One day last week as I was prepping for lessons I decided to put on some music to lift my spirits. A student arrived ten minutes early, right in the middle of Tom Petty's "Refugee." She listened for maybe ten seconds, then firmly pronounced it to be henna uta, or "weirdo music." She's only five, though, and still thinks that Precure is where it's at. Still, she made me feel old in a way that white hairs or the looming prospect of entering my fourth decade of existence do not.
If I had to pick a place to be old, however, Japan would seem to be a decent choice. With 21% of the population beyond retirement age -- and a significant percentage more approaching that point -- the support structure for a true gerontocracy is definitely in existence. One of the current debates in the Diet is over whether or not it would be worth the risk to ease visa requirements for foreign caregivers (mostly Philipina or Taiwanese), or whether the nation would be better served by developing truly functional robot servants. I swear I am not making that last part up.
The other major concern is for the upcoming generation gap. By the end of the next decade, the over-60s will outnumber the under-20s by a factor of at least three-to-one, probably more. With the current life expectancy in Japan, that gap's only going to increase.
What to do? That's a question that's been plaguing the Prime Minister's office for the better part of two decades. I still think the smartest PR decision Aso made after he took office was to appoint Yuko Obuchi as the Minister of State for Social Affairs and Gender Equality. Besides being young enough to be the daughter (or even granddaughter) of every other member of the Aso cabinet, she was also quite pregnant with her second child at the time of her appointment.
If there's one place that doesn't need encouragement in that regard, it's Kumamoto. Of the seventy-some students I work with every week, I can count the number of single children on both hands and have a finger or two left over. I have a lot of sibling pairs in my classes, as well as a set of twins and a set of (thankfully non-identical) triplets. Pretty much everywhere I go in this city, I see large families. I fully expect the future of Japan to speak Kumamoto-ben.
Last summer, the nameless game brought a short reign of terror to the DS, then vanished with the heat of summer. Lately, however, something strange is going on with the nameless game's official site:
In fact, everything on that page has been flipped backwards. There's no word yet on what this may portend, but this would be about the right time of year to announce a July release, so....
Here's a new game to add to the list: Hottarake no shima - Kanata to niji-iro kagami. That's a bit of a mouthful, isn't it? The best translation I can make of it is Island of the Abandoned - Kanata and the Rainbow Mirror.
The main character, Kanata, is a kid struggling with the reality of living with two very busy parents -- namely, he feels lost and abandoned. They don't have the time for bedtime stories, or even make it to his school's sports day on time. He's never felt so lost as he is now, though. Some crazy guy in a bad comic-book Nazi helmet has snatched him up and dropped him on the Island of the Abandoned, a crazy junkyard full of everything that has ever gone unwanted.
Everyone on the island is dealing with abandonment issues, it seems. Toys that find their way to the island tend to have a will of their own, and few are happy to be here. Kanata can gain allies and weapons by fixing what he can, but he still has to face kamikaze pool balls, berserk toy tanks, and gigantic demented teddy bears.
This game is apparently a tie-in to an upcoming CD animated film, Isle of the Abandoned - Haruka and the Magic Mirror, which comes to theaters on August 22nd.
It's been a while, but Level 5 and Studio Ghibli have deigned to release unto the gaming masses more information concerning their upcoming collaborative work, Ni-no-Kuni. As is traditional for a Ghibli-related project, it already has a secondary title in English -- The Another Country. I'll take that as a good sign.
My, this game looks pretty. I'm still not sure what to make of this title as an RPG. Its designers have never described it as anything but a role-playing game, but for all we have seen of The Another Country, it could be the first major RPG to do without combat. Ghibli fans should be delighted at the sheer amount of cutscenes that seem to fill the game.
From what's known of the story, there'd seem to be enough room to leverage in any amount of standard RPG material. At the same time, it's almost typical Ghibli fare. Not long after losing his mother, young Oliver discovers that the little doll she'd given him years before is actually Shizuku, the fairy of tears who had been bound and banished to the mundane world by a dark magician. Shizuku leads Oliver on a quest through Oliver's hometown of Hotroit and the Another Country, where everything is familiar and strange all at once, where the town fat cat can be a king, or the owner of the local dairy a queen. Every major character in Hotroit appears to have a mirror-double in the Another Country that somehow reflects their dreams, hopes, or hidden personality quirks.
