Japanese Numbers

Filed under Japanese

Though Japan commonly uses the western numerical system originally derived from Arabic, it remains true that the Japanese possess their own numeric system based on numerical myriads.

This older system derived from the Chinese numerical system is still in fairly common use today, and can be somewhat jarring for a westerner to get used to.

With that in mind, I’ve developed JapaNumber.  A single serving Android application that allows you to quickly translate western digits into the Japanese myriad system.  This application is very useful for learning the way the Japanese numerical system works.    Unfortunately, the application is not yet capable of making it easy to translate from the myriad system back into the western system – but there are plans to make it possible in the future.

So, if you’d like, head over to the Google Play store and give JapaNumber a try.

Language Look: 何時(いつ)

Filed under Japanese, Language Look

Many Japanese learners are introduced to いつ at some point as when. However, the distinction of what いつ really is generally isn’t made clear until after they’ve learned more about the language and came to the revelation themselves.

いつ isn’t really the question “when” but the concept of “when”.  This may not be self evident at first, but will quickly become apparent.

The kanji itself helps shed a little light on the subject, though it is rarely used.

何時: what time. when.

Most students don’t see the kanji and are simply taught いつか as when. If you don’t know the difference I’ll break it down for you.

いつか: what いつ, if any. what time, if any. when, if at all. This follows the same pattern as 何か: what, if any. Following this pattern, the following become apparent.

いつも: always. も is used as “also” or “additionally” in Japanese. When applying this to a broad concept it becomes inclusive. ex: 何も: all things. everything.
いつでも: any time. The も  continues to be inclusive but the で limits it to once. ex: 何でも: anything.
いつでもない: not any time. not ever. never. ない simply negates the above. I am not sure why this is applied to でも instead of も but it is. ex: 何でもない: nothing

I hope with this, you’ve learned more than just what’s on the surface of いつ.

Until we speak again,
まったニャア

JGaming – Pokémon: Black and White Continued

Filed under Video Games
Tagged as , ,

Looks like two new Pokémon games have been announced for release this summer in Japan. From the beginning of the week, there were hints that there would be some kind of game announcement in this week’s Pokémon Smash. And this got people into a speculating frenzy. I think it’s safe to say that almost nobody predicted what was to come. Speculation mostly turned to an announcement of Pokémon Grey (I just want to take this opportunity to say “I told you so” since everybody likes to conveniently forget the fact that Nintendo themselves stated that there would NOT be a Pokémon Grey), but that’s not quite what Nintendo had in mind.

The announcement is, instead, for Pokémon Black 2 and Pokémon White 2. When Nintendo said that they felt that Black and White were essentially ‘reboots’ of the franchise, we had no idea that this was what they meant. The games defy the standard release model and naming conventions of the past 16 years to provide us with two direct sequels to the latest main-series Pokémon games. And this is fantastic news. Much better than Pokémon Grey, this opens the scope to a whole new adventure in the world of Pokémon. It lets Nintendo expand on the world and would be a FANTASTIC opportunity to bring one of their main and most popular titles to their new console, the 3DS! This will surely give the console the boost that it’s so needed for so long–

…Wait. They’re DS games? …Oh. They’re DS games. Which, while good news for the many gamers out there that don’t yet have a 3DS, is somewhat questionable when it comes to Nintendo’s strategy. Surely this was an amazing opportunity to take the current generation and use it as a boost for the 3DS. And this is perhaps one of the most interesting design decisions of the announcement: Why keep it on the DS? The two games are basically Pokémon Grey. It’s the third game of the generation split up into two. No word yet on how they’ll differ from Black 1 and White 1, but I for one look forward to more details. A brand new Pokémon adventure awaits!

JGaming – My Thoughts On The Vita

Filed under Japan, Video Games
Tagged as , , , ,

So this Wednesday, the Playstation Vita came out in North America and Europe. I took the opportunity to get my hands on one and play around with it for a bit. Here are some of my thoughts.

