Thursday, October 27, 2016

Smirnoff Ice Masks

I was at the konbini one night, and I noticed Smirnoff had something they called Halloween Japanese Monsters. Basically, these are face masks like the ones people wear when they get a cold, with different designs printed on them.

Typical Japanese approach - put on the face mask and your costume is complete.

A lot of the designs seem to be either variations on the Mexican Day of the Dead artwork, or a couple Chinese-styled demons.

It's just a little cheap piece of cloth with the design stamped on it. Even in the above advertising photos, the masks look too small for adults. Mine was at least 2 inches too short to reach my ears, so I tossed it without bothering to take a picture with it on.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Halloween Party Train

I mentioned the Kagoshima party train some months back. It's available for rental, but apparently only runs once a month or so. A couple days ago, I caught sight of it in Tenmonkan, where the driver was waiting for the light to change. It wasn't at a platform, so I didn't have the option of running over to find out how much it was. There are a few paper bat and spider cutouts visible through the windows.

The passengers can sit at tables along the windows and eat food (box meals), and drink alcoholic beverages.

One guy was taking photos of the people on the sidewalks, and mugging for the cameras of anyone taking pictures of the train.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lotteria Halloween purple cheese burger

Ok, I really did want to get the purple cheeseburger for the blog, and I was hungry. I figured it would be safer if I bought the set meal for $7.50, which came with the burger, an order of fries and a small drink (I got ice coffee).

In the poster, the cheese oozes down the side of the burger like a big tongue.

In reality, it's just glopped in the middle of the burger looking like Pepto-Bismol. It tastes fine - it's just melted cheddar cheese. The burger itself has too much black pepper, which I've noticed with special campaign burgers from Burger King and McDonald's, too. I suspect it's a way of covering up for the use of cheaper cuts of meat. Not really recommended. The fries were good, though.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Cup no Fuchiko Halloween Figure

Coppu no Fuchiko (Fuchiko of the Cup) is the line of capsule ball figures that feature an OL (office lady) named Fuchiko, that is designed to be propped on the side of a drinking glass. The latest series is for Halloween, so I decided to get one. 300 yen ($3 USD).

The back of the insert sheet has a concept sketch, plus a little bio on the artist. In the dialog boxes, Fuchiko is saying "Torikku oa nantoka--" (Trick or Whatever). "Aki no shuukaku wo iwau omatsuri nandesu yo-" (It's a festival to celebrate good Autumn results."

I'd wanted the red witch, or maybe one of the ghosts. The jack-o-lantern design is ok, but not quite as eye-catching. Fuchiko is about 2" tall.

Still, she's very well-detailed. The back of the dress has Katsuki's copyright statement.

To give a better impression of the actual size of the figure.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Oct. 22-23

Baru Gai Sax Quartet

The city of Kagoshima had a Baru Gai (Bargain Street) event for one day only, on Saturday. Basically, some of the shops offered discount prices on some of their goods. As part of the event, there was a small live stage. I had to work most of the day, so I just caught the last 3 minutes of a sax quartet doing an encore performance.

Direct youtube link

Kagoshima Furosato, Oct. 23, 216

The city of Kagoshima has been celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration for a couple years now. The tents and stuff seem to be going up at least twice a year. Last Friday, I was up at Amu Plaza, and I noticed the front gate structure, and some of the banners, but I was on the wrong side of the street to go look at the schedule, so I just went home. Saturday, we had really hard rain most of the day, and I wasn't expecting any of the tents to go up. However, I finished work at 8 PM, and got to Tenmonkan at 8:20, just in time to stumble on the Baru Gai (Bargain Street) event that was only running on the 22nd. The advertising for that said the event would continue to midnight, so after dinner I returned to Tenmonkan to see if they were going to have any more live music (they didn't, and the live stage had already been dismantled). But, the rain had tapered off, so I continued up to the Kotsuki river, near the main train station to check out the tents there.

The schedule was finally set up in front of the metal gate, and it said that things would be starting Sunday morning, and continue to Nov. 6th, although the sign over the entrance gate wasn't up yet. So, I figured I'd come back the next day, if the weather was good.

Sunday morning, I had to do online English school teaching support, and I had to stay home for that. But, the weather had remained bad, with rain into the afternoon. I kept working and didn't get out of the apartment until 4 PM. At that point, it was just drizzling. However, all of the outdoor live activities (theater plays, posing for photos, and most of the food booths) had been cancelled. There were a few costumed actors who were hanging around the Meiji Restoration Museum, in the middle of the park, and they still had the used book sale (I didn't bother looking through the books because I wouldn't know the difference between a valuable book and a nonvaluable one). But, without the plays and food tables, there were no visitors to the event, either.

