Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Encore!

Welcome back to my blog!  It has been a pretty damn long time.  As some of you may have heard (and others have no clue) I will be moving back to Chicago soon.  Permanently.  If my blog up to this point has been a concert setlist, then I just got back from walking off the stage to do some shots and now it’s time to return to the stage for the epic (hopefully) encore!  So… ::skims most recent blog post:: …October, 2011… huh… right… Usually bands don’t make the audience wait that long but I guess I am pulling an Axl Rose here.  Mengomengo.  Well, here we go.  I’ll do my best to summarize the last 3 years of my life in a few short paragraphs…

As you would expect, a lot of things have happened in my life in the last 3 years (and if that wasn’t the case, my life would be pretty damn boring.)  Those of you who know me fairly well probably know some of this stuff but I will go over some key things real quick here to get everyone up to speed.

Sometime around the middle of 2012, my favorite bar in the world, Rock INN Current closed it’s doors forever.  There were various reasons why it had to close down but I won’t get into it.  They had one final epic party and it was the most epic bar party I had ever been to in my life.  The whole place was packed from wall to wall and people were flooding even outside on the stairs area drinking!  Just about everyone I met over the years there came to drink that night (aside from those who moved away from Japan) and it was a very fitting last goodbye.  At one point, 7 girls decided to spontaneously dance topless on the bar as well.  I will never forget that place but all of my best memories from there are on this blog so at least I can always revisit it with a good nostolgic read.  Thankfully the other bars I frequent like PSY, GODZ, etc are still rockin’ hard.  Actually, after it closed down, my friend Emmet and I almost ended up trying to buy and re-open the place!  I even talked to Sushi about it in great detail but we fell short when it came to start up costs because we couldn’t get a good guarantor.  We asked Ryoko’s father but he was against the idea.  In retrospect, it is probably best that we didn’t end up doing it since I think that life style every day would have ruined my marriage…

Oh yea… speaking of which… Ryoko and I are married now!  After dating for like 5 years we finally got it done on July 2nd, 2012.  We had 2 weddings.  One was in Japan in March of 2013 and the other was almost a whole year later in Chicago in July 2013.  Lot’s of reasons involved why we had to space everything out so much (planning a wedding is hard work, try planning two international ones.)  One of the reasons we got married so soon before the wedding was that as of the end of July 2012, my old job on the JET Programme came to an end due to JET’s 5 year limit.  I got a new job in the capital of my prefecture as a teaching advisor, working at the main government building, so we moved to Maebashi City which is about an hour south of my old town (which put us closer to Tokyo!)  Ryoko’s father, being very traditional, didn’t want us to live together until we were legally married, so we got that part done early even though the actual wedding wasn’t planned until later.  Either way, the weddings were awsome and everything turned out great!

Another benefit of moving to Maebashi was that there are actually some arcades sorta near where I live now!  In fact, I found a nice arcade with a thriving local Guilty Gear scene called Game New Platon in Isesaki.  Perhaps some of you have seen vids from them as they often record tournaments and casuals and upload them online.  Since then, I have been a regular at Platon and have won almost every tournament there that I entered with a few exceptions.  People only really play at Platon on Saturday nights (and it is a 24 hour arcade, so people play from about 8 pm to 4 am) but I still go to Tokyo a few times a month and play at the old classic spots like Mikado and Club Sega.  Platon is about a 25 minute drive from my apartment which isn’t bad, but sometimes Ryoko needs to use the car (and we share only one now, no free BOE car for me anymore) and so sometimes I ride my bike there, which takes about 45-50 minutes.  It’s all good though, a little exercise can’t hurt and it’s a small price to pay for all night GG sessions!  The ride home at 4 am always sucks though.  Sometimes my old pal Andy (Capps) joins me there as well.  I am one of the highest level players that plays there (not to say others can’t beat me at all) but there is one other player, a fairly well known Venom specialist (can play Johnny and Eddie too) named FC, who also is a regular there and we have developed somewhat of a nice competative rivalry.  Kind of reminds me of a certain Venom specialist from back home in Chicago that I used to play all the time, except without the BlazGreen side tournaments.

