O-ki no doku ni
Dear gentle readers,
It is my sad duty to inform you that as of the time of writing, our usual host Gaijin has become indisposed. Perhaps he disagreed with something that ate him -- that is not for me to say.
Oh, but please allow me to introduce myself! Gentle readers, I am known to many as Sukuryuuteipu Oji-san, but you may call me Uncle Suku. I make my dwelling next door to dearest Gaijin, at Chi-no-ike Jigoku, Building JA, Pandemonium City East. It is a pleasure to speak with you all today.
There are doubtless many amongst you, my gentle readers, who are unaware of the beautiful artistry to be found in the bureaucracy of the oriental hells. I myself, who was spawned and molded in the chaos of the western pits, can but admire the craft and dedication of my eastern cousins. Karma is the key here -- rather than to wallow in the shallow, unimaginative morass which characterises the west, here each soul finds a suitable and thoroughly ironic end. Murderers relive their crimes through the eyes of their victims; philanderers and molesters are turned into voluptuous women, and then repeatedly assaulted; gluttons are gifted with endless appetites and limited food, and then are encouraged to recycle as much as possible. Yes, yes, good times are to be had in this place.
Every generation of mortals brings new challenge, gentle readers, but I shall be quick to reassure: we who tend to karma's loose ends after life makes its bittersweet departure take great pride in our ability to adapt with the times.
Thus, we come to the subject at hand: gamers, such as they call themselves. I am loathe to utilise as uncouth a word as that, but it shall have to do. The more important question is thusly, what to do with people such as these, who frequently, willingly rush into the depths of Hell itself, via the imaginary worlds of their games? This, gentle readers, is what I have come to discuss with you this day.
When attracting sinners in this day and age, one must put much thought into how best to maximise one's returns. It is with sadness that I state that the old ways of personalised temptation have fallen to the side, as there are simply too many human souls to corrupt and harvest during the course of their brief, mortal existence.
Let us ponder then the best means to reach these souls, which hold so much promise of sin in potentia.
As an example, I have chosen these most ingenious images of undergarments which have been presented in the past year by various companies of Japan. Take into consideration, gentle readers, how these may be used to encourage within the viewers all of the deadly sins, and not only the most obvious. There is greed, in wanting either the garments or the models. There is envy, in wishing that one's self-image could match the images, or pride, in knowing that it does so already. There is anger, directed towards those who would show such things in public. There is even the encouragement of gluttony, in the case of the young woman wearing the ramen-themed undergarment.
The best way to ensnare our gamers, however, would be the sin of sloth, in that they are encouraged to spend their days and nights searching for more such images on the international computer networks, time which would be better spent in myriad other ways. Let us encourage them now:
Undergarments for ecological awareness
Now that we have our gamers firmly in hand, we shall make hasteful our tour of their prospective fates. Gentle readers, believe me when I say that such a journey is not without hazards, and that as such it is best accomplished with a partner.
As an example, let us look at the new images of Zweii 2, which is under production from Falcom of Japan, and which dear Wyrdwad was so kind as to mention previously in this column's appendice forum. The characters within this game are exemplars of the merits of the "buddy system," as it is called in Gaijin's notes. The heroes are a complementary set of sword and sorcery, and each may take the lead at a moment's notice, should the need arise.
We need not concern ourselves with the merits, however, for this "buddy system" is something which may be of use to our aims. Let us not forget that the vices of one may overcome the virtues of another. Utilise this to the best of your abilities.
Now, as we descend into the first tier of the oriental hells, we find our first example of karmic punishment. Let it not be said that our eastern cousins do not know the measure of a man, that they find ways to crush the will and the spirit, rather than the body.
Here, we bear witness to their newest ordeal: The Convenience Store, or Conbini as it is known in Japanese shorthand, a new title from Nippon-Ichi, who have brought much amusement to the underworld in the past. Gamers who are placed within the grip of this software for the DS will find that their every action is scripted, from the city in which they live:
To the items which they must use;
To the insipid smiles into which their faces are frozen;
Yes, this is indeed an experience fit to crush the soul.
In regards to the previous punishment, there are those who would say that it is not harsh enough, not severe enough for the souls of our gamers. That, in fact, many of them already live that nightmareish experience prior to their demise. This, gentle readers, is precisely why one never creates just one ordeal with a particular group of souls in mind. Our gamers are a complicated group, with strengths and weaknesses that may vary considerable. Thus, we need find other suitable games in which to imprison them.
Again, our kindred spirits at Nippon-Ichi have brought unto us a solution: this game-hell, intended for the mobile phone networks of Japan. Consider it an extension of their recent venture, Disgaea 3, as it takes place within the confines of a school for demons. The students must perform various bloody tasks in order to advance their grades, and that is where our gamer souls must enter the picture. Not as students themselves, of course not! They are here to be played, not to play in their own turn. Instead, we shall make of them janitors, cooks, and target practice, all at the questionable mercy of the student body.
For those of our gamers who thought secondary school was hell the first time through, may this punishment bring to their former life a small amount of perspective.
