Thursday, July 29, 2021

August Rush

My series of blog posts dedicated to Japanese Tabletop RPGs has been delayed by my overactive but under performing brain. My head is in too many places as once and the next set of posts on Superhero RPGs in Japan has suffered because of it.

In addition, my business has been picking up considerably. I've starting going back to the gym and otherwise exercising more regularly. All positives to be sure but ones that have taken up a good deal of my energy and time. 

As July ends and August begins, my aforementioned analysis of Japanese TRPGS in general and Superhero ones specifically are going to have to remain on hold. At least for a while.

For August, I am once again going to be participating in the RPGaDay Challenge. This year - 2021 - will see my 7th annual outing with this initiative and while I have often teased it, taunted it, and even outright mocked it on various occasions...I have to admit I love it. I really enjoy challenging myself to complete the entire RPGaDay month, even when the prompts have been incredibly frustrating. 

This year, I am pretty happy with the primary prompt words. I find them simple, straightforward, and at the same time full of the capacity for expansive interpretation. Most notably the words this year seem a heck of a lot more interesting then last year. Maybe they saw how much difficulty a number of us had in 2020 and decided to go with terms that were more RPG oriented. 

Alternative words have also been included in case the main prompt doesn't do anything for you but I'll definitely be sticking with the primary ones. It just seems more sporting for some reason.

What I am especially pleased to see is that they have fixed my biggest complaint of last year: The early prompts - the first week or so - are good ones. In 2020 the few good prompts came towards the end. The first dozen or so words were kind of lame, dampening ones' enthusiasm for continuing. 

Yes, I can already see a few tough ones on this prompt calendar. There are certainly words that I will find difficult to write anything engaging about, at least at first glance. My hope is that the early ones will excite me and rev up my energy for tackling the trickier ones. We shall see.

Anywho, Japanese Tabletop Gaming shall return in September along with a variety of other bits and bobs. In the meantime, here's hoping you will join me and many other RPG fans for the RPGaDay 2021 Event this August. 

See you then,

Barking Alien

PS: Don't forget that August 25th marks my 44th Year in the Hobby Anniversary! Woot!


Monday, July 5, 2021

VISIONS of The Force

Two of my biggest loves in the world of Pop Culture Entertainment and Role Playing Games are Star Wars and Anime/Manga as clearly evidenced by recent and past posts on both subjects. It's a shame that the two were never fully combined into one amazing Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of complimentary awesomeness. 

Wait...what's this? 

Whoah. I think I died and became a Force Ghost. Force Yokai? Are there Force Yokai? I suppose there could be now...

Star Wars Visions is an all new short form, animated anthology series set in that familiar galaxy far, far away, produced by Lucasfilms and featuring the work of seven different Japanese Anime studios. It is Star Wars through the eyes of some of the top creative teams in Japan, paying homage to both the legendary universe of Droids and Jedi and the cultural perspective of those artists involved. 

There will be nine shorts in total:

  • The Duel by Kamikaze Douga
  • Lop and Ocho by Geno Studio
  • Tatooine Rhapsody by Studio Colorido
  • The Twins by Trigger
  • The Elder by Trigger
  • The Village Bride by Kinema Citrus
  • Akakiri by Science Saru
  • TO-B1 by Science Saru
  • The Ninth Jedi by Production I.G.

After seeing the trailer, which is really more of a 'behind the scenes' look at the creation of some of these shorts, I am even more excited about this series than I was when the idea was first announced in December of last year. Already I am in love with some of the character designs and art styles and very eager to absorb the stories that will surround them. 

Sometime later this month, if all goes well, I will tackle Star Wars TRPG gaming in Japan and what Star Wars Visions might add to running that universe in my own games. Since much of my gaming is Anime influenced already (even when it isn't an 'Anime/Manga Game', I feel like this could inspire a whole new long term Star Wars campaign. 

Check out some of the concept art below...

From 'The Duel' by Kamikaze Douga

From 'Lop and Ocho' by Geno Studio

From 'Twins' by Trigger

From 'The Ninth Jedi' by Production I.G

From 'Tatooine Rhapsody' by Studio Colorido

Star Wars Visions will drop on Disney+ on September 22nd, 2021. According to current reports, the entire series will be available to stream on that day. You can see the trailer here.

More news and information as it becomes available.

フォースと共にあれ (Foosu to tomo ni are). 

May the Force be with you.

Barking Alien


Sunday, July 4, 2021


 Hi all,

Sorry for the long delay in getting back to my blog and coverage of Tabletop RPGs in Japan. I've been busy with some real world concerns, most of which have already been dealt with and the results have been positive. Although I am still struggling with some elements, things are generally looking up and so I can get back to doing what I love - jabbering about obscure subjects only a handful of people care about. Yay me!

While I have you here, I thought I'd update you on my 'State of Gaming' and where I and this blog are going in the near future...

