[ARTICLE]  The Hawai'i Tropical Mega Battle

by Edo (hrzic@hawaii.edu)

----------|  DAY 01

It took me an hour to ride the bus from Schofield Barracks to
Honolulu.  Then I had to hop another bus to get the hotel, but I
overshot it by about three blocks, so I had to get off and walk,
and with the help of one friendly gardener and one friendly
police officer, I eventually found my way to the hotel.  Sigh. 
Not a good start.
  The Tropical Mega Battle (TMB) was held at the Hilton Hawai'ian
Village [here] in Hawai'i.  It's a hotel (of course), but has
several shops and such around, so it's called a "village".  Up on
the second floor of the Tapa Tower was the tournament.
  In true tournament fashion (through my experience with every
Magic: The Gathering pre-release tournament I've been at), it
didn't start on time, at 0900 hours.  This was a good thing, as I
was a bit late.
  There were two adjacent rooms set up for the event--the
Japanese room and the American room (and for the remainder of
this day, I shall refer to them by such).
  Since the tournament hadn't started as of yet, the American
children were trading cards between themselves outside of the
American room.  The Japanese children were inside the room,
trading.  After I took a few pictures, the American children were
called in to their room to start.
  Andrew Finch got up and gave his starting speech, pointing out
the people that would be walking around to give rulings.  It was
also prudent to ask about a ruling as soon as possible, because
if the players waited to ask, it would be harder to modify the
game if the players didn't know about a ruling.
  In the Japanese room, they had a similar announcer, but since
he spoke his Japanese rather quickly, I couldn't make out a
single thing that he was saying.  I assume that it was like Mr.
Finch's speech.
  Then both rooms' tournaments started.
  I found the Japanese room to be a bit superior to the American
room, since it had A/C for one, the announcer gave commentary,
and they had background music!  Unfortunately, the American room
had none of these.
  At the rear of the Japanese room (in front of the announcer),
eight Japanese tournament winners were fighting for the National
Championship.  The other Japanese children were simply invited to
the event to play (and they played in their own "minor" games). 
The main contenders played in a round-robin style, with the most
wins going on to the final portion of the tournament.
  Some children were barely even five years old!  There was one
darling little girl who was playing, and looked so precious
playing with her Myuutsuu [Mewtwos].  Unfortunately, she was
playing against one of the workers from Media Factory and his
Nidoran (Male) deck.
  A nice little item that I saw many of the children playing with
were gray "Pocket Monster" card sleeves, like many Americans used
the Ultra-Pro sleeves.
  I began to see a trend in the Japanese championship decks. 
Most of the eight (not all of them) had the "Big Three" of speed;
this included Erebuu [Electabuzz], Ebiwaraa [Hitmonchan],
Sutoraiku [Scyther], and also used the Fossil Buubaa [Magmar].
Many of them also played with a Tropical card that had the effect
of:  "Flip a coin.  If heads, remove 2 damage counters from each
player's Active Pokemon.  If tails, each player's Active Pokemon
is now Asleep."  Some more cards that they used were Gust of
Wind, Pokemon Trader, and PlusPower.
  Only two players were using Rizaadon [Charizard].  I attribute
this to some of the other players that were packing Metamon
[Ditto].  Those same Rizaadon players also used the Basic Set
Biriridama [Voltorb]/Marumain [Electrode] to pump up their
Rizaadons quickly for Fire Spin.
  The Japanese players could only use cards up to, and including
  Some of the American decks had some of the same constants, such
as Electabuzz, Hitmonchan, and Scyther.  Some deck archetypes
that I saw were Water Colorless, Fighting Raindance, and pure
Colorless, which was a Wigglytuff deck.
  While I was in the Japanese room, a lady from Osaka began
talking to me (she spoke very good English), asking if I was a
newspaper reporter.  I said no, and that I was simply writing an
article for the Internet.  It turns out that her son was one of
the top eight players for the Nationals.  It also turns out the
Japanese Nationals were for ages six through twelve, just like
the American one.
  After a while in the Japanese room, a man in a costume walked
into the room.  At first, I thought it was Professor Oak, but he
had a large card stuck to his forehead.  It wasn't Oak, but
rather Doctor Ooyama from Pokemon Card GB!  He talked for a bit
(I couldn't understand a word), and announced the start of the
next round.  He then walked around and played the non-tournament
  After that round ended, there was ANOTHER costumed gentleman
that entered the room, and I was happily surprised.  He was
dressed in a black costume, with mouse-like ears, with yellow
lettering across his chest.  Yep, it was Imakuni?.  After handing
out some badges with his face on them to the eight contenders
(some of the badges were stored in the crotch of his costume), he
announced the start of the next round.
