When attempting to teach English to Japanese students, there are a few points of grammar which are inevitably going to be roadblocks which need to be overcome. Most often, these bits of grammar are actually simple and regularly used features of the language, but the problem is that the Japanese language either lacks an equivalent, or the equivalent part of grammar works in different ways.
Prepositions fall into both categories. Japanese as a language does not have a particular set of grammar words which function as prepositions. Instead, they have grammar particles, which do a whole lot of things, starting with designating whether a word is a subject, topic, object, or indirect object in the sentence. Most English prepositions translate into the particles ni or de, the indirect object particles, either by themselves or (more often) in combination with nouns.
The biggest hurdle in teaching prepositions is in many ways a problem of logic. The basic sets of prepositions I have to teach are either about location (on, in, under, behind, at, etc.) or directional (to, from, by, until, etc.). I'll also teach ones that deal with circumstances of actions (with and by). I don't even bother going into the more abstract ones in class. The thing is, ni and de don't squarely translate into any set. Ni can be used to designate either a location or a direction, while de usually means that something is being used, or comes in close contact through action, and can be used with various nouns to designate a location as well. Unfortunately, most Japanese-taught English courses still tell students that specific grammar particles have specific translations into English.
Where does logic fit in? Well, the logic behind English prepositional usage and the logic behind Japanese preposition-cognates made with grammar particles don't really go in the same direction. A perfect example is when we talk about getting information. In English, we speak of a source of information as a location, as in "I read it in the newspaper" or "I saw it on TV." In Japanese, the source of information is treated as an object which interacts with the person speaking. So in Japanese, those two example sentences would be "Shinbun de yonda" and "Terebi de mita." So Japanese speaker who's been taught direct translation for particles would say "I read it by the newspaper" or "I saw it by the TV" instead. Of course, an English speaker would be just as likely to say "Terebi ni mita," which would get some odd looks from the locals.
This is all stuff I have to think about when I plan on tackling this section of grammar. But how in the world does one try to get this across to a bunch of 3-year-olds? You make it cute.
Famitsu Magazine has its fair share of oddball columns and special features. There's a manga section in the middle, there's a pair of serialized novels which have been running for almost a year now. There's the Chirashi Column, which has made one or two appearances on Japandemonium. Then there's a new one, which has apparently only popped up in Famitsu three times so far. I just really noticed it this past week, and I'm still looking for the previous two. The feature? The "Lovely Lady Lab," a bit of fanservice featuring one of the many cute girls who have appeared in popular titles over the years. This time around, an RPG gets featured, and I thought I'd share:
This week, our feature pinup is Sakura Shinguji, heroine and titular character of the Sakura Wars series. By happy coincidence, her cohorts in the Parisian Flower Troupe will have their own musical revue, entitled "Rising Wings of Freedom" at the Aoyama Theater in Tokyo on December 26th and 27th.
For more cute girls, one only had to look at the Tokyo Game Show coverage. Our featured live-action lady is this booth attendant dressed as a character from the upcoming Wizardry remake:
Famitsu and Dengeki also had full articles just dedicated to booth-babes and cosplayers.
We're on a roll here. Not long after I'd realized I had enough gaming girl material to warrant a column section, I found this item in the back pages of the latest Famitsu:
The time has come for yet more bizarrely fetish-y alternative World War II action! Operation World War Moe 2 is go! The original game had a PSP release right on the tails of its Playstation 2 debut, but are they going to follow suit this time? Not quite. Instead, it seems that SystemSoft Alpha is going for a simultaneous release for three different systems: PS2, PSP, and the DS. All the characters from the original game will most likely be returning, as well as a suite of new mechanically-themed ladies, some of whom will be system-specific.
For those who don't remember when we talked about the original game on Japandemonium, this title is a moe-style mecha-girl reimagining of World War II. No, it doesn't seem to take itself seriously. Yes, there are fan-service scenes which we cannot in good conscience show in the column. You all will just have to use your imaginations or play the game.
