Japanese fandom can seem like a whole different breed at times, and a lot of it is rooted in the fan culture. Take music, for example. While a few music groups have made names for themselves with game-based offerings, it's still pretty rare in the west to have an entire musical event based on an actual game's soundtrack. For the most part, Final Fantasy has been the primary fare for gamer concerts in the U.S., but in Japan there are live concerts and musical revues based on popular series that happen regularly enough for them to be seasonal events.
A few weeks back I found a video on YouTube that really showcases how different the gaming fan culture can be in Japan, though. Try as I might, I cannot imagine this happening in any country besides Japan.
This appears to be a university orchestra performing a medley of themes from Romancing SaGa 3. Not only that, but several funny but minor scenes from the game (such as the main scene with the Great Hero Robin) get acted out. They even have people pantomiming a typical battle during the combat themes, including signs to declare attack names (in the same font as the game) and fake weapons to throw around for techniques like Tomahawk. The entire thing is part concert, part LARP, and all fanglorious. What I find even more amazing is that all these musicians were college students when this was performed in the summer of 2010. That means they would have been, at most, seven years old when this game was released. Any freshmen in the group would have been toddlers. And yet they and their audience are all familiar enough with it that they get all the silly in-jokes, like the dancing professor skit at the end.
Seriously, could this happen in any other country? Sasuga Nihon.
Is anyone planning a vacation in central Honshu? If so, here's something to check out.
The place is Nagashima Superland, a theme park in the city of Kuwana in Mie Prefecture. Starting July 21st, a new attraction called "Pokémon Adventure Camp" will be underway. The idea is to use special handheld AR scanners to look for and catalogue pokémon throughout the attraction, in addition to the usual quizzes and games. Kids who sign up for the attraction can win special Pokédex Cards, buy special swag items in the shops, and download fossil pokémon for their new copies of Pokémon Black 2 / White 2 (in stores next weekend).
Just last week, Atlus released the promotional video for Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. It's pretty much all animated clips, which I like. There were only a few cutscenes in the original game, and it seems like Atlus is apologizing for that lack by making everything more awesome now.
Atelier Ayesha will arrive in less than two weeks, but there are still introductions to be made. For example, there's one more party member to account for.
Rinka here is a female escort. Wait, that didn't sound quite right... (checks the translation guide again). Yup, that's what gouei otome would translate to. Of course, what's lost in the translation is that gouei means military escort, which would explain the big honkin' sword she's carrying in these pictures. From an early age she was trained to be a professional warrior and bodyguard for hire. For a while now she's been working for Marion, who has a tendency to leap into situations without checking things first. At some point Marion gives an order for Rinka to help out Ayesha, and like a dutiful young warrior she complies. She may or may not be entirely happy about this at first.
Also, her moveset includes such fun things as "Adrenaline Dance," "Valkyrie Dive," and "Checkmate."
That's it for the party members, but there are always other people to meet in Atelier titles.
On the left is Merietta Muir. She runs the shop for Harry's trade company. She's energetic and just about Ayesha's age. On the right is Fred Rodfork, a very serious man who is dedicated to providing the best bread in Fitzberg. In contrast to his big-guy image, he is crazy about cutesy items.
Hopefully, the next time I write about this game will be after I've had a few hours to play it personally.
I don't owe you any letters! I keep proofing your columns! Usually it's really darn easy, but there was that one you wrote at 2am...
I already apologized for that jibe while you were proofing it, no? Thanks for ironically sending in a letter anyway!
My only Japan-related question right now is about Atelier Ayesha. I love the Atelier games, but I hate that it's completely impossible to know when various character and story events are available. Once you've played it, I'd love to hear whether they've changed that in Ayesha. Also, send my love to Bow Boy while you're playing. Hubba hubba!
Yes, it was nice of Gust to include more female-friendly fanservice in this one, wasn't it? Rest assured, I'll be busy typing up impressions at the beginning of July.
Hey Gaijin san,
First of all, I want to say thanks for answering all my random questions. This time I want to ask about travel spots. I'm planning a trip to the western part of Japan this summer/fall. For Kyushu, I'm planning on visiting Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Nagasaki. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on places to visit. I think I'll only have about a day for each city but I wanted to see if there was anything you felt was a must see for those parts.
Thanks in advance
Only a day for each? Does that take into account travel times as well? Fukuoka, Kumamoto, and Kagoshima are all connected by the new Shinkansen line, but Nagasaki will require you to change to a limited express line at Tosu, which takes more time both going and coming.
Fukuoka's definitely got the largest number of draws, like the Fukuoka City museum (showing an exhibition on ghost and youkai art for the months of July and August), the big shopping area of Kawabata and Canal City, the nightlife around Nakasu, and the great shrine of Dazaifu (about half an hour's train ride south of Tenjin Station on the slow train). If you visit in early July you can see all the display floats for the Hakata Gion Yamakasa, and I would also recommend the many temples that stand within half a mile of Gion Subway Station. Shofukuji Temple is the oldest Zen temple in Japan, and Tochoji (right above the station) hosts a very large Buddha statue that's worth a look if you're already in the area.
Nagasaki has two big draws that would be easy for you to do on an overnight trip. The Glover Estate is a historical park that was once the residence of the most influential foreign trader of the 19th century. On the opposite end of the streetcar line is the Peace Park, the Hibaku (A-Bomb) Museum, and the cathedral. If you visit here, I recommend staying at the Majestic. I stayed here the last time I went to Nagasaki, and got a really good deal along with my train tickets. The hotel is literally just downhill from the Glover Estate, and is closely situated to a touristy marketplace and a really good champon restaurant.
Kumamoto has me! I'm not the biggest of tourist attractions, though. If you do come through here, you really should visit the castle. I happen to know where the official grave marker of Miyamoto Musashi is as well, but that's a bit out of the way and not much of a touristy thing. Most of the other neat things in this prefecture require cars or a good knowledge of the bus, tram, and train systems, however. Mount Aso is very impressive, but the summit is only accessible by car or tour bus.
Kagoshima, I've never visited. I should change that sometime. This city boasts the picturesque Mt. Sakurajima, possibly the most active volcano in Japan. You might also check out Ishibashi Park and the Tenmonkan shopping district (probably best bet for local cuisine).
There are a few other cities I suppose I can mention. We can ignore Saga City. That's a place to go through en route to Nagasaki, but I wouldn't seriously recommend it for any sort of tourism. It's kind of like western Nebraska in that way. Kitakyushu is a decent place to live, and has some good theme parks and museums, but I don't know how much of a draw it would have for international tourists. Sasebo and Miyazaki both have some great scenery and resort areas, but would be challenging to visit given their relatively isolated positions and your personal timetable.
That leaves Oita. Oita can be easily reached from Kumamoto if you take the Trans-Kyushu Express (takes about an hour and a half). Oita and its sister city Beppu host some of the finest hot springs in Japan. I'd recommend Beppu over Oita, actually. From there you would have better access to the monkey reservation on Mt. Takasaki, not to mention the nine jigoku onsen. If you want to visit a tried-and-true Japanese tourist trap, this would be the place to visit.
For the past week or so, the Japanese gaming media has had its attention set on E3 just as much as its western counterparts. Unfortunately, that means that very little in way of Japan-exclusive news has shown up on the radar. Sorry if this column was a little short.