What's in? What's out? The South China Morning Post's experts consulted the yarrow stalks and predict that this year will see us dressing down and dining in, nurturing cyber creatures, marvelling at China's cultural heritage and tuning into international offerings for our eyes and ears. FADS: A different kind of alien is about to invade the SAR: Pikachu, a cross between a rabbit and a cat, the hippest electronic game-cum-cartoon character to have come out of Japan recently. The star of cartoon Pocket Monster has the power to conquer all evil. But it recently did more. Pikachu sent more than 600 people to hospitals after 'flashing' its weapon on screen, triggering epileptic fits and bouts of nausea. Though the show has been suspended in Japan, it is scheduled to hit Hong Kong in March. Even if local stations ban the programme, Pocket Monster electronic games and soft toys have already invaded department stores, heralding the start of a next craze. Pikachu will likely be competing with the new generation of Bandai's Tamagotchi, which can be linked together enabling one to fight another. The winner grows stronger by eating the loser. There are also the Dokkin Goos, which like the new Tamagotchis are virtual cyberspace aliens that can be 'linked up' - not to make war, but love. The result? Dokkin Goo babies. For more 'mature' kids, there is the Voodoo Kit ($110), which is tipped to be the most popular amusement for office workers since EQ. The doll (complete with instruction manual) is the ideal way for office workers to release some of their pent-up frustration. ENTERTAINMENT: The outlook for Hong Kong movies in 1998 is glum. Few are willing to risk their money on more expensive productions. Add to that the continuing problem of pirated VCDs flooding the market. One of the main reasons film-makers are unwilling to take risks is that it has become increasingly difficult to gauge public tastes. Last year's top grossers include The Lost World, Jackie Chan's Mr Nice Guy and Stephen Chiau Sing-chi's God Of Cookery, none of which would be considered masterpieces. Local directors are gloomy about the coming year because of the market and the Government's indifference to one of Hong Kong's biggest industries. Those who continue to come up with home-grown goods are declaring the SAR an 'impossible place' to film in because of high costs and red tape in applications for location filming. Many have moved their work to the mainland and countries such as the Philippines, where production costs are cheaper and the authorities more amenable to location shooting. The result? More local film crews will be out of work. The coming year will probably see more merging between stage productions and films, which is what Springtime Productions has been doing in films such as The Mad Phoenix and I Have A Date With Spring. If the future of Hong Kong movies looks bleak, the Canto-pop scene is in an even worse state. Like movie goers, music audiences will likely switch to the more challenging international releases - of which there is a greater variety - as they become increasingly bored with the local fare. Even rave parties, which have dominated the night scene for the past two years, seem to be dying out. The entertainment industry appears to be at a dead end. Unless someone is willing to punch a way out, it will soon run up against a brick wall. DINING: We don't need a culinary crystal ball to predict that value-for-money will be the buzz words for eating out in 1998. We will continue to celebrate special occasions in restaurants, but we will be more discriminating and less ostentatious. This will be the year that tests the concept of survival-of-the-fittest - no longer will the many mediocre restaurants be able to rely on the overflow from better places. Restaurants opening in 1998 will have to serve good food in pleasant surroundings - it won't be enough to have one or the other. Unfortunately, it would be too much to expect the economic malaise turning people on to the joys of cooking. More people will be eating at home though, which will probably lead to a booming business for frozen foods and take-away joints. Let's all hope the new year brings an appreciation of the simple things in life. The past year's wine boom has led to snobbery-without-substance - 'connoisseurs' who do not have a solid understanding of wine in all its infinite varieties. The market for $2,000 bottles will not dry up, but people won't be opening them for any old night. Those who expound on the virtues of expensive bottles might actually be forced to gain a more rounded knowledge of wine. THE ARTS: There is bad news, as they say, and then there is good news. The bad news is that this could be the year English language drama is finally laid to rest in Hong Kong. The good news is that 1998 could well see a healthy ripening of Cantonese-language drama, a trend that took root last year. The bad news is that, with the market crash there may be less money available for local arts. The good news is that big, expensive festivals are going ahead - the Arts Festival has excellent shows like LA Opera's Salome, and Robert Wilson's The Black Rider - we have an international musical, in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - and the Tourist Association, desperate for tourists to forgive us our trespasses and return with credit cards, might just help plough more money into culture. The bad news is that censorship is ever-threatened and possible, under an administration that is directly answerable to Beijing. Even if administrators don't crack down (and the Provisional Urban Council with its shameful Pillar of Shame decisions has already opened up the possibilities) then self-censorship is ever-present, as we have seen with the lack of distributors willing to show Seven Years in Tibet, Kundun and Red Corner. The good news is that being part of China opens up the SAR to the mainland's cultural heritage - until March 1 the Museum of Art is showing one of the greatest shows of Chinese antiquities ever, and many more cultural exchanges are promised. The bad news is that 1998 is not 1997, with its great exposure of all things Hong Kong to the world, with its focus, its crises, its protests, and its return, that led to such a rich offering of arts events last year. But 1998 benefits by following 1997. Artists spent last year going through a tremendous thinking process: the re-awakening of a quest for identity and freedom gives new focus to their creativity. And that must be a good thing. FASHION: Come March, when stores begin offering the latest spring/summer 1998 lines, the plush velvets, plumage and passementerie of the current season will be replaced by cargo pants with drawstring-waists, bell-shaped sleeves, and enduringly practical knits. The mindset will be firmly focused on propriety, humility and a dose of frugality. Still, diehard consumers will continue to look for the newest, the hottest. The most imminent fashion trend, however, is that there really isn't one: there might be certain key colours for the season (nude, red), some core fabrics (knits, jerseys) and a couple of recurrent silhouettes (linear, baggy). But the most notable thing about fashion next season is that blatant brand-names - those 'G', 'H' and double-C logos - have become a fast fading anachronism. If no obvious labels, then what? Look for a merchandise mix that will be as pure as it is stylish. Orientalism will continue to be a strong fashion force (think Joyce Ma's private label collection), although these will be distilled to their essence instead of the corny Orient-influenced togs we have been seeing. Designers will also deliver their takes on thrift-store dressing, shell suits and the kind of clothes you might have seen in 1950s Hamptons. High-priced hippy-chic dresses, the sweet, summery frocks of Tocca, the unfettered simplicity of Japanese creators such as Atsuro Tayama, will set the tone for modern, fresh dressing. Accessories will continue to be strong: bold silver jewellery set with semi-precious stones, handbags surfaced with hologram or other unusual textures - and yes, those high, high heels of this autumn will maintain their sway.