juu-ichi-gatsu no hatsuka

It's been a busy two weeks here in Hi-no-kuni. For various reasons one of the teachers at my school was elsewhere for two weeks, so I got to cover for him for a few days. I have nothing to complain about there -- his kids are great, and I had a blast teaching them annoying campfire songs for which I am sure he will never forgive me. In short, a great stint as a substitute teacher.

Public schools in Japan completely lack the concept of substitute teachers as we know them in the west, though. If a teacher is sick for a few days, his or her classes are covered internally by other members of the staff. For longer periods of illness or maternity leave, a long-term substitute will be chosen from available non-certified teachers in the area. Even though they may work full-time (and more) for an entire school year, these teachers only get half-pay and none of the special benefits that come with certification (like bonuses).

Unfortunately, the Japanese tend to place undue importance on little pieces of paper, to the point where becoming a fully-accredited teacher in this country becomes almost as difficult as gaining tenure in an American university. The testing is intense, requiring detailed knowledge of all subjects taught at that particular level of education regardless of the subject one actually teaches. If you're Japanese and want to teach history at the high school level, you'll have to get certified for math, English, Japanese (written and spoken), science, etc. for the base level taught at that level. There's also an age limit for taking the certification test, which I think may vary some between prefectures but is apparently somewhere in the mid-30s.

What benefits do they get from certification? First, the base salary for a certified teacher is almost twice what an experienced long-term sub would receive, and that's not counting hefty bonuses at the end of each school year. Also, full teachers are incredibly secure in their positions (again, resembling university tenure). To top it off, full teachers can take up to three years of sabbatical for health reasons. Not surprisingly, the number one reason for a sabbatical seems to be psychological breakdown. The Japanese public school system is as hard on the teachers as it is on the students.

It makes me glad that I'm at a kindergarten. I love my job.

11/2 ~ 11/8 10/25 ~ 11/1 Previously Title Publisher Platform
4 6 Down from 1 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
5 4 New Arrival! Persona 3 Portable Atlus
6 9 Down from 4 Inazuma Eleven 2 Fire/Blizzard Level Five
7 3 New Arrival! Final Fantasy Gaiden - Four Warriors of Light Square Enix
10 New Arrival New Arrival! Summon Night X - Tears Crown Bandai-Namco
14 12 New Arrival! Dissidia Final Fantasy - Universal Tuning Square Enix
16 New Arrival New Arrival! 3D Dot Game Heroes From Software
19 20 Down from 12 Dragon Quest IX - Defender of the Stars Square Enix
23 16 Down from 5 Rune Factory 3 Marvelous
Off-list 10 New Arrival! Super Robot Wars NEO Bandai-Namco
Off-list 24 New Arrival! Elminage II Starfish

Once upon a time, there was a frog with a dream. A dream of crushing the united militaries of Earth, seeing them driven before him, and hearing the lamentations of the females. Through a combination of chance, misfortune, and sheer idiocy that plan was foiled, and now the little frog and his hapless squad are here to stay. Sometimes they make a bid for world domination, only to fail miserably.

Sometimes they end up as the heroes of the story.

Sgt. Keroro and company hit the RPG genre with Keroro Gunso - The Knight, the Warrior, and the Legendary Pirate. In a slightly meta twist, a weirdly extraterrestrial video game has sucked the froggy fivesome into a virtual fantasy reality, while spewing digital monsters into the real world. While trapped inside, Keroro & Co. must rely on their guns, their strangely familiar fantasy allies, and their wits. Heaven help them if it all comes down to that last one, however.

Today's fun and games come courtesy of the Tales Studio, and it shows. The promotional video alone earns this title the nickname "Tales of Batrachian" (look it up). The side-view battle system of the early Tales games lends itself well to Keroro's own brand of madcap comic violence. For an anime spin-off title, it looks pretty interesting.

Wagahai ga DS-sofuto dearimasu!

Source: Famitsu Online

Obviously the gaming world doesn't actually begin and end with RPGs, and there are other famous series and genres out there which are worthy of mention (just not in this column). We're going to have to make two exceptions this week, and here's the first:

Tokimeki Memorial is one of the biggest and oldest series in the dating sim genre, with so many ports, spinoffs, and remakes that it's a bit surprising to realize that the official fourth game of the series is only just now coming to stores.

Why are we mentioning this game at all, you ask? Fans of the series (if we have any in the audience) may already know this, but Tokimeki 4 borrows something from the first and second games of the series: battles.

No, Tokimeki 4 is not an RPG. Its genre has never been in question. Instead, it offers "RPG-ish" combat as a kind of mini-game. True to Japanese sensibilities, the nut has not fallen too far from the tree.

Source: Dengeki Online

Our second surprise title of the day is a nut that has fallen considerably farther from its tree. The Jikkyou Powerful Professional series of baseball/management sim games has one of the largest game lists I have ever seen, and that's not including the sizable Power Pro Pocket subset, of which our game of the moment is #12. We actually mentioned it last month, but at the time I was half-convinced that someone at Famitsu had typoed a genre title.

Nope, it's still an RPG.

Whereas last month's scans hardly distinguished Power Pro-kun Pocket 12 from the eleven previous games in its set (or the who-knows-how-many games of the entire series), this new pair firmly places this game on the genre map. Floating castles of a medieval European bent aren't a common sight in this series, after all.

Here, PPkP-12 seems to have all the makings of a standard RPG: various dungeons, treasures, weapons, and monsters abound. There are story events and quests available at the player's disgression. How does this jive with the sports game and team management simulator shown before? I think I would have to play this one to really understand it, but the article does say that the RPG is the "flipside" of the game's Success Mode (the management sim).

It's out in stores Dec. 3rd, so I guess we'll see then.

Wrapping things up, we have a few more screenshots from the upcoming DS title WiZmans World, which we last discussed here. That's the long and short of it, since we have no other info on this game now.

Source: Dengeki Online
Dubba Dub Dub

I just finished playing Uncharted 2 and saw that in the credits it had Japanese voice actors, meaning it was actually dubbed into Japanese. That got me wondering, do the few American games that make it over to Japan get dubbed or are they subtitled. If they do get dubbed are they as bad as some of our English dubs over here?



It depends on how the Japanese publishers want to present it, I think. A lot of action-heavy games bear enough resemblance to American action movies that they often keep the voiced parts in English, and subtitle it in Japanese. Even games that have their origins in Japan, like Metal Gear, Bayonetta, and House of the Dead, are voiced in (sometimes clear, sometimes stilted) English just for the sake of appearances.

Japanese dubs tend to be as good as they need to be. Remember that Japan imports far more overseas media than the US does, and almost everything has the option for dubbing. Infomercials tend to be the worst that I've seen, while the dubbing quality of movies and TV programs is directly dependant on the cashflow from the backers. The quality is generally a lot higher than what's found in English dubs of games or anime. The amount of dubbing in the media means that there's a much larger pool of quality voice actors, and well-known TV and film actors contribute as well.

I hope that answers your curiosity. Thanks for the first letter of Year 3!

Brr! It's getting chilly over here! This Monday past, the temperature took a nose-dive, and all of a sudden I'm digging out all the scarves and my heavy coat. There isn't any snow yet, but I think it's just a matter of time this year.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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