John Rambo and Sorrowful Warriors

In a prior discussion with Sub of Subatomic Brainfreeze, he brought to my attention the existence of a Sega-made Japanese arcade game based off of Rambo. Yes, the 80s Sylvester Stallone movie franchise. He told me all about how indicative the game was of how the Japanese perceived the movies and John Rambo as a character, and upon further thinking it shed light on a difference between Japanese and American culture.

According to Sub, the narration in the Rambo Arcade Game places great emphasis on how “sorrowful” John Rambo is as a person, and this idea of Rambo carrying great sadness within his stoicism is repeated throughout. Well of course that makes sense. This is the same culture which gave us Kenshiro, and Kenshiro is all about being a stoic hero who is full of emotion within.

As far as either of us could tell, in Japanese fiction stoicism acts as an indicator for emotion and sorrow, which contrasts greatly with the American idea of the expressionless badass, who while not entirely without emotion tends to be “unmoved” by traumatic events or the plights of others, though still willing to do the “right thing.” Their tears are not allowed, as they are a sign of emasculation.

I thought about the concept of the “sorrowful warrior” and any portrayals in Japanese entertainment thereof, and I recalled one in particular: Sol Badguy.

Sol is the hero of the Guilty Gear series of fighting games, and his character is quite reminiscent of Joutarou from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. He doesn’t talk much, is quite aloof, usually has a hardened expression on his face, and is incredibly adept in combat. It’s easy to see him as just a guy who knows what he wants and acts on his own, but then I remembered a significant fact about Sol Badguy.

As with many fighting games, characters in Guilty Gear have their own theme songs/stage background music, and Sol is no exception. The Guilty Gear series took it one step further and gave all of the characters vocal versions of their respective themes, and the first lyrics in Sol’s theme song say it all:

He’s a sad soldier.

I have to wonder, is it the case where whenever Japan and America see the same stoic badass hero, each ends up having a very different perception?

Taisho Matthew Musume: A Biblical Look at Moe

In thinking about my Taisho Yakyuu Musume-related post from yesterday, I was reminded of one of the difficulties some people have with understanding how varied the appeal of moe can be while still being considered moe. Sometimes people ask, “Why would you want to see helpless girls? Do you like them that way?” And the answer to that is, they’re not helpless, they’re just at a disadvantage, and that has its own appeal from the perspective of a consumer of fiction.

I’m going to present here a quote from the Bible which I think is appropriate given the subject. Better known perhaps as the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30 (New International Version) reads:

14“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents[a] of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

21“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

23“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Religious connotations aside, this parable highlights the appeal of watching, say, the girls of Taisho Yakyuu Musume strive to beat a boy’s baseball team instead of aiming for a loftier goal: the desire to watch characters try their best to succeed with the abilities they have. You can even see that not all of the girls are the absolute best at the positions they’re given. Sure, some of the girls are already athletic, but many have to train, some harder than others, and ultimately no one expects them to easily surpass the ones with more training and talent, but we look approvingly upon the progress they’ve already made.

While the parable does not map completely to the case of the Baseball Girls, the gist is that the servant fearing that he was not good enough chose instead to bury his head in the sand and hope for the best. What the master wanted to see from the servant was for him to value what he has, even if it wasn’t as much as the servant with ten talents, and do something with it. What I and others want to see is characters who may not be the most skilled or even capable of simple tasks trying hard to accomplish what they can.

In a more secular vernacular, the proper term would probably be, “Work with what you’ve got.” This is why we enjoy watching moe girls try to cook even though they’re terrible at it. This is why we enjoy watching them learn to play baseball without any indication of skill. We’re not hoping for them to fail, we just want to cheer them on and congratulate them for not running to the backyard and burying their one talent.

Don’t compare the moe girls to those more capable than they, but rather look kindly upon what they manage to accomplish taking into account the amount of “talent” they were given.

For examples of character equivalents of the man with five talents, see: Akagi Shigeru, Kenshiro.