These days I am only playing in one game and it's a great one. I am currently in year five of our bi-weekly Hogwarts/Wizarding World campaign. This game continues to be amazing and I am absolutely loving it. Kudos and thanks to my friend and Gamemaster Alex.

I am currently running my ongoing Star Trek: Prosperity campaign, a bi-weekly Star Trek Adventures game now in its fifth year of real time. 'Season 6' has had a bit of a 'Horror' feel to it and remains popular among all the players and myself. 

Additionally, I am running a weekly Mobile Suit Gundam game, UC 0079: The Siege of New York, using my homebrew Mecha System Variant game mechanics. I have decided they need more playtesting and so that is essentially what I am doing as I run this campaign. The campaign is likely to end soon and I am not entirely sure what the follow up will be. 

Later this month I will be starting a Champions 4th Edition campaign set in the my favorite milieu, the Champions Universe of my friend William Corpening's 10+ year campaign. Tentatively, this campaign has been titled 'Champions: UNITY'. I have not revisited this world or the Champions game since the passing of my friend Dave Cotton. It is a little melancholy to think about running a Champions game without Dave but I think it's time and I will be introducing the setting to a group largely if not completely unfamiliar with it which is very exciting. It's a 'Dedicated to Dave', spread the love kind of thing.

Finally, and this is big, we are tentatively set to run the final Episode/Session of our ALIEN FRONTIER campaign on August 7th. This will be an in-person game, not remote, with roughly 8 players and myself, at a public play location. More details as they become available. So excited for this I don't even have the words.

There is a lot more I'd like to talk about but most of it is not directly related to the games I'm currently playing in and running. Instead, my goal is to get back to the subject of Japanese TRPGs and so I'll end here with this...

Happy Fourth of July to the United States of America and all my friends and family who dwell within it. Though an imperfect work to put it mildly, it is nonetheless a grand experiment and a thing of beauty. As we celebrate, let us also contemplate how to truly progress and improve for the betterment of all people.

Barking Alien

Friday, June 4, 2021

Multiverse Mayhem in The Mighty Marvel Manner!

 Before I move on to discussing the various Japanese Tabletop RPGs that cover the Superhero genre (and thereabouts), I thought I'd share some news on an upcoming American Superhero TRPG that has come to my attention...

Look at that cover! Wow. It has some awesome stuff on it, as well as some things that make me scratch my head a little. 

First, I like the title, Marvel Multiverse. It ties into the upcoming Doctor Strange and The Multiverse of Madness film as well as implying that each campaign you play, that anyone plays, exists somewhere in the infinite dimensions of space and time. Yes! Love it. 

If you read the full article, Matt Forbeck and the games' design team have done my kind of reinforcing of the IP and setting. Their new, original rules for the game are referred to as the D616 System, a homage to the main universe of Marvel Comics being Earth-616. The Attribute stats for a character appear to be Might, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, and Logic. Yep, MARVEL and honestly I just did that from memory after reading it only once or twice. Clever on their part. I would say even easier to memorize than FASERIP (I can never remember what all of those letter stand for). 

Lastly, I love that the character in the forefront of the cover is yours. A silhouette that could be any hero but which intrinsically implies you can be the greatest hero Marvel has ever seen. Brilliant! A long way from Marvel Heroic's lack of built-in Character Creation and a mindset of 'Why wouldn't you want to play as Spiderman?". Maybe because I'm an Tabletop RPG gamer? I want to meet Spiderman. I don't want to BE Spiderman. I want to be someone I created and have them save Spiderman!

Now for some...odd choices on the cover and in the write up of the announcement.

First, who the heck is this supposed to be?

Is that supposed to be Thor? Just when I get done praising the designers for brand identity and marketing they gotta go and do dumb stuff like this. Are the art directors and editors working on this new to comics? Even if Thor looks like this now, by the time the book comes out in a year or so he definitely won't look anything like this. Why not draw him to more closely resemble the iconic image of Thor we'd all recognize. Even better, why not illustrate him so he resembles the MCU Thor. That is what is going to sell your game to fans of 'MARVEL the Entertainment Empire' as opposed to those who like Marvel Comics (smaller group) or gaming (waaay smaller group).   

The second thing that bugs me is in the title...Playtest Rulebook. It says the players can get the Playtest Rulebook and effect the shape of things to come as their feedback will be included in the final, complete version of the game due out a year later.

Are you saying...wait...does the Playtest Rulebook cost money? Are we, the fans and consumers, going to need to pay you in order to make your game for you? I know I'm being cynical here but it just sounds like we'd be buying an incomplete game that Marvel is going to complete a year latter using the fans' ideas and then sell then the book again. That may not be what's going on but that's what it sounds like. I could really use some clarification on how this is going to work. 

