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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
kannagi no nijuukyuunichi
Yomigaeru
Konnichiwa

Japan is so full of monster stories that at times it's hard to understand how they could go and import more of the things. Sure, there's the exotic aspect, which is probably why so many RPG developers of old seem to have raided the D&D Monster Manual for ideas. Only a handful of games, like Muramasa or (oddly enough) Pokémon, really showcase Japanese monsters and variations thereof.

Western monsters, on the other hand, have been making inroads for decades. Through the influence of old monster movies in the mid-20th century, such monsters as the Wolfman, Dracula, the Invisible Man, the Mummy, and Frankenstein's creature gained such fame that they're now instantly recognizable to most Japanese citizens. In the second volume of Hakaba no Kitaro, published in the early 60s and precursor to the more family-friendly Ge-ge-ge no Kitaro, the villain was the vampire grandson of Dracula himself. In more recent years they've become common sights on the manga scene. None of these monsters has a direct Japanese counterpart (though vampires have a few partial matches). Cultural assimilation takes time, but the manga industry has stepped up.

There's one other monster that's been a Hollywood export for years, but which seems to have a harder time fitting in -- the plague zombie. The walking dead actually do have Japanese counterparts in the form of kyonshi (hopping corpses) and the general concept of animating dead bodies by sorcery. What's important to note is that these require an outside influence -- be it demons, restful spirits, or black magic -- in order to exist, and they serve the will of their creator. I'd need to research some more, but I'm pretty sure this is standard for animated corpse legends across the planet. The modern plague zombie, independent and contagious, is definitely a creation of the American film industry. While it has undeniable popularity in Japanese games, its appearance in manga came much later than any of the other Hollywood monsters, and its appearance in Japanese cinema is largely non-existent. A thorough search of the Japanese horror section at a major rental store in town turned up four Japanese zombie movies in all. A brief glance through the Western horror section turned up several dozen.

While the Land of the Rising Sun might lack such fun to-dos as organized zombie walks or pseudo-scientific publications on what to do in case of zombies, there are signs that the walking dead are finally penetrating Japanese culture -- signs that go a lot deeper than the relatively young manga and game industries. Signs like this:


About two weeks back, Oo-Edo Ribingu Deddo (Edo of the Living Dead) started showing in select theaters across Japan. What's interesting here is that it's a movie, it's not exactly cinema. It's an archive recording of a kabuki play shown last December at Tokyo's Kabukiza Theater. It features some of the leading actors in modern kabuki, was filmed before a live audience, and has song and dance numbers in between scenes that are obvious riffs and homages to the American zombie horror genre.

While I usually avoid zombie films like the plague, I'm tempted to rent this one sometime.

And with that, Japandemonium arises from the grave!

If there are any gaming vampire geeks out there, this should get their attention. The Japanese Red Cross has joined forces with six gaming companies (Atlus, Acquire, Sega, Bandai-Namco, From, and Marvelous) to enhance the experience a bit at one of their Tokyo donation spots. The Akiba F Blood Center began an event on October 15th featuring "novelty items" for Acquire's Class of Heroes 3. Other events involving other companies are soon to follow. The entire collaboration ends on January 11th, 2011.

OK, I know this is a bit too much, but I pondered the possibility of a text digest version and realized that it would take far too long to even begin to sum up the last two months of sales history. So here's a massive, unwieldy rankings chart instead.

10/11 ~ 10/17 10/4 ~ 10/10 9/27 ~ 10/3 9/20 ~ 9/26 9/13 ~ 9/19 9/6 ~ 9/12 8/30 ~ 9/5 Last seen at... Title Publisher Platform
1 1 1 1 1 New arrival! + + Pokémon Black/White Nintendo
4 3 New arrival! + + + + + Kingdom Hearts re:Coded Square Enix
9 5 New arrival! + + + + + Class of Heroes 3 Acquire
11 16 14 11 10 6 11 Last seen at 11 Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G (PSP the Best) Capcom
13 12 7 2 New Arrival! + + + Yakuza PSP - Black Panther Sega
15 13 5 New arrival! + + + + Okamiden Capcom
21 11 New arrival! + + + + + Class of Heroes 3 Acquire
22 14 3 New arrival! + + + + Zero no Kiseki Falcom
- Off-list 10 New arrival! + + + + Monster Hunter Frontier Online Season 9.0 Premium Package Capcom
- Off-list 24 16 12 7 6 Last seen at 6 Inazuma Eleven 3 Spark/Bomber Level-5
- Off-list 30 10 3 New Arrival! New arrival! New arrival! Front Mission Evolve Square Enix
- - Off-list 22 New Arrival! New Arrival! New arrival! New arrival! Atelier Rorona (PS3 the Best) Gust
- - Off-list 29 - Off-list 30 Last seen at 26 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
- - Off-list 30 8 New arrival! + + Blue Roses Nippon Ichi
- - - Off-list 9 New Arrival! + + Front Mission Evolve Square Enix
- - - - Off-list 20 15 New Arrival! Metal Max 3 Kadokawa
- - - - Off-list 22 17 Last seen at 14 Dragon Quest Monsters Battle Road Victory Square Enix
- - - - Off-list 29 28 Last seen at 28 Harvest Moon - Twin Town Marvelous
- - - - - Off-list 25 Last seen at 17 Hyperdimension Neptunia Compile Heart
- - - - - Off-list 26 Last seen at 19 Kamen Rider Gambaride Card Battle Challenge Bandai-Namco
- - - - - Off-list 29 Last seen at 16 Tales of Phantasia - Narikiri Dungeon CROSS Bandai-Namco