Across the river, though, a group of merchants and crafts people had their own booths set up. But, business was so bad that at 4:30 PM they were already tearing down. (Things were supposed to continue until 5 PM on the weekends.)

A dismal end to a dismal day. I continued up to the main train station, but there was nothing interesting happening in the main plaza, either. I went into the department store to get free sample coffee at Kaldi, and picked up some snacks (apple, chestnut and royal milk tea pudding packages, and a bag of small snack waffles), then headed back home for an early dinner. The rest of the evening was spent doing online teaching support, formatting pictures for the blog, and massaging an interview for Basket Case. Again, yet another low-key weekend.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Code of Princess 3DS

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

Code of Princess, Agatsuma Games, 2012, Grade: B-
I've been looking for an inexpensive 3DS game for a while, and I finally broke down and got Code of Princess for 500 yen ($5 USD). I'd seen it in Book Off for months, but I'd been holding off buying it partly because the box art didn't show much in the way of the game play. CoP is, in the words of one reviewer, "a sidescrolling brawler". It's very similar in concept to the old Simpson's video game, where you walk left or right along a street, fighting a fixed number of enemy within a time limit.

(Player selection screen. In story mode, you can only select one of the 4 main characters. Obviously, to get all 4 up to the higher levels, you have to replay the story quests at least one time each for each character.)

You play Princess Solange. Her father's kingdom is attacked by monsters, and the army blames the royal family for the mess. Solange is instructed to get the Sacred Blade DeLuxcalibur out of the armory and find out why the monsters are attacking. DeLuxcalibur is a huge blade, longer than Solange is tall, and very heavy, so Solange spends most of her time dragging it along on the ground when she walks. It has a slow attack, but does a lot of damage if it hits the enemy. It is funny, when Solange is surrounded front and back, that the blade hits anyone behind her, while throwing the enemy in front of her up in the air. In the first few stages, you only have 4 actions - upward cut, lunge, attack the legs, and "burst" (burst uses up all your MP, but adds extra magic damage to the other attacks).

(Princess Solange, from the opening cut scene.)

As you progress through the story, you unlock each chapter one at a time. Any chapter can be replayed if you want to get more experience. At the end of the chapter, you get experience, money, items, and points that can be assigned to specific character stats (strength, HP, MP, defense, etc.) I've only started the game, and I think I have less than 4-5 hours on it. One of the NPCs that joins your party will sell you random weapons, armor and accessories, which are largely useless. I have encountered the three other playable NPCs - the thief, Ali Baba; necromancer Lady Zozo; and "bard" Allegro (Allegro plays an electric guitar, and apparently doesn't need an amp). There are other characters you meet later on, but according to the wiki page, you can't play them in story mode. You can switch to a couple other free play modes, where you can use the other characters, apparently up to 50 total.

(One of the battle screens. Pressing the D-pad in various combinations, then following that with that A-B-X-Y buttons will give you different attacks. Just like Street Fighter.)

The story mode fighting system is very simple, and it's mostly just button mashing. The artwork looks really good, but there's not much strategy - upper cut to keep the enemy air borne, and if someone gets too close, back away and lunge, or attack for the legs a bit, then go back to upper cutting. Guard if the enemy are too high-level and swarm you. I really wanted a traditional RPG, so I'm a bit disappointed at getting a sidescroller. So far, though, it's not difficult to keep beating each chapter, so I may play CoP occasionally, rather than playing Spider Solitaire on the PC. Recommended only if you can find it cheap, used.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ajin, vol. 9 review

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

Ajin, vol. 9 (Good Afternoon, 2016-16), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: A-.
The battle between Satou's forces and Tosaki's continues, although it's really Tanaka and Satou, with the police inadvertently getting in the way of the defenders. The one guard recognizes Kei, and the boy takes Kou as a hostage, whispering out a quick plan. Kei shoots Kou in the legs, giving the guards the chance to dart him. Kou then darts the medics tending to him, and shoots Kei in the head with a gun, resetting him. After a brief skirmish, the guards are all down, and Kei and Kou work their way up the stairs. Elsewhere, Izumi and Tanaka fight it out, until Tanaka succeeds in darting her a couple times. He handcuffs her to a railing. The medics arrive, and think that Tanaka, who is in a uniform, is on their side, and they let him leave. Unfortunately, the medics realize that Izumi is an Ajin, and they prepare to shoot video with their smartphones to put on the net, as Tanaka is still within earshot. (He may have become a little more sympathetic after exchanging memories with Izumi when their ghosts came into contact with each other.)

(Izumi's and Tanaka's ghosts fight; Tanaka prepares to dart Izumi.)

