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.