SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
Super Ichiban Travel Blog Part XII: The Curse of the Colonel [II]
Oct 13th, 2009 by Dan

The greatest sign Ive ever seen anywhere in the world.

The greatest sign I've ever seen anywhere in the world.

This was one of the days I was most looking forward to on the trip. The Hanshin Tigers may not have the raw popularity of the Yomiuri Giants, but they’ve definitely got the most rabid fanbase in the entire country. Beyond that, Koshien Stadium is said to be the “soul of Japanese baseball,” most likely because, beyond the already crazy Tigers that play there, everything from college games to the high school championships are housed within Koshien. It’s a storied stadium most often compared to Wrigley Field or Fenway Park here in the States.

A statue-type thing in the open-air vendor area outside of Koshien.

A statue-type thing in the open-air vendor area outside of Koshien.

We’re not ready to get too far into that yet, I’ve still got a little bit of Kyoto to cover before we got on the train to head for Nishinomiya. My morning was mostly occupied with wandering around the Kyoto station area to check some stuff out. I started out with going to the local Bic Camera to check out the games in stock. It turns out that quite a few others had the same idea, as there was a queue outside the shop just before the shop opened at 1000 that morning.

Maybe theyre trying to get some shopping in before the work day starts?

Maybe they're trying to get some shopping in before the work day starts?

Out of curiosity, I asked about the availability of the new Pokemon games that had come out the day before. They were predictably completely sold out. Browsing the shelves, I found a copy of a game I’ve been wanting to import since I played Elite Beat Agents, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. The sequel was nowhere to be found, but I definitely picked up the game to play during my downtime on the tour.

Not Ouendan, but the Japanese boxart of the game I played the most in Japan, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. The US boxart is near identical, the only difference is the placement of the title to accomodate the ESRB rating.

Not Ouendan, but the Japanese boxart of the game I played the most in Japan, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. The US boxart is near identical, the only difference is the placement of the title to accomodate the ESRB rating.

My need to browse video games now sated, I headed into The Cube to take a look around and grab breakfast. I spotted a Mister Donut, one of the more famous donut shops in Japan, and I decided that I would break my Western food boycott for the morning to sample this Japanese take on an American staple. Boy was I surprised when I spotted the donut you see below this text. Not only did the Japanese understand that donuts should be tasty and sweet, but here they were, out-American-ing the Americans with their chocolate donut, topped with powdered sugar, and filled with cream.

Just looking at that picture has probably raised your blood sugar to dangerous levels.

Just looking at that picture has probably raised your blood sugar to dangerous levels.

After taking about a week off of my life just by eating that donut, I decided to climb back up to the top of The Cube to see what it’s like in the daylight and snap some shots for David.

A different sight in the daylight, this is The Cube. There are folks gathering for a concert that will begin in an hour or two.

A different sight in the daylight, this is The Cube. There are folks gathering for a concert that will begin in an hour or two.

At the top was the familiar Happy Terrace, which looks completely different without the ambient light and lovers seated at the benches.

Sorry folks, no creepy happy picture of me this time. I didnt have someone else to hold the camera.

Sorry folks, no creepy "happy" picture of me this time. I didn't have someone else to hold the camera.

Still, it’s a completely relaxing rooftop to hang out on and I could see myself taking lunch breaks up there.

Its very peaceful.

It's very peaceful.

Dave and I were excited about the prospect of taking pictures of the Kyoto skyline from the top of The Cube, but it turns out that the Kyoto skyline isn’t really that interesting (to me).

Thanks to my amazing photographic skills, you also get to see my ghostly reflection in the glass as a bonus.

Thanks to my amazing photographic skills, you also get to see my ghostly reflection in the glass as a bonus.

After that it was about time to start taking trains to head to Nishinomiya, so I made my way down to the platform and eventually hopped on a local line. It was reassuring to see the number of Tigers fans increase the closer we got to Koshien, especially since some of them have very elaborately decorated clothing.

An example of an extremely customized jersey. The name, number, and other patches on his jersey were all hand-sewn (or ironed) on. Not content with what he already has, he seems to be shopping for more patches.

An example of an extremely customized jersey. The name, number, and other patches on his jersey were all hand-sewn (or ironed) on. Not content with what he already has, he seems to be shopping for more patches.

We eventually reached Nishinomiya and swapped onto the Hanshin train line that conveniently (and coincidentally!) ran to Koshien where we were immediately greeted by a sea of yellow and black jerseys and merchandise, both on display and on the tons of fans in the area. I don’t think I saw a single Baystars fan in the area. I made my way around and eventually bought a Takashi Toritani jersey and an awesome super deformed patch to eventually iron or sew on at home.

The area just outside the subway platform is lined with stalls selling all kinds of Tigers gear.

The area just outside the subway platform is lined with stalls selling all kinds of Tigers gear.

