339 Reviews liked by Cold_Comfort

Apparently some malevolent spirit thought it'd be some peak black comedy to have me get sick for the last three days while I was trying to play a game called "Bio-Hazard Battle", or at the very least they were trying their damnedest to give me as many handicaps as possible since for whatever reason they preferred I didn't clear this shmup legitimately. I can go ahead and curse my relatives for bringing a cough with them to our thanksgiving dinner, but what's done is done and all that is left is sniffles. No harm done, except for that 15 hour period I sat in bed due to a migraine. Nope, no harm at all.....(it wasn't covid)
Anyways, I have a preference for the original title of "Crying - Sub-Life War", even if the boxart for the Japanese Mega Drive version is hilariously busy. It also dawned on me that they somehow committed a case of reverse engrish and turned "Avalon" to "Avaron". I dunno what in Sam Hill happened there, unless the person doing it had no idea that Avalon was a thing already, or assumed King Arthur had it copyrighted or something. It might have something to do with that mongoose they apparently had editing the manual....
Part of me really wishes the game didn't have a plot readily available, because there's some pretty fantastic visual storytelling and potential mystique that would've made my mind wander quite a bit and make the imagination go absolutely crazy. Who am I? The cute mosquito ship? What is that space station I'm departing from? Why am I fighting these bees that are just joyously doing their little barrel rolls? Is that a giant black earthworm coming out of that hut? Why is it flying? Where are we going?
We descend deeper into the caverns below....
We descend deeper into the oceans below....
We ascend high into the skies above....
Don't ask us how that happens.
Meanwhile the lovely sound design was made to be cranked as loudly as possible. It's something I didn't really appreciate until later, and I almost want to blame it on perhaps crap emulation on those compilations I played back then? Maybe my tastes just evolved as I became more and more of a fanatic for the use of YM2612, but damn are the basses absolutely quaking in this one. You're gonna feel that death, and that boss theme is gonna put your speakers to good use in making you feel comfortably uncomfortable.
In due time I knew it would come...the day I would finally beat Bio-Hazard Battle without save states. Just like the sickness that I defeated today, I will defeat this game.
I'm gonna do it! I'm gonna beat Crying Battle!

ヘイヘイホー ヘイヘイホー
「hei hei hou, hei hei hou」
You're probably never going to play Yosaku. Nobody will. It appears only in scant screenshots, an arcade flyer, mention in SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, as an easter egg in The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise, and demonstrated in a single YouTube video. Releasing shortly before Safari Rally and Ozma Wars, Yosaku remains undumped (if not entirely lost) alongside SNK's earliest 'Micon Kit' Breakout clones. In spite of its obscurity, Yosaku is a foundational game not just for SNK, but for the early Japanese games market as a whole.
ヘイヘイホー ヘイヘイホー
「hei hei hou, hei hei hou」
The premise of Yosaku is pretty simple. The player is a lumberjack, toiling away in the forest while branches fall, birds defecate, boars charge, and snakes slither. Avoid danger, chop the trees, get a high score. It is by no means groundbreaking but for a 1979 release it seems to be decently fun. What is fascinating about Yosaku stems from what inspired it: an Enka song popularised by Saburou Kitajima in 1978.
トントントン トントントン
「tontonton, tontonton」
One of Sabu-chan's most famous works, Yosaku similarly tells the basic tale of the titular Yosaku chipping away at a tree while his wife performs domestic duties. Written by religious scholar and critic Kiminori Nanasawa, Yosaku was a submission to the long-running NHK musical variety show Anata no Melody. The conceit of the program was that amateur songwriters would submit their work to be performed by professional musicians. Yosaku's sparse lyrics are abound with onomotapoeia, and it's just a great track overall. In fact, the game Yosaku features part of the melody of the song Yosaku as sung by Sabu-chan, and it's officially licensed from the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers, one of the first video games to bear their legal blessing.
トントントン トントントン
「tontonton, tontonton」
Lest we forget, this was the era of the arcade clone. Perhaps in a cruel twist of irony then for a company founded on Breakout clones, Yosaku is known less for its arcade release, and more for the unlicensed, unsanctioned copycat which released at the launch of the Epoch Cassette Vision. Kikori no Yosaku sees the detailed SNK original reduced to its barest geometries and most base elements. The much chunkier graphics reduce the playfield to just two trees instead of Yosaku's three. Unable to litter the space with smaller but more plentiful hazards, Kikori no Yosaku's dangers are the unhewn log to Yosaku's two-by-four. Rather than allow Yosaku to hide behind trees, Epoch's version leaps over boars. And even without the legal go ahead, Kikori no Yosaku has a crude rendition of those same bars from Sabu-chan's hit song.
ホーホー ホーホー
「houhou, houhou」
The Epoch Cassette Vision held 70% of the games console market in Japan by 1982. 'Video Games Console Library' makes the unsubstantiated claim that Kikori no Yosaku was the game that made the Cassette Vision as successful as it was. It's impossible to concretely corroborate this, but considering it was a launch title (and labelled as #1), it would certainly have drawn some customers in. Furthermore, Cassette Vision game releases were glacial, being made in-house by only three developers with a new title hitting shelves every quarter. An interview with Epoch designer and supervisor Masayuki Horie similarly asserts that Kikori no Yosaku is the first game people talk about when the Cassette Vision is discussed. Horie mentions that industry shows saw developers trying to discern which games would be popular, and thus fit for cloning, so Kikori no Yosaku's significance may well be true.
ヘイヘイホー ヘイヘイホー
「hei hei hou, hei hei hou」
With such a storied past, one might want to play Kikori no Yosaku for themselves. Well, you're probably never going to play the Cassette Vision release of Kikori no Yosaku, and not for lack of trying. A key quirk of the Cassette Vision is that the console itself is effectively just an AV passthrough. It lacks a processor. Unlike with other cartridge-based systems, Cassette Vision games house the software and hardware which allowed vastly faster operation. This means emulation is, while not impossible, entirely too cumbersome for anyone to have meaningfully tackled it thus far - ROM dumps for all eleven releases do now exist at least. Barring the purchase of antiquated hardware, Kikori no Yosaku is just as playable as Yosaku.
ヘイヘイホー ヘイヘイホー
「hei hei hou, hei hei hou」
Or so I thought. As it turns out, an unofficial port of Kikori no Yosaku came to the Sharp X68000 in 1991 thanks to IJI Team. This clone of a clone is a near-exact recreation of the Cassette Vision original, down to the graphical quirks of diagonal sprites. The only substantial difference I was able to spot has to do with the colours themselves, which are more pastel on Cassette Vision than they are on X68000 - this may be due to the oddities of RF connections.
トントントン トントントン
「tontonton, tontonton」
All told, Kikori no Yosaku is a pretty fun romp, albeit a pretty easy one when not playing on the higher difficulties. The circumstances of its creation as a clone of an oddly seminal title, which itself is only accessible thanks to another clone, make it noteworthy. Furthermore, the X68000 version is the only such recreation of an Epoch Cassette Vision game. Even the absurd Pac-Man clone PakPak Monster remains bound to the original hardware.
トントントン トントントン
「tontonton, tontonton」
Yosaku is a hit enka song written by an obscure amateur.
Yosaku is one of the only lost SNK titles.
Yosaku is one of the first games to have music licensed by JASRAC.
Yosaku is perhaps responsible for the success of the Epoch Cassette Vision.
Yosaku is emblematic of the wild west of early video game (non)copyright.
Yosaku is a chunky, shameless copy.
Yosaku is a near-perfect recreation.
Yosaku is simple but elegant.
ホーホー ホーホー
「houhou, houhou」



CW: Sexual assault, sexual violence, bestiality, incest, pornography, victim-blaming/shaming, misogyny, sexualisation of minors, gore, obscenity, descriptions of the aforementioned. The four-letter 'R-word' is also invoked repeatedly without censoring or obfuscation.
This review is split into sections. While you can read them all at once, I advise taking breaks as necessary due to length and subject-matter, as well as to better digest the text.
I also wish to stress I am not endorsing these sorts of games. I am just presenting my own understanding of media in a culture different from my own, with my own Western perceptions and biases. Draw your own boundaries when it comes to the media you consume.
