Splatoon Lore is Best Lore

Thanks to the recent Haikalive Kyoto Mix concert for Splatoon, I’ve had kids and squids on the mind lately. As I listen to music from Squid Sisters and Off the Hook while reading fan wiki entries about the Splatoon world, I find myself appreciating its lore more and more. It’s just robust enough to foster imagination but the games and their story are not beholden to it in any major way.

One of my favorite examples of Splatoon lore details is Marina, the DJ from Off the Hook, and what we learn about her music in the Octo Expansion. First, why is she a DJ? The likely answer is because she’s an Octarian. As a member of the ostensibly antagonistic species of Splatoon, her upbringing is both implied and outright stated to be different from the squids. Not only is the Octarian leader a DJ whose music plays throughout their territory, but Marina herself was an engineering prodigy from a young age.

In the backstory to Splatoon, it’s shown that octopuses are more technologically advanced than the squids. The reason why they lost the war is simply due to happenstance—someone accidentally unplugged their greatest weapons. Marina comes from the environment, where she helped develop weapons. Pearl even mentions that Marina is responsible for the Shifty Station stages during Splatfests, all of which utilize Octarian technology. So not only is the most prominent musician of Marina’s culture a DJ, but the technical know-how of turntables, synthesizers, and the like would come easily to her.

Furthermore, when you talk to Marie from the Squid Sisters in singleplayer mode, she mentions that she doesn’t understand how Marina makes music just by spinning some plastic plates—one of many indicators that squids are generally not tech-savvy. There’s even a moment during Haikalive Kyoto Mix where Marie looks at Marina scratching vinyl with confusion and amazement. The very idea of being a DJ seems foreign to squids by default, to the extent that the only other known DJ besides Octavio and Marina is a fellow octopus in Dedf1sh.

What ultimately made Marina defect from the Octarians is hearing the Squid Sisters’ “Calimari Inkantation.” Whether the song actually has magical properties or if it’s a Macross-style culture shock, Marina expresses the feeling that this new music changed her life and her direction.

In one of the chatroom logs in the Octo Expansion, Pearl and Marina share their song demos from before they made it big. Marina’s is an early rendition of “Ebb and Flow,” the song that plays during Shifty Station matches. It’s recognizable even in early form, but there are aspects of this version that hint at Marina’s Octarian origins—especially the jingle that plays when you beat a stage in singleplayer. In other words, “Ebb and Flow” likely began as an attempt by Marina to make something similar to the Squid Sisters while also working from her own cultural background, a fusion of squid and octopus styles.

Marina occupies a space where two cultures, squid and octopus, intermingle. Her role as this immigrant of sorts who expresses her history and her desired future comes across in little moments and details. It’s in the dialogue, it’s in the music, and it’s in the little gaps where imagination dwells. It’s that approach which makes Splatoon lore so fascinating, but just light enough a touch that it doesn’t obscure the other great aspects about the game.

 

Splatoon Live Concerts and the Expression of Character in Performance

Nintendo Live 2019 in Kyoto featured two nights of Splatoon concerts with holograms of the Squid Sisters and Off the Hook performing onstage. It’s not the first time both pairs have been together, but watching this event made me really appreciate the care put into expressing the individual differences between the characters in accordance with their musical styles.

 

Off the Hook and Squid Sisters (or Tentacles and Sea o’ Colors in Japanese) are very different groups. Pearl as MC and Marina as DJ have very distinct roles in Off the Hook such that their movements are heavily contrasted with each other. Pearl is fiery and aggressive while Marina is laid-back and soulful, and everything about them screams hip hop, which traditionally has liked to draw a sharp distinction between its musicians. There’s really no confusing the Pearl and Marina, and their performances put a bright spotlight on their individuality.

 

Squid Sisters, however, are more akin to a Japanese idol group, and so their performances are more synchronized and feel more choreographed. At the same time, every so often, you’d see a subtle difference in movement—an extra bit of flourish from Callie or a more composed and precise gesture from Marie. It’s especially noticeable at times when both are cheering the audience on, and Callie is bouncing up and down as Marie’s feet stay firmly planted, such as in the video above. The differences between the two are relatively subtle as a result, and idol fans eat this sort of thing up.

Adding these small quirks to Callie and Marie is all the more impressive because a lot of fictional idol media don’t really bother to do the same. When watching an episode of Love Live! or Aikatsu!, there’s often pretty much no difference in performance if two or more characters are doing the same routine in the same song. We’re sometimes told that there’s a difference, but it’s not really shown.

From idols to hip hop and beyond, the musical acts of Splatoon are given presence and personality. This is taken into consideration even in the live concerts. It makes me wonder where a Splatoon 3 will go genre-wise, and I anticipate what Nintendo has in store.

Day 2 Full Concert