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/人◕ ‿‿ ◕人\

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Before I begin this blog post, I would like to show a video if you haven't already seen it:

There isn't much more to say about the safety aspect of Pokemon Go that hasn't already been said: people have endangered themselves for the sake of catching one more Pokemon. However, the segment that stuck out for me the most was not the stupidity of the girl for wandering into moving traffic, or the both of them for blaming the game for the incident, but how the new segment described the app as "putting her daughter in an area she wouldn't normally visit." And that is what I want to talk about in this blog post.

Earlier today, I went down to the Santa Monica Pier for a Pokemon Go event. I figured that since I would be in that area anyway, I would stroll by the pier to exploit the many Pokestops and lures that have been laid down. It was a hefty $12 for parking, as I had expected, but I was willing to pay that for admittance to a premium spot for Pokemon hunting, even if I only had 2-3 hours to do it. I succeeded in catching an Electabuzz and a Kabuto, but soon the program became unresponsive to my input. After rebooting it, the app was unable to log back into the servers, and remained that way for the rest of the afternoon. I felt frustrated that I wasted $12 and the time to travel here, and jealous of everyone that benefited from the virtual bonanza without any server issues.

Because I was already at the pier, I felt that I might as well have made the most out of my time there in spite of the upset. I walked to the end of the pier, fumbling with the app the whole way. By the time I got to the end, I became too frustrated to continue trying to get the app to load, and gave up. After doing so, my feelings of frustration were soon replaced by a sense of relief. I felt a sense of freedom from my device, that in being exiled from the virtual world I was able to appreciate the real world all the more. The pier gave me a good view of the ocean as well as the Santa Monica Mountains, neither of which I would have fully appreciated had I been focused on the virtual event that was taking place in this area.

This made me understand the real problem behind Pokemon Go and other augmented reality programs: while they entice players to leave their houses and interact with the outside world, it doesn't help them actually connect with said world. This is what critics means when they liken the craze to a zombie apocalypse, that the players are engulfed in their cellphones and restricting their motivations to what can be achieved within the game. It rewards players for pacing back-and-forth between landmarks to exploit Pokestops, loitering in places where wild Pokemon spawn, and going to places where they would otherwise have no purpose in doing so. While the app benefits small businesses, they become a secondary part of the Pokemon Go experience: players frequent them to satisfy their essential needs on the hunt for Pokemon, but not for the establishments themselves. I didn't go to the Santa Monica Pier for the ocean, the rides, or the junk food; I went for the Pokemon, the rest of the city be damned. The prioritization of Pokemon over reality is what causes a noticeable divide between mind and body: while the body is out in the public, the mind is still at home playing video games.

The troubled relationship between physical and virtual space is what causes issues of irreverence amongst players. While the loading screen tells players to "stay aware of [their] surroundings", they only interpret this on the level of safety, that is don't use the app while driving, don't stand in the middle of the 405 trying to catch a Pidgey; etc. However, enthusiasm for the game has been carried out in ways that are inappropriate or even criminal: attending a memorial or cemetery to seek Ghost-type Pokemon, trespassing on private land to catch a rare Pokemon, or even vandalizing property in the name of a team. While these are all extreme cases, the mindset behind them pervades the average gameplay session: significant landmarks become background objects, beautiful sights get taken for granted, and anything else not directly part of the Pokemon Go experience cease to exist entirely. The Buddhist temple by my house has been designated as a Pokestop, and for the short time I played the game I used it for that purpose; it's a central part of the Asian community in my neighborhood, but in the context of Pokemon Go, it's just a pit-stop in my journey to become the Pokemon master.