On the 'List of controversial video games' page of English Wikipedia, there's an entry for a 1986 PC-8801 game by Macadamia Soft titled 177.¹ It has one incorrectly archived citation. The only article for 177 itself is on Japanese Wikipedia. Given that 177 allegedly "ignited a public furor that reach the National Diet of Japan," this absence of concrete evidence puzzled me.² However, as there remains an abundance of media of its ilk in contemporary Japanese culture, I was also curious as to what that furor achieved, and the why of 177's production. In this review, I will argue that 177 and similar such works represent gendered power dynamics in Japanese culture, operate in intentional contradistinction to moral sexuality as an extension of nation-building and family-making, and that these titles reflect Japan's interpretation of ethics -- in relation to pornography -- in a manner incongruous with Western perceptions, necessitating a knowledge of their context.
There's an undeniable prevalence to rape and sexual assault in eroge generally not seen in Western produced erotic games. The obvious keystones include AliceSoft's Rance series and Illusion's titles like RapeLay and Battle Raper. However, these works are not anomalies in the sea of eroge. Searching the Rape tag on VNDB gives 5,125 total results. 1,572 have a tag score above 2.0, meaning a step up in importance above "the tag certainly applies."³ 507 garner a 3.0 meaning "the tag applies, is very apparent and plays a major role."⁴ These numbers do not account for the plethora of doujin works on platforms like the NEC PC-88 and PC-98, or contemporary releases on storefronts like DLsite. Furthermore, this only quantifies visual novel releases. A cursory search of DLsite bears 282 eroge titles tagged Rape. And this says nothing of Rape anime/manga hentai or erotica. ExHentai has over 60,000 doujinshi, manga, and CG galleries tagged Rape in Japanese, even then only representing uploads from 2007-onward. That's out of 700,000 total works in those categories. Though a wider and more thorough analysis would garner more accurate numbers, what I am trying to convey the presence, prevalence, and pronouncement of rape in Japanese pornography.
None of this is new, as the 1986 release of 177 would already intimate. Depictions of rape in Japanese visual art go back at least as far as the late 18th century, seen in the ukiyo-e prints of [Koryūsai](https://ukiyo-e.org/image/famsf/5050161212810079) and [Utamaro](https://ukiyo-e.org/image/bm/AN00601086_001_l). Even as far back as the Heian period, rape plays a prominent, if not important, role in Murasaki Shikibu's Genji Monogatari. Widely considered one of the first literary novels, Genji Monogatari is a critical work in its detailing of aristocracy in Heian Japan, including its moral code. Furthermore, its role in the cultural zeitgeist of Japan to this very day has it informing other works from nougaku theatre to television adaptations to manga to women's gossip magazines. Rape is by no means the primary focus of Genji Monogatari, to the extent that most discussion of the work either eschews mention of it or relegates it to a footnote, but I bring it up because it is undeniably a part of the work.
Esteemed translator of Genji Monogatari into modern Japanese, the late Jakucho Setouchi, noted that the clandestine and tasteful acts of sex therein were "all rape, not seduction."⁵ English translator of Genji Monogatari, Royall Tyler, takes umbrage with this assertion of rape, stating that in this time period, no woman could properly give consent in a decent or proper manner, thereby making any first-time sexual encounter within established social bounds meet our contemporary definition of rape.⁶ The particulars of a 'correct' reading here are far too complicated to dive into (and I don't consider myself well-read enough to argue one way or the other), but the chapters following Genji's death are so fervent in their description and criticism of rape that even if Genji is not a rapist, Murasaki's world is still abound with rape. Returning to Tyler's position, Genji can be understood to not be raping his victims because they are seduced prior to, during, or after sex. Regardless of if this is valid for those women, the work and this reading thus perpetuate a litany of rape myths we still deal with contemporarily, and that are still seen in the pages of hentai manga or the scenes of eroge. I bring this up because the claim of 'alleged' rape being a preliminary step to marriage is critical to 177, as well as RapeLay, the Rance series of titles, and a large swath of eroge.
A Post-Mortem Review of Morimiya Middle School Shooting
In my review of Morimiya Middle School Shooting, I intentionally avoided an in-depth discussion of its gameplay as I thought putting play into words was a gratuitous and unnecessary act for such a heinous work. As the total number of plays, reviews, and visitors to the erikku Discord rose following that review, I realise that by omitting that gameplay discussion, I was in effect fostering a morbid curiosity for something I argued people should not see for themselves. That was by no means what I wished to have happen, and to some extent that perusal of ammorality would happen irregardless. What I will highlight in the next section is how 177 actually plays, with full discussion of its three endings. It is my sincere hope that will, if not dissuade people from playing it, demonstrate that the game isn't engrossing enough to warrant play. It should by no means be lost to the annals of history, but I want to assure you, you are not missing anything by reading about 177 rather than playing it. This is not like Morimiya where I argued it was mechanically novel. 177 is rather vapid by comparison. I recommend watching a longplay rather than playing it, if engaging with it at all.
An Overview of 177 by Macadamia Soft
「Rape... it's not a crime if it's a game」
On the title screen for 177, we see a young red-haired woman flanked by trees on either side of the path she walks. The path splits into three branches. The woman wears a white sleeveless blouse and red skirt. She looks over her shoulder and breaks into a jog, accelerating to a rapid pace. The internal speaker of the NEC PC-88 clicks in time with her footsteps. As the game loads you hear a deep heartbeat. There's no build up to the chase here, it happens before the player even gains control.
The manual (emblazoned with 177 and an all-caps RAPE beneath it) stipulates that to enjoy the game, one must 'become' a rapist.⁸
The game screen features an animated sprite of the woman in the top left, constantly looking over her shoulder. Beside her is a map showing the start point, winding and branching paths, her home, and a graveyard.
The woman's name is Kotoe Saito. She is a 21 year old pink-collar worker for a foreign computer company. She is 160.9cm tall. Her blood type is A. Her three sizes are 82-60-83 (if, for some reason, you need to be able to visualise the figure of a fictitious rape victim, these match Yuuki Asuna's measurements in the web novel of Sword Art Online). She has a bright personality and a partner named Akira Shindo. Her parents approve of their relationship.
The player character is a 26 year old man named Hideo Ouchi. He has been working at an automotive factory for eight years. His hobby is browsing manga in convenience stores at night. His personality is serious but taciturn. He is poor at socialising. The other tidbit of biographical insight we get is that his 'target' is Kotoe Saito. This is a premeditated rape, as Hideo has been scouting out Kotoe's commute to and from work to determine how to chase and rape her. Hideo doesn't want to enact a sexual violence onto any woman, he wants to hurt this specific woman.
The bottom of the game screen shows Kotoe and Hideo in a mad dash to the left of the screen. Stumps, stones, graves, fans, cats, skunks, turtles, dogs, and moles stifle your chase of Kotoe. The player can throw bombs to increase their score, destroy obstacles, and slow Kotoe down. Picking up street signs changes Kotoe's escape route to keep her from getting home. Everything in your path hampers your movement, and the closer you get to Kotoe, the less time you have to react. When you're within striking distance of her it's a pure gamble as to whether or not you'll succeed. When the player reaches Kotoe, they strip an article of her clothing off as her portrait shrieks. First the blouse, then her skirt, then her bra, lastly her panties. The difficulty is obscene to the point of frustration, perhaps deliberately to make the eventual 'reward' of rape and sexual gratification all the more satisfying. Catching up to her a fifth time has Hideo pin Kotoe to the ground as the heartbeat returns. Thus concludes Act One of 177.
The screen goes black and shows us Hideo raping Kotoe. In the top we see percentages assigned to the four cardinal directions. Next to it is a Power metre rapidly counting down. Below that, a Desire metre changing its reading rapidly. Underneath the percentages is a pink orchid which slowly opens its petals fully in bloom. Drops of water land on it. The bottom left corner displays the four cardinal directions the player can maneuver themselves as they rape Kotoe. Assuming a position which obfuscates the penetration, we see Kotoe's distressed face and sometimes an exposed breast, the rest of her covered by Hideo and his undulating hips. Kotoe lets out the occasional yelp.
Should Hideo's power metre reach zero, he is arrested and Section 2 of Article 178 of the Japanese Criminal Code is quoted, which altogether states:
"Article 178. (Quasi Forcible Indecency; Quasi Rape)
(1) A person who commits an indecent act upon a male or female by taking advantage of loss of consciousness or inability to resist, or by causing a loss of consciousness or inability to resist, shall be punished in the same manner as prescribed for in Article 176.
