The 'valley' primitive did bode one or two problems for me, but nothing major.
Lesson 25 [+96] [→891]
- Frony0: At least it's under 100. Some people decided to rename the 'outhouse' primitive to 'esteem', since it looks very much like it. Again, up to you. This chapter does include the 'going' primitive, which I hear most people are dying to learn by this stage, so that's an incentive to get this one done quick
Lesson 26 [+59] [→950]
- Frony0: If anything this chapter should just make you hungry, not bored. I recall no problems here, so just get stuck in.
Lesson 27 [+76] [→1026]
- Frony0: Another primitive you may have been anticipating with uncontrollable glee. It is without doubt best to not use 'person' as a primitive, but come up with a person or group of people who can server as this image. Common choices are Mr. T, Jedi, Jesus and Chuck Norris, but use whoever you like (they can be personal friends). Also, this lesson takes you past the 1000 and 1012 marks! Hooray! Go post in the "Half Way" thread when you're done. It's mostly downhill from here, so they say. As I'm sure the forum members will tell you, you've done amazingly already, no stopping now!
Lesson 28 [+18] [→1044]
- Frony0: These are odd kanji. Don't trip up here, learn these well so you don't have to keep relearning them later. One bonus is you finally learn the 'year' character. I think this is also the point at which Heisig starts piling on the lesser-used primitives, so you should learn each well, because you won't get the practice from repetition so much now.
Lesson 29 [+41] [→1085]
- Frony0: Take care not to confuse flag with banner, keep very separate images if you can. Besides that, presuming you learn the primitives nicely, this isn't all too bad. If you haven't already, I think now's a good time to pick up the pace. You should be a Kanji Demon by now, and the end is in sight.
Lesson 30 [+39] [→1124]
- Frony0: Personally I don't enjoy Heisig's regular religious references, so I turned the various instances of this primitive into some form of "satanic altar" instead. Feel free to turn it into whatever you like, or stick to the original, if you like. Either way, I think the kanji here are quite easy.
Lesson 31 [+59] [→1183]
- Frony0: The rake and mop primitives are interesting ones, be careful not to mix them up, or forget them. Besides that I hear of little problems here.
Lesson 32 [+36] [→1219]
- Frony0: A refreshing chapter I think, with good stories you should breeze through this short lesson.
Lesson 33 [+28] [→1247]
- Frony0: The halberd primitive knocked me, so I changed it to scythe, but I wouldn't do that unless you have problems too, I seem to be the only person who did there. This chapter has some odd kanji so don't rush it too much, if possible.
Lesson 34 [+46] [→1293]
- Frony0: Generally easy kanji, if a little annoying to draw. And with this chapter, you'll have all the main "family" kanji after 'father'! Also worth noting that around here people tend to get a head of steam and not put at much emphasis on original learning. This WILL come back and bite you in the ass, no matter how inconsequential it seems now. Take it slow, three chapters a day is NOT reasonable (for most people)
Lesson 35 [+39] [→1332]
- Frony0: If you're anything like me, you'll have been looking forward to this odd primitive. People tend to use an actual city-in-the-skies kind of image for pinnacle, rather than just a peak. I personally used mount olympus (beta), but many just imagine a generic city called "the pinnacle"
Lesson 36 [+62] [→1394]
- Frony0: The thread primitive. You've heard the stories. I didn't find it all that bad, with a custom primitive. People here generally use spiderman, but some do stick to "thread", it's a matter of preference. At the least, distinguish between the side and bottom versions of the primitive! It'll help...
Lesson 37 [+32] [→1426]
- Frony0: A pretty standard chapter for this part of the book. If you haven't already noticed, you're probably having a fair amount of trouble recalling kanji due to similarly named keywords. There's not much can be done about that, besides adding countless disclaimers to your flashcards
Lesson 38 [+57] [→1483]
- Frony0: Some of these are quite weird, but this chapter poses no challenge, and is the "longest chapter in the rest of the book" again
Lesson 39 [+47] [→1530]
- Frony0: Heisig essentially piles on random primitives here, but I actually found this lesson quite easy and went through it quick. Some people decided to use "wolverine" as a substitute for "sheaves" however. Now is a good time to post in the "3/4 of the way done" thread, because you are exactly one kanji away from having just 1/4 of the book left! If you have time, read the thread. Otherwise the gist of it is that it actually does get harder for the last quart. Just don't give up, you're so nearly there :)
Lesson 40 [+56] [→1586]
- Frony0: Many people seem to find this chapter deeply problematic... Besides the marginally disturbing primitive at the end, I thought it was alright. It also includes the character in the top left corner of this page, which must be one of the characters you've been waiting for since ever! For the rightmost primitive of said character, it may be an idea to make this signify "kanji".