One of the most interesting things about Koshien Stadium is that there is a shrine just next door. Even more interesting is that this shrine seems to cater to baseball-related prayers.

A baseball-themed statue housed within the shrine.

A baseball-themed statue housed within the shrine.

For those unfamiliar with Shinto traditions (as I am), worshippers are able to go to shrines, purchase ema, wooden plaques for prayers and wishes, and pin them to the prayer/wish board. I’m oversimplifying, but that’s the basic idea (you can learn more from the wiki link I put up earlier or through your own research).

Most of the ema for sale at this shrine are baseball and/or Tigers-related.

Most of the ema for sale at this shrine are baseball and/or Tigers-related.

I’ve been told that many of these boards are prayers for the Tigers to succeed. I think that’s way cool.

I dont think I can spot a single non-baseball-related ema.

I don't think I can spot a single non-baseball-related ema.

If there’s one thing I absolutely love about Tigers fans, its those loose, flowing pants they love to wear. They’re typically yellow, white with pinstripes, or black, and they also typically feature pictures of Tigers or sewn on patches. The Tigers definitely have my favorite fans in all of Japan.

Its a long-distance shot, but you can see a few pairs of Tigers pants in this shot.

It's a long-distance shot, but you can see a few pairs of Tigers pants in this shot.

While it’s not totally unheard of to see a rival mascot at a ballpark (see the Buffaloes game for reference), I don’t think I’ve ever seen the rival mascots posing for pictures around the rabid fans of the home squad.

Im hoping that I missed the part where they all boo him and throw fruit at him.

I'm hoping that I missed the part where they all boo him and throw fruit at him.

Worse still, I saw the opposing mascots hanging out together!

Now heres a couple of Benedict Arnolds. Shameful.

Now here's a couple of Benedict Arnolds. Shameful.

For all their rabid love for the team, the Tigers haven’t won a Japan Series or really come all that close (aside from a loss in the 2003 Japan Series) since their only win in 1985 thanks to the Curse of the Colonel! :cue scary music:

This is the scariest picture of the Colonel Ive ever seen.

This is the scariest picture of the Colonel I've ever seen.

There are a few American fast food franchises that have made it big in Japan and Kentucky Fried Chicken is one of the bigger ones. While locations in America have all but abandoned the Colonel statue as a fixture of their stores, just about every KFC I’ve ever seen in Japan has themselves a statue of the famous Colonel Sanders, sometimes dressed up for whatever location he’s occupying.

One such Colonel Sanders, lightly decorated in Lions garb.

One such Colonel Sanders, lightly decorated in Lions garb.

The story goes like this: After finally winning their first Japan Series (the Tigers were founded in 1935) in 1985, the fans, already rabid without a reason to celebrate, went absolutely crazy to celebrate the victory. As the mob made its way to Ebisubashi Bridge, they began a pretty cool ritual where they called out a player’s name and a member of the mob who looked like him would jump into the canal the bridge spanned. Unfortunately for the Tigers, not one of the Japanese fans looked like one of the key components to their championship team, Randy Bass. Since all gaijin look alike anyway and, more importantly, the Colonel had a beard, one rabid fan grabbed a Sanders statue from a local KFC and tossed it into the canal in place of an actual person. Little did he know that this casual disregard for the property of a KFC would anger the spirit of Colonel Harland Sanders, cursing the team to failure until the day they finally recovered the statue.

You know, he doesnt seem all that much like a vindictive evil spirit to me.

You know, he doesn't seem all that much like a vindictive evil spirit to me.

As I said earlier, the team has really only come close to even approaching a Japan Series title once in 24 years, with most of the other seasons ending in last or near-last place. The moral of the story, never anger the spirit of a chicken-loving Southern gentleman.

You can dress him up in your teams colors all you want, but that wont guarantee hell come around.

You can dress him up in your team's colors all you want, but that won't guarantee he'll come around.

There is hope for Tigers fans who actually believe in curses. Just this year, on 10 March, the upper-body of the cursed Colonel statue was located while completing a beautification project on the Dōtonbori River. The right hand and the lower-body were located the next day, but his glasses and left hand remain at large. What does this mean for Tigers fans hoping for a return to glory after 24 years? So far, nothing. Despite a weak start to the season, the Tigers were in serious contention for the Climax Series up until their last game with the Swallows. Unfortunately, the Swallows were able to knock the Tigers out of the playoffs, but perhaps next year the curse will be lifted and the Tigers can once again win a series.

After spending 24 years in the drink, this Colonel statue looks surprisingly...who am I kidding, it looks disgusting.

After spending 24 years in the drink, this Colonel statue looks surprisingly...who am I kidding, it looks disgusting.

Koshien Stadium is, thankfully, one of three ballparks with actual grass growing in them (Skymark and Mazda are the other two) and it features an all-dirt infield that it seems like they over-water before the game.

You can tell its real because its patchy. Dont they have groundskeepers to take care of that?