  I asked the lady that I was talking with before if that was the
REAL Imakuni?, and she answered in the affirmative.  He vanished
through a door in the back, and I thought he was gone for good,
but he came back and started playing the other children in the
tournament with his costume still on.  If you played against him,
he gave you a badge with his face on it.  The badge with his face
is the picture in the lower-right portion of the Imakuni?'s
Doodoo [Doduo] card.
  Yes, he played a weird deck, and yes, he used the Imakuni?
promotional Trainer card (the one that confuses your own Active
Pokemon).  I found out that the deck that he was playing was
called a "Confusion Deck", which he used Evil Okorizaru
[Primeape] in.  I don't think that he ever won that day.
  After playing for a bit, Imakuni? went to the American room and
started walking around (which was in-between rounds).  He got
some REALLY weird looks from the Americans, so someone had to
explain to them who/what he is.  He's a singer, of course, and
very popular in Japan.  He wears the strange costume because he's
trying to evolve into a Pokemon.  While he was on the America
stage, he sang the first two verses plus the chorus of "Pokemon
Ierukana?" ["Can you name the Pokemon?"], a song that he sings on
the Pokemon Best Collection CD (track 6), which is the ORIGINAL
"PokeRap".  Then he went outside for a bunch of pictures.  That
guy is a RIOT to watch.  In each of the pictures, he did a
different pose, such as crying, strutting, or trying to act
"sexy".  He also posed with various Americans that wanted his
picture.  He then went back into the Japanese room to play a few
more games.
  Then the whole tournament went to lunch, but Imakuni? was still
playing a game.  At the end, I asked (in my meager Japanese) if I
could get my Imakuni?'s Doodoo [Doduo] signed, and after he got a
better marker, signed it.  The two Japanese children that were in
the room hadn't seen the card before, since it was so rare.  I
was EXTREMELY happy.
  After lunch, everyone came back, and the tournament continued. 
The Japanese and American sections advanced to the final four. 
In the very end, a Japanese eight year old won the Japanese
Nationals, and a ten or eleven year old won the American
Nationals.  After the respective rooms congratulated the third-,
second- and first-place winners, the official tournament ended,
and there would be an awards ceremony in the ballroom in about
two hours.
  This doesn't mean that playing stopped.  I went to the American
room where the children were playing.  They were trying to fill
up a paper that they had with eight stamps.  If they played
against someone, they got a stamp.  If they filled it up, they
got a special prize.
  It's here that I got to play a man named Ron Foster.  I ask if
he was one of the translators.  His reply?  "I'm THE translator." 
I played my own grass deck (with Rocket Oddishes, Wigglytuffs,
and Rocket Golbats) against his Machisu [Lt. Surge] theme deck. 
We talked a bunch through the friendly battle, about his
translation jobs (he live and works in Japan for a software
localization firm; he did the translation for the Playstation
game "Breath of Fire 3").  He's (naturally) fluent in Japanese
(living in Japan for eleven years will do that to a person), and
married a Japanese woman, who speaks EXCELLENT English.  Overall,
a very nice guy, Ron is.  After playing (I won), other children
started playing against him (he randomly picked a Gym Leader
theme deck to play), and I chatted with him a bit more.
  At the end of these friendly matches, if the children filled up
their cards, they got a Japanese Pokemon Phone Card, which had
the card text of the one of the Three Legendary Birds from Fossil
(it was random which card that they got), but with some alternate
art.  Plus, they got the Pikachu Promotional card (with Growl). 
Just as Mr. Finch was finishing up, he handed me one.  After I
grovelled and repeated "Thank you, thank you..." he told me to
get up before I started to embarrass him.
  Out in the hall, just as everything was done being cleaned and
picked-up from the two respective rooms, one of the guys from
Media Factory asked if I was part of Wizards.  I said no, and he
asked what I thought about the tournament.  I replied that it was
fun, but meeting Imakuni? made my day.  We pointed to my right,
and there Imakuni? was, out of costume.  I was surprised, shook
his and, and explained how I came across knowing about him.  He
was humored with it.
  Andrew Finch came out again, and showed that same guy from
Media Factory a special misprint card.  "Only eleven exist," he
said.  Many know that there was a Clefable that was released that
had a special green "Pre-Release" stamp in the lower-right corner
of the picture.  However, it seems that there were eleven Basic
Set Raichus in with the Clefable mix, so they were stamped as
  Then, they went into a meeting about what they were going to do
on the next day, and I went back to the American room, and played
a game with Ron's wife, Reiko, but she using the Two-player set
deck, and me the Power Reserve deck.  Most of the game was in
Japanese (she FORCED me to play it that way), and we had a
relatively good time.  I got smashed, though, since Bellsprouts
and Oddishes have a habit of being weak to her Ponytas and
  I waited around for a long while, and the awards ceremony
started in the ballroom.  There was a LOT of food (I didn't have
any, since I was wasn't officially part of the tournament, either
player or staff, but I did have a Coke).
