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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
shigatsu no juu-shichi-nichi
Yasetai
Konnichiwa

So Easter has passed, and the Lenten season is over and done with. I no longer feel obliged to eat only seafood on Fridays or abstain from sweets. The first was annoying at times, but I think I'll stick with the second, now that I've picked up the habit. The thing I like about Lent is that if you're fairly active and stick to your personal promises, it's a great time to lose weight in Japan. Not that I shall ever be thin by Japanese standards -- for one thing, my physical build is simply too large, with or without a spare tire. But there's just so much opportunity to do so.

For a nation of fairly thin people, the Japanese sure obsess about weight. The burgeoning threat of fast food overtaking the traditional Japanese cuisine in popularity has something to do with it. Even so, it's not that easy to become overweight in a Japanese public school. P.E. is mandatory through to the end of high school, and the teachers take it quite seriously. The traditional Japanese meal is full of vegetables and fish, with precious little red meat. The national obsession with rice makes dieting schemes like the Atkins Diet difficult to manage without spending a fortune on yakiniku (Korean barbeque), but then again few people would even consider it.

Still, the Japanese fad out over exercise machines, black vinegar drinks (yum!), and an ongoing array of questionable dietary supplements and plans. And let's not forget the brou-ha-ha over the miracle natto diet two years back.

As for myself, I shall be happy if I can keep off the kilos lost in the past forty days or so. Even if it does mean I need to ration my Skittles.

Let's start things off with a bit of swag, shall we? Anyone who's been keeping up with Sega's recent title Seventh Dragon knows that the game's character designs are a little odd. Almost bobbleheaded, in fact. So what sort of cute, collectible item should we expect to come from this?






Well, they're not exactly bobblehead dolls, but they're close. Sega and Takara-Tomy have brought five of the game's cutest characters to the capsule machine as little figurines. They're available for 300 yen each, until the end of July.

In much weirder swag news, Acquire Games has chosen a novel approach to advertising their upcoming waterworks RPG, Dungeons & Dam. Seeing as how the game involves the construction and management of a large dam, with myriad pipes and conduits involved, Acquire apparently decided that there was only one place truly fitting for specialized merchandise:


Yes, the humble commode. For a limited time, Acquire is selling Dungeons & Dam themed toilet paper. If I see one of these, I'm going to grab it just for the entertainment value.

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
4 Up from 5 Mario & Luigi RPG 3 Nintendo
7 Down from 2 Super Robot Taisen K Bandai-Namco
8 Down from 4 Disgaea 2 - Dark Hero Days Nippon Ichi
28 Down from 24 Harvest Moon - The Wishes of Sugar Town Marvelous
Source: Famitsu

Later this month, the Pokémon series will find itself with yet another game to add to the lists: Pokémon Dungeon - Sky Explorers. As the bossman commented, they're still making these? Apparently so, as can be seen by these screens:









As should probably be expected from a Pokémon title, it looks to be more of the same, just with a few more options and places to see. Fans of the previous games, be happy. Everyone else, feel free to ignore.

Source: Dengeki Online

So you want magic, huh? The ability to call forth eldritch power with just a wave of your wand? The skill to rain fiery death upon your enemies? The right to prance around in a gown and not feel like a total prat?

Well, I'm sorry, but that ain't gonna happen. Nintendo and Taito are willing to provide a placebo for your wizardly withdrawal, however, with the upcoming real-time strategy title, Takt of Magic (takuto is Japanese for baton or wand, from German apparently). Join young Orville and his friends as they take up swords, bows, and staves to repel the invading Imperial forces.





No, this isn't a particularly innovative plot at first glance, but it serves its purpose, namely to give us all a chance to wave our Wii-motes in the air like we just don't care. Spell-casting in Takt of Magic is performed by writing a selection of magic runes in the air with the Wii-mote. There are four sets of runes (perhaps more) which, when combined properly, evoke all sorts of mystic mayhem. For those of a more competitive nature, a Wi-Fi challenge mode will let you pit your wand-waving skills against foes from across Japan, and perhaps the entire world if and when this game comes to other shores.

Though the Famitsu article does not say anything about this, I'm pretty sure this is an informal sequel to the 2006 DS title Lost Magic. It has similar art, is played in a similar fashion, and some of the runes even look to be the same.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

It's been quite a while since we've heard anything from Level 5 about Inazuma Eleven 2, the sequel to their incredibly successful soccer-RPG hybrid of last summer. In fact, we haven't really heard anything since September, when Level 5 gave out basic information on the game in their pre-TGS extravaganza. Now, we have a little more info, or rather, one singular piece of information -- the release date. Enthusiastic soccer fans across Japan can now look forward to taking their team to the final frontier on October 1st, 2009. For those who've forgotten what the game looks like, here are some more screens:










I'm still wondering when Level 5 and Nintendo will realize that there are Americans who like soccer too. Many of these soccer fans, perhaps even a majority, are even in their target age range. Oh well, silly game publishers....

Source: Dengeki Online

So.. you wanna get something done, something done?
All you gotta do is go to my Rorona!
She'll hook you up with something fun, something fun,
So make your way over to my Rorona!

Mad alch'mic skills, sweet science,
At her beck and call,
Ask her for anything, 'cuz after all
Y'know she's got it all.

My my my my my WOW!
Muh-muh-muh-my Rorona!

... I don't know what's more pathetic, the fact that this was my original reaction to Atelier Rorona, or that I had to base it on the Weird Al version of the song because I haven't heard the original in ages.

In any case, we have some pretty new scans for you all to look at. The screenshots are nothing we haven't seen before, but now we can get some character info.






