A Japanese Perspective of "Japan" in Western Video Games

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layzee
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A Japanese Perspective of "Japan" in Western Video Games

Postby layzee » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:20 pm

There's no shortage of critiques of Japanese game depictions of other countries (e.g. historical inaccuracies, bad voice acting [I think the German in Akumajou Dracula X for PC-Engine CD might count as an example? I'm not German so I can't judge], plain wrong things, etc...) so it's nice to finally see the other perspective (albeit still in Japanese so their voice will remain unheard unless someone does English subtitles):

洋ゲーの変な日本 - マル秘ゲーム - (Western Games' Weird Japan)

It's still an interesting watch but here's a guide as you go through it:

Part 1 - According to the video creator (VC), there are mainly three types of Japanese people that appears in Western games' Japan:
1. Ninja - an assassin for a Japanese organisation.
2. Samurai - A foreign (non-Japanese) protagonist that is taught secret Japanese traditions. Afterwards, exists as a teacher and called "sensei".
3. Yakuza - merely a bad guy.

Furthermore, the ninja stereotype and the Yakuza stereotype is often combined (e.g. Saints Row 2). The VC thinks it is particularly weird ("this... is a Yakuza?).

Part 2 - Sumos are misunderstood. VC doesn't seem to elaborate however. (footage of various crappy Sumo-related smartphone games)

Part 3 - Signs and posters in cities. In other words, reverse-Engrish. This is Japanese that has incorrect spelling, grammar, or just plain nonsense. VC can't help but feel that the Japanese-language signs are a bit off. One example is 「ヌス10ネトウォック ウォールド・リアダー・イン・ヌス」from Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. VC's response is basically "wtf is this". I think the intended meaning is most likely "News 10 Network - World Leader in News", except Japanese people would think it is horribly "spelt" (hence the wtf). Another example from the same game: a truck with the words "Truck Company" on it. Red Steel has sideways Japanese. Kane & Lynch: Dead Men has words on a financial firm building that basically commands/demand you to make to invest (I assume that game leans more towards realism than Grand Theft Auto-style satire).

Part 4 - Wrong/incorrect Japan. VC makes the assertion that since Western game developers have a shallow understanding of Japanese culture, they end up creating a weird setting as if it was a combination of Chinese and Japanese cultures.* Furthermore, like part 1, there are certain things that must be in Japan, no matter what. The VC then imagines a meeting between Western game developers and what they think should be in their Japan, namely, sushi, Geisha, and Samurai armour. Also, a particular big mistake is Japanese people taking off shoes before entering one's home (e.g. No One Lives Forever 2). I've never lived in Japan, but based on what I've seen in Japanese movies and anime (see! you can learn something useful from anime!), Japanese people usually enter the house (in the case of students, school), THEN take off their shoes. Another one is apparently Japanese people only sleep on futons, not beds. And even if they sleep on futons, only the mattresses can be seen. I'm not a futon expert or slept in one so someone else may wish to explain the mistake here.

Part 5 - Voice acting. Reverse-Engrish, in audio form.

*Side-note, I think this (the fusion of China and Japan) is a particular underrated phenomenon. Case in point: the Mortal Kombat franchise. I can't tell if the game devs are trying to get inspiration from Chinese culture (e.g. the mystical stuff) or Japanese culture (e.g. the Ninjas) or both. Though to be fair, their countries do have a shared history (the Chinese characters in the Japanese language for one) but there are still things that are distinctly Chinese and things that are distinctly Japanese and if you end up combining them while attempting to go one way or the other, then that just looks weird.
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Re: A Japanese Perspective of "Japan" in Western Video Games

Postby zinger » Fri Mar 17, 2017 11:42 pm

That was hilarious. :) I haven't played any of those games I think, I try to steer clear of Western games with a Japanese theme for this very reason. I guess I expected it to be this bad, but the proof really is cringeworthy; the "Japanese" in those games is definitely just as bad as the worst cases of "Engrish" in Japanese games.

And that futon doesn't seem to have sheets or a pillow, just the matress and a bedspread lol.

It's weird though that when Japanese game developers make mistakes, for the most part I don't mind at all -- somehow it always looks cool, or funny in a good way?