My opinions on the Vita are very mixed. It’s so weird that this one device contains what I perceive to be some of the very best and also some of the very worst design decisions that could possibly be on a portable handheld console. It manages to make it both incredibly easy and incredibly frustrating at the same time to buy games. Now, it should be noted that the majority of my gripes with the Vita are from an otaku point of view, and gamers that are content to play games just from their region have a fantastic device that allows them access to a wide variety of PSP and Vita games. But to me, the Vita represents much more than that. It represents the ability to import Japanese PSP and Vita games digitally.

Let’s start with a bit of history. In terms of handhelds, I was never interested that much in the PSP. I have to blame just how poorly the PSP was received over here in England as we had by far the most pathetic game choice out of all the regions, and while I did pick up a PSP for the sake of a couple of JRPGs and, more recently, import games, I never got much playtime out of it. I wanted to like it, but any time I tried to like it I ran into the issues of high import costs, poor local game choice, ridiculous load times from UMD, etc. And it never ended up being as engaging, to me, as the DS ever was – The main draw in a portable games console, in my opinion, is the ability to take it out wherever you are and play for whatever time you have free while waiting in a queue or generally having free time. This is something the PSP with its long load times was very bad at. So that brings me to my first good point about the Vita: The elimination of UMD.

The new format, Playstation Vita card, is an extremely small flash memory card containing a Vita game. While making it incredibly easy to lose games (I think I might actually have to keep the boxes for my Vita games, something I don’t tend to do!), it also means that both the load times and capacity are significantly improved. In addition to the Vita card, you also have to purchase (separately) a Vita memory card, which currently come in 4GB, 8GB and 16GB sizes. (And in addition to THAT, a SIM card is required if you purchase the 3G version of the console, which is quite a lot of cards!). The memory cards are even smaller than the Vita cards and are used to store save data, patches and downloaded games from the PS Store.

Speaking of the PS Store, this brings us nicely onto the second good point about the Vita: Digital downloading. I found some conflicting evidence when I was initially doing my research on whether I would want to buy a Vita. A lot of people said that the Vita would be backwards compatible, a lot of people said it wouldn’t. Well, it is and it isn’t at the same time. It is backwards compatible… but not with the games that you own. Sony is currently in the process of putting a library of old PSP games on the PS Store that you can buy for download. The choice isn’t complete at the moment, it’s something Sony have said they are working on, but the selection at the moment is quite large regardless. These games obviously aren’t free, so even if you did own the game you have to re-purchase it for use on the Vita. While this is something that I can understand a lot of PSP gamers being a bit unhappy about, I think this is perhaps one of the best features and one of the best justifications for buying a Vita, particularly for otaku, because, and here’s the important thing: You can still access the Japanese PS Store from an EU or NA Vita.

What does this mean? It means that we have access to a digital store that will allow us to instantly download any Japanese PSP game – Of which there are MANY. (The Japanese PS Store is about 3-4 times larger than the EU store, at least). It means we can now instantly own, without shipping costs or custom fees or delivery delays, any game on the Japanese PS Store for the same price for which it is available in Japan. And that is perhaps the greatest design decision ever. Sony has gone beyond making its console region free and has made the entire marketplace accessible to anybody. And it gets better, because not only can you purchase any PSP game from the Japanese PS Store, not only that, but the PS Store also contains an updated library of Vita games released in that region as well. This feature is what has truly made me fall in love with my Vita – It means that regardless of what games Japan gets, I can have it downloaded to my Vita within hours of it coming out. As I type this, I’m currently waiting on Disgaea 3 to download.

But of course, this bridge of culture has a few faults with it, a few little niggling points that makes the experience just a little bit less desirable. It doesn’t detract from the end result, but it does make the process quite a bit more annoying. I mentioned that the Japanese PS Store was accessible regardless of which region of Vita you have, and that’s true. But it does require a Japanese PSN Account. These are easy to create on a PS3 at least, there are a few tutorials out there that can help you set one up. And that’s fine for the PS3, because on the PS3 you can create users and have multiple people signing in and out of the Playstation Network. But the first major shortfall of the Vita is… it’s impossible to have more than one PSN Account on the console.