This is not to say Pokemon Go is devoid of any redeeming quality: it encourages players to connect with one another on a local level; satisfies the primal desire to hunt as our prehistoric ancestors have done; and gives millennials something to look forward to in a time of unemployment, terrorism, rigged politics, and a prevalent sense of despair. However, the news surrounding this app, both good and bad, is a stern reminder of how technology must be handled responsibly. The Pokemon Go GPS is no substitute for the physical space around us, and the virtual creatures within the app, as lovable as they are, should not take priority over one's intuition. This isn't always a conclusion we can come to by ourselves: sometimes, it takes a server error to detach us from the virtual world and make us realize what's truly important.


Day 2: Typhoon Tour of Tokyo (Afternoon Tour)


On our way to the next stop, the tour passed by the The Tsukiji Market, where we learned about the fish auctions that take place every dawn. Because of how fresh the fish is this time of day, having just been caught, the auction prices can reach astronomical levels! This is also the location of Sushi Dai, one of my planned stops during my stay in Tokyo; because of its proximity to the auctions, it is famed for its food's freshness, with the red clam being served alive! Unfortunately, due to jet lag and time constraints, I was unable to visit either the market or the restaurant.


After passing the fish market, we reached our next destination: the beautiful Hamarikyu Gardens. Another one of Tokyo's green spaces, these gardens have artfully planted foliage complimented by miniature hills, lagoons, and man-made structures. It was Tokyo's equivalent to Central Park, having a view of the surrounding skyscrapers while maintaining its own serene atmosphere. Welcoming the visitors were these intricately-trained pine trees:








Never before had I seen gardening of this intricacy: hundreds of years worth of work, along with extensive support systems to hold the tree and manipulate its growth just so. The trees after were no disappointment either:









When looking at these trees, I was reminded by my brother, who recently discovered a passion and career in horticulture. Thinking of how he would enjoy Japan for its gardening, I discovered how wide of an appeal this country would have for various tastes; this would not be as apparent from an outside perspective, as without experience one could only appreciate it for its globalized qualities.


It is sights like these that anyone from anywhere would appreciate:












I wanted to go into this tea house and be part of a ceremony, but I was afraid of holding up my tour from leaving again:








This is for Miss10:








This hill has some terrific views of both the gardens and the city skyline:









Another wonder of these gardens:








This site was once a tea house, until it burned to the ground in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.








And some more scenery in the quieter part of the gardens:










Before leaving, I came across this Shinto shrine:










Our next stop was the Sumida river cruise, which went from the Hamarikyu Gardens to Asakusa. By now, the skies have completely cleared, appearing as if there was never a typhoon there. This allowed for some terrific photos both from the pier and the boat, including of the area I will be visiting the next day, Odaiba:









And some more lovely sights of the city:
















This ninja is not even trying...







By this point, jet lag was catching up to me, and I was becoming fatigued. Because of this, it was unfortunately becoming more difficult to appreciate the sights of Tokyo. However, this did not make the next and final stop any less memorable, as Sensō-ji Temple was my first experience in a Buddhist temple. With the evening setting in on the temple and its swap meet, it set a festive mood that would have been enjoyable had I been more awake.


Upon entering the outer gate, or Kaminarimon, our tour guide told us that the lantern that is normally suspended was taken down temporarily; we were “lucky” to see this very rare instance, and find a banner in its place:







Between the two gates, the tour guide warned about the crowded swap meet in between the two gates, and advised us to follow her plushie-topped staff. I was able to keep up, but had some trouble meandering through the dense crowds.











Beyond the inner gate, or Hozomon, I learned about the structures and activities of Buddhist temples like this one. On one side of the plaza is the pagoda, where the Buddha's ashes are kept; on the other is a fortune stand, where one can make a donation and receive either a good or bad fortune; and in the center is an incense burner, where one can light an incense stick and stick it in the sand.















Before entering the temple, the tour guide gave us a brief amount of time to visit the shops before returning. I walked from one end of the strip to the other, glancing at the various shops and food stands. I would have had dinner here, as well as gorged on various pastries, except my jet lag robbed me of my appetite. Instead, I settled for a single chocolate manjū; the few bites I had were heavenly.


