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The Karmic Dog

I showed TSUTSUI’s influence on NOJIMA and TAKAHASHI in previous articles but TAKAHASHI also influenced NOJIMA and this becomes clear in NOJIMA’s own dog protagonist, hinging between life and death.

Glory of Heracles IV

In his essay on Mother, TAKAHASHI Gen’ichirō wrote:

In Europe, everything turns into vertical movement. Descending into the realm of demons, and rising up to the heavens. It’s the vertical movement of life and death.

Compared to that America basically has horizontal movement. Even when going to the demon’s lair, although feeling somewhat European, the protagonist still moves along a map. This consistent sideway movement is exactly as in an RPG.

Interestingly, NOJIMA’s Glory of Heracles III is an RPG that heavily features vertical movement, falling from great heights and descending into Hades. This might be due to the European, Ancient Greek setting but I think also to the Japanese cultural background, life and death as seen in Buddhism. According to the samsara there are six states of existence in Buddhism:

  1. The way of hell (jigokudō, 地獄道)

  2. The way of the hungry spirits (gakidō, 餓鬼道)

  3. The way of animals (chikushōdō, 畜生道)

  4. The way of war (ashuradō, 阿修羅道)

  5. The way of humans (jindō, 人道)

  6. The way of heaven (tendō, 天道)

So humans are only one step short of heaven but can be reincarnated on various lower stages. We can associate our dog characters from TAKAHASHI Rumiko’s works with several of these states, the dogs with the way of animals, Inu Yasha with the way of Ashura (war deities), which really also applies to humans who have to live in times of war, as soldiers. Which makes them appear as god like beings but still puts them below humans and only one step above animals. Of course everyone has ties to the human way too. Since they’re halves, they walk more than one way at a time.

If we look at Glory of Heracles III we also find the way of hell (beings in Hades) and the way of the hungry spirits, animal-like monstrous creatures sent from Hades to the surface. All of whom were humans before they died. And in Glory of Heracles IV the hero is introduced as a dog. An amnesiac dog, but since NOJIMA told the definite amnesia RPG story with the predecessor, the hero immediately gets his memories back so the sequel can really tell what happens after Glory of Heracles III, even though IV actually is a new story with new characters. A thematic sequel as a self contained new game, accessible to new audiences yet being interesting to previous fans.

You could also say, the sequel is a reincarnation of the predecessor, sharing and continuing some of its traits yet telling a new story. So it’s just a recipe to launch something new yet keeping the old? Maybe, but it is also somewhat inevitable. After all, the next story is still told by the same author as before. As long as there are new ideas and angles, and genres to be explored, the new stories will still be interesting.

In Glory of Heracles III, the immortal heroes were cursed with amnesia. In Glory of Heracles IV, the immortality itself is the curse and it manifests itself in remembering many lives lived in a short time. The protagonist doesn’t reincarnate, he possesses other people. Glimpsing their lives without being able to regain his self. I’ve pointed this out before but this state of immortality symbolizes what it means to play a game.

But if the game is a curse, why is it so enjoyable? Why is it fun to walk around and kill hungry ghosts? Maybe because reading a story about hardship can teach you similar things as a life of suffering, but without the actual suffering. Killing without death, actions without consequences. But even if there aren’t consequences, the reader understands what the consequences would be, if this were real. Reading is experiencing countless cycles of life and death, all within one life time.

You might have noticed that I covered all but one state of existence. What is the way of heaven, what is the tendō? In Ranma ½, Tendō is the last name of the three girls who can become Ranma’s fiancée. Maybe the way of heaven is the female way, living in a time of peace and being in love. That is the starting point of Glory of Heracles IV, before war breaks out and the hero is turned into a dog.


タイトル title creator # date publication
めぞん一刻 Maison Ikkoku Rumiko TAKAHASHI 1 11/01/1980 Big Comics Spirits Extra
炎トリッパー Fire Tripper Rumiko TAKAHASHI one shot 1983 Weekly Boys Sunday August Extra
時をかける少女 The Girl Who Leapt Through Time Nobuhiko ŌBAYASHI 07/16/1983 movie
犬で悪いか!! Excuse me for being a dog Rumiko TAKAHASHI one shot 1985 Weekly Boys Sunday 1985/47
めぞん一刻 Maison Ikkoku Rumiko TAKAHASHI 161 1987 Big Comics Spirits 1987/19
らんま1/2 Ranma ½ Rumiko TAKAHASHI 1 1987 Weekly Boys Sunday 1987/36
ヘラクレスの栄光4 Glory of Heracles 4 Kazushige NOJIMA 10/21/1994 game
らんま1/2 Ranma ½ Rumiko TAKAHASHI 407 1996 Weekly Boys Sunday 1996/12
犬夜叉 Inu Yasha Rumiko TAKAHASHI 1 1996 Weekly Boys Sunday 1996/50
犬夜叉 Inu Yasha Rumiko TAKAHASHI 558 2008 Weekly Boys Sunday 2008/29
Guilty Gear X
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