The Twentieth Century Boys:
Ken'ichi Fujita and and Kouichirou Maki
There is a popular Manga that runs in the weekly Big Spirits called "Twentieth Century Boys". It is also the name that has been tagged onto Ken'ichi Fujita and Kouichirou Maki this weekend. It refers to the fact that while each player holds a place of reverence in the Japanese Magic community, they have not experienced success since the late 1990's.
Ken'ichi Fujita has been playing Magic since the release of The Dark, years before Magic was being translated into Japanese. He and his play group would get together with a Japanese gaming magazine that did features on Magic and a Japanese/English dictionary and play the game--a game he still plays to this day. He won the first GP in Japan was 1997 and won in Taipei the following year. He has been a member of the National team and just missed making the Top 8 of this year's Nationals tournament when he came in ninth on tiebreakers.
Kouichirou Maki picked up a pair of nicknames this weekend. After a typo on Day One referred to him as Mike in the coverage, he was dubbed "Mikey K". Maki won a car playing Magic at the Hong Kong open in 1997 and was the second Japanese player to be selected as a Magic Invitationalist. Recently he has spent his time working as the Editor-in-Chief of the Japanese Sideboard. (Don't worry: it is considered freelance work and he is allowed to play in sanctioned tournaments--just not Prereleases!) The two of them played together as the Executioners along with Satoshi Nakamura at the very first team Pro Tour. When Satoshi left the team he was replaced by Japanese Sideboard writer extraordinaire Isamu Fujieda.
The attendees at the tournament were buzzing all day about the 20th Century Boys and the possibility of them making the Top 8. If you want to get an idea of how revered they are, Osamu Fujita conceded to them in subsequent rounds at the cost of his own chances at the Finals. He was already qualified and would rather see them in the Top 8 then make it himself.
The Young Gun:
In addition to whatever he wins in the Top 8 today, Harada will earn $1,500 on top of that for being the highest finishing Amateur in tournament. He defeated fellow Amateur Tetsuya Kitano in the final round to secure both honors.
The Grand Prix Gang:
Yuusuke Sasaki, Kazuki Katou, Kei Ikeda, and Ryouma Shiozu
While none of these four players have experienced great success on the Pro Tour despite multiple qualifications, they all have at least one Grand Prix Top 8 to their credit prior to this weekend.
Yusuke Tasaki last earned that honor at Grand Prix Fukuoka.
Kazuki Katou is playing in his second Top 8 this year. He first accomplished it in Yokohama this past August.
Kei Ikeda is one the key wingmen on Satoshi Nakamura's Hatmen. Ikeda has attended many Pro Tours and has made the Top 8 of one Grand Prix, Kobe.
Ryouma Shiozu is considered one of Jin Okamoto's most promising apprentices from Nagoya. He has attended the Pro Tour without any finishes of note and has 3 GP Top 8's to his credit--Kyoto '02, Nagoya 02 as a member of Team Nagoyan, and the first one in Shizuoka.
The first timer:
Sasagawa was playing in his first Top 8 this weekend. While his resume may not have many entries so far he can look at the players around him and know that this will likely be the first of many such appearances.