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Archiv der Kategorie ‘Features’

The (In)animate Dog

Freitag, 17. April, 2015

Perfect BlueMIYABE Miyuki’s debut published novel, Perfect Blue, had an interesting twist. It was narrated by a dog. Sometimes novels are narrated by an all-knowing narrator, who is outside the story. They might comment or remain impartial but they aren’t part of the story or influence it. Then you have I-narrators, who tell their own story and of course they influence the events of the stories. They are also one of the actors, maybe the most important one.

Now having a dog narrate the story, of course he will be an actor. But his influence on the events will be very limited. In this regard he will be like the observing narrator who is outside the story. But he still is in it, right next to the protagonist. He is like their sidekick. But a sidekick who cannot talk.

In this sense, Glory of Heracles IV’s hero turned dog owes as much to MIYABE as he owes to TAKAHASHI. The dog is a perfect avatar for the mute hero. At the center of the story, yet leaving the talking to the supporting cast. Rhythm Thief R by Sega uses this same comparison to reflect games keeping players on a short leash. You’re supposed to be the hero but when you want to go places the designers didn’t intend you to go, suddenly the hero is not you anymore. He says, I don’t want to go there now. In Rhythm Thief R he says that to his dog Fondue and the player, who made them walk into that direction is reduced to being the sidekick dog when he most certainly identified himself with the hero up until then.

Rhythm Thief R

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The Karmic Dog

Freitag, 10. April, 2015

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.

The Rumic Dog

Freitag, 3. April, 2015

In my articles about The Girl Who Leapt Through Time I pointed out how TSUTSUI’s story about an empowered girl was a subtle reflection of the changing female reality of the time it was written in. As were the comics for girls created by female artists in the same time frame that changed the medium in Japan forever. Comics for girls already were an established entity, unlike in the West where the medium almost exclusively catered to and still is primarily read by male audiences. Yet the previous comics for girls were written by male authors, more often than not on the side, and it was the female perspective and imagination that made comics for girls popular and influential beyond the female target group.

After TEZUKA’s story manga and the realism of gekiga,1 劇画, dramatic pictures, a more mature form of comics that depicted sex and violence as part of human reality and reflected the political movements of their time. the literary style of shōjo manga (comics for girls) by the 49ers2 昭和24年組, a group of female manga artists born around the year 1949, the baby boomer generation, including IKEDA Riyoko, HAGIO Moto and TAKEMIYA Keiko. were the third big step of developing post war manga in Japan. Their success inspired other women and also men to self publish their original work on the comiket (comic market), a convention for selling dōjinshi (fanzines) founded in 1975.3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiket Publishers discovered and scouted many new talents here before its reputation was hurt by the rise of anime parody which was viewed as a derivative and unoriginal style.4 Amateur manga subculture and the otaku panic. Nevertheless publishers still more often than not followed trends set by the so called otaku that had originated from the comiket.

The biggest star to emerge very early from the comiket was TAKAHASHI Rumiko, who went on to become one of the richest women in Japan and the most widely read female comic artist world wide. She was the first female artist to succeed not with a female target group but with male audiences, which still constituted the larger half of the market also in Japan. Same as gekiga, the new shōjo manga added a new dimension of mature themes and realism, both in terms of depiction of human relationships and of female sexuality, the latter including the female monthly cycle and the trauma of first sexual encounters. For male authors, being exposed to this subtle depictions of female sexuality became the starting point of an outright erotic genre called bishōjo (beautiful girls) manga and, on the mainstream side, love comedy. Human relationships and openly expressed female sexuality proved to be very popular with the male audience when coupled with humor and TAKAHASHI was the lead pioneer to develop this genre, before it was widely adopted by male shōnen manga (comics for boys) artists.

TAKAHASHI’s sexy heroines like Lum, an alien who wears a bikini as if it were the most normal of daily attires (which intimidates the male lead more than it entices), or Ranma, really a boy who lacks the feminine modesty to cover his boobs when he turns into a girl, humorously reflected changes in society in ways that appealed to an audience of millions. But love comedy wasn’t her only forte, she also released many darker stories that didn’t rely on humor. One of them is Fire Tripper written in 1983, a short story about a girl who travels through time when faced with a deadly explosion. Given the release of ŌBAYASHI’s movie adaptation of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in the same year, it is quite obvious where TAKAHASHI took inspiration for her story. Despite the similar premise it is an unique take on the time traveling girl and I highly recommend reading it. The most significant difference is the sengoku jidai (age of the warring states) setting, or in other words the distance that is traveled in time. Instead of going back a few days to undo events like Kazuko, TAKAHASHI’s fire tripper Suzuko travels between two ages separated by 400 years.