(2) A person who commits sexual intercourse with a female by taking advantage of a loss of consciousness or inability to resists, or by causing a loss of consciousness or inability to resists, shall be punished in the same manner as prescribed in [Article 177]."⁹
At the time of publication, the punishment outlined in Article 176 was imprisonment with work for six months to ten years. The punishment outlined in Article 177 was imprisonment with work for a minimum term of three years. Demonstrating an all too comfortable familiarity with the Japanese Criminal Code, 177 decides to argue semantics. This act of physical and sexual violence is not technically rape, it is only quasi rape, as if that makes it somehow less egregious.
This ending comprises one of two 'bad endings' in 177, the other happening if Kotoe reaches her home. In that event, she jumps for joy and the game ends, no punishment for battery or attempted rape.
If the player instead gets the Desire metre high enough for long enough, the orchid will quiver and Kotoe screams in a pink speech bubble instead to indicate her orgasm. The Desire metre isn't Hideo's own lust, it represents Kotoe's growing attraction to Hideo, suggesting continual rape eventually crosses a boundary of becoming ordinary, consensual sex. The screen fades to black again before we see a photograph of Kotoe in bridal attire with a demure expression. The sun rises behind Mount Fuji, and Hideo lays on the ground in the same clothes from Act One, propping his head up and wearing a weary expression. Below the picture reads "Well, I'm beaten." The implication is thusly, similar to Genji Monogatari and representative of rape myth beliefs, the victim's orgasm means they weren't raped, that she wanted it, and that this is an act of seduction rather than assault. Considering her protestation throughout the course of her rape, the genuine terror in her eyes during Act One, and her incredible glee if she makes it home successfully, her alleged enjoyment is a laughable falsehood, perpetuating rape myth acceptance by wrapping it all in a happy bow. So supposedly smitten is Kotoe that her relationship with her partner Akira is called off so she can wed her rapist. Hideo is meant to be an target of pity, doomed to domesticity with a woman he lusted after but perhaps did not love.
The 'Story' of 177
Across all discussions of 177, not a single one makes mention of the manual. Photographs of the physical release on PC-88 and Sharp X1 are few and far between, and a scan of the manual was only made available in February 2022 on the Internet Archive. The scan is in dreadful quality to the point where complex kanji are nearly illegible.¹⁰ After much hardship I managed to at least transcribe the 'story' of 177 presented therein, and machine translate it with some light edits for readability:
[Rape... it's not a crime if it's a game]
[177 Story - To enjoy this game, it is important to be a rapist. Read this story to help life your mood. We will also teach you some techniques to clear the game.]
[強姦]。 美際の行為に及ぷ者はいない。なぜならば刑法第177条「強姦罪」に触れる事になるからだ。しかし、ゲームなら可能である。このゲームは、世の男性・女性諸氏の健全かつ正常なる愛の営みを願い開発されました。あなたの心に潜む、その危険な願望をゲームの世界で存分にお楽しみください。決して現実の世界に足を踏み入れないために。
[[Rape.] No one should engage in the act of rape. This would be a violation of Article 177 of the Penal Code, outlining the crime of rape. However, it is allowed in a game. This game was developed with the hope that men and women in the world will have healthy and normal love lives. Please enjoy the dangerous desires that lurk in your heart to the fullest in the game world. Never bring these acts into the real world.]
Chapter 1
[Kotoe Saito, a 21-year-old office lady, was heading home along her usual path at a quick pace after working overtime and leaving late. She heard a rustling sound coming from the grass behind her. When she turned around, the face of a man with glazed eyes was close to Kotoe's. The man grabbed Kotoe's plump breasts. Kotoe shook off the man's hands and ran away at once.]
Chapter 2
[Kotoe ran desperately. Right now, she had no choice but to run. If that man grabs me, I don't know what he will do to me. Just thinking about it gave her goosebumps. The man flinched for a moment, but then he gave a wry grin and ran after her again. The sound of the man's footsteps gradually approached Kotoe... The man grabbed Kotoe's clothes and tore them off.]
Chapter 3
[The man looked for a moment at the clothes he had torn off. Kotoe took the opportunity to run to a crossroads. On the right was a shortcut that she always took, but she did not hesitate to turn left. The man's attempts to rape Kotoe were premeditated. He had been secretly following her for several days, and he knew the topography of the area and had placed signs at all the intersections that moved automatically at the flick of a switch.]
Chapter 4
[Kotoe's desperate attempts to escape were in vain, as she was stripped of her skirt, bra, and panties one after the other, until she was completely naked. "The next time I catch you will be the last," the man thought, his chest and loins heaving with anticipation. Kotoe could not run any faster. Gradually, the man's rough breathing came closer and closer. Finally, Kotoe was pushed down.]
Chapter 5
[The man quickly removed his clothes and climbed on top of the limp Kotoe. The loveless sex was painful for Kotoe. The man was desperate to move his hips in spite of her. "If I use my hips well and make her cum, it means that this sex is consensual," thought the man. Even if he was prosecuted then, he would not be charged with a crime.]"¹¹
The (Hi)story of Macadamia Soft
The specifics of development studio Macadamia Soft are difficult to pin down precisely, not only due to most resources being in Japanese, but also because early computer software was seen as ephemeral and inconsequential enough to not warrant extensive documentation. This section is my attempt to piece together the origins of Macadamia Soft and 177.
In 1980, a Sapporo-based computer shop was founded under the name 'Computer Land Hokkaido' (株式会社コンピューターランド北海道). As was typical of many developers in the infancy of the home computer revolution, 'Computer Land Hokkaido' was a store which sold computer software and hardware, with software development happening behind the counter as a secondary commercial endeavour. That department, under the name '7 Turkey,' released at least seventeen titles for the NEC PC-6000, PC-8000, and PC-8800 series of 8-bit home computers.¹² Around 1983, '7 Turkey' changed their name to dB-SOFT alongside the release of one of their most important games, Flappy.
dB-SOFT's first adult title, Don Juan, was released in March 1984. A 'game of debauchery,' it tells the story of a casanova trying to seduce a woman named Madoka while avoiding debt collectors.¹⁴ Madoka can be sweet-talked into sex with a highly difficult pickup line guessing game. Eventually presenting her 'flowers' to Don Juan and having sex with him, her buttocks undulate similarly to Hideo's in 177. Don Juan is of low quality in terms of its gameplay and graphical goods, but this anti-social function of holing yourself away with a woman paved the way for dB-SOFT's later eroge releases.
By 1985, as recalled by Yasuhiso Saito in a 2013 interview, 'Computer Land Hokkaido' was still operating as a general computer store in the front of their building.¹² Behind it were the administrative and sales departments, then a planning division, a Japanese-style work area (desk all together, no cubicles), and lastly a cordoned off area known as the 'secret development room.'¹⁵
That year saw the publication of Macadam: Futari Yogari [Foreplay for Two] under dB-SOFT's new Macadamia Soft imprint, created to further differentiate their adult works from their other titles as Don Juan had failed to do.¹⁶ Not all reputable software firms created such imprints (though Koei did create their own "Strawberry Porno Game Series" label, for one), but what cannot be understated is how pervasive eroge was for those firms. Browsing databases for the era's Japanese home computers, and retrospective review sites like erogereport, show countless erotic works developed and published by the likes of Hudson, Enix, Square, Nihon Falcom, Championsoft, ASCII, JAST, and Pony Canyon. It should come as little surprise that the team that brought us Flappy also made Don Juan and 177; their contemporaries who would create Dynasty Warriors released 1984's My Lolita, an erotic surgery simulator; the makers of Dragon Quest slapped their publisher label on a contest winner's Lolita Syndrome in 1983.¹⁷ There wasn't much shame in creating these works as a company as they satisfied a market niche and helped fill corporate coffers.
Macadam tasked the player with using vibrators, candles, their mouth, a feather, and a whip on four different women to bring them (and presumably the player) to orgasm. Each women presents herself in seven poses (stages), with their pleasure being increased by targeting their weak points (marked by stars) with their preferred implement. The astute reader might already be drawing parallels between Macadam's gameplay and Meet and Fuck flash games of eld. The comparison is apt given the strict progression of pleasure therein, though Macadam has actual challenge to it, particularly in the 'final action scenes' for each woman which involve rapid keyboard presses of increasing difficulty.¹⁸ This same style of quicktime gameplay reemerges in 177, just as the presence of candles and whips betray the softcore nature of Macadam like an ill portent of what was to come.
