In-Depth Tuesday is a segment in which I try my my best to explain some of the more difficult narratives that exist in videogames. This means I will dissect and find things such as symbolism, allusion, etc. The main point is to help get across the overall message or messages of the game and help illustrate some other confusing things within the continuity. Suggestions for future segments can be made in your comments.
On the first segment of In-Depth Tuesday
, I'm starting off with a tough one; Suda 51's Killer 7
. When released, basically every critic on Earth either hated it or loved it and still missed the point. I like to compare it to an anime called Fooly Cooly
, which is probably the number one anime in which people missed the point because they just thought it was being strange for the sake of being strange. People's general reaction after beating (if they make it that far) Killer 7
is along the lines of "Well that just happened." They don't stop to think what the various characters and objects mean in the greater sense of the story. Frankly, I'm sick of this. So with that said, I'll try my best to give a general outline of what Killer 7
means. This is by no means sacrosanct or perfect, but I'd like to think I'll be able to get across the general ideas that Suda 51 and Shinji Mikami wanted to get across when writing the story.
There will be massive spoilers in this discussion.
First and foremost, at it's most raw and basic level, Killer 7
is about the never-ending battle between the Gods or Deities Harman and Kun Lan. From the very beginning of the game, the moment Harman shoots at Kun Lan and propels him backward, the game is on between them. That is why you see the two playing chess multiple times throughout the game; it's to show that not only are they in competition with each other, but that's how they view the world that they can influence. To them, it's merely a game. Harman's agents are the Killer 7, the group of assassins who are governed by Garcian Smith, the man with the power to resurrect the dead, and Kun Lan's agents are the Heaven Smile and those who were influenced by Kun Lan such as Matsuoka. Harman is in possession of the "God Killer", which will allow him to defeat Kun Lan. He is entity of good, yet he has a visually dark motif (His clothing, he only appears to Garcian in the real world in dark rooms, etc.) Kun Lan is in possession of the "Hand of God", which allows him to create the Heaven Smile. However, he is the entity of evil, and his possession of the "Hand of God" represents his deceitful nature (After all, how do you deceive people into doing your bidding? You lie to them, which Kun Lan does). I call the battle never-ending because at the end of the game, after beating LION, you see a epilogue that takes place 100 years later in Shanghai, where the exact same scene from the beginning is played; Harman fires at Kun Lan, Kun Lan catches the bullet, and the game is on yet again. However this time, the most important line of the game is spoken: "Harman, the world won't change. All it does is turn." This brings me to my next topic; politics.
Politics play a very important role in Killer 7
;most of the actions carried out by Harman and Kun Lan result in a dramatic effect upon the politics of the real world. But before I get into what's actually going on in the game, let me get the main "message" of the game out. More than anything, Killer 7
is about war. War, to Suda 51, is destructive, horrifying, and inevitable to the point of being essential. The war that supplies Killer 7
with most of it's symbolism and allusions is World War II, where the Allied Forces consisting of Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States fought the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan (Of course there were many more countries involved, but this about the bare bones of the War's history). To a Japanese mindset however, there was only the United States and Japan; they were the most heated in terms of direct assaults in WWII, with Pearl Harbor and the Nuclear Bombings being the most apparent. Post-WWII grew to mean West Vs. East, and that is where Killer 7
stands. Harman represents the West, with his Western Religious attire and obviously Anglo-Saxon name. Kun Lan represents the east, which is why his skin tone is much paler and his name is much more foreign than Harman's. Throughout the game, it is made clear that Japan has been forsaken by the rest of the world, specifically the most powerful nation, the United States. This and the internal power struggle within the Japanese-American parties (The UN Party and the Liberal Party), and it shows Japan as a vulnerable nation. This is where the politics of Killer 7
begin, with a faltering Japan that has been abandoned by the rest of the world.
Central to the politics of Killer 7
is the Yakumo, a document with the power a nation towards world domination. "Yakumo" translates directly to "Eight Clouds", and the title of the Ulmeida chapter was "Cloudman", which reinforces the idea that Ulmeida possessed a piece of the Yakumo, which is why he is able to make his company one of the largest in the world despite the fact that the company amounts to little more than a middleman retailer. This is where the player gets the sense of what the Yakumo can do, and why it is sought by the Japanese parties. In the beginning of the game, the Yakumo is believed to be possessed by Fukushima, the Japanese U.N. Party leader. However when is assassinated by Kisugi, who is an agent of the Liberal party to which Fukushima used to belong to, it is obvious that he no longer possess it. After killing Kisugi, you learn a chef at the restaurant Jean DePaul, was a spy from yet another organization known as the International Ethics Committee. He stole the Yakumo before the Liberal Party could get there hands on it and from then on in the game, it is unclear as to where the Yakumo is. My theory is that the IEC, in the interests of keeping any one nation from rising to Domination split the Yakumo into pieces, and as a mail clerk, Ulmeida comes into possession of one of the pieces. At the end of SUNSET, it is obvious that Garcian and Mills, his informant, are watching missiles that will intercept the missiles that were targeting Japan as a result of Fukushima's attempt to make Japan a truly independent nation with the Yakumo. It is said that the missiles were fired somewhere within Asia, leaving it very vague as to who attacked Japan. However, because of the intervention of the United States, it is obvious that someone intervened on the behalf of Japan, and with Fukushima dead, it would most likely have been Matsuoka, who was a leader within the Liberal Party.