Over the years, Nintendo has made an art out of limited release Pokémon. Ever since Mew came out in the late 90s, there's always been something in the works, some special event on the horizon with the promise of a rare or otherwise special critter to download to one's game. With the advent of the McDS promotion, that's only skyrocketed. There have been seven DLC Pokémon events this year alone, with the most recent, Victini, being announced a month before the game it was intended for even released.

That said, I'm not sure what Nintendo was thinking with the current event.


Meet Kumashun, perhaps Arctachoo or something similarly sneezy in English. He's the current critter available for download. Thing is, he's not particularly rare within a certain level of the game (right before the seventh gym, in fact). The only reason I don't have one yet is because the're not particularly sturdy, either, and I keep KO'ing the little bugger before I can catch him. Apparently this has something to do with his popularity on a Pokémon themed variety show called Pokémon Smash. Gamers started downloading him last Friday, and he'll be available till the 22nd of November.

Source: Famitsu Online

It's been a while since we had a look at Criminal Girls, the weird little "punishment RPG" by Image Epoch. In fact, there was a huge update of material on this game last month, but it happened smack dab in the middle of the site's E3 coverage and got lost in the whole mess. As it's being published by Nippon Ichi, there's a whole lot of material to wade through, and I don't really have the time this week. Let's start with the character intros, and see how far we can get, shall we?

Last time, we met Kisaragi the Greedy, Arisu the Heretical, and Tomoe the... Busty -- three young ladies sent to Hell for specific sins weighing on their souls. It stands to reason that the other four major characters would be in the same straights.



Shin, she of the sea-green hair, is smart and condescending. Appropriately enough, her sin is Arrogance. Not even the Warden can escape a scathing opinion from her. It's unfortunate for her that the game's art style tends towards almost nonexistent noses, as that makes it so much more difficult to look down on folk. The inmate with the scarf is Ran, probably short of ranbo, or violent. Her sin is Wrath, and she's not afraid to express herself with a right hook.



Sako (purple hair) and Yuko (pink hair) are twins, with the matching sins of Indulgence and Indolence (or Gluttony and Sloth if you prefer, but those don't sound as cute). While they're opposites in character, they're also inseperable, and the Dengeki article tries to make that sound as naughty as possible.

Not that they need to make a stretch to have this game sound naughty. When the entire theme of the title is punishment, and the cast is full of cute girls, it doesn't take much. Image Epoch just takes it in weird directions. Like this:



Punishments do more than just improve the girls' attitudes, it seems. From the looks of it, the punishment system actually takes the place of a normal experience system in this game. Different punishments (like spanking and electro-shock) require different amounts of EXP to perform, and result in the inmate gaining new abilities after sufficient torture. Over the course of the game different implements, like the Soft Leather Whip found in the first screen, can be found. Presumably these "enhance" the experience in some fashion. Oh, and there's also cheesecake involved.






Um, yeah, I can see this game cornering a particular market in this country. The article makes a note that the pixelization is NOT present in the game itself. Now we just need NISA to announce it for US release, and await the outcry from some busybody protest group.

Source: Dengeki Online

It's a bit surprising how strongly Bandai-Namco has marketed Solatorobo (on sale now!) is terms of advertising. I've seen some rather nice videos of it in local stores, read lots of coverage in the print media, and now there's this little bit of news from a week ago.

