Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Summer World 2019

Manga-themed sign outside of Shop&Gallery Something, for their "Summer World 2019". I think there is an illustration exhibit running in the gallery. I just liked the artwork on the sign.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Bright Chalk - Always Look

"Always look on the bright side of lie..."

Monday, July 29, 2019

Godzilla Movie Board

I've never been a fan of the Godzilla remakes, but there is one thing I like about this display board.

They used the posters for all the older movies to make up the backdrop for this one. I think that's pretty cool.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Doraemon Chocolate Egg Figures

About 1 month after I stopped buying the Mario chocolate egg figures from Don Quixote, I discovered a different set featuring Doraemon. Actually, this is series 2, with figures numbered from 19 to 36, plus Special 2. They're 178 yen ($1.60 USD) plus tax, each.

The egg is maybe 3"x2", hollow milk chocolate, with a small plastic capsule inside containing the figure.

Not a lot of chocolate, but it tastes good.

I decided to get two eggs at one time, just to take photos of them for the blog. The one on the left is Dorami, a female version of Doraemon, and the one on the right is some incidental figure named something like "Secret Stuff Cat". I don't watch the TV anime or movies, and I don't read the manga, so I can't say more regarding either character.

Dorami is about 1" tall. They're both made of rubbery plastic, and highly detailed. I'm just not a Doraemon fan.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Ornamental Peppers

Found another place nearby that has pepper plants set out on the sidewalk as decorations. I like the purple ones a lot.

At least I think they're peppers. No idea what they'd be otherwise.

Or, maybe they're really weird cherry tomatoes. The world may never know.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Bar Has No Name

Sign outside a bar near Tenmonkan.

The cat's name is Nanasi.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Flier - For Whom the Alchemist Exists

Not a lot of information online about this one. It seems to be based on a smartphone game app that came out last year. Some of the comments on QooApp indicate that while the game itself was good, the in-game payment system gets expensive fast. Anyway, if you don't know about the game, you probably won't care as much about the movie.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

DQ Monsters: Joker 3 comments

(All rights belong to their owners. 
Image from the wikipedia page used here for review purposes only.)

Dragon Question Monsters - Joker 3 (Square Enix, 2016) Grade: C+
Video games are expensive in Japan. A new game can run 4,000 to 8,000 yen ($40-$80 USD), and often the used copies at Book Off can stay expensive for years, at 2,500 to 4,000 yen. So, when a game hits the Book Off shelves for 900 yen 3 years after its release, that kind of says something (some of the older Dragon Quest games are still 2,500 yen to 3,500 yen, even though they're over five years older than DQM:J3). But, I liked the first two Joker games (1 and 2, I didn't play the Professional versions), and I'd been wanting to get something after having finally finished Bravely Second all the way through 3 times. There were two cheap games at Book Off - Puzzles and Dragons 1, and Joker 3 - that I'd been eying for a few days. PnD kind of looks interesting, and is at the 400 yen price point, but I'm not a big bubble puzzle fan. So, I settled for Joker 3.

The wiki page says that J3 sold over 368,000 copies in the first week, making it the top selling game in Japan. But, apparently it hasn't been localized for any other country. There are no English walkthroughs for it, and the Japanese walkthroughs are fairly sketchy. I assume that there's a commercial walkthrough book available for sale, but I'm not that desperate. I really could have used some hand holding here, regardless.

Basically, J3 is like J1 and J2. They're all Pokemon rip-offs set in the Dragon Quest universe, using Akira Toriyama's character designs. You play the hero, a boy with white hair, a red scarf and jeans, under whatever name you want to assign him (I used TSOJ). TSOJ wakes up in a cabin in the countryside somewhere, and is tended to by a robot servant. Pretty soon, a strange woman shows up, defeats the robot, and shatters a projection barrier surrounding the cabin to reveal the inside of a large cavern. She tells you she's part of a resistance, and to go out and explore the universe to find out for yourself what's going on. Eventually, you learn you're on one of 7 floating island continents, and that you have to visit all of them to reach the central "Core" island where Mother is located. Something somewhere along the way is corrupting Mother and the Core. As you go, you have the option of fighting or scouting the various monsters you encounter. If scouted, these monsters make up your party. You have 4 primary slots, 4 secondary slots, and the ability to store up to 400 other monsters before breeding them. Small monsters take up one slot each, while the larger ones can go from 2 to 4 slots apiece. The primary slot monsters do the actual fighting, and gain exp at the full rate. At certain points as they level up, they get skill points that you're automatically notified on that can be assigned to whatever skills (fighting techniques, magic attacks or stat bonuses) that the monster knows. The secondary slot monsters get exp at a slightly reduced rate (I think) and you have to go into the menus to assign the skill points manually. During a battle, you can choose to switch monsters between the primary and secondary slots as needed.

