Saturday, May 25, 2019

No thanks, I'm plushed




I found this plushie doll in a display window of a restaurant near the apartment.
For when you want to show the food servings to scale.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Bright - One Toke




More chalk art from Bright used men's clothing store.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

No Life, No Vege




This sign was in front of a vegetarian restaurant. I'm having trouble deciding if they got the order wrong, or if it's better this way.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Bravely Second - End Layer comments




Bravely Second - End Layer, Square Enix, 2015, Grade: B
Normally, I'd run photos of the game screens here, but I'm feeling lazy, and there are already lots of screenshots on online if you want to look at them.

Bravely Second is the sequel to Bravely Default (actually, there were two Defaults - the original Japanese prequel, Flying Fairy, and the remake, For the Sequel), which in turn was originally intended to be the sequel to the Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light (2009) game. Bravely Default got its name from two action buttons on the battle menu - Brave and Default. Each turn takes one Battle Point (1 BP), and the fight generally starts out with each of your characters at 0 BP. As long as you're not at negative BP, you can take an action that turn. If a character is negative, they have to wait until the numbers reach 0, gaining 1 BP per turn. Default acts as "guard", where you take less damage from attacks that turn, and gain 1 BP (for a maximum of 3 BP at any one time). Brave lets you take multiple actions in one turn (up to 4), using 1 BP each. After the turn, if the enemy hasn't been defeated, and if the character is at negative BP now, they are left vulnerable to the enemies' attacks for how many turns it takes to reach 0 BP again (generally, you have 4 members in your party, and if you're aggressive with your fighters, you can be more cautious with your healers...)

Bravely Second uses pretty much the same battle system, with the addition of SP (Spirit Magic). SP is kind of a rule breaker for battles where you may be overwhelmed or you need to overcome the 9,999 damage cap. You gain 1 SP every 8 hours that the game is turned on but the cover is closed (up to 3 SP max). Pressing the Start button during a battle lets you "freeze time" and take an extra turn without otherwise affecting the rest of your actions for 1 SP each action. It also lets you deliver the true amount of damage for special attacks (up to 999,999 hits in one shot). This is called the "Bravely Second" move, and is actually an integral part of the story halfway through the game. Another carryover from the prequel is the "job asterisk." Each humanoid enemy boss character, an "asterisk holder", has a specific job type (Red Mage, White Mage, Black Mage, Fencer, Knight, Pirate). Defeating them gives you their asterisk, allowing you to equip that job if you want it. In Bravely Second, there are 30 different jobs, and really, the point of the game is to obtain all 30 asterisks and level every single job up to the level 11 cap. This involves a LOT of churning.

One kind of new concept is battle chaining. If you defeat an enemy in 1 round, you have the option of taking on a second enemy party by pressing the L button (or, you can quit the chain with the B button). Defeating more enemies within the same 1 round increases the base amount of reward for the battle, along with a multiplier (x1.0, x1.5, x1.8, up to a max of x3.0). So, if you manage to fight 8 or 9 enemy parties in the same 1 round, you can theoretically get something like 70,000 pg (money), 20,000 exp, and a max of 999 jp (job points) total for the battle. Equipping a Gold Egg accessory doubles the amount of pg, for 0 exp and 0 jp; equipping a Growth Egg doubles exp and jp at the expense of 0 pg. Note that it takes something like 28,000 jp to max one job at level 11 for one character, and there are 30 jobs. You hit the 99 exp. level cap LONG, LONG before you get halfway to maxing out all the job levels. After you do max out all of the jobs, you can focus on making money, maybe. The North American version of the game has optional bonus "skins" for the party members, (bunny dresses, China dresses, suits) some of which cost 999,999 pg each from the shops (after chapter 4). In the Japanese version of the game, these skins were promotional giveaways from the Square Enix site, or from ads run in different gaming magazines. They're no longer available in Japan, so I can't get them. Meaning that I can keep playing the game after defeating the optional dungeon bonus bosses, but there's nothing else to spend the money on at that point. Sigh.

