When you have two languages as fundamentally different as Japanese and English, there will always be places where the rules of grammar collide to cause confusion. For example, there are articles -- English has them, and Japanese does not. Then there are prepositions, which are crucial to English but are sometimes translated as conjugated verbs in Japanese. Not even the verb tenses match up half the time. So it should come as no surprise that even something as simple as a pronoun can cause issues for students.
English pronouns differ from their Japanese counterparts in many ways, starting with declensions. I, me, my, mine -- pronouns in Western languages change shape according to how they are meant in the sentence. Pronouns in Japanese do not do this. Instead, they gain part of their meaning from the grammar particles that come after them.
The next big difference is a matter of numbers. English has only seven sets of personal pronouns (eight if you count thou), which are assigned to specific points of view such as first- or second-person. Generally there is only one set for most points of view, except for gendered variations in the third-person (i.e. he, she, and it). Japanese, on the other hand, has six commonly used first-person pronouns and another dozen or so that are considered either too informal or archaic for normal use. There are five common second-person pronouns, with a few rarer ones hiding in the wings. This doesn't even take into account pluralized forms with the -tachi suffix. Oddly enough, Japanese has only three third-person pronouns: kare (he), kanojo (she), and aitsu (that guy). Since the first two can also mean "boyfriend" and "girlfriend," aitsu seems to get the most use nowadays.
So why the plethora of pronouns? The answer may lie in the terminology. The Japanese language has two words for pronouns: shugo (for Japanese grammar) and daimeishi (for foreign grammar). Daimeishi simply means "in place of a noun," which is a pretty good way of describing what pronouns are supposed to do. Shugo, however, is actually the Japanese word for "subject." Many of the kanji associated with Japanese pronouns are actually epithets and carry extra meanings. Watashi simply means "self" or "person," but boku translates as "manservant" and ore as "lord." But in common usage all three mean "I." Likewise, the second-person pronouns include kimi (lord, young sir), omae ([person who kneels] before me), otaku (one's honored house), and anata (noble one). Strangely enough, anata and kisama (lit. "noble," fig. "bastard") have a kanji in common.
What it boils down to is that shugo and daimeishi began as two very different sorts of words which came to perform a common function in the linguistic equivalent of convergent evolution. They're close enough to be translatable, but different enough to be confusing for anyone who assumes the rules must be the same for both.
While they've not always had the best reception in the US, co-op combat RPGs are a big part of the Japanese gaming landscape. Soon, Sega Networks is going to release its attempt at the sub-genre, Demon Tribe, for iOS. Players take on the role of a member of Omega Surveillance, a shadowy organization tasked with protecting the boundaries of Reality and Phantasia, where dwell demons. The boundary itself has been thrown into a state of flux by the surprise explosion of the star Betelgeuse, apparently. In order to do battle, they must assume demonic aspects, becoming closer to the things they fight in order to best defeat them. The characters themselves have a fairy tale theme to them. The known characters include Jack, Snow White, Red Hood, Robin Hood, and Yamato Takeru (a Japanese mytho-historical figure). There are several other characters as yet unannounced.
There are some odd classics scattered amongst the history of Japanese gaming. Madou Monogatari is one of those. Here is a series full of cutesy monsters, silly heroes, and largely nonsensical plotlines. It's hard to count exactly how many games are in the series, as they've been remade, ported, and otherwise stretched to cover as many gaming systems as possible. The majority of them were produced between 1989 and 1998. The major characters have all outlived their own series, as they became the core of the Puyo Puyo series of action/puzzle games. A single cell phone port aside, there hasn't been a new iteration of Madou Monogatari in fifteen years. Until now.
While Puyo Puyo went to Sega when the original development company, Compile, dissolved in 2003, the bulk of the studio's RPG developers went to work for Idea Factory as the newly founded Compile Heart. Whatever might be said about the games they've made since then, these guys have a long history in the industry. Somehow, they managed to hold onto the Madou Monogatari IP, at least enough to reboot it and produce Sei Madou Monogatari.
Since all the original Madou characters are still attached to the Puyo series, Compile Heart has made a clean break by letting a new heroine be the star of the show. Pupuru was a student at the great academy of magic, until the time came for her graduation exam. She was sent into the Tower of Sorcery to retrieve the Sorceror's Orb, but things didn't turn out quite right. Instead, she returned with Kuu-chan, an odd little lifeform with a big appetite. After Kuu-chan ate the Orb, Pupuru found herself expelled from the academy and forced to explore the wide, dangerous world with just her new, squishy sidekick. She did come out of the tower with one thing of value, however -- a handwritten recipe for a magical curry. As the fate of her favorite curry restaurant hangs in the balance, she travels in search of all the necessary ingredients while avoiding the schemes of her rivals at the big curry restaurant chain. The girl on the right is Puni, a weird girl who strongly believes in the existence of the Great Curry God, and that Pupuru is His prophet. No, this is not a particularly serious game. Yes, the original Madou titles were just as silly, so this is at least keeping with tradition.
Sei Madou Monogatari is expected to arrive on the PS Vita on March 18th.
Japan has a long history of making video games based around the titillation factor more than any other aspect of gameplay, and Dungeon Travelers 2 (the second RPG spin-off of the To Heart series) is no exception. While it doesn't quite reach the levels of Queen's Blade or the upcoming Monster Monpiece, there are still plenty of media that I'm frankly embarrassed to put in this column. An issue of Famitsu earlier this month had an article showcasing the game's class system, however, which seems to be safe enough.
The five characters shown here each have a unique base class as well as several upgraded forms according to what looks to be a basic Order/Chaos or Light/Dark choice dynamic. Some of them have more potential class choices while others show considerably more skin as they progress. It's a delicate balancing act. But with starting classes like Maid or advanced classes like Joker or Starlet, there's a lot of variety.
Dungeon Travelers 2 is arriving on March 28th for the PSP.