kisaragi no juusannichi
Hitsuji Shitsuji

Chinese New Year is next Thursday, but I can't wait that long to put up another column. So today is our regular second New Year column for Japandemonium. For those of you who do follow the Chinese lunisolar calender, then next week it will officially be the Year of the Sheep. That said, what is our sheepish topic for this month?

Butlers. Why are there so many sheep as butlers in Japan? These are just the images I could find in five minutes on Google, but I know several manga that have run this gag, some of them thirty-five years ago. What's the deal? Well, it all has to do with childish lisps. Little kids in Japan often have trouble pronouncing the phoneme "sh". This is most obvious when they're counting, as "roku, shichi, hachi" quickly turns into "roku, hichi, hachi".

The Japanese word for sheep is hitsuji and the word for butler shitsuji. The consequences of this phonetic resemblance should be obvious enough (just look up!), but the combination of the "shi" and the "ji" in shitsuji make it even more troublesome for young mouths, and thus more likely for mix-ups to happen.

So if you happen to be reading a new manga sometime, and a dapper young sheep in a black suit appears on the next page, you know the reason why: Japanese children like stupid puns, and so do manga illustrators.

Our top story for the month comes as a bit of a surprise. Langrisser is a series that has a special place in the hearts of strategy RPG enthusiasts, but the last original entry for the series was on the WonderSwan Color in 2000. In 2005, there was a remake of Langrisser III on the PS2, and then nothing at all until a pair of iOS releases last year. Well, here comes something.

Try as I might, I cannot get Falco's "Der Kommissar" out of my head, and yet I cannot get a good parody version down on paper, either. Anyone up for the task?

The new character designs come courtesy of Hiroshi Kaieda, who did the art for Gyrozetter, plus many other comics projects that are either ultra-cutesy, erotic, or some mixture of the two. Our obvious male antagonist is named Ares (or Aless, depending on how you want to do the romanization). His background is pretty easy to guess. Young member of the guard, caught up in forces beyond his control, etc. etc.... He's pretty much the standard generic strategy RPG hero. Hopefully he'll get a bit more character as the game progresses.

The obviously clerical young woman is Elma, Ares's best friend and a member of the Lucilis Church. She's described as having a very positive personality and as being very punctual. Otherwise, equally generic.

The third character, Towa, actually sounds interesting. She's a master fighter with the sword, and is currently giving Ares lessons, but no one's sure just how she knows what she does. Some sailors found her on an uncharted island in the middle of nowhere, and she has no real memory of her early days. Okay, so that's still a pretty generic use of plot-induced amnesia, but it's still more than the other two have.

Finally there's Rosaria, who appears to be a fan of the bikini-plate approach to armor. Who needs all that heavy, smelly metal covering your most vulnerable sections? I'm sure her knights appreciate the way she leads from the front, as it were.

I'm no expert on the series, but it seems that the world of Langrisser has changed a bit in the last decade and a half. There's a much stronger steampunk vibe going on in that second picture. The main source of conflict appears to be between the Lucilis Church and the Empire, with the latter having some strange technology from an Ancient Civilization™ at its disposal.

At least the game itself seems playable, despite any misgivings one might have about the story. There's more to come, for sure. We don't even have a projected release date. Until then, we can only wonder just what will become of this series in the future.

Source: Famitsu Online
1/26 ~ 2/1 1/19 ~ 1/25 1/12 ~ 1/18 1/5 ~ 1/11 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 * * * New Arrival! Devil Survivor 2: Break Record Atlus
2 * * * New Arrival! Far Cry 4 Ubisoft
3 1 * * New Arrival! Tales of Zestiria Bandai-Namco
4 4 1 1 Last seen at 1 Youkai Watch 2: Shin'Uchi Level-5
5 * * * New Arrival! Far Cry 4 Ubisoft
7 5 2 2 Last seen at 2 Pokémon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire The Pokémon Co.
11 9 5 4 Last seen at 6 Monster Hunter 4G Capcom
15 13 7 6 Last seen at 8 Youkai Watch 2 Level-5
17 2 * * New Arrival! Legend of Legacy Furyu
26 6 * * New Arrival! Atelier Escha & Logy Plus Gust
27 15 13 13 Last seen at 5 Final Fantasy Explorers Square Enix
28 7 * * New Arrival! Ken no Machi no Ihoujin - Black Temple Experience
Off-list Off 27 23 Last seen at 27 Shining Resonance Sega
Off-list Off 28 24 Last seen at 21 Taiko no Tatsujin - Don & Katsu's Excellent Adventure Bandai-Namco
Off-list Off Off 29 Last seen at ??? Phantasy Star Nova Sega