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Re: A Japanese Perspective of "Japan" in Western Video Games

Postby layzee » Sun Mar 19, 2017 6:46 am

layzee wrote:Part 4 - Wrong/incorrect Japan. VC makes the assertion that since Western game developers have a shallow understanding of Japanese culture, they end up creating a weird setting as if it was a combination of Chinese and Japanese cultures.*


layzee wrote:*Side-note, I think this (the fusion of China and Japan) is a particular underrated phenomenon. Case in point: the Mortal Kombat franchise. I can't tell if the game devs are trying to get inspiration from Chinese culture (e.g. the mystical stuff) or Japanese culture (e.g. the Ninjas) or both. Though to be fair, their countries do have a shared history (the Chinese characters in the Japanese language for one) but there are still things that are distinctly Chinese and things that are distinctly Japanese and if you end up combining them while attempting to go one way or the other, then that just looks weird.


I just remembered a possible addition for the video: The "Oriental Riff", the Chinese-y sounding set of musical notes as I pointed out here. The riff is most commonly associated with the "Kung-Fu Fighting" song - you should know what I'm talking about even without re-hearing the song.

From a Westerner's/non-Japanese person's point of view, the Oriental Riff is always used in an Asian context, regardless of the specific Asian (e.g. Chinese or Japanese). I can't recall any specific examples at this very moment of the riff being used in a Japanese context. Clearly however, Japanese composers (refer again to above link) associates this riff as being Chinese. Furthermore, Japan has their own "Japanese Riffs" anyway - there was one in the video you just watched (the "Ondo" song during the Sumo section).

A counter-argument is that the Oriental Riff was probably created by Westerners in the first place so they can use it however they want.

layzee wrote:Part 2 - Sumos are misunderstood. VC doesn't seem to elaborate however. (footage of various crappy Sumo-related smartphone games)


After doing a bit of casual research, I think what the Video Creator was trying to assert is that by removing the traditions/rituals and the discipline/strong regiments, and by simplifying rules/play strategies (e.g. it's all "belly bumping" with no hand or grappling techniques, then in the VC's words:

「もはや相撲ではない」 (It's no longer Sumo)

Remember that this video is for a Japanese audience (who should already know about Sumo stuff) so I guess that the VC didn't think this was worth a proper critique (e.g. the wrongness is self-evident). So in those trashy games, you might as well replace the Japanese Sumos with, for example, obese Americans, and it wouldn't change a thing.

zinger wrote:It's weird though that when Japanese game developers make mistakes, for the most part I don't mind at all -- somehow it always looks cool, or funny in a good way?


I think there might be weight to that observation. When Westerner game developers get other countries wrong, the results are usually cringeworthy. But when Japanese game developers get other countries wrong, the results can also be cringeworthy but... the results can also often be pretty cool/cute/charming!

I can't think of any specific examples at the moment but if I come across them, I'll post again.
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Re: A Japanese Perspective of "Japan" in Western Video Games

Postby schadenfreude » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:12 am

layzee wrote:A counter-argument is that the Oriental Riff was probably created by Westerners in the first place so they can use it however they want.


I've played the riff to a few native Chinese friends in the past, and none of them had heard it before. I explained to them that if you played it to pretty much any Westerner, he'd immediately identify it as a "Chinese" sound. They found this amusing.

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Re: A Japanese Perspective of "Japan" in Western Video Games

Postby layzee » Sun Mar 26, 2017 10:16 am

I found this pretty funny: Famous people in video games

If you're into Chinese and/or Hong Kong movies to a reasonable degree, then you should know that the main character of Capcom's original Onimusha game is modeled after as well as voiced by Takeshi Kaneshiro. Although his name may imply otherwise, he mainly hangs around China/Taiwan/Hong Kong.

Anyway, starting at 9:55, Maruhi Games notes that on Amazon Japan, many of the customer reviews (of the game) describe Takeshi's voice acting as being イマイチ, which in this context, I assume means "mostly fluent/good... except a tiny bit off". So they then proceed to confirm whether his dubbing is in fact, less than perfect.

So yeah pretty funny seeing Japanese criticising another "Japanese" (he wasn't born there though) person's speaking skills. On the other hand, it doesn't really help the motivation levels of those of you who are learning Japanese because your non-nativeness will be noticed!
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