Fighting and skill point assignment are the same as for the earlier games. There's a specific city that you unlock a couple hours into the game that allows you to do the breeding, which is controlled by a specific minion of a species of monster that adopts you as their hero. If you choose to do breeding, you can select any two monsters in your inventory (there's no restriction on male and female genders this time). The resulting child will start out at level 1, and at a fraction of the average HP and other stats of the parents. You can also select 3 of the skills held by the parents, and carry over some of the skill points they had (about half of the original totals). If you maxed out the skill point assignments for a specific skill (say, 50 SP to Fire magic), then the child gets to pick Fire Magic 2 (100 SP max) during the breeding process. There are a LOT of different types of skill sets, and I ended up only using a few of them. The challenge is to get a monster with a high top HP stat, and then either high damage, or magic skill. The more you breed a specific generation of monsters, especially if you wait until the parents have reached level 40 or 50 first, the higher the starting values of the child stats with each successive generation. My party tended to consist of lizards and talon birds (high damage and HP stats), with just a bit of healing magic, and almost no magicians.

The world maps, towns, and dungeons look spectacular. The monster designs are goofy, and the supporting humanoid NPCs are ok. Your hero's designs are stiff, robotic and unexpressive, but there is a reason for that that is revealed later on in the story. The problem is in the leveling up process. There's a MASSIVE amount of churn in the game, and it gets very boring after a while. Fortunately, there is a way to access the metal slime level (it's a computer disk you can operate in the basement of your team's hideout). Unfortunately, to use the disks requires "energy" that is amassed over real time. "100%" in about 6-8 hours (I'm not sure of the precise rate), and the metal monster level burns 50% for about 10 minutes of game play. You can buy a 1-day pass for 100,000 gold, or the remaining fraction of the energy to get to 100% (about 50,000 gold to go from 2% to 100%), but there's no fast way to earn money. There was one monster I picked on that was an easy kill for 1,000 gold per battle. I could get roughly 10,000 gold in 10-15 minutes. But, again, that much churn is tiresome. The metal monster level is a large cavern populated with pearl, metal, angel and liquid metal slimes, worth 1,000 to 10,000 exp. each (no king metal slimes, sigh). But, they have high evasion rates and only one member of my party was ever fast enough to attack once before the slimes could escape.

The music is good, the story is so-so. The boss monsters look impressive, but on the whole I could defeat them on my first or second try. I was doing a lot of breeding and leveling up, but it was hard to scout the better level B and level A monsters to get any variety for the breeding process. There were a few times towards the end where my primary slot monsters were killed off, and I just barely managed to beat the boss with the secondary slotters. It took about 55 hours of game play to best the final boss monster, and then things just got monotonous. There are three post-story monsters that require some puzzle solving to unlock, and the first of the three was much stronger than anything in the story had been. Plus, the only way to unlock each of the post-story bosses is to use the disk access system, which costs a lot of money and uses up about 30% of the energy bar per try. That's on top of using the metal monster level to power up your combat team. That's when I decided it's time to shelve the game and get back to work on other projects.

There are a lot of ingenious puzzles and easter eggs throughout the game (most puzzles involve figuring out how to travel to certain locations off the maps that require monsters that can fly). Easter eggs include monsters sitting around a campfire, dancing groups, baby eaglets sleeping in a nest, and eagles capturing and flying off with bovine monsters. A lot of this stuff is fun to happen upon, but I do wish the fighting part wasn't so tedious. Overall, Joker 3 is ok, just not as enjoyable to play as J2 had been. Recommended if you can get a Japanese version of the game for under $5 USD.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Kamuya Ride, vol. 2

(All rights belong to their owners.
Image from used here for review purposes only.)

