|October 29, 2006
It's been a long time, but Japandemonium is finally back on track. I never really got to say goodbye when I left a few months ago. Things got really crazy really fast, and I ended up not being able to do a column before I left. I had originally planned on announcing that I was going to be taking a long break, but before I knew it, I had to take off. Luckily, Rob took over briefly while I was gone, and for that I'm thankful.
What was I doing while I was gone? Well for starters, I had my second wedding with Caroline. As some of you may remember, my wife is Vietnamese, and we had always planned on having a traditional Viet wedding. After that came a honeymoon, and then we had to move. This was my third major move in under six months. Previously, I had moved from Japan to New Orleans, New Orleans to Indiana, and this time it was Indiana to Philadelphia. Then I had to get internet, look for a job, and make my life stable enough to handle writing Japandemonium again, but now it is. So now I'm back at my computer writing the column I grew to love over the months I wrote it, and this time, I'm not going anywhere for a while.
Those wondering what I do now, I'm no longer working at Best Buy. Though the discount was really, really, really good, the hours and pay just didn't cut it. Working retail means working on weekends and having closing shifts. I don't mind opening, but working until midnight or even one a.m. is a bummer. So I decided to put my primary major to work and become a chemist. Now I have a nice nine to five type job where I make polymers that are 98% water that we sell for five hundred bucks a liter. The work is easy, and the company is really relaxed. It's almost the exact opposite of GEOS. Though I miss teaching a lot, I LOVE this new company, so I am really happy. I don't even mind driving to work. I have a one-hour commute, but I do it in a brand spankin' new orange Honda Element. Orange is by far my favorite color, and after living in Japan and seeing boxy cars, I just HAD to have one. Needless to say, it rocks my world.
In gaming news, we all know this has been one heck of a month for RPGs. Like many of you, I've been playing games one after another, and it doesn't look like things will slow down in November with the PS3 and Wii looming in the very near future. Out of all the games I've played recently, my favorite by far has been the one I'm playing now, Mother 3. Honestly, I can't say enough good things about it, but if you want to know more, you'll have to read the review I'm writing this week. I'll give you a hint; it's getting a high score.
As for this week's column, it literally means 'I have returned.' in Japanese. I think it's a fitting title since it feels like ages since I've written one. I would have named the column 'Tadaima', the word Japanese use for 'I'm back', but I think I've used that one already. I have a thing against using the same name twice.
So all that said, let's get this welcome back party started!
A lot has happened since I last did a dengeki chart. When I left, the chart was pretty much devoid of RPGs, but things have definitely improved in the Land of the Rising Sun. This week, the chart boasts an impressive 12 titles, and four of the top five games are RPGs. But that's not really a surprise considering what the top two are. But that leads me to a question, why do they count separately? I've always wondered this. As far as I know, it's more or less the same game, but the Dengeki chart counts each iteration of Pokémon separately. The crazy thing is that despite the fact that the game's sales are split in two, both versions still outsell everything else around. I don't think even Nintendo thought they'd hit a gold mine THIS big when they started that franchise oh so many years ago.
At any rate, let's see those numbers!
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl are known for having oodles of collectable critters. When they get sick or injured in the game, you take them to a Pokémon Center to be treated by one of the many Nurse Joys. But what do you do when your game itself gets sick? Both versions of the game have a rarely occurring bug that can trap players in certain rooms, mess up, or even destroy save data.
Nintendo is well aware of the problem and made a post via the official Pokémon website
detailing how to get around this problem. They also announced a patch that went live October 27 that can be downloaded via the Wi-Fi connection on the DS at participating stores and all Pokémon Centers across the country.
Fans of Bandai's hit anime One Piece and RPGs will now be to enjoy both at the same time assuming they have an iMode cell phone. In One Piece: Grand Adventure, players will go on adventures around the many islands of One Piece as the series' hero Luffy, but he won't be alone. Other characters will join Luffy's quest, but the catch is that only one can join him at any given time.
One Piece: Grand Adventure is available now for 315 yen a month.