Because Japanese Buddhism largely overlaps with Shintoism, both abide by similar practices; in this case, purification fountains are present in the entrance of every temple just as they are in every shrine. At this temple's fountain, I finally learned the correct way to purify myself before entering such a building, thanks to my tour guide.







The inside of the temple was ornate, with gold objects, colorful walls, ambient lighting, and intricate panels. Unfortunately, because I had so much trouble with my camera during this leg of the trip (it was not until the Nara tour that I discovered the “Program” setting that fixed so many photos), these photos could not do the interior justice. Much of it had to do with the time of day these photos were taken, as it was nightfall by the time we exited the temple.









Our tour was lucky enough to witness another Shinto wedding in the shrine next to the temple. By this point, the couple was already within the shrine, presumably already engaged. Due to the aforementioned camera trouble, I again could not take a decent photo of the weeded couple: because of the lack of light, combined with the camera's flash, the inside of the shrine is blackened out. The kamis really are serious about keeping me from taking pictures! Still, seeing the smiles on the couple's faces made the sight a memorable one.








I think this guy's in the wrong time period...







After the samurai's performance, the tour was finally over: we were on the bus ride back to our hotels. It was a long, dull leg of the trip, especially with my weariness. What made this leg of the trip special, however, was its passing through Akihabara: I was in awe of the bright lights, stimulating colors, and abundance of anime paraphernalia. This was another Tokyo district that had a stimulating atmosphere, this time even more so than Shinagawa Station. A few of my fellow travelers got off the bus here, and had I been more awake, I would have followed suit. Before leaving the district, I made a mental note: “I must return here tomorrow.”


After waiting for the bus to make its rounds through the hotels, I was finally dropped off at my own hotel. I had no appetite whatsoever, so I settled for some onigiri and a bottle of carbonated juice from the 7-11. Before returning to the hotel to eat, I caught a glimpse of this prettily-lit walkway:







After eating a very light dinner, I planned out my next day (Comic City Spark!!!) and went to bed.


Day 2: Typhoon Tour of Tokyo (Morning Tour)

NOTE: Because of a seventy-picture limit for each post, I will have to split each day into two entries, beginning with this one. The next half will be re-uploaded on the fifth of next month, and each entry thereafter will follow this pattern. Moushiwake arimasen!

Alongside the earthquake of the previous night was a howling typhoon, which ripped past the side of my hotel window while I was asleep. The next day began in the tail end of this typhoon, with a heavy rainfall and misty atmosphere covering the city. It gave the city a unique ambiance, but also created inconvenience, as you will see later in this entry.


I woke up early in the morning, with two hours to spare before my tour bus leaves its destination. I used this time to look for a quick breakfast, which I settled for a meatloaf meal with eggs, rice, and veggies from 7-11. During this time, I remembered reading up on the convenience stores of Japan, and how they offer complete, pre-packaged meals at a low price; this knowledge helped me save time and money for food.

However, the problem at the moment was not finding food, but finding a place to sit! Because it was raining, there was no place to sit outside. I had difficulty finding a place to eat within the hotel I was to meet my tour guide (different from the one I was staying in), as the tables in the lobbies were branded with messages stating that they were not to be used for eating. Eating while walking was out of the question: this is considered impolite in Japanese etiquette.

During my search, I came across my first Shinto shrine: the Takayama Shinto Shrine. Later, I discovered that this shrine was built in front of where the shoreline of Tokyo Bay used to be, and that it served to bless its ships and seafarers with safe travels. At the time, I did not know what purpose this shrine served; combined with the gloomy rainfall, the building gave off an ominous aura that left a lasting impression on me during my stay in Shinagawa.



With the exception of coming across the Takayama Shrine, this hour was completely stressful: not only was I unable to sit and eat anywhere, but I also had to find my tour guide! I knew when and where to meet my guide, but not what to identify him/her with. I asked around in the main lobby of the hotel if they knew about/were associated with my tour; I was met mostly with confusion, even from the receptionists. As I saw a tour leave the lobby, I panicked, wondering whether or not that was my group. Eventually, I did find my tour guide and signed myself into the group with no trouble; it turns out that I was the only person from this stop going on the tour.

