Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mario Kart Wii Makes You Curse

When I was 16, MK stood for Mortal Kombat. Those days are gone.

Mario Kart Wii is an excellent example of Nintendo's recent success in the "social gaming" market. It's an easy-to-learn party title, playable by up to four people at a time via split-screen and accessible to gamers of pretty much any age.

If only I could play it without cursing.

What new players would interpret as accessibility, more skilled players might recognize as Mario Kart Wii's excessive desire to achieve parity; the game does its best to help the guy in last position...and dump retribution on the guy in first. You can imagine the frustration this causes. You're in the lead, trashing the competition, ready to win, when suddenly, you get struck by lightning, rear-ended by a heat-seaking turtle shell and flattened by someone who just picked up the "mega mushroom." Try not to swear at a time like that!

Because of this, Fiancee and I have been known to yell obscenities during this "fun" game. Fiancee has even shown an aptitude for making up her own expletive phrases. Among her finest creations:

"Oh my shit!"

"Shitty pants!"

And my personal favorite to date:

"Shit kebab!"

Parents, if you don't want your kids talking like this (when they're 30), don't ever let them play video games.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let's Learn Japanese: Ichioshi

Girls dressed as robotic prom queen impostors.

Vocals that have been pitch-enhanced so much, they no longer sound human.

Dance moves that look like they were choreographed by a rogue computer that hates humans.

These are all hallmarks of the Japanese electro-pop scene as we know it today. And if the unstoppable colossus that is the J-pop marketing machine has its way, we'll all start listening to Perfume.

Ichioshi is the marriage of the words ichi ("one," or in this case, "top") and oshi ("pushing," in the sense of "selling"). Today I went to the Village Vanguard book/record/gift store in Shimokitazawa and was assailed from all sides by posters, magazines and CDs emblazoned with pictures of the electro-pop trio Perfume. Their new CD, Game, is apparently Village Vanguard's ichioshi. They seem to be willing to do just about anything to get you to buy the CD.

Well, anything short of lowering the price from a ridiculous ¥3000.

Despite efforts to break into the mainstream, Perfume remain classified as an idol group: A bunch of allegedly cute girls whose success depends every bit as heavily on their ability to steal the hearts of otaku nerds as on their ability to sing. Actually, that's too generous; their ability to steal the hearts of otaku nerds is far more important than anything their singing...hence, the aforementioned pitch-enhanced vocals and dance moves cute enough to give you diabetes.

They also, however, owe much of their success to their producer Nakata Yasutaka (best known for his affiliation with Capsule, another robo-pop act). For while you might cringe at Perfume's dippy lyrics and choreography, you may very well find your foot tapping involuntarily to their expertly-produced beats.

Here is the video clip for the first single from Game, "Baby Cruising Love." The audio doesn't start until about 35 seconds into the video.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Delayed Hanami Photos

As promised, here are some photos from our March 30 picnic at Hikarigaoka Park. It was my first time to visit this park, and I imagine it would have been a great setting for hanami if the weather hadn't been so bad on that day.

The two photos below are of a group of very noisy elderly folks who were dancing up a storm just a few picnic sheets away from us. I have reason to believe that the guy banging the gong and wearing a kerchief on his head in the second photo was the ringleader.

Dick Commercial Found!

Vigilant CIC reader Sluggo has found a link to the "I am a dick" commercial I described in my earlier post. Click here and select the 15-second version with the button at the lower-left of the viewer. And remember, the Japanese text on the screen at the end of the commercial reads, "Dick."

John McCain, You Poop Mouth

The more people hear about this story, the less likely we will be to elect a president with a dangerous lack of anger management ability. If John McCain hurls a C-bomb at his wife when she giggles at his understandably thinning hair (get a sense of humor about it quick, ain't getting any younger), what kind of ill-advised bombs would he hurl as president?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Commercial: "I Am A Dick"

I can't make up stuff this funny. The rest of the cherry blossom photos will have to wait because I just saw a TV commercial so ridiculous that my fingers have immediately begun blogging about it involuntarily. First, a little back story.

There is this Japanese loan company called Dick. Dick (the most logical spelling of its name, since it is spelled ディック -- Dikku -- in katakana) started out with the name Ike (アイク -- Aiku), until one day, without warning, they started airing this TV ad announcing that their new name would be Dick. Fiancee (then Girlfriend) and I immediately recognized this as one of the worst name changes possible and laughed about it for a long time.

More recently, Dick started a campaign with the English catchphrase "I am a hero." The ads feature images of individuals whose lives have been made exciting and fun by borrowing money at ludicrous interest rates and a Japanese sub-slogan which translates roughly as "Because you are the main character." When I saw these ads, I thought this new catchphrase was a step in the right direction. Anything's better than relying on the strength of your company's name alone, when your company's name happens to be Dick.

Unfortunately, the commercial I saw tonight is a giant leap in the wrong direction. We see some footage of a young business man looking intrepid and financially confident. A male voice-over says, "Boku wa..." and there is an English translation of his voice-over on the screen. Next we see a similarly empowered-looking female on the screen, and a female voice says, "Atashi wa..." with the accomanying English translation.

Now, had I translated "Boku wa" and "Atashi wa" to English, I'd have come up with "I am." Makes sense, considering Dick's previous "I am a hero" campaign. But the English on the screen when these people speak says, "I am a..."with the article "a" included on the end.

You can see where this is going. After a couple repeats of the voice-over and English translation "I am a..." the commercial ends and we are shown the name of the company in big katakana letters: Dick.

"I am a Dick."

I don't have a video of this commercial, but some other observant Japan blogger is bound to pick up on this and post the commercial on YouTube. I'll keep a watchful eye out for it.