Escaping Reality via Japanese Video Games

As I settle into my Lil House of the Nerdy, I’m finally alleviating the storage of my personal effects from my parents’ house and bringing them home with me. After being nomadic for over ten years, putting down roots has been exceptionally overwhelming for me. As I continue working my way through Tidying Up, I’m quickly arriving at the all encompassing items of sentimental value category.

Trigger Warning: I play games people disagree with.

When I lived in Japan, my love for Japanese comics and video games grew, and I began exploring deeper into the shoujo manga (girls’ comics) genres. In the U.S., the number of video games which are aimed toward girls are exceptionally limited, and those geared toward teenage girls are few and far between. Save for a handful of friends, few knew that shoujo manga was my version of trashy romance novels. I read them with book covers on the trains, so at a glance no one could judge me. The majority of my favorite anime series tend to be geared toward teenage girls because I love the ridiculously comedic notions of romance. Frankly speaking, when I wasn’t escaping into worlds of science fiction and fantasy in English, I absolutely adored vanishing into the wacky realm of  high school drama and romance, jumping

Common Themes in Shoujo Manga

B’s Log is a monthly magazine focusing games targeting female audiences focusing on romance and dating simulation across multiple gaming platforms. Many of the most famous voice actors from Japanese animation also contribute to voice over work in games. The interesting thing about gaming in Japan is the fluidity of gender. It is not uncommon to find games that are considering dating simulations with straight and same-sex characters. Now, this is where Western parental advisories and women’s groups would halt any potential release of Josei-muki (geared toward women) games as these games have the equivalent of a PG-13 to strong R-rating.

Within the genre, concepts such as actively searching for a boyfriend, working on domestic skills to make oneself a more appealing future bride, and making decisions so as to warrant response from potential suitors (choosing birthday presents, giving gifts on Valentine’s Day, desperately trying not to be single on Christmas) mirror many social conventions still circulating in modern Japan. Some might find my playing these games while touting feminism as a bit of a contradiction, but from a literary perspective why should I be denied the escape into worlds where I can be Bella in the Twilight saga or the female version of Archie with  multiple suitors vying for my attention?

One of the game systems I didn’t purchase in the U.S. was the PSP (PlayStation Portable). Although there have been a limited handful of games from Japan which received a U.S. release like Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core and Persona, there has not been enough games released to pique my interest. These selections do not fall under the josei-muki/shoujo manga genre as the battle systems and cast of characters on a quest are classified as action.

Current Conquest: A Maiden-esque Adventure

Love Revolution – The full site is a mouthful at Otometeki Koi Kakumei (loosely translated as “A Maiden/Young Girl’s Love Revolution”; nickname: “Love Revo”). The premise alone could in sight a riot in Western countries because you play a former child pageant winner who is now a struggling, overweight high school student. Her parents own an apartment block near her school, and by a stroke of destiny, the top five hottest boys from school as well as the really handsome school clinic teacher all move in.

Yes, complete with Mean Girl Rival! (Curse you, Yurika!!) 

  • Task: with 11 months, you need to drop weight from 100 kilograms, study hard, work a part-time job, and try to convince these guys not only to talk to you, but manage to make one of them fall in love with you. There is a fair bit of strategy involved as you are responsible for coordinating the girl’s study schedule, workout schedule, and attempting to figure out the fickle minds of teenage boys.
  • Bonuses: Should your story progress with any of the characters beyond acquaintance, you receive items to help with the fitness journey, and  unlock scripted scenes.
  • Progress: I managed to hustle my lil gal down to 63 kilos, but still wound up alone.


Embracing my Inner Shoujo

One of my favorite game hunting spots was Mandarake in Osaka because it was a multi-level comics and gaming chain. Some of my favorite memories at Mandrake were shopping with my gal pals who shared my passion. Despite all the advances that Japanese comics and games have made assimilating  into American mainstream, censorship is still strong which prevents the localization of such games. Even if localization projects were to approach the shoujo-genre of game as an interactive comic book, I feel that it is still a niche that does not have enough of a rabid following or would meet great opposition.

The trickiest thing about searching for games in a country half a world away, is that most vendors will not ship outside of Japan. I created an Amazon JP Wish List for a time when I can either visit Japan or recruit friends in living there to do some personal shopping for me. Do I justify this as studying Japanese? Yes, because game play involves consulting my electronic dictionary and keeping a translation log/game play log along with actually playing the game. The captioned menus and lack of instant decisions being required provides me time to chase up words and phrases I am unfamiliar.

When I opt for a shoujo gaming session, I tend to have my tea or wine at the ready, especially now that my quest for love revolution may not always end in success.

Answer Me, These Questions Three

  1. What questions do you have about the shoujo/otome/josei-muki genre?
  2. Have you ever watched Japanese anime (cartoons/animation) or read manga (comic books/graphic novels)?
  3. Do you think more girls would actively play games like this if they were made available outside of Japan, or do you think the concepts are not ones that should be exported.

5 thoughts on “Escaping Reality via Japanese Video Games

Add yours

  1. I know nothing about these games, but I absolutely would play. I also think teenage girls would love these kind of games. I realize they’re probably frowned upon because they’re about dating, looking pretty, etc, but that’s what some girls like. As a teen, that’s what I was into – romance in any form – and not because I felt I should be, but because that’s just what I liked 🙂 Very cool post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My only problem is the whole making the girl overweight and making her have to lose weight to attract the guys. That just seems so…shallow… But I’m all on board for the romance side of it! I’m a hopeless romantic and would love to play romance games (because I like trashy romance novels, 😉 ). ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤


    1. Unfortunately, it speaks volumes about the international obsession with regard to women’s body image. I doubt there is a guy-oriented game where getting fit for the “chicks” is central to the game. There are other games in the “reverse harem” concept where a female protagonist has the tough challenge of figuring out which one of multiple guys should she pursue.

      It could be considered a guilty pleasure, but I am striking the guilty from it. Again, themes like these are exactly why we can’t find games like this because of the mixed messages. I enjoy it because I find it a little ridiculous, but easy to play even in a foreign language.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have played “Otome” games and while I did enjoy them for a time I kind of fell out of love with the immature relationships. Although, I think it is fine for teenagers and women younger than me they no longer appeal to me. I have never played otome games aimed at my age demographic but I’ve been so busy with so many other games. I really think you shared a lot of important information. Such as the problems Japan has with weight and how it is looked so down upon. Additionally, household concepts that are a reflection in some cases but not strictly the case of life in Japan. It could be perhaps what they are teaching yet women in Japan are forging their own paths and use the games as an escape to enjoy.

    Really interesting article1


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