The game starts out a couple years after the end of Bravely Default, with a young boy, Yew ("you"), fighting a masked villain alongside Agnes (one of your party members in Bravely Default), and two friends, the Fencer Janne, and the priest Nikolai. The villain wipes the floor with Yew and kidnaps Agnes. Yew recovers, and soon discovers that Janne and Nikolai are traitors working for the masked villain. But, he's joined by Edea and Tiz from the first game, and the Moon Princess Magnolia (Magnolia's rocket crashes while she's on a scouting run for the colony back on the Moon). These three, plus Yew, make up your party. The rest of the game is just a matter of collecting job asterisks, leveling up, and trying to stop the villain and his accomplice, Anne the fairy, from destroying the moon and plunging the world into eternal darkness.

There are a number of side games available as well. There are three short bonus dungeons that open up after you beat the main boss. There's a Chomper mini game, where the party makes stuffed plush Chomper dolls. Money made from selling the dolls is used for unlocking the game music for playing in the Chomper jukebox. It can also be converted at a 100 to 1 exchange rate for pg for use in the regular game. There's the rocket repair mini game, where you assign workers to fixing the shops on the ship (these shops are like Norende village in the prequel) in order to unlock special potions, attacks, and "parts" that can be assigned to weapon special attacks. The idea is that you get more workers by playing against friends that also have a copy of the game, or by logging into the Nintendo online site. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with just one worker, and the average times for repairing specific items are around 45 hours (the 3DS has to be left on during this, but the cover can be kept closed). I'm not even going to bother unlocking every single thing in Bravely Second. I'm just going to settle for the strongest bare knuckle special attack, which I expect will take 1 month of real time. Sigh.

As with most Japanese RPGs on the 3DS, 95% of everything is unnecessary windowdressing. I only use 4-5 jobs (Monk, Black Mage, White Mage, Exorcist, and Charioteer); I've only used a fraction of the weapons and armor, almost none of the items (i.e. - eye drops or anti-charms), none of the Catmancer or Patisserie special moves (attacking the enemy with status afflictions), and I've got nothing I need to spend money on now. In fact, I've beaten the game once, along with every optional boss except one (I'm waiting on tackling the toughest optional boss until I unlock that bare knuckle special attack from the moon rocket, 1 month from now).

Over all, the enemy designs are good, although a lot of them are from the first game, as are the NPC designs and the city and dungeon maps. I didn't listen to the game music much, but what little I have heard is good. The battle system is almost identical to that in Bravely Default, but the story and plots are ok. I did put 170+ hours into the game, so it does have a decent play value, although the replay value would be much greater if I knew someone else that also had the game to do one-on-one fights with. Otherwise, it's time to shelve it, occasionally checking on moon rocket repairs to move on to the next section to repair. It will be at least one month from now, real time, that I'll have a special move strong enough to take on that last optional boss. Not being able to get more workers for repairing the rocket shops is probably the one real thing I'm disappointed by in this game, since it's used and no longer "supported" by Square Enix. I got it from Book Off for 880 yen ($8 USD). Recommended only if you can pick it up cheaper than that in the States or elsewhere.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Movie Fliers, Part 3

Oshiri Tantei


Ok, I know that Japan has a reputation for having a really bizarre love for toilet humor, but this movie pushes the boundaries. It looks to be part of a four-title compilation.



"Butt Detective - Sniffing out crime so you don't have to. Eww, what did I step in? Oh, sorry, that's me. My bad."


Promare


According to the wiki article, Promare is a film brought to you by the guys that produced "Gurren Lagann."

The description reads "Galo and the Burning Rescue Fire Department face off against BURNISH, a group of mutants who are able to control and wield flames, and the fire disaster they have unleashed on Earth."



Ok. Hot testosterone action here, I guess.


Crayon Shin-shan Honeymoon Hurricane


Honeymoon Hurricane - The Lost Hiroshi. This is the movie that's been advertised heavily outside the theaters for months. The plot is that Shin-chan's parents have never been on a honeymoon to a foreign country, so they find a cheap travel plan to Australia, where Shin-chan's father, Hiroshi, gets kidnapped and used as a key to a secret treasure. Shin-chan, Hiroshi's wife, and everyone else has to save Hiroshi before it's too late.



