Surprise, surprise, a column almost a week after the last! That's a rare sight these days in Japandemonium, but hopefully my life is sorted out enough right now to keep this weekly updating thing a regular event.
Today is, of course, a special day. A day for surprises and treats, for scary tales and shivers down the spine. Which is why it's such a letdown to be celebrating it in Japan, where the popular image of Halloween is anything but scary. The Japanese just don't make a mental connection between ghost stories and this time of year. Scares are for the height of summer, when a chill down the spine can help cool you off. Halloween, just like all the other borrowed holidays in Japan, is a commercial matter first and foremost. Instead of spooks and ghouls, we get this:
It's just not the same. The Japanese have some really creepy stories and urban legends floating around, and they never use them for Halloween. So, for your reading pleasure, Japandemonium provides an abridged tale at the end of this column. You'll just have to read through the rest of the articles to get to it. Enjoy.
Some days, it seems like everything Level 5 touches turns to gold -- in particular, anything connected to their newest commercial success Inazuma Eleven. A while back, we mentioned how the company went and formed their own girl band to do the theme music for the game and its associated anime series. Now, they're ready to release the ending theme song as a single. So, let's meet the girls:
From left to right, we have Haruna (17), Natsumi (19), and Aki (14). Together, they form the "idol unit" twe'lv (sic - no caps, apostrophe intentional). I have to wonder if those are stage names, as they're all seasonal in meaning. Haruna (born in autumn) means "spring festival." Natsumi (born in spring) means "summer future." Aki (born in summer) simply means "autumn."
Anyway, you can listen to the song here.
Global A Entertainment has found itself a good niche market, it seems. In the last two years, they've released Dungeon Maker, Master of the Monster Lair, and The World Revolves Around Me, all built on the concept of free-form level building within the framework of a traditional RPG. Now they're expanding the franchise once more with Chuumon Shiyouze! Bokutachi no Sekai (Give the Order! Building Our World).
While we've mentioned this one previously On the Radar, these scans give us more to go on. The main character is one Ikaros Marconi, who's recently signed up with the Adventure Service -- a freelance questing agency which provides whatever the customer wants. In order to fulfill the requests for treasures or monster parts, Ikaros and Co. must venture into the field, which is where things get interesting. Most of the money in the A.S. treasury goes to landscaping and otherwise altering the regions around the city so as to best attract various monster types. For some unknown reason, they put Ikaros in charge of the purse strings.
Ikaros isn't alone in this venture, though. There are at least three other active members of the Adventure Service. First, there's Izumi Grasshopper, a young mage with elven blood who's out to gain battle experience. Next is Gaston Gueul, who's using the proceeds from the A.S. to fund his higher education. Finally, there's Picklock, the mysterious thief who never shows her face, ever.
Overall, this looks to follow the same basic pattern of play set by Dungeon Maker et al., with the day divided into House, Town, and Field sections, each with its own tasks and decisions. Battles are fought out on a six-by-six grid in quasi tactical fashion. If you liked Global A's previous offerings in this sub-genre, you'll probably like this one as well.
Square Enix's experiment in serialized entertainment, Final Fantasy IV - The After, is drawing to a conclusion with its latest and final chapter, "The Moon's Return." For the first time since the whole affair began, the entire original cast is reunited -- alongside a dozen or so new characters and several visitors from our heroes' past. It's been a wild ride thus far, with massive assaults, sneaky forays into enemy territory, journeys of discovery, and at least one failed assassination attempt. The motives of the Lunarians have been unveiled at long last, and hopefully everyone will live to see the Happy Ending™.
One question, though: S-E, where's my Softbank Vodafone version!?
Now I know that there are some Dungeon RPG fans in the house, right? At the very least there's a Zwei!! fan for certain. Here's something that might interest you all. Chaotic Eden is a new dungeon crawler from Konami that's due out for the PC next spring. It features cutesy graphics, "evolving" dungeons that can alter themselves in reaction to your adventures, and an emphasis on cooperative play. While it was designed to be playable as a solo venture, its intent is to be an online RPG. There's even an option to design your own dungeon, and invite other players to help you storm the place.
So, we have a cast of characters available: the adventurous Regal, the inquisitive Miriam, and the bookish Ellia. There's no word as to how the three of them interact in gameplay. Still, looks nice, and a bit reminiscent of Zwei!.
This is a Letter Title
Salutations again Gaijin. My time is limited, the chase must be cut to.
Reading about Yahoo! Japan's horrible security mishap makes me wonder if you've seen any evidence of Yahoo!'s apparent popularity in Japan, along with what people think about millions of accounts apparently being hacked.
Honestly, I haven't heard much about this one. The news over here has been full of stock market woes and ongoing melamine food tainting scandals, but no recent mention of Yahoo. Of course, now that I say that, tonight's broadcast will be full of it.
Then I have a few linguistic queries you are well positioned to answer. I'm uncertain as to the proper usage of terms such as 'da,' 'ni,' 'wa,' and 'yo.' I gather they denote past/present/future tense and/or plurals, but am still rather foggy about the specifics. Any light you can shine upon this would be appreciated.