Kamuya Ride, vol. 2, Masato Hisa. Grade: A-
We're back with what's essentially Japanese history meets Quentin Tarantino. Monko, the mysterious specialist at sending monsters back to their own dimension is in his Kamuya Ride outfit, fighting a monster in the shape of a stilt house shrine. When he kicks it, he injures his leg. The wood of the stilt house shatters to reveal that the monster is actually made of metal. His disciple, Ousu, needs to pull out his power bow to make a difficult shot, and he doesn't feel like he's up to it. The idea is for Monko to hold up the small clay figurine of the bird they'd captured at the lake in volume one, and Ousu is to shoot a stretched-out energy arrow into its tiny eyesocket. Izumotakeru, the new hero-wannabe that worships Ousu steadies the boy's back, and he takes the shot. The arrow threads the figurine's eye, and unlocks the barrier that releases the full force of the lake trapped in it all at one time. This creates a water cutter that Monko uses to slice the stilt-house monster's legs off. The monster is incapacitated long enough for Monko to use Ride's lock and key powers to force the monster back into its own dimension, and turning its body into a small figurine of a stilt house with snake heads on the roof.

Monko lands on his injured leg, loses his armor, and passes out on the ground from the pain. Ousu picks up the figurine to look at it, and Izumotakeru calls out to him for help. Izumotakeru had claimed a strange katana in volume 1, which had given him super powers similar to Ousu's bow. Unfortunately, part of the monster's spirit enters the sword and turns it into a serpent that merges into the guy's arm and starts sucking out all of his life. Ousu fights with the thing for a few minutes before getting inside its reach. He slices the man's arm open and jams one of Monko's clay warrior figurines into the wound. The warrior explodes in contact with anything that's not human, and that's exactly what happens. The monster component within Izumotakeru is destroyed. Unfortunately, that included the guy's right arm and part of his body up into his face. Izumotakeru and Ousu also collapse to the ground, as the rescued villages run up to save them.

Later, Izumotakeru gets bandaged up, and thanks Ousu for saving him. As they leave, Monko tells the boy that there's still part of the monster in the guy's body, but this is probably what's keeping him alive. He'll never be normal again, but he's not a threat to anyone right now. A few minutes later, the two encounter a field of dead bodies - the remains of the army that was returning to the village to help save it. Standing over the corpses is the guy that has been opening the doors and letting the monsters into this world. When Ousu realizes that this guy is the one responsible for killing off his retainers at the beginning of volume one, the boy goes into a rage and attacks him. The guy easy fends him off, then opens a door to release a monkey-based monster to keep the boy busy as "the adults talk." The guy calls himself Uzume, and says that his ultimate goal to find the thing that had made the gigantic human-shaped crater at the lake thousands of years ago. Uzume then says he wants to "dance" with Ride, and the two start fighting.

Eventually, Ousu tricks the monkey monster into attacking Uzume, and the guy sprouts a blade arm to stop the thing. Monko and Ousu also engage him, and he sprouts two more blade arms. He says that this dance is no longer beautiful, and he smashes the boy away before escaping. Monko rushes to the boy, but he's more humiliated than hurt. Elsewhere, Uzume curses the boy's strength - Ousu's last punch actually caused his mask to fracture, leaving exposed a black vacant space and what looks like a crow's eye and part of a beak.

The scene changes to Nanba (currently a district of Osaka). It's a port village, and they're expecting a ship from Baekje (an ancient village that used to be in southwestern Korea). In one of the buildings near the docks is the Black Shield Army, and what looks like an iron coffin. Some of the soldiers brag about their fighting prowess until someone in the coffin kicks the cover, causing a steward to warn the men that "Okashira" ("head", or "leader") is trying to sleep and they shouldn't keep her awake. Everyone grabs their mouths in fear. After some time, a mist envelops the ship as it enters the port. The dock workers scatter before the ship runs aground; all of the crew aboard have been turned into mere bones. The Black Shield Army rushes out and they use their shields to protect the village from the giant monster the ship has become. The shields can also be locked together to create a kind of large tube, and one of the men waves two shields behind the tube to make a wind that blows the mist away, revealing a metallic weird scissors monster.