As I am sure you are all aware of, SBO (Super Battle Opera) has been gone for quite some time now.  But last year, Arc System Works started their own version of SBO for their own games called Arc Revolution Cup!  Of course, the first Arc Revo Cup featured the new revision of the GGXX series, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core +R, which I played extensively during it’s roughly 1 year run.  I went out to the arcades a lot after it was released and enjoyed playing it online at home too!  I really had a great time going through the qualifier season that year, and the tournaments were 1 on 1 so I didn’t have to worry about finding a team (and if you have read my past blog posts, you know how much of a pain in the ass that was sometimes.)  I ended up winning a preliminary match and getting a silver ticket in +R.  The block finals to qualify and win the silver ticket were in Gunma where I live.  My opponent was a pretty strong May player from Tokyo who goes by the name GoDolphin, though at the time, his name on his card said Magnum Sabre.  You can see the match on youtube if you just google Elvenshadow vs Magnum Sabre.  I fell JUST short of qualifying in one of the most regretful matches of my life, but life goes on and you just have to learn from your mistakes.  I ended up not qualifying for the final event in the end, but I DID attend it as a spectator.  It was a pretty great tournament and in the end, long time top player Kishya took the win.  After the tournament, my old friend Rob Gray (old Current regular) who works for Epic Games was sitting next to me in the audience.  I was getting a little drousy since I was drinking the whole time, but he tapped me on the shoulder and was like “You are going to want to pay attention to what is about to be shown!” and oh boy… was he correct!  This was the moment when Guilty Gear Xrd was revealed to the world!  They showed the trailer and I couldn’t believe my eyes or contain the hype.  EVERYONE was going NUTS after seeing that. 

As I am sure many of you know, as time went one, more was revealed about the game and there were a total of 4 location tests spaced out over several months.  I went to every single one of them and reported as much information as I could about the game.  Now that the game has been out in arcades since February of this year, I have been playing it A LOT.  As of this time, I have well over 2000 matches on my card.  I am currently ranked 2nd place in the world for most wins with Faust.  So yea, I really love the game and have been playing it a lot.  Iplaywinner.com did an interview with me about my early impressions of the game, so if you want to know them and haven’t read it yet, go ahead and check that out.  I won’t bother repeating myself in this blog post for the sake of eliminating redundancy. 

Overall though, my life has been pretty much the same as far as what I am all about.  I have had plenty more awsome adventures, but I won’t bother to try to recall all of them (nor do I think I would be able to!)  In retrospect, I wish I could have posted detailed accounts of all the amazing times I have continued to have here over the missing 3 years but there simply is no time for all that and I don’t think I would be able to do them justice without having the details fairly fresh in my mind.

Anyway, now, to bring things up to speed to what has been going on recently, let’s get back to the topic of Arc Revolution Cup!  Once again, this tournament series is back and has been going on since mid June.  Once again, the format for Guilty Gear (which is Xrd this time) is 1 on 1.  I have entered several qualifiers and have been doing fairly well consistantly over them, getting to the finals of some and eleminating some well known top players in some tournaments.  However, on July 6th, at a tournament in Saitama, I finally pulled out the win and got another silver ticket, winning the preliminary!  You can see the finals match on youtube.  So now, I am currently waiting for the other preliminaries in my block to finish up to decide my opponents for the block finals that will take place on July 26th.  This block has a total of 7 preliminary spots, meaning that the block finals will consist of 7 players all fighting each-other in an epic round robin tournament format.  As of right now, only 4 out of the 7 have been determined.  They are me, JUN (Millia), FC (Venom), and Ishimatsu (SL).  JUN is a solid Millia and I had to face him in a past preliminary where I actually defeated him the first time we played, but I lost to a Zato player who was defeated by JUN, and it resulted in a 3 way tie, so we were forced to reply and then 2nd time through I beat the Zato but lost to JUN, but since JUN beat the Zato, he took the tournament.  This was the day before I qualified and I ended up beating the same Zato again at the one where I got the silver ticket.  So, while he is certainly a strong opponent, I feel confident that I have a chance against him.  FC and I play regularly and are always butting heads, so it could go either way and should be an interesting fight.  As for Ishimatsu, I am not familiar with his Slayer but it will be interesting to see how that pans out.  The remaining 3 opponents will be decided this coming weekend and the final one the day of the finals before it happens.  I am waiting in anticipation to see what develops. 

