There are few things I find as fundamentally stupid as Japanese "talk reality" shows. That's not the exact term, but it describes them pretty well. Get a large group of B-list celebrities (or tarento) together, set up either A) a quiz show, B) an amateur documentary, or C) a food tasting, and then let everyone comment. The results may vary. I've seen one or two of these programs provide real, honest insight and commentary on Japanese life. Normally, it turns out somewhere between the original Hollywood Squares and the SNL parody of Celebrity Jeopardy -- usually tending towards the latter. Even so, they might be entertaining in a "how stupid are these people?" sort of way, if Japanese evening television weren't glutted with the things.
A month or two ago, I happened to see one such show which I might truthfully call the stupidest thing I have ever seen on TV -- stupider than Jackass, even. A gaggle of tarento had come together to discuss odd bits of pseudo-science they had found on the internet, and they decided to test a few things out. Think Mythbusters without the pretense of scientific methodology. One item they wanted to test was, "Is it true that blue jeans are blue because the color wards off rattlesnakes?"
Right there is one of the dumbest ideas I've ever heard.
Amazingly enough, they had a man and a woman, both B-listers, who were willing to test the idea. The rest of the group watched the video as the intrepid duo, clad in blue denim, entered an enclosure with a live prairie rattlesnake. While the woman was suitable freaked, the man calmly walks up and prods the rattler with his foot. Note, this guy is no Steve Irwin, and had never seen a real rattlesnake prior to that point.
What sealed this as the dumbest thing I have ever seen was the look on the guy's face when the snake tried to take a chunk out of his ankle. He was genuinely surprised that it had attacked him. Fortunately, if that is the word, he was wearing extra-baggy jeans, so the snake missed his leg and got a mouthful of denim instead, thus robbing the Darwin Awards of a promising candidate.
Oh well, there's always the next show. On with the column!
Dissidia - Final Fantasy is a game based on character tension. While the choices made for the contributions from some games seem a little iffy (Ultimecia for FFVIII?), there's one game in the series whose contributions to Dissidia were never in doubt.
Yes, Final Fantasy VII's Cloud and Sephiroth. Any gamer who doesn't know these two characters needs to take some time off and play this game. Square saved the best for last, even though there's absolutely no surprise here. The game comes out next week, so Japanese gamers and importers will have a chance to further old grudges soon.
In related news, Square Enix is once again about to sell their unique Potion soft drink. This time, the cans will feature characters and artwork from Dissidia.
A few months back, Dokapon Kingdom was reborn and released on the Wii, to general acclaim and enjoyment. While it never made the top of the sales list, recently it has reached a milestone which proves it a classic. It has spawned a clone.
Last week, Compile Heart released Suguroku Chronicle - A Sword in the Right Hand, Dice in the Left. While it looks remarkably similar to Dokapon Kingdom, it does at least offer some variety in character classes, with the usual trio of warrior, thief, and magician being augmented with the adventurer, shrine maiden, and unskilled class. Though what that last one can do is anyone's guess. He looks more like a bored high school student than a fantasy champion.
If there's one thing the gaming industry needs, it's more ninjas. With that in mind, let's take a look at Ninja Seal, a new traditional RPG for the mobile phone networks. The story seems simple enough, focusing on a magic artifact of great potential, which has fallen into the worst hands possible. In order to protect the land of the rising sun from complete chaos, an ancient clan of ninja has sent its best warriors to seal the artifact's power. A simple enough story, but one that could work well.
The five ninjas are, in order: the leader, Homura; his faithful student, the kunoichi Konoha; the mountain recluse, Iwato; and the siblings Mina and Kain. I think I'll look this one up once I've finished with The After...
More Than I Ever Needed to Know on the Subject at Hand
I think I can point out a few of the girls in that crossover game. ^_^; I don't know if you want to know their backstory or not, so I'll write it anyway (because I have nothing better to do).