On October 21st, over an 8-hour period of time a hundred commercials for Solatorobo aired on all major networks. If that seems a little excessive, it was intended to be. Bandai-Namco is actually aiming to break the Guinness world record for most airings of commercials for a single product within a given timeframe.

Seriously, for all the attention this game is getting, it had better be good.

Source: Dengeki Online
I don't need to see the entire human anatomy outlined in spandex, I can trust it's all there!

Reputedly, it's pretty obvious when people of Japanese ancestry (say, from across the Pacific) are visiting Japan just from how they don't blend in with their behavior. Would you say that's true?

Gaijin

Um, yeah. Anyone who hasn't gone through the rigors of Japanese basic education simply cannot react 100% like a Japanese person, and those who have grown up in America in particular just have a very different attitude towards life and personal interaction. I'm constantly hearing from my girlfriend that simple things (to an American) like voicing complaints at someone's behavior in public, holding the door for someone, or asking a person who is obviously in trouble if they need help -- all those are "getting too involved" with someone I don't know, and I shouldn't be doing it.

Not long ago, China overtook Japan as the second largest economy in the world. Was there any angst from that development, or was the event glossed over?

Gaijin

As far as it is possible, both. The Japanese are aware that they are no longer the #2, but instead of focusing on who is, it seems that the media is doing a lot of navel-gazing to determine why they aren't, instead.

Are there any dubs of stand-up comedians such as George Carlin or Jerry Seinfeld? If so, what's the result?

Gaijin

I've never seen any of Carlin or Seinfeld's stuff dubbed for Japanese viewing, most likely because their humor is very focused on nuances, double-entendres, and otherwise language-related themes, and that's just difficult to translate properly, even if the target culture has a similar enough point of view that the jokes would be relevent.

Opinion time! Will SaGa 1 ever be remade?

Gaijin

It has been. For the WonderSwan. Will it be remade again, for the DS? I kind of doubt it at this point. If they ever do, I'd expect a lot of reworking and expansion done.

In your highly subjective view, what is the single best Japanese dub job that markedly improved a foreign property?

Gaijin

Star Wars, the prequels. Anakin's voice actor in Japanese just comes off as more, well, living.

How is driving in Japan different from any other location?

Gaijin

Well, driving on the left, lower speed limits, absolute right-of-way to pedestrians (sometimes to the detriment of the flow of traffic), and sundry other little odd rules that I can't recall right now because I've never seen a Japanese driver actually pay attention to them.

We all have to deal with taxes - how do Japanese ones impinge on everyday matters?

Gaijin

I, and everyone else in this country who doesn't do it through their employer, have to pay taxes four times a year. We get a set of payment slips at the beginning of the fiscal year, and deadline dates for each slip. We can pay at any time we feel like we can afford it, up to the deadline. Technically, that means I can pay off the entire thing in April and not worry for the next twelve months. Too bad I can't really afford that.

Has Microsoft given up trying to make the 360 a success in Japan?

Gaijin

When has MS ever given up on anything completely?

The title, well - it's pretty universal. What instigated its utterance was a woman who looked remarkably like Robert Plant appearing onscreen, dressed... use your imagination.

JuMeSyn

Gaijin

I'd rather not, thanks.

Getting Cultured

Dear Gaijin

What's the deal with the cultural festival? I gather that it's a huge event in a student's life. But what exactly is it? Is there a set date for each school for this? Is participation mandatory? What kind of things can you expect to see from one of these festivals?

Xocolatl

Gaijin

Let's answer these in order.

One, it's one of the major events of the school year, right up there with Sports Day and graduation.

Two and Five, it's a chance for the school to show how well cultured the students are, as opposed to the physical emphasis of Sports Day, so there are student performances, exhibitions of class art, music recitals, and more of that sort.

Three, I'm not sure if all schools have it in the same general time of year, but most of the junior high schools in Kumamoto appear to be having it either the week after next, or within the last two. As far as I know, none are having it on the public holiday that's actually called Culture Day (Nov. 3rd).

Four, I believe participation is voluntary, for a very Japanese definition of voluntary -- meaning that it falls somewhere between mandatory and obligatory and you and your parents are awful, anti-social people if you don't get involved.

Thanks for the timely question!

Well, we're back! I wish today's column could have been longer, but I guess it's a symptom of how little free time I've had for anything lately, at least for computer-related things. If I'd had the time, I'd have included two months' worth of Lovely Lady Lab updates, the Fossil Fighters sequel (sure to bring joy to JuMeSyn), and probably the Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright crossover game for the 3DS. At least I have plenty of material for the next column, right? Next update should be in two weeks, three at the latest.

And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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