On the bus, I solved my food problem when I asked the bus driver and assistant if I could eat. While there was some issue with the language barrier, they eventually understood what I was asking about when the driver lifted his fingers in the shape of chopsticks. This was when I discovered the importance of physical language when traveling overseas: if the language barrier is too thick, communicate with your hands.

It took an hour for the bus to pick up passengers from all the hotels before the tour actually began. Winding through the streets of Tokyo, I felt disoriented by the city's sprawling road system: even with my filmographic memory, I could not easily trace steps or set landmarks as I could anywhere else. Learning the city's train system (which is the best of its kind) made navigation a lot less daunting, but the streets are only manageable when one sticks to a single area. Below was one of the buildings I saw on this route... somewhere.


The first stop of the tour was Tokyo Tower, a good place to get a panoramic view of the city before the tour explores it in detail. Because Halloween was near, the tower was decked in Halloween paraphernalia. It was adorable.


The rain here was especially a mixed blessing: it gave Tokyo a characteristic noir atmosphere, but also limited our visibility. Landmarks that were further off in the horizon – like Tokyo Disneyland or Mt Fuji – were completely obscured by fog, with only the signs to point towards where they would be. Still, the sights we did see were lovely in this weather, including a cemetery...


… the supports of Tokyo Tower...


… the Rainbow Bridge...


… Zōjō-ji...


… Azabu-Jūban...


… Azabudai...


… and this VIP hotel.


After taking in this sight, the tour descended down to the tower's second floor and roamed in the souvenir shops before continuing. While I knew when we were supposed to meet at the exit, I did not know that it was in a different part of the building from the entrance! I waited in the front lobby until the meetup time, and knew something was off when that time came. I scurried back up to the second floor, where I discovered the actual exit and ran to my bus. I gave my apologies to the tour guide and continued to Meiji Shrine.

One thing I loved about Tokyo was the amount of greenery within it. Between its many historical sites, religious sanctuaries, parks, and gardens, there are many places where one can escape to an atmosphere of tranquility, either to enjoy the skyline from a different perspective or flee the city altogether. Meiji Shrine is but one example: cloaked in its own personal forest, it is blocked off from both the noise of the surrounding city and the light of the sun.


Here are sake barrels donated from across Japan...


… and wine barrels from around the world.


The magnificent torii standing in front of the path to the shrine:


This was my first experience with the purification fountains found at the front of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The purpose of these fountains are to cleanse the body and soul: to go about this, one would take a ladle, wash one's hands, rinse out one's mouth using a free hand, then rinse the handle of the ladle. However, I was not properly introduced to these fountains until later tours: here, I observed how the other tourists used them, which I came to the conclusion of, “take a ladle, pour water onto one's hand, then drink the water so it cleanses one's entire system.” It is the thought that counts.



I was overtaken by awe as I entered the shrine itself.





The courtyard opposite of the entrance was a no-photograph area, as taking pictures of certain sacred people or spaces is irreverent. Within this courtyard was a bare stone slab... where over 800 deities are congregating at a single time. Between the courtyard and the visitors was a series of long donation boxes, where I learned how to make a donation: bow twice, throw a coin into the box, clap one's hands, and bow once more. Behind the courtyard was a large taiko and the occasional monk.


Our tour was lucky, as we managed to see a Shinto wedding in process. Here, we saw the black-clad groom and the big-horned wife, being guided by a priest and two maidens to the altar. Unfortunately, I did not take a good picture of the bride and groom, but the people in the below photo are the guests following the couple. Our tour guide told us about the costs of holding a Shinto-style wedding, with one expense being a $300 entry fee for each guest!


