Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Conan Angou, 9-square

Volume 97 of Meitantei Shonan Conan (in the U.S., Case Closed) came out mid-December. Because #95 had a pseudo-cipher, I bought #97 to see what the latest storyline contained. And yes, there is an "angou" (cipher/code) this time, too. Conan is a little better than Red Rat in Hollywood, in that the author goes into the effort of explaining the tricks used in the mysteries, and the process of decoding the clues left by the villain. This time, there are four sheets of paper ruled in a 5x5 grid, with an inner 3x3 grid that has a thicker border. At first, this could be seen as some kind of route tramp, or turning grille. Spoilers, in case anyone wants to try solving these puzzles on their own.

----- Spoilers -----

While we're not told about it in the story leading up to the big reveal, the suspects and victims had all been on the same baseball team in high school. The pitcher had been at super-star level and was poised to be scouted by the universities on graduation. In the final game against a specific school's team, three of the players deliberately threw the game in an apparent bid to be accepted into the university owned by the rival high school. The pitcher's career future was thrown into tatters, and he eventually committed suicide a few ears later in an old church in the mountains of everyone's hometown. A fifth member, who had been injured in a previous game had watched his "friends" playing on TV from a hospital room, and he blames the three for the pitcher's death. He invites the three, plus the pitcher's former girlfriend out to the church in the middle of a snowstorm. He triggers an avalanche on the road up to the church so the police can't arrive until the following day. He also invites the "sleeping detective" and 3 guests to bring the total count of people in the church to 9, and then uses magic tricks to lure 2 of the former classmates into traps to kill them.

The gimmick then is that the heavier 3x3 border is supposed to be a baseball diamond outline, and we're to read the letters in the squares identified by the player positions, in the order of the numbers on the players' back.

Card 1: "Saa, purei booru da." (Ok, let's play ball.)
Card 2: Toire de wannauto." (One-out, in the toilet.)
Card 3: Furoba de tsu-auto." (Two-out in the baths.)
Card 4: "Pa-fekuto ga-mu." (Perfect game.)

Monday, December 30, 2019

Google Doodles, 2019

I'm still collecting the links to the Google Doodle's that I find interesting, for science, math, Japan, animation, and game-related doodles.

Lev Landau's 111th Birthday (Soviet theoretical physicist)

Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge's 225th Birthday (German chemist, isolated caffeine)

Celebrating Moliere

Olga Ladyzhenskaya's 97th Birthday (Mathematician)

Celebrating Johann Sebastian Bach (Game)

Hedwig Kohn's 132nd Birthday (German Physicist)

Last Day of The Heisei Period

Celebrating the New Era (Reiwa)

Georgios Papanikolaou's 136th Birthday (Developed the pap smear test)

Lucy Wills' 131st Birthday (Pioneered prenatal care)

Willem Einthoven's 159th Birthday (Pioneer in electrocardiography)

65th Anniversary of the Khufu Ship Discovery

50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

Vikram Sarabhai's 100th Birthday (Indian physicist)

Hans Christian Gram's 166th Birthday (Developed bacteria staining method)

B.B. King's 94th Birthday (Video)

Celebrating the Pretzel!

Junko Tabei's 80th Birthday

Sir William Ramsay's 167th Birthday (Discovery of the Noble gases)

Joseph Plateau's 218th Birthday (Developed the first kinetoscope)

Kita Kusunose's 183rd Birthday (pioneer for Japanese women's suffrage)

Will Rogers' 140th Birthday

321st Anniversary of the First Lighting of Eddystone Lighthouse

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Try Training Poster

Try is a cram school chain in Japan, and they use artwork and character designs from Miyazaki's old "Heidi, Girl of the Alps" TV anime. This is the first time I've seen Heidi dressed up as Saigo Takamori. Took me a really long time to figure out what this was supposed to be.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3 notes #5

Story continued:

Ok, I think there are a couple loose ends that never get wrapped up. First, when you're revealed to be a clone, Birdy goes from being your friend, to just falling apart emotionally in the lab with the cloning tank. When you get to round 3 of the Battle Arena, Birdy is in Lena-te's party and you end up having to fight against him. It would have been better if you could get Birdy in your own party, or at least to have him talk to you again after you beat the second scenario. Next, the original version of Anesu that you're cloned from is still in child form in the cloning tank in the secret lab. While you do fight against him in adult form in battle event round 4, it's just a hologram of that character, and not the real, real thing. I'm wondering if the clones in the tanks ever get freed. Third, there are a lot of rocket capsules left behind, and I think some people in sleep capsules that don't wake up. There's just this feeling that there should be a second run of the ending credits, and possibly a way to go off-planet. I have been able to clear all 15 Scout Master Q quests, and the top prize is just one copy each of the AtkUp-Sp, DefUp-SP, MindUp-SP and SpdUp-SP skill books. Frankly, this isn't that great a prize, because it's possible to obtain them through monster breeding. No idea what happens if you beat Aroma in the Event Battles, but that looks to be a HUGE amount of work that I don't want to bother with now.

