ichigatsu no san-juu-nichi

When one thinks of Japan, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the urban sprawl of Tokyo or Osaka. My first apartment in the heart of Fukuoka City was in an area like that, and the view got awfully boring after a while.

Now that I'm in Kumamoto, though, my regular commute to work is quite different. My current apartment is a five minute walk from a medium-sized lake, and my school is on the southern edge of the city, so there's more acreage than apartment buildings.

The change of scenery means I can enjoy birdwatching a lot more these days. Ignoring for the moment the hordes of sparrows, pigeons, and crows, there's a lot to see around here. The lakes, creeks, and rice fields provide a good habitat for ducks, wading birds, and much more besides. My school is situated on a bend in a creek, and just outside my classroom window I've seen wood doves, wild ducks, egrets, a brown heron that's apparently taken up residence, and a pair of twitter-pated kingfishers.

There are many kinds of perching birds as well, though I don't know all their names. Most common are the sekirei, or wagtails, which come in black-and-white or brown-and-yellow varieties, and do indeed wag their tails as they walk or perch on branches. My local favorite is the mejiro, or Japanese white-eye. My first year in Kumamoto, these little guys were all over the place. Then in 2008, I didn't see a single one anywhere. Just last week, though, I saw a few of the little guys on my way to work.

A mejiro is the same color, size, and general shape as a ripe lime. Their name comes from the rings of white feathers surrounding the eyes, and the sight of a dozen or more of them twittering in the trees is just one of the cutest things I have ever seen.

Hopefully the sight of this little guy will help distract you all from noticing just how slow a news week this has been for Japandemonium. Every little bit helps!

A new Dragon Quest title is on the horizon, and that can mean only one thing: Square Enix has fired up its merchandising engines to produce more cute swag. So, what's it to be this time? First, we have a nice DS cover, featuring everyone's favorite DQ monster, the humble slime. It's available March 28th, for 1,200 yen.

But of course that's not all! To add to the variety of slime-related peripherals out there, S-E is offering a new model of loudspeakers that hook up to the DS. It can even attach directly to the base of the DS, making itself portable, if a little unwieldy. It's also on sale March 28th, for 4,725 yen.

Source: Famitsu Online
Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 New Arrival! Zill O'll - Infinite Plus Koei
6 New Arrival! Fragile Bandai-Namco
7 Down from 1 Devil Survivor Atlus
9 Down from 4 Dissidia Final Fantasy Square Enix
21 Down from 9 Fallout 3 Bethesda
22 Down from 19 Pokémon Platinum Nintendo
33 New Arrival! Monster Race Koei
35 Down from 21 White Knight Chronicle SCE
37 Down from 25 Phantasy Star ZERO Sega
39 Up from 43 Inazuma Eleven Level 5
42 Down from 36 Harvest Moon - To the Wind Bazaar Marvelous

Well, I had intended to do a nice long item on the interview in this week's Famitsu Weekly concerning Square Enix's upcoming remake, SaGa 2 - Hihou Densetsu, but it seems that the folks on the podcast beat me to it. That just goes to show how slow a newsweek it is over here, when JP and the podcast are playing tug of war with the same material.

In any case, for those in the audience who do not listen to the podcast, here's a summation:

1) A SaGa 2 remake has been on the planning table for a long while now, even before the DS came out. This leads me to hope that some of the other games in the series, like the second and third Romancing SaGa games, are also in the works.

2) No major changes have been planned for the gameplay. The new SaGa 2 should take about the same time to finish as the old one. That's supposedly 10 hours of game, though I swear I never finished the original that quickly.

3) One real change is that monster encounters are no longer really random, but instead can be seen in advance and possibly avoided, similar to the later games in the series.

4) The monster change system has been revamped so that it is no longer quite as opaque. I'm hoping for something similar to the monster system in SaGa Frontier, but any change that helps make it easier to work with monsters in this game would be welcome.

Also, for your visual enjoyment, we have the full collection of pictures for starting characters. Let's not forget, however, what these guys originally looked like.

Source: Famitsu Online

In Japan, there's a specific genre of games labeled "Variety," which generally means a title composed of a large number of small, easy to play games for the casual player. Wario Ware is included in this genre, as are the Mario Party games and Retro Game Center. RPGs generally are not, but we've seen some pretty oddball genre crossovers in the past, so why not this?

