Saturday, December 3, 2016

High Score Girl Continue, vol. 3 review

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

High Score Girl Continue, vol. 3 (SquareEnix, 2015-16), by Rensuke Oshikiri. Grade: B+.
Koharu gets a Super Famicom machine and a copy of Mortal Combat, and she fantasizes about having Haruo visit her house to play against her in her room. But, all the boy does is ask her for the game so he can play by himself at home. Koharu is crushed, while Haruo is trying to deal with Hina's ignoring him at the game center. Some days later, the class takes the bullet train to Kyoto for a school trip. Haruo has his PC Engine and a handful of games stuffed in his carry bag. Unfortunately, one of the chaperones, the kung-fu styled Numata, suffers motion sickness and asks Haruo to get some cans of cider for him from a vending machine when they stop at the next station. Koharu follows the boy to the platform, and when he drops the cans down the stairs, the two of them find themselves stranded as the train pulls out from the station. Haruo discovers that the town here has arcade machines he hasn't seen before, or hasn't seen in a long time, and he spends the next few hours burning through the money Numata gave him, playing games. Koharu wants to think of this as a date, but the boy is still clueless. Eventually they take an express bus and catch up with the others at the inn the class is spending the night at. Haruo tries to get the other boys to play against him on the PC Engine, but one of the other teachers catches them and confiscates the machine.

(Haruo fantasizes about spending the entire class trip playing games in the inn.)

The next day, everyone has a few hours to spend as they like, and Haruo and Hina both travel to Osaka to participate in a Super Street Fighter II X tournament. The grand prize is a trophy and a watermelon-shaped shower set (wash cloth, soaps and shampoo). The two of them work their way up the ranks. At last, it's Haruo versus Hina battling for first place. Haruo wins, then is horrified to discover that an earlier loser had smashed the console in anger at losing, and had damaged several of the buttons. Hina had been playing on a crippled machine and had never told anyone about it. This wasn't a fair fight, and Haruo feels cheated in his victory. He tries to get Hina to explain why she's ignoring him, and they get into a tussle while going back to the train station. Haruo gets his face punched in. He stops when he sees that Hina is still wearing the necklace he'd given her in volume 1. Everyone who participated in the tournament got Street Fighter t-shirts, and Haruo lets Hina have the watermelon shower set (he keeps the trophy). The class takes the bullet train back to Tokyo, and Koharu feels jealous that Haruo had so much fun without her.

(Haruo gets his trophy, but is disappointed in Hina's lack of spirit afterward.)

The chauffeur discovers that Hina has gone to another game arcade, and Haruo talks the old man into letting his charge stay with him for the day, while the old man leaves to play pachinko. The two kids play games and eat ramen, on Haruo's money, but Hina's heart really isn't in it. In part, it's because they're getting to the end of the year, and Hina is slated to go to one of the best high schools in the country. Haruo hates to study, so she knows that they're not going to be together next year. Later, when the chauffeur drives her home, Hina smiles at the memories of her with Haruo. Meanwhile, "mom" is pleasantly surprised to discover that Haruo has fallen asleep at his desk, with his workbooks and notebook open in front of him.

(Hina plays video games on her own, and Haruo really tries to study for the first time in his life.)

Time goes by, and Haruo is so focused on his studies that he's stopped going to the game centers, to Miyao's and Koharu's consternation. Mom is quietly rooting for her boy to get good grades, but even Hina wants him back at the arcade to play against. Eventually, the chauffeur talks Haruo into spending another day at a game center with Hina, and when he takes them back home, Hina grips Haruo's hand as they sit together in the back of the limo. The school year wraps up and everyone takes their high school entrance exams. When it's all over, Hina is accepted into Jouran High School, and Haruo isn't.

Summary: Koharu is falling more in love with Haruo, while the boy finds himself pulled closer to Hina. To stay with Hina, Haruo vows to knuckle down and get accepted to one of the most elite high schools in the country. And fails. But he tried, and that's all his video game heroes, including Guile, can ask from him. That doesn't ease the pain much, though. Highly recommended if you don't mind the character designs.