Hirasawa and his two remaining men have Satou pinned down on one floor, next to an indoor swimming pool. Satou takes a dart to the arm, and tries resetting himself by shooting himself in the head, but his revolver is out of bullets. He collapses. Hirasawa radios Kei, who tells him to see if Satou's throat is vibrating as he plays possum (breathing shallowly). It is, and there's more gun play until Satou takes a dart to the back of the neck and collapses for good this time. (He has a tourniquet around his bicep, keeping the sleeping drug in his arm from entering his bloodstream.) However, his ghost is capable of going autonomous now, and it kills the two remaining bodyguards before resetting Satou. Satou almost kills Hirasawa, but Kei saves him. Hirasawa hits his head against the wall, and Satou punches Kei in the face, hard. When they recover, Satou is gone.

(Satou takes a dart to the arm, then pretends to be out of bullets to set a trap for anyone that gets close to him.)

Satou gets to the executive floor, where Kai, the company president, thinks he is safely locked inside. Kai tells Satou to end this and go home. Instead, Satou cuts his arm off, presses the stump up against the saferoom door, and resets himself. The black smoke that causes Ajin to regenerate discovers the door in the way, and assimilates it to make the guy's arm whole again. Leaving a hole in the door for him to shoot Kai through. At the same time, Tanaka discovers Kai's secretary, and takes pity on her for having had pity on him. He tries to get her to safety before his boss finds them, but it's too late. Tanaka threatens to shoot Satou if he tries to kill the woman, and Satou backs off, claiming that he's more interested in capturing and torturing Kei. Tanaka doesn't trust him, but he and the secretary head to the lobby. Simultaneously, Tosaki, in the main security control room, had activated the lock down system, then gotten a phonecall that is too important to ignore. He leaves the room, and finds Izumi cuffed in the stairwell, surrounded by dead medics (their smartphones all have bullet holes in them). Izumi tries to get Tosaki to help her rip her wrist off so she can escape the cuffs, but her boss looks at the blood, and leaves to find the keys to the cuffs instead.

(Satou promises to cut Kei's head off and have the boy generate a new one.)

Satou gets to the control room, and activates the PA system. He says that he's going to track down Kei, cut his head off, and carry it far enough away that he'll generate a second one to torture. Given Kei, the boy will be able to let him do this. Kou and Kei argue over what to do, and Hirasawa orders them to the roof. The exit door is locked, so Kei has the other two cut his arms off and reset him so that he can disable the lock the way Satou had. Hirasawa orders them to escape, and Kou stands close enough to the edge of the roof to be blown off by a strong gust of wind. Kei doesn't want to run away, and he realizes that Hirasawa is bleeding. Turns out that somehow, Satou had managed to shoot him through a gap under his bulletproof vest. He's dying. Satou finds a gas-powered weed trimmer, and reaches the roof. Hirasawa shoots Kei in the head, causing him to fall over the ledge.  Satou is disappointed, but consoles himself with the idea of going toe to toe with the lead bodyguard in a boxing match. Kei orders his ghost to go to the roof to help Hirasawa, but when it gets to the top, Satou is gone (he admits Hirasawa was a great fighter) and the bodyguard is lying on the roof, dead.

(Hirasawa prepares to box with Satou, while Kou attempts to hold on to a ledge a few floors down.)

Kei lands on the pavement in the middle of a crowd of reporters. They recognize him, and some cops rush up. Kou steals a TV transmitter truck, because it has the keys in it, and he rescues Kei. They get to a bridge next to a river, and ditch the truck. Kei orders Kou to use the fact that no one knows he's an Ajin yet, and return to his safe life. He himself will seek out another backwood mountainside to hide in. Kou asks about all the people Satou is going to kill, and Kei replies back that Kou was only concerned about the death of Hirasawa, yet had no feelings when he saw president Kai dead. That is, he's being irrational. Kou replies that when he first died, he'd been trying to replace a lightbulb in the family's apartment. He was just a kid. He'd climbed up on a chair and a stack of newspapers, slipped off, and broke his back on the floor. His family moved away, leaving him there, paralyzed, waiting to die. It took days to die and reset. He is desperate now to help people who need him, but he can't do it alone. He needs Kei, too. Kei leaves, trying to think of somewhere that has no people. Suddenly, he stops and says that he'll try calling his mother one more time.

Summary: The security doors of the Forge building open the next morning, and everyone is shuttled out. Tosaki and Izumi leave together, while Tanaka continues pretending to be a guard, then ditches the uniform in a nearby alley. No word on what happened to the secretary. Satou threw himself off the roof and escaped that way. And essentially, everyone is back to square one. Although, Satou is in the lead because he had succeeded in getting one of the two remaining people on his top ten hit list. Great artwork, great action, great pacing. Lots of gory combat. Recommended if you like this kind of thing. Upgraded to A-, based on the improvements in the character art.