魂.jpgNagata Yasuhiro is one of the most compelling gaming writers in Japan. In Japanese publishing, it can sometimes be said that perhaps expressing frank and controversial opinions is not always something readers are looking for. Instead, much of Japanese game writing beyond reviews and previews can be widely described as 1,001 ways to express how wonderful games and gaming is. I've been reading Nagata and other writers' work compiled into paperbacks recently, and its been very insightful and great fun. His most popular writing is perhaps to be found in his Final Fantasy XI Play Diary: A Chronicle of our Stay in Vanadiel (Japanese language link), which is where I first noticed him.

Nagata also writes a column for Weekly Famitsu called the Cry of the Soul, or Tamashii no Sakebi, which in 2005 was published as a Japanese-language book, collecting three years of the column and 40 more "lost' columns. Usually, each column is a brief affair that flirts with an anecdote about a random gamer. The reason it's called the Cry of the Soul is because beside every column is a low-key profile, with one particular stand-out quote highlighted that somebody said in the article. These quotes are supposed to show insight to what we feel and think when we play games. The humorous style of the articles is further expounded by the way the column juxtaposes an odd, crime report-like anonymity with quite candid details. Two such entries I've read recently demand re-telling.

Every article begins with an explanation of the speaker "Soul Cry", in curt terms, such as this one: "Speaker: a friend's wife." The column refers to the writer as the "The Submitter," as if the column is fielding formal opinions on the prime minister or something. At the time of the writing of this column, The Submitter was over in the vicinity of a friend's house playing Samurai Warriors. Witnesses claim their friendship was born out of a love for gaming, even after this friend was found to be in possession of a wife. His wife doesn't denies usual game contact, but today is different, because she'd like to play.

According to the column, the two men immediately dropped what they're doing and let her play. Nagata then describes how painstakingly they introduce her to the joys and greatness of the game. He admits their careful and thorough recommendations, as if echoing the critique of a picky food critic at a three-star restaurant: "This one is hard to control, but strong; that character has lots of speed; this guy has lots of useful skills; I recommend this one; if it were me, I'd choose this one..." Nagata says that, after all this advice, as she considered everything carefully, you could see the information rolling around in the wife's mind. With all that, she shouts out this column's Soul Cry, "I want to be a ladies' man!" And then she picks Yukimura Saneda.

In the second column, the Speaker is K's Little Sister. The Submitter says K and her sister were found to be enjoying games together for many years. Their actions included trading games, talking about strategies and enjoying them to the fullest. Reports indicate that the two enjoyed RPGs the most, and their dream was to some day produce their own RPG. One day, to help accomplish their dream, K purchases RPG School Advance, a GBA RPG creator game. "...the limitless field of their game design ideas spread before her. What type of game? The theme? The world design? The background of the story? The main character's personality? The scene where the heroine enters?" Immediately, the two entered into passionate discussion and suggestions of what they should do. Suddenly, K's little sister felt the Cry of the Soul, "A Homo RPG! And all the characters should be men!" The Submitter notes that the little sister was completely seriously giving her honest opinion of what they should create.

It goes without saying that I will probably read this book from cover to cover.