Friday, December 2, 2016

High Score Girl Continue, vol. 2 review

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

High Score Girl Continue, vol. 2 (SquareEnix, 2015-16), by Rensuke Oshikiri. Grade: B+.
I wasn't quite expecting to read volume 2 in the series, but someone I know who likes the books gave me #2 and #3, and so here we are. In essence, High Score Girl Continue can be viewed on two levels. Superficially, we have a series of 26-page chapters that are effectively stand-alone gag stories. Our main character, Haruo Yaguchi, is an arcade game fanatic who is bad at school, but one of the best players in the Tokyo game centers. He sees the world in terms of Guile, from Street Fighter. Guile is his favorite character in the SF franchise because he's the only one with such a limited set of signature moves, which Haruo identifies with. Each of the chapters then has Haruo going through the day, either at school, at home, or in the game arcades, running into odd situations and having to resolve them in his own way. On a deeper level, though, we have a love triangle, between Haruo, the rich girl Hina Ohno, and a new character that gets introduced in this volume. There's no real point in summarizing the gags in each chapter, so instead I'll recap the highlights of the love triangle aspect.

(Koharu struggles to overcome her cold to save Haruo from himself as he plays Street Fighter during a snow storm.)

It's 1992, when Clinton was elected President of the U.S., and Street Fighter II Turbo was released to the arcades. Haruo is in his second year of middle school, and he struggles to avoid getting caught in the game centers by the teachers patrolling them. One of his fellow students is a transfer student named Koharu Hitaka. Koharu's father runs a small shop, and he's decided to install a few arcade machines outside the store to attract students in the area. Koharu herself has no interests in anything other than her school studies, but she finds herself attracted to Haruo's carefree approach to life. She starts tagging after him, and he introduces her to the world of arcade games, starting with Street Fighter, and continuing on to Mortal Combat, and everything else on the game shelves (Haruo has a PC Engine at home, and he carries a PC Engine GT handheld machine with him when he goes outside (actually, he also has a Famicom, Super Famicom, and a Gameboy in his closet)). If he's not playing games, he's sitting outside the game stores waiting to buy the next console game to come out.

(Harou discovers Hina next to him in a game center.)

At one point, Haruo gets into a fight with another boy playing against him on Street Fighter in the game center, and Koharu stomps out in a huff. The next day, she comes down with a cold and is stuck at home in bed during a nasty winter storm. Her parents tell her that the strange boy is outside playing one of their game machines in the snow. After several hours, Koharu goes out to save him with a cup of hot tea, and discovers that he's not there to win her over - he just wants to play games at the closest shop to his house. From here, Koharu tries to get more of Haruo's attention by reading the game magazines he gives her, and buying games to have him come over to her house to play with her, but the two of them have incompatible tastes in games. Instead, when Haruo does play machines that he likes, Koharu just stands behind him to watch him play. The main factor is that Haruo is everything she isn't (careless, thoughtless, and a total slacker), and she envies that about him. When Koharu loiters in front of Haruo's home, the boy's mother spots her and drags her inside to spend time with her son. We don't get her name (Haruo calls her "mom"), but she's kind of a pervert, and is intent on getting her son to date girls at an early age. What she doesn't realize is that Haruo is still hung up on Hina Ohno, who is still studying in the U.S.

Or, rather, Hina WAS in the U.S. She returns to Japan, and is greeted by her personal tutor, and her chauffeur. (We never see her parents, and it isn't until a later volume that we meet her older sister.) Haruo has been practicing all this time to have a rematch with Hina on Street Fighter, but when they do finally run into each other at the game center, she gives him the cold shoulder. Haruo is crushed, and vows revenge. But, he's still young and doesn't understand what's going on between them. When her driver takes her back home, Hina looks silently at the necklace Haruo had given her in volume 1. (She does everything silently, because she never speaks.)

