['Chewing Pixels' is a semi-regular GameSetWatch-exclusive column written by British games journalist and Flash game producer, Simon Parkin. Today, a fictionalized account of a real-life tragedy from the heart of Akihabara.]


In the fifth minute before he is hit by a rental truck, Kenshin Kitano allows himself a slight nod at the shop assistant’s near-hysterical greeting. Eyes down, he makes his way to the back of the electronics store, around the stack of dusty peripherals for forgotten music games and idiot train simulators.

In the corner there's a set of crumpled, tragic dance mats, all the bright plastic detritus of a long gone Japanese videogame boom.

In the fourth minute before he is hit by a rental truck, Kenshin Kitano makes a beeline for the bargain tray, entertainment platter of the student gamer. Clack, clack, clack, he flicks the cases forward in quick succession, making staccato snap decisions as their titles flit past his eyes: no, no, maybe.

Cracked jewel cases holding broken games: the forgotten work of long-gone studios. If their creators could have seen their creations then as they are now, would they have persevered in making them, he wonders? Probably. Everything and everyone ends up on a bargain tray one day or another, right? Doesn't stop us.

In the third minute before he is hit by a rental truck, Kenshin Kitano’s fingers pause on the second to last jewel case. Tales of Destiny: a middling RPG stacked behind a misfiled two-year-old Idol CD. 200 Yen? With the sidequests he can probably draw it out to sixty hours playtime which works out at, er, nearly 20 minutes per Yen. That has to be the cheapest escapism in all of Tokyo, he congratulates himself.

In the second minute before he is hit by a rental truck, Kenshin Kitano turns the game in his hands, studying its artwork, tracing the roll of its logo’s serif with his eyes, drawing out the foreplay of the purchase as long as possible.

The boy on the front cover is a pair of blue eyes framed by a blaze of chick yellow hair, a close-up interrupted only by the steel of a long sword held against his cheek. It’s a passable cover, Kenshin Kitano thinks to himself, with the dismissive sneer of an adolescent enthusiast, before turning on his heel and taking his purchase to the counter.

The minute before he is hit by a rental truck, Kenshin Kitano steps out into the Akihabara air, game in his rucksack, a beat of small excitement in his breast. It is a gas mark 3 sort of lunchtime, the June heat intensified by loud fumes and hot noise.

It is Sunday and streams of pedestrians flow against each other along the pavements, wafted along by the barked chatter of aspiration-less middle aged salesmen holding blue megaphones against their lips. Here and there gaijin twirl on the spot, nose in map, salt flecks in a sea of pepper, searching out some obscure hobbyist store or other, no doubt. Too hot. Too many people. Time to go home.

The moment before he is hit by a rented truck, Kenshin Kitano steps out onto the crossing. Five paces in there’s he's hit by a roar, an incredible noise. He looks up into the high-speed, wild but deliberate eyes of its driver. The man is seven years older than he, the truck seven times his size and both are aiming at him. Time slows to one frame a second. Kenshin Kitano feels no thing.

Kenshin Kitano is hit by a rental truck.

In the seventh year before Kenshin Kitano is hit by a rental truck, its driver, Tomohiro Katō, sits at the back of class doodling on the inside of his exercise book. He traces a wide eye with his HB pencil, a flick of the wrist framing it within a shock of hair. His classmate, Emiko Hoshi leans across to get a better look at the doodle. She draws Pokémon in her exercise book. Perhaps this boy does too?

Noting her mild interest in his peripheral vision, Katō lifts his left hand to form a wall, protecting his picture from her view. She mentally shrugs and turns back to face the teacher. Next to the drawing Tomohiro Katō lists some of his favourite things. Videogame: Tales of Destiny. Flower: Rose. Food: Apple. Weather: Blizzard. Word: Destiny.

In the minute after he is hit by a rented van, ghosts hover in Kenshin Kitano’s dark vision, an ebb and flow of shapes in some intangible distance, silhouetted against regular waves of alien red and blue light. More than half of himself is gone already.

The orchestra beneath the silence stills, the silence now bruised only by shapeless words. Kenshin Kitano is unsure if he’s a baby in his cot or a man on his deathbed. He inches his fingers towards where he imagines his rucksack to have fallen: they search blindly for another tale of destiny. Kenshin Kitano’s eyes sink, all becomes chick yellow, he feels the steel of a longsword on his cheek. He feels no thing.

In the week after Kenshin Kitano is hit by a rental truck, Tomohiro Katō’s high-school drawing is shown on Japanese news and printed in tabloid newspapers the world over. The sketch offers a snapshot into the mind of a deranged killer, they say.

The otaku assassin! Likes roses and apples? Irrelevant. Likes RPGs? Now, that there's proof positive of an unhealthy obsession with all of the inscrutable Eastern vices that consume the minds of our young...

In the week after Kenshin Kitano is hit by a rental truck, the Pokémon in Emiko Hoshi’s exercise book rest unseen by the media’s hungry gaze, hibernating forgotten in a sealed cardboard box in her grandparents’ attic.

This column is, in part, a fictionalization of the tragic events that occurred in Akihabara on June 8th, 2008. Kenshin Kitano is a fictional character.