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JAPANDEMONIUM
 
November 9th, 2007
Japandemonium
Ikuzo!

Welcome again, everyone, to this week's Japandemonium update!

I recently found out that one of my favorite classic Japanese comics, the Japanese fairy-tale monster comic Ge-ge-ge no Kitarou, was going to have another animated version on TV soon, and I was really looking forward to it. Then came the let-down: its time-slot completely clashed with my lesson schedule. Sure, I was disappointed, but then I got to thinking, how often can you find real Japanese monsters in RPGs? It was obvious that many early games had a strong D&D influence, and that trend has held for so long because those monsters were really exotic for the Japanese. But what about us Western gamers? Could we find the Japanese critters to be just as interesting?

So, with that question in mind, I went in search of material, and now I present to you:




The Kappa

The Kappa is a staple of the Japanese fairy-tale tradition. These guys are found everywhere in stories, and there are many name variations. I looked through my Big Old Book of Japanese Monsters, and counted up over thirty different name references before I lost track. So it's not surprising to see that the Kappa, out of all the Japanese monsters, has the greatest presence in Japanese games.

So what is a Kappa? Traditionally, they are greenish, slimy, turtle-like creatures that live in the lakes and rivers of Japan. They're usually described as being the size of a child, and are often mistaken for kids from a distance. Like many fairy-tale critters in Japan, there are stories of both good Kappa and bad Kappa. In one good Kappa tale, the Kappa teaches a local doctor how to make the miraculous Kappa Medicine, which can heal wounds very quickly. As a reference to this, the Japanese version of the Wild ARMs series has an item called Kappa gusuri, which heals paralysis. In the bad Kappa tales, the Kappa is a mischievous sort who likes to play pranks on fishermen, or jump out and scare people. In a few stories, the Kappa is actively evil, and tries to drown anyone it can catch, but those are few and far between it seems.

In one last cultural reference, Japanese cucumber-roll sushi is traditionally called kappa-maki, because cucumbers are a Kappa's favorite food.

Today's Kappa images were brought to you courtesy of Pokemon Ruby, Final Fantasy VI, and Taishou Mononoke Ibunroku (If you don't recognize that last title, I understand completely).

As expected, this week's sales are still incredibly handheld-heavy, with eight out of ten being for the DS, and the other two split between the PS2 and PSP. More surprisingly, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl have again managed to pull themselves out of the Bottom 50 and onto the top board, where they've had a regular presence for the last year and a half.

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
3 Down from 1 Final Fantasy Tactics A2: The Sealed Grimoire Square Enix
8 Down from 2 Ar Tonelico 2 Banpresto
9 Up from 12 Pokemon Dungeon - Time Explorers Nintendo
11 Up from 14 Pokemon Dungeon - Darkness Explorers Nintendo
16 New Release Dragon Tamer : Sound Spirit Bandai-Namco
26 Down from 20 Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Square Enix
44 Up from 53 Pokemon Diamond Nintendo
45 Down from 6 Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Bandai-Namco
50 Up from 72 Pokemon Pearl Nintendo
Source: Reuters

Here's one for the hardcore handheld gamers: a heavy-duty, portable power-pack that's compatible with the PSP, DS Lite, and all Japanese mobile phones. This 80-gram wristband battery pack takes about four hours to charge completely, but once it's ready, then it's game time.

The charger bracelet can keep a PSP running for up to four and a half hours. The DS Lite's performance depends on what brightness setting you're using. At the lowest level of wattage, this wristband can keep your DS going for up to 28 hours. At the highest level, it averages about 10. It's up to you to decide if you really need that much time alone with your handheld. It could be more ridiculous, though. Apparently there are models out there that can pull a 40-hour non-stop DS game session before running out of juice.

If this sounds like something that would interest you, then you can find the main site here (warning, in Japanese). For the rest of us, however, there are these little things called "wall sockets."