Anyway, it just feels like there are loose ends, and I'm still missing part of the story or something.

There are two other things that I haven't been able to finish. First is the Queenie accessory items quest. The very last thing is to find an item that only shows up rarely, at random, in a black chest at the back end of the grass fields chapter 1 island. I have never seen that chest in the 200+ hours I've played the game. The reward is just the ability to make the last of the high-powered accessories. According to the Japanese walkthrough, Nintendo gave out promotional code awards in magazines for a bunch of stuff you can use in the game, and one of the promotional codes was for this rare item. I have the code for the Queenie quest item, but I can not find any way to enter it into the game. It's possible that you have to log into the Nintendo online site via a wireless connection, but I can't get that to work on my 3DS either. I don't think this is worth the effort. I tried finding a set of three code words for making a disk for the B1 disk system for obtaining the item as a prize for the relay chase quests, and I gave up after an hour of just getting crap rewards.

The last thing I haven't finished is the Slime Challenge. This is a mini game you can access from the window at the right-hand back end of the Central room, behind King. You have to go through a long, boring tutorial, then you get to pick your ride monster. You start at rank C, and the entry fee is fairly cheap. You're up against 3 NPCs, each with their own ride monsters that are just slightly better than what you have. When the whistle blows, you're supposed to ride to the middle of the playing field and grab a slime. Blue slimes are worth 1 point, I think silver are two and gold are three. Shields protect you against one attack, and meat fills your tension bar. The tension bar normally fills slowly. When it is high enough, you can use the A button to turbo charge your movement for a few seconds. The X button lets you attack an enemy to stun them for a few seconds, and the B button makes you jump up and down. If you use a flying type monster, that ability is disabled for the game. Occasionally, a boulder bomb will appear. If you drag it to an opponent's goal, the bomb will explode, the opponent will lose points, and a gold slime will fall out that you can grab. You have to drag the slimes you've collected to your own goal to collect points, during which time everyone else will attack you from behind. The round lasts a couple minutes, and when the time goes to zero, the player with the most points wins. If you beat the rank C round, you can choose to play at the rank B level, which costs more money to enter. I've beaten rank S, but stalled at rank SS. Your monsters are not rated by their current stats. That is, a rocket monster with a speed stat of 1,700 is no faster than the same monster with a speed stat of 800. Ride monsters are classified by type, as having speed, tension bar fill rate and defense stats of 1, 2 or 3 stars. I readily admit that I do not understand the ride monster rating system, since monsters that work really well for the NPCs are 20-30% slower and weaker when I use them. Losing the round gives you one skill seed (increases one skill of one monster by one point), which I consider useless because all my party monsters have 300-500 extra skill points they can't use. I forget what winning gives you, but I think it's just exp., and going up one Ride Master Class level. Maybe it unlocks an achievement medallion, giving you another code word for the disk system.

That's everything storywise I know about, and most of the overviews of how to do the important stuff needed for surviving the game. The following sections will be more detailed descriptions of things like menu operations, getting monsters from the disk system, and using skills.


Game Overview:

The Screens:
Like most 3DS games, you have the upper and lower screens. The upper screen shows you the part of the field or world map you are in, character stats if you press the X button, monster stats if you press the reactor button on the touch screen while looking at the monster, and other information depending on the action you are taking. The lower screen gives you the forward view of what you're facing in the field and world maps, the items you can select in inventory or when breeding monsters, and the battle screen when preparing for, or doing the fighting. For the most part, the game doesn't really use the stylus or touch screen for anything you can't use the controller buttons for. The exception is the big gray button in the lower right corner, which activates your reactor. Your reactor is used for obtaining monster stats prior to engaging them in battle, and for finding anything invisible, such as bridges, stealth boxes and hidden monsters (turn in the direction of the thing you want to check, press the reactor button, place the cross hairs over that thing, and press the A button to get information. Later in the game, you can get more information by subsequently pressing the Y button).