What this means, for those of you that, like me, may want to access the store in your own region as well as the Japanese PS Store, is that as well as needing two accounts, you’re going to need some way to switch between them. The only way to do this on the Vita is to… entirely format your console. Return it to factory settings and it will allow you to sign in with a different account. The good news is that this is actually not that difficult to do, the bad news is that if I see the opening movie just one more time then I will actually inflict physical pain on someone. It’s a pain, and it’s a design decision I *really* don’t understand. But it’s a legitimate issue not just for importers, but for families that might want to share a Vita. There are so many legitimate use cases for why families might want to switch between different PSN accounts and share one Vita between numerous people that I don’t see why Sony have gone so far as to not allow a user to sign in with a different account. It’s a pain, but it’s one that I’ve come to accept and in terms of difficulty of workaround, it’s actually not that bad.

The other main drawback that I’ve identified is the actual getting of funds into a Japanese PSN Account. There are two ways to add funds into a PSN Account, using a credit card or using a PSN Card. Unfortunately they have gone to the trouble of only allowing cards registered at a Japanese address to be used for the purposes of topping up a Japanese PSN Account. The only workaround I’ve found is to find digital sellers of PSN cards online. These are usually extremely marked up their actual value, but a number of online stores (including play-asia) will allow you to buy PSN cards online and will email you a code, which worked pretty well for me!

On the whole, then, the Vita is definitely something that I recommend getting, especially from an otaku point of view. The instant access to an entire library of Japanese JRPGs and Rhythm games alone makes it a fantastic console. And for those of us, like me, that are learning Japanese, it’s a great way to gain more exposure to the language through Japanese gaming!

JGaming – Hatoful Boyfriend – Dating Sim With A Difference

Filed under Japan, Video Games

The dating sim genre is one that hasn’t really made much of an impact in Western markets. For those unfamiliar with the concept, essentially they are story-driven games that have a branching narrative, where your main source of input is an occasional choice, in order to reach a goal of, well… dating one of the characters. More of a visual novel than a game with much gameplay, they tend to be popular amongst the otaku culture. But y’know, the formula has been getting stale for a while, it’s just a set of archetypal characters that fit into a subset of personality traits. And it all gets very samey.

So it seems that some companies have decided to break the mold and try something different. And that kind of radical outside-the-box thinking is how we’ve ended up with the feature of this article.

The game is Hatoful Boyfriend. It’s a dating sim, like any other. There are the typical array of male characters, from your best friend to your teacher, from the doctor to the shy one that sits in the library. But perhaps the most obvious and interesting difference is that everyone in the game, apart from the main character, are birds.

 

Ryouta the Pigeon

Oh man look at that one on the left.

 

Yes, I mean literally birds. As in feathered winged warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrates. Each bird has a male personification that you see when the character is first introduced, and they even have their own voice actors! (It should be noted that the game itself doesn’t have voice acting, but you are encouraged to imagine it as if it did.) But after the initial introductions, it’s all about the birds. I never cease to be amazed by some of the things that make it out of Japan.

The game itself was released in August of last year, but the official English translation has been brought out a few days ago. If the idea of trying to woo pigeons into dating you sounds like your idea of a fun time, the game can be picked up for just $5.35 from here!

Alternatively, if you want to have a closer look at the game before you make your purchasing decision, you can check out the first episode of my new Let’s Play of the game in the following video!

 

JGaming – Is Steam Otaku?

Filed under General, Professor Layton, Video Games
Tagged as , , , ,

o·ta·ku
(noun)

1. an avid collector or enthusiast, esp. one who is obsessed anime, video games, or computer and rarely leaves home.

2. (In Japan) Young people who are highly skilled in or obsessed with computer technology to the detriment of their social skills.

