“Why Are JRPG Heroes All Emo Teenagers?”

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One of the writers with Kojima Productions has written a politely scathing piece in which he decries the JRPG’s single-minded obsession with having overwrought teenage boys as their protagonists, suggesting that is tied to a wider lack of heroic adult male archetypes in contemporary Japanese culture.

The writer in question is Etsu Temari, a man credited with work on the Metal Gear series, and he writes the following short piece on the Kojima Productions Blog:

What is the ideal hero?

“Why are JRPG heroes always teenage boys worried about why they are fighting?”

I’ve been considering this, and I really think it’s because in today’s Japan there is no ideal of a “cool adult man.”

In works based on a shonen [boy] protagonist it’s fine to use them if they are done well, but in both reality and in fiction the “cool man” has mostly disappeared. The generations reared without ever seeing them can’t envision these men either.

I get the impression this vicious circle has indeed become something of a problem.

As a scenario writer myself, I’d like to do what I can to change this by creating new images of heroes.

Japanese discussion of his words tends to identify “because old guys don’t sell in Japan” as a key reason for this lack.

However, this rather validates Temari’s point that the lack of any marketable adult hero image in Japan prevents their usage in games and creates a vicious circle of over-reliance on shonen, even to the point that Japanese developers can now only crudely ape the manly heroes they see as critical to international success.

Having lately been criticised for always having children as heroes, not having macho enough heroes, being stagnant and staid, having ridiculous character designs,  and even for not being RPGs, it seems the JRPG genre is long overdue a revolution – one which sadly is nowhere in sight, with most JRPG developers intent on milking the same tired franchises.


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    Comment by Anonymous
    22:49 10/11/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    More LOLI heroes everybody???

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:21 10/11/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    " in today’s Japan there is no ideal of a “cool adult man.” "

    Great Teacher Onizuka anyone?

    At least I thought he was awesome ^^

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:48 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    Kuroko?

    oh wait, that's a cool lesbian

    we need more cool lesbians

    Avatar of Schrobby
    Comment by Schrobby
    21:56 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    Lesbians and lolis, the glue that sticks together mankind. ^_^

    21:59 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    We need more lolis saving the world.

    Avatar of Imyou
    Comment by Imyou
    14:20 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    No, with more lolis saving the world, fun as it is to watch, you'll just have guys wishing they could be lolis... not helping the problem, lol

    Avatar of Tex_Arcana
    Comment by Tex_Arcana
    20:54 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    Japan, you have Takeshi Kitano.

    Your excuses are invalid.

    Avatar of Bigall
    Comment by Bigall
    21:02 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Takeshi Beat Kitano is cool for those who know him from is ancient movies. Japanese teenagers now-a-days don't know who he is.
    And that is a pity!!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:44 12/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh yeah like the West has any better heroes from recent memory? Most heroes are the same "Oh, look at me I'm so fucking awesome" in the west so it's not like it's any better.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:14 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh I'm sorry, was I standing on your lawn?

    Avatar of Dia
    Comment by Dia
    23:40 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I thought of Hard Gay but GTO is probably better...

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:36 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Great Teacher Onizuka indeed.

    Now THAT'S a "Cool adult man"

    Why isn't the said children take heed of him more? He's a f*ckin' awesome adult as a role model.

    Face your fears even in impossible situations. Take responsibilities for your actions. How is that not a cool role model?

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:38 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Kenshiro?
    You may not know it but you are already dead. <3

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:19 10/11/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    If No More Heroes has taught me anything, it's that creepy otaku make awesome protagonists.

    Avatar of Actar
    Comment by Actar
    20:12 10/11/2010 # ! Quality (+1.0)

    Why? Because a JRPG about a middle-aged salary man on a quest to get promoted at his dead-end job would make for a riveting game. (^.^)

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:05 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    you can have a main character without him being a whinny little bitch.

    Cecil from FF4 was a tragic hero, yet you don't see 30 cutscenes per minte telling us how miserable is his life, or how much he suffer from past trauma #23

    You don't need him to be a western rambo-like MC. But being a hyperactive man-children (tidus) or a drama queen (Squall/Cloud) is equal shit.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:13 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Cecil ain't even a teenager.

    Avatar of onitake
    Comment by onitake
    21:34 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    lightning:
    - 18yo
    - female
    - cool
    - has to deal with the drama queen of the game (hope)

    lightning ftw!

    and fang is even cooler.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:36 12/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah pull examples from games over 5 years old, how about one from recent memory?

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:38 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    made me think of Oji Section Chief/Legend of black heaven

    Avatar of Sorrior
    Comment by Sorrior
    02:43 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Nice someone else who knows that series kudos.