By now, the rain has stopped, and the weather is now overcast. Our next stop was Akasaka Palace, a guest house for VIPs such as international political figures. Like how Tokyo Tower was modeled after the Eiffel Towel, Akasaka Palace was modeled after Buckingham Palace.



Because the bus only stayed briefly before continuing, there is not much to say about my experience here. Instead, I will tell you about something amusing that happened on the way there: our tour guide asked what the national sport of Japan was; the correct answer was “sumo wrestling,” but the first sport that came to mind was “baseball.” With its popularity in Japan, it was easy to come to that conclusion.

Our next destination was the city's actual equivalent to Buckingham Palace: the Imperial Palace, where the Emperor and his family are housed. Because the palace was under heavy security, the only area visitors were allowed was its historical section: the East Garden, which has plenty of beauty and marvel in its own right.



Upon crossing the moat, we came across the gates of the garden. What amazed me about the Japanese fortresses I have seen were their combination of sturdy construction and labyrinthine design, for the maximum security. In this case, the area in between the two gates served as a buffer for invaders: As the gates are the only weak point of the palace's defenses, two of them are installed to slow invaders' progression. Furthermore, the second gate is placed perpendicularly to the first gate; this forces armies to turn as they enter the palace, not only further slowing their advancement but also leaving their left side spaced out and vulnerable. With walls as impenetrable as the ones bordering the surrounding moat, this small space was critical to the vitality of the entire stronghold.


Beyond this space, we walked on a gravel road, passing by the royal guards' training dojo (not pictured), along with two guardhouses, the second of which housed 100 guards!



Eventually, we reached a stagnant moat and a large, stone wall: these are the remains of the castle during the Edo period.


And then we approached the Ninomaru Garden.


A motif of this garden – as well as other Japanese gardens, is one of longevity. One of the icons representing this are the black pine trees, which can last beyond any human and takes centuries to even train.


Another icon of longevity are the koi. While unassuming beyond their beautiful colors, these fish last a surprisingly long time, which according to my tour guide was around seventy years! I found a new respect for these fish after learning this, and made me all the more fascinated by them.




One thing I love about Japanese gardens are their ability to mimic nature even when man-made objects are clearly present (if they are not already embedded within nature). Nothing feels out of place, and the materials used – stone and wood – blend well with the surroundings. This fountain and creek are one example of this.



I tried to take a picture of a spider on my way out of the garden, due to its beautiful color patterns and web design. However, because I was still learning how to use my camera, and that the rest of my tour was well ahead of me, the below photo is the best I could do. The most distinct feature of the spider was its abdomen: the yellow, linear spots on its tip made it reminiscent of Buddha's head.


And not to forget this:


Before leaving, we looked into the palace moat to say hello to the less colorful common carp. They do not look impressive now, but imagine what they will look like at level 20!


Now we were on our way to lunch. On the way to the restaurant, we passed by the Kabuki theater. The tour guide told us about this medium: Kabuki is performed by an all-male ensemble, and is spoken in a variant of Japanese so archaic that even native speakers need translators to understand the dialogue; I can imagine it is their equivalent to Old English.


We had lunch in a traditional Japanese restaurant located in a modern-stylized shopping center. My meal, as well as almost everyone else's, was pre-paid; however, because some tourists did not pay for the meal and were asked to pay on their own, this gave me confusion as to whom was to pay for whom. However, after asking the tour guide, everything was sorted out.

Everyone who pre-paid for lunch was given the same meal (clockwise from top-left): vegetables, shrimp and vegetable tempura, salad, seaweed, miso soup, meatball, pork, and chicken tempura, steamed rice, and what I assumed was an egg dish. For dessert, we were served chawanmushi, or egg custard. While I did not like the egg dishes, I enjoyed the rest of the meal.


After lunch and listening to the amusing mumblings of the family next to me, we walked to our bus and met our new tour guide for the second half of the tour. It was bittersweet leaving my very first tour guide of the trip, but considering that the two halves are treated as separate tours (with people in the “Grand Full-Day Tour” being part of both), it was understandable. We gave her our thanks and began the second half of the tour.