Macadam was allegedly a bit of a shock upon its release partly due to its novel gamification of foreplay, earning it the description of a 'touch game' (similar mechanics had actually been seen earlier in CSK/LOVECOM's 1983 卍 MANJI for Fujitsu FM-7 and NEC PC-88).¹⁹ By pure coincidence, Macadam released in close proximity to Mike Saenz's MacPlaymate, wherein players similarly seduce a woman with different 'toys.' Though MacPlaymate took off like wildfire, Macadam was relegated to a more quiet interest as it required players to have a mouse back when they weren't standard with home computers.
In 1986, with two moderate eroge successes under their belt, dB-SOFT's development team sought to create another title for their new label. One employee who specialised in adult software, described by Saito as an ojii-san "who used to be a taxi driver," came up with the proposal for 177, with Saito charged as main programmer and composer, and graphic design being headed by an unnamed female employee.²⁰ Also known as Shibata-san, this employee, in addition to the core game, came up with the idea for the 'good ending'. Throughout development and following 177's release, there was allegedly never an air of concern at dB-SOFT. As Saito puts it, "We didn't think we were making something bad. It just happened to become the topic at the diet. But of course none of us were able to tell that to our parents, and even now my parents don't know that I was involved in creating 177."²¹ That lack of worry towards their craft was purportedly due to the work culture of dB-SOFT, with employees working on a litany of software from word processors to games to erotic works. Their rotational schedules meant they regarded the work on 177 less as making a game about rape, and more as just programming, combining audio and visual parts with code. Takaki Kobayashi noted that "even female staff were debugging 177, and [they] would just do it without any particular emotion. [There weren't] embarrassed, and would say "Why can't I take her clothes?" ," this would-be condemned title was internally considered fundamentally no different from working on productivity software.²² "It was what they did, and even the package was created by a female member of staff in the advertising section," recalled Kobayashi, just as female art students had reportedly made the scenes in Macadam as well.²³
The 177 Controversy
On October 10, 1986, Councillor Shozo Kusakawa, member of the religious-conservative New Komeito party presented 177 to the Japanese National Diet to demonstrate that hurtful software should have its sales restricted. The lack of restrictions already in place, as he argued, had children effectively competing with one another for the purchase of eroge, to the point of children shoplifting them at times.²⁴ He asked the Diet to open the sealed plastic bags containing the software he had brought, and spoke firstly of 177. This was the first time eroge had been brought up in the National Diet. In Kusakawa's eyes, the title coupled with the packaging's claim that the rape experience is thrilling manifested a mockery of Japanese criminal law.²⁵ With computer use skyrocketing in the mid-1980s to the point where most Japanese households owned a computer of some form (including game consoles like the Famicom, SG-1000, PV-1000, and Sega Mark III), the concern was that this space was unregulated and, in part, unknowable.²⁶ Independent doujin releases could be made in the privacy of a home or behind the closed doors of a computer shop's backroom, copies could be made rapidly and cheaply, they could be sold with little to no scrutiny by those same computer shops, they could be illegally duplicated with basic equipment; when a title like 177 released, it could theoretically spread like wildfire, including publication in magazines catered to computer users, long before parents could even be aware of its presence or content.²⁷ Worse yet, children and teens seemed to have more interest in using computers for games (including eroge) rather than what they were being pushed for, education purposes.
Kusakawa's issue with 177 and eroge was not merely its content, but its context. His argument centred on the notion that, "while people can read about or look at illustrations of such situations, the context of rape transformed into a game was far more problematic."²⁸ The manual may have stated that not to bring the contents of the game into the real world, but that required one to actually read the manual (resplendent with complex kanji without accompanying furigana) if players even had the manual. If a player had a copied version, they might not have the supplementary materials. Further still, one would have to read the manual's text without seeing it as a sarcastic afterthought, taking its stress on leaving rape purely in the game at face value; given the lighthearted tone and argumentation of what is and is not rape, such a serious reading seems unlikely. Kusakawa and Shiokawa Masajuro, then Minister of Education, firmly stated that, though these works were protected due to freedom of expression, there still needed to be an onus on developers and retailers to refrain from promoting and selling such software titles to minors. Concrete steps were not taken at first when the Ministry of International Trade and Industry implored the software industry self-regulate its content. It would not be until the arrest of Miyazaki Tsutomu, the 'Otaku Murderer' in 1989 that the issue would re-emerge for debate.
The team at dB-SOFT never thought 177 would become a topic of national concern, particularly due to the anarchic state of software development in the early to mid 1980s. If anything, the ending was intended to ebb any consternation as Hideo was, in effect, 'taking responsibility' for what he had done by marrying Kotoe.²⁹ Even in the wake of the furor surrounding 177, dB-SOFT was largely unaffected. The national moral panic partly influenced their decision to pull out of the eroge space, though Konyamo Asama de Powerful Mahjong in 1988 would still bear light erotic elements. dB-SOFT was in fact pleased with the media coverage as it led to increased sales and notoriety afforded to them.³⁰
The controversy might itself seem minor and quaint compared to the United States' 1993-1994 congressional hearings on video games in the wake of DOOM, Mortal Kombat, and Night Trap. That moral panic saw tangible effects with the development of the ESRB and countless other rating systems self-imposed by publishers, but the same was not the case for Japan. Even when eroge was under scrutiny in the 1990s, little firm action was taken, and CERO wouldn't be established until 2002. The RapeLay controversy did not stymy the development of rape-centric eroge either, instead Japanese publishers chose to deny access to their works to those outside of Japan. What the 177 incident demonstrated was an intense reluctance on the part of the Japanese government to impose censorship outside of what laws were already in place. The moral panic asked parents to be mindful of what content their children were or might consume, rather than punish the industry or its intended customer base more broadly. The following section goes into why Japan wasn't as concerned with the production of rape-centric work as the Western world has been.
