Justin’s 2018 Year in Review

I won’t bury the lede: I got married in 2018. This is my second marriage. I didn’t think I’d do this again. But I saw this beautiful, joyful woman playing some weird washing-machine-looking arcade game and I had to talk to her. That turned into a 7-hour date. A week later, I asked her to be my girlfriend. A week later, I dipped to the US – my first trip back since moving to Japan March 2016. I hung out with Dan and Kristen and my folks, and even had a political argument with my uncle. Emptied my storage unit (meaning I took out about 10% and left the rest for the employees to pick through) and drove my worldlies across country to my parental’s – bringing select items back home to Tokyo. 

img_1397

Yeah, that’s all fitting in the SUV I rented…

Anyway, this summer Tomoko moved in with me. This proved even more life-changing than anticipated. I embraced her clean lifestyle, as well as kept closer to her schedule (early-ish to bed, early to rise). I want to spend as much time with her as possible – maybe give her a good start to her day. And any chores I do aren’t a “chore” because I was doing them for her.

We got engaged Halloween night (romanticreepy, right?!), and decided to forgo the long engagement to make things official on December 8 – our 8-month dating anniversary. A photo wedding and an LA honeymoon await us in 2019. 

img_5464

Halloween filter!

People who have me on their social-media radar are likely sick of me putting over my wife, so I’ll keep this brief: Tonco is an amazing combination of beauty, cuteness and sex appeal; she is whip-smart and an expert at play; her energy is addictive and I’ve never been happier. 

On the work front, I feasted some months and famined others. Early in 2018, I was blessed with 2 steady video-game performance-capture gigs: One, a hotly anticipated blockbuster I did motion- and facial-capture for that allowed me to truly consider myself an actor; the other, simple mocap for a title which licenses one of the world’s biggest properties. 

img_1248

Given beard/makeup without warning, commercial cancelled before airing. Yep…

In July, I played a Dragon Quest inn patron for a McDonald’s ad, a knockoff Jason for a noodle spot, and a damn werewolf in a car commercial. That was all amazing and fulfilling, but was followed by lean months. And to be honest: Those 3 gigs paid only a fraction what they would have in the US, and far less than even you would think. So even when I feasted, it was more Shakey’s pizza buffet than Brazilian steakhouse. 

Fall brought a small role in a stage play called Mother. Surrounded by a small group of fellow foreigners and a large group of kind Japanese performers, we had a run in Tokyo in September then a 3-stop tour in November. Live theater has its advantages, and it was nice to be on stage again. Additionally, it was cool to be outside Tokyo. 

In between, I did other work travel as well: 4 days in Shimane and Tottori for a tourism commercial that turned out amazing. I’d worked with the director and producer in 2017 on a spot where I had the (only) camera strapped to my forehead. That they wanted me back meant a lot – especially because they were such pros. I even got to do narration. 

img_6162

Crab at 7am tee-hee!

I don’t know how sustainable this foreigner-actor thing is. Neither I nor my buds are doing much better than living paycheck to paycheck. I either need a side gig or need to create my own content that helps my brand blow up. The former pretty much requires a spouse visa, which is my next focus (my 3-year entertainer visa expires in March anyway). The latter is something I’m slowly working on, as I outline a script to get me and my homies some shine. I’m also pondering stepping back in the ring – as much for the connections and exposure as my love of combat-based storytelling – as well as continuing to formulate a live-performance character/act I may be able to do at variety shows and underground lives. 

And because I’m a consumer, here are some year-end things:

Favorite 2018 movie: カメラを止めるな

Favorite 2018 song: “This is America” by Childish Gambino

Favorite 2018 album: Sick Idol Sick by Melon Batake a-go-go

Favorite 2018 TV show: Maniac (Netflix)

Favorite 2018 book: Beastie Boys Book

Favorite 2018 game I played: [There is, shockingly, not a single significant 2018 title I played. I may own a few – like God of War – but haven’t fired them up]

Most played games: Angry Birds Match (mobile), Super Mario Maker (console)

2018 Interests: Intermittent fasting (though I think I’m done with it), knockoff Chinese retro handhelds/consoles, cooking.

img_6548

I’m wearing guyliner!

Top 12 Underground Idols

Most of the world is aware of Japanese idols by now, right? Those bubbly, talented performers that take the stage by the dozens to sing, dance, and look cute for our enjoyment are practically synonymous with Japan. 

But like every cultural phenomenon, there is an alternative, underground movement. Called chika idol (地下アイドル, literally “underground idol”), these girls often veer into the wild, the weird, and the absurd. Also the extremely entertaining.  Continue reading

Doki Doki Literature Club Review

Indie games get to play with concepts in a way that large-budget commercial games wouldn’t dare. We’re fortunate to live in a time where a small group of devs can take a niche genre and turn it on its head – or even turn gaming as a whole upside down. Frog Fractions comes to mind.

