This month in class, I'm working on prepositions with my elementary school students. This has always been an interesting and challenging area of grammar to tackle, and this year is no exception. In my attempts to get the basics of "to" and "from" across to my students, I sketched out a big present on the whiteboard along with a tag to show who it was for. Then I hit a snag. The kids in this one particular class, a brother and a sister, don't get presents from Santa Claus. This is actually pretty unusual for my students, since even though almost none of them are Christian their parents have still found the "Be nice or else" message of Santa Claus to be useful.
The sister was happy to explain her family's tradition in rapid-fire Japanese, though. It seems that, instead of Santa, the god Daikoku visits their home every New Year's Eve to leave presents by the foot of the bed. No tags are attached, which is what caused the breakdown in understanding in the first place. This is the first time I've heard of Daikoku taking the place of Santa, but it makes a bit of sense. This particular family actually lives in a Buddhist temple.
But who is this Daikoku guy, anyway?
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Daikoku — or to use his full title, Daikoku-ten — is a happy old man with big earlobes, a sack full of rice, and a magic mallet that creates gold coins when it is shaken. Not surprisingly, he is also the Japanese god of wealth and a member of the Shichifukujin (Seven Lucky Gods). He is one of the most popular deities in Japan despite not actually being Japanese. Like many minor deities in the country (including five of the Seven Lucky Gods), Daikoku was imported from China centuries ago, where he was called Daiheitien. Going back even farther, we can find him as Mahākāla, a protector of dharma in the Vajrayana branch of Buddhism in Tibet. Eventually we can trace him all the way back to Hinduism, where he is either an attendant to, a student of, or an alternate title for the great god Shiva.
It's really interesting to see how far things can be changed when playing the cultural equivalent of the telephone game.
Do you like Eevees? I like Eevees! Is there anyone out there (playing Pokémon) who doesn't like Eevees? I really doubt it. They're adorably cute, ferociously tenacious, and incredibly malleable in the evolutionary sense. Nintendo understands the love for this most flexible of pokémon families, and starting last Saturday Pokémon Centers across Japan began offering new goods for the winter shopping season.
My, that's a lot of stuff. Let's take this one bit at a time, shall we? First, there are the cute little stuffed animals.
Then there are the fashionable tumbler glasses.
And finally, a nice binder for all the Pokémon TCG cards that Nintendo is hoping for everyone to buy. There are even some nice promotional cards for the entire Eevee family.
Also, until the end of the year Nintendo is offering a downloading special mission for everyone playing Black 2 / White 2. Titled simply "Find the Pokémon," it sends the player on a frantic search through the various hidden spots in the game as he or she tries to locate the Eevee variants. Any Eevariants found will have that type's hidden ability instead of the usual one.
While it sounds like fun, it's only available for download at the actual Pokémon Center stores, so I doubt I'll be trying it our personally.
In the last column we talked about Monster Monpiece, the card-based RPG made by Compile Heart for the PS Vita. Today we have some of the cards in question, showing a variety of monster girls as illustrated by various artists. Those who are familiar with Compile Heart's work probably won't be surprised to hear that each of these pictures came with a listing of the monster girl's measurements as well as a slightly less clothed alternate version. Keep in mind that the pictures shown here are in fact (technically) fully clothed.
In order from left to right, top and bottom, we have the Grim Reaper, Cat Sith, Elf, Garuda, Skeleton, Ghost, Doppelganger, Humbaba, and Ladon.
I'm used to RPG developers not bothering to read up on the names they use for monsters, but even so... wow. Some of these young ladies are really stretching the limits of the use of mythological names in games. Also, the limits of their bustiers.
Those of you in the audience who remember the early days of anime in America will probably recall the series Record of the Lodoss War. It had several RPG adaptations during the 1990s, which isn't at all surprising as it was itself connected to Japan's most popular pen and paper RPG, Sword World.
