Items found in Japanese convenience stores can be strangely seasonal at times. Drinks are especially prone to this, with particular flavors appearing for a specific season, then vanishing suddenly. The main summer drink in Japan is ramune, a vaguely lemon-limeish drink whose flavor is often refered to simply as soda-aji when used in candy or other non-drink desserts. Summertime in general is a common time for drink makers to put out strange or experimental flavors. Last year, for example, we were treated to Pepsi's cucumber soda. While that one met with understandably limited success, others have done well enough in the past to merit another season.
Here are a few of the more interesting samples this year:
Pepsi Blue Hawaii - It's supposed to taste like the sno-cone flavor, and it does a little. It's better than last year's cucumber fiasco, but then again the same could be said of NetHack's Potion of Slime Mold Juice. This one went down the sink, not down the hatch.
No Calorie Coca Cola plus Vitamin C - While I can appreciate reaching out to the health-conscious people, I still can't stand the taste of diet sweeteners. Bleh. The added flavor of artificial citrus doesn't help either. Double bleh. On the other hand, it does do a good job at removing mildew from my shower.
Ice Cream Soda - This is a nice little cream soda, with ramune as a base. It's actually a lot better than I expected it to be. I'd definitely recommend it.
Ie Island Waji Water Super Carbonic Asid (sic) - This mouthful of a name comes to us from Okinawa. Since the tropics = summer, Okinawan drinks and cuisine show up in many stores during the season. This one comes in two flavors: Pink Dragon and White Soda. They're not that bad, they're not that good, but all in all I didn't have to pour them down the drain like I did that Blue Hawaii drink.
Kodomo Biiru & Kodomo no Nomimono - I had a fun time once trying to explain why these two drinks would probably be declared illegal in America. They're beer-flavored sodas, marketed for children (kodomo) as something they can drink at grown-up parties. These two have been around since forever, it seems - their packaging is even done up in a style more like the early '50s than anything else I've seen. I don't like beer much anyway, so I can't see the attraction.
Lastly, we have a set of drinks that I have heard of, but not yet seen, nor have any intention of trying: takoyaki- (fried octopus), nasu- (eggplant) and kimchee-flavored ramune. These are special, limited bottlings by Hata Kosen, the main producer of ramune drinks. Apparently, they are selling better as souvenir items than they are as drinks, but then again, with flavors like those I wouldn't expect them to be bought for the taste.
Since it's now officially summer, the weather has decided to clear up and break the 90-degree mark on a regular basis. It's still not hot enough to make Blue Hawaii soda look appetizing, but I can see the reasons for the seasonal surge in drink variety. I'm looking forward to the end of the month, which is when Dr. Pepper's four-week appearance in Japanese stores usually commences.
For now, all I have is an excuse to use Japandemonium's first (and most likely only) palindromic column title. Now on with the column!
Japan, like the US, has its share of pop stars. In some ways, the tarento (talent) class is even more prevalent, since Japanese TV is dominated by celebrity talkshows. And of course, there are boy bands aplenty. Such a surplus of musical "talent" has not gone unused by the video game industry. Several Square Enix games have utilized pop talent for their theme songs, and said songs still get some play on the radio over here.
S-E has taken a new approach to their relationship with the pop music world, however, in a new deal struck with popular boy band Ketsumeishi. Their newest album, Ketsunopolis 6 was released near the end of June, and features a familiar face:
Yes, for whatever reason, King Slime is now the star of the show. Square Enix is using the popularity of the group to promote the upcoming remake of Dragon Quest V - Hand of the Heavenly Bride. The question now is, can slimes sing? And, regardless of the answer to the first question, can they sing better than a Japanese boy band? The world may never know.
There are lots of new games this time around. In fact, out of the entire Top 50, twenty-two games are new releases this week, including eight of the Top 10 games. And yet Pokémon Diamond somehow persists.
With a month and a half to go before kickoff, Level 5 brings us some more info on their soccer RPG, Inazuma Eleven. This time, we get to take a look at some of the ridiculously over-the-top techniques to be used on the field.