For anyone interested, the upcoming DS title Iron Master - The Legendary Blacksmith now has its own page on Famitsu up and running, and the game is looking pretty good. I'm going to have to seriously consider this as an upcoming purchase.
For some reason, suguroku style games based on RPG tropes (and vice-versa) seem to be gaining in popularity. There are the Dokapon games, for two, as well as the Square-Enix editions of the popular Itadaki Street. Then there was Suguroku Chronicle which came out in November of last year.
Now we've got another on the way.
Straight from the pages of last week's Famitsu we have Dice Dice Fantasia. Unfortunately, there isn't much usable material on this game at the moment, as neither Famitsu nor Dengeki have anything on it. From the bits seen in the ad, it has a dice-based battle system, equippable items, and random encounters, so it's as much an RPG as any game of this style could be. It's scheduled to be in stores on December 17th.
If anyone feels like seeing more of the game, check the home page.
In Japan, fanbases may overlap in the weirdest of ways. Cameos, cross-references, and inside jokes abound in the manga industry, carry over into anime, and occasionally make it all the way into video games, like how they based a pokémon on an old Japanese comedian at one point.
This extends to mascot characters as well, as we have seen in the past. Sony's own little mascot, Toro the cat, has appeared in several games in the past, both as cameos and as the main character, and sometimes with his neighbor Kuro in tow. Pretty soon, they'll have another cameo to add to the list.
Oddly enough, Toro and Kuro make an appearance in the upcoming Phantasy Star Portable 2. They're running their own store in the game, and are even available for recruitment as level 70 characters.
Yes, Yes, But What Does It MEAN?
Mr. gaijin, I haven't delivered correspondence for you to use as an appendix to the column in awhile, so let's change that.
A prominent toiletry company appears to be thinking of seriously expanding its business abroad.. Do you think the Japanese style of very sophisticated toilets has a chance of catching on anywhere else?
Probably not, just because those things can be quite intimidating the first time you see one.
Japan is set to lose its position as the #2 economy in the world to China within the next couple of years. Does that depress, dispirit, dishearten, or any other adjective you'd care to name, the people you speak with?
Actually, I've seen several news reports on TV about the growing feelings in the populace that Japan needs to slow down, lie back, and take it easy for a while. All work and no play, etc. In part it's the extreme graying of the population, partly it's the disillusionment of the younger Japanese in the traditional corporate culture of Japan, and who prefer the part-time working lifestyle more.
Has the political upheaval at the top of the government actually changed anything substantively yet, or is the DPJ proving not that different from the LPD?
Man, it's only been a month. You don't get substantial political change in that short a period of time without some sort of massive explosion being involved.
On a related note, have Japanese people become as disillusioned with Obama as many Americans seem to have?
Not really. He's not their president, and he's still charismatic.
What game(s) do you strongly doubt will ever leave Japan because of their inaccessibility to anyone else? Doesn't have to be RPGs, even.
The adventure game genre, especially the ones that go in-depth with Japanese social aspects, or have complicated puzzles based around Japanese trivia or literature. Though the Prof. Layton series did get exported... but I think they actually had to rewrite parts of those games to make puzzles accessible to non-Japanese. Besides that, the Super Robot Wars series sort of requires a general knowledge of mecha anime that most people lack. Though Super Robot Wars NEO takes source obscurity to a whole new level.
What RPGs, in your experience, really took off outside Japan but made much smaller impressions in the place they were made?
That should suffice to fill out the column nicely, good tidings be with you.
That's a much tougher question. Pretty much any game that's been exported from Japan had to make some impact in the home country, except maybe some of the random RPGs that Sega and Enix put out in the 90s. Considering how much of a niche genre RPGs remain in the West, and how big they are in Japan, I find it hard to imagine a Japanese game that fits your criteria.
Wow, it's October already? How time flies. And how rain pours. Thursday evening was like unto typhoon conditions over here, seriously.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,