The girl in nun attire is Index. She's from an anime called "To Aru Majutsu no Index", which means "A Certain Magical Index". It's about a city where students with superhuman powers (acquired through scientific means) live, but magic also exists in the world. The story focuses on Touma, a psychic who only has one ability (his "rank" is considered zero since no one can detect his psychic-ness, or something), and that's the ability to nullify others' powers/magic/divine abilities. One day he comes across Index, who's a nun from the Church of England, and has had all of the forbidden magical texts placed in her mind. (This collection of texts is called the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. It actually existed at some point, but was destroyed in 1966. It didn't really contain magical scriptures, at least not that I know of. It was just a list of "publications prohibited by the Roman Catholic Church", or so says Wikipedia. I guess we'll never know, heh.)
The girl with the little tiger (or cat) in her hands is Taiga from the anime "Toradora!". This almost literally means Tiger-Dragon!, since Taiga's name is the Japanese cognant for tiger, but in Japanese it's tora, and the other main character Ryuuji has ryuu which means dragon, but doragon is another word for dragon that in Japanese. (Also, Taiga has a reputation for being a "Little Tiger" and Ryuuji's eyes kind of look like dragon eyes, so those add in, too.) So that's where the name came from! *Breath* The show focuses on how Taiga's in love with Ryuji's best friend, and vice versa, so they decide to team up to win each other's love interests. Of course, they end up unknowingly improving each other's flaws and falling in love in the process.
Finally, the girl with the spiked bat and halo at the bottom is Dokuro. She's from the anime "Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan", which literally means "Club-to-Death Angel Dokuro-chan". It's a comedy about a boy named Sakura who's a lolicon and plotted to stop girls to stop aging after 12. Incidentally, this means he created immortality as a side effect. God gets mad, so sent from the future is Dokuro, who is from a group of angel assassins. She thinks she can change him around without killing him, so she tries to keep him so busy that he'll never make the immortality technology. She's always killing him by accident (or on purpose) with her bat (or kanabou), which is named Excaliborg, so Dokuro has to chant a spell to revive him. Later, another angel assassin, who uses seduction to get the job done, is sent in order to actually kill Sakura.
Okay, I'm done with the history/pop-culture lessons now. By the way, I enjoy your articles very much! Have fun, you!
And so on...
I read your Japanemonium article. Most of the girls (at least 4) are from animes that aired this year or airing now. Shana and Kino you already know.
The girl with a tiny tiger in her hand is is Aisaka Taiga from Toradora! She is known as the palmtop tiger because she is violent like Shana (same voice actress) and her name is "tiger".
The girl sitting down with a white hair band is Nogizaka Haruka with Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu. She is the "perfect girl" who can do anything but her secret is that she is an otaku and loves anime. She's very shy.
The girl with blue hair and a white dress is Index from To Aru Maijustsu no Index. She has perfect memory and has memories 103,000 volumes of magic. The dress that she is wearing is called the "walking church" which provides absolute protection.
The other girls I don't know myself but wiki says they are Kana Iriya from Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu, Dokuro from Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan, and Misao Minakami from Asura Cryin'.
Well, that certainly was informative. I can't say that I was ever a fan of any of the series in question, or even heard of most of them in fact, but now I'm tempted to look a few of them up just for giggles. Now we have an idea of what part of the Cross of Venus storyline will be like. I'm kind of curious about Asakura Cryin', though. The artwork looks very similar to what's been used in the two most recent Atelier games...
I did edit these a little though, mostly the stuff about who voiced what character, since I doubt a DS game would have enough voice-acting in it to make it worth mentioning.
For my part, I'd like to recommend a newish series called Gekkou Jourei (alt. title is The Moonlight Act), just because I love the insane way it deals with fairy tale characters. It's by this guy, who apparently has quite a few major titles to his credit. I'm not sure how well known he is outside Japan, though.
