Summer vacation ended almost two weeks ago, and classes everywhere are back in full swing, including mine. I'm lucky in that I have a good partner to help me teach in class. I'd like to introduce to you all my assistant, Tonkichi Butayama -- or as he prefers to be known professionally, Pinky the Pig.
I don't know how I'd survive a little kids lesson without him, really. He's super forgetful, and always has to ask for students' names. He's a glutton, but the kids love asking him what he wants to eat, and then search through the food basket for the right item. He wears whatever outfits I find for him, and is a great help when it comes to modeling difficult roleplays. He even dresses up for Halloween, wearing a set of fuzzy devil horns around his snout and pretending to be a wild boar.
I'm not quite sure where he came from, actually. I arrived at work one day and there he was, in a pile of used toys some parent had donated to the school. He's the heart of my little kids class now, and if I were ever to do my own kids show on local TV he'd probably be my mascot character. I had a bit of free time last month as well as a need for some new flashcards, so I figured this was a good way to show my appreciation towards the best assistant ever:
Ten millennia is a long time. A really long time. The entirety of recorded human history would fit inside with a bit of room to spare. I know why it's such a popular number with Japanese game makers, though -- it can conveniently be expressed with just two kanji, and the number itself is used to represent any amount too large to be conveniently countable. Western writers do the same thing with the number one thousand.
What's important here is that ten millennia is roughly the length of the chronology of the White Knight Chronicle series. The two games in the series for the PS3 cover the events at one end of that chronology. The newly announced WKC title for the PSP covers the other end.
White Knight Chronicles - Dogma Wars tells the story of the titular conflict which led to the creation of the Knight armors in the first place. It's the story of two nations, the ambitious Empire of Ishrenia and the magical House of Asvarn. Against the Empire's Knights, only one weapon has proven effective so far: the battle trains, horse-drawn war engines possessing powerful magics. The player, via the series' usual Avatar system, must join forces with Anvietta and Kaisius, members of the Asvarn Train Corps. Together, they might just have a chance against the plottings of the mysterious man known as the Black Wing, as well as defending the city of Zurmgand against the greatest threat it has ever faced... the White Knight.
While Half-Minute Hero was an interesting and well-received experiment in creative game design, it was generally noted that not all of game's four play modes stacked up equally well. Marvelous Entertainment is seeking to change things up a bit in the upcoming sequel, Yuusha 30 II (Second). And by change, I mean rip off Dragon Quest II for their first major plot point. Two of the heroes of Yuusha 30 II are the grandchildren of the original hero, whose name in Japanese was Yuusha. Their names? Yushia and Yuuja. The third hero we have today is Yaashu, Yuusha's former partner in battle. Name variety is obviously not a priority here.
Instead of offering multiple game modes, Marvelous appears to be offering multiple storylines. In "Yuusha 30 Revolution," the player must direct Yushia through trials and tribulations to make her the best princess possible. Famitsu describes is as a "school RPG with dragons." Yuuja is off for a wild adventure in "Yuusha 30 Ragnarok." He's on a date with destiny as he races to meet a deity. What happens after that is anyone's guess, but it's probably going to be loud and destructive. Yaashu's story in "Yuusha 30 Overture" involves protecting the Queen, but nothing else is known about it.
These are three of the five stories available in Yuusha 30 II. Either I missed the other two in an earlier Famitsu update, or they haven't been presented yet. We do know who the enemies are, however.
The four big, bad uglies are the Shiten Dai-Oh, or "Four Great Kings of Heaven." It's a commonly used title set in Japanese games, so don't read too much into it -- these guys are definitely not on the side of the angels. Jaburu, Vetra, Zozorath, and Tyrantsu -- whoever they are and whatever they want, their presence cannot be a good sign.
The Fiendish Foursome aren't the only things of interest in that scan. First, there's the Edit Mode that allows players to fashion their own missions, and a competitive / cooperative play mode as well. Along the bottom of the screen are a list of gameplay features: skills, casino gaming, class changes, weapons fusion, orthodox optional dungeons, and a Time Goddess turned loan shark who will lend the hero cash against whatever time he or she has left on the clock.
Looks to be a crazy-fun time, at least for half a minute or so.
Oh My God, My Waffle! Oh, the Humanity!
So it seems that Japan has been experiencing deflation for an extended period. Since that's not something most of us have any first-hand experience with, can you talk about whether it has a noticeable effect upon your life?
I'm not sure how much it's been affecting me, since prices seem to be holding steady in most areas. The biggest impact it's had is that when I send money home for my retirement fund, it takes less yen to send the same amount of yen.
A couple of phrases that popped up in katakana: "giri giri" and "gocha gocha." Need context, or have you heard of these and what they mean before?
Girigiri means something done at the last minute. It's also onomatopoeia for a grinding noise, perhaps like that of a train's brakes when it's trying to make an emergency stop? Gochagocha means a jumble or mixup, and when used as a verb means "to complain about various things."
Twitter is apparently quite popular, since the character limit means a lot less in Japanese than using Roman letters. Have you seen it used much?
