Branching Paths
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New documentary hopes the “indie” game invasion of Japan is a good thing

One of the first things that Anne Ferrero says to me is that her new documentary isn’t “Indie Game: The Movie [2012] in Japan.” She tells me this as she’s aware that many people will assume that to be the case. But it’s not just a matter of a director looking to ensure that her potential audience isn’t misled: there’s a lot more to it. Much of it is summed up by one of Ferrero’s interview subjects in the documentary, Alexander De Giorgio, the chief organizer of Tokyo Indie Fest. “I think it’s dangerous to try and compare the Japanese indie…

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The videogame that helped popularize Japanese mecha in the west

In the early 2000s, the Japanese government started to evaluate the value of the country’s popular culture industry following international successes in anime/manga such as Pokémon and Dragonball, videogames like Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda and Super Mario series, and films including Spirited Away (2001) and Ringu (1998). Realizing that its cultural influence expanded despite the economic setbacks of the Lost Decade (from 1991 to 2000), Japan sought to promote the idea of ‘Cool Japan’, an expression of its emergent status as a cultural superpower. For the next dozen years, the Japanese government made use of its soft power and ‘Cool Japan’ strategy to boost cultural…

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Two game artists share the Japanese yōkai that inspire them

After living in Japan’s seaside city of Niigata for a year, French artists Cécile Brun and Olivier Pichard learned, among many other things, an appreciation for the island nation’s mythology and art. They’ve told us about their visits to Buddhist spiritual sites on Japanese mountains, and as we’ve written before, the pair have a particular fondness for Japanese photographer Kotori Kawashima and his photobook Mirai-chan, which depicts a young girl living in Niigata’s Sato Island. “What interests us here is this juxtaposition of a very young girl from today and an ancient mysterious world,” they said. Since returning home to France, it has…

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Visual novel sends you on an accidental trip to the darker side of Japan

When I had the chance to visit Japan, after years of accruing savings and getting a handy-dandy passport, it was a dream come true. I could collect adorable capsule toys wherever I travelled, eat conbini onigiri at my leisure, and admire the beautiful streets and swift transit system. Japan was the most amazing place I’ve ever visited. But even perceived utopias aren’t perfect, and musician and game maker Sean Han-Tani-Chen-Hogan (HTCH) knows that. So in comes the bleak visual novel HIROSHIMA 2016: Sean Hogan Visits Japan, an adventure filled with insensitive Twitter feeds, President Barack Obama visiting Hiroshima, and witnessing dastardly…

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Japanese artist convicted of obscenity for sharing 3D prints of her genitals

Megumi Igarashi (better known as Rokudenashiko or “Good-for-nothing-girl”) is a Japanese artist whose work, which revolves around female genitalia, has sparked legal action to be taken against her. According to Japan Times, Igarashi lost an obscenity case over distributing 3D data soon after getting acquitted over a different obscenity case. Igarashi was convicted of spreading data across the internet from October 2013 to March 2014 that would allow users to create an exact replica of her genitals. Because of strict censorship laws, the data was deemed too detailed, and the Tokyo District Court judged the 3D data “obscene.” Even though Igarashi…

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Feature

Where Did The Fun Street Fighter Music Go?

My anticipation for the recently released Street Fighter V probably came from a different place than most people. I’ve only ever really followed the series as an observer who watches tournament matches, and as a listener of the games’ soundtracks. For me, then, Street Fighter V’s release held two possibilities: new tournament material after eight years of Street Fighter IV (2008) and its iterations, and new music. Whatever you think of the mechanical changes and viability of certain characters, Street Fighter V is sure to offer a lot of the former for passive appreciators like myself. As far as the…

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How Japan shaped nostalgia in games

This article is part of a collaboration with iQ by Intel. For Shigeru Miyamoto, the inspiration for The Legend of Zelda (1986) series lay in the natural beauty of his hometown of Kyoto, Japan. As a young boy, the Nintendo designer behind Mario, Zelda, and Pikmin would take hikes around nearby forests, rivers, and old Sonobe Castle ruins. It was on one such hike that Miyamoto happened upon a cave that fascinated him. He returned to it a few days later, shook off his nerves, and, armed with a homemade lantern, journeyed into its mysterious depths. It was this feeling of discovery and…

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Lo-fi survival horror returns next week as Back in 1995 comes out

The year 1995 was a turning point for the videogame industry. It was the first year of E3—now the biggest videogame awards and announcement show, which still runs annually. It was the year of the release of Sony’s PlayStation in Europe and North America (it had been released the year prior in Japan), as well as the release of the now cult-regarded system Sega Saturn (also released in 1994 in Japan). While the systems’ most notable games didn’t see release until a year or so after, 1995 was the start of something new. The dawn of a new generation—and a delightfully…

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Idolm@ster and the mechanics of depression

I don’t know precisely when it was I realized that I suffered from depression, but it certainly wasn’t from playing a videogame. Maybe it was from watching a red-haired, mecha-piloting girl mentally tear herself apart under the weight of her own expectations, and feeling a similar sense of despair in my own weighty ambitions that I failed. Maybe it was from re-reading the same fantasy novels about a particular boy wizard over and over again, feeling that the only escape I ever had from reality was in those books. Maybe it was from listening to early 2000s emo bands that…