After 27 years, ゲーマガ (Gamerga) game monthly stops being published

That’s odd. When you get attached to something (or someone), you naturally come to think it will be here forever. But life is transient, and it never fails to remind you so when suddenly, what you hold dear is irresistibly taken from you, leaving nothing but a sad nostalgia.

I came to know ゲーマガ by a attractive cover of Hyperdimension Neptune Mk2. I was instantly hooked by the content of this monthly release, which had all the necessary info for otakus, might it be obscene but exhaustively discussed adult games or the latest ultra-famous RPG addressed to everyone. Sure, I hadn’t been reading ゲーマガ for that long, but the quality & quantity of the content, as well as the many games of which I wouldn’t have heard of should have I not been reading it made this game magazine a delicious pleasure of my life in Paris. How many great games have I discovered in those pages, how many artworks have I been enjoying? How much exclusive information? How many kanjis and words learned in those paragraphs?

So, when the shopkeeper told me that they wouldn’t be importing it after April, I looked at him with total incomprehension. I took little notice, reckoning I just had to order it the normal way. Alas! When reading through the April issue, a double page from Compile Heart caught my eye : I was saying «thank you Gamerga». My heart stopped beating. Turning back the pages in a hurry, the awful truth stood firm in front of me : the title on the left was indeed saying «sayonara Gamerga».

Funny enough, ゲーマガ and myself were born the same year, in 1984. When the magazine was first published, it was called «Beep» and saw the rise of gaming. Later it became focused on Sega systems, before reaching the current formula in 2001.

ゲーマガ is dead, but I go on. Finding a paper to replace it is going to be difficult, because ゲーマガ accurately mirrored my liking like anything else before. Doomed to look for an hypothetical substitute, my shopping in Japanese bookshops will probably taste bitter this year…



秋葉以上の楽園?コミケで一日!(Even better than Akiba? One day at the comic market)

When I headed for kokusaitenjijo station, I regarded the comike as a kind of remote event welcoming a few otakus crazy enough to bear the heat just to see the newest anime products. I was utterly mistaken and I realized it quite soon enough. Visitors kept pouring out of the station for an hour or so, and I wondered if we could make it on time when Tate-kun, Neko-san and Sekigara-kun would have arrived. I had arrived too early for them to already be here, so I did some scouting around. I couldn’t help thinking that Kokusaitenjijo was the neatest place I had ever seen. Most of the buildings have a futurist look and could easily be space research centers. The exposition hall itself looks like a modern Aztec pyramid, and the Japanese seemed to climb the stairs just like ancient mayas would go to see religious events (well, ok… those were sacrifices). As we were waiting for Neko-san, Tate-kun told me that 200.000 persons were expected today, but that there nothing to worry about since most of the people would come early. Nevertheless, it took some time to reach the various halls, in which anybody would worry sick by seeing so many people waiting.

I asked Neko-san whether they were all otakus, he said that they were. He added that the comike was still seen a bit contemptuously by the society at large, despite dramatic improvement over the years. I guess we could say the same here in Europe – a few years ago video games were despicable, and people playing were considered as half-witted blokes. Now that the returns of the industry are skyrocketing and that more or less everyone is playing, acceptance has spread quickly.

At the comike, anime companies sell goods that can only be found there during three days. For anime fans, such goods are extremely valuable, even priceless, and they do not hesitate to come at 5.00 am and wait for five hours. Funny it is that having just landed in that hall, I felt exactly the same by spotting a Valkyria Chronicles set. Realizing that leaving without it would be worse than death, I rushed to buy it despite the high probability to lose sight of each other. Relieved by this sudden shopping spree, we followed Neko-san who went queuing for his target item. Apart from Valkyria Chronicles, most of the anime were unknown to me, but still really appealing. Despite not being a huge anime fan, I might as well have spent the whole three days because there was a lot to learn.

There were four doshujin halls (a doshujin is a manga drawn by a fan, not by a mangaka), each of them very like a gymnasium. Half of those doshujin were nearly unlawful given the level of erotic contents, and the other half didn’t catch my interest either. I guess I’m better off with the official stuff.

I would have expected more from the cosplay plaza, but it can’t be helped. It was overcrowded, and most of the disguises didn’t ring a bell. The second plaza was a lot better in terms of quality (really good ones from Evangelion, Suzumiya, Naruto…) but even more crowded and hot, so that it was difficult to advance. The cosplayers were already packing, proof that it must have been far busier in the morning. Anyway, we came to the conclusion that only ones to survive this were true otakus. Am I one? I’ll let you judge by the level of stuff I bought…

Catch-up post – 歴史知識の溢れた東京博物館 (History lectures at Tokyo National Museum)

Back to Tokyo, our glorious capital. We began by getting a bit lost in Shibuya – we cut trough what appears to be a love hotel area – but managed to reach the famous crossroad. I was recording while crossing, to show my relatives how many people there were, when I suddenly spotted a guy doing the same thing from the other side! We actually spotted each other yelling a big ‘yeah!’ to mark the coincidence.