After this, a conspiracy theory arises that the Presidential Election is rigged and that this rigging is somehow connected to Coburn Elementary School. I'm not going to go into the rest of the politics of Killer 7
in the interest of keeping this article from becoming a novel, but suffice to say that this is were things get really complicated. The main idea of the politics of Killer 7
however is that politics is a dirty business; nations can get away with anything, be it assassination, cover-up's, murders, or anything else. Extending from that is the underlying message of the never-ending struggle to wage and prevent war and the ruthless, despicable tactics that politicians will go to for this. In a way, the battle between Harman and Kun Lan shows that even nature, ruled by these Gods, is in an eternal struggle of war; it has always existed and always will exist. More than anything, that is the true meaning of Killer 7
. Suda 51, the Director and Writer of Killer 7
, also tackles similar issues in No More Heroes
, except the focus is much more social than it is political (NMH
will be covered by In-Depth Tuesday
at some point soon). He writes stories that are often overlooked as just purposelessly graphic or simply intended to be crazy comedies, and this is disappointing, because if you look at what his games "say", he is very deep thinking man who expresses ideas on a subconscious that isn't meant to be totally understood, much like a David Lynch or a Hunter S. Thompson. But enough politics, let's move onto the next subject; the spirits that follow the Killer 7.
Throughout Killer 7
, a number of ghost-like people follow you and help you along the way. These people include Iwazaru, Travis, Susie, Kess Bloodysunday, Yoon Hyun, and a number of others who are bosses that are defeated throughout the game. First, let's explain the most complicated one, Iwazaru. Put simply, Iwazaru is Kun Lan. At the end of LION, you chase down Iwazaru, who is the last Heaven Smile, and you kill him, and it is revealed that Kun Lan was Iwazaru. This doesn't mean that Garcian has just killed a God, but instead that Garcian has killed the remnant psyche of Kun Lan, who was the original Heaven Smile. Since Garcian is fully taken over by Kun Lan at this point, as shown by the green eyes, it becomes a question of why Iwazaru is killed. My theory is that because Garcian gained his ability to raise the dead from Kun Lan, and since Kun Lan sees Garcian as a piece of Harman, he invaded Garcian's psyche in the form of Iwazaru. This supports the war between Kun Lan and Harman, considering that Harman can only move in his wheelchair, horizontally, and Iwazaru, or Kun Lan's psyche inside of Garcian, can only move by his bungee chord/rope apparatus, vertical. Next is Travis, who is seen throughout the game wearing various T-Shirts that portray him as a rather raunchy individual. He was the first victim of the Killer 7, who killed him after he attempted to kill them. Susie is a psychopathic teenager who murdered several people, including nurses who were in charge of her after she is sent to the insane asylum. She appears only as a head and speaks with various emoticons, to establish her as a teenage girl. Kess Bloodysunday is a boy who is paranoid of monsters, hinting at some kind of disorder. He becomes a murderer as a teenager and is killed while on a spree. Yoon-Hyun was the Owner of the Union Hotel, were the Killer 7 were killed by Emir. He was an informant for the Killer 7, but sold them out to Emir, and was later killed.
Each of these spirits appear to the Killer 7, and each have something distinct about them that relates to how they lived/died. Travis is an attention hog, as can be seen by the novelty shirts he wears and the actions he performs such as spinning the Fire Extinguisher. Susie is only head because she was a psychopath who would lose control of her temper, or "lose her head." Kess Bloodysunday could only see nightmare visions, so now he is blind. Yoon-Hyun sells information for blood, much like he sold the Killer 7 out to Emir. Also appearing are the various boss characters you defeat throughout the game as well as others like Christopher Mills. This is to show that the spirits that follow the Killer 7 don't have to be killed by the Killer 7 in order to follow them, meaning that these are not psyches, but are instead actual spirits who exist on another plane of existence. As to why they talk with the digitally-altered voice, there is a very simple answer. The original dialogue track for the Japanese release was done in English, but by Japanese voice actors. In order to save on time and money, the English translation consists of the same exact dialogue except now digitally altered to make them sound more ghost-like. That is why you can actually make out what they are saying sometimes, yet it doesn't match the subtitle.
Now comes things that I just kind of noticed throughout the game that really has no significance. For one, the very first cutscene shows Garcian walking across a street with white markings on it; this is visually similar to the cover of The Beatles' album Abbey Road
. Considering that music plays an important role in most of Suda 51's games, I would think this is a direct allusion. Next, in the Mah-jong game, the American in the Red jacket suit continually refers to the others as "monkeys". This is directly referencing the Zodiac signs, but also can be taken as a reference to Lupin III
, who wore the very same Red jacket, blue shirt, yellow tie outfit that the man wore. Lupin III
's author is Kazuhiko Kato, who is often referred to as "Monkey Punch" and "Monkey Sensei". The letters ISZK continually show up throughout the game; on the television, various electronics, the security systems. This is most likely a reference to the game's Art Director Akihiko Ishizaka.
That about wraps it up for Killer 7
, which is far too much for this article. I didn't touch on the reason Harman appears as almost three different people, or why Garcian is agent of Kun Lan, or why they use the medium of television. The point of this article was merely scratch the surface of what is by far one of the most difficult game narratives out there. If you wish to delve deeper, I recommend the Plot Analysis Guide at Gamefaqs, even if it is sometimes a little far out there. I also recommend playing No More Heroes
, which deals with issues in a much similar style, but is much more easily understood. As I said before, none of this is sacrosanct, and I'm sure many of you will chime in on what you think something meant/what actually was going on, which really is the nature of Killer 7
; it's subjective, with only a few obvious messages that are lost within the layers upon layers of political and social commentary. Overall, Killer 7
simply needs to be played to be believed, and even the believing part will probably take another run through. Just remember readers, the world doesn't change. All it does is turn.
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