With the upcoming release of Ys Origin, the newest entry in the Ys series, Nihon Falcom has announced the goodies that will come in the Limited Edition box. It will include the "Ys Origin Official Visual Book," a 120 full-color collection of character art, design sketches, and concept art among other things. The game itself is a prequel to the series and is set 700 years before the first game. Players can choose to be Yunica, a young night in training or Yugo, a genius magician. It also features an action-based battle system like other recent Ys games like Ys: Ark of Napishtim.
Ys Origin is for the PC, and will arrive just in time for Christmas on December 21. Like the other PC games by Falcom, unless they receive a PS2 or PSP port, the likelihood of them ever seeing release in North America is very slim.
Nippon Ichi recently unleashed some great new screenshots for its upcoming Soul Cradle: Devourers of the World. The game takes place in a fantasy world with giant monsters called "devourers" that appeared 200 years ago. The protagonist, whose gender is up to the player, takes a mystic sword and goes on a quest to defeat the giants.
Though it was missing in the previous version of Japandemonium, the Culture Corner is the place where people can ask anything they want to know about being a foreigner living in Japan. I lived there for just under two years and greatly enjoyed the experience. No question is taboo, and all letters sent in get answered here. I've answered questions with topics like Japanese toilets, going to public baths, the size of my apartment, and loads of others, too.
This week I actually have one letter from a reader and a couple from staffers, so let's get to 'em!
Howslife? It seems like ages since I've written to you, already almost one
month! I got tests/exams the last 2 weeks of August, so I was somewhat
busy right then. I guess I have to make the habit again to write you a
mail every Tuesday night, after I've come home from work (like I used to
do, so that's why I'm always just on time sending them in). So starting
from now I've scheduled this hour to write you an e-mail! ~ If there's
something to write about that is!
So do you already began with you new job as a chemist? (it seems you have
quite a variation in jobs!) So what does it actually consist of, analyzing
stuff? Laboratory work? It's not what you prefer to do - but if you can do
that, I guess you have studied for it I guess?
This kinda takes me to a question I always had and that's how does the
university system like in the USA? In various TV shows/series I've
watched, it seems pretty random - in the sense that they just pick
whatever classes they want. It seems there's always this struggle to get
either the classes that are the easiest or the classes that consists of
the most girls - and people always oversleep, so they need to take
Advanced Calculus IV for Space Engineering or something like that. So I
assume you have one or two years of classes you pick yourself, then
specialize in the later years? Because you have that Bachelor/Master
system right (it's now also getting implemented here in Holland), which is
3 and 1 years respectively, right?
Here in Holland we choose a direction before attending university, so you
follow the Bachelor program of they study you choose. There's almost no
room for other classes, only the 3rd year you can take a minor of
something. And after you're done with Bachelor, you can choose another
direction within your study. It just seems weird that in the USA you can
choose whatever classes (if that's the case).
Now to my Japan-related questions: going back to the cultural festivals in
Japanese schools, what are they exactly celebrating them for? Is it like a
tradition that every school has them? Do they fall on the same day or is
it different in every school? Yes, I already saw Azumanga, but still have
to finish KareKano (about 6 eps left, but I started to rewatch it) - I
also have 12 volumes of the manga of it, but still haven't read them! As
for Fruits Basket, my younger sister really praises the series and says
that it's on par with Honey & Clover, which is her favorite at the moment
(have only seen the first two eps of it).
Also a question about Japanese characters. It seems that a lot of words
have kanji as characters. But is it "allowed" to write the hiragana of it
if you don't know the kanji, or are they really strict in it? Or are there
rules for using hiragana and kanji - like difference in meanings when
I hope you had a good wedding and honeymoon. Asian weddings are quite good
as for the food. How's Vietnamese food actually? I've never eaten
Vietnamese food, except for their "loempia"s (how we call eggrols), which
are quite good. But as I don't know any Vietnamese people - or even
Vietnamese restaurants, I've never eaten Vietnamese food. Any good
specialties? And what is it overall like, I mean, is it like Thai food, or
more like Indonesian/Malaysian food?