Nothing thrilling the following day, as we went to Shinjuku to visit the city hall and the SquareEnix shop – a got a classy FFXIII thermos, featuring Vanille. I went to Kichijoji in the evening to have a drink with Chiyomi-san and Haru-san. The latter had brought some of his students’ answer sheets – he is lecturer of law at Meiji university. It was a big laugh, as half of the sheets were nearly blank, and some had appalling kanji mistakes – 裁く (sabaku – to judge) was written (which is wa – I), and (chigau – different) lacked strokes.

I was unlucky enough to spot hideous advertising boards above Shinjuku’s Yodobashi camera, a tremendous anger filled my body and soul at the reminder that Star Ocean 4 was X360 exclusive (one month later, this nightmare would be finally over). Honestly, I didn’t believe that a Japanese shop staff could have authorized such outrageous publicity for Xbox360. Those people are more like scum, because this kind of behaviour is filthy beyond recognition.

The day we spent in Ueno was the opportunity to visit one of the numerous museums the park counts. I chose the Tokyo National Museum which, despite being divided between four buildings, is not that big. True, I strolled only in the principal one, that’s called 本館 (honkan – main building). It was destroyed during the 1923 earthquake and was reconstructed to what it is today in 1938. The second-largest building called 表慶館 (hyokeikan) was originally constructed as a wedding gift for the prince (not the Half-Blood Prince) and resisted in 1923.

The first hall is dedicated to the introduction of Buddhism in Japan. The museum reckons that Buddhism must have spread in India during 2 or 3 centuries before Christ, having for origin the achievement of Enlightenment by Siddhartha around 450 BC. Few centuries after, many Chinese emperors chose Buddhism as official religion, spreading it further eastward to Korea. The museum shows that Buddhism in Japan came directly from Korea, which at that time was divided between three kingdoms. The kingdom of Baekje seems to be the one that influenced Japan most, therefore many think that it brought Buddhism to the archipelago. Although there is no historical evidence liking Prince Shotoku to Beakje, there was a military alliance between this Korean kingdom and Japan around 500-600. If you consider that Prince Shotoku was regent of Empress Suiko around that time, and that Shotoku strongly favored ideals from the continent, he might have been the one who welcomed the emissaries from Beakje. The museum also refers to Nara’s Gangoji, a temple dedicated to Shotoku that regards the Prince as the pioneer of Buddhism in Japan. Moreover, Nara became the first capital of centralized Japan in 710. I therefore reckon that it is safe to think that Shotoku was based in Kansai (there is historical evidence he founded Tennoji in Osaka) and from there inspired a sense of unity thanks to the teachings brought by Baekje, which made Nara the religious center and therefore capital of Japan a hundred years later. The impact of Buddhism was then so important that Shotoku became known not only in Kansai but as far as Nagano.

The first floor features an interesting collection of swords (although less impressive than the Tokyo sword museum or the one in Osaka castle) in which you can see two Osafune. For reference, osafune is a katana featured in Final Fantasy Ivalice Alliance. Historically speaking, Osafune represents a lineage of sword smiths from Kamakura era to Nanbokucho era (1185 to 1392). The museum also tells us about (shitsu – lacquer). Lacquer trees are found in Asia and when the first Europeans saw the variety of lacquer ware manufactured in Japan around the 16thcentury, it was the beginning of a huge export business. Lacquer was so strongly associated with Japan that the word Japan itself was synonym of lacquer, as China still means Chinese ceramics, as it was fashioned originally.

As we were making a small diversion for me to find a 包丁 (hocho – keen (?) kitchen knife), we realized that nearly all kitchenware shops were closed. They seem to have taken their summer vacation all at the same time, knowing I’d come. They probably didn’t want me to make additional cheap sashimi. But so it happens, a nice retailer was still open, and I got get hands on a shiny one for the reasonable price of 10.000.

Originally published in august 2009.

Catch-up post – ラブひなの徹を踏み続けてーワクワクの浜辺!(In Love Hina’s trail – exciting beach)

Our trip to Kamakura was normal, altough considerably slowed by the heat. Then we went to add another milestone to my Love Hina pilgrimage – Enoshima beach. There was all you could expect from a Japanese beach if you base your expectations on shonen mangas – the Japanese girls in bikini are hot for most of them, the boys very look like yakuzas and there are various 浜茶屋 (hamachaya – cafés built on the beach). I went for a beer, and was addressed as 兄さん (nii-san, which means here young man), so I thanked her saying 姉さん (nee-san, same thing as before, but for girls). You have to pay hell a lot of money (1500) to change clothes for some reason, but it’s nothing compared to the dreadful state of the water. First, you’re walking on something, but you have no clue what they could be (I supposed they were seaweed). And secondly, you swim in the middle of things floating around, which are not only seaweed. I was careful to keep my head above the water, for I feared that immersing it might cause immediate death.