Lesson 41 [+29] [→1615]
- Frony0: Some more time and space Kanji to complete your temporal and directional suite. The majority of these kanji shouldn't be a challenge for you, at the level you should be at now. Some people replaced the "west" primitive with Clint Eastwood for specification, but it's not too much of a challenge to go without. I personally only used him for two. Also worth noting, this is the point at which you can start counting not the kanji you have completed, but the kanji you have left! Just over 400 to go :)
Lesson 42 [+32] [→1647]
- Frony0: Gates! Most notably the characters for open and close. At first glance this lesson looks enjoyable and particularly easy. For those of you who prefer people primitives rather than concepts/objects, consider making this enclosure signify "Bill Gates" like some people here do. Otherwise, just "gate" or "gates to <place>" (e.g. Hell). Equally for the last primitive introduced, you might find it interesting to define it as "korea" (or perhaps more specifically "north korea") which makes for some memorable stories, and helps with the final character.
Lesson 43 [+34] [→1681]
- Frony0: It's so ridiculously easy to rush through the remaining few short chapters to reach the finish, but I think it actually becomes a little harder here, since Heisig can no longer clump huge groups of kanji together systematically, so you may need more focus on each individual. A popular choice specific to this lesson seems to be using "icepick" in lieu of "awl", and a few stretch "bundle" to mean "bundle of joy".
Lesson 44 [+28] [→1709]
- Frony0: This is the 9th shortest lesson in the rest of the book, not that that will matter to most. Now is as good a time as any to drop the lesson-based learning, since it has now has no function whatsoever but to make you feel slightly better. Unless your extremely OCD like me, learning by primitive is further recommended. Some people used "caveman" instead of "sickness" for the primitive we encounter here, for more tangible stories. Also watch out for the stroke orders of "ward". Otherwise, fairly painless chapter. Now is the point where you should forget about counting UP to 2042, when it's so much easier and rewarding to count DOWN! Only 333 left!
Lesson 45 [+47] [→1756] [~286]
- Frony0: This is quite a strong chapter by comparison, so ignore the length. He also introduces the character for "sentence" and "England/English", which you may have been looking for. As you go through this chapter, bear in mind that the next one is almost a third of the size of this, so if you're sure to spend due time on each kanji, you can probably get away with doing the next one too!
Lesson 46 [+19] [→1775] [~267]
- Frony0: This is the second shortest chapter in the rest of the book, and doesn't therefore seem to pose much challenge. You might find it easier to think of the "bushel basket" primitive as "chess piece" however, as many seem to advocate this.
Lesson 47 [+30] [→1805] [~237]
- Frony0: Another odd little chapter I think. I would be careful to give each kanji here quite a lot of attention, even if you're already sprinting.
Lesson 48 [+22] [→1827] [~215]
- Frony0: Back to simplicity, this chapter (the third smallest in the rest of the book) may look like it contains some complex kanji, but they're pretty straightforward generally.
Lesson 49 [+25] [→1852] [~190]
- Frony0: Very simple lesson, with three main "sections", you'll have no problem here. If you find "dog tag" a little vague, perhaps tie it to a soldier's neck. With this lesson you have under 200 kanji left, so no slacking :)
Lesson 50 [+27] [→1879] [~163]
- Frony0: Another generally simple lesson. Make sure you internalise the shape and strokes of the boat primitive, since it's a little unusual. It may also interest you to use "zombie" as the primitive combination of "drag" and "rag".
Lesson 51 [+24] [→1903] [~139]
- Frony0: Heisig was right about this one. It stings a bit. There's no other way to get through this than good stories and reps. Take solace in the shortness of this particular torture.
Lesson 52 [+23] [→1926] [~116]
- Frony0: This is the start of the last few "clumps" of kanji, so structure-wise this lesson should resemble earlier simpler ones. This one should be a breeze! Nearing that last 100.
Lesson 53 [+51] [→1977] [~065]
- Frony0: This is a long chapter, but it's the last long chapter, and there is nothing here that's any more challenging than anything you have done before. With the skills you will have developed by now, it's really just about giving the kanji the required time and getting it done. It really is just downhill from here :)
Lesson 54 [+28] [→2005] [~037]
- Frony0: This is a very neat lesson, divided almost evenly into three parts. You might consider using "trojan horse" as the horse primitive, since there already is one horse primitive. Heisig does at the end introduce one other primitive at the end, directly after a character which uses it. His aim is probably just, but many people ignored this and learned them in the 'correct' order. Nevertheless, with the close of this lesson, you only have 37 characters left!
Lesson 55 [+20] [→2025] [~017]
- Frony0: A little weird, being the "remainder kanji" of the animals grouping. Nevertheless, 20 kanji that have gotta be done. Surely you can almost taste the freedom?
Lesson 56 [+17] [→2042] [~000]
- Spoilers. ;)
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