I know that a lot of Japanese politicos have started embracing Twitter, with the expected sort of results. In the column, we've mentioned that the president of Level-5 has an account, as does Gust's most well-travelled character, Pamela Ibis.
What spawned the recent resurgence in Dragon Ball's popularity? Last I checked, shows that ended years ago tend not to see gigantic outpourings of fresh merchandising, right?
You report on them often enough: are you, in fact, a cell phone RPG player?
Just to get you talking on a favorite subject: would you say SaGa 3 or Romancing SaGa 3 is more likely to be remade?
This title is derived from MST3K: The Movie, a scene in This Island Earth where what looked remarkably like a metal waffle was seeing experimentation. Look forward to more outlandish titles like this since I know you love them!
A Remade Letter
Just read your Natsukashisa column and it reminded me of playing Lufia 2 or Estpolis which I picked up during my trip to Japan (which was awesome btw). I was so excited to hear there was a remake in the works because Lufia 2 was my favorite SNES rpg. So when I saw the game in Japan, I immediately grabbed it, expecting a nostalgic experience back at the hotel. Much to my disappointment, it was a completely altered, completely new game. The only shred of nostalgia was from some of the music. It was a pretty fun game in its own right, but not as a Lufia 2 remake. I think they should've tweeked the story and names a bit and just brought it out as a new game. I don't know if you've had a chance to play either version but I was curious about your opinion on the matter.
Also, have you had a chance to play Tales of Phantasia X? If so, what do you think of it?
Thanks in advance for the reply.
I'd considered picking up the new Lufia remake, but it was coming out at the same time as Endless Frontier EXCEED, and it was already clear that the parts that I liked the best, the insane puzzles, weren't going to be kept as they were in the original. On the other hand, SaGa 2 is everything that the original was, only better!
While Tales of Phantasia X, Narikiri Dungeon Cross Edition, and Zero no Kiseki make strong cases for me getting a Playstation Portable, I just can't afford one right now.
Thanks for the letter!
A Travelling Letter
I have a three-fold question related to the many anime where the parents go abroad, leaving their fledgling teens to live alone in an apartment. Most of the time, the parents are said to be either in US or Hawaii for work. So here are the questions:
1) Is it actually common for parents who work overseas to leave their kids back in Japan?
Depends on the age of the kids. Younger children will often travel with their parents, but students in junior high or high school won't. It's considered more important for them to finish their education in Japan properly, and test preparation is so intensive that any time away from the traditional study regimen is considered highly detrimental. If at all possible they stay with relatives, but if the child is in a particularly prestigious school then they'll either live in a dorm or (in rare cases) a one-room apartment of their own.
2) When Japanese go abroad to work, where is the usual destination? And what kind of work is most common?
If they're traveling for their company, then it's wherever the company is based. Most often New York or L.A. Many doctors will do a year or three of residency in America for the experience, and again their destination depends on where best they can study their specialty. Some doctors I've met studied in Connecticut, Georgia, California, or Washington. And then there's this one guy I knew who actually worked in my hometown, Oklahoma City, for a year teaching FAA courses at Wiley Post Airport.
3) When they come back, how are they received? Are they given a weird look? Do they normally pick up strange cultures from overseas?
All I can say here is that any Japanese who enjoys living and working outside Japan is already a little strange by their social standards. It's also really easy to pick out anyone who's lived abroad within a few minutes of meeting them, especially if you're speaking in English.
Thanks for the letter!
A Letter of a Different Color
Based upon the RGB values listed in Wiki and on the page you linked to, neri-iro is very close to the color Almond included in Crayola crayon boxes. Neri-iro is (237, 228, 205), while Almond is (239, 222, 205). That's about as close as you're gonna get. I bet most people would just call neri-iro beige, though. That's what I did at first glance. On a related note, what's the kanji used for neri, or is there one? The only thing I can find in Jim Breen's is ç·´, and that doesn't make any sense.
Yeah, that's the right kanji (encoding is UTF-8, if you're only seeing gibberish), and no, it doesn't make much sense to me either. That's why I said I wasn't sure how to translate it. I only found out about it because I was looking for new color words on the Japanese Wiki and it came up. I only confirmed the pronunciation after I found this site, and none of my dictionaries, print or online, have it. The site refers to it as a "traditional Japanese color." The word neri refers to gloss or tempering, nerikashi are sweets made from bean paste, nerikarashi is English mustard, and neriginu is glossy silk. I'm guessing the color's word origin comes from somewhere in there, probably the silk.
Anyway, love your columns. I studied in Japan for a quarter in 2003 at Chubu Daigaku in Kasugai, not far from Nagoya. I'd really love to go back, but don't have the time or money right now, unfortunately. Oh well, maybe someday. For the moment, I'll just stick to the nostalgia that pops up in your columns every so often.
Glad you're enjoying the nostalgia, and thanks for commenting on a sentence I added at the last minute. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.
My personal life is still a bit unsteady, so I'm not sure just when the next column will be. Frankly, I'm amazed I managed to get as much out this week as I did, though I cleared out my entire letter backlog to make up for the loss of content. Next week I need to get an impression and a review out before the TGS coverage starts, so definitely no column then. My updating schedule will probably be "whenever it's ready" for a while to come.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,