Pages 1 & 2 are pure action. On the first, there are some defensive moves, including the Spinning Cut and Explosive Punch skills, while a third defensive move, Reflect Blaster, is taking out balls with boulders on page 2. As for the offensive, we have Divine Arrow, Heat Tackle, and Dash Storm. So far, this is looking a lot like Final Fantasy X's blitz ball game, though with a larger variety of tricks.
The top-right corner of page 2 is a different story. There, we can see a three-person formation combo attack, appropriately named Triangle Z.
So where does one learn such elite techniques? At least one is learned from a book, as revealed in a story screen on page 3. The main character's late grandfather was a star footballer in his youth, and one day when young Endou goes to the temple to pray for grandad, he stumbles upon one of the old man's notebooks from way back when. The skill shown, God Hand, is just the sort of thing a young goalie could use. The temple seems to be a central element to many scenes in the game, as the other two shown on the page at least mention it.
On the fourth page, we can see some of the other locales visited in the game -- Denmon Jr. High, the shopping area of Inazuma Town, the old iron mine, and the riverside soccer field. All in all, this game's hinting at depths I wouldn't have expected just from looking at it.
Just a month and a half to go, now.
Are you greedy, petty, and mean? Does the thought of eternal darkness and hellfire excite you? Do you shun the company of others, then blame them for your isolation and seek to punish them? Do all those dogooders just get on your nerves with all that conceited heroism crap?
Well then, friends, we have the sequel of the game for you. Yuusha no kuse ni namaikida, which can possibly be translated as "Heroes are full of it," was a December release that somehow became a sleeper hit for the PSP, with sales steadily rising until mid-January. Now, those evil bastards at Acquire are giving us another time around with the sequel.
As the Lord of Evil, you're endlessly bothered by pesky adventurers wherever you go. To head off the inevitable swarm of conceited self-righteousness, you must supervise the excavation of your own secret lair. Slimes and wisps can be used to "fertilize" the soil with levels of nutrition or mystic power, allowing for different monster types to be spawned. These minions help to expand or defend your demesne.
The only problem is, monsters need to eat, too. In this game, it's minion-eat-minion, as shown with the cute little food pyramid in the scans. In order to kill off those pesky heroes, you'll have to spawn some higher level monsters before they arrive. In order to keep your servants alive till then, a careful balance of low- to high-level monsters is required.
To aid in the eradication of heroic vermin, new minions are at your disposal: golems, fringed lizards, liliths, and giant centipedes (among others) will inhabit the eight dungeons of your dark kingdom.
Those stinkin' heroes won't know what hit them.
Heh. Heh. Heh.
Welcome to the future. The Next Corporation, in cooperation with the municipal government of Tokyo, has taken control of the dilapidated Ward 23, reshaping it into a new paradigm of form, function, and nature. The infrastructure of the reborn "Tokyo XII" is based on a new form of energy being researched by Next. The user-end application takes the form of strange, tattoo-like seals called "mystic stickers," or mystickers in local parlance. Aside from access to any open system in Tokyo XII, the mystickers also let the user project "hard-light" images that have a variety of practical uses.
Predictably, the first thing the youth of Tokyo XII learn to do with the mystickers is how to hit people with it. A subculture of battle and competition, the Blazers, springs up quickly, and it is into this world that the player enters when he starts up Blazer Drive, the new deck-based RPG from Sega.
The deck aspect of this game feels a little like Capcom's Battle Network franchise, with a few mystickers made available at any time in battle. Each character has a permanent mysticker as well, similar to a MegaTen persona, whose attacks may be altered temporarily by the ones from your deck. The hero, Shirou, possesses the fiery Testarossa mysticker. The heroine, Tamaki, uses the Aphrodite mysticker to send thorned whips at her foes. The mysterious Kuroki, he of the ridiculously oversized sword, wields the dark Necromancer mysticker.
I'm keeping an eye out for this one. Those screens of Tokyo XII look awesome, though I do get the impression that someone over at Sega played a lot of MegaTen games in the late '90s, early noughts.