The Field Map:
The game is made up of 7 floating islands that you reach by activating, then using, a teleporter. Four of the fields are effectively assigned an element (fire, water, air, earth). All outdoor areas can have a time of day (day or night) and weather (raining or clear skies). Field monsters can appear based on the time of day and the weather. Fields in general will have a village area (a building, or a cave) and the outdoor area (the exceptions are the Core, which is all indoors, and the Tower, which is 50% indoors and 50% out). Villages have an Inn (for HP and MP recovery) and an item shop. Item shops sell recovery potions, antidotes (anti-poison, anti-sleep, anti-confusion), and maybe meats for aiding in scouting monsters. Otherwise, villages may have treasure chests, and NPCs to talk to for advancing the story.

Chests and found items:
Fields can have colored chests, simple found items, and stealth boxes. Found items can include bags of money, rocks you can throw during battle (1-2 hits each max, which are pretty useless), low-grade potions, and low-grade scouting meats. The disk for accessing the metal slime area in the disk system is a found item in one of the passages on the ice island. Other found items are used for making accessories in the accessory shop in the Central building.

Brown chests can be fixed or random. Fixed brown chests can contain money, potions or special items (skill scrolls, master road stones, etc.) Once opened, they remain opened throughout the game and are not replenished. Random brown chests can contain accessory items or potions, and are regenerated at different locations on the map every time you come back to that field. They are always visible without the reactor.

Green and black chests are random, refilled, and can contain rarer items used for accessories.

Stealth boxes can be green or gray. Gray boxes can include rare potions, rare skill scrolls, rare master road stones, etc. Green stealth boxes contain the Color Fondue brothers. There are 5 brothers, and once freed from the boxes, return home to the hut on the chapter 1 island. The green stealth boxes can only be found in hidden rooms or caves (use the reactor to look for a panel covered in white noise). Stealth boxes are fixed, and go away after being opened.

Mimics look like brown chests, but are monsters and will attack you if you get too close. Mimics can use instant kill skills, so try to scout or defeat them fast. They will show up as monsters if you look at them with the reactor. They appear randomly both indoors and outdoors, and will give you a coin when defeated (give the coins to King in Central building for rewards).

While you can find monsters in the villages, they are friendly and you can't fight them (you can talk to them to advance the story). Monsters in the field are fightable and scoutable. If they are higher level than you, the lower rank ones will generally rush to attack if they spot you; if you're higher level, they'll drop monster poop (found item) and try to run away. High rank monsters (C rank and above) may ignore you. Most monsters appear in fixed locations, but will respawn if you walk far enough away from where you defeated them. Monsters are identified as ground-type (they only walk or run), aerial (they only fly) and aquatic (they can only be found in or on the surface of water). Story-level monsters are ranked as F through A based on their exp. levels. Most monsters are level 50 or under, while some are in the 60-75 level range in the later chapters. All this really means is that the monster you're fighting is stronger or weaker right now. Monsters can be invisible, depending on the type, but will show up on the reactor. Central floors 29 and 30, and the Core have invisible trap monsters that activate if you trigger an alarm.

A few rare monsters appear only in fixed locations and under fixed conditions. The Sun planet is located at the top of the Central building, outside, during the day in good weather (use Ruler to teleport to floor 30 of the Central building, use a flier monster to go up the broken ladder, then go outside and fly straight up as high as you can go). The Moon planet is in the grassy field island at the top of the enemy hideout building, at night in clear skies.

Some monsters sleep at night, others only come out at night. Some monsters will kill and eat others to change into a new kind of monster, or wander into a poison pool to become a skelegon or something else.

You'll find a few of the big 3-slot monsters on the World Map when you try to go to Point Zero.

Flight Signal:
After finishing the first scenario, you're given the Flight Signal item. This can only be used outside on the field map, on islands that don't have black ash rain (are dominated by cyborg boss monsters) and if you have a 3-slot monster assigned to the down button on the cross controller via the Ride Monster icon in the main menu.

Time and Space Eye:
Every so often, when you're wandering around outside in the field, you'll get a notice saying that the reactor is responding to something. Stop, activate the reactor and look around. When it spots whatever is invisible, press the A button to mark it. Sometimes these are stealth boxes, other times they're "eyes". Eyes are big, black football shapes that teleport you to pocket spaces not part of the regular field. Eyes have fixed purposes, but you can leave them when you want, depending on the purpose. Some eyes have found items you can hunt for, others have mixed types of monsters you can fight or scout. Twice, I've found eyes that open to the Golden area that has King Metal slimes and the Gold Slime. These types you can leave when they get boring. In the third type, you can fight a scout master. The scout masters can be low or high level, and you can try scouting their monsters (if you succeed, you automatically win the battle). Victory can net you 8-10 coins (take them to King), or 3 seeds each for boosting the stats of your monsters (these boosts disappear if you breed the monster later), or for boosting the Tension bar in battles. Eyes can be useful for scouting very rare monsters, or getting coins quickly.