With that in mind, I wanted to review Doki Doki Literature Club, a game my friend Ryan recommended for me. I had only heard a little about it previously. I’m going to try to appease and respect both those who have played it and those who haven’t with this review. Continue reading

Justin’s 2017 Year-In-Review

IMG_4122

A shot I took at my home station of Tsutsujigaoka

2017 was quite a big year for me. I know politically and whatnot, it kind of sucked for a lot of people. But personally it was on the positive – especially when weighed against how I was coming in.

 

So, let’s go back to 2016 for a bit. I had been told by USJ they weren’t going to offer me a second year-long contract. This came after I did everything in my power to kick ass at my job. I was late only one time (by <5 minutes), never missed a show, never called in sick. I delivered a quality show within the time frame asked, and stuck to script and other guidelines. So I was floored when they said I was done. Continue reading

My Top 100 Video Games

Video games have always been a passion of mine. I was a game journalist for 8 years, from 1999 to 2007. Then I went on to make a few WWE video games at THQ. I’ve owned a lot of consoles and literally thousands of games. Back in November of 2009, I compiled a Top 100 Games list.

Years later, I still play games constantly and keep up with the industry. I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to do another list. After all, the PS3/360 generation was one of the best, and the current gen is no slouch either. To spice things up a bit, I decided to lift my rule only allowing one title per franchise. But I still need to have played a lot of any game that makes my list, which means there are some so-called shoo-ins that I couldn’t add.

Comment with your own Top 10, or harass me about something you feel deserved a spot. Or get mad at me for starting with number 100 instead of number 1. I will happily (and respectfully) engage. And maybe let me know if you’d like to see me put some capacity of it into a video.

If you enjoy my writing and want to see more, please consider one of my three published offerings on Amazon.

Note: I scoured the Internet for these screenshots. The majority came from MobyGames.com, a great resources for information on any and all video games.

100. Dig Dug

100_Dig-Dug_Moby1983, TI-99/4a by Namco
Previous Rank: 67

Let’s start out my list with an obscure port of a classic. Like most in its era, Dig Dug levels featured a single screen. But you were free to explore every inch of that screen, provided you could pop the baddies before they killed you. The cat-and-mouse gameplay is very satisfying with both sides having vulnerabilities. I played this a ton on my TI computer as a kid, chasing the Guinness Book high score. Continue reading

Morning Musume 20th Anniversary Review

I’d been to 4 concerts in the past (not to mention a couple mini-lives or shows they only did a few songs on), but I hadn’t seen Morning Musume all year. In that time, they’d gained three new members: two from the Kenshuusei juniors program and one from the sort-of-disbanding Country Girls. But my second-favorite member – Haruka Kudo – is also graduating after the fall tour, so I want to see her while I still can. 

marquee

This was not a typical show. The normal fall tour actually doesn’t start for a couple weeks. Instead, this was celebrating 20 years of Morning Musume. In 1997, I had only been out of high school a year. Okay, that’s making me feel old so moving on… Continue reading

Persona 4 Golden: 40 hours in

2017-05-13-133951

Discovering the doorway to another world

I love RPGs, but I’m basically horrible at playing them. A former colleague asked on Facebook the other day what percentage of role-playing games people finish. I’d say under 10% for me. It’s not a matter of difficulty, mind you. So often start them, then just stop around 6, 9, or 20 hours, never to return again. 

There’s myriad excuses why; things just happen when you’re gaming. But as a result, I’ve only beaten 2 of the 10 numbered Final Fantasy games I played (including 13, which is probably the most-hated). I’ve completed 1 Disgaea, 1 Breath of Fire, 1 Fire Emblem, 1 Suikoden, and zero Persona games. I was playing and digging PS2’s Persona 3: FES when my launch-unit Playstation 3 shit the bed, around the 9-hour mark.

But now, I’m playing Persona 4 Golden on my Vita. And I’m loving it. I’m loving it so much, I decided to write about how great it is despite the fact that either people already know or don’t care about it.

Persona 4, like the others in the series, follows a group of high-school students in modern-day Japan. This setting has always appealed to me, and stood out in a genre so stuck on the medieval. Your characters rely on their Personas to do much of the fighting – demons they come to fuse with in one way or another. Not terribly dissimilar to Pokemon though predating it. And more recently, Persona installment stories entail going to a special netherworld – in P4’s case, by entering the TV with the help of a hollow bear named Teddy.  Continue reading