Monday, May 20, 2019

Dydo DBZ Vegeta




I've had poor luck with vending machine can coffee toys lately. There was one set of Dragonball toys that were packaged with can coffee cans at the beginning of the year, but they were dispensed randomly, and I never managed to get one of the cans that had the capsule cap with the toy, after spending something like $20 on coffees over a one-month period. Then, in February, there was a "Cup no Fuchiko" series in Coca Cola vending machines, with Georgia coffees. Again, after spending over $20 over the course of a month on can coffees, I still failed to get lucky with one of the random cans with the figure with it. I'm only buying the coffees when I'm really tired and need to wake up while walking along the streets to or from classes, but I don't normally spend money on can coffee now if there isn't a toy, even if I am tired.



But, in late March, 7-11 started carrying Dydo coffees packaged with the Dragon Ball Z figures (I think this is a tie-in to the latest DBZ movie). Since I could see the figure with the can, I was guaranteed to get the one I wanted on the first try. These are more in the "office supplies figures" series, where each toy is designed to hold paper clips, or prop up smartphones. Vegeta here is used for holding a pencil or pen.



Vegeta is about 2 inches tall. The coffee is 130 yen before tax (about $1.20 USD). The coffee itself is ignorable, but the figures look good for the price (I didn't like any of the others, and only wanted to get Vegeta).



It's a little hard to tell, with the way the color came out on the camera, but that thing wrapped around his waist is a monkey tail. It's a blast.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Mario Odyssey Figures, Part 3




In the end, I finally bought a few more Mario chocolate eggs, giving me 9 of the 16 total figures (with 2 duplicates - Cappy, and Day of the Dead. I gave one of the Cappies to one of my students.)



If you like the game, I think you'd really like the figures. They're very well-made for the price.



Although, some of them may be more popular with the fans than others...

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Mario Odyssey Figures, Part 2




After writing up my adventures with the one Mario chocolate egg box, I was preparing to have an English class with a video game fanatic. I decided that it might be interesting to buy 5 more eggs, and do a capsule opening event during the lesson (plus, I wanted more of the chocolate). So, I swung by Donkey on my way to the school, got the eggs, and ate the chocolate on my way in.



Unfortunately, it turned out that neither he, nor the other student sitting in the class have played the game the figures are from. The fanatic doesn't like Mario, and the other student doesn't collect figures. The entire thing turned out to be a bust, but I got chocolate out of the deal, and I'm not complaining.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Tram Accident




Like most Japanese cities, Kagoshima has a train system that connects different parts of the city to the rest of Kyushu. Unlike most cities, we don't have a subway system, because the city is at sea level. Instead, there's the street car system, which consists of two lines. The first, Taniyama, runs from the old Kagoshima station at the north end of the city, south past City Hall, then a bit southwest through Tenmonkan to Takamibaba Street, before making a sharp left turn to go back south through Korimoto, South Kagoshima, and finally to the other end of the line at Taniyama Station. The second line, Korimoto, also starts at the old Kagoshima Station and uses the same tracks through Tenmonkan to Takamibaba, but then continues straight to the new main Kagoshima Train Station, before turning south, and then east to terminate at Korimoto and then backtrack to the old Kagoshima Station. In effect, the two lines form a rectangle with stringy bits running out from the corners at Takamibaba and Korimoto.



I have a class Friday mornings at 10 AM down at South Kagoshima, and I usually take the 9:35 Taniyama line. One morning, I got to the Takamibaba intersection only to find that one of the cars had been knocked off the tracks. Given the lack of broken glass, it had either been hit by a big truck, or the driver just really wanted to get through the intersection before the light changed. There was no way that another car would be able to squeeze past to go down to Taniyama, but the next car coming up was for Korimoto and I just had enough time to run for the other platform to jump on the Korimoto car before it headed to the main train station.