Friday, December 27, 2019

Sept.-Dec. articles in the media

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from Sept.-Dec., regarding anime, manga and related stuff.

Japan Times

'A Manga Lover's Tokyo Travel Guide': Picture the capital in a whole new way

How 'Heidi' sparked an anime revolution in Japan

George Takei hopes his manga on internment reaches U.S. youths

Naoko Takeuchi: 'Sailor Moon's' strong-willed guardian of girls manga

Netflix bets on Japanese anime to battle Disney and Apple in streaming wars

Japan saw a generational and international shift for anime in the 2010s

Makoto Shinkai's anime 'Weathering With You' nominated for Annie Awards

Gkids brings anime's best to big screens in the U.S.

President of Gainax, anime studio known for 'Evangelion,' arrested for allegedly taking photos of nude teen

How the artwork from anime classic 'Akira' was given a permanent home in the U.S.

'Lupin III: The First': A 3D animation with a nostalgic heart

Daily Yomiuri

Youthful attraction at the heart of manga artist’s debut collection

Miniature anime world to open in Tokyo

‘Weathering With You’ among Japanese animated feature films nominated for Annies


Meiji backdrop makes ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ escape game come alive

Kabuki stars rave at chance to play "Nausicca' on stage in Tokyo

Largest ‘Cells at Work!’ exhibition coming to Tokyo, Aichi Prefecture

‘Weathering With You’ to be shown in 20 cities in India

Series Inspired by Crayon Shin-chan to Start Streaming Oct. 14

‘Golden Kamuy’ adventure anime series to run for third season

Exhibition of work by ‘Death Note’ artist on at Niigata museum

New Chitose Airport film fest announces lineup for competitions

Photo op lures ‘Yowamushi Pedal’ fans to Wakayama tour

‘Stargazing Dog’ author objects to ‘sad’ label for all isolated deaths

ANIME NEWS: IMART festival in Ikebukuro to focus on future of anime, manga

‘Detective Conan’ postmarks debut in hometown of manga author

Gundam Base Fukuoka to offer 2,000 types of plastic models

‘Zombie Land Saga’ to return with ‘Revenge’ for second season

‘Evangelion’ film series finale to land in cinemas in summer 2020

‘Kyoani’ seeking new batch of students for anime program

‘Ninja Hattori’ creator gets exhibition in native Toyama

‘In This Corner of the World’ long version features Kana Hanazawa

‘Fruits Basket’ coming back for 2nd season with 2 new characters

Second season of ‘7SEEDS’ anime series set for release in 2020

Two Evangelion statues planned in Nagoya for tourism project

Teaser shows ‘Demon Slayer’ footage ahead of release next year

First ‘Doraemon’ comic in 23 years has 6 versions of the 1st episode

New 'Yo-Kai Watch' anime TV series will start airing Dec. 27

Sprawling pop culture complex to open near Tokyo in 2020

Sakurashinmachi--The wonderful world of beloved Sazae-san

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Park Spider 2

I ran the photos of the spider in the park near my apartment a couple weeks ago. Well, I came back to the park, and it was still there. The weather is getting cooler, and the spider, she don't care.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas Music at Starbucks

Back a few years ago, the Tully's coffee shop chain opened a third location in Tenmonkan, on Streetcar Street, near Maruya Gardens. A little after the opening, the place advertised live music one Friday night an hour or so before closing. I got there in time to hear a pretty good rendition of the Lupin III TV theme played on keyboards. Two days ago, I was at the same shop, wondering why there'd never been any more shows like that there. Finally, on Friday, as I was walking home from the English school, I saw a sign advertising live music at 6 PM at the Starbucks four short blocks from that Tully's. Unfortunately, the sign didn't say much about who would be playing, but I did at least want to come back to find out.

I didn't hear the two women introduce themselves. They just started playing Jingle Bells on xylophone and tuba.

No one in the shop could see the tuba player's face; I had to go outside and look through the door for that. Nothing really worth recording, but it was kind of cool that Starbucks was willing to host them.

