Sunday, May 16, 2010


 Garnet Crow, 『夢みたあとで

"Scared of the passing of time and of how people's hearts change, I cried"
Garnet Crow, "After seeing my dream"

Ignoring whether the product is good or not, you'll have to admit that Japanese companies are quite good at cross-marketing their products. When the Detective Conan movie was released, some convenience stores had special Detective Conan promotions, while other chains sold exclusive Conan DVD's. The upcoming Odoru Daisousasen movie is accompanied by a videogame and probably more stuff.

And strangely enough, to promote movies based on television drama, they usually broadcast a special episode, which is nearly as long as the movie they're supposed to be promoting. The previous Trick special was as long as the Trick movie it was supposed to promote, and about the same for the Galileo special and movie. They might as well release two movies. Or two specials.

Anyway, I had seen the awesome Trick movie earlier this week, but the Trick week was still not over as the second Trick TV special was broadcast yesterday. Which was OK. It was definitely a Trick story, even more so than the movie, with a more contained story and less big action scenes. But that was the 'problem' maybe, having seen the grander scale story of the movie, I just couldn't help being somewhat underwhelmed by the special. If I'd seen the movie and the special in reverse order, I would've liked it more. I should've watched it in the special-movie order, I gathered from the dialogue, but that's strange as the movie debuted a week before the special was even broadcast.

And then there was the Trick game for the DS. Having played the horrible, horrible DS game of Galileo, I was kinda weary to purchase this game, until I discovered WorkJam had developed the game, the developer responsible for the current Detective Jinguuji Saburou games. Which are awesome.

So with a relieved heart, I purchased my copy of Trick DS and I am glad I did. As it was truly a fun game. Short, very short, but it was like playing an episode of Trick myself. The dialogue and story, while not written by the original writer, feel like they were lifted out of the series. The music is in fact the same as the series and the game even has the same opening animation. The story progress mimics the Trick tradition perfectly, with lots of problems which are solved one after another in relatively short time, but which together make up one big problem.

And the sleuth system... is actually quite interesting. In my years of gaming, I have seen my share of translating detectives to games. Games like Detective Jinguuji Saburou hardly let you think, but focus on telling a story. A game like Detective Conan - The Mirapolis Investigation tries letting the player deduce the culprit, but fails horribly by being so easy. The Keyword system in Detective Conan & Kindachi Shounen no Jikenbo was OK, but the story progression was not always as good (as well as the Conan-part being longer, but more tedious). The system Trick uses is somewhat similar to the system of the latter game, but a lot more fun.

It works by offering a problem that needs to be solved ("How did the killer get away?"), which can be solved by a combination of key elements (Items, circumstances, location, persons). The cool part is that every time you combine elements, a hypothesis is made. While most hypotheses are just unbelievable, others are at least plausible and thus make you think. You then bring your hypothesis to the confrontation scenes, where you'll have to defend your hypothesis; this being different from the system in Detectve Conan & Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, as you have no idea whether your ideas are correct until you've actually tested them in the confrontations. In terms of difficulty, the system is somewhere near the Gyakuten Saiban system, the latter being more difficult as it does not offer hypotheses, but it's still an interesting system.

Translating detectives to games is not always easy and while I think the Gyakuten Saiban series does it excellently, I'm very content with this system of WorkJam and I really hope to see it more often in their games. I'm also very surprised to see such a fun system in a game based on a drama, but as I'm a big fanboy, I'm just very pleasantly surprised.

Now make me my Furuhata Ninzaburou game, WorkJam. Do it. 

Original Japanese title(s): 『TRICK 新作スペシャル2』、 『TRICK DS版 ~隠し神の棲む館~』、『名探偵コナンと金田一少年の事件簿 めぐり合う二人の名探偵』、『逆転裁判』

Tuesday, May 11, 2010



"I learned karate through correspondence courses."


Having deleted several drafts of this post in a row, I give up on trying to write a comprehensible summary of the Trick franchise. What started out like a comedic detective series is nowadays more a bizarre comedy with detective-elements, but it's still, together with Furuhata Ninzaburou, my favorite Japanese drama. As a detective drama, it's somewhat like Jonathan Creek as it features a magician solving crimes, but that's as far as the comparison goes. Trick is all about comedy, with just a bit left for mystery. You shouldn't even think too much about the mysteries.

What's so difficult to explain about Trick is in fact the bizarre comedy. Besides the 'normal' comedy derived from text and story, the screen is so much an element of Trick's distinctive flavor, with crazy angles, cuts to other scenes and running jokes in the background, it's something you have to see to understand. And this year is the 10th anniversary of the Trick franchise and a new movie was released some days ago. Which I had been looking forward to ever since I saw the trailer.