Still and all, I am looking forward to it. I haven't run or played a lot of games set in the Marvel universe, usually preferring my own setting or DC as I was once a huge DC Comics fan. Nowadays however, with the MCU in theaters and on TV, the upcoming What If? animated series and DC doing at terrible job of being DC, I could definitely see myself running another alternate universe Marvel game like I did way back when

I'll be following the developments of news of this one closely so check back and stay tuned.


Now back to Japan...

Barking Alien

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet Train

By the mid-to-late 1980s Superheroes were all over Japan, even if the Japanese still didn't call them Superheroes. 

Henshin Heroes, Cyborgs, Aliens, and all many of Supernatural types roamed the Japanese airwaves; from television to movie theaters, from comics to video games. Many had colorful outfits. Most had amazing powers or else high tech or magical weapons and vehicles. Few however received the coveted title of Superhero. 

The real reason for this is that the name was linked, in the mindset of both Japanese Creatives and Fans, with American Comics. Rarely was a Japanese Hero seen in the same light as Superman or Batman because, simply put, Superman and Batman are from the United States.

For those familiar with Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, do you consider them Anime? They weren't made in Japan and so they technically don't qualify as Anime even though they share many of the same qualities as Japanese animated TV shows. 

At the same time, Japan couldn't resist the lure of the American Superhero for long...

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I personally recall a number of interviews with Japanese creators, in both Japanese and American Pop Culture magazines, mentioning the influence of Western comics and comic book characters on their writing and art. Notable among them was Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama who noted that the idea for Dragonball Z came largely from combining his two favorite works of fiction: the famous 16th Century Chinese novel 'Journey to the West' and DC's Superman comics. Kia Asamiya, whose real name is Michitaka Kikuchi, is the creator of Silent Moebius, Martian Successor Nadesico, and Steam Detectives. He is a self-proclaimed Batman fanatic and is the owner of a number of props from the first Tim Burton Batman film. 

The 1986 Sci-Fi Action-Comedy Anime 'Project A-Ko' features a 16 year old, female heroine attending high school with a rich, technological genius who builds powered armor and giant robots as well as a friendly, though immature girl who turns out to an alien princess. A-Ko herself possess Super Strength, Superspeed, Superhuman Jumping Ability, and some degree of Super Durability if not Invulnerability. It is hinted at the end of the first film that she may be the daughter of two very well known parents...

On first watch I assumed this was Clark Kent and Lois Lane
but another shot I couldn't find show the woman wearing wrist
bracelets similar to none other than Princess Diana!

A-Ko is the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman!

I also recall an ongoing Light Novel story that appeared in Hobby Japan magazine around this time. I might be wrong about the magazine but I clearly remember the story as explained to me by a Japanese friend: In the USA a boy attends a high school for Superheroes but his 'power' is that he's really smart and builds a suit of armor like Iron Man. Unfortunately, most American Superheroes in the setting have powers and the school can only teach him so much. Luckily - it seems - he gets a scholarship to attend a prestigious Superhero school in Japan where most heroes are technology based. 

Unfortunately he is ridiculed by many of his Japanese classmates as he 'only made Powered Armor', which they view as nothing special. Also, he doesn't really speak Japanese. Thankfully he makes friends with a few other misfit students and changes his armor into a sort of Power Suit / Mecha combo. While testing the Mech Armor out he accidentally stumbles into a real crime scene! He ends up saving the day and is swarmed by Japanese reporters who want to know more about him. He tries to answer but as soon as he speaks English that label him a hero from America and the papers end up calling him, 'The Great Gaijin'!

The Great Gaijin was a favorite of mine and also a completely obscure and overlooked entry in the American/Japanese Superhero crossover genre (I can't even find references to it on the internet). However, I bring it up because long before the present day Superhero Anime and Manga, long before the MCU broke the Japanese box office, here was an Iron Man type hero, from America, going to a High School for Supers. 

Which brings us to...

Today, the influence of American Superheroes on the Japanese Pop Culture market is no longer underground, hidden as Easter Eggs, or subtle for that matter. A public love for many American Superhero movies, animated series such as Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's Batman, and of course video games like Marvel vs. Capcom is evident in some of the most popular Anime and Manga titles out there. 

My Hero Academia, One Punch Man, and Tiger and Bunny are all series that focus on American style Supers, though each has a very Japanese take on the Western costumed crimefighter. As with other Anime and Manga that tweak, twist, or turn genres on their ears, these titles excel for much the same reasons; Superhero stories true to the topic but with their own unique identities and a point of view we in the US might not immediately think about. 

Now the question is, "How do Japanese Game Designers and Fans translate this clear love of Superheroes - American or Japanese - into their Tabletop RPGs? Do they even do this?"

The answer is of course yes but the forms these games take can be as different from what we're used to as their series are from our comic books. 

See you soon - same Chojin-time, same Chojin channel!

Barking Alien