As a writer on this blog, sometimes I have to make judgement calls and skew my interpretations of the above definition. This site was set up as a general place for us to post about anything anime-related or video-game-related, or about Japan in general. As far as I know there’s no clear ‘line’ as to what does and doesn’t belong on here. So as a gamer, I’m always wondering if something belongs on here. Pokémon? Definitely otaku. Layton? Yep. Steam sales? Well it’s certainly video-game related, but it’s nothing to do with Japan at all. So I’d guess probably not, right? But then someone makes a post about Minecraft and I’m all confused again.

So you know what? I’m a gamer, and as long as I’m still alive, Steam sales belong on this website dammit! This is my section, I can do what I want with it! Hmph.

December 19th marked the beginning of this year’s winter Steam sales! Almost every game on Steam has a massive chunk taken out of the price, and every day until January 1st, 12 games get their price reduced even more. A bunch of games have added achievements to go for, and there’s even a chance to win the prize of EVERY SINGLE STEAM GAME for participating. Now that’s a prize I want to win. (If only for that Railworks 3 DLC worth $1545.96).

To commemorate this occasion, throughout the sales I’ll be making a video on my youtube channel highlighting the deals, talking about the games and generally handing out my recommendations like candy. Steam sales are traditionally times that all gamers unite to give Valve all of their money. Because Steam deals are just *TOO GOOD*. I’m not going to be posting any more about this on CollectiveOtaku, the purpose of this post is just to drive people towards them and let them know they exist! So here’s the link to today’s entry, day 5 of the Steam sales! Future editions (and past editions) can be found on my Youtube channel here!

 

Incidentally, you may wonder why I’m calling this section ‘JGaming’ for this update. “But oh great and powerful Mindez!” I hear you cry, “This has nothing to do with Japanese Gaming! Surely you should call it WGaming or something!” To which I respond “Oh, there’s a reason, Billy. There’s definitely a reason.”

And there is, for the second reason I made this update today was because today I discovered that I will be getting a Japanese 3DS and an import of the Japanese 3DS Professor Layton game, レイトン教授と奇跡の仮面 (Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle), for Christmas this year. So I feel justified in calling this section the ‘JGaming’ section. (Actually, I’m calling it JGaming because I can call it whatever I want! It’s not like this blog has editors or anything.)

This will probably be my last update before Christmas, so have a happy Christmas. And think of me playing my new Layton game as you sip your eggnog and watch domestic disputes break out in houses up and down the country this Christmas day. …All families have those at Christmas, right?

The Mindez Review – Hayate no Gotoku: Heaven is a Place on Earth

Filed under Anime, General, Japan

On Friday, almost 4 months after the 58-minute-long Hayate no Gotoku movie, Heaven is a Place on Earth, was released in Japan, it was finally released on DVD. Within hours of it coming out, fansub group Commie were the first to get it subbed. Despite being a slightly cut down version (With the extended Blu-Ray release slated for February 2012), it’s finally out for the western world to see. Potential movie spoilers ahead in this post!

Hayate no Gotoku: Heaven is a Place on Earth

The Hayate series has always been a bit of a mess of timelines and characters, with season 1 taking liberties with seemingly random manga selection and season 2 attempting to fill in the gaps where manga has been skipped over. It’s good to see that the movie carries on this tradition, with random new characters such as Tsurugino Kayura, Nagi’s friend and devoted cosplayer (Which helps them immensely when it comes to filling in their ‘random references to other anime’ quota) and Suirenji Ruka, a dance idol from the manga who appears purely to sing the opening theme. And to make the timelines more confusing, this was actually Kayura’s first appearance. In recent chapters of the manga, she is introduced as a new character for the first time. So to summarise, the second half of the first season ran alongside the second season, but before the current manga and after the first half of the first season, and the current manga is running before the movie but after the two anime seasons. Everyone follow that? Me either.

