Wednesday, March 24, 2021

A Certain Animated Role Playing Game

Overflowing with conflicting ideas for games I am currently unable to run and [as a result] unable to sleep, my thoughts suddenly drifted to the question, 'What was the very first Anime/Manga themed game I ever ran'?

The problem with answering this question isn't so much trying to figure out my first Anime/Manga focused campaign; that was a Mekton campaign from early high school, circa 1985 or 86. My first dedicated one without Mecha as the main draw was 'Blast City Blues', my high school Teenagers from Outer Space campaign from around 1987. 

The only thing that doesn't add up here is that I was a big fan of the American broadcasts of Space Battleship Yamato as 'Star Blazers' and Science Ninja Team Gatchman or as we U.S. East Coasters knew it, 'Battle of The Planets', as early as 1979. I had seen other series dubbed in Spanish not long after, including Cyborg 009, Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999, and Captain Future. By the early 80s I knew that these shows were bastardized translations of animated series from Japan, largely thanks to my friend Aldrin 'Buzz' Aw who had seen them in his native land of Myanmar (at that time called Burma). 

By 1984 and 85 I was sitting with club that would get together the second Saturday of each month to watch shows recorded off of Japanese television or on VHS release overseas. These show and films had no subtitles or foreign language dubbing. They were in Japanese for Japanese audiences and it was only thanks to synopses provided by the club's Japanese speakers that I had a solid idea of what was happening. Well, that and the excellent storytelling of those early series that made getting the gist of an episode much easier then I think would be the case today. 

What I am getting at, what has me wondering is...what was my first game heavily influenced by my exposure to Anime and Manga. Was there a campaign that was strongly effected by my love of the medium, even if it wasn't really an 'Anime/Manga game'? 

Answer that latter part first, yes, of course there was. Most likely it was The Winghorn Guard and its world setting of Aerth, my D&D-But-Not games. Aerth definitely has an Anime/Manga feel to it akin to what you would see in Record of the Lodoss War, Legend of Crystania, and other 'Western Style' Fantasy films and series from Japan, even though those would actually come out after the initial Winghorn Guard campaign. 

I think the style and approach of these Japanese entertainment mediums had major influences on all the gaming I did, whether they were intended to or not, and that's why it's difficult to pinpoint a first time. My stories added more melodrama, romantic subplots, touches of comedy here and there, and intense and often over the top action sequences. 

We're all the product of what we are exposed to and as I've stated before, my origins in the hobby are not extensions of Conan novels or re-reads of The Lord of The Rings. I'm far more influenced and inspired by Comic Books, Film, and Television and that most assuredly includes Japanese Comics and Animation.

It would be fascinating to take a time machine back to watch myself run games in the years between 1979 and the early to mid-80s to see if I could spot the point where Anime really started to rear its head.

Barking Alien


  1. On the U.S. West Coast we had Battle of the Planets as well, though it was through Golden Key comic books (not sure if the stories were directly taken from the manga...that would be weird).

    Many of the early imported animes you cite (Star Blazers, BotP, Galaxy Express) had a dramatic imapact on me, and still do to a slight degree...certain scenes still haunt my vision to this day. But they don't really impact my gaming. I enjoy them, I expose my kids to them, but (for me) they are a genre meant to be experienced in a way different from the medium of gaming. I've just practice...that is very difficult to get the kind of "high drama" found in anime to appear organically through play of an RPG.

    1. My apologies JB, I read your comment but hadn't really absorbed it. After re-reading it, thinking about it, and giving it thorough consideration, I am inspired to tell a story I don't think I've ever told on the blog before; a story I only remembered thoroughly after processing what you said.

      Please excuse my slight paraphrasing:

      "Many of the early imported animes you cite had a dramatic imapact on me But they don't really impact my gaming."

      How is that possible? How can that be? If ones assumes as a truism that our approach to games is informed - at least in part - by previous exposures and experiences, how could anything that had any sort of major and/or lasting impact Not effect how you game in some way?

      On a related but slightly different note...

      "I've just practice...that is very difficult to get the kind of "high drama" found in anime to appear organically through play of an RPG."

      Huh. I have not. I see it all the time. In fact, when I don't see it or experience it within the first half dozen sessions (More or less. Often less) of a new campaign, I quickly lose interest in the game. Without high drama (or at the very least low-to-medium drama) it's just a game of Craps for me. It might as well be flipping coins until you get the side you called.

  2. Just yesterday I was telling my friends that (modern) D&D seems more suited for anime fantasy than for its own native settings. Maybe an exaggeration, but not by far.