You can tell it's real because it's patchy. Don't they have groundskeepers to take care of that?

The fans at Koshien are definitely dominant and so rabid, but I was legitimately shocked at how tiny the cheer section that was allotted to the Baystars was. Unlike other ballparks which give whole sections of the outfield, these guys were relegated to a small section. I don’t know if this is just because the Baystars are a marginal team or if this is a legitimate action by the Tigers. If it’s the latter, it just seems contrary to the Japanese culture of polite fairness.

The most pathetic (in size) cheer section we saw on the trip. The flag is being waved by a random Baystars fan in a clsoer section.

The most pathetic (in size) cheer section we saw on the trip. The flag is being waved by a random Baystars fan in a closer section.

That night’s game featured some solid, National League-style baseball with low scoring and plenty of small ball. The final score was 2-1 and the ever-famous Japanese closer, Kyuji Fujikawa, came out to finish the game.

Getting to see a legendary pitcher close out a game is always a plus.

Getting to see a legendary pitcher close out a game is always a plus.

One post-game celebration later, we were on our way back to Kyoto!…Except that the trains were furiously backed up thanks to all the post-game traffic. Our eight-man crew braved the line for about a half hour before even getting down to the platform. The train ride was fairly uneventful, but I was told by Ken that the gaggle of women on the train to Kyoto to go out that night were not interested in me because I “wasn’t tall enough.” I hate to set these girls up for disappointment, but I’m pretty sure that I’m well over the average height for the entire country. Them’s the breaks, I guess.

After we arrived in Kyoto, we all headed back to our rooms. The next day would be spent flying to Sapporo, so we had to get our rest to be up in time catch the proper trains and make our flight. It was also the final day that Jill and Nora would be on the tour, since they had to get back to their jobs at the university they worked at. Our group was down to six, but we were definitely going strong. Only four games to go.

Can they finally break the curse and win the Japan Series this year?

Can they finally break the curse and win the Japan Series this year? Nope. Maybe next year.

Atlas and the ESRB [Game Overview]
Dec 9th, 2008 by Dan

The ESRB has been making a spectacle of itself in recent months. Aside from the usual rating controversies, they have accidentally been spoiling the announcement of a bunch of games by posting ESRB ratings for games that are still in development. It’s all come to a frustrated head as of yesterday as the ESRB site, despite promising to stop doing this, managed to spoil three unannounced titles to be published by Atlus.

As a result, Atlus got pissed and posted a press release titled as follows:

ATLUS TO MAKE ALL FUTURE GAME ANNOUNCEMENTS THROUGH ESRB WEBSITE

As taken from the news story at Kotaku and the press release itself, here’s an excerpt:

“Our experiment has been a rousing success,” said Aram Jabbari, Manager of PR and Sales, beaming. “Allowing information about our upcoming titles to be silently posted on ESRB’s website has been a triumph, and we’ve decided to abandon all direct, overt disclosures of our future games in favor of quietly allowing the posting of new titles onto ESRB.org.

I’m heavily inclined to agree with their complaints as the ESRB has spoiled the marketing movements of various games, including Mega Man 9. Countless man hours go into announcing and promoting these games and it’s very disrespectful that the ratings board has yet to correct this fatal flaw. I hope that they fix this soon, because it’s really not fair to keep doing this to companies, especially since they almost have no choice but to submit to the ESRB for review.

Big N, M$, Sony: Mega Man 9
Jul 12th, 2008 by Dan

If you read my 8-bit All-Stars feature you know I love me some Mega Man 2. There was just something sublimely perfect about that game with its polished level design and great boss battles.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a real sequel to a Mega Man game. The last canonical MM game was MM 8 for the PSX in 1997, with the X series taking over with about eight installments that have also stopped coming out.

Imagine the world’s surprise when Mega Man 9 all of a sudden showed up on an ESRB classification website. Could the beloved franchise be making a return in all of the splendor of the current generation’s technological advances? And then we saw the first screenshots and trailer…

Cue some controversy. I’d say that a large number of dedicated MM fanatics were happy with this new direction, but many were perplexed by Capcom’s choice to go way old school with this new installment. Personally, I’m a fan of the new direction. When you look at the disappointments that have been the more recent MM games, it seems clear that a conscious effort to get back to the roots is just what the series NEEDS. Not to mention the fact that old school, 8-bit Mega Man music is great.

It’s not exactly a straight NES-style game though, it does have some technological advances. If you look closely you’ll see that the game does have some fancy-pants effects that weren’t possible on the NES. Personally, I’ll be happy if the game manages to not drop framerate when a bunch of enemies appear onscreen.

Another neat little change in the Mega Man conventions is that MM 9 will feature the first female robot. Splash Woman is the first non Man robot in series history. Some purists are very anti-Splash Woman, but I’m pro-female evil robot rights.

If I’m not mistaken, Mega Man 9 is slated for a Fall release on WiiWare, Xbox Live, and PSN.

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa