Failure to Communicate, George Kamitani Edition

Everyone’s seen an apology that isn’t actually an apology.  “I’m sorry you were offended.” is usually what it boils down to, with varying levels of smoke and mirrors applied in an attempt to hide how completely empty the message is of any actual contrition.  I’m going to cut Vanillaware’s George Kamitani some slack on this one, due to him not being a native English speaker, but this week’s Facebook debacle and subsequent explanatory letter make “I’m sorry you were offended.” seem downright genuine.

The irrelevant part of this event is the thing that sparked it.  Kotaku posted an article on the Sorceress design in Dragon’s Crown, commenting on how ridiculously oversexualized it is.  Just to be clear, while there’s a debate to be had on “women as walking pair of tits with weapon”, this isn’t relevant to what happens next.  Where the instigation for the response came from, whether it was warrented or not, and whether it was rude and disrespectful to the artist isn’t what this is about.  The issue at hand is the response.

Kamitani

Yep, a gay joke.  Ha ha!  You don’t like women so here’s some big burly dwarves to feast your eyes on!  *sigh*

So, after much internet foofaraw, two apologies were made.  The first was fairly short- “While the picture of the dwarfs was meant to be a lighthearted joke, after it became bigger than I thought it would, I reflected on the rashness of it. I am sorry. I have no hard feelings about the article.”

Ok, so there’s an apology in there, but saying mean things to Jason Schreier wasn’t the problem.  Nobody was rushing to his defense, because he’s a big boy who can handle himself.  What people were unhappy about was the gay joke, and the casual, low-key homophobia that goes with it.  Still, there’s a second and much bigger letter loaded with more details that was sent out yesterday-

Thank you for contacting me; I am George Kamitani from Vanillaware.

I’ll go into detail about the reasons behind some of Dragon’s Crown design concepts.

I believe that the basic fantasy motifs seen in Dungeons & Dragons and the work of J.R.R. Tolkien have a style that is very attractive, and I chose to use some orthodox ones in my basic designs. However, if I left those designs as is, they won’t stand out amongst the many fantasy designs already in the video game/comic/movie/etc. space. Because of that, I decided to exaggerate all of my character designs in a cartoonish fashion.

I exaggerated the silhouettes of all the masculine features in the male characters, the feminine features in female characters, and the monster-like features in the monsters from many different angles until each had a unique feel to them. I apologize to those who were made uncomfortable by the art’s appearance, and did not see the same light-hearted fantasy in my designs.

I don’t harbor any ill-will to Jason Schreier for the article he originally posted about the Sorceress or his follow-up. Although it may be negative feedback, I am very thankful for having one of our titles being covered. I do understand what Jason and the rest of the discussions on the internet are saying for the most part. I am not sure if I can implement the critiques from him and others around the internet into my future artistic creations, but I will definitely keep in mind that these opinions are out there and affect people on a personal level. I feel that any form of media content faces death when it doesn’t receive attention at all. So, be it criticism or support, I am truly thankful for the people talking about Dragon’s Crown and the people discovering Vanillaware for the first time.

In regards to the Dwarf image I posted on my Facebook page: This image was never intended to attack Jason. Originally, it was a promotional image that I created for my fan base in Japan, which I posted to the official Vanillaware Twitter account earlier.

We receive many requests from companies to create publicity illustrations for the game, but we never received any requests for the Dwarf. Also, as the game’s street date nears, most retail shops start requesting exclusive art for their retailer-exclusive bonus items. In Japan, these illustration requests can even be as specific as something like female characters in swimwear. In these requests as well, the Dwarf was nowhere to be seen.

So, I decided to unofficially draw a sweaty Dwarf in a bathing suit, with a bit of cynicism towards those retailer requests. I drew 3 of them to show that there are character color variations available.

However, this image is something I created on my own, and will not see the light of day in any publication. I felt it was a shame to just throw it out, and thought I’d just post it on my own Facebook. That’s when I remembered Jason’s article and thought that I’d post it as a little joke with a comment. I used an automated translator to try and make a lighthearted joke in English, but clearly that wasn’t the case. I was very surprised to see the crazy aftermath.

It’s okay if it was just me who was criticized, but it is not my intention to cause problems for Dragon’s Crown publisher (ATLUS) and all the other people who are involved in this project. From now on, I will limit myself about transmitting something personal out in the public.

Also, it would be very appreciated if you could please contact Index Digital Media, Inc. if you plan to make anything related to this matter, including this e-mail, into an article.

Lastly, please tell Jason that I am sorry for causing him trouble, and also to please don’t let my actions cause him to shy away from Vanillaware products…

Good bye, and thank you.

So no, again, point completely missed.  Joy.

DragonsCrown

The issue at hand isn’t the art style of George Kamitani.  Yes, there’s a fair bit of pandering in the female designs, and both the Amazon and Sorceress have a disturbing lack of nipples on their fully exposed breasts, but whatever.  (Also, the Amazon would have been a far more interesting character with a more grizzled, less china-doll face.  Again, off on a tangent.)  The thing that upset people was casually tossing off a gay joke.

The reason this matters is explained far better elsewhere, by people who have had to put up with a prejudice I’ll never experience.  My personal response to Kamitani’s initial post was to roll my eyes, think “Oh, you idiot!” and move on.  It’s the apologies that have made me realize nobody’s learned anything.  The catalyst for the argument may have been a disparaging article about Kamitani’s art style, but the second he made the Facebook post the conversation changed.  “Ha ha, you’re gay!” isn’t acceptable any more, and that’s what people were responding to.  The fact that this was never addressed in either the quick apology or the much lengthier letter makes it apparent that Kamitani doesn’t understand what it is he did wrong.  The culture has changed, this isn’t a grade school playground, and calling someone gay (even in an oblique manner) just alienates your audience.