rokugatsu no ni-juu-roku-nichi

As could be expected, there are quite a few vegetables on the Japanese menu that are either rare or completely unknown in the United States. There's gobou (burdock), renkon (lotus root), and a wide variety of seaweed available for consumption. One that stands out, however, is the shiso, or perilla leaf.

A medium-sized broadleaf cousin of the mint family with sawtooth edges, green shiso is a common garnish for udon or soba noodles. I prefer it fried in tempura batter, all nice and crispy. It has a nice, earthy taste to it, and as a little side item it's a good addition to many meals.

Which does nothing to explain this:

Yes, Pepsi is at it again. Last year, it was sno-cone flavored soda. The year before that it was cucumber. This year, the beverage giant is offering shiso-flavored carbonated drinks.

Please, please, can someone help me understand just what the heck Pepsi was thinking with this one?

Atlus is a company that knows how to rock out, chill out, and relax to the music. Last August, in fact, they staged a huge musical review at Tokyo's Akasaka Blitz concert hall, featuring tunes from all three of the latter-day installments of Persona (that's including the anime).

This September, the live album version of the Velvet Room concert will be in stores. The album will be in a DVD show format, with all 24 tracks played at the concert. It'll only be $40 in stores (the normal price of a CD in this country). It should be good.

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 New Arrival! Infinite Space Sega
2 Down from 1 Kingdom Hearts - 365/2 Days Square Enix
10 Holding at 10 Pokémon Dungeon - Explorers of Sky Nintendo
11 Up at 14 Mario & Luigi RPG 3 - Bowser's Inside Story Nintendo
12 Down from 3 Arc Rise Fantasia Marvelous
13 Down from 9 Yuusha 30 (Half-Minute Hero) Marvelous
16 New Arrival! Onore no Shinzuru Michi wo Yuke From Software

Once more we delve into the mysteries of SaGa 2, because I am a massive SaGa fanboy. While previous glimpses have hinted at some major changes for this title, now we get some real meat to sink our teeth into.

Let me direct your attention to the bottom of the left-hand scan. Variety has always been a major factor in the series' design, and now more is to be had as the total number of human and esper choices increases fourfold. From the selection shown, it's possible that the members of each set possess different inherent aptitudes for the various weapon types. Then again, it might just be the art style.

Of greater interest is what's in the screens above the art, where an esper character is shown "changing to attack mode" post-battle. It sounds like a new mechanic for character advancement has been added. As well, some sort of inter-character compatibility system is also in place, which I'd guess has something to do with the combo attacks now available for use.

While the original game was all about the random encounters, from the Super Famicom era onward the series allowed the player to see (and possibly avoid) incoming monsters. The new SaGa 2 picks up on this and includes the possibility of chaining enemy encounters, like in the Romancing SaGa remake.

The right-hand scan has a "New Characters" section, which assumes that most of the audience has never played the original. So we get re-introduced to Ki the priestess as well as the player's missing dad. Alongside these two are a pair of 100% new characters: Otome ("maiden") and Slime-Fat. I'll just be calling them Blobbette and Flob until a better or more official name arises. My money is on them being side-quest material.

Only one question remains: When can I get my hands on this one!?

Source: Famitsu Weekly

"Simulation RPG" is a vague genre title in Japan. It can cover all sorts of things, from tactical titles to dating sim RPGs. The Atelier series stands as a good example of a shop-based simulation RPG. Genterprise Inc. has a new game coming up that follows in the Atelier series' footsteps somewhat: Iron Master for the DS.

Weapons have to come from somewhere, and in the world of Iron Master, that place is a tiny little kingdom wedged between the powerful empires of Satros and Argos. It has kept its neutrality partly by the skill of its craftsmen, and partly by the legends of a weapon of ultimate power that was made and hidden within its borders. With the political current moving the way it is, that weapon may not be hidden much longer.

The player must take the role of a young citizen of the crafter kingdom, choosing a starting class with which to work and then moving into the smithy. While it's to be assumed there's some sort of combat involved here, the screens we have here all show life in the smithy, making daggers and fulfilling customer orders.

Iron Master will be in stores September 10th, so we might see some more of it before then. For now:

Source: Dengeki Online

In the latest issue of Famitsu, there was to be found an article showcasing character figurines both upcoming and recently released. As might be expected, Square Enix dominates the RPG selection, with full pages each for Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts.

Atlus counters with a short but sweet selection of Persona 4 characters. Any excuse to have Rise Kujikawa in a swimsuit is a good one, wouldn't you say?

Source: Famitsu Weekly

While I've never been a fan of online RPGs, I do take note of what's currently popular at the internet cafes. I've always wondered about Maple Story, though, with its 2D sidescrolling style of play. It's always been a very popular title from what I've seen, however, and in the industry, that can only mean one thing -- eventual copycat games, at least stylistically.

Last week, Lizsoft released Fortune Summoners - Archie's Elemental Stone for the PC, a side-scrolling action RPG specifically designed to feel and play like an online RPG in the style of Maple Story. The player can take control of any of the three main characters at any time, and the others will follow and act according to their AI, similar to Secret of Mana. The end result looks like a really cutesy version of a Castlevania game with semi-randomized floorplans, at least to me. It's out in stores right now, for about $70, and works with both XP and Vista machines.

Source: Dengeki Online
The Secret Government Eggo Project

What's THIS, Gaijin? A perceptible paucity of public prodding for information? Here's a silly question to start off, prompted by the information on Japanese sweets you provided awhile back. Do the Japanese, like the Dutch from my experience, fail to understand the delicious nature of melding peanut butter and chocolate together?


They don't really get peanut butter, period. There's this "peanut whip" stuff, which isn't nearly as good or as heavy.

Does the constant onslaught of bishonen main characters demonstrate that the Japanese public wants something a little different than the Western public?


Honestly, it's a style choice. It's not one that I have ever really understood, but there really isn't much more to it. Well, not unless you accidentally wander into the Boy's Love section of the comics store by accident.

Does the Emperor have any actual powers, or did MacArthur stamp all but his powerful symbolism out of the government?


MacArthur went stamp, stamp, stamp, and the post-war changes to the constitution did the rest. The Emperor's role is now 100% ceremonial.

What would be the single worst translation from Japanese to English you've ever seen? It can be any form of media...

THIS should suffice to enlarge the Culture Corner for the week, I think!



Dear lord, I wouldn't even know where to begin... Thanks for writing in, though!

For the last week or so, there's been a trio of kingfishers sitting outside the window of my classroom, just watching the water and twittering back and forth. They really are the cutest little things.

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

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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