So how's it to move everytime BTW.? (at least - it seems you lived quite
different places after you came back from Japan). It seems kinda hard, but
you meet new people and friends - which you have to leave soon again..
I think I've covered everything. I hope the length makes up for the quite
lat reply! Thanks for answering my questions and sending a mail!
PS. As for my AMV, I try to put it up this week. I already got an
XviD-version, but I still need to put some sort of (studio)logo in front.
Expect it this weekend! I'll send a link to the profile-page of
animemusicvideos.org when I'm done!
PS2. If you watch AMVs - do you have got any favorites?
"We all know that birds fly, but now can
you tell me where they are actually flying to??"
My job is kind of strange. We make biologically safe coatings for medical devices. My job is to make the top coat. Basically, I add some of this powder to a bucket of water, and let it dissolve. Then it looks like hair gel. I then take the hair gel and add acid while it's stirring. This makes the stuff go crazy and I have to beat it with a metal spatula until it calms down. Then I pour it into dialysis tubes that resemble little sausages. I repeat this process two times a week.
As for college, some people go in with a major in mind. In my case, it was chemistry and computer science. Then you usually take one or two classes in your major each year while taking electives of your choosing. Also, a lot of people also change their major at least once. In my case, I switched out of computer science in the second semester and became a Japanese double major in my junior year.
As you mentioned, there is a lot of missed classes for some, but it doesn't happen as much as the media would have you to believe. That said, the only reason I went to Comp Sci 101 is it was the best sleep I'd get all day. I can honestly count the number of days I was awake in that class on one hand.
As for the kanji, you can write them in hiragana, but there are many words with the same 'spelling' so to speak. If I said 'Kumo ga suki desu.' that could mean 'I like clouds.' or 'I like spiders.' If I use kanji, the meaning is very clear, but in my case, I like both clouds AND spiders. ^_^
Vietnamese food is quite tasty. It is most similar to a mix of Thai and Chinese with many specialties involving noodles or soups. They also rely quite heavily on fish sauce, so that can take some getting used to. Some of my favorite dishes include cabbage wrapped pork, stuffed tofu, and braised pork with boiled eggs. All three dishes have a bit of a soup with them and are served with rice. The most common noodle is Pho, pronounced 'Fuh.'
Moving isn't so bad. The first move from New Orleans to Indy could have been worse. My folks helped a lot, and I was moving back home with my parents. The second move was a fair bit harder, but we're nicely settled now. Plus, our apartment rocks. I'll have to post pictures in my column sometime.
I know I skipped the culture fest part, but that's because I don't really know an answer. My guess is it's because they are fun. Oh, and I love AMVs, but none stick out in my memory. I like 'em all.
Thanks for the letter, and I look forward to getting these more regularly.
My girlfriend wanted to know how well off you were. Was it a solid paycheck? Enough to cover everything you were doing there?
I get this one a lot, but I don't mind answering it again. I was paid pretty well. The monthly salary was roughly 2,500 US dollars, and that more than covered my food, internet, rent, and utilities. On one year's salary, I was able to afford my wife's engagement ring, pick up several games, and do some minor traveling. Of course, it all depends on how you spend your money. If you hit the bars every night, it won't last long. If you're frugal like me, 250,000 yen goes a long, long way.
Thanks for sending in a question!
How big is the gaming business over there? Like here we're lucky to get a commercial on tv...is it a lot more publicized over there?
I never really watched TV, but considering the number of TV spots I've seen online, I can say that there are plenty of them on shows where people might watch them.
The other main form of advertising is via printed ads. Not only do ads appear in magazines, but posters are seen in lots of stores including convenience stores. Incidentally, convenience stores also sell a few popular games. It's kind of an odd feeling to walk in a 7-11 and pick up the newest Final Fantasy, but you certainly can there.
I hope that answers your question, and thanks for writing!
It felt really good to write this. I would write a lengthier closing, but I'm actually a very tired chemist. Daylight Savings has actually taken a lot out of me at night. The clock says 10:30, but my body says almost midnight.
Catch you on the flip,