So, now that I have brought things back to the most recent weekend, I’ll just give a brief summary of what went down.

Friday night, I went to Shinjuku and played in a Sportsland Xrd tournament.  This was just a regular singles tournament, and not for Arc Revo Cup.  I got to the grand finals and lost in a close match to a Ramlethal player.  There will probably be vids of it online soon.  After that, I drank with Emmet all night at a new Rock Bar called “From Dusk Till Dawn” which is a pretty nice place.  They were having some kind of Metal DJ event so we went to check it out.  The party had already kind of died down by the time we got there but there were still a fair ammount of people there.  Shortly after we got our drinks and sat down at a table, they announced a special performance.  Some dude came in dressed like Sun Wukong the Monkey King, except they introduced him as the Mushi King “insect king.”  He proceeded to sit down on the floor on some blue tarps and pulled out several plastic containers.  For his first trick, he pulled out live earthworms, stuck them up his nose, and ate them by snorting them live!  For his next trick, he pulled out another container filled with live cockroaches and proceeded to eat them all in various ways like biting them in half and pulling them apart, or just bite-size popping the whole thing.  For his grand finale, he pulled out a giant beetle.  At first he put it up to his face and let the beetle pinch his nose and eye brow and hang from his face.  He cringed in pain but seemed to enjoy it.  Then he held the mic up to his face, took a big bite, and the epic crunch sound echoed from the loud speakers surounding the bar.  He then enjoyed the rest of his meal and went on his marry way.  I pretty much couldn’t think of much else the whole time except “W…T….F…”  Emmet was acting like it was no big deal and said he would eat a roach for a free beer.  I tried to call him out on it and ask them if they had any more bugs but it seemed like the dude consumed them all.  It would have been pretty great if Emmet did it but oh well.  The rest of the night we drank at PSY and I got really drunk and don’t remember much.  Passed out at the manga kissa around 5:30.

The next day leads us to the reason I came to Tokyo last weekend in the first place! When you already win a preliminary in a block for Arc Revo Cup, you are not allowed to enter any other preliminaries in other blocks until your block finishes.  So, while there are tons of tournaments going on right now every weekend, I sort of have to put things on hold as far as Arc Revo Quals until I either win it all or lose and start over.  This did result in one nice benefit though.  Two years ago, Arc System Works had a live Guilty Gear x BlazBlue music concert, which I went to with my friends Matt, Andy, and Kyle (Stunedge).  It was pretty epic stuff.  Well, they just had another one last weekend.  I originally wasn’t going to go but now that I couldn’t enter any quals, I figured, I might as well get drunk and listen to video game metal.  So, I bought a ticket just a day before it was sold out.  I must say, I am very glad that I was able to go, because quite frankly, that shit was EPIC!  Below, I have provided the 2 hour setlist.