Commodified Sex & Rape (Culture)
Anyone with a passing knowledge of Japanese erotic works knows the abundance of rape, bestiality, scat, gore, incest, and sexualisation of minors therein. It would be irresponsible to say it applies to a majority of works, but the point is these aspects are hard to miss. As demonstrated near the beginning of this review, rape plays a prominent role in innumerable Japanese-language works, but rape hentai and eroge have entered the zeitgeist outside Japan as well; consider the popularity and awareness of the aforementioned Rance series by Alicesoft or ShindoL's Metamorphosis. These 'disgraceful' works, be they about sexual disgrace, sexual assault, or rape, certainly stand out as Nagayama Kaoru highlights in their history of eromanga, but 'pure disgrace' works like 177 are a relative rarity, at least in theory.³¹
To understand the cultural context that permitted then condemned works like 177, we need to look at how erotic content is consumed in the Japanese market, particularly before the advent of the Internet. As Yakuza 0 players are likely aware, vending machines did (and still do!) carry erotic works and sexual paraphernalia in a rather open context, as did (and do) konbini. These materials were not cordoned off in the same way they were in the western world; arousing items were everywhere to the point of their visibility effectively being an invisibility. While erotic photography was made to abide by strict guidelines vis-a-vis production, consumption, and promotion, ficticious works like eroge and eromanga were more openly tolerated and gazed upon.³² The partaking of eromanga was thereby common, with a market saturated and open enough for prices to plummet and to breed a culture of rapid, consistent purchase. With skyrocketing land prices in the 1980s and 1990s, most Japanese workers in cities lived in the suburbs with potentially astoundingly long commutes by train. Those commuters were easy to convert into consumers in no small part due to the liminality of transit; a commuter train car is not conducive to a maximally realised relaxation, nor productive labour in a pre-Internet landscape. It should come as little surprise then that those commuters accounted for sixty percent of all printed mass media sales around 177's release.³³ This mass consumption would thus suggest a commonplace standing of the typified male dominance, female victimisation, and sexual violence/assault in Japanese eromanga and erotic works more broadly. As cultural anthropologist Anne Allison argues, this generalised and universalised reading of pornographic material as (re)producing male dominance, chauvinism, violences, and privileges -- proferred by anti-pornography radical feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon during the feminist sex wars of the 1980s -- ignores and erases cultural contexts and that non-cishet-males "have found pleasure and empowerment in particular pornographies [...] which has the effect of moralizing against, rather than advocating, the sexual agency of women."³⁴
Erotic works consumed in this mode by no means account for the totality of these sales, but they operate in service of a similar goal as other printed mass media. Consider the plethora of Japanese print mass media works dealing with the relatively mundane: slice-of-life, romance, sports, drama, mahjong, comedy. These are often as popular as more outlandish, bolder, fantastical works. What journalist Shinichi Kusamori claims regarding those grounded light novels, manga, and magazines, is that a lack of time for substantive engagement in hobbies or socialising necessitates the consumption of this material. As a fan of mahjong unable to make time for actual play, Shinichi partook in the Baudrillarian simulacrum of mahjong, playing the game vicariously through manga. Counter to the notion that increasing popularity of mahjong manga would correlate with rising popularity of the physical game, Shinichi demonstrates that their relation is inverse, the simulacrum in effect supplanting the real.³⁵
We can extrapolate this to other genres with ease and validity. Japan's birthrate has been on the decline since the mid-1970s, with the rigors of capitalism demanding ever more time and energy be devoted to work rather than the home life. With less time to enjoy non-work life, slice-of-life manga fills that void. With less time to pursue romance, romance manga fills that void. Without time and energy to engage in sexual relations, eromanga brings satisfaction without the actual act. It stands to reason that this is not unique to print media either. Mahjong, sports, romance, and sex are all time and energy commitments that can be approximated through play. Eroge thus serves a similar purpose to eromanga and pornographic works as a whole, but bringing it into the confines of the home (or computer cafe) without the additional effort and labour of the act. Skip the foreplay, get to the point of release. This can be taken even further with the popularity of soaplands, image clubs, pink salons, deriheru prostitutions, nuru/sumata massage parlours, compensated dating, fashion health shops, peep shows, mistress banks, and salacious karaoke bars. Sex and romance have and had become commodities in and of themselves, a labour on the part of the 'product,' paid for with the spoils of labour by the purchaser, the fiduciary cost being offset by the lack of time investment.³⁶
Japanese commentators (as quoted by Allison) Kusamori, Takeru Kamewada, Tadao Sato, and Akira Nakano argue that sex fit the medium of manga better than anything else because the content depicted, usually of an 'offensive, secretive, dark, violent, evil, dirty, and lewd' nature reflects the attitudes in Japan towards sex as a whole.³⁷ It is not some unconscious, accidental by-product that was willed into existence. Japanese erotic works are, as visual culturalist Sharon Kinsella puts it, "the end product of a series of complicated conscious social exchanges and intelligent cultural management," a deliberate realisation and commodification of acts which might not be attainable due to time, anxiety, or social knowledge.³⁸ The hows and whys of sex didn't stay in eromanga either. One of the first erotic games ever, Koei's 1982 Night Life was marketed not just for its lewd imagery, but as an aid for sexual education for couples, including a period tracker and questionnaire to suggest sex positions. Night Life and erotic works should thus be understood not purely for personal sexual gratification, but for sexual knowledge and the promotion of intimacy as well. Not that that stops the consumer from seeking pleasures off the page or screen, however, as the phenomenon of chikan on public transit demonstrates.
It would be disingenuous to describe eromanga or eroge on the whole as elucidating and informative to the public, or as some wholesome if lascivious body of work. It is a fact that erotic works largely recreate the male gaze, the Freudian fetish, the Lacanian objet petit a. What is placed on the page or screen is a recreation and representation of sexual fantasy and desire, reinterpreted, reiterated, and reproduced by and for a culture. The female body is frequently transgressed upon, be it through molestation, harrassment, being gazed upon voyeuristically, rape, or sadomasochism. Whether these fictitious women are shown enjoying this transgression or not, they bear physical, mental, or spiritual marks of violence imposed upon them, as men see, possess, penetrate, and hurt them.³⁹ Should women demonstrate their own will and initiative, they are often put back in their place as subordinate to men, subservient to the gender order. And yet these works were and are available with astounding openness compared to the Western (particularly, American) compartmentalisation of sex into the realm of privacy.⁴⁰ In the mid-1980s there was more clamouring from the government and advocacy groups about depicting pubic realism than there was about showing rape, or the sexualisation of minors.⁴¹ By 1993, it was reported by the Youth Authority of Somucho that approximately 50% of male and 20% of female middle and high schoolers frequently read eromanga, yet the Liberal Democratic Party's 1991 introduced legislation to reduce sales of eromanga to minors floundered.⁴² Japan at the time had a Child Welfare Law which prohibited child prostitution, but no law against child pornography; even the consumption of pornographic materials by minors was more a moral concern than a legal one. Maybe it really is no big deal. Japan has one of the lowest rates of rape in the world after all; perhaps this openness and contextualisation of sex actually serves its purpose as a sort of release valve for frustration. Perhaps they know something we don't.
The (In)Visiblity of Rape in Japan
Allow me to problematise the notion of Japan's low rape rate. A reading of sex crime statistics done at face value shows a clear downward trend for already obscenely low numbers:
1972: 4,677 rape victims | 5,464 rape offenders | 3,139 sexual assaults
1975: 3,692 rape victims | 4,052 rape offenders | 2,841 sexual assaults
1980: 2,610 rape victims | 2,667 rape offenders | 2,825 sexual assaults
1985: 1,802 rape victims | 1,809 rape offenders | 2,645 sexual assaults
1990: 1,548 rape victims | 1,289 rape offenders | 2,730 sexual assaults
1995: 1,500 rape victims | 1,160 rape offenders | 3,644 sexual assaults⁴³
This downward trend from 1972-1985 seems concomitant with rising sales and production of sexually explicit material, including that which depicts rape. Similar trends were historically seen with the rise of sexually explicit materials in Denmark, Sweden, and West Germany following the legalisation of pornography therein in 1969, 1970, and 1973, respectively.⁴⁴ Sexologist Milton Diamond and cultural anthropologist Ayako Uchiyama emphasise that rape has always been taken seriously in Japan, and that inhibiting factors for the reporting of rape (and other sex crimes) have diminished, thus making this trend reflective of an actual decrease in rape cases.⁴⁵ Furthermore, the Japanese Ministry of Justice espouses its own rationale for Japan's low crime rate, citing, among others, a highly law-abiding citizenry, a web of informal social control in local communities, a highly cooperative spirits of the citizenry towards the criminal justice system, and efficient, just, and effective investigations and functions by criminal justice agencies.⁴⁶ If we work with the numbers for 1985, when Japan's population was 120.8 million, that means there was only one rape victim for every 67,000 citizens. In the United States that same year, 88,670 forcible rapes were reported, or one per 2,680 citizens. That Japan could have, per capita, only 4% the number of rapes as the United States should raise eyebrows, particularly when so much sexually explicit material caters to sexually violent proclivities.