Source: Rare Mono Shop

In an interesting move on Atlus's part, they have decided to release a mobile phone spinoff for Persona 3 that is not a puzzle game (there are already two of those). In a more annoying move, this is a spinoff that probably does not deserve to be relegated to a pair of mobile phone models. However, if you (unlike myself) happen to have a FoMA model 700 or 900 mobile phone in Japan, then you too can see a bit of Persona 3 history in action.

Aegis: The First Mission is set ten years prior to the events in P3. Fans who have played far enough into the game should understand everything they need to know about this game's story just from that. Unlike its parent game, Aegis: The First Mission is an action-RPG, and interaction outside of battles seems to be minimalistic. I wish I could tell you more about it, but my mobile phone doesn't seem to be compatible with this particular game. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be quietly sobbing in the corner for a bit... *sniff*

Source: Dengeki Online

Mmmm... Octopus. Whether it's baked in a dumpling, served fresh as sushi or sashimi, or turned into a batter-fried crunchy bit included in a plate of kalamari, octopi have a thumbs-up from me. Nintendo, however, is now encouraging all its fans to help protect and nurture our eight-tentacled friends in its own special way:



From November 23rd to December 9th, if you walk into one of the five Pokemon Center stores in Japan with a level 65 or higher Octillery, you will receive this special collectible sticker. The first 10,000 octophiles to come in will also get a special Focus Band accessory of their very own.

So, if you're going to be in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, or Yokohama this month, be sure to bring your squiggly pal along for the ride!

Source: Dengeki Online
Kanji Kwiz!

Here's a question I've been meaning to ask of Japandemonium for a while... except.. the column kept dying before I could ask it! So I'll try to get it in early this time!

What's your experience with Kanji Dictionaries for the Nintendo DS? I've always been more of a conceptual person than a rote memory person, so I didn't get all that much out of the kanji portion of the 4 semester of Japanese I took. I'm hoping to learn them better while playing through imports and reading Japanese websites (I used the rikai-chan plug in for the later), but when I'm playing a game it's kind of annoying to have to use the IME pad to input the kanji into an online dictionary like Jeffery's dictionary server. I've been considering getting a set of kanji look up dictionaries (I still might) but they are expensive and I can imagine thumbing through that big thing while trying to play a game would be annoying.

So the short of it is I'm wondering if one of those kanji Dictionaries or kanji training games for the DS might be worth my while? and If so I know their are a couple and was wondering if it's possible to recommend one.

~Xerain

Gaijin

Hey, thanks for writing in! While I don't have a DS kanji game myself, I have been looking around recently.

First, there is a LOT of kanji software available for the DS. GameFAQs has at least 15 games listed. However, the question is, which one would be good for you? In all honesty, you'll be faced with a steep learning curve no matter which one you choose, simply because you'd lack a lot of basic knowledge of the language. The target demographics for these games ranges from late elementary school (practicing for Jr. High entrance exams), through high school (practicing for college exams), and into the working years (reviewing everything they didn't learn while sleeping in class). Keep in mind that, even with several years of college Japanese behind you, your kanji skill is most likely at late elementary school level.

If you're looking for reference guide, Otona no Kanji Renshuu might be a good buy. If you want something more game-ish, then Kanji Wanderer has been attracting my attention. It's been prominently on the shelves at every game store I've been to for a year and a half now, which suggests it has some staying power in regards to popularity. Plus, it has a sort of cowboy-ish feeling to it that keeps dragging my attention back to it.

Prinnies, prinnies everywhere!

Dear GaijinMonogatari!

Seems like you beat me with pictures of the Potion, but I think I send them to QnAs Sean nonetheless. I stumbled upon them at a Lawson but only got Cloud before the were sold out (the next day!) Anyway, question: Since you're on Kysh, what are the differences of their dialect to Kant-Tky and Kansai-saka? In terms of pronounciation and maybe some examplary vocables?

Oh, and where can you buy those lovely avatars of suicide death (read: Prinnies)? I want to get those, since converted in my home-currency I pay half the price. (YES, Euro rules, at least for the moment) Okay, sorry for the egocentric lines I stop now.