So using my Ueda-like powers of persuasion, I dragged my own self-proclaimed beautiful and talented magician with me to the theater to see Trick: Psychic Battle Royale. Like the title subtly implies, the story revolves around several (self-proclaimed) psychics who fight for the title of the shaman kamihaeri. Among them are psychics who can not die, psychics who can read the future and psychics who can cast curses. And self-proclaimed magician Yamada, who once again tries to get her hands on money by pretending to be a psychic and as a magician herself, is capable of seeing through the tricks of the other fakes. And the scientist Ueda is of course there to... do stuff. Nothing new here.

Which is good. Trick has never been about doing something completely new, it's about strange people interacting with each other, with a mystery-subplot beneath. And this movie did it the best of all the Trick movies. The mystery subplot was not very impressive and some other stuff have been left unexplained, but that doesn't really matter. Even if you solved the mystery the moment it's shown on screen, you'll still get goosebumps when Yamada points her finger at the culprit to proclaim she has seen through all. Trick is just that awesome.

It is in fact quite amazing the bizarre comedy saves this from being just a casual detective with no redeeming qualities whatsover (yes, I am looking at you, Yonshimai Tanteidan) and actually transforms it in a fantastic series.

Oh, and the tie-in at the end to first episode of the first season? What. Was. That? 

Original Japanese title(s): 『劇場版TRICK 霊能力者バトルロイヤル』

Saturday, May 8, 2010

They Do It With Mirrors

"Hey Joey, where do Dutch people come from?"
"Uh... well the Pennsylvania Dutch come from Pennsylvania."
"And the other Dutch come from somewhere near the Netherlands right?"
"Nice try, see the Netherlands is this make believe place where Peter Pan and Tinkerbell come from."

"Friends: The One with the Football"

Golden Week has been remarkably Dutch this year. First day we visited Huis ten Bosch, a Netherlands-themed theme park in Nagasaki. And yes, it is weird as a Dutchman to visit a Netherlands theme park. But it was cheap and the point of departure of the tour bus was actually around the corner and I had to spend my GW one way or another anyway.

So I went back to my home country. Well, a warped version of the Netherlands. The sighting of a yorozoya within Huis ten Bosch certainly created a parallel in my head between the warped image of the Netherlands in Huis ten Bosch and the Edo in Gin Tama. Yes, it kinda looks like the original, but in a laughing mirror kind of way. And while there were no aliens in Huis ten Bosch, those gibberish talking clowns were at least as annoying/scary.

Interesting, but having nothing to do with Huis ten Bosch or the Netherlands was Mascotte Marathon held on that day. In Japan, everything has a cute mascotte. And they round up a bunch of them for a parade. Rememorable was the big wall of concrete that was supposed to be a bridge called Wataru-kun.

And the cat Non, who is the loving brother of two smaller kittens. I have no idea what he's supposed to represent, though I did get his business card.

As a manga-reader, I was also happy to see an exposition of several manga-artists drawing Sakamoto Ryouma. Quite surprised to see the likes of Yoshizake Mine (Keroro Gunsou) or Hanakuma Yuusuke (Tokyo Zombie) among the entries.

But to be honest, Huis ten Bosch is surely going to die in a few years. Practically nobody in the park on the first day of GW? But of course, the park has very few to offer: as there are no rides or things like that, you're hardly going to visit the park multiple times (and most people in Kyuushuu have probably already visited it once), while foreigners are not likely going to visit a Netherlands-themed theme park in Japan.

The Sasebo Burger, a local brand of hamburger, is very tasty though. Even better was that we got a free burger because the restaurant clerk couldn't count or something. Even after we said we only ordered four burgers, the clerk insisted we kept it. Which worked out, because there were 5 people of us, but still, that part certainly didn't seem Dutch.

On the third and fourth of May, the Dontaku matsuri was held in Fukuoka. While it used to have a different name, it nowadays is named after the Dutch word for Sunday (Zondag). And no, dontaku doesn't really sound like Zondag, nor does it really has anything to do with Sunday.

But the festival consisted mostly of parades throughout downtown Fukuoka. Lots of parades. Of a lot of groups. Walking. And making music. And walking. Actually, it was not that entertaining, but I have been told the next big Fukuoka matsuri, Yamakasa, is the more entertaining anyway. But at least there was a lot of matsuri food ^_^