Daigaku Z: Better Living Through Saccharine

Daigaku Z:

Daigaku Z is a weekly column describing Z’s journey to learn the Japanese language while at the University of Pittsburgh. She impressed the East Asian Language and Literature department with her first-year performance, but she stumbled over the summer semester’s Accelerated Program course. Still, she is nothing if not persistent, and now she faces the second year of the program once more. This is (the continuation of) her story.

The mid-semester break was good for me for a number of reasons, most of them having to do with sitting on my butt and playing video games. That’s not to say that that’s all I’ve done since the last column, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a significant portion. In any event, video games came up on more than one occasion during the break, and all of them were quite beneficial.

If you follow our podcast (which is currently on its season break), you’ll remember that I was a particularly vociferous advocate of the game Puyo Puyo Tetris. Sadly it has no chance of release in North America now, due to it being two years old and on what is now last-generation hardware. But that did not stop me from acquiring it for the PS3, and it is a purchase I have not regretted in the slightest. Besides the fact that it combines two of my favorite falling-object puzzle games, it continues the Madou Monogatari series– which, in all honesty, I’m not surprised you’ve never heard of; its only appearance in NA was as the last localized Puyo Puyo game, Puyo Pop Fever (back in 2004!). Needless to say, it is entirely in Japanese.

Part of my degree track involves putting together what is called a “Capstone Project”, a final summation of what I have learned as a student. That project is at least a year off from now, but as soon as I heard that I would have to do it, my mind went immediately to Puyo Puyo Tetris. I decided then and there that I was going to localize Puyo Puyo Tetris for my Capstone Project. It was an ambitious project, but if nothing else has become evident to me it is that I am ambitious to a fault. I’m telling you folks this now to let you know that it’s on my slate, but also because my final project for Aspects of Japanese– as in this semester– is going to be a localization of a five-minute segment of the game’s story mode. I’ll post a link to it in December once it’s complete.

But before you think I’m not ready to take on such a project, I have to tell you about another incident that happened this past week. My predilection for all things cute is well-known, and as a result the game Love Live! School Idol Festival wound up on my radar from more than one source. Its premise is simple: it’s a free-to-play music game set in the world of Love Live, where you tap to the beat of the sugary pop stylings of  μ’s (Muse), the idol group of the series. However, while the pertinent game text is in English, the voice acting is entirely in Japanese.

Japanese which, to my great astonishment, I actually understood the first few times I heard it. Granted, trying to puzzle through song lyrics while maintaining a competent performance is hard even for native speakers, but then again this game’s music is entirely from μ’s back catalog, so those tracks are available online. That’s beside the point. What I understood was the little incidental remarks, like “Please wait a little, okay?” while game data was downloading, and “Not bad!” during the level-up screen. Stuff that wasn’t captioned.

I’m starting to feel quite a bit more confident in my ability to do this language thing. So… game on.