While there are a couple other students that spend time talking to Haruo (a gap-toothed girl, Onizuka, (or something like that; the kanji is demon + hill) and a self-absorbed boy named Doi, who is in lust with Hina), his closest friend is a casual game player named Miyao. When Haruo is in a game center at night, he's usually accompanied by Miyao, who will give him advice that the other boy generally ignores.

Summary: A game fanatic slowly surrounds himself with girls that also like games, and like him, but he himself fails to recognize the attraction. This is a nostalgic story for anyone that grew up in the 90's and misses the heyday era of the arcade centers. Recommended to anyone that likes the older game consoles, and wants to see what the outskirts of Tokyo looked like before the economic bubble burst in the mid-90's.

As a sidenote: The chapters in this volume originally ran in Monthly Big Gangan magazine in 2012.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Yamakataya Nutcracker Sweet Ad

Yamakataya's latest cosmetics ad. I fail to see the appeal.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fish Bike

Ok, I was up at Streetcar Street, walking towards the main train station. I strolled past this bike, and then just stopped.

I can not imagine, under any conditions, why an unwrapped piece of raw fish would be sitting on an unanchored plate on the back carrier of a bike with no shocks, in the middle of a public area where no one eats outside while walking.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Christmas Tree, Nov. 6

Completely different tree ornament at Amu Plaza this year. Apparently people were tired of green.

It's interesting to see this put together, from an engineering viewpoint. But, it's NOT a Christmas tree.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Amupla Christmas Market Nov. 27, 2016, Live

The Amu Plaza department store has their outdoor Christmas market now, until the end of the year. It's the first real live music event in the city this Fall, and I've been waiting months for it. I was busy in the apartment until 3:30 PM Sunday, but I did get outside, and I caught a bit of the music. The first guy was doing Karaoke, which was ok, but it was copyrighted music and there was no point in recording it for the blog. I didn't catch the name of the second group, but it kind of sounded like fan-fu-re (fanfare?), and they were from Fukuoka. I recorded the first song, but for some reason the camera failed to start recording the second one, and I didn't notice it right away. But, here's the one I did get.

Direct youtube link

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Robot Duster

So, there I was in the arcade center in Amu Plaza, and I was looking at the UFO Catcher machines...
The prizes in the crane arm machines can be divided into six categories. First, there's the question of how easy or difficult the prize appears to be to get ("Can I get this for less money than if I bought it from a store?") Then there are the issues of size and desirability ("Do I have a place to put this?" and "Is this something I want?") So, some of the machines will have prizes that look easy to get, but are either things I don't want, or too big to keep. I'll still try to get those prizes anyway if I know of someone I can give them to. But, I have to have the right combination to justify playing the machines: Easy to get, and small enough to put into storage or too big but I have someone I know that would take it. But, there are items that are a little more practical, such as the projection clock, that I do want, just for the blog.

Anyway, one of the machines had this little "robot cleaner", and I thought I had a chance at it. I put in 500 yen ($5) to get 6 chances, and discovered that the arms were sprung - they just slid around the edges of the box. That was disappointing, so I just hit buttons to burn the rest of the credits, and discovered that the arms would hold just enough to slide the box backward an inch at a time. It was sitting on 2 dowel rods, and if the front corner of the box went back enough, it would fall off the other rod and into the hopper. After using up the first 6 credits, I got some more change and kept trying.

On my 14th try, and after 1,300 yen, the box finally dropped. Actually, this isn't a "cleaning robot." It's just an automated floor duster. The box comes with 20 cleaning sheets, and you attach one sheet to the velcro strips on the bottom of the unit. Turn it on, and it rolls across the floor, dusting it with the sheet. The unit is about 6" across, so it doesn't clean a lot in one pass. On the other hand, the way it handles obstacles is fun to watch, and it is capable of getting itself untrapped without help. Unfortunately, there's no "drop switch" so it can't tell if it's reached the edge of some stairs, or the region in front of an outside door. Still, it's a fun toy, and I do have a use for it for making cat videos. If I ever get a cat. And, I got it for less money than if I'd bought it at a store.

(Sidenote: I did eventually find someone that really wanted to give it a new home.)