It is difficult to outline the situation for rape victims in 1985, but we can look at the situation in other years to see how Japan's still low numbers do not add up. A 2000 survey by the Gender Quality Bureau founds 48.7% of women over the age of 20 had at least one experience of being groped.⁴⁷ Similar surveys in 2001, 2003, and 2004 found a wide range of between 28.4% and 70% of young women being victim to chikan incidents.⁴⁸ By all accounts, chikan constitutes sexual assault even according to the Japanese Criminal Code, but a mere two to three thousand chikan are arrested annually. Immediately we see a phenomenal discrepancy between the number of incidents, and the number of reports/arrests; chikan is such an epidemic in Japan that women only trains have been operating in Tokyo since 1912. Such settings were not exclusively to limit the incidents of sexual misconduct - there was belief that women were unsuited to crowded commuter trains - but it was informed by it nonetheless as their rise in prominence came after the newspaper Yomiuri reported on chikan incidents.⁴⁹
Sexual violence too has been tremendously underreported according to the Japanese government's own statistics. Around 2015, over 95% of such incidents were not reported to the police, in so small part due to the culture of shame around rape in Japan, typically placing blame on victims rather than their rapists.⁵⁰ In a period before 2017's reform of Article 177, rape was also difficult to prove and only constituted violent, force vaginal penetration by a man's penis. Oral or anal rape, or forced penetration with implements thus didn't constitute rape, making it more difficult to report and to see justice served. Returning to 177 and Genji Monogatari, there remains a popular misconception that rape is part of the courting act, that it is a flattery, that it is not rape if a woman 'enjoys' it; Kotoe was in effect seducing Hideo rather than Hideo enacting a sexual violence upon Kotoe. Even when rape victims do try to seek help, they are subjected to ridicule, trauma, and apathy. By way of example, when Carrie Jane Fisher, an Australian woman, was raped in 2002, she was brought back to the scene of her rape, questioned relentlessly by male officers, and denied the opportunity to go to a hospital as rape victims did not constitute urgent patients.⁵¹ Following her gangrape in 2000 Mika Kobayashi sought from and provided support to other rape victims, finding that only 1% of them had made a report to the police.⁵² When Shiori Ito was raped in 2015, the Japanese legal system undermined and ignored her, unable to get information on where to get a rape kit without going through a preliminary in-person interview. Police discouraged her from filing a report, she was told her career would be in jeopardy, she was told she didn't act like a victim, she was discouraged from pursuing legal action, she was forced to recreate the scene of her rape and the act of the rape itself while investigators photographed her.⁵³ In the wake of Ito's story, a 2017 survey by Japan's central government found one in thirteen women said they had been raped at some point in their lives.⁵⁴
Make it make sense, make it add up
It is my sincere hope that I have demonstrated that Japan's widespread plethora of rape-centric sexually explicit materials do not, in fact, represent a release valve for societal frustration, and do not explain a 'shockingly low rape rate.' The prevalence of 'disgraceful' works seems to have no direct causal effect on rape rates at all, and certainly not to the extent that advocates for Japan's pornographic leniency would have us believe.
It is currently 4:06PM, Saturday, November 26th, 2022. The sun's already going down. I feel hollow. Over 7,000 words and I don't have a conclusion. I thought my research would give me an answer to the prevalence of rape media in Japan that was more nuanced than that people enjoy it. It didn't.
I was paralysed by fear of what talking about 177 would entail. How can I talk about a culture that isn't my own and impose upon it my own morals and ideals? The answer is that I can't without coming across as aggressively neutral, and so I'll put aside that hang-up for a moment. This is off the cuff so forgive the brain dump.
I don't personally have a problem with rape playing a central role in works of fiction. So long as it is not overly glorified, I consider it akin to any other fetishistic representation of depravity in explicit material. I don't think it should be readily available with the same openness as, say, PornHub's frontpage content, but prohibiting its circulation and creation only breeds an atmosphere of want. We want what we can't have. When I read that 177 had caused a controversy, I thought it would be substantial with wide-reaching effects towards an ethical betterment of Japanese society. Rape itself is bad. Rape is deplorable. Rape should not be enacted on anyone. The carefree attitude the Japanese government and Japanese society had (and largely still have) towards rape and rape victims is appalling. Not only does it perpetuate the same patriarchal notions of male dominance over women, but it reinforces the stifling of progress for and by anyone who is not a cishet-male. Call me an SJW if you'd like, if it means not being on the side which is defending rape, I'll wear the label with pride. It isn't that I want Japan to be more like the Western world. Far from it. It is that I want women, queer people, and minorities to be afforded the same opportunities, the same privileges as men have. It is that I don't want my heart to ache when I read some unrepentant weeaboo defending rape or lolicon or guro as evidence of an 'enlightened culture'. What I want more than anything is for people to consider the cultural contexts of that which they consume. I want people to understand this being considered okay, that not looking at these works critically is itself abhorrent and ignorant. I want people to be able to live their lives without fear.
I want there to not be hurt in this world.
Is that so wrong?
1. "List of controversial video games," Wikimedia Foundation, last modified November 14, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_controversial_video_games.
2. Ibid.
3. "Tags & traits," The Visual Novel Database, accessed November 26, 2022, https://vndb.org/d10.
4. Ibid.
5. Kaori Shoji and International Herald Tribune, “Setouchi Jakucho Takes Japan Back 1,000 Years,” The New York Times (The New York Times, January 23, 1999), https://www.nytimes.com/1999/01/23/style/IHT-setouchi-jakucho-takes-japan-back-1000-years.html.
6. Royall Tyler, "Marriage, Rank and Rape in The Tale of Genji," Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context 7 (March 2002): note 2.
7. Macadamia Soft, 177 Manual, 1986, https://archive.org/details/177_manual/page/n6/mode/2up.
8. Ibid.
9. Japan, Penal Code: Act No. 45 of April 24, 1907, Tokyo: Ministry of Justice, https://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/en/laws/view/1960.
10. Only after doing this transcription did I find someone else had already done so here: https://g16.hatenablog.com/entry/2021/08/03/095735.
11. Macadamia Soft, 177 Manual.
12. See PC-6001活用研究 プログラミングの基礎からマシン語の応用まで (Dempa Shimbunsha: 1983).
13. John Szczepaniak, The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers (United States: Hardcore Gaming 101, 2014).
14. "『ドンファン』 概要," エロゲ調査報告書, accessed November 26, 2022, http://erogereport.blog.jp/archives/1301698.html.
15. Szczepaniak, The Untold History.
16. Ibid, note 282; "『マカダム』 概要, エロゲ調査報告書, accessed November 26, 2022, http://erogereport.blog.jp/archives/1301712.html.
17. Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon and Martin Picard, “Beyond Rapelay: Self-Regulation in the Japanese Erotic Video Game Industry,” in Rated M for Mature: Sex and Sexuality in Video Games, ed. Matthew Wysocki and Evan W. Lauteria (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), 30-31.
18. "『マカダム』 概要," エロゲ調査報告書.
19. Ibid.; "Macadam 二人愛戯 (マカダム)," Macadam 二人愛戯 (マカダム) - 1985年発売 (美少女ゲーム マイヒストリー, January 11, 2022), https://bishojoghist.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-271.html; "『卍(まんじ)』 概要," エロゲ調査報告書, accessed November 26, 2022, http://erogereport.blog.jp/archives/1301696.html.
20. Szczepaniak, The Untold History.
21. Ibid.
22. Ibid.
23. Ibid.
24. Japan National Diet, "First Meeting of the 107th Members' Committee of the Balance of Account of the National Diet [第107回国会 衆議院 決算委員会 第1号 昭和61年10月21日]," Kokkaikaigisen kesna shisutemu, October 21, 1986, transcript, no. 169.
25. Ibid., no. 169-171.
26. Pelletier-Gagnon and Picard, "Beyond Rapelay," 32.
27. Japan National Diet, "First Meeting," no. 173.
28. Pelletier-Gagnon and Picard, "Beyond Rapelay," 32.
29. Szczepaniak, The Untold History.
30. Ibid.
31. Kaoru Nagayama, Patrick W. Galbraith, and Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto, Erotic Comics in Japan: An Introduction to Eromanga (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021), 169.
32. Anne Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics,and Censorship in Japan (S.l.: Routledge, 2019), 54.
33. See Lawrence Ward Beer, Freedom of Expression in Japan: A Study in Comparative Law, Politics, and Society (Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd., 1984).
34. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 54-55.
35. Kusamori Shinichi, "Mizu no Ranpi," Juristo 25: 235.
36. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 59. See Nagisa Oshima, "Bunka.Sei.Seiji," Juristo 5401: 39.
37. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 59.
38. Sharon Kinsella, Adult Manga: Culture and Power in Contemporary Japanese Society (Routledge, 2015), 14.
39. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 62, 64-65.
40. Anonymous, "Racy comics a labeled lot now in Japan," Sunday Honolulu Star Bulletin and Advertiser, March 31, 1991, E-7.
41. Allison, Permitted and Prohibited Desires, 150-151.
42. Anonymous, "Racy comics," E-7; Milton Diamond and Ayako Uchiyama, “Pornography, Rape, and Sex Crimes in Japan,” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 22, no. 1 (1999): pp. 1-22, https://doi.org/10.1016/s0160-2527(98)00035-1, 6-7.
43. Diamond and Uchiyama, "Pornography, Rape, and Sex Crimes in Japan," 9.
44. Ibid., 11.
45. Ibid., 12.
46. Minoru Shikita, Crime and Criminal Policy in Japan from 1926 to 1988: Analysis and Evaluation of the Showa Era (Tokyo: Japan Criminal Policy Society, 1990), 353.