    Avatar of DFC
    Comment by DFC
    20:14 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I think there are parodies of those out there, though casual game they are.

    Avatar of Schrobby
    Comment by Schrobby
    21:50 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I know of such an anime, Actar. Salaryman Kintaro. It has some similarities to GTO, actually.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:56 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Atlus-Katherine

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:46 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.8)

    Zidane Tribal

    we need more protagonists like him

    Avatar of Shizu's Waki Obsessor: MaidNiac
    21:15 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    Playboy protagonist ftw.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:01 11/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    No one wants to play an overgrown idiot gorilla on steroids

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:29 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Aren't the people who frequent this site significantly older then say 20? All I have to do is search up some 90's or 80's anime on google to find a shitload of muscled gorillas that you would think were made from the US.

    How about something in the middle, say I don't maybe 25 being a good age? And how about middle class boxing weight/built- sound good everyone?

    Or will it just be the usual either Left or Right extreme bashing argument that gets absolutely fucking nowhere??

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:14 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    except for the typical cock for brain westerners.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:21 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    I don't mind an emo protagonists as long as they grow out of it.

    There's more character development going from pussy to badass than from badass to over 9000.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:18 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    to be honest i LIKE JRPGs because they are JRPGs... if i want to play a RPG with lots of choices, medicore graphics and D&D char developement i play western RPGs if i want 60-90h of story, awesome graphics and turnbased battle i play JRPG... i dont know where the problem is

    Comment by Anonymous

    >60-90h of story

    huh? more like 18-24 hours of cutscenes which told a story that could be summerized in 2 hours. or are you still living in the early 90's?

    Avatar of Karasz
    Comment by Karasz
    06:38 11/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    I don't think they're emo. Their personalities are rather serious and wise. If they were emo, then they would've slit their arms off for their pain and pleasure altogether.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:54 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    That's the truth. The problem is Americans love the word "emo", so every time a character has legitimate feelings and emotions, it's an excuse to use that word.

    The logic is a non-emo would just throw bombs at it, forget about it, then lift weights afterward.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:21 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    I believe that it's better than some muscle only with no brain rambo type Americano , at least they managed to look handsome

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:07 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    Cause our drill is the drill that will pierce the heaven.

    Avatar of PrinceHeir
    Comment by PrinceHeir
    02:36 11/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    it seems they don't follow the protagonist story well.

    an example is Cloud. sure he weeps and whine's alot but he has the right to. i mean your best friend dying in front of you, your idol betraying you, your best friends GF dying, not to mention his parents being killed, getting experimented in the last 4 years.

    all this stuff kinda mind fucked cloud. if this were happen to you what would you do?

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:38 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    lol so true.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:15 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    Emo Teenager? Dood I have a frickin' Gunblade, now say that shit to my face!

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:19 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Gunblade that has no exit for the bullet. Try and slash me with the retarded weapon while I shot you dead from 20 feet away.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:24 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I guess you did not play FF8 :-(

    Avatar of Ashlynd
    Comment by Ashlynd
    05:09 11/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    I'd rather have a emo boy as the main character than a steroid buffed buffoon blowing up everything >.>

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:21 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Yeah same here, but its sad that this new generation of "FPS" "Online" "Xbot" faggot prepubescent gamers want just the opposite.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:30 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    Yeah, because Yuri Lowell is definitely emo.

    I swear I'll stop gaming if the Japanese start making the main characters of JRPG's medival dwarves and Space Marines...

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:22 11/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I definitely agree that Yuri is an exception. If Karol was the main character in Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Vesperia would've been typical, but thankfully, it was Yuri. He's not a kid, he's not conflicted all the time and he may have contradicted himself a couple of times in his "justice" views, but he's just different overall. He may not have developed much, but at least he wasn't whiny in the beginning and suddenly mature at the end.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:26 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    they should still make young protagonists but less whiny, naive.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:55 12/11/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    And what exactly is your definition of "whiny" because if you'd try to list at least 5 protagonists that are "whiny" from the last two years you'd be pulling blanks.

    Avatar of yuriphoria
    Comment by yuriphoria
    21:17 10/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    I have an alternate theory which is that most writers started writing seriously when they were teenagers and a lot of their stories and their own self image starts there. They may grow older but they are still boys at heart and write accordingly.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:23 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    three letters: GTO

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:37 10/11/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    ^
    answer for

    What is the ideal role model?

    Avatar of Vulcan300
    Comment by Vulcan300
    22:59 11/11/2010 # ! Good (+0.4)

    I can never understand the thought of those macho blockhead ...









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