I'm looking at my bookshelf, and I see an old Jules Verne novel, Robur the Conqueror. While it's not his best-known work in America, it presents a title character who is perhaps the prototype for the swashbuckling pirate of the skies. Moreover, the woodblock prints of his airship, the Albatross, bear a strong resemblance to designs later found in Miyazaki Hayao's movies, and thus to almost every airship ever seen in an RPG. One thing I've always liked about Verne's work is the sense of potential in the world, how there's always an adventure to be had or a discovery to be made, if only you go and find it. It gives me a sense of nostalgia, even though I was born almost a century after Robur was penned.
Now, Tecmo and Red Entertainment (the guys behind Tengai Makyo and Sakura Taisen) are doing their best to give me that feeling again, in Wind of Nostalgio (yes, according to the title in Japanese, it ends with an O). This game looks like it was made with Verne and Wells in mind -- a steampunk tour across the 19th century world. Our Hero Eddy and his partner Pad are Londoners born and raised, and much of the concept art on page 3 is based on that city. Paris, Giza, and Delhi also appear in various screens and art, so the story would seem to be as far-reaching as a Verne travelogue.
On page 2, we get a little more info on our characters. Eddy is the son of a famed adventurer, Gilbert, who appears in a few scans on that same page (the Dr. Jones lookalike). His best friend Pad is a Cockney street urchin who is sort of a big brother to many of the kids in the slums. Melody is a conceited little witch from a long line of magicians, while Fiona belongs to (and is possibly on the run from) some sort of secret society.
The game's battle system has been described as "simple and thrilling," which is to say "nothing new here." Attack, Skill, Defend, Item -- that's all there is to it, by these scans. On the other hand, if it works it works. And there might be more to it than what's revealed here. The airship battles offer similar simplicity, though again it feels like they may be withholding a little information from us.
Red Entertainment certainly has had a lot of fun mining the depths of the 19th-century adventure genre here. They seem to have included all the staple locations from the novels, as well as borrowed a large boulder from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The various temples, tombs, and ruins which Eddy explores in his quest to find dad are all full of traps. In addition, some time in the past, the legendary Pandora's Box was opened, flooding the world with monsters and marking the start of the Age of Adventures.
Welcome to a world of magic, where islands float in the sky, and mystic ruins dot the landscape. The young treasure hunter Ragna has found himself shanghaied into helping the capricious Arwen de Moonprier, princess of the vampires. With them are the fairy familiar Roux, and the wannabe ninja kid Subaru. Against them are the feline sorceror Montblanc, and the mysterious girl Ex Machina.
Thanks again go to the vigilant Wyrdwad, who is hell-bent on keeping us aware of his favorite PC RPG franchise from Falcom. Zwei II takes us on a crazy journey which, while dressed up in some very pretty new graphics, is at heart much like its predecessor. There's still the emphasis on tag-team playing, and the food you collect from enemies is still your only source of experience and healing. Any other information on the game, including the point of the story, is not known right now, but I'm sure Wyrdwad will keep us posted.
My titles? My titles, sir Gaijin, are insular references to something I used to discuss frequently with Ourobolos. I shall say no more on this occasion.
Hm... just from this one and the previous letter, I would guess... Duck Tales? For the record, I take no responsibility for the wackiness of letter titles when JuMeSyn is involved.
A couple of questions regarding speech to start things off. While playing Langrisser 3 I heard one character, Kirikaze, repeatedly use the phrase 'gozaru.' The only other character I can recall using this phrase is Himura Kenshin from the ubiquitous Rurouni Kenshin, which makes me wonder what exactly this phrase, aside from seeming to signify outmoded speech methods, means.
Gozaru is an older-style verb used in Japanese. It is now relegated to keigo (polite speech) status, and so is not normally seen in its base form. In the Edo period, it was a common sentence-ending verb, but was eventually supplanted by aru in regular use. Examples:
Sessha no na wa, Mamemaru de gozaru!
