satsuki no juu-yokka
Mikazuki no toshi

Sorry to leave you all hanging last week. As forewarned, I was in no position to write a column. I was in the wrong hemisphere entirely, as a matter of fact. On the occasion of my little brother's graduation from Loyola University of New Orleans (summa cum laude!), I was right there with the rest of my family cheering him on.

So, here's the summary of last week: fifty-five hours spent in transit, by train, taxi, bus, and car. Eight class presentations at my dad's school, including two readings of the picture story "Why Japanese Monkeys Have No Tails," illustrated the day before in my trusty rakugakicho. I also convinced quite a few junior high schoolers to try some squid jerky (it's better than it sounds). One Honors College ceremony, one baccalaureate mass, one big graduation at the Super Dome, one crawfish boil, a few hours (cumulative) of moving things from dorm rooms, one big picnic, and a few instances where I was afraid I'd be sick from American serving sizes.

Then I had to come back to Japan, with half a pound of beads, two gator claws, five t-shirts, and so many children's books that I was half-afraid I'd have to declare them at Customs.

And now, back to the column!

The Monster Hunter franchise has been one of the biggest names in Japanese gaming for years now, and now Capcom is expanding its range yet again. This Sunday (the 16th) at Sun Street Kameari Studio in Tokyo and next Sunday (the 23rd) at Aeon Mall Tsurumi in Osaka, representatives from Capcom will be giving demonstrations on rules and gameplay for the new CCG adaptation of Monster Hunter.

Source: Famitsu Online
4/26 ~ 5/02 4/19 ~ 4/25 Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 New Arrival! New Arrival! Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 Square Enix
7 1 New Arrival! NieR Replicant Square Enix
9 New Arrival! New Arrival! Home-Tutor Hitman Reborn - Fate of Heat III Takara Tomy
11 9 Last seen at 4 Pokémon Ranger - Path of Light Nintendo
17 14 Last seen at 11 Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G (PSP the Best) Capcom
18 15 Last seen at 13 Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
21 33 Last seen at 28 Legend of Zelda - Spirit Tracks Nintendo
28 20 Last seen at 19 Dragon Quest IX - Sentinels of the Starry Skies (Ultimate Hits) Square Enix
Off-list 3 New Arrival! Tokyo Monoharashi Atlus
Off-list 4 New Arrival! Ys - The Oath of Felgana Falcom
Off-list 8 New Arrival! The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (GOTY Edition) Bethesda
Off-list 11 New Arrival NieR Gestalt Square Enixe
Off-list 16 New Arrival! The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (GOTY Edition) Bethesda
Off-list 21 Last seen at 12 Etrian Odyssey 3 Atlus
Off-list 22 New Arrival! Knights in the Nightmare Atlus
Off-list 25 Last seen at 14 Yakuza 4 Sega

"Losers catch them all. Winners catch the best." As both a motto and a sales pitch, Square Enix definitely hit the mark when they said this about Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker. The sequel is even now making waves across Japan. Just recently S-E and McDonald's have announced the next McDS promotion to be available for download at all stores across the country.

Come May 28th, monster scouts will be able to recruit some rare and powerful creatures while scarfing down their Big Macs. The first may look like a normal Metabble, but its skill set is reported to be something special. The other four monsters are a set called the Petite Girls. As powerful as they are cute, the Girls require a power-up gained from completing the game once before they can even be scouted.

Continuing with the collaboration, on May 29th and 30th, and June 5th and 6th, McDonald's will offer any one of four random cards for the arcade game Dragon Quest Monsters Battle Road III in Happy Meals. Here are the cards that eager little kids across the country may look forward to:

While they look interesting, I'm not really tempted to step into a Macker's anytime soon...

Source: Dengeki Online

Continuing from the previous item, S-E has one more bit of Dragon Quest news for us. Their most recent edition of the arcade Battle Road spinoff will soon be in regular stores as a piece of Wii software. Dragon Quest Monsters Battle Rode Victory is in stores July 15th. Here's a look.

Source: Famitsu Online

Just yesterday, Dengeki Online showcased a large number of screens and artwork for Digimon Story - Lost Evolution. Unfortunately, the majority of it was seen previously on Famitsu back in January. There really are no new screens to be seen. For artwork, on the other hand...

We have new characters! First off there are the cousins Hiroyuki and Asuka, along with Asuka's little sister Yui and Yui's friend Takuto. Stories in the Digimon universe have usually had pretty good group dynamics, so a bit of variety in the cast is welcome. In their character profiles, Hiroyuki is described as not being a team player, for example, but Asuka's apparently good at keeping him in his place. The two first-graders help to pull in the bottom end of the elementary school demographic, I suppose.

And then we have the Bandits, obviously the human villains of the story. Uno, Dos, and Tres (seriously, that's what they're called) have developed some interesting weaponry to counterbalance the weakness of their main Digimon ally, according to the profiles. However their real motives are unknown.

Of course, the usual faces are also showing up.

Source: Dengeki Online

And last, we get a look at the new bad boy on the block -- Ryuji Ukyo. He's the hero of Kurohyou - Ryuu ga Gotoku Shin-shou, or Yakuza PSP New Chapter - Black Panther. At least, that's one possible meaning for kurohyou, and it seems appropriate enough in context.

Set in the now-familiar pleasure city of Kamuro-cho, juvenile delinquent Ryuji whose life is changed by just one mistake. It'll be up to the player to ensure that his brawling skills are up to the task of getting his life back on track. With about 300 minutes of fully voiced events, there's a lot more to Ryuji's story than meets the eye.

Time to rumble.

Source: Dengeki Online
Getting Started

Konnichiwa Gaijin-dono

I've been studying Japanese for a few months now, however I'm trying to improve my kana recognition speed, but my current tactic isn't working (visiting random Japanese sites, and trying to make sense of it, and playing Kotoba no Puzzle:Mojipittan, whilst cheating with a dictionary). I was wondering if you know any good Japanese web comics or manga aimed at kids that don't have any kanji (a headache which I'm saving for later), or have at least the kana above/next to it? And if my budget allows it Japanese games with the same criteria?

Doumo arigatou gozaimasu for taking the time to answer my questions.



Good question! First, I'd like to apologize for taking all the kana parts of your letter and putting them into English letters, but I didn't really have the time to mess with character encoding this week. By the way, the wa in konnichiwa is spelled with the symbol ha (one of the few orthographic irregularities in Japanese, in fact). Also, -dono isn't a normal honorific. It's got strong military connotations, in fact. So unless you're Sgt. Keroro, it's better to just stick with -san.

On to the topic at hand. The only books in Japanese that completely skip kanji in favor of kana are generally for very young children, but most manga and games made for the elementary school crowd will use only the minimal amount of kanji. Many modern games will also have furigana (pronunciation notes) over the kanji as well. Pretty much any manga from the Shonen imprint will have furigana, but that's no guarantee that it will be easy to read since they also use a lot of informal language.

My best recommendations would be Doraemon for manga, and Pok?émon for games. Doraemon generally doesn't go in for long story arcs and is easy to pick up and read from any point in the series. Pokémon games tend not to use any kanji, and because of this also space out words in a manner more like the western languages do. Back when I first started, I used Pokémon Silver for most of my kana practice, in fact.

Thanks for writing in!

After skipping a week of updates, one would think there'd be more news on the table. Golden Week's a pretty quiet time, though, as most of the big gaming news outlets take time off as well. This week's issue of Famitsu was pretty sparce on the usable new stuff as well, which was kind of disappointing. I was hoping for a bit of news on the next Pokémon game, at least.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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