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  1. 劇画, dramatic pictures, a more mature form of comics that depicted sex and violence as part of human reality and reflected the political movements of their time. []
  2. 昭和24年組, a group of female manga artists born around the year 1949, the baby boomer generation, including IKEDA Riyoko, HAGIO Moto and TAKEMIYA Keiko. []
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiket []
  4. Amateur manga subculture and the otaku panic. []

Playing together, winning together

Montag, 26. Mai, 2014

After discovering the works of director Nobuhiko Ōbayashi with his 1983 movie Toki o kakeru shōjo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) on the video on demand service Wii no Ma: Cinema no Ma, I came to understand that his early 1980ies movies seem to be intrinsically linked with the rise of otaku culture, that has become so popular in the West, and one of their favorite media, the video game. Toki o kakeru shōjo released close to the Family Computer (Nintendo Entertainment System in the West), Nintendo’s first console, which is also the reason why this movie was the first to be chosen for relase on the above mentioned video on demand service.

Another one of Ōbayashi’s movies from two years earlier, Nerawareta Gakuen (School Under Fire, 1981), also contains at least two striking connections with Nintendo. Let’s take a look at this scene from the movie, in which the protagonist Yuka Mitamura helps her class mate Kōji Seki win a kendō tournament using psychokinesis, a power she believes to have received from god.

Nerawareta Gakuen: Tournament Scene

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The Death Undo: A Guilty General’s Wish

Sonntag, 16. März, 2014

In my article series on The Girl Who Leapt Through Time I explained how this youth novel strikes a cord with the reader by offering them a fantasy in which an unfortunate event (leading to death, for example) can be undone, and the past be redone. I also mentioned how this resonates with the structure of video games because you usually have more than one life, and/or restart points from which to redo already past events. Which is probably why this novel keeps getting referenced by video game plots.

ITOI Shigesato’s Mother RPG, which was one of the games I covered in this series, contains the opposite scenario as well, confronting the player with a death they can’t undo. I’m talking about the flying men in Magicant.1 Magicant is the magic kingdom ruled by the Queen Mary and symbolizes the player’s subconscious. The Mother Encyclopedia players guide describes them as follows:

The house of the flying men
The dream of the flying men lives in your heart…

On the Northern outskirts of Magicant there is a single house all by itself. Here live five brothers, kind of like birds, kind of like humans. They’re the flying men. Back when you were still little, your mother used to whisper the story of the flying men into your ears from the side of your bed. You probably don’t remember this very sad story which your great grandmother created. You should go and visit them. Try talking to them. Because maybe you might remember the story.

The flying men join your party one at a time when you talk to them. But you can’t restore their HP so during your battles they will inevitably die at some point. You can go back to recruit more flying men until their family is extinct and you can even find their tombstones. Or you can quit meeting them, leave them alone and alive, at the same time leaving yourself alone with your guilt.

The flying men in Mother (Earthbound Zero)

The flying men in Mother 2 (Earthbound)

Of course there were inevitable deaths dictated by the video game plot before but in the case of the flying men the player is fully responsible for their death because he initiates their recruitment (though likely not aware of it beforehand) and they die during the interactive part of the game, the non-scripted one.

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  1. Magicant is the magic kingdom ruled by the Queen Mary and symbolizes the player’s subconscious. []

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 7: The Anime in the Age of the Visual Novel

Mittwoch, 6. November, 2013

Warning! This article contains spoilers for HOSODA Mamoru’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Glory of Heracles III, YU-NO, Mother and World Destruction/Sands of Destruction.

The third movie adaptation of TSUTSUI’s novel from 2006 was the first to get some recognition in the West, thanks to it being an anime. It was also a sequel rather than a remake like the second movie, with Kazuko’s niece Makoto becoming the new heroine. The fourth movie from 2010 returns to the live action format but follows the anime’s sequel approach and had Kazuko’s daughter become the next heroine. In HOSODA’s anime, Kazuko is apparently still single and works in a museum, taking Mr. FUKUSHIMA’s function of explaining the strange power to the young girl.

Again we find the heroine in a triangle relationship with two boys, Kōsuke and Chiaki. They’re 17, one year older than the characters in the first movie who were in turn one year older than in the novel. They play baseball instead of basketball and start out as inseparable, as they were in the novel.