The sand was nevertheless pleasant to walk on, although so hot that it was nearly impossible to stay on the same spot for more than 10 seconds. In conclusion, if you ever go to Enoshima beach, there is no need to bring your swimsuit… I was wearing my brand-new Asuka T-shirt, for which I was complimented by a couple on the train.

Originally published in august 2009.

Catch-up post – 長野に地震警戒!(Nagano – earthquake alert!)

August 11th2009, 5:00, Nagano Sunroute Hotel… I woke up for some reason I don’t remember. It was still night over Nagano and I peered through the glass of my room. The station plaza seemed very like any Japanese station plaza. Right after lying on my bed, I sensed my room shaking heavily from left to right for a moment that might have been minutes. When everything went still again, I looked in the lobby – there was no one. I went back to the window, but the station plaza was identical as it had been 10 minutes earlier. I thought I might have dreamed this, but the Shizuoka earthquake was all over the news on the following morning. Shinkansens and local trains had been stopped and motorways closed on the spot, just like in Evangelion when Tokyo-3 is on red alert.

Let’s go 2 days backwards now. Nothing really special occurred during our first evening in Nagano. The city is no different from your average Japanese prefecture. The resemblance with Sendai was quite striking, given that the station plaza looked exactly the same. The only noticeable point was the exceptional rurumo restaurant, which is definitely in my top 3 ramen restaurants. Rurumo is basically ramen, but boiled in actual pork fat, which doesn’t look particularly appetizing but turned out to be extremely tasty.

The second day left us enough time to explore the mountains. We stopped at Obuse, where all the restaurants seemed to be closed, to visit the Hokusai museum. Hokusai was a Japanese painter of 浮世絵 (ukiyoe – woodblock print) who is famous for his Kanagawa great wave part of theseries called 36 views of Mount Fuji. The museum presents a variety of authors who seem to be relatives or pupils of Hokusai. The museum explanations even hints that Hokusai might be in fact part of the Sori family, which made me wonder whether Hokusai could be just a title. As we were making our way back to the station, a lorry that was passing by splashed us violently.

Shortly after we got on the Yudanaka express, which was astonishingly slow for an express. I’m not even sure we exceeded 40km/h on the trail to the spa town.

In the soba restaurant just in front of Yudanaka station, we were treated many delicious fruits by the owners, and I had a lot of conversation with them, from fruits to politics. The onsen was quite pleasant too, even though I half-removed the (onna – women) sign while attempting an explanation of how onsens worked. I was alone in the 露天風呂(rotenburo – outdoor bath), there was a good feeling about it.

Just a quick word about Zenkoji. It’s the biggest temple around, so it takes quite a bit of time to go through it entirely. But the interesting thing is that it refers to Prince Shotoku a some point, which is a name that appeared in Nara’s Gangoji. It’s hard telling who Shotoku really was, though he seems to have had a great role in the introduction of Buddhism in Japan, as the Tokyo National Museum will show later.

Originally published in August 2009.

Catch-up post – 五里霧中突然決定大阪花火大会!(Sudden trip to Osaka)

After countless e-mails, phone calls and changes of planning, I decided to join Seth in Osaka, which was very reckless, given the slim chances to meet in such a big city. I rushed in the first shinkansen in sight whatsoever (well, the right one at least), and elbowed my way to Umeda station where we were to meet.

Talking about the shinkansen (yes, again!), it goes at full speed (which would be 250-280km/h) despite the short distance between Kyoto and Osaka. Anyway, I quickly realized that Osaka-Umeda was the biggest mess of a station you can ever imagine, and that we had not the slightest chance to find each other. I was stricken by despair, but one of those miracle that happen only in Japan, prevented my soul from shattering : I asked my way to a 店員(ten’in – shopkeeper) and he most kindly guided me all the way to Kinokuniya, despite the fact that he had a shop to look after. Thanks to his gentleness, the both of us pals were reunited together once more.

We set off for the fireworks but Seth randomly decided to enter the first 居酒屋 (izakaya – bar) with a cute waitress to show us the way in (ok, that’s not what you call random…). We discussed things on a small raw fish and (many) drinks. We spoke of the present, Dragon Quest IX, Japanese novels, Natsume Soseki, the past, Kyoto, the future, Final Fantasy, jobs etc.

We were halfway when the fireworks began to rise in the starless sky, but it didn’t matter that much since the performance was to last 50 minutes. It is really a LOT more impressive than the Tokyo one – if anyone didn’t know there were fireworks, he might easily think of bombings from the sound of them. The especially lavish Grand Finale produced to same effect as a earthquake level 3.

After having followed the kimono-wearing crowd, we parted ways once more…

Originally published in august 2009