The movie is, as you may expect from Hayate no Gotoku, pretty formulaic. The entire cast of main characters is persuaded to go travel into the countryside for a few days, Nagi gets bored, the characters get lost and find themselves in trouble. The particular brand of trouble this time being a carnival that Nagi, Kayura and the Hakuou Three Amiga manage to get trapped in as everybody outside the carnival forgets about their existence. Cue Hayate desperately trying to remember about Nagi and Nagi desperately trying to find a way out. And of course, this being Hayate no Gotoku, we can’t avoid lots of blatant misunderstandings between Hinagiku/Maria and Hayate. And of course, this being Hayate no Gotoku, they couldn’t resist putting some Hinagiku fanservice in. However, unlike the OVA, the fanservice was very sparse and not at all distracting.

In its favour, the ending payoff is definitely worth the build up, something that is incredibly important. I definitely feel that it was worth watching as a viewer of the series, for some teasers into Hayate’s past and some awesome and well made scenes towards the end. There are some great scenes throughout, mostly with Hinagiku (Despite not being a big Hina fan myself). But conversely, it didn’t feel like this needed to be a movie. This would have been a fantastic two-parter in a season, but it didn’t hold up spectacularly well on its own (Something that I think the producers realised as it was released in theatres as a double bill with Mahou Sensei Negima!: Anime Final). Bottom line is that if you enjoy the series, watch it. But if you haven’t seen Hayate, this is probably not the best place to start.

For that reason, I rate this movie 8/10. On par with the second season, no better nor worse, it can just be thought of as a quick mid-season two-parter episode. Roll on season 3!

JGaming – Pokémon plus Samurai? Sign Me Up!

Filed under General, Japan, Pokémon, Video Games

Back in November, Nintendo made the announcement that a new Pokémon game would be announced before the end of the year. Yesterday, they followed through with that and now we know what the next DS Pokémon title is going to be. Is it Pokémon Gray, like everybody thought? No, in fact they have very clearly stated that there will not be a Pokémon Grey. In fact, it’s not even a new game in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, or the Pokémon Ranger series, or a sequel to any of the standalone Pokémon games.

I can just imagine the pitch meeting. Everyone sitting around thinking of ideas. One guy suddenly snaps his finger and goes “Got it! Pokémon in FEUDAL JAPAN!” to which Tsunekaz Ishihara jumps up and shouts “Yes! This man is a genius!” and then there would be some brofists and high fives and they’d order pizza or something. I have a pretty good grasp of how these kind of meetings go, I think.

So without further ado, the trailer for Pokémon + Nobunaga’s Ambition on the Nintendo DS.

The game is slated for release some time in Spring 2012 in Japan. No immediate plans for a US/EU release. The game is a crossover between the Pokémon franchise and the Nobunaga’s Ambition franchise. Both have a significant number of games in their respective series’, and both are fairly popular in Japan. I can’t really say much for the popularity of Nobunaga’s Ambition outside of Japan, being from the UK we’ve actually never had a Nobunaga’s Ambition game, so I’d only heard of the series when this was announced. But it seems like an incredibly weird and incredibly unexpected crossover.

So, Nobunaga’s Ambition is a turn based strategy game where you have to conquer land, build armies and use them to battle your enemies. Pokémon is a game where you roam the world collecting cute monsters and use them to battle your enemies. So I guess there’s a FEW similarities – They’re both bloodthirsty battling simulators. Yeah, that pretty much sums up Pokémon.

From the looks of things, the gameplay seems very closely modelled off of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, and in my opinion it probably will turn out to be simply Pokémon Mystery Dungeon with an overarching storyline set in feudal Japan. Which I don’t think is by any means a bad thing, I’m a fan of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games and I do think that it’s the story that lets those games down, so this definitely has the potential to take a good idea and making it better. And I think this game definitely has potential. I’ll certainly be importing it since it’ll probably take numerous years to see a European release.

And who knows, maybe next year we’ll see Pokémon + Professor Layton or Pokémon + Phoenix Wright. I could definitely see Layton and Phoenix Wright being awesome Pokémon trainers.

What I’m Watching (Winter 2011 Edition)

Filed under Anime

What am I watching this season?