  In the ceremony, the winners of both the Japanese and American
Nationals got large medals to wear (not medals that you would
encounter in the Gameboy games, but rather award medals).  After
a few more pictures, I left.
  It was about 10:30 pm when I finally got home. 

----------|  DAY 02

I didn't overshoot the Hilton this time, but I was pretty dang
sore from carrying my heavy backpack and walking all day long on
the previous day.
  The tournament switched to the Ballroom (the same one that the
awards ceremony was held in).  The Japanese and American children
would later battle each other.
  There were few people in the room (since it was early), but
Imakuni? was there (out of costume), playing against some
children.  I asked if I could play him, and he agreed.  I didn't
win, though; I could have won within the first two turns (he ran
out of Pokemon on his bench), but I wanted to savor playing the
game.  I lost by running out of cards; I was helped to that end
by using two Oaks and four Bills during the game.
  After the game, I shook his hand, then bowed with my head to
the table, and "Doomou arigatou gozaimashita, Imakuni?-sama."  In
effect, saying, "Thank you very much, Lord Imakuni?."  He, and
the two Japanese children that were watching the match, burst out
into laughter.  I got a picture of him out of costume, and a
picture with him.
  After a while, the entrance ceremony started, with some words
from the CEO of Wizards, Mr. Adkinson, and the President of Media
Factory, Mr. Ishihara.  Mr. Foster and another Japanese
individual translated for the respective speakers.
  Then, a representative for the Governor came by, thanking
everyone for being in the event, and all in all, commending the
children for creating relations and friendships between the
members of the two different nations.  He handed a signed letter
from the governor to both Mr. Ishihara and Mr. Adkinson.  The
representative was also given a nice gift:  a basket with one of
each of the seven American starter decks, one of each of the
seven Japanese starter decks, three of each of the two American
Booster Packs, and two of each of the six Japanese Booster Packs. 
I wish I would have gotten a present like that.
  After a short while, the tournament got under way, with Mr.
Foster and his assistant doing translating for rules.  I took a
few pictures, then made my way around to where some Media Factory
staff were trading.  I looked at some of Satoshi Taijiri's (one
of the Assistant Playtesters) cards, and traded some of my
English cards for four Sakaki's Nidorans (Female), and three
Nidorinas.  It turns out that people in Japan want English cards,
just like some of Americans want Japanese cards.
  He also had a Team Rocket Myuutsu [Mewtwo] that I wanted to
get, but he didn't see anything else in my trade binder that he
wanted.  So, I told him that I would bring over my collection
binder.  He flipped through some of the stuff, but the stuff that
he saw in there that we wanted were actually in my trade binder,
so I gave him four Squirtles, one Wartortle, and one Jynx for the
TR Mewtwo.  I explained that my trade wasn't worth his card, but
he said he would trade anyway.  I also traded my English Zapdos
for a Team Rocket Sandaa [Zapdos] from the new set.  He said that
the Team Rocket Zapdos is a rather "hot" card in Japan.  I can
see why--a Pokemon that can do 100 damage for three Lightning
Energy and one Colorless would be pretty good.
  Some of the Japanese staff was amazed at the size of my
collection (which was a large binder, plus my card box), and when
they flipped through my binder, they saw the Rainbow
Island/Southern Island packaging that I had in it, and they
DOWNRIGHT SHOCKED and began laughing when they saw the price of
$12.95 for it.  In Japan, the price for those sets are 200 yen,
and at about 120 yen to the dollar, it is around $1.66.  I
explained that Japanese Pokemon things (not just cards), are VERY
expensive in the America, such as the new set being around $7.00
a pack where I live.  Satoshi agreed, saying that he buys English
Packs in Japan, and they are about 500 yen a pack, whereas the
Japanese ones are 291 yen a pack.  They also saw my Gameboy
Kairyuu [Dragonite], and I said that I bought "Pokemon Card GB". 
They laughed and pointed to an individual that was standing
around the other side of the table, a man by the name of Takashi. 
I was amused to know that he was used to inspire the Elec Club
Master in "Pokemon Card GB".  Though he doesn't look anything
like the picture in the game.  When I heard that, I asked about
the Ooyama and Ishihara in the game, and if those characters were
real people.  They were.
  I also showed the Japanese staff the differences between the
first and second printing of the Unlimited Basic Set (the older
printing doesn't have a shadow to the right side of the picture
frame).  Plus, they saw the difference in textures between
American hologram cards and non-holograms.