Few people here have any conception of what "dashing through the snow" means, since Kagoshima doesn't get snow.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas Market, Dec. 22

When I got up on Sunday, pretty much the first thing I did was check the Amu Plaza Christmas Market schedule to see what music acts were supposed to be playing for the day. There was nothing listed. Lots of music on Saturday, which I missed because of work, but nothing I cared at all about. And a lot for the 25th. But, nothing for Sunday or Monday. By 4 PM, I had to get out to do some shopping, but it was starting to rain. The sky was gray and dreary. I got to Amu, and some "music club" I didn't know was just starting up. They introduced themselves as the Kagoshima version of Kouhaku (the annual music Red and White TV singing contest on NHK on New Year's Eve). Nothing all that special.

For some reason, the photos seem to be coming out grainy recently, and I don't know why. Maybe it's the lack of strong sunlight.

I went in to Seattle's Best and had a snack while reading a Japanese book on cryptography. After about 50 minutes, I came back out and discovered Bon (from Bon DX and ARTS) in the audience, and a couple of the other ARTS members standing around. I was pretty sure they were going to be up next, but instead Yoko went on stage with a young duet partner and a guitarist backup. Yoko does a good jazz and pops set, but it's usually copyrighted covers, which would be blocked by youtube, so I didn't record her set. Also, the camera had a really hard time dealing with any kind of movement, so most of the shots I took were even more blurry than normal.

I talked to the ARTS lead guitarist, and he said that they'd be going up at 6 PM. That gave me just under 50 minutes to do my shopping, get home, drop stuff off, grab an umbrella, and then get back to Amu.

I returned to the stage a few minutes before the start time, and the area was kind of packed. I had to hunt around until I found a relatively decent place to stand and take photos. The thing is, the spot was right in front of the table for selling music CDs and DVDs for the bands playing that day, and the person running it was Yoko.

Because most acts tend to play the same things over and over, I was just planning on taking a few photos and then enjoying the music. But, I didn't recognize the name of the second song, so I whipped out the camera and set it to record. The piece is very bouncy, and a lot of the audience members were bopping along to it. I noticed Yoko dancing out of the corner of my eye, and indicated if she wanted me to aim the camera at her. She nodded ok, and that's what I did. At the end of the set, I told her I'd be uploading the videos to facebook, and she gave me her card so she could see them as well. Bon also ended up introducing me to her formally, so that was cool.

As I was standing around, the lead singer of Kafka came up behind me and asked if I remembered her. We ended up talking for a few minutes as well, and again after the show ended and the stage was prepared for someone else. I needed to go home for dinner at that point, but overall, it was a much better day than I ever would have expected.

Direct youtube link to part 1

Direct youtube link to part 2

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Dec. 21, 2019

As mentioned a few days ago, there's a small Christmas "village" in the open space in front of Lotteria. I walked past on my way to the English school at 1:30 PM on Saturday, and there wasn't anything going on in the way of live music. In fact, there was a marching band, or something, down about 100 feet along the arcade from me as I approached. I could hear them playing some kind of Christmas music. I took a couple photos of the village, and when I prepared to follow the sound to wherever is was coming from, it stopped and everyone cleared out. I guess I'd arrived just as it ended. Either way, I continued on to the school.

There were a few people at the village, enjoying the food, or just wanting a place to sit and talk.

The regular live stage, waiting for a band. I took a few more photos, but for some reason everything kept coming out blurry on the final shots (they looked more or less fine on the camera screen).  Not sure what the problem was.

Meanwhile, over at Tenmonkan proper, they had their Happy Christmas Concert in combination with the official turning on of the walkway lights (what they're calling their "Millionation", or whatever). I knew the event was coming up, but I had to work from 1:30 to 6 PM, and the music ran from about 1:30 to 7 PM. Things started with the NHK Children's Chorus, which was just setting up when I walked by. When I got out of the school and returned to the stage, Southern Cross was in the middle of their set.

Normally, they have 5-6 women dancing, but with the small stage, they settled for 3. Off to the side were a bunch of otaku (fanboys), shouting out filler lyrics, and just acting like otaku. Most of the other people walking by tended to turn their heads away and look disgusted. By definition, I think modern otaku are "men in their 20's or 30's, with no social skills, and no visible means of support."

The girls seemed to love the attention, though.

Wicky and his wife, Kana, started playing at 6:30 PM, to a much smaller crowd. Wicky loves Southern All-Stars, so most of his set was covers of their hits.

Nonki, the surf guitarist that sometimes plays with Wicky and Bon DX, had been on stage at 5 PM, and he showed up in the audience for a few minutes while I was talking photos. I apologized for missing his set, but he'd already known that I was going to be working then. After a little while, he left for home.

The set ended at 7 PM, but a few people called out "encore," so Wicky did one more song (don't know the name of it; it was another Japanese cover). Overall, a good ending to the day. I went home and had dinner, then worked on the computer before going to bed.