47. Gender Equality Bureau, Danjo-kan ni okeru boryoku ni kansuru chosa, 2000.
48. Mitsutoshi Horii and Adam Burgess, “Constructing Sexual Risk: ‘Chikan’, Collapsing Male Authority and the Emergence of Women-Only Train Carriages in Japan,” Health, Risk & Society 14, no. 1 (2012): pp. 41-55, https://doi.org/10.1080/13698575.2011.641523, 42.
49. Ibid.
50. Teppei Kasai, “Japan's Not-so-Secret Shame,” Sexual Assault | Al Jazeera (Al Jazeera, July 29, 2018), https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2018/7/29/japans-not-so-secret-shame/.
51. Karryn Cartelle, "Victims finally learning to speak out against Japan's outdated rape laws," (Japan Today, April 21, 2008), https://japantoday.com/category/features/lifestyle/victims-are-finally-learning-to-speak-out-against-japan%25e2%2580%2599s-outdated-rape-laws.
52. National Police Agency, "Notes of crime victims," Fiscal Year 2009: Measures for Crime Victims, 26-28.
53. Julia Hollingsworth and Junko Ogura, “Japanese #MeToo Symbol Wins Civil Court Case Two Years after She Accused a Prominent Journalist of Raping Her | CNN Business,” CNN (Cable News Network, December 18, 2019), https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/18/media/japan-shiori-ito-legal-intl-hnk/index.html.
54. Ibid.

You writhe beneath my skin
Born of ailing flesh and love
My thoughts, consumed by your sorrow.
Waking nightmares plague me, endless
A slow rotting miracle plucked from time,
You are all that I love, everything I fear
And all the entanglement festering between
For want of fair chances,
I stared into your abyss
As I've done for many before
And in return, you tore out my heart,
Impaled my eyes with your scarlet terror
Invaded the privacy of solitude,
And plunged your iron claws into my very soul.
You interrupt my nights.
My days, occupied by you
You are inescapable, yet...
For all your malignance,
Burrowed under flesh
and boiling blood,
I refuse
to let
Signalis bores its hooks into my skull, carving grooves into my brain where my psychoses pool. There’s something to be said for its reliance on the narrative language of anime and survival horror, but whether it’s derivative or iterative is a moot point. These beats that ring familiar are sores that Signalis splits open with a sadist’s pleasure. I could sit here and rattle off references, the obvious calls that permeate the body of the work, but where does that get you? Where does that get any of us, other than a cognizant “if you know you know” stranglehold? The language of Signalis isn’t concerned with simply being “Space Resident Evil”, or “Utena by way of Evangelion”. Much like the doomed Penrose, the referential nature of Signalis is, in itself, a repetitious time loop. It is not a work of references, it is its references.
I bolt awake, and Signalis presses on the nerve center that kick started my love of horror. 2008, in front of a bombed-out Gamecube, Jill Valentine tinkers though a puzzle box called the Spenser mansion. 2022, I bumblefuck through the escape room that is Sierpinski S-23.
Another restless night, another stab into my brain. 2012, my first pangs of personalized gender misanthropy at the hands of Asuka Langley Sohryu and Rei Ayanami, the brilliant shine of sapphic love reflected by Utena and Anthy. A decade later, the hate has faded and its place remains remorse for the past, regret for the now as the signature flashes of light and text flicker, as LSTR-512 and Ariane waltz in their final moments.

Again, interrupted sleep prevails. October, last year, the clattering of keys clicked out a cacophonous rhythm as I parse out a write up for Illbleed, a game that set ablaze the dying candle that was my love for gaming, for horror as a whole. Now, after a global rotation, I return to Signalis in the same spot, a love for writing, for fear, for gaming, for love itself, rekindled after a seasonal stagnation.
To try to put definitive words to Signalis seems contradictory to the way the game is delivered, indirect and symbolic in a way anathemic to thematic deduction. In it, I saw the spark of life relight my passion, and I enacted swift death to the tyrant, critical analysis. I could brandish lofty terms, of this having flawless gameplay, immersive writing, a memorable soundtrack, or any other terms I would gladly throw around about games that I will forget in a week. It’s not perfect. I don’t want it to be perfect: It’s for me. I don’t need it to be anything more than what it means to me, and what it means is that I think I love games again.
I awaken once more from broken sleep.
It’s 2014. I’m sitting with someone who, at the time, was my closest friend. We’re huddled around a laptop deep into the night, burning through works that would come to reflect what matters to me in games.
It’s tonight. I’m on call with someone I love. I’m huddled over a keyboard, burning through a write-up of a work that redefines what matters to me in games.
Play Signalis. You probably won’t get what I got out of it. That’s a good thing; it means there’s going to be something else out there that gives you the same feelings that this gave me. For now, I can push you to try a game I view as my personal perfection.

I'm the king and queen of puzzle bobble, because I am a member of the Fuecoco Federation of Pokemon Trainers. Join today and become a Puzzle Bobble expert that will leave all of your friends fuming due to your flames of injustice!
We want you!! (to have fun!!) and win BL tournaments!!

Following the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal of 1998, Dallas-based NVision Design emailed their first Macromedia Flash project, Good Willie Hunting to 200 people on April Fools Day of that year. The small 1.4MB file garnered 5,000,000 downloads and 300,000 site visits by October, quickly cementing NVision Design as self-proclaimed proprietors of "aggressive design for the internet and traditional mediums."¹ As an early advergame, Good Willie Hunting was plastered with the creators' creed, website, and contact information, and the company quickly found themselves contracted the likes of AT&T, Miller Brewing Company, Texas Instruments, and Lucent Technologies.² Subsequent releases Good Willie Speaks, Y2K - The Game, and Frogapult kept the clients rolling in and the site views climbing. The December 1999 release of Elf Bowling would be where NVision Design truly exploded in popularity however.
It's critical to know that at this time in the Internet's relative infancy, .exe files (among other filetypes) could not be removed from email strings, hence the popularity of these small programs when they were sent en masse. Their proliferation made them a ripe target for fictitious claims of them being viruses. Around December 8, 1999, email strings and usenet posts on the alt.comp.virus newsgroup stated that Frogapult, Y2K - The Game, and Elf Bowling contained "a delayed virus attached to them that will be activated on Christmas day and will wipe out your system. Let everyone know of this."³ A similar hoax email proffered:
"If you have received Elf Bowling or Frogapult games that have been circulating the Internet, or know anyone who has, they must be deleted before Christmas day. They contain viruses that are set to go off on Christmas day and will delete your hard drive. If you don't believe me, just wait and see. Our IT guy here just tested it on a non-networked PC and everything was wiped out. Make certain that every copy is off of your hard drive or any servers. Please spread the world. These games are very detrimental to your computing life."⁴
This was quickly disproved by Symantec's AntiVirus Research Center, but that didn't stop the name of NVision Design's titles from spreading even further. If anything, the notion of such innocuous games - particularly Elf Bowling - harbouring malicious intent made them a great curiousity, particularly when they were demonstrated to be safe.⁵ It isn't as if the claims were entirely spurious, however, as email-distributed viruses had wreaked havoc previously in cases like 'Melissa,' and NVision's games in particular accessed their servers without express permission from the user (only to upload high scores and perform very basic analytics, but the point remained).⁶ Regardless of its safety, the risk in opening a random program sent to you without your consent that would unknowingly make an outside connection was immense.⁷ As such, when the virus claims turned out to be a hoax, the media looped back around on NVision Design by labelling games like Elf Bowling as potential spyware, a claim which was adamantly fought against by the company as per their official correspondence.⁸ Even today, Elf Bowling is labelled as spyware on TechTarget's site in a definition article updated in July 2021.⁹
Ultimately, Elf Bowling was and is simply a juvenile time waster which exploded in popularity to the point where the mainstream media audaciously claimed by 2001 that it was bigger than Quake or Doom.¹⁰ The gameplay couldn't be simpler and everything about it is so cheesy that it's almost charming. It received an astonishing number of sequels, the majority of which weren't bowling at all. Elf Bowling 2: Elves in Paradise is a shuffleboard game. Elf Bowling 3 is a target shooting game. Super Elf Bowling returned to the series' roots only for Elf Bowling: Bocce Style to once again veer off course. Elf Bowling 6: Air Biscuits bears similarities to Elf Bowling in that elves are to be knocked down, but this time these pin-replacements have another elf thrown at them rather than a bowling ball.