I won’t do a detailed analysis for this movie and instead again recommend you watch it for yourself. As opposed to the other versions it is widely available, I even caught it on local TV. What I’m going to do is I will pick up a few core elements of the narrative and put them into our larger context of video games influenced by TSUTSUI’s story.

If you compare this 2006 movie to previous versions the most notable difference is how Makoto is using the power. Kazuko hardly used it at all, wanted to get rid of it and be normal again. Makoto on the other hand finds plenty of uses for it and alters time to her liking, something which the original novel warned about, even claimed it were impossible.

Another notable difference is the nature of the accident. In the original Kazuko and Gorō were careless but still followed traffic rules when they were trying to cross the street as pedestrians. The reckless truck, while appearing similar to Gorō, was an outside force that almost killed the two. Makoto on the other hand is alone, on the street riding her bike and it’s her broken brakes that endanger her life. She is going too fast and is unable to stop, as opposed to the speeding male truck in the original.

Gorō’s new version Kōsuke becomes part of the same accident though when he borrows Makoto’s bike and rides it with his new girlfriend. Again it is Makoto’s responsibility but it isn’t even her who is injured but the girl she helped to get together with Kōsuke. These changes reflect the changes in society, Makoto is a more confident and emancipated girl than Kazuko was, not afraid to use the power and an active participant of street traffic.

But the heavy rewinding and branching of time lines also reflects certain new game genres, something which might have influenced HOSODA and his script writer OKUDERA, who later demonstrated an interest and deep understanding of video games in their 2009 movie Summer Wars.


When TSUTSUI originally published his novel in 1965, video games didn’t even exist. Still, his story was a prophetic description of game structure: Die, but return to an earlier point in time where you still live, retaining knowledge of what will cause your death. In games we have restart and save points and in a way the player’s experience is similar to that of Kazuko when she escapes death in a likewise manner.

But this kind of “time travel” is usually only part of the player’s meta plane, not of the game’s narrative. When you restart from a save point the game hero isn’t aware he’s doing things again for the umpteenth time. Yet there are games that bring this player experience explicitly into the game world. A prime example would be Ico, in which you save by taking a nap on stone banks. If you die, it will be a dream of the future the hero had and the knowledge of which he can use to avoid it the next time.

Ico incorporates this aspect into its game narrative beautifully but it wasn’t the first to do so. Mother also interpreted the events leading to the game over as a bad dream when you decide to restart from an earlier save. But Mother being a Dragon Quest type of RPG, it included an even better option. Return to the place where you last saved but retain experience and items you picked up. Glory of Heracles III also is a member of the Dragon Quest school of RPGs and since your heroes are immortal they can restart from save points without losing anything, not even money.

NOJIMA admitted to using motifs from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in Final Fantasy VII, but he also already connected the novel with video game narratives in Glory of Heracles III. This is a major spoiler but a certain catastrophe is undone in this game by means of time travel. NOJIMA must have felt that TSUTSUI’s story was a perfect fit for video games and ITOI might have too, as it wouldn’t be surprising if certain shared motifs in Mother originated in TSUTSUI’s story also.

Despite all the inspiration NOJIMA takes from TSUTSUI, the time travel aspect itself he rarely uses explicitly. Final Fantasy VIII is one of the few examples, also showing NOJIMA’s particular interpretation of video games as time machines. Squall and his party several times find themselves in the past, taking over the bodies of his father Lagoona and his party. But they aren’t able to change anything, only experience the past events. This stays true to the explanation of TSUTSUI’s Kazuo, that history cannot be changed. Yet learning from his father’s history, Squall can make his own decisions in the yet unwritten future.

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 6: Return, Reset and Finding That Person Again

Freitag, 25. Oktober, 2013

Spoiler warning! This article contains spoilers for Chrono Cross, Persona 2 Innocent Sin, Final Fantasy X, its sequel X-2 and Lost Odyssey.

With his movie ŌBAYASHI made the connection between The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and The Wizard of Oz. This children’s book classic represents a number of similar youth novels in which a protagonist from the real world travels to an unreal fantasy world. TAKAHASHI mentioned Narnia in his text on Mother; there is also Alice in Wonderland which comes to mind, or The Never Ending Story. This last example is interesting as the fantastic world traveled to is actually the narrative of a book, which emphasizes the common theme in these novels: The reader is supposed to identify with the real life protagonist and his journey to the strange world is actually the reading of the story. When the story ends, the protagonist returns to the real world.