Welcome to Yuusha 30, or 30-second Heroes, a game where the hero's life is a fast and short one. And not just for heroes, either. The game's 500-year span of history contains four different game modes, each of which plays differently from the rest. For each stage, the player has only 30 seconds to finish the objective, be it defeat a monster (Hero), gather precious healing items and shooting up wildlife (Princess), protect someone from danger (Knight), or crush all who oppose you (Dark Lord). Once each stage is finished, it can be replayed as many times as desired, to get better times or better rewards.

Source: Famitsu Online
IRC Culture Corner!

[10:29] JuMeSyn: Well... the JET interview numbers were released today, and mine isn't on there.

[10:29] gaijinmonogatari: Aww man, sorry to hear that

[10:29] JuMeSyn: Any suggestions on alternatives so I don't have to wait until September to start this over again?

[10:30] gaijinmonogatari: Hard to say. the eikaiwa companies aren't hiring as much at the moment because of the slump, but it might be worth checking them out. Also, there are several companies that provide ALTs to schools besides the JET Program.

[10:31] JuMeSyn: I can't remember what program you're on... refresh my memory.

[10:32] gaijinmonogatari: I'm not on any of them

[10:32] JuMeSyn: *Thumps head*.

[10:32] gaijinmonogatari: But I used to work for Nova, and interviewed for an ALT company called Owls

[10:33] JuMeSyn: I'll check them out.

[10:33] JuMeSyn: Long as you're around, here's a silly question.

[10:34] gaijinmonogatari: Also look into Geos

[10:34] JuMeSyn: 'Mai' is 'dance,' correct?

[10:34] gaijinmonogatari: Among other things, yes

[10:34] JuMeSyn: Okay... I just thought it was weird that females would be named Mai.

[10:35] JuMeSyn: Is it only a popular name in games and other media?

[10:36] gaijinmonogatari: I haven't met anyone named that recently, but it's not that uncommon a name

[10:36] JuMeSyn: What else can it mean aside from 'dance?'

[10:37] gaijinmonogatari: Well, it's also the counting suffix for flat items like plates

[10:37] gaijinmonogatari: And the prefix for "every"

[10:37] gaijinmonogatari: Like, "every day" is mainichi

[10:38] gaijinmonogatari: every year, maitoshi, etc.

[10:38] JuMeSyn: Interesting. I'll have to remember that.

[10:39] gaijinmonogatari: I'm looking at a name database right now, and most of the name-kanji for Mai involve the dancing kanji in combination with another, like dream or snow

[10:39] gaijinmonogatari: Though don't count on name kanji to hold with the normal pronunciation of the symbol, ever.

[10:40] JuMeSyn: My kanji grasp is pathetic - I recognize maybe 20 characters.

[10:40] gaijinmonogatari: You'll have to work on that

[10:40] JuMeSyn: It was thanks to a roommate from Taiwan that I learned what 'prince' looks like.

[10:40] JuMeSyn: 'Son of king' he told me.

[10:40] gaijinmonogatari: Pretty much.

[10:41] JuMeSyn: That one he knew because it's borrowed from Chinese, right?

[10:41] gaijinmonogatari: They pretty much all are.

[10:42] JuMeSyn: Now you know why story isn't the key attribute to what I play.

[10:43] gaijinmonogatari: I can tell. With the exception of Tengai Makyou 4, right?

[10:43] JuMeSyn: Well, geez, some things are really hard to overlook. When you're fighting in Arizona and a laser beam directed from Houston fries Tombstone, I can tell that much.

[10:44] JuMeSyn: Right after Ms Appetit sings a lovely ode to being 'debu', and I know what that means.

[10:44] gaijinmonogatari: "Fat"

[10:44] JuMeSyn: Yep.

[10:45] JuMeSyn: To rub it in even more, she has four sumo wrestlers join in on the dance number.

[10:45] gaijinmonogatari: I really have to play this game, one of these days

[10:45] JuMeSyn: There's a port on PSP, I believe.

[10:45] JuMeSyn: And yes - as an American, you must play it.

[10:45] JuMeSyn: To see the utter madness.

[10:47] JuMeSyn: And plus, because it's fun to play.

[10:47] JuMeSyn: I gave it a 5 when I reviewed it, and I stand by that rating.

Yes, it really was a slow news week for Japandemonium. I really hope next week is more fruitful. Until then, there are always little birdies!

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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