A Japanese guy in my English class in Tokyo once said "I like Beatles."
I corrected him: "I like The Beatles."
On another day, in another lesson, he said, "I like the PlayStation2." (Well, more like "Ai raiku za PureeSuteeshonnTsuu.")
I corrected him: "I like PlayStation2."
“Ai raiku za PureeSuteeshonnTsuu beri macchi. Itto izu mai hobi.”
“I like PlayStation2 very much,” I said, in a correcting tone. “It. Is. My. Hobby.”
He narrowed his eyes at me. After the lesson, while I was scratching away a remark in his portfolio ("Work on enunciation" -- I was obligated to say something), he told the woman at the front desk that his lesson was "okay," yet he'd appreciate it if I didn't correct him so much. He said this in Japanese. He didn't know I understood him.
On morning a week later, me and this guy were alone. Four days before, I’d been counseled on the proper way to treat this guy. Three days before, he'd been talking about Final Fantasy X.
“I was very cried myself,” he admitted, at one point.
I gritted my teeth. Prior to saying how cried he was himself, he had given away the game’s biggest secret.
I was very cried myself.
This same sentence had occurred years before, at the teeth of a female Japanese exchange student from my college. It followed her told-over-tempura tale of the pointier relationship between Aeris and Sephiroth.
Years later, that one morning in Tokyo, I was tired. I had played Metal Gear Solid 2 two nights in a row, beating it on normal one night, and hard the next night. I wanted to be certain I didn’t miss a thing. I hadn’t slept. I was playing the game covered in frozen sweat, in a room the size of a closet, with a busted heater. The thermometer read six degrees Celsius.
Metal Gear Solid 2 was released in Japan two weeks after it was released in America. I had had my friend air-mail me the game so I could play it before the Japanese. Look at the irony: me in Japan, after years of complaining about slow localizations, still importing games.
So I figured I'd spoil Metal Gear Solid 2 for this guy -- he was as excited about it as I was about Final Fantasy X. He had, during a previous lesson, shown me his reserve slip for the game. That morning, I brought in the game itself, a week and a half before it would come out in Japan,
"Look at this," I said to him.
He couldn't believe his eyes.
He also wouldn't let me talk about the game. He kept trying to turn the conversation around to the superficial.
"Suneeeku hazzu . . . naisu heeea."
This guy was forty-three years old, with two children in middle school. He looked like your typical salaryman, glasses, shirt, tie, short hair, and all.
"He does have nice hair, doesn't he?"
"I-essu. Rooongo heeea. Raiku rokku sutaa."
“Yes, like a rock star.”
"So, you like the mullet?"
The guy's jaw dropped.
"Marretto?" he said. When he spoke, he let the word shoot out of his mouth in three-and-a-half breaths. He put a samurai intonation on it.
"Yeah, the mullet?"
"Mullet," I said.
"MULLET," I said.
This went on for about five minutes.
"Mullet," I said, enunciating, pointing at the box.
The guy closed his eyes, and then opened them again.
I pressed my finger into the picture of Snake on the box.
"M-u-llet," I said, tracing the outline of Snake's hair.
The guy closed his eyes.
"Muh, uh, re, let-to."
He opened his eyes.
"Ahh, soukka!" he said, in Japanese. His voice sounded like a harsh exhale.
“Yes, that’s right.”
"Izu hau yuu kooru, hizu . . . heaasutairu?"
I didn't get to spoil the game for him, that day. I did, however, get to hear him utter the single most joyous sentence I heard during my long time in Japan:
"Yes. I like the mullet."
The moral of the story is: there's no better motivator for game-finishing than spite. And sometimes -- just sometimes -- you get something extra out of it.
The stylish Tim Rogers is one to talk...
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