Regardless of how it plays as a game, I'm going to buy this for what it is -- an interactive film, written by Level 5 and illustrated by Ghibli.
I think we should just reserve one part of the column each week for boob-related humor and bad innuendos. There certainly seem to be enough risqué titles on the horizon to fill out any spaces handily
Or not fill out, as the case may be. We have more screens of D3's new Tactics Layer ~ The Ritinagard Chronicle, and it's painfully obvious that the girls in this game need to eat more. Seriously, how can anyone lay the smackdown on the fairytale bad guys when they look like Kate Moss protègées?
Oh well, at least we know where it's all gone. Can they do transplants for that sort of thing these days?
I had a surprise waiting for me in the mobile phone section of the latest Famitsu: Star Ocean. Not a gallery photo, not a ringtone, but an actual game from the series. Star Ocean : Blue Sphere is the direct sequel to Star Ocean : The Second Story, featuring all the characters from the first game on a new planet to explore.
The thing is, I already own a copy of Blue Sphere. It's a GameBoy Color title lying somewhere in my "get back to it eventually" pile. The bits we can see in the scan for the mobile version look nicer from what's in my copy. If it weren't for the title logo featured prominently on the scan, I might have assumed it was a completely different game. I have yet to find any screens for this on Famitsu, though I'm sure they are forthcoming. All we have at the moment is this scan, and some old screens for comparison:
So I have to ask -- why has S-E put so much work into a remake, and then limited it to the cell phone networks? Will there be plans for a Wii-lease at some point? Star Ocean has turned into one of their big-name franchises, so I can't see them leaving things as they are right now.
Just wanted to wish you luck in avoiding the swine flu.
Also, I wanted to point out that, while I personally wouldn't want to live in Shibuya ward, those prices actually aren't that bad. I mean, you always hear about how expensive it is to live in Tokyo, but overall, those prices are MUCH better than what you find here in Long Beach, CA.
True, the prices weren't the worst I'd ever seen. But still, for what they were charging for the rooms in the middle of the price range (most of them listed as single-room with a bath), one could rent a place with two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchenette in Kumamoto. If you want truly overpriced real estate, however, go to Roppongi.
Thanks for the well-wishes! I'm making extra-sure to take allergy pills regularly, because the last thing I want is to start sneezing on the train and get lynched or something.
Gaijin to gaijin
First of all I'd like to say that I'm a fan of your column, though until I started learning Japanese (studying in Yamagata since last September) it was good mostly only to show what sort of games we probably would never see on our shores. Now I've recently picked up a Japanese PS2 along with a copy of Super Robot Taisen Z and Persona 4. It does indeed help expand the vocabulary.
Anyway, I was reading about one of the games you covered, Nuga-Cel, and thought it sounded amusing, though as it is being produced by Idea Factory I see little hope for it seeing a U.S. release. Still, I was a little confused that Maya is not the protagonist, but rather his/her "childhood friend" and noticed that there was no other character shown who could be said protagonist. Then I noticed the word é›¶åœ° in regards to the protagonist, which is something I don't understand, but I'm guessing means something like 'not there'? Which leads me to believe it's either something akin to Fire Emblem 7's strategist self-insert or an eroge self-insert character (the former of which I'd have no issue with). If it's not a bother could you help me by providing a few more details regarding this game?
Justin in Yamagata
Anyone who wants to see what those symbols really look like should reset their text encoding to UTF-8. This can be done by right-clicking and choosing "Encoding" (for Explorer), or under the View section of the toolbar (for Firefox).
In any case, if the game's protagonist were nameless, he'd probably be listed as shujinkou. What you've got there is apparently the main character's name kanji, Reiji, spelled out with the symbols for "zero" and "ground." Don't know how I missed out on the guy's existence, though. Thanks for pointing it out!
And in closing, I did something very stupid this week. On a friend's Facebook, I ironically commented that I missed Oklahoma weather. Well, Oklahoma weather has apparently decided to visit Japan, because this week has been the strangest in a long time, meteorologically speaking. And rainy season is still on the horizon... Time to get spare umbrellas, I guess.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,