While playing some Tales of the Abyss last week, I came across an item description that surprised me. "Lemon: a popular fruit with a very difficult kanji." Up to now, I'd been unaware that the word lemon had kanji at all. While there are a lot of citrus with their own symbol or symbol combination (like yuzu, kabosu, ponsu, hyuganatsu, or shekwazah), they were all developed in Japan, Korea, or Okinawa. Lemons are 100% foreign. As it happened, a stop by a convenience store the next day helped here.
Yes, it's time for a summer drinks update! This summer, we have Skal's new lemon flavor, made with produce grown in Setouchi, Okayama Prefecture. It is no the only drink on the shelf to feature fruit from that region (it seems to be the "in" thing this season), but it is the only one to incorporate those two kanji into the label. Both symbols mean "citrus tree" by the way. Most likely they originally refered to two different varieties of lemon from China. Together, they'd normally be pronounced "nei-mou", but the pronunciation "remon" has been assigned to them by grand fiat.
Not a bad drink, though!
As anyone who has visited Japan should know, there's one being whose presence may not be ignored. She is ubiquitous. She is indefatigable. She is eternal. She is... Hello Kitty.
Seriously, the world's cutest and most famous mascot is literally everywhere in this country. Whenever something new rises to popularity, she and her Sanrio masters will find a way to include her in the party. Case in point:
Yes, those are the Monster Hunter mascot cats below. Yes, that is Hello Kitty with them. No, I do not know why it took them so long to try this. I have already seen "MonHan Kitty" folding fans in local convenience stores though.
And in the spirit of fair play, the MonHan kitties cosplay as Hello Kitty characters. You cannot escape their baleful eyes...
When asked to describe Atlus's GBA title DemiKids in five words, Nyx put it best: "My God, an utter turd." While this may not be the fairest of reviews, it can't be denied that DemiKids was lacking in the areas of interaction and general ease of play. Still, it had cutesy renditions of the MegaTen bestiary, and if Hello Kitty has taught us anything it is that cute conquers. Because of this, Atlus has decided to give the series one more try.
Atlus is launching a new social game on Japan's GREE network, and yes, it's DemiKids. To use the Japanese title, it's Devil Children. In this game, the player can choose one of the original games' main characters, or a new character named Mirai, and shape his or her destiny as the young devil summoner matures from grade school to college. Character designs are by Yuuji Nishimukai, who did the job for the Etrian Odyssey series.
Much like in the normal MegaTen games, the player has to fulfill quests to get or strengthen their demonic servants. Demon fusions, both normal and with special conditions, are of course possible, and there are rare demons out there to discover. Also, once a day the player can participate in a tournament battle.
Hopefully, Atlus has made this one easier to work with.
I'd like to thank RPGamer's own Chloe Kung (a.k.a. Varie) for this next bit. As of last Tuesday, Ride-On Japan has a new game available for download for the PSP. The title is Fushigini no Kuni no Bouken Sakaba Portable, whose official Engrish translation is "Adventure Bar in Wonderland."
In the kingdom of Kassel, in the city of Massheim, there's a little pub called Speck. That's pronounced "shpek." According to JuMeSyn, it's also the German word for bacon. Whatever you want to call it, the owners of Speck are in a bind. Sheila and Camelina inherited the place from their late parents. Now they're being harrassed by Gustaf, the owner and operator of the biggest pub in town, the Seventh Heaven. It's his intent to force them out of business so he can buy the land cheap. The only hope the sisters have is to make a name for themselves and for their pub, and an opportunity presents itself in the form of a citywide cuisine contest. If they can make a good showing in the contest, Gustaf won't be able to do anything to them.
This game definitely falls within the "meister" subgenre, much like the Atelier series, but this time it's all about food. Cuisine is strongly linked to character leveling. Some foods raise stats for short periods of time, others heal their ills. To get ingredients, however, Sheila and Camelina will need to get out and dirty their hands. The game has more than ten sorts of dungeons to explore, and some 400 recipes in total. As Sheila and Camelina improve their skills and Speck's ratings increase, more dungeons and towns become accessible.
Of course they're no going to be doing this alone. They've already pressganged their friend Fret, and pick up someone else named Alfine along the way. In most respects, this really is looking like an Atelier clone. Anyway, it's available now for download to the PSP, and costs 600 yen.
The Industry's Heating Up
How have you been? Where I live, it is hotter than Africa. And I live in a small Central European country. With all of these climate changes, I can now grow olive trees which is something that could not have been achieved in the past. It is that hot.
It seems like it's too hot everywhere these days. My hometown has been in the mid-40s C (100+ F) for over a month now.