Monko and Ousu arrive outside of the village in time to see Okashira - a massively muscled woman - use her soul to possess her coffin and turn it into a variation on Kamuya Ride. She lets the monster smash her around a bit, until she gets a feel for how strong it is. Then, the monster's blade arms start shattering against her armor (the result being that Okashira's body begins bleeding from the damage her soul is taking). Monko is disgusted at this crass display of power and disregard for her body's well-being. Ousu, though, is in love. The monster switches tactics, turning into more of a pincer machine than a scythe. It bypasses Okashira's arms and pierces the stomach portion of the armor. She escapes, and has her men set up their shields to act as a ramp. She races up the shields, and pulls out an energy saber from her right arm to dice up the monster. Everyone cheers, including Ousu, but Monko walks in, turns into Kamuya Ride, and uses his lock and key leg to ultimately defeat the monster and turn it into a clay figurine of a one-armed crab. Okashira returns to her body, and she and Monko insult each other until she grabs Monko's bad leg and gives it a hard squeeze. He collapses, frothing at the mouth, and Ousu races up to help him. Okashira grabs the boy from behind and throws him with a wrestling suplex move that knocks him unconscious. Okashira decides that the two interlopers are unknowns that need to be dealt with, so she has them hog tied to a pair of shields to be presented to the Kingdom of Yamato.

Summary: I love Hisa's character designs and sense for action scenes. He is violent, and a little too eager to put Ousu into compromising positions. But, his handling of Japanese history, and his representations of the Yayoi era people and buildings are great. The black shields look like they could be assembled to form a Doutaku bell. I especially like finding out what Haniwa (the clay figures) will be chosen for each monster when they're locked out.  Overall, lots of fun. Recommended if you liked Nobunaga or Jabberwocky (maybe not if you preferred Area 51).

Monday, July 22, 2019

Ogionsa 2019

Well, Ogionsa was supposed to be on the 20th and 21st. The schedule was for a few taiko and school bands to play on the outdoor stage in Central Park on Saturday from 4 PM to 6:30 PM, along with the Little Cherries school jazz orchestra, and maybe some foamhead mascot stuff. The mikoshi (the portable shrines) would be carried around in Tenmonkan for blessings by the Shinto priests, and visiting the shops in the area, until 8 PM. The main parade along Streetcar Street would be on Sunday from 11 AM to 3 PM, with the staging area being in Central Park.

Recently, I've been having classes on Saturday from 1:30 to 4:30 PM, and then again from 6 to 8 PM. I knew that I'd get out too late at night to see anything or get shochu at one of the food booths on my way home, but I was at least hoping to watch a bit of the taiko drums during the break. Then, the owner of the school told me the 7 PM class was being moved to 5. I wouldn't have enough of a break to visit the park in the afternoon, but I'd be getting out of the school in time to get my shochu. That would be fine by me. But, I discovered that I'd picked up an extra class at 7 PM (which is why the first class had been moved to 5 PM), and now the entire day is shot, as far as Ogionsa was concerned. However, as I was teaching my 3:30 PM student, we suddenly heard thunder approaching, and that was soon followed by heavy rain. A little later, we could hear the mikoshi carriers chanting as they carried the shrines from Tenmonkan to City Hall, but that ended before the lesson finished. I finally got out at 8 PM, and the park was abandoned, and part of the stage had been disassembled. The rain had tapered off by then, which was good because I hadn't brought my umbrella with me.

The rain started back up again about the time I went to bed. The next morning, we were in the middle of a heavy downpour when I got up. I checked the Ogionsa official website, and that announced the main parade had been cancelled. There'd still be the blessing of the shrines in Central Park as if the parade was still starting from there, but that was it. I got to the park at 12 PM, took a few photos, and went to a coffee shop to read manga for an hour.

Most of the people in the park were the mikoshi carriers, with a small handful of tourists. I can understand why the organizers cancelled the parade - several of these shrines are a few hundred pounds each, and will have two people standing on them to lead everyone else in the chanting. Things would get ugly fast if someone fell because the ground was slippery. Even so, Ogionsa is one of the biggest events in Kagoshima, and is certainly one of the biggest ones in the summer. There should be an Obon matsuri at Honganji temple in August (if that's not cancelled), but that's been shrinking over the last couple of years. After that, there's just the free jazz fest in September. All we have to look forward to otherwise are more typhoons.

Oh well. There's always next year. Maybe.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

South African Food and Wine Matsuri

The Springboks rugby team is going to have its training camp in Kagoshima. To celebrate, a few of the Japanese sponsors put on what they called a "South African" food and wine fest on Saturday. The foods were largely steaks and sausages from the Steak and Beer restaurant located in Amu Plaza. I had classes at the English school from 1:30 to 8 PM, with no breaks in the middle, so there really wasn't any opportunity at all for trying out the food, or checking the wine tables to see what they had. There was one table that had sample cups of something set out, and I was really hoping it was coffee (specifically Kilimanjaro). Looking a bit closer, at least half of the display packages were for some kind of teas, and the cups looked like they had tea instead of coffee. I'm not that big of a tea drinker, so I didn't try one of the sample cups (that, and I only had a few minutes to get to the school before the first class would start).