8 Days in Japan

Day 1: First Times and First Impressions

Konichiwa to all my fellow Youchewers, and gomenasai for the delay! This is the beginning of a blog series in which I talk about my trip to Japan. While I wish I wrote each segment as their respective days passed, I was not able to due to a combination of jet lag and time constraints; therefore, I will be recalling each event after the fact. In spite of this, I wish you enjoy reading about my experiences in the amazing country of Japan!

The beginning of my trip was uneventful: I woke up at the crack of dawn, left the house with my brother and dad, met my mom and aunt at the Denny's close to LAX, got help from the latter pair in carrying my luggage and arranging my plane reservation, and said my last goodbyes as I disappeared into the security line. Unlike the beginning of my birthright tour, I did not miss my flight, and everything else went without a hitch. I did not even have to deal with layovers, as the plane flew straight to Tokyo (Narita Airport).

In fact, it was a direct flight like this one that inspired me to go on this trip. The year before, when I waited for a plane to JFK Airport after missing my proper reservation, I looked at the gate to Tokyo and thought, “Wow, look at how close Japan really is! All I would need to do is buy the appropriate ticket, walk down that taxi, and be on my way there!” To be finally experiencing this was one of the biggest thrills of my life. And there I was, taking my first few steps on the country of Japan:


It was when I set foot on Japan when the gaijin moments began happening. At first, I was in the wrong area thinking I was in customs (it was for connecting flights), and panicked when I couldn't find my boarding pass. When I was guided to the right area, I frustrated someone from the immigration checkpoint with my fumbling of the notes, then messed up again at bag inspection when I pulled up my suitcase without having filled more notes. Because this was my first time traveling alone, and did so in an unfamiliar country, I knew that I would make a handful of mistakes by the end of the trip. That did not make them any less embarrassing, and that was all the more motivation to learn from them.

When I reached the end of the terminal, I met my English-speaking assistant, who gave me all my itineraries, schedules, and other important papers; she also told me details on both the bus ride to my hotel in Tokyo as well as general plans for everything thereafter. She was a huge help: she gave me reassurance on any ambiguities in my schedule, as well as guidance on the first leg of my trip before sending me off to travel on my own.

It was during the bus ride when the first impressions began to strike, and they were certainly powerful. The hills and rice patties were not unlike the ones seen in My Neighbor Totoro, decorated in trees, roads, and houses. Had I known I would have seen this already, I would have had my camera out and ready to take pictures. However, it would have been difficult anyway from a moving vehicle.

Going into the city, I was awed by its stimulating sights. Even before arriving in the main city, the bus passed through an industrial district that was decorated with neon signs. Soon after, the bus passed by Tokyo Disneyland and its ambient nighttime lighting, as well as the ferris wheels and their vibrant color displays. When the bus finally did reach the main city, I saw that Shinagawa Station – just a small part of Tokyo – was as brightly lit and colorful as New York's Times Square; imagine what every other station must look like!

When the bus finally reached my stop, I was too burdened by my luggage to stop anywhere else than my hotel. After making a wrong stop at a hotel of the same brand, I proceeded to walk further to my actual hotel. Because I did not show my itinerary to the cashier at first, they assumed I did not have a reservation and gave me a huge price tag that I knew I did not have the yen to pay for. Because I knew something was off, I scrambled for my itinerary and quickly resolved the situation.

After this ordeal as well as the sleepless travels beforehand, I was too exhausted to even have dinner: I only wanted to clean up and go to sleep. By 8 PM, I did just that... only to be woken up by an earthquake at 2 in the morning!