Thank you, Kismet and Tib, for enlightening the rest of us! A few symbols-recently-rechristened-as-kudos are in order! þ þ And one more for Watcher, who identified several of the girls on the forum board (thus proving his own geekiness). þ
Watch Out for the Editing!
Salutations again Gaijin. I have more linguistic queries if you feel up to dealing with them.
Upon encountering it once again, I must ask: what does 'guzu guzu' mean, and why is it frequently in Katakana?
A similar one - I gather that 'uwasa' is something gossipy, but why does it also appear in Katakana?
"Guzu-guzu" means "doing something too slowly, dragging your feet about it, or complaining too much," more or less. It actually does have kanji, but they're rarely used. It belongs to a set of words in Japanese called gitaigo, which are sort of like onomatopeia, except instead of sounds, they're for ideas. They're commonly used as adverbs or combined with suru (to do) as a verb. They are pretty much always doubled, which makes them really easy to spot. As to why they're in katakana, that's usually because the kanji are either uncommon in regular usage, or have an odd pronunciation in that instance. Other examples include kuru-kuru (curling or spiraled), pika-pika (sparkly or shiny), and doki-doki (exciting).
As for other words that take katakana usually, like uwasa, that's often more because there are a lot of words in Japanese that are familiar when spoken, but hard for schoolkids to read when written down because of the kanji. This is frequently done in games, though it depends a lot on the target age group. Games for elementary school kids will have a lot of words rendered into hiragana or katakana, whereas games like Persona 4 go the opposite way, and have an upper-highschool reading level. Also, katakana is often used for emphasis, like italics in English, so expressions like "Dame!" (strong negative exclamation) are often in katakana.
Now for a deeper one. 'Ii-ye' is often translated as 'no,' but a more literal translation would seem to be 'not okay.' Is there a word in Japanese that unequivocally equates to not doing something, or is it necessary to use more roundabout measures?
Iie is probably the best for a simple "no" answer. There's no Y in it, by the way, at least not since they phased out the symbol "ye" about 90 years ago. Iya!, a variation on iie is a little stronger and less formal. Dame!, mentioned above, is really strong. Honestly, don't let yourself get hung up on literal translations and word derivations, because more often than not, not even the Japanese think of it that way. Also, the actual kanji for iie means "negate, refuse, decline." No one ever uses the kanji, though.
I had always thought 'omae' was not a term used to address people in polite fashion, but I encounter it in conversations that are certainly not overtly hostile, which makes me ask how the word actually is regarded. While on this subject, 'temee' is most assuredly impolite, correct?
While it's not the politest word you could use, there's nothing really wrong with omae. Traditionally, it's what one would use when speaking to a definite inferior, and derives from the expression "one who stands before me," but it's commonly used between elementary school kids, and you can probable get away with it too. You're right though that temee is not good. That one's commonly used by street punks and gang members.
For a different topic, I am curious about how Japan's postal service is regarded. Is anything necessary to send mail in Japan that would not occur to foreigners?
Not particularly. There's a price difference between regular packages and packages containing letters for some reason, but otherwise it's pretty straightforward. I've never had any problems getting my mail -- at least, no problems that weren't my fault to begin with.
I've seen okonomiyaki called a 'Japanese pizza.' Would you call this an apt or bizarre description?
That's it for now. Ciao.
That kind of describes what it looks like, but that's about as far as the comparison goes. Okonomiyaki is more like a salty pancake that's had a lot of different things mixed into the batter.
Good to hear from you!
If anyone's been wondering about the relative brevity of the last few columns, I lay all the blame on this weekly update schedule. Speaking of which, six updates in a row! Yay! I don't think I've managed that since about this time last year. Anyway, that means that I've got less time to hoard up material between columns, and a lot of what I do find is for items that deserve a front-page mention. This week, I make up for it with a really, really long Q&A section. To the one guy who wrote in on a different topic: I haven't forgotten about you, man, and I'll be answering your letter next week.
And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,
Your man in Japan,