Wagahai no na wa, Keroro de arimasu!
Boku no namae wa, Maikeru desu!
All three of these sentences mean the same thing (with the exception of the names). The first is in stereotypical Edo samurai-speech; the second is a militaristic speech pattern that hasn't been current since the 1950s; the third is a fairly normal Japanese sentence. The first two speech types are often found in manga and anime as a way of defining character. Samurai-pattern speakers are usually, well, samurai or ninja, with a feudal Japanese outlook or weapons proficiency. Military-pattern speakers are usually soldiers, or people with pretensions of military power. The character's personal pronoun often matches the speech-style as well.
In modern times, you usually see gozaru conjugated in polite sentences, as in ohayou gozaimasu.
Another question, this one on how characters constantly call out people for having a Kansai dialect. Is a Kansai dialect truly that recognizable in everyday speech, and does it really carry its own unique suffixes (han, for example) and terminology?
Japan was so fractured during the Civil War and Edo periods that many regions developed strong differences in dialect. Kanto, Kansai, Shikoku, North Kyushu, and Kagoshima all have dialects that can be identified, and less obvious variations within each area. The prejudice against the Kansai dialect probably goes back to the end of the Civil War period, when the two main alliances were Kanto and Kansai. Kanto won, eventually, but Kansai still remains the second major population center in the country. There's lots of competition between the two halves, even today -- for example, companies often split into eastern and western divisions, with the headquarters in Tokyo (Kanto) and Osaka (Kansai).
Also, Kansai women have a reputation for being really pushy and bossy. A bit like Lucy Van Pelt, now that I think of it. So, just like the examples above, Kansai dialect is sometimes applied to characters just as a reflection of their personality. Either that, or as a poke at Akira Toriyama (who is supposed to speak with a strong southern Kansai accent, and who often writes dialogue in Kansai-ben).
In fact, I just went back and looked at this old manga I have, and read the dialogue for this one super-bossy, take-charge girl character, and she does use Kansai-ben all the time -- using hen as a negative suffix, or using uchi as a regular personal pronoun (most dialects only use it as a possessive, from what I've seen). This character also identifies herself as a Kansai native.
Now for a really strange question that you just might know the answer to... for whatever reason Kochikame is the current longest-running manga in Japan, but has not and probably will not be translated into official English any time soon. Have you any knowledge on why that might be?
Well, could be because publishers are uncertain about the international success of a Japanese sitcom manga with no fantasy or science fiction overtones. It could also be that no one wants to take on the daunting challenge of translating the 160+ volumes of manga in the series. Too bad, though. The cartoon adaptation is a laugh riot.
And for something completely whimsical... what would be the best title (not necessarily RPG) based on an anime/manga you've ever played? For me the best RPG would be a tossup between Sailor Moon: Another Story and Magic Knight Rayearth on the Saturn.
Hm.. this is harder to say. I'm not always sure which came first, the manga or the game. I'm going to have to go with the PS2 game adaptation of Gegege-no-Kitarou, just because I like that series so much.
What's the Word?
Ohiogouzaimasu gaijin-sama (my japanese reeks of mediocrity)
And a good mid-western state to you too! Dangit, I just had flashbacks to Big Bird Goes to Japan...
In my search for work on the ever amazing Suikoden 6 updates, I found a rumor
that said that some saw an article in a Jump Magazine that Suikoden VI is in
production and is to be made for the Wii. Can you in any way confirm this?
>From the crimsonlion
Well, I have to ask, which version of Jump? There are at least three that I've seen in the convenience stores. Also, around what time did this person see this article? And for that matter, why would such an article be in Jump, and not in Famitsu or Dengeki (neither of whose websites have any information on Suikoden VI)? Rest assured, I'm keeping my eyes open, but I haven't seen anything about that particular title yet. When I do find something, you'll be seeing it on this site soon enough, definitely.
Well, it's now officially summer time, and it's hot as all heck in Kumamoto. I am actually missing the monsoon season now, if only because the cloud cover kept the temperatures low.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,