When it first struck, my first though was, “Is it just me?” When I realized that it was not, and that the building really was swiveling back and forth, my next thought was, “Just my luck. It's only my first day in Japan, and already I'm going to be caught in a natural disaster. Good thing I have travel insurance.” In spite of the earthquake's magnitude (7.1), the only thing that came of it were surprised exclamations of others from the rooms next to mine: the city continued its business as if nothing happened.

It was this moment that made me realize just how adapted Japan was for earthquakes: this nation has lived on the most active part of the Ring of Fire for thousands of years, so naturally they would learn to construct their buildings to withstand even the strongest earthquakes. This thought made me fall back asleep in reassurance... only to be woken up an hour later by my well-meaning family trying to call me.

It was a long night, but considering how tired I was, it was better than no rest.


One month ago was the debut of the Yume Nikki web manga, a spinoff that has inspired both hope and doubt from fans of the video game. While the first chapter fueled either one of these responses, it was still too early to confirm them, as it was too busy establishing Madotsuki and the setting to truly delve into the quirkiness of the original source. As one can see with the length of this review in comparison to the previous one, there is much more to talk about this installment, and thus more indicative of its true potential. Even as the plot picks up, does it still improve on the first chapter and show promise, or stumble upon itself and set itself up for disaster?

NOTE: This series of blog posts will focus primarily on the writing of the manga; art will be saved for the final review once the manga finishes. Also, this review contains spoilers; proceed at your own risk!

As of these last two chapters, the narrative switches between exposition and conflict very well, with both accompanying each other with fluidity. While the conflict established by the previous cliff-hanger (Madotsuki turning into a frog-being and being unable to pinch herself awake) is downplayed by the more recent one at the beginning of this chapter (Madotsuki being harassed by forest ghosts), the two synch to make one frustrating predicament for her. Afterward, both conflicts are resolved when new laws of her dream world are established: that she can shed her effects at the hub room and wake up again; this is a simple yet effective pattern at laying out the laws of a universe the reader still has yet to see. Hopefully, Madotsuki's adventure is accompanied by twists along the way, either ones which delve further into her character or surprise even fans like me. As of yet, it is impressive that Machigerita can fit Yume Nikki into a linear narrative format at all, considering how open-ended the plot progression of the original game was (which some would argue that it has no plot at all).

The use of Madotsuki's speech has been improved from the previous chapter. While it still falls into the pitfall of explaining the obvious, it now serves a practical purpose in describing things that would be difficult to do so through visuals and actions alone. One such example is when Madotsuki finds herself unable to control herself from reaching out towards the forest ghosts: she is able to convey the point through two sentences, when the only way to achieve this non-verbally is through exaggerated miming. While I would have still preferred the latter – not only to remain faithful to Madotsuki's original character, but to embed her with mystery – it is at least understandable why Machigerita went this direction.

It is by this point where the manga begins to embrace the surrealism of its source material, and does so with great justice. Seeing the forest ghosts puke on Frog Madotsuki inspired some giggles from me, as did her bursting from an egg that extracted from her own mouth; both moments make just as much sense in context, exactly what one would expect from Yume Nikki. So far, it reminds me of Jan Svankmajer's Alice, which also has its protagonist at the butt of her universe's wackiness. The choice of Alien 9 creator Hitoshi Tomizawa to illustrate the series was a terrific one, as his style would suit well the macabre cuteness of Yume Nikki perfectly. Seeing how neither Machigerita nor Tomizawa shy away from the game's quirkiness, one could expect a truly enjoyable exercise in surrealism.

Now that the weirdness of the setting has been established – and hopefully escalates as the series continues – I would like to see it eventually embedded with a sense of meaning. While the symbolism of the original game was ambiguous in what it was represented, it was arranged in a way that made it clear it embodied something: identity, loneliness, trauma, despair, and the like. These themes are what Yume Nikki is composed of, and it would severely compromise the potential of this spinoff to forego any of this, regardless of which theories (if any) it shows bias toward. After all, what is the point of Mado's quest to find the twenty-four effects if she does not have repressed turmoils to confront?

