The list of things that are weirdly and uniquely Japanese is a long one. They make great fodder for anecdotes about "crazy Japan," but for the most part they aren't so much strange as they are products of their own long and varied histories.
For example, there's the mimikaki (ear-scraper). A long, slender piece of bamboo with a cupped hook on one end and feathers (often duck down) on the other, the mimikaki finds frequent use in Japanese homes. Its name defines its purpose. The hook end is used to scrape away earwax in the ear canal and drag it out. The feather end picks up the stray crumbs of wax and generally feels good.
It's most often used by mothers to clean their children's ears, but oddly enough it has a long-held romantic image to it as well. For proper use, the receiver of the scraping must lie his or her head sideways in the scraper's lap, making its use a fairly intimate moment.
Unfortunately for me, that's a moment I'm not likely to experience. Apparently there is something fundamentally different about the shape of my ears, at least compared to the Japanese. My tragus, the ridge of cartiledge that juts backwards and protects the earhole, is a bit larger in proportion to the rest of the ear than it is with Japanese guys, and my ear canal slants in at a more acute angle. My girlfriend cannot get the mimikaki into my ears at a workable angle.
Shikata nai tsutai. My romantic moments will just have to involve roses, like any normal person's.
For anyone who's interested, there's a new webcomic out there about the experiences of being a foreign teacher in Japan. I can't say that it's had anything too original so far, but it's just started and I'm a little jaded when it comes to slice-of-life stories about foreigners in Japan. The art's good and it's well presented, however. Check it out.
It was the perfect colonization plan: find a lifeless world, park the ship, spend a millennium in cold-sleep while the ship's automated systems terraformed the world into an inhabitable copy of Earth. Unfortunately, when the colonists awoke they found that their perfect colony plan was now a perfect science fiction plotline. The continent surrounding their landing site is engulfed in gigantic vegetation. Strange creatures, part animal and part electronic, roam the wilderness. And then there are the indigenous Guardians, cute little Ewok lookalikes -- where did they come from?
All this and more remains to be discovered in Earth Seeker, a new action-adventure title for the Wii. On the staff are Yoshihiro Sudou, former Capcom employee and current executive producer, and Noritaka Funamizu, who has titles such as Street Fighter II and Monster Hunter in his resume. In an interview with Famitsu, both expressed their desire to create something original and interesting, with the implication that the corporate atmosphere at Capcom wasn't necessarily conducive to that sort of thing. That helps explain why the two of them are now working with Kadokawa Games on this project, at least. Little is known of how the game works, aside from its Action-Adventure designation. It may or may not have the elements necessary to get it covered as an Action-RPG. I'm talking about it because I think the art looks awesome, personally. What do you guys think?
In preparation for the upcoming movie Zorroark - Champion of Illusion, McDonald's and Nintendo are teaming up for another McDS promotion. Kids can take a Pokémon quiz at participating restaurants, winning their choice of either a small hamburger or orange juice if they get the answers right. Also, a new Pokémon is available for download. It's not a legendary one this time:
Apparently one of the characters in the new movie has a Scizor on his team. I don't mind, since I usually don't have a chance to trade Pokémon, and that's the only normal way to get one of these guys.
A bit over two decades ago, Hudson Soft released an RPG for the now-defunct PC-Engine (TurboGrafx-16). Entitled Jaseiken Nekromancer (Necromancer - The Sacred Sword of Evil), it suffered the same fate as its host system, descending into obscurity. That is, until Hudson decided to release a low-budget sequel on the mobile phone networks. Jaseiken Nekromancer II, with its old school charm, was a quiet hit. And now, in less than a week the series comes full circle.
Jaseiken Nekromancer - Nightmare Reborn is coming to the DSi's download service on June 16th with a heavy graphical update. The story, from what I can find of it, focuses on a young man named Eldar who has the unfortunate luck of being the bearer of the sacred sword of evil. Along with his best friend Basil, the obligatory mysterious maiden Marie, and a taciturn former knight named Stebia, they have to face down the hordes of demons now invading the world. The Necronomicon is somehow involved as well.
It will be available June 16th for 600 DSi points. It's possible to get a physical copy of the original game for 300 yen at a store near my school, but then one would have to get a used PC-Engine to play it on (for 8000 yen). No contest on which is the better deal.
Now isn't this embarrassing... I realized a little too late after the fact that although I'd mentioned the pre-order swag for Super Dimensional Game Neptune in last week's column, I'd forgotten to actually post the pictures. Whoops. Here they are:
Dear Gaijin, what are some games that you wish we could have seen in
North America or Europe? Also how is Atelier Rorona going along? Is
this a game that you think RPGamers will adore when it finally
Whew, if I answered that first question completely, that would be a long list. I'll just say here that it looks like SaGa 2 is going to be joining it. I was hoping to see some mention of it on Square Enix's E3 list, but... In any case, if it's not announced for US release by the end of the summer, I'll do a real review of it, not just an impression like last year.
And Atelier Rorona is as awesome as one could expect from this series. Anyone who enjoyed other Gust titles (Atelier Annie, Mana Khemia, Ar tonelico, etc.) will have a ball with it. It's a lot more like the PS2 entries in the series (Atelier Judie and Atelier Violet) in the way it handles alchemy though -- a lot more emphasis is put on the quality of individual ingredients, which might be confusing at first. On the other hand, Rorona allows for a lot more exploration than the DS Atelier titles do. You'd probably love it.
Anyhoo, thanks for the letter, Nyx!
And that's all he wrote for this week! Pickings are always a little thin prior to E3, so I was a bit surprised to get two new titles to talk about this week. Hopefully next week will be just as productive. Until then!
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,