Anyway, I wanted to ask you this: how well do Japanese games fare in today's market? With everything that has happened in Japan, it seems that most companies are focusing on handhelds. I do not have a problem with that since I mainly play on my PSP and DS. I do, however, have a problem with the questionable nature of some these games. It seems that the Japanese are really focused on hedonism principles. It is what games do after all. But some titles take it a bit too far. Would you not agree? From To Heart 2 Portable and Moe Moe 2-ji Taisen Ryoku and all the way to Queen's Blade: Spiral Chaos a pattern seem to be forming. Pretty girls with panties that serve as armour and cucumbers that serve as weapons (if Senran Kagura for the 3DS is any indication). It is nothing new and I know that the economy is pretty bad, but I think they have really taken the motto 'sex sells' to heart.
What is your take on all of this? Maybe I am just exaggerating, reason why I am asking someone who actually lives there. Japan has been through a lot so maybe I am being too harsh.
I think there are several things coming together here. First, there's been a decent amount of this in manga for decades. It's also a major part of the doujin markets, from whence ToHeart and Queen's Gate originally sprang. True, there's a lot of things in doujin circles that are safe for all audiences, but there's a major subset of the culture that practically invented Rule 34. Over the last decade, though, it seems like the official stance on risque material in commercial publication has softened. Manga illustrations have been getting progressively more detailed in certain aspects, and pornographic manga have become more common and more numerous outside of the specialty bookstores. At the same time, the PC market (long the home of doujin games and softcore porn adventure titles) has been making the move over to consoles for years. Utawarerumono and Fate/stay night both had very graphic (and optional) segments that had to be removed for their non-PC releases. ToHeart is a PC series that has built its popularity on the cheesecake factor, and it makes sense for the devs and publisher to promote that aspect as much as possible.
As for Queen's Gate... I'm beginning to wonder if they're intentionally pushing things as far as they can as a sort of social statement, like that urban legend about Power Girl's steadily increasing bust size. I'm planning on having just one more QG update the week after next (the day after the game is released in stores). If you think the game's hit the borders of bad taste now... whew.
How is everyone doing there anyway? The international reports have stopped since the tragedy.
Stressed, tired, worried, slightly paranoid. There are daily news stories concerning varieties of dangerous radiation, and it's hard to make sense of it all at times. The government's recently started a series of stress tests on all the major reactors across the country, just in case.
On a different topic, do you happen to know a good site that I can use to translate Japanese text to English? What dictionary do you use when there is a word, phrase you do not know? The sites I do know (one, and two) are pretty bad. They only translate half the sentence.
I am not even going to mention google translate.
I usually don't rely on translation programs for full sentences. Like you said, they're not really that accurate. For individual words, however, they can be a bit more useful, though I have to parse the sentences out on my own. One of the bigger problems is that most games and gaming websites don't use "standard" Japanese throughout, but include lots of abbreviated grammar, alternative forms, or pure slang, and that just gives translation programs fits. Anyway, I use Mahou.org when I need a handy kanji reference.
I have once again managed to send a long mail so I am just going to stop here. Take care now and have a fun summer!
I shall endeavor to do so. You too!
Someone Else's Two Cents
I read your recent column on RPGamer, and wanted to answer a question you had about how ten yen coins could prevent smelly feet. Ten yen coins are 95% Copper, 3-4% Zinc, and the rest is Tin. Both copper and zinc are known to have antimicrobial properties. These properties are only recently being investigated by modern science, however anecdotal evidence and common wisdom suggest they have been "known" for many years. Since the smelliness of feet is caused by bacteria, the antimicrobial properties of the metals in the coin could prevent the smell.
This is likely the explanation for this Japanese "superstition", which is probably a correct superstition. I don't know about the temple on the back of the coin, and what it's about, but that may also figure in to the collective belief.
That makes about as much sense as any other reason. It even has that certain smack of scientruthiness that the Japanese love in their talk shows. That temple on the back of the coin is the Phoenix Hall of the Byodo-in temple complex.
Thanks for writing in!
Sorry for the relative shortness of this column. It's been an odd week. The weather's been following a pattern of sunny and blue in the morning, clouding up around noon, dumping a week's worth of rain in an hour or two, and then cleared up by late evening. That's what happened Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Wednesday's bout poured down more water in two hours than my home state has seen in two months (I exaggerate, but only slightly). It hasn't done much to improve my mood or my productivity.
Next week is a summer break, which means no lessons for me. Instead, I get to come in during the day to clean stuff up around school. So... I'm taking a break from JP for a week. See you all on the 29th!
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,