At this point, the fork truck was just being maneuvered in for lifting the front of the errant car to put it back on the tracks. The Korimoto route is much longer than the Taniyama route to get to the shared platforms at Korimoto, and I got to the platform right at 10 AM. I was rifling through my papers, only to realize that I didn't have the student's number written down anywhere to let them know I was on my way, but would be late. We had to wait for the traffic light to change, so the car could go through and turn to the left to the Korimoto platform. There was a Taniyama car at the platform, waiting for the light to change in its direction. As we pulled into the platform, the Taniyama car pulled out and left several of us stranded by just a few seconds. Sigh. I'd gotten a transfer ticket, which now seemed useless. I looked down the tracks to see if I'd get lucky with one last car that had managed to get through Takamibaba before the accident. I didn't see anything, so I climbed the stairs to the crossover bridge to get across the tracks to the sidewalk. At the top, I looked back, and spotted a car marked "Old Kagoshima Station" changing lines and pulling up to the platform I'd just left. Hoping against hope that this car was being repurposed to take stranded people to Taniyama, I ran back down the steps and asked the driver when the next car might arrive for Taniyama. He just shrugged, apologized, said there was an accident at Takamibaba, and he didn't know if there'd be another car to Taniyama or not. Then, he drove off to Takamibaba.

I went back up the stairs, crossed over to the sidewalk side, then had to climb a different set of stairs to cross over the big street to get past the intersection and keep going south to South Kagoshima, which was at least half a mile away. Taking a taxi kind of crossed my mind, but there weren't any nearby, and I didn't want to pay the money for one. I ran half the way, and walked fast the other half. When I got to South Kagoshima, I had to trudge up the stairs for another crossover bridge over another big intersection. Finally, I got close the school, and I checked my phone - I'd just gotten a call from the student, asking if I was ok, but it would be faster at that point to climb the 2 flights of stairs to the class room and just enter the building than it would be to return the call. Fortunately, the student had seen the report of the tram accident on her smartphone, and expected that that's why I was late (I got in at 10:20). Unfortunately, the weather has turned hot in the last few days, and it took me most of the class time to catch my breath and stop sweating.

After the class ended, I took the Old Kagoshima line tram to return home. At 12 PM, we got about 6 blocks short of Takamibaba when the driver came on the PA to announce that there'd been an accident up ahead, and if we wanted to continue to Takamibaba or Tenmonkan, that we'd need to get out here and walk. Sigh. Fortunately, there was a 7-11 right across the street from where I got out, so I quickly got myself a bottle of water, and started walking.



At Takamibaba, some official, surrounded by a bunch of reporters, was loudly giving some kind of a speech in front of the derailed car, which was now back on the tracks, but on the wrong set of rails (for Tenmonkan, not Taniyama). A second car latched onto the first one and started pulling it in the direction of Tanimaya (the main streetcar yards are about a mile south of the main train station, and I think the idea was to pull the damaged car down to Korimoto, turn west, and get to the yards through a backdoor).



But, things could have been worst. It could have been raining.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Unicorn Donut




Tully's coffee shop had a "white unicorn donut." It's plain sugar frosting on top of a cranberry-flavored pancake batter donut. About 280 yen ($2.75 USD). Interesting branding concept that doesn't quite work...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Exhaust Window




You can find the oddest things in Japanese office buildings.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ash Tuesday




No, this is not Kagoshima on a foggy day.
Woke up yesterday morning to find that Sakurajima was just spewing out ash, and the wind had shifted to blow it our way. It was like this pretty much all day. The timing was off, too. Saturday, during the music fest, the weather was perfect. On Sunday, a little cloudy, but still not that bad. Monday night, we got heavy rain. After the rain was done, Sakurajima acted up. Sigh.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Kagoshima Music Fest, May 10-11, 2019