With Elf Bowling 7 1/7: The Last Insult, 'true' bowling gameplay returns, this time with powerups and powerdowns and a method of control that has you spinning your ball as it rolls down the lane, a la HyperEntertainment's HyperBowl Plus! or Skunk Studios' Gutterball 2. And you know what, it ain't half-bad! The items are largely irrelevant since you can either avoid them or counter them with your own powerups, but it plays fine. And when you get a strike the game slows down to comical levels as it shows the elves launching like you're playing BeamNG.drive and want to relish those softbody physics. I'll have to save the remainder of my paltry 43 remaining minutes in the trial version for when I want to play some more of this, which will probably be never.
[Recommended by Nightblade as part of this list]
1. "NStorm Takes Internet By Storm," NStorm, archived October 18, 2000, http://www.nstorm.com/whatis/willie.html. Archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20001018131151/http://www.nstorm.com/whatis/willie.html.
2. Abby Miller, “NVision Makes a Game of Better Marketing,” DMNews, November 7, 2007, https://www.dmnews.com/nvision-makes-a-game-of-better-marketing/.
3. Motoaki Yamamura, "FROGAPULT, ELFBOWL, Y2KGAME Virus Hoax," Symantec AntiVirus Research Center, Symantec, publication date December 8, 1999, archived February 29, 2000, http://symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/y2kgame.hoax.html; Archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20000229230522/http://symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/y2kgame.hoax.html; “Frogapault Warning (Hoax?),” Google Groups (Google, December 9, 1999), https://groups.google.com/g/alt.comp.virus/c/CLa9zFjBMEA/m/Lu1RDeqcOGMJ. “Elfbowling Virus,” Google Groups (Google, December 9, 1999), https://groups.google.com/g/alt.comp.virus/c/Rwwlfwu5hPM/m/paYcVzz04GsJ; “Possible Trojan in Elf-Bowling Game,” Google Groups (Google, December 7, 1999), https://groups.google.com/g/alt.comp.virus/c/Qmcqg8Co6ME/m/goVFGgq3Y7kJ; Evan Hansen, “Vectrix.com Acquires Creator of Frogapult,” CNET (CNET, January 3, 2002), https://www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/vectrix-com-acquires-creator-of-frogapult/.
4. “Elf Bowling Virus.html,” Scambusters, November 25, 2020, https://scambusters.org/elf-bowling.html, quoted in H. Thomas Milhorn, Cybercrime: How to Avoid Becoming a Victim, (Boca Raton, FL: Universal Publishers, 2007), 284.
5. Fw: FROGAPULT, ELFBOWL, Y2KGAME virus hoax, accessed September 11, 2022, http://www.enron-mail.com/email/bass-e/all_documents/Fw_FROGAPULT_ELFBOWL_Y2KGAME_Virus_Hoax_1.html.
6. Dan Briody, CNN (Cable News Network, March 29, 1999), http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9903/29/melissa.idg/.
7. Ernie Smith, “Elf Bowling Game History: It's Not a Virus. It's Not Spyware.,” Tedium, December 21, 2017, https://tedium.co/2017/12/21/elf-bowling-history/; Heidi Prescott, “Truths: No Santa's Elf Virus, No Free Stuff,” South Bend Tribune, December 13, 1999, sec. Personal Technology, p. 16.
8. Ernie Smith, “Elf Bowling Game History: It's Not a Virus. It's Not Spyware.,” Tedium, December 21, 2017, https://tedium.co/2017/12/21/elf-bowling-history/; “Elf Bowling,” Elf bowling (NVision Design, November 1999), https://www.geocities.ws/Colosseum/Court/7685/elfbowl.html#privacyconcern; David Wilson, “E-Mailed Game Secretly Connects Private PCs to Firm: Bowling Santa Knocks down User's Privacy,” The Ottawa Citizen, December 27, 1999, sec. High Tech Report, p. B5.
9. Ernie Smith, “Elf Bowling Game History: It's Not a Virus. It's Not Spyware.,” Tedium, December 21, 2017, https://tedium.co/2017/12/21/elf-bowling-history/; Alexander S. Gillis, Kate Brush, and Taina Teravainen, “What Is Spyware?,” SearchSecurity (TechTarget, July 13, 2021), https://www.techtarget.com/searchsecurity/definition/spyware.
10. itzaferg, “Elf Bowling Fox News Interviews Elf Bowling Creators,” YouTube (YouTube, August 3, 2014), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD3nBXwPjRg; LGR, "Elf Bowling: "Bigger Than Quake or Doom!,"" YouTube (YouTube, December 5, 2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28TyIsCwkQo.

not morally egregious per se but rather a depressing culmination of a decade's worth of design trickery and (d)evolving cultural/social tastes and otherwise exists as insipid twitchcore autoplaying bullshit that should come with a contractual agreement binding its devotees to never speak prejudicially about mobile games or musou ever again lest they face legally enforced financial restitution. just play nex machina man. or watch NFL. been a fun season for that. fuck the review man let's talk sports in the comments

The phantom, exterior like fish eggs,
interior like suicide wrist-rags,
I could exercise you, this could be your phys-ed,
cheat on your man homie AGHHH I tried to sneak through the door, man! Can't make it, can't make it, the shit's stuck! Outta my way son! DOOR STUCK! DOOR STUCK! Please! I beg you! We're dead! You're a g-g-genuine dick sucker! boom

If there was any game ever that bamboozled me to the point of craziness it's Slam City. Many attempts were made by me to leave dents into the street ballers in this game to pretty much no avail. Battletoads? Piece of cake. Atlantis no Nazo on Famicom? Potentially maybe? Slam City with Scottie Pippen? Can't fuckin' do it, goddamn impossible.
This is because this is an FMV 1-on-1 basketball game that basically boils down to you having to analyze the live-action footage to the point of instantly recognizing what clip is being played, and responding with the quickness of Barry Allen to do what is required to make it past your opponent's guard or to have a smidgen of a chance to stop their onslaught upon your poor backboard. This is made worse by the incredibly uneven difficulty of your four main opponents you choose via which of the four discs you put into your Sega CD. Fingers and Mad Dog actually almost feel well-suited to what the game is trying to accomplish with it's "tell-based" gameplay as Fingers actually visibly goes to block in directions to tell when to get past him, and Mad Dog is constantly speaking to at least clue you in better. Meanwhile Smash doesn't like talking and barely makes visible tells, and Juice may as well be unbeatable in the standoff due to never leaving her stance and staying as silent as the night.
Your only hopes are turning on the "training" option and looking up the guide on GameFAQs that actually tells you what to do which the training option neglects on, as it only shows "break" on either the left or right side of the screen with little context. On offense it actually helps a bit once you know that you need to actually be on the very left or right sides of the screen to make your way past the opposing player, but on defense it may as well barely exist as you'll still find your opposition sometimes just instantly blowing past you with zero warning like they're Sonic the Hedgehog. You also get zero "respect" (points) while you're on "training", meaning it's actually impossible to play against Scottie Pippen without becoming an undisputed master at playing Where's Waldo with the details in Slam City with Scottie Pippen. At the very least you could potentially just play against Fingers and Mad Dog constantly, but then it exposes how horrifically repetitive it all is.
The term "trial and error" gets thrown around a ton, but Slam City may as well be the epitome of that, because the game is basically unbeatable without any knowledge on it at all, and mandates needing to play it for god knows how long and memorize every possible clip and when exactly to respond accordingly unless you're some kind of omniscient superbeing with the luck and timing of Buddha. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out is a tell-based game, but you can still potentially beat it without knowing where all the star punch opportunities are, and if it took lessons from Slam City then the tells would be shit like noticing when a pixel is slightly off-center from Super Macho Man's sprite just to land one punch on him.
It's a shame too, because after about the seventh time I attempted to beat any of the opponents after finally breaking my own stubbornness and busting a guide open I kinda had some fun with it once I started actually scoring points due to the corny dialogue from people at courtside, and John Baker's music is pretty cool even if it's a step down from his ToeJam & Earl work. I still believe it's the grand poobah of exemplifying why FMV was such a shitty trend during this time, but damn is it still not charming as all hell.

if games like fortnite are increasingly an elaborate digital storefront that incidentally happen to have a game attached, mainstream indie games are increasingly elaborate layers of progression system that incidentally have a game attached.