Plumfield puts the three of us in his own room, which is...fine, really. When I wake in the morning, several guys have arrived from Nagoya, and Deranged Dave is in the living room talking with them, or rather, attempting to. I jump to action and go out to meet Shinpachi, a 27-year-old clean-shaven yeti. Official delegations usually have a “delegation leader;” in the case of civic delegations it's the mayor of the visiting city, and so of course here it's very obviously Deranged Dave. But it's difficult to say who's the official receptionist. You would think Plumfield, because he did much of the organization and is providing home base. Bolognese is another candidate, as the Number One Japan Player. But then there's also Shinpachi, who's one of the oldest of everybody, the most physically intimidating, and the clear leader of the Nagoya faction. All three are cool as shit, as well, though especially Bolognese.
“We're at Plumfield's now,” Shinpachi says into his phone. “They've got a splendid interpreter with them, apparently he'll be with us all weekend. His Japanese is incredible. I can't believe this, we're saved.”
通訳者。That's an awesome epithet to be known by. I like it. And that is my whole job and actual function this weekend? I could totally get used to this.
Today we head to a slightly less shitty part of Hyougo where, at a small non-chain arcade, there is a DDR machine running Stepmania. Both ITG and modifications of this kind are strictly controlled by Konami, so this is expressly forbidden, but the owner of the machine has kept it a secret from management, who know nothing about the actual game. Both Deranged Dave and Bank have a lot of experience modding, and they teach the players there a few new tricks for making a DDR cabinet more ITG-like.
“Hopefully they'll take what they learn back to where they came from and the knowledge will spread,” Bank remarks.
When we arrive, we meet Chappy, a manic pixie dream girl and one of the top five girl players in the country. I can't help but immediately notice that she has a really nice body, at 25 years old and under 5 feet, with tiny little breasts, a tight round bum, a waifish waist, thin muscular legs, and biteable clavicles. Her face is a little bit fucked up, but she talks constantly, which makes up for it. I already have a Japanese older sister but I start calling her neesan anyway. So yeah, the second the car touches down she just about swallows Deranged Dave whole.
Deranged Dave walking into a room full of rhythm game fans is like Sean Connery walking into a room full of...Sean Connery fans.
Everyone gets to work on the machine, and within seconds someone has pulled out a video camera to make an instructional recording. Deranged Dave explains all of what he's doing and why, and I translate, so possibly there is now a video out there somewhere where a skinny white guy explains how to do ITG maintenance in Kansai-ben. If you're wondering, the point of the exercise is to use tape to raise the panels slightly, so that there is relatively little difference in height between the bracket and the panel, as opposed to DDR, in which the panels are significantly lower. (This is why early-generation DDR players, who started when the difference was even more pronounced, started playing on the balls of their feet, i.e. it is why they look so stupid when they play.) He can't quite get it perfect – partly because he's worried that if he makes an incorrect guess on one of his calibrations he won't be around to fix it, so he's erring on the side of caution – but he manages to make it much, much better than before, at any rate.
Everybody wants to play with him again, of course, and the videos keep on coming. I can only assume they're more for the memories, because he's not even playing anything particularly impressive. I'm finding I have my hands quite full with the hundreds of millions of things both of my charges are having said at them at any given time, and am quite enjoying the challenge of managing everything required for general comprehension on both sides of the language barrier. I do manage to get one game in myself, and it plays pretty well (although the up arrow gets a lot of pad), but I almost fail a 9. I do pass a couple of 12s but they're not even hard 12s. Apparently if you don't do something for eight months you get worse at it.
Then it comes. Bolognese and Deranged Dave square off, and the battle of the century is on. Actually just kidding, it's not that exciting. Neither is warmed up, but Deranged Dave beats him in three songs out of four – two by a narrow margin and one by quite a large one, although, interestingly, in the final one Bolognese absolutely destroys him on his own pick. He approaches us afterwards, complaining of back pain.
“My back has never felt like this before,” he tells us. “I really think I should go to the hospital. Shinpachi's going to drive me. Don't worry, I'll be back soon.”
Bank: Well that's scary.
Deranged Dave: Shit, I can't believe I did that. I hope he's ok.
Rude Boy: I wouldn't worry about it just yet, you know?
Bank: It's just like the word “hospital,” it's pretty, like, WHOA.
Rude Boy: That's just the Japanese system. You get a cold, you got to the hospital. Need to refill a medication, you go to the hospital. It doesn't have the serious feeling like in English.
Bank: Yeah, I hope you're right.
Bank wants to try real Japanese okonomiyaki, so we find a place and Chappy sits at our table. Yay! We start getting close, and she grills Deranged Dave on various aspects of his ITG playstyle. It was his videos, you see, that originally got her into DDR, and she's always tried to imitate him, though she can't yet pass a 13.
“You'll pass me by soon enough,” he assures her.
Bolognese hasn't returned by the end of the meal, but we've set some okonomiyaki portions aside for he and Shinpachi to eat later. We have them bagged up and Plumfield phones in for an update, which he then has me relay to Deranged Dave and Bank.
Rude Boy: Um, ok. So it turns out, he's bleeding inside his back. And they have no idea what caused it, it could happen to anybody at any time, and sometimes it just happens. So they've got him in a brace, and he won't be able to play for a month. And uh, he won't be able to walk for several hours.
Bank looks like she's plunged her face into a fishbowl. They both feel terrible.
Bank: I can't believe we broke Bolognese.
After a goofy purikura session at Aeon, we head back to Plumfield's, where about 15 people will be staying in a home built for two. That's always fun. Nobody from the Nagoya group has slept, but me, Chappy, and Plumfield's girlfriend stay up until 4 in the morning talking about all kinds of things, while Chappy's shy boyfriend looks on quietly, taking in the conversation and occasionally offering an opinion. Chappy and her man have already been going out for four years. I can't even imagine a relationship that long. They ask why and I give a condensed version of my personal history, leaving out my Mother Russia drama, with an explanation on why I've pretty much given up on relationships as a concept. “You can't think like that!” Chappy exclaims. “Nobody's gonna show up,” I shrug. “There will! Eventually you're going to find someone perfect for you,” Plumfield's gf assures me, seemingly desperate to make me trust her. For once, I almost believe that I actually might. Talking to these two cute girls for hours has opened some kind of pressure valve in my chest, and I feel better than I have in a long time.