Day 1


I had real mixed emotions leading into this year's KMF. On the one hand, I like some of the music they have every year (the line-ups change each time, which apparently is based on auditions or some kind of a lottery). So, it could be a good time. And, it is one of the biggest free music events in Kagoshima. On the other hand, I only really like three bands for the music - Bon DX (Ska), The Pints (Irish punk) and South Shaker (80's heavy metal long-hair covers), and only South Shaker was on the line-up. Worse, they were scheduled to play from 5:45 PM to 6 PM on Saturday, when I had classes. Initially, I had a break between 4:30 to 6 PM, but the 6 PM class got cancelled. That made me happy. Then, the owner of the school asked me if it was ok to move my 7 PM class forward to 6 (so that he could go home early). I requested a 6:15 start, and he agreed to that. So, I'm now really looking forward to Saturday evening, since I have enough time to run from Central Park to the school (5 minutes away). Except that the band up before South Shaker ran past their required stop time...


(Suimori and Tsurupi Karin)

I had wanted to get out of the apartment early on Saturday to catch some of the bands in the morning, since the KMF started at 10 AM. But, one of my other students wanted a 10:30 AM class. Along with all my milk shopping for the week and stuff, I didn't actually get out of the apartment until 1 PM, and I had a 1:30 PM start at the school. That just gave me a couple of minutes to swing by the park and take a few photos. The women above (Suimori and Tsurupi) did a campy idol bit, while Tsurupi (right) seemed to be pro wrestling with one of the fans at the front of the stage when I arrived.


(The Band)

The Band was setting up on Stage 2, and I missed them actually playing. My 1:30 PM student told me she had to park in the lot underneath the park, and there was some kind of loud music playing at that time, which was probably these guys.



I got back to the park at about 4:30 as Blue Edge was just wrapping up. Not really sure what kind of music they were doing, since I didn't take notes. I think it was jazz covers.



The Kagoshima foamhead mascots were out in force to promote the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.


(Toshi the Wanderer)

When I got to stage 2, Toshi recognized me from last year, and introduced me to the violin player, a Canadian named Gaze Santos, playing with him just for the fest. Gaze and I talked a bit, but Toshi had to start playing right away. We ended up running into each other again later, and talked about music, anime and manga. I recorded one song from the set, and Gaze played very well on it. It was a good set.



Konbanwa did some harder rock songs, which were pretty good. But, I wanted to get something to eat, so I stopped at the food booth run by Wicky Toshi (Wicky's House), and got their ome-rice with cheese, and ate that while the next guy played. The ome-rice was good enough that I didn't bother taking pictures of the next act.



Dep is a Deep Purple/Led Zeppelin cover band, although they did start out covering Queen's "We Are the Champions". The rest of the band was ok, but the lead singer mangled the lyrics. It didn't help that they wouldn't stop when told their time was up. I kept looking at my watch, as it got closer to 6 PM. Finally, Dep finished, and South Shaker got up and immediately jumped into their set - three 80's long hair songs I didn't recognize. I spent the entire time recording them (below), then ran back to the school. Fortunately, the owner decided to give me 5 minutes to stop sweating (the weather was perfect, but getting hot) before starting the lesson.



Since the last lesson did begin at 6:15, I was able to get out for the night at a little after 7 PM. That allowed me enough time to see Zon Jovi - a Bon Joni cover band. They did ok, but weren't anywhere near as good as the Bon Jovi cover band that played last year. The lead singer was too stiff and lacked stage presence.


(Horafuki)

The gospel group Mozes sang next, but I don't like gospel. They were followed by Horafuki, who did a kind of hard-edged jazz with Ramones overtones. They were good.



The night ended with 1010, who did decent Toto covers. I found myself, in my business clothes, and with my backpack over my shoulder, dancing along the side of the stage with two of the MCs. That was fun. Then I went home and had dinner, and spent the rest of the evening on the computer.

Day 2

(Kafka)

I had wanted to get back to the park as early as I could to try to catch the 50's rockers The Bogies, but things came up and I couldn't get out the door until right around 2 PM. I got in just as Kafka was in the middle of her set. She's got a kind of Joan Baez vibe, on moderately hard jazz songs.



Suizin also did jazz rock.



Candyman did the Tennessee Waltz, and several Billy Joel ballad covers, but the singer also mangled all the English lyrics.