Take care in the land of the ... actually what to call? Belthasar2

P.S: I think I never came around to properly thank Sensei (and CactusLeaf) for their great columns, so I try it this way. Please pardon my familiarity.

Gaijin

Hey Belthasar, nice to have a regular contributor already ^_^.

Yeah, the Potion drinks were all sold out within a week at all the local convenience stores. However, a lot of the smaller supermarkets still have some in stock even now, three weeks after sales started. I have resigned myself to not having pictures of the last five cans for my virtual collection, however.

As for Kyushu dialects, well, Hakata-ben is the only Kyushu dialect that I've got any experience with, so let's start there. Like all the local dialects, there are some random differences in verb endings and sentence-final endings. For example, questions in Hakata-ben usually end in to, instead of the usual ka. Affirmative or declarative sentences might end in bei, especially if they're just an adjective or two. As well, negative grammar constructions usually end in -an, like Natto ga sukan (I don't like natto). There are other dialects that do that with verbs, but I haven't seen many do it with adjectives, like in that example. Here are a few others:

Nan shiyo to?: literally, "What are you doing?" or "What's up?" The Kumamoto version is Nan shito to?

icchon: a strong, negative adverb. Example: Natto ga icchon sukan!, or "I loathe natto." (FYI for the audience, natto is a fermented soybean food that smells and tastes something awful).

chikappai: a strong, positive adverb. Example: Takoyaki ga chikappai umaibai, or "This octopus dumpling is incredibly tasty!"

Those are the only examples I can recall offhand, and I can't find my notes for the rest. As far as I know, the Hakata dialect of Fukuoka had the most influence on northern Kyushu, so the dialects of Higo (Kumamoto), Hizen (Saga), Buzen (Kitakyushu City area), and Bungo (Oita) are all similar to it. From what I've heard, Satsuma-ben, the dialect of Kagoshima, is really different from most other Japanese dialects, while the Okinawa dialect is its own de facto language.

For the prinnies, why don't you try here? I don't know if they ship internationally, but it's worth a shot. Also, you could try adding them to Lord Pram's Wish List.

Well, hope that answers your questions, B. If you have any other burning questions, feel free to send them to me here in the Land of Fire (Hi no kuni)!

Yay, another regular!

Konnichiwa,

Watashi wa Annalou desu. Nice to meet you! I'm so happy that someone threw a Phoenix Down to the Japandemonium column! I went to Japan this past summer and had a blast. I hope you are having fun too. Hmm...I'm not really sure if I have a question today, I mostly just wanted to show support for the new host. In any case I should probably think of some kind of question for you to answer....but what should I ask? Aha! I've got it! Instead of asking about Japanese culture, I'll ask about you. How did you learn Japanese? Did you use a textbook (I would guess that you did)? Which one(s)? Do you have a degree in Japanese or did you learn outside of college? I'm studying Japanese informally because the college I'm at doesn't offer Japanese. Fortunately for me though, one of the students from Japan is tutoring me. I'm still a beginner though (nihongo o chotto wakarimasu. jyouzu dewa arimasen.)

Hmmm.... upon review of this letter, I probably used way to many exclaimation points, I possibly overused "Hmm...." and maybe asked too many questions. I hope this letter is okay! (There I go with the exclaimation points again...)

Hoping you have fun writing the Japandemonium column,

Annalou

Gaijin

Nice to meet you, Annalou. Looks like I'm meeting all the regulars today.

Well, to answer all that, I took all the Japanese classes I could in college, which added together barely made enough for a Japanese Studies minor. My main texts were Yookoso! Second Edition and An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese. In college, my main study games were Romancing SaGa II and Pokemon Silver (really good for the hiragana and katakana). I still use manga and video games a lot for practice, and occasionally I'll try a real novel in Japanese. My main means of improving my Japanese is my incredibly patient and understanding girlfriend, however.

Thanks for writing in, and good luck with your studies!

Well, that's it for my sophomore column. I hope everyone enjoyed the experience! What will the next week bring us? Who knows! Come and visit us next week to find out!

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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