There are many things which can be done with souls, once they have been beaten into a suitable level of malleability. One of the more popular uses, in both the west and the east, is as a convenient building material. How then to utilise this creatively?
Once more, Nippon-Ichi Software provides the answer, with Disgaea Jigsaw World for the DS, wherein the various champions of the Underworld vie to complete immense puzzles, wielding weapons and magic with a refreshing disregard for what mortals would call collateral damage.
Let us meet the combatants:
First, the annoyingly indestructible Mutekiddo.
Next, the mute assassin Ayame.
The rogue artificial intelligence Justigar.
The evilly cute life-form Mikan
The self-proclaimed genius Honya Lala.
The dark hero Lambda.
The destructively inept demon prince Santa.
And finally, my dearest niece Etna, with whose treatment of the souls in her care I am well pleased.
If those amongst you in the audience would wish to see how puzzle pieces derived from raw souls are pieced together, let the following images illuminate:
Lastly, gentle readers, I direct you to a special section of hell, one which is devoted to a specific breed of gamer: Q & A hosts of the past. Great care was taken to find an appropriate method of torture, I assure you. On our left, we can see Thor Antrim standing in a storm, with a lightning rod attached to his "sexy pants." On our right, Brad Lohr is suffering through the ten thousandth encore of a Pink Freud concert. Googleshng and Wonderslime, amorphous little blobs that they are, are currently trapped within an ever-changing labyrinth, relentlessly hounded by a hero with extinctionist tendencies.
There are others to see, that is for certain, but one in particular whom I would use as an example. Anyone who has read the Q & A column these past few years would know that dearest Castomel has certain feelings about a little game from Nippon-Ichi. Pay attention, gentle readers, for this is a cardinal rule of torture: find the soul's most hated thing, and exploit it as best you are able.
Castomel is now trapped within the newest remake for the system to be had from Nippon-Ichi: Rhapsody DS: Angel's Love Song. Oh the horror, oh the humanity, oh the musical numbers. What more fitting hell, than to be a puppet serving some strumpet with a trumpet?
Alas, I fear that this punishment might not be as effective as first devised, as it appears that many minor alterations have been made to this game in terms of combat and difficulty, and dear Castomel may find the experience somewhat different this time. Let us hope the musical numbers remain properly cacaphonous.
Encouraging Envy the World Over
It's funny. I've been in Japan for about 2 years and it wasn't until after I left did I regret not going to Shibuya during the brightly day time, now that I am back at the US. Playing 'The World Ends With You' had inspired me to hunt down some Shibuya style clothes that I could wear everyday. But, considering that I am male, my options are limited as to what may look cool. Are there any sites where one can look into for clothes and all?
Hail, nameless one! Whilst I applaud the attempts to conceal your identity through the careful omission of any form of signature within your correspondence, I know you must be one of my young nephews, sent out to spread envy and greed in the mortal world. I understand your plans and approve wholeheartedly. So, when envious mortals desire to know from whence you acquired such marvelous raiment, you might direct them here. If you desire more influence in the sphere of pride and fashion, this mortal seeks advice before he opens another store such as you desire.
I wish you the best of luck in tempting the mortals around you!
Bullet Trains Forever
I am a faithful reader of the Japandemonium column, but have never
had a question to ask before. But now...
I am going to Japan in August as part of a Sister City exchange
program. We will get to spend a week with a host family and
participate in a big summer festival. Then, I am going to spend a few
days extra in Japan and take my husband to some of the places that I
saw when I visited Japan a few years ago.
One of the places is Miyajima. But, I found out that the only day I
have to go (August 13) is part of a national holiday (Obon) and
Miyajima is host to a huge fireworks display. I was lucky to be able
to book a room at a Youth Hostel, but I am not sure how to make sure
that I can even get to Miyajima from Tokyo on this day. I see that I
can get a Japan Rail Pass, but I can't see how I can guarantee/
reserve a seat on the shinkansen. Any insight on my dilemma?
Whilst I do not deign to make use of public transportation often, I do know that the easiest way to secure a private seat upon a Japan Railways carriage is at the station. Upon arrival in Japan, should you make haste to a major JR station and avail yourself of their travel services, a seat should be forthcoming. It is most likely that you shall have to pay a small fee for this service.
The good news would be that, although O-bon is perhaps the most important holiday in the Shinto religion, it is a holiday that is spent at home with family. Thus, whilst patronage of the railways is great before and after O-bon, your chances of securing a seat are much better than if you were to travel during Golden Week.
And now I must bid you all adieu, gentle readers, and leave you in the capable hands of dearest Gaijin, who I see is finally coming out of his own game-induced fugue. Perhaps he would have some party words for us?
Huh..? What tha... Oh, er, hi folks. I must have really lost track of time. I think I've been questing in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 for a week now without stopping. Um.. where did this column come from? Y'know, I could've sworn I heard someone typing up a storm while I was playing. Oh well, I was never one to shoot a gift horse in the mouth. Time to wrap this one up:
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,