Now, Shears was good, doing American rockabilly. They were fun.

I skipped Yasashii Mirai (A Gentle Future), and DJ Pocky's band to go get some coffee from MOS Burger, and a box of lemon Oreos from a drug store selling them for 100 yen (90 cents USD). When I got back to the park, I played 3DS video games as I waited for the next band to go on stage to take photos of them. I did want to see the winery ducks, but family stuff happened again, and I missed them.



Turned out, though, that there was an unofficial "third stage" run by Toshi the Wanderer, with a write-in line-up.



Strictly amateur hour, but everyone was having a good time.



Maburai did a kind of protest folk rock. They were introduced as the Grand Prix winners in the "old men category" of a nation-wide TV talent contest. They were ok.



Kouichi also did a kind of protest folk rock. (Sometimes, it's difficult to find the right descriptions for Japanese musicians.) He was pretty good. On a side note, I uploaded all of the good photos I kept (I shot a little under 400 pictures over the two days, and about 70 were worth keeping) to Facebook, and Kouichi and his guitarist both requested tagging themselves on two of the photos.



Tempura is a cover band for the American group Pantera. They rocked. The members of South Shaker (two of whom are from Kanoya, on the other side of the Kyushu peninsula from Kagoshima), stuck around for the second day, and both of them banged their heads to Tempura.



One of the difficulties in documenting big music fests like this is that certain people like to walk into the middle of the crowd and just stop without looking around to see if they're blocking anyone taking photos or making recordings behind them. With the number of people in the park, it was nearly impossible to get closer to the stage without my messing up someone else's shots. Sigh. Anyway, this was Apple Jam. The clown outfits are part of their gimmick, but they actually played decent Japanese rock. The lead guitarist showed up, sans outfit but with the face glitter, to play on a couple other bands, including Wicky's All Stars.



The lead singer of Kafka remembered me from last year, and agreed to pose with me for another shot this year. I'm wearing my Scary-Go-Round "Bears will eat you" shirt.



Go! Go! 0185 did campy 80's rock. Silly, but upbeat.



For absolutely over the top glam rock, nothing beat Trinity (I recorded one song, below). I never quite figured out if the lead singer was female, or a drag queen. The crowd loved her.



Toshikazu Maruno toured the U.S. 2016, and has 3 CDs out. Born in Kagoshima. He did a good straightforward set.



Wicky Toshi finished off the line-up with his Wicky's All Stars, which normally does Southern All Stars covers. But, this time he had an extended band, including surf guitarist and guitar instructor Nonki, and all the songs were much harder rock pieces. Great set. Unfortunately, it's still copyrighted music and wouldn't have gotten past the youtube filters. And, the evening sky, harsh lighting, and misters kept interfering with the camera's light monitoring, so most of the shots didn't turn out.



The MCs closed out the night by having a bunch of the performers get on stage for a final couple songs, plus photo ops. That also rocked. The stage shut down somewhere around 7:30 PM, and I was still pumped by the time I got home. I spent the evening with dinner, and editing photos and video for uploading to Facebook. Because Facebook doesn't really allow embedding video links in blog software, I spent part of Monday writing up this blog entry and posting the below videos to youtube. Probably the best KMF I've been to yet.

I mentioned in the entry on Dai Hanya that when I make the videos smaller (640x480) for uploading to youtube, I was getting a lot of pixelation, and I wasn't really sure why. I'm using a Japanese product, called Movie Studio, and all the menu items are in Japanese. I think, at some point recently, the manufacturer made an update that changed the screen resolution to something unusable. Scouring through the movie settings, I found one that seems to translate to "quality" (preview, low, normal, high). It defaults to "normal," so I tried changing it to "high," and the results were greatly improved. Really, I'd say that "normal" is "low" and "high" is what "normal" should be. Anyway, the only views for any of these videos on youtube are me writing up the descriptions and copying the embed links for the blog entries, so I guess image quality isn't that much of a factor.

Direct youtube link 1 (Toshi the Wanderer, South Shaker part 1)


Direct youtube link 2 (South Shaker part 2, Trinity)