  It was a bit difficult to talk with the Japanese staff--they
knew about as much English as I did Japanese, so even though it
was difficult, we eventually got our points across.  Kouichi
Ooyama asked if I wanted to play a game, and we started to, but
the main tournament ended, and the ceremony started, so we
  Each of the children that participated in the tournament got a
picture of everyone that attended the tournament, plus a new
promotional card, a Nasshii [Exeggutor].  What was special about
that card is that it is in both English AND Japanese!  The only
attack that it had was Stomp.  It had a Japanese Pocket Monsters
back on it.  Imakuni? assisted in handing out the prizes.
  Then there was the "Grudge Match" between the Japanese National
Champion and the American National Champion.  Almost everyone was
crowded around it.
  It lasted, maybe, seven minutes.
  The American Champion ran out of Pokemon on his Bench, and thus
lost to Electabuzzes and PlusPowers.  I asked Ooyama if Japanese
players like to use PlusPowers, and said yes.  I said that many
Americans don't use it very much, and he was surprised.
  That pretty much dissolved the rest of the tournament.
  Imakuni? was in costume to play children again, and I saw
another of his game cards.  It has the text of the card game
(written entirely in his handwriting), but has the back of a
regular trading card.  Its effect is that when you play it, you
make your opponent look the other way, and when he or she does,
you remove a damage counter from one of your Pokemon.  I also saw
a new Masaki [Bill] card.  I think it's called Masaki's Computer
(or something to that effect).  It's in the new Japanese
Introductory set.  Flip a coin, and if it's heads, you draw 4
  After a while, I saw Takahashi playing a Grass deck
(originally, he was playing a Rokon [Vulpix]/Kyuukon [Ninetails]
using Electrodes to pump up the Fireblasts).  I said (in
Japanese), "Why are you using a Grass deck?  Aren't you the Elec
Club Master?"  And everyone at the table burst out laughing.
  I walked around for a bit more, and encountered Mr. Foster who
was playing his theme decks again.  He asked me, "Did you get
your cards signed?"
  "What?" I said.
  He showed me an index card with a picture of a Pokemon on it,
and a Japanese signature, and pointed to a young lady at the
opposite corner of the table where he playing.  He explained who
it was, and I exclaimed "Ah!"  The young lady laughed while she
was drawing a picture.  Apparently, "generic" artists of card
games aren't as big in Japan as they are in the United States.
  She, Himeno Kagemaru, was there.  She is one of the
illustrators for the Pokemon Card Game, and did such pictures as
Jungle Iibui [Eevee], Jungle Purin [Jigglypuff], the Eevee family
of Evolutions, and more.  She drew some Pokemon on request on
index cards.  Mostly, people asked her for Eevee and the family
of Evolutions.  I got my English 1st Edition Jigglypuff and Eevee
signed by her.  Plus, she drew me a Myuu [Mew].  Ron's wife,
Reiko, was there to help out with translating the requests.  I
helped with some of the English to Japanese names of the Pokemon. 
I commented that she made the drawings look so easy, and when
Reiko translated for me, Ms. Kagemaru laughed heartily.
  When no one was requesting drawings, I asked if she could draw
Myutsuu [Mewtwo] (simply to test her skills).  In English, she
said, "Okay," and pointed to me, "but we have a competition." 
So, I had to draw a very bad Mewtwo, while she drew her perfect
Mewtwo.  Then she said, "Sign!  Trade!"  So, she has my Mewtwo
and I have her own.  I tried to draw a Pikachu, but messed up. 
She wanted it, and I said, "Nope!  You're not getting this one."
And I balled it up.
  After that, she drew a comical picture of herself for me, then
drew a comical picture of me.  She is quite an excellent artist,
and has really only been drawing for five years.  I think she may
have misunderstood me, and if she can draw like that in only five
years, then there's hope for me.  After getting a picture with
her, she had to leave.  She was quite a nice person.  I hope to
meet her again.
  It wasn't much more time before everything was ending.  I
walked around for the final time, and got a red Doduo coin, an
Imakuni?'s Doduo coin, two more cards signed by Imakuni? (a
Poliwag and a Staryu; two cards he was using in his deck during
both days), a card signed by Takahashi (a Voltorb), and a
Professor Oak signed by Ron Foster and Reiko.  Mr. Foster has a
habit of, when people ask him to sign a Professor Oak, crossing
out the "Oak" and writing "Ron", and draws glasses, a beard and a
ponytail on the picture.
  Sadly, it was time for me to go.  After saying goodbye to
everyone and hoping to see them all next year, I left.
  I got home three hours earlier than I did on the previous
  What an experience.  I was glad that I took the trouble to go
all of the way to Honolulu.  I made some friends, especially with
those at Media Factory, and some within Wizards.  They hope to
have the Mega Battle next year, but it will be children from, not
only the United States and Japan, but from Europe and the rest of
Asia as well.
  Everyone was so incredibly nice at the tournament, and I'll
have great memories of it for years to come.  I hope to be able
to attend next year as well.


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