There's a new sensation sweeping the nation, and that's the flu. Not that it's that widespread in Japan as yet, with only a few hundred confirmed cases in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe. But the panic, now that's going around a lot faster than any virus could. If one is to believe the news reports (and they're probably right) Kobe's tourism industry and club scene have crashed overnight, and so many school trips have been canceled that the Shinkansen ride from Tokyo to Osaka is practically deserted.
Three nights back, I saw a TV program on contagion scenarios, done in typical Japanese melodramatic "real life" acting style. I thought the random hints of apocalyptic pandemic were nicely done.
Businesses have been coping with the threat of flu as only a Japanese company could ever possibly get away with. Employees at many offices are having their lunch breaks strictly scheduled to avoid crowding in the office cafeterias, and morning exercises are done at their desks, instead of the big employee meeting room. One of the big department stores in Osaka is requiring all floor staff to wear face masks... and also requiring them to buy said masks on their own dime. This might pose a problem, since the only item selling faster than face masks these days is liquid sanitizer. Everybody in central Japan is wearing them these days.
And I do mean everybody. (photo courtesy of Yahoo! Japan)
Premium boxes are all the rage these days, and when a series hits the big Two-Oh, then things get really massive. Take the upcoming Premium Box CD set for the SaGa series, available in stores on August 26th. To celebrate the second decade of the series' existence, Square Enix is releasing a comprehensive soundtrack of the entire series. That's ten games' worth of tracks, on a grand total of twenty CDs. The entire thing will set you back $200, but I'm actually a little tempted...
I have no idea how Inazuma Eleven suddenly got back up on the lists. Famitsu's not listing any rating info on it prior to this week, either. Apparently the upcoming sequel, plus a series of wins for Fukuoka Avispa FC at Level 5 Stadium is generating more interest.
The first game in the Record of the Agarest War series was based around a generation-based dating system, and the Record of the Agarest War Zero is no different. This of course means lots of cute girls for fanservice and swag to show them off. First, we have the obligatory soundtrack. Every game's got to have one these days.
The next item isn't seen as often, but with temperatures already soaring in the afternoons, it's something that many fans may appreciate: a fan of the more literal variety. I'm not sure how good it would be at cooling the fanboys down, though.
And finally, we have something completely out of left field. Compile Heart has decided to present two characters wearing practically nothing at all. That's not the surprising part. In fact it's about par for the course. With all the varieties of swag items and collectibles out there, however, one has to wonder why they decided to put this portrait of two half-naked girls on a 300-piece jigsaw puzzle.
For the fanboy who truly has too much time on his hands...
Acquire Games has some audio-visual fun in store for their upcoming sequel, Class of Heroes II. Not only have they contracted a J-Pop girl band called Sphere to do their opening theme song for this installment, but the four girls will be the stars of their own 10-minute animated side-story set in the Class of Heroes universe.
As well, the anime-themed "A&G Super Radio Show" will have a special serialized mini-program starring Sphere as their Class of Heroes counterparts every Saturday from 9:45 to 9:55 PM, starting tomorrow and finishing up on July 18th. Outside the greater Tokyo and Osaka areas, the show will also be broadcast over channels in Ibaragi, Akita, and Nagasaki prefectures, as well as over digital and internet radio outlets.
When the DSi's download function was announced, we all knew it was just a matter of time. Some big company was going to take the plunge and make a derivative cash-in on one of their series, exclusively for DSi-ware. So, here it is:
Now presenting Dragon Quest Wars, what looks to be the series' first foray into the realm of tactical gaming, heavily leavened with elements from the Colisseum / Battle Road branches of the franchise and presented as a sort of board game. There are options for local wireless and online multi-player matches of up to four teams. This game will be available sometime next month, for the low price of 500 DSi points.
With Endless Frontier out in stores now, I guess we need a new object of titillation for this column. Something new, something topical, something buxom....
Yeah, that ought to do it. We mentioned Queen's Blade - Spiral Chaos, a tactical game for the PSP, a month or two back and now there's a new flood of promotional screenshots for us to ogle. Or perhaps stare in amazement, as these ladies don't seem to hold with many concepts that most people would find elementary, like clothes that actually cover skin, armor that has more plates than holes, or the basic law of gravity. In fact, several of the game's characters would probably find it necessary to violate the law of gravity in order to get themselves out of bed in the morning, so top-heavy they are.
To make the fan-servicey nature of the game even more emphatic, characters are able to direct attacks at specific parts of another character's armor. More damage to one area results in rips and tears that appear in the character portraits as well.
To go along with these screens, we have the obligatory swag items. Figma, one of the major brands for plastic figurines in Japan, is handling things on that end with these models of Cute, one of the new characters in the game. Others will most certainly be forthcoming. Other swag is also available.
Finally, for those interested in seeing lots of bouncing and jiggling, the game's latest trailer is up on Youtube right now. Enjoy, you lascivious voyeurs.
Yay! A Fan Letter!
I read your corner every week, and enjoy catching glimpses at nitch Japanese stuff. I don't normally write to this stuff but since your feeling lonely, I thought it couldn't hurt. At the very least, I don't want you to feel like no one is reading.
Why, thanks! I'll admit I've been feeling a bit down this past week, so I appreciate the thought.
Speaking of which, Have you heard of "Akumetsu"? Its a Japanese manga about politics in Japan, kinda. Its pretty cool, and I remember reading about something or other about politics some weeks ago, So I thought I would bring it up.
I couldn't place the name, but a quick Google search helped me remember the cover art. I've seen it in stores before, just never picked it up.
Mana Khemia, my filler game! I still can't believe two is coming out so soon... even though its been out in Japan for so long. I'm really looking forward to it, but I gotta finish up one first... Hey, you ever read "Katekyoshi Reborn!"? Wonderful manga, really creative and I would suggest reading it some time~.
What, "Home-Tutor Hitman"? I've looked through it a few times, though I can't say I'm a super-fan of Shonen's over-the-top fighting manga series. The video game spinoffs always seem to have good first-week sales, though.
Last but not least...a question? Does anyone live in Shibuya? I see a lot of media about the place and would love to know if its a place someone could live while working. Thanks for always keeping up with the corner, and you have my support always! Bye~
Yes, lots of people live in Shibuya. It's a pretty big ward of Tokyo, actually. It's also pretty expensive compared to where I am right now. The rent is two or three times more than I'm paying in some cases, for a smaller apartment. Still, some of the apartments on that list are actually pretty affordable by Tokyo standards.
From the Forums!
I love all your reportage on the varied aspects of Japanese popular media and culture. Some very interesting insights from a westerner's point of view, and lots of cute and wierd things to ooo and ahh at. I think my favourite article was about the extreme fanboy *cough* pilgrimages to the real-life shrine where the "Lucky Star" anime are sometimes set. Japandemonium is probably my 2nd favourite feature on this site, the podcast being number 1. The reviews are good , but as a long time gamer, I found I got my own set of opinions on what makes a game fun for me. I like all the articles on the seasonal foods, festivals, and trends. Keep them coming!
Thanks man, always good to hear from the fans. Doing my best to keep it coming!
In parting, I'd like to thank Torri and Balance for the fanmail. It's always a pleasure. Also, to the third person who sent me email this week: concerning that game you asked about, I really wish I had never learned of its existence. Thankfully, since it's not an RPG, I am nowhere obliged to actually discuss it in the column. As far as I know, the Japanese mainstream does not know it exists, and would be appalled to find out about it. Now, I think I need to go give my brain a thorough rinse to get it out of my head...
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,