Speaking of theories, the cliff hanger at the end of this chapter does confirm one minor theory: that Madotsuki is not a hikikomori by choice, but is locked within her room. While it takes away from the ambiguity of Madotsuki's character (it was unclear whether it was her choice to stay within her room in the game), it does create a conflict that not only gives her a reason to stay and complete her goal, but also succeeds in making the reader worry about her: we want to see Madotsuki walk through that door by the end of the story, even though the ending of the original game confirms otherwise. This moment also incites curiosity form the reader as to whom, or what, is responsible for locking Madotsuki in her room, as well as creates a sense of ambiguity as to how magical her reality is, if it is even real at all.

While the previous chapter began the series on a slow start, this one showed much more promise in what is to follow. Considering how little has actually been seen to this point, it leaves me both curious and excited to see how the rest of the game will be adapted. I highly recommend my fellow Yume Nikki fans to read along with me as long as the series progresses, regardless of one's expectations. Perhaps the more skeptical ones will be surprised and even entertained; one may never know if they dismiss it entirely.

I'm calling it: the Dream Diary is sentient, and is acting as a stealth mentor for Madotsuki by forcing her to confront her dreams.


Earlier today was the release of the first chapter of the Yume Nikki web manga, a video game adaptation that has roused both enthusiasm and skepticism from the franchise's fans. On one hand, it is exciting to see a cult classic gain enough notoriety to spawn officially endorsed spinoffs like this manga. However, its lack of an apparent story leaves many to doubt its potential of functioning outside of the video game medium. Seeing how the “unadaptable” Life of Pi was made into a remarkable, faithful film, I am a firm believer that any story can be converted into any medium with proper direction and an awareness of the respective medium's capabilities. Yume Nikki is not exempt, for its adaptations have the potential to replicate – and even expand on – the spirit of the original, even without the interactivity of the video game medium. However, potential is limited by execution, and how well this series fares remains yet to be seen. How do first impressions hold up, at least? Is the first chapter a disappointment as some fans feared, and is it a reliable indicator of what to expect?

NOTE: This series of blog posts will only discuss the writing of the manga; art will be saved for the final review once the manga finishes.

The very first thing that caught my attention was the manga's amount of speech: Madotsuki monologues every other panel, whereas her game counterpart never spoke aside from the occasional "dame" and "muri." Most of this speech consists of her commenting on her surroundings, nothing which could not be conveyed through either the settings themselves or the actions of the characters. The only vital information that is presented through speech is when Madotsuki writes in her dream diary for the first time in the plot: here, she explains her recurring dream of encountering a set of doors (establishing a conflict), finally declares her commitment to exploring them (setting out to resolve the conflict), and tempts fate by reassuring herself that she can wake up at any time (laying out foreshadowing). If the plot were more aversive to speech, this monologue could instead have been written in Madotsuki's dream diary, as what is actually written in it is a simple chart detailing the pattern of her recurring dream. From a firm believer of the "show, don't tell" rule, this approach came across as a disappointment, especially considering the original game never relied on speech to set its mood or its presentation. This may change in later chapters, as Madotsuki will have the opportunity to converse with characters like Poniko, thus exchanging information that may not be possible to convey through visuals alone.

When factoring out speech, the writing stays true to the tone and mechanics of the game, all the while being able to place its non-linearity in a structured narrative. A noteworthy scene other than the aforementioned dream diary scene is the cliff hanger ending, which – while doomed to pale in comparison to the horrors Madotsuki will eventually face – establishes a genuine sense of conflict, and hints at the unpredictable danger she will face in this psychological frontier. However, the plot's adherence to the original game runs the risk of limiting its potential of exploiting the unique traits of the manga medium, as many of the game's unique quirks can only work in its respective medium. Should the manga keep an appropriate balance between faithfulness and artistic liberty, as well as fix its miscellaneous faults over time, this can lead to a promising adaptation, something which a game as special as Yume Nikki deserves.