When I got out of the school, I walked over to Central Park to check out the Ogionsa events and didn't pass through this part of Tenmonkan again on Saturday. Sunday, I was in the area to visit Central Park again, and all of the food and drink tables were gone. There was nothing on the sign Saturday saying what the dates were supposed to be, but I guess it was only intended to be a one-day thing. That was extremely disappointing.

Not a lot of interest in the event at 1 PM. I know a few people here that like rugby but it's not as popular a sport in Japan as soccer or baseball. The World Rugby Cup will be held in Yokohama from Sept. 20 to Nov. 2. We'll see if it gets more popular then.

Saturday, July 20, 2019


I'm still playing around with spot monitoring on the little pocket camera. This is probably one of the best photos of the moon I've gotten so far.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Rokugatsu-gou 2019

Terukuni Shrine had its Rokugatsu-gou celebrations Monday and Tuesday night. While the shrine website said that it would run from late morning to 10 PM, in fact this is a night festival, and setup of the food booths didn't even start until 5 PM. I swung by Terukuni at about 3 PM, took photos of the better lanterns, then walked over to Tully's coffee shop in Tenmonkan to kill time.

Notice the little gash in the hill of Shiroyama, behind the shrine grounds.

This is one of the small landslides that panicked everyone in Kagoshima during the heavy rain a couple Wednesdays ago. Since the overgrowth isn't very thick over the hills here, there's nothing stopping the slides if the rain gets at all heavy. Nothing to worry about, though. Yet.

The big lanterns have light bulbs inside, the smaller ones use candles. One side has advertising, the other has artwork from various school kids.

I think the artwork is a bit easier to make out in the daylight, instead of at night. These are the ones I was more impressed by. Disney was really popular this year, but there were a few Snoopy's too.

Rokugatsu-gou is a month-long period that is celebrated by most of the larger shrines in Kagoshima prefecture at different times and in different ways. For Terukuni, there are 4 main elements. First are the lanterns, second is praying at the shrine up ahead in the above photo. Third is visiting all the food and toy booths set up on the street leading to the shrine entrance, and fourth are the live stage performances, below.

There's also a small ikebana (flower arrangement) display toward the back, but there's never been that much to take photos of in past years.

Monday was a national holiday, and I've never seen the crowds so thick before. There easily had to be a couple thousand people here and spread out into nearby Central Park at any given time. Tuesday was a normal working day, and I had classes from 5 to 9 PM. When I got back here a little after 9 Tuesday night, the crowd was maybe 10% of what's in the above photo.

One of the big lanterns in Tenmonkan.

The performances can be classified as hula, traditional Japanese dance, and some pop. In past years, some of the street dance studios performed hard rock dances, but I didn't see any of those mentioned in the schedule this time.

A taiko group from Izumi. Two of the members are foreign English teachers.

The last act of the first night was Wicky Toshi and his wife Kana, with a stand-in guest on guitar (I saw this guest at the Kagoshima Music Fest a couple months ago, but I don't know his name).

Lanterns at night.

Some of the food booths sell these soft drinks in the shape of an incandescent light bulb, with flashing LEDs at the bottom. Apparently they can't be used for anything else when you're done with the drink, so it results in a massive amount of plastic waste afterward.

Tuesday night, I returned to Central Park from the school after my last lesson. The big lantern tower here is for Ogionsa, which will run July 20 and 21. This is the mikoshi (portable shrine) parade that runs through Tenmonkan. On Saturday, it's just the mikoshi being taken through the shopping arcade and the porters being blessed by various Shinto priests. There should be some taiko performances and maybe some foamhead mascot stage shows here in Central Park. The main parade will be on Streetcar Street on Sunday.

Yoko was half way through her set when I got to the Rokugatsu-gou stage. She was doing straight pop karaoke, so I took a few photos and returned home for dinner.

I may try visiting one of the other shrines if I can, to see what else those locations have going on.

I only took one video this time, of the taiko group based in Izumi.

Direct youtube link