1. Chronophantasma (BBCP Opening)
2. Six Heroes (BBCP VS. Six Heroes)
3. Does the Sheep Count the Sheep? (GGXrd Bedman)
4. Black & White (BBCP Ragna vs. Hakumen)
5. The Lily of Steel (GGXrd Millia)
6. Starry Story (GGXrd May)
7. Sector7 (BBCP VS. Sector Seven)
8. Bang!Bang!Big!Bang! ~Feat. Tsuyoshi Koyama~ (BBCP Bang Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan)
9. Reppuu ~Feat. Tsuyoshi Koyama~ (BBCT Bang Vocal)
10. Revenger ~Feat. Toa Ikinari~ (BBCP Bullet Vocal)
11. Blue-Bloom ~Feat. Toa Ikinari~ (BBCSE Story Credits)
12. Diva (GG2 Valentine Final Form)
13. Dissonance (BBCP Valkenhayn vs. Relius)
14. Still in the Dark (GGX Millia vs. Zato)
15. n Justice (BBCP Hakumen vs. Izayoi)
16. Ride the Fire ~Feat. Naoki Hashimoto~ (GGXrd Sol Dragon Install)
17. Lily ~Feat. Naoki Hashimoto~ (GGXrd Credits)
18. Heavy Day ~Feat. Naoki Hashimoto w/ Daisuke Ishwatari on rhythm guitar~ (GGXrd Opening)
19. The Re-coming (GG2/XX Sol vs. Ky)
20. Under Heaven Destruction (BBCT Ragna vs. Jin)
21. Rebellion BBCT (Ragna) *encore*
22. Holy Orders (GG2/XX Ky)*encore*
23. Magnolia Eclair (GGXrd Ky) *encore*

For Heavy Day, Daisuke Ishiwatari himself came out on stage and played guitar with the band!  Sick stuff!  This was one of the best concerts I have been to in Japan (maybe only topped by the live Final Fantasy one where I met Nobuo Uematsu and they played Dancing Mad) and I probably will never have a chance like this again, so I am glad I was able to check it off the list.  I met a few Saudi Arabian GG players at the show and they wanted to play some Xrd casuals, so we went to Akihabara Club Sega afterwords since it was on the way home for me.  I only had time to play a few matches.  I was really drunk since I was drinking most of the afternoon and finished a whole flask of rum during the show, so I was not playing at 100%, but I thankfully still won all of my matches.  I realized that my last train home was leaving in a matter of minutes so I had to leave really suddendly unfortunately.  I would have liked to stick around longer but too bad.  I had to actually work on Sunday so nothing much else worth mentioning from the weekend.

So, after nearly 7 years here, as much as I love it in Japan, I need to move on to other things and find a job that is more relevant to my future and has opportunities for advancement.  Originally, the plan was for Ryoko and I to move back sometime in August (as I announced at our US wedding in front of everyone.)  That would have been nice, except for the fact that getting a US spouse visa takes WAAAAYYYYY longer than I had originally anticipated, and so now we are in the process of waiting for Ryoko’s visa.  My job ends on July 31st and I cannot continue it without committing to another full year contract.  I don’t want to leave Ryoko behind, so we decided to just wait it out a bit longer in hopes that the visa comes fairly soon.  As of now, it is looking like we might get it in late October if we are lucky.  I won’t bore you with any more of the fine details but basically, I won’t be staying in Japan any later than the end of October.  The benefits of this situation are, lots of extra time to go to festivals during my last few months here, and the ability to stay for the duration of the Arc Revolution Cup, with the final event being held on August 30th and 31st.  The down side is it certainly isn’t making it any easier to set up a new job for when we move back, and having no income means cash is going to be really tight, but I might as well make the most of it.  So, stay tuned and I will be updating (fairly) regularly again until the end of October or until the US National Visa Center gets their heads out of their asses and processes our visa application.  Whichever comes first.  As always, thanks for reading!

3 comments:

  1. Great post man, you were living the dream!

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  2. Psyched about you returning to this blog. Still remember checking it very frequently, way back, even 1-2 years after you stopped updating, still checked every few months. I don't even remember how i found this blog to begin with as I'm not a GG player at all, just enjoyed reading up on your stuff. Guess I'll have to put this one back to my bookmarks. Good luck with all future endeavors, man, also happy to hear you two got married!

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  3. good read mike! ill have to meet you again at another major hopefully! -ultimatefaust

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