When (animated) Worlds Collide

One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is the intersection between television and gaming. More specifically, the intersection between anime and gaming. The exact same tropes that are seemingly ubiquitous across all anime appear in similar numbers throughout the JRPG genre historically, but are increasingly branching out to many western titles as well. In almost any new game I pick up, with a few exceptions of course, I am able to pick out several elements that could have been lifted straight from my favorite anime. Whether it be from the inclusion of some mecha-esque creature, a very specific type of drama-filled dialogue with interspersed gasps, or the ceaseless powering up tropes found commonly in the more popular Shounen titles (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, etc.), the end result is something like a conflation of western and eastern entertainment.

I have no particular argument as to why these anime tropes are being integrated with greater frequency into games like Fable or even Borderlands, yet, one potential explanation I didn’t come up with myself (thanks Professors Morse and Van Compernolle!) posits that it’s simply the very obviously foreign aspect of the other hemisphere’s popular culture that draws us to them. This foreignness, combined with our own, more familiar culture, creates something alluring without crossing the line into off-putting. Yet, as the younger generations are exposed more and more at a young age to JRPGs and the like, the less foreign it actually seems. Thus, heads are no longer turned when a character from a western video game seems as though it could have been plucked straight from Attack on Titan.

Though this line of thought (with regards to east/west conflation) is easily applicable to video games, it is just as relevant in other areas of popular culture as well. One absolutely hilarious example of this merging I just found recently, in fact. I’m unsure how many of you all are familiar with the song U Guessed It, by OG Maco, but I’m entirely convinced that if you enjoy the song you either have a deep appreciation for irony, or… nope, that’s it. However, I was shown yesterday a nearly 1:1 Korean counterpart to this song called It G Ma, by an artist called Keith Ape. You should be excited. The song not only shares an incredibly distinctive riff with U Guessed It, but the rapping is in a nearly identical style as well, only in Korean and Japanese (with colorful bits of broken english throughout). What you’re about to watch took me on an emotional journey. Regardless, I could probably go on for days about the ever increasing influx of Japanese culture into the western world, but I’d rather just leave you with the video. Love to hear what you guys think of all this!

Keith Ape

0 thoughts on “When (animated) Worlds Collide

  1. There’s another more obvious, less sophisticated answer as to why some of these elements keep appearing in games: things like mechs and monsters and power-ups meet the needs of games really well. So many games, from Final Fantasy to Fable, depend on the mechanic of leveling up and becoming more powerful. It’s no wonder that this common mechanic would start to steal from power up tropes from shows like Dragon Ball Z.

  2. It’s also interesting to look to look at this from the other side; The Demons’ Souls and Dark Souls series by Japanese developer From Software is clearly rooted in western fantasy elements and philosophy. It is, however, an extremely challenging game where the player must have incredible reflexes and an awareness of timing to prosper, similar in that regard to 80’s arcade games developed in Japan.

    It’s also important to remember that Japanese manga/anime and video games are also often inspired by Western media; see Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, a series that starts off in an England right out of the second half of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and takes multiple pit stops in Italy (not to mention the characters being designed like Grecian sculptures.)

    Additionally, Dungeons & Dragons was massively influential on Japanese anime and game development. See http://kotaku.com/the-dungeons-and-dragons-session-that-became-a-real-lif-1691643499?

Leave a Reply