More importantly, this Wednesday a new Lodoss title was announced. Record of the Lodoss War: Heirs of Legend is a browser game that is currently in closed beta. Unfortunately, it has also been revealed to be a card-based title, which severely diminishes my interest. At least we have this spiffy bit of promotional animation to watch.
Y'know, I should just look for some people in my area who'd be interested in running a Sword World 2.0 game. That would be more fun than any browser adaptation.
A few columns back, we were introduced to Shining Ark, the latest game for the series on the PSP. The heroine of the game, Panis the one-winged angel girl, is a blissful innocent who wanders through the day in a state of constant amazement, it seems. Certainly, her moods seem to have some importance within the game itself.
Befitting her personality, the player is never directly in control of Panis. She flits around and does her own thing in battle. Her actions are dictated by her current mood, which can be changed by giving her different sorts of bread. There's a reason why one of the other major characters is a baker, after all. Her state of mind is easily understandable at a glance, as she is rarely seen without some sort of emoticon floating over her head. At various times, both in battle and in town, she may burst into song. This mysterious music has many different effects, adding to the strangeness of her being.
With such an odd one as she wandering around, it's no surprise that people will have different reactions to her. Just take these two characters, for example:
This is α.D.A.M. — or Adam, as he prefers to be called. Adam is a relic of an ancient civilization, an outpost of which can be found in ruins o the island of Arcadia. Something about Panis's presence on the island has called him back into operation, and in the absence of direct orders he has taken it upon himself to aid in the defense of Arcadia. He's weird, but a nice guy.
On the other hand we also have Kilmaria, a strong-willed nun who's packing heat. She's convinced that Panis's singular black wing is a sign of the Devil, and she's not going pussyfoot around the matter either. Whether Freid, nominal hero of the story, can convince her otherwise is yet to be seen.
Shining Ark is still on course for a late February release, both on UMD and via digital download.
It's been a while since I had any time to sit back and read about games. Congratulations on your new lady friend.
Sorry to cut the greeting short, but I have work in 20 minutes. Anyway, here goes:
1) Please keep updating the Flying Default browser game. That looks delicious. Is there any hope of this being playable outside of Japan (by someone with no Japanese ID, and low-to-ok-ish Japanese language skill?)
Praying Brage is developed by HanGame, so you'll need to sign up with that company's main site to access the game. It's free and not terribly complicated... if you can read and type in Japanese. More specifically, there's a captcha security point towards the end that requires you to type something out in hiragana. The game's tutorial was pretty easy for me to get through, though the lore sections took some time to read.
2) What kind of nifty functions do cellphones in Japan have now? Do they double as a refrigerator yet? I figure it can't be long, since they seems to be pretty advanced regarding that.
I really think that the Japanese cell phone industry has hit a plateau in regards to functionality. They've literally run out of new things to do, within the limits of their own hardware. So, while I'm sure that the phone companies would love to have models that make toast or wash your car for you, I make do with a keitai that can place phone calls, send mail, take pictures, check dictionary definitions, and may double as a pedometer. I rarely use the TV, radio, or downloadable gaming functions, but those are there as well. Mine even has a touchscreen, which is mainly fun for showing off.
3) I just got a new car (yay!) and since the thing looks so plain, I was thinking about adding a bit of personal touch to it. It's a white Toyota Yaris, and I'm hoping to give it Zaku (of Gundam's fame) vibe. Got any pics/ideas? My initial searches on google didn't yield much result on it.
There is actually a burgeoning market for custom detailing in Japan. There are at least a dozen cars with large anime girl illustrations on their chassis in Kumamoto City alone, not to mention two taxi cabs with characters from Sengoku Musou Chronicle 2nd emblazoned upon them. One of the nicer pictures I found, however, was here. It's a blog entry about a hobby show a few years back, and if you scroll to the very bottom you will find two customized model cars, one as a Gundam and the other as Char Aznable's Zaku. I hope that helps.
This column is going up a little early because I've got busy plans for the weekend. These plans involve a museum, shopping, and sightseeing in Fukuoka, hand-in-hand with a very lovely lady. See you all later.