First and most obvious, I goofed on how to spell the main character's last name. I like to make bets with myself over how close I can guess the Western form of the name from katakana. Looks like I owe myself lunch now. Anyway, the first two pages show Ms. Rororina Fryxell at her perkiest. On the second page we see Hom the Singular. From the name, I'm guessing homonculus. From the game dialogue shown on the page, along with the screens and the art, I'm guessing that Hom is both the girl and the boy shown on the page. Rorona looks a bit shocked about this.

On page 3, we have Yksel, who works as a chef and has known Rorona for a long time. The other guy is Sterkenburg, this game's iteration of the serious knight archetype (there's one in every Atelier game, seriously). On the last page, the first woman is Astrid, Rorona's mentor and the one who created Hom. The girl in the halter top is Lionela, a local connoisseur of stuffed animals. Last is Cuderia von Feuerbach, another long-time friend of Rorona's, who's apparently as stuck-up as she is rich.

Not much else is known about the story at this point, but then again, this is an Atelier game. Character interaction is pretty much the whole of the story in these games.

While I might have wished for a better (or any) reaction to the April Fools' Pokémon spoof pictures, I did get one request to see the original sketches. First, let me lay a little groundwork here. Often in Japanese elementary schools, when kids hand in their homework, the teacher will draw a quick spiral shape on it in lieu of a letter grade to show it's been checked. Many teachers will add extra touches to turn the spiral into a flower or a smiley face. I figured, to heck with that, let's get creative! Now, whenever one of my students brings back finished homework, they get a little doodle done in crayon. Usually they want a Pokémon of some sort, and I've gotten to the point where I can free-hand caricatures of two or three dozen different critters without references.

Now, in one of my really high-level classes, the kids and I have had occasional bouts of Pokémania in class. One of the funnest examples is where we challenge each other to make up creatures based on whatever types the challenger chooses, and then have to present the thing to the class. I'd have the kids make up names, choose attacks, and one time we even made up an entire story episode based around the things we'd made up that day. This is where the following pictures come in. When I'm bored, I'll just make stuff like this up. No real reason -- it's just good drawing practice. Here are a few of the results. Some of these were used in those spoof pics, but a lot were not.
















Lump Beefbroth! Thick McRunfast! Slab SquatThrust! Fridge Largemeat!

Salutations to you once again Mr. Gaijin. I have a few queries that you may be able to untangle (such a surprise, I know). According the last Economist I read, Japan's exports have decreased 50% from this time last year. Have you seen any indications as to whether this is fully accurate? How is the worldwide slump affecting your neighborhood?

Gaijin

Well, I've seen a few businesses here and there close up shop, but otherwise things aren't looking so bad here in Kumamoto. How it is in Tokyo, I have no idea however. We're only 600 miles apart, but the two cities might as well be on opposite sides of the planet sometimes. Food prices are staying even, and while the cost of gas has gone up, it's still nowhere near as high as it got last summer.

In your entirely unscientific estimation, what proportion of RPGs do you think stay in Japan?

Gaijin

Fewer and fewer every year, it seems. Let's hope that trend continues.

We were discussing how shonen, shojo and seinen (among other categories) are used to categorize manga. Would you say that video games are affected by the same age/gender classifications? And if they are, why are the vast majority of Japanese-developed RPGs seemingly catering to to the shonen demographic?

Gaijin

For clarification, shonen refers to a boy in elementary or junior high school. Shojo refers to girls in the same age range. Seinen usually refers to high school or university-age folks. The three demographic groups are the most common divisions of manga genres, with shonen getting the lion's share of the action/fighting stuff, shojo getting more of the relationship and romance stuff, and seinen getting an equal measure of everything, but with more mature subject matter. Yes, these are very, very broad definitions, but then again, so are the demographics. Each set includes a lot of different genre types, and genres that started in one area (like fighting and mecha for shonen) have migrated to another at times. There's a better case for exclusive art styles for shonen and shojo, though, and it's quite easy to tell what part of the comic book store one is in just by looking at the artwork or the dominant color of the bindings. Just remember that the "Boy's Love" genre is also included under shojo, and be very careful while browsing.

As to why so many RPGs fall into the shonen class, there are a few likely reasons. One, shonen manga tend to have more stories that can be adapted into fantasy or science-fiction based games. Two, even though the section means "young boy," girls read shonen manga too, as do a lot of adults (the power of nostalgia, etc.), but the reverse can hardly be said of shojo manga. What it comes down to is that shonen manga has the broadest possible demographic appeal of the three age and gender groups, and has a lot of possible material at hand for use.

How long do you think it would take to properly categorize all the Super Robot Wars titles for this site?

Gaijin

Depends. If they keep cranking out titles the way they have been, you might have to pass the legacy on to the next generation at some point...

Outside of Akihabara, is there any good place to find soundtracks for older games that exist (according to the Video Game Music database) but are really obscure? Which musical artists we're familiar with (use your discretion) never attained any recognition in Japan? Is anyone looking forward to the election that apparently has to take place by September? That's all I have for now. Hope it didn't get too bizarre.

JuMeSyn

Gaijin

Honestly, I have no idea where to go hunting for obscure music in Japan. Anyone in the audience wish to ring in and provide us with an answer?

Also, I'm not sure if anyone is looking forward to this election. Japan's government is still very much about backroom political dealing, and campaign season just means more people will be out with vans and huge sound systems giving speechs on the road. Elections equal public nuisance in this country.

Thanks for writing in, JuMeSyn!

Remember what I said about rationing the Skittles? I lied. The fastest way to remove temptation is through my stomach, so away they go! I just wish they were easier to get over here, really.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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