Now let’s compare this to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Here instead of one (or few) real person(s) traveling from reality into the fantastic, one person from a fantastic future comes into reality. He does return but to make the fantastic disappear his influence has to be undone, so in place of a return for Kazuko there is a reset. Kazuko never leaves reality, cannot return in a spatial sense, instead she returns to an earlier point in reality, before the fantastic occurred.

Fushigi Yūgi

The cover of volume 14 of Fushigi Yūgi by WATASE Yū. It shows heroine Miaka and her lover Taka/Tamahome in the background.

The movie version of Oz has the same actors who play the characters in the world of Oz also play the people from Dorothy’s reality in Kansas. This indicates that fiction is based on reality, that the made up characters are reflections of people that live in reality. In Fushigi Yūgi, a manga for girls from the 1990ies, after going on an adventure by being sucked into a book that tells of a fantastic ancient China the story doesn’t end with the return to the real life setting. Instead there are several volumes dealing with a guy resembling the love interest from the fantastic part transferring to the school of the female protagonist and them falling in love again.

It is a more pronounced version of Kazuko meeting Kazuo again, minus the reset. Fushigi Yūgi’s Miaka doesn’t forget her Tamahome, instead she returns from the fantasy and meets his reincarnation Taka. I have talked about how The Girl Who Leapt Through Time influenced Final Fantasy in part 3 and how another video game, Mother, fits in with the same themes present in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in part 4. There are more video games that share themes from it and I will give two examples that use the “reset and finding a person from the fantastic adventure again in reality” motif. Both came out for the Playstation and after Final Fantasy VII.

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Sonntag, 20. Oktober, 2013

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 5: The Parody

Samstag, 19. Oktober, 2013
Impaled Professor: Collection of short stories containing Scenario: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

Impaled Professor: Collection of short stories containing Scenario: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

In June 1983, one month before the first screening of the movie adaptation TSUTSUI also returned to his story and published a parody of it called Scenario: Toki o kakeru shōjo in SF Adventure, a popular SF magazine of the time running stories of that genre. It was later collected in Kushizashi kyōju (Impaled Professor, 1985) and is only about 10 pages long.1 Pages 155-164. TSUTSUI assumes his readers already know the original story and only uses some key scenes to retell it. Instead he introduces new story elements taken from the contexts of contemporary society like school violence and let’s his characters comment on the upcoming movie version.

Scenario: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: The original script for the movie.

Scenario: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: The original script for the movie.

In the same month, KENMOCHI’s script for the movie was also published using the same title: Scenario: Toki o kakeru shōjo. The word scenario in the first instance refers to the screen play and TSUTSUI’s parody approaches the style in which such screen plays are usually written, describing what the camera shows and giving the lines of the characters. Yet it only loosely follows this format and there are some major differences. In the second instance scenario refers to a potential outcome, like the future envisioned in the original story with a highly advanced educational system. Which doesn’t seem so likely with a present that sees violent outbreaks of students against adult authorities and teachers in particular.

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  1. Pages 155-164. []

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 4: The Mother Connection

Dienstag, 8. Oktober, 2013

I started this article series with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and arrived at Final Fantasy in the last installment because that’s the chronological order the works were released in and could have influenced one another. But me personally of course I started by playing Final Fantasy and then discovering the older works that had influenced it. And The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was one of the last sources I discovered, thanks to the Famitsū interview with NOJIMA.

Glory of Heracles I had discovered earlier and even without KITASE saying so in interviews the parallels between GoH3 and FFVII were very obvious. Not just that, the common theme of saving the planet made another influence on these games also very obvious. Let’s take a look at Gaia from Glory of Heracles III:


She literally is the planet all the characters from the game live on and like a kind mother she forgives the injury humans caused her.

Now let’s compare Gaia to Aerith from FFVII. Aerith’s name closely resembles the word earth, even would be an anagram save for one letter. She can talk to the planet, kind of speaks for and represents it.

She is slightly older than Cloud, by Japanese custom of relating everyone in terms of family members she would be an older sister which by the same logic hierarchically puts her on a similar level as a mother. Cloud even accidentally calls her mother in the movie Advent Children, her and Zack appearing like his parents, the older generation. Cloud comes to Aerith asking for forgiveness.

Now let’s take a look at Aerith’s first appearance in the game’s opening:



A similar pose, standing and holding her hand(s) to her chest, looking at the screen. A similar backdrop, a starry sky surrounding Gaia, sparks surrounding Aerith. The color green, decorating Gaia’s head and neck and lighting Aerith’s face.

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