  • Ben-To (3/12)
    A fascinating anime where students and others fight over bento boxes that have a reduced price.
  • Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (3/?)
    In this anime, a group of students start a club in order to make friends (since none of the three have any real ones).
  • Naruto: Shippuuden (233/?)
    Yeah…
  • Pokémon Best Wishes! (53/?)
  • Working’!! (4/?)
    I loved Working! and this is the second season.  It focuses around a small group of family restaurant workers.  Its based on a 4-koma manga.
  •  Chihayafuru (0/25)
  •  Kimo to Boku. (0/13)
  • Mirai Nikki (0/26)
  • Mashiroi Symphony (0/12)

The Mindez Review – Nichijou – Now It’s On

Filed under Anime

Well. It seems another competitor has entered the ring. I was kinda expecting my last post to go totally unnoticed. But it seems that certain people still have this site buried in their RSS feeds or email notification lists and managed to see that I updated, and it seems that a certain Navarr-esque entrant has decided to compete for the latest post. With a Minecraft post, even (Which I consider to be cheating)! So I must find something else to post about. I’m not going to lie, part of me was justifying My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic as being just as otaku as Minecraft, and I was so tempted to make a random pony update. But I’m above that, so in its place I’ve actually mentioned SOMETHING JAPANESE (*cough cough*) and written a review of Nichijou. But I warn you, Navarr. You’re playing a dangerous game, and my threat of ponies is ever-present!

So I should probably get on with it.

Nichijou (日常) is Japanese for ‘everyday’. And honestly, I can’t think of a more perfect word to sum up this slice-of-life comedy series. Originating as a manga series in Shonen Ace in December 2006 by Keiichi Arawi, it was given the anime treatment by Kyoto Animation, airing 26 episodes between April 3rd and September 25th of this year. The same studio that brought such hits as Lucky Star, K-On! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – And it shows. The series meets the high standards that you would expect from the creator of all of these.

The actual ‘storyline’ (if you would go so far as to call it that) revolves around multiple intertwining groups of people, the main two being  a group of 3 high school girls, Mai, Yūko, and Mio, with their high school shenanigans, and an 8 year old professor who’s never actually named that somehow has the intelligence and resources to create an advanced high school aged robot called Nano and a talking cat called Sakamoto. Just like real life, right? There’s also a bunch of other colourful characters that have their own adventures, such as Kōjirō Sasahara, a posh kid that rides a goat to school, Tsuyoshi Nakanojō, a… kid with a natural mohawk, and Kenzaburō Daiku, president of the after-school ‘go-soccer’ club, a game for which the rules are… interesting, to say the least.

Okay, so you might have got from that that it’s not the easiest anime to describe. But the series takes the formula of ‘high school girls doing things’ and really lets the imagination flow, and in time the characters all become part of this world. The quickfire nature of the sketches means that if a particular sketch may not be to your liking then a funnier one is likely not that far off. However, this can act as a bit of a double-edged sword. The series doesn’t quite have the character development of other similar series’. The characters and personalities are the same from beginning to end, which can make it slightly harder to really get into the characterisation. I walk away from the series only really feeling that I’ve ‘connected’ with maybe one of the characters. The series has no persistence – For the most part, sketches could fit in any episode, and the world just resets to the state it was in before the sketch started at the end of it. This can make it easier to jump in to episodes, but means that the characters don’t really flesh out as much as one might hope.

Graphically, the series looks amazing. The colours are slightly washed out, which makes for a very nice visual style to watch. Audibly, the series is also amazing. All of the OPs and EDs are incredibly catchy and are now thoroughly embedded inside my head. There are a lot of voice actors that also worked on Lucky Star and Seitokai no Ichizon, which makes that well done as well. In terms of humour, that’s always going to be subjective. But I would definitely say that the series has a good balance between cheap laughs and long payoffs. Certainly a style of humour that I personally loved. The only real issue I have is that people may be turned off by the lack of persistence in the world, no episode is affected by any other – But that’s a common theme amongst anime, so it’s acceptable in this context. Overall, incredible, a must-watch for any fans of Azumanga Daioh, K-On!, Lucky Star, PaniPoni Dash or anything similar.

A solid 10/10 from me!