Whew, OK, you're mostly talking about grammar particles here. Grammar particles fulfill several functions in Japanese. The most basic set (wa, ga, wo, ni, de) serve to identify a noun's place within the syntax. Wa and ga are the topic and subject particles. If a noun has wa after it, that means it's the thing doing the action in the sentence. If it has ga after it, then the sentence is all about it. It's a fine distinction in English, but wa is usually used in active sentences, while ga is usually in descriptive sentences.
Next is wo. Wo is the direct object particle. It is always the direct object particle. That symbol is no longer used for anything but this particular point of syntax, which makes it an easy touchstone for parsing sentences.
Ni and de are a little more complicated. These two are basically for indirect objects, with ni usually being used for locative or directional purposes (on, to, in, etc.) while de is usually used for support purposes (by, for, with, etc.). Note that these two particles do not have a set translation into English, and are not actually prepositions. They just approximate the meaning of a preposition in English, or facilitate the meaning of a preposition in cooperation with other words. Also, the vague description I just gave as to their usage doesn't always hold true, because the logic behind Japanese grammar does not always match the logic behind English grammar. Where we would say, "I read it in the newspaper," Japanese would say, "Shinbun de yonda." "I saw it on TV" would be "Terebi de mita." So, both de and ni can be translated as "in" or "on" under different circumstances. Not surprisingly, one of the things most Japanese find incredibly difficult with English is the use of basic prepositions, because the schools still try to teach direct word-for-word translation.
Finally, there are the sentence-final particles, which help set the tone of the entire sentence. The three most commonly used ones are ka, yo, and ne. Ka is for questions, yo is for exclamations, ne is when you ask for agreement (isn't it?). There are also several particles used for simple declarations, but those are both unnecessary and strongly aligned with gender, region, or social standing.
And by the way, da isn't a particle. It's a simplified form of "desu," which means "it is." Well, more or less means that. If you haven't gotten it yet, Japanese-English translation involves making a lot of approximations.
Another word I'm a bit puzzled over is 'dai.' I gather it means something like 'great' or 'important' but sometimes I hear it used differently. I may indeed be completely off-base with my understanding of the word.
Well, are you sure it's the same word each time you hear it? I can think of at least five words that are pronounced "dai" right off the top of my head. The most frequently used one does mean big or great, and is also used as a contracted form of the word "university." So, Kumamoto University (Kumamoto Daigaku) would be KumaDai for short.
One more word for today: 'gohan.' As was unveiled to me via a joke in Dragon Ball, 'gohan' apparently means either a meal or rice. Any further information on the word would be appreciated.
The symbol "han" or "meshi" means rice, and specifically means cooked rice. "Kome" is the word for raw rice. The word is never used just by itself, but instead always takes an honorific symbol in front, so we say go-han. The honorific is there to show just how strongly Japanese feel for the national foodstuff. They feel so strongly that both gohan and meshi are used in a metonymic fashion to mean meals (since no Japanese meal is complete without the rice). Meshi is much more informal, however.
And one other subject, this one on the imperial line. How do people actually think of the Emperor, and how important in ceremonial things is the imperial family?
That's all I have today. Good tidings be with you.
Well, in day to day life, the Emperor's importance has declined somewhat. Not that this is unusual, given the Emperor's role in Japanese government for most of Japanese history (i.e. non-existent). There's a great deal of sympathy for the Crown Princess, though, and the tribulations over the lines of succession earlier this decade (no male heirs) provoked a lot of discussion over certain sections of the Meiji Constitution.
Kuchi-sake onna, or, "The Grinning Lady"
The year was 1975, and all across Japan elementary school students were telling the story. It had happened in a park somewhere, in some city, perhaps even their own.
Some children were running through the park after their after-school classes had finished, around 7 in the evening. It was late enough that the sun had disappeared behind the apartment buildings, and the street lights had just turned on.
Standing beneath one of the lights in the park was a woman. Just standing there, she was, with a bag under her arm and a paper mask over her nose and mouth. There was nothing strange about that, as spring had begun, and half the country seemed to suffer from cedar-pollen allergies. Still, the children slowed down as they passed her. There was something odd about the way she was staring at them.
She beckoned to them, and they stopped. "Please tell me, " she said. "Do you think I'm pretty?"
Politely they answered, yes of course. She was wearing nice clothes, and her hair was permed and streaked in the latest style. She looked nice enough.
The woman nodded, then slowly removed the paper mask, one handed.
The children gasped.
"What about now?" she said, grinning. And what a grin she had! From one ear to the other her mouth stretched, and the longer she smiled the wider it seemed to become. Blood leaked at the edges, where she had just recently cut it even wider. Her teeth were blackened with the stuff.
"I can make you pretty too," the woman said to the children, as she pulled a kitchen knife from her bag.
Screaming, the children ran all the way home, and told their parents about the monstrous woman. But when the police arrived at the park, the woman had disappeared.
Over the next decade, there were many sightings of the Grinning Woman reported, but no one ever caught her. Wherever another student reported seeing her, all the other children in the area would go into a panic, so much so that the authorities would have to step in to reassure and calm the people. The thirtieth and final sighting was in 1986, and none have seen the strange woman since.
Source: Youkai Daijisho (Big Book o' Japanese Monsters)
Well, so ends the month of October in Japan. Temperatures are finally dropping, almost as fast as the Nikkei Stock Exchange. While I doubt the mercury will be rising anytime soon, I hope the market behaves differently. In the meantime, I'll be hogging the candy bowl.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,