It's time to look at what Square Enix is up to lately. First, there's the website.

This little teaser site appeared a bit over a week ago with just the FF-style cursor thing at the bottom. Then they added the tent in the middle, and every day new images popped up. So far, it covers most of the games in the series, including the ones that never had sprite-based graphics.

But what's this JAEPO thing? It's a big event this weekend, the Japan Amusement Expo, that's the arcade gaming equivalent to the Tokyo Game Show in September. It's even held in the same event hall in Chiba. What does that have to do with Final Fantasy, much less all this spritework? That's for us to find out.

In other S-E news, Kawazu had the above picture to show off on his Twitter feed. Signed "Tomomi Kobayashi" and addressed to "Kawazu-sama," it is the first character art we have of the SaGa 2015 project (which still lacks a definitive name). I'm really wondering when we'll have anything real about this title to sink our teeth into.

Source: Dengeki Online

Atelier Rorona 3DS is due out next month, and it's time to take a look at the true star of the show: Astrid Zexis. Yes, the newest version of Gust's first PS3 success reveals the hidden past of Rorona's not-so-slightly lolicon mentor. Witness the triumphs and the follies as Astrid treks across the land in search of whatever the heck she pleases, dragging in her wake the dutiful Sterkenberg (who probably wishes he'd never met this crazy woman).

The article doesn't mention just how long this new "Atelier Astrid" game is, but it apparently starts out as a story passed from mentor to student, much to Sterk's embarrassment. I don't know about you all, but I'd find this new release tempting just for this bit.

In other media, we have chibi-styled art for several other characters. Fans of the game will recognize them all easily.

Atelier Rorona 3DS will be in a store near me on March 26th, 2015.

Title Publisher Release Date Platform
Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin From Software 2.5.15
Persona 4: The Golden (Vita the Best) Atlus 2.5.15
Lost Heroes 2 Bandai-Namco 2.5.15
Lords of the Fallen Ubisoft 2.12.15
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D Nintendo 2.14.15
God Eater 2: Rage Burst Bandai-Namco 2.19.15
Dragon Quest Heroes: The Dark Dragon & the Castle of Yggdrasil Square Enix 2.26.15
Source: Famitsu Online

If you read through the release dates up above (but let's be honest, you probably scrolled right over them), then you might have noticed a game called Lost Heroes 2. The first game with this name appeared a while back, and all things considered it shouldn't be a surprise that there's a sequel. That's how the tokusatsu series roll, after all. There's always another one in the works....

Anyhoo, we have screenshots for Lost Heroes II down below.

Y'know, any game that starts off with all three main characters crucified in digital blocks certainly has promise. Apparently all that work they put into stopping Kaiser Belial (the ultimate Ultraman villain) in the first game was for naught, as the infernal anti-Ultraman has blasted their comrades to the far corners of reality once more. Sure, it's not the best of plots, but a lot of cool-looking characters are in it. This is a game for all those tokusatsu fans, so story is pretty much a sideline here.

Lost Heroes 2 went on sale last Thursday (Feb. 5). A quick peek ahead at the sales rankings suggests that it's off to a good start, too.

Source: Famitsu Online

Happy early new year, and a happy early Valentine's Day as well! I've got a nice date planned for my lovely Nozomi tomorrow. See you all next month, most likely.

And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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