Justin and Justina, two (fictional) similarly named and unusual friends, have a long-running dialogue series here at the perennially virid New Leaf Journal. In today’s dialogue, Justina shows Justin an article suggesting the “alpacas may hold the key to preventing all COVID-19 varients.” How will Justin respond to the news of this potential alpaca medical breakthrough? I do not want to spoil the dialogue here, but his response may include a discussion about Paca Plus, a Japanese visual novel that stars an alpaca girlfriend.
Justina is visiting Justin on her day off. She is peering over Justin’s shoulder as he checks his RSS and ATOM feeds on his desktop feed reader, FeedReader-DecSync. Normally, Justina would not care about Justin’s feeds. However, one article on his list of unread articles catches Justina’s attention. I now yield the floor.
Open That Article
Justina: Wait, what’s that article?
Justin: Which one?
Justina: The alpacas.
Justin: Let’s see… Kyoto University finds alpacas may hold the key to preventing all COVID-19 variants.
Justina: That’s weird.
Justin: Don’t drag the alpacas into this! The Chinese Communist Party is going to slander them just like they slandered the pangolins.
Justina: What happened to the pangolins?
Justin: China tried to blame them for the Wuhan coronavirus.
Justina: They didn’t do it?
Justin: I don’t think they’re allowed to work in labs.
Justina: Wait, I think we’re getting sidetracked. Look at that alpacas face!
Justin: Alright, let’s get to the bottom of this.
How Will the Alpacas Save Us?
Justina: “But now, a new hope has emerged, a cute fluffy hope that walks kind of funny.”
Justin: It walks differently.
Justina: There’s a video! Play the video!
(Justin and Justina watch the one-minute alpaca video.)
Justina: Man, that was great.
Justin: As I said, they walk differently not funny.
Justina: What was this all about again?
Justina: Right the virus. Let’s see… “On 14 July, research teams at Kyoto University and other organizations announced that they have discovered antibodies that appear effective at combating all variants of COVID-19.”
Justin: Whoa, this is kind of offensive no?
Justin: Read the next line.
Justina: “It turns out that all this time humanity’s greatest weapon against this disease may have been lying in wait inside the adorable little camel-like things.” What?
Justin: I mean forget camel-like, are alpacas things?
Justina: I guess?
Justin: Alpacas are people.
Justina: Wait didn’t you say before that it walks differently?
Justin: Did you not check your mail?
Justina: That doesn’t have anything to do with this!
Justin: More offense!
Justina: What now?
Justin: “…researchers extracted about 20 million types of antibodies from the wooly beasts…”
Justina: Are they beasts? I don’t know about that.
Justin: They are people like you and me.
Justina: They’re definitely not like you.
Justin: So you admit they’re like you?
Justina: I could live with that.
Justina: They’re beginning clinical trials in the next year or so?
Justin: I have a strange feeling we’re not going to hear more about this.
Justina: Ooohhh, I like this idea at the end.
Justin: Which one?
Justina: The author says that if the alpacas cure the virus, “every city should erect alpaca statues in honor of these gentle saviors…really every city should do that anyway though…”
Justin: I agree. Cows had their day, why not alpacas?
Justina: Don’t remind me about the cow parade after you caused me to miss it.
Introducing Justina to Paca Plus
Justin: This story reminded me of something.
Justina: What about?
Justin: I read about this visual novel many years ago.
Justina: I’m already concerned about how an article about alpacas and COVID reminded you of a visual novel.
Justin: I think the visual novel may be the key to everything. It’s so eerie I’d say the developers may have known something.
Justina: That’s even more concerning. I don’t mean whatever conspiracy you’re probably thinking about.
Justin: Are you and Pumtake ready for this?
(Note: Recall that Pumtake is “Justina’s” Abyssinian guinea pig – Justina is in quotes because she ordered Justin to care for “her” guinea pig.)
Justina: It doesn’t really matter if we’re ready, right Pumtake?
Pumtake: (Pumtake does not respond. Pumtake is a guinea pig.)
(Justina sits down while petting Pumtake.)
Justin: Today, many big-time clutch-play Japanese visual novels come to the west, but that wasn’t the case 10-15 years ago.
Justin: So you know, you’d notice when one was localized.
Justin: I remember when I first learned about Paca Plus.
Justina: A visual novel about an alpaca?
Justin: Let me pull up the Steam page. It’s on Steam now, you know. Here’s the link. Watch the intro video.
(Justin and Justina watch the 90-second intro video – what follows is their live commentary.)
Justin: So this guy is living a normal school life, has a girlfriend.
Justin: And then…
Justin: He went to an alpaca petting zoo with his girlfriend.
Justina: ..I was worried there for a second.
Justin: Things cool down after that. His girlfriend just transmogrified into an alpaca on the bus back.
Justin: So he’s now dating an alpaca.
Justin: Don’t you see? The girl transcended the mask. She became the alpaca. Alpacas are people too.
Justina: You always scold me for starting questions with don’t.
Justin: It was an FLCL reference. You wouldn’t understand.
Justin: Look at alpaca-tan going to school, participating in the cultural and sports festivals, blushing.
Justina: What is happening in Japan?
(The video ends.)
Justin: This makes you think, doesn’t it?
Justina: Please tell me you haven’t played this.
Justin: Do you mean to tell me that you’re non-plussed by Paca Plus.
Justina: …That was terrible.
Justin: You’re just jealous.
Justin: But anyway, I have not played it yet. Forgot it existed until I read about how alpacas were going to save the world or whatever.
Justin: But I think the team behind Paca Plus knew something. They knew it all the way back in 2011 when they first released this philosophical masterpiece.
Justina: You’re devaluing our degrees by referring to this as philosophical.
Justin: They knew that the alpaca would save us. Very powerful message in Yukari’s transmogrification.
Justina: I can’t believe this exists.
Justin: Definitely buying when it’s on sale again.