Hobonichi (“Almost Daily”) is a Japanese company that designs and creates a popular line of notebooks and day planners. The company’s founder, Shigesato Itoi, is more widely known as the creator of the beloved MOTHER series of roleplaying video games. MOTHER 2 was released outside of Japan as EarthBound in 1995. The series has long influenced game designers all over the world – and, apparently, professional wrestlers and nu-metal musicians as well.
Hobonichi recently hosted a round table discussion about the MOTHER series with Itoi, IWGP Heavyweight champion and known gamer Kenny Omega and Maximum the Ryokun, guitarist and vocalist for Maximum the Hormone. They’ll be posting transcripts of the talk on their website throughout December, and I’ll be translating them one at a time.
Without further ado, let’s start off with the first section of the discussion transcript…
A MOTHER Fan Gathering
Shigesato Itoi: It’s nice to be here with everyone today.
Maximum the Ryokun: And you! I’m delighted for the chance to meet you, Mr. Itoi.
Kenny Omega: Me too. Looking forward to the conversation.
Itoi: Thanks to you both for taking time out of your schedules to talk with me. So I knew I’d be talking with Kenny Omega and Maximum the Ryokun today, but… [gesturing at the crowd of Hobonichi employees and writers gathered to help out] Who are all these guys?
Ryokun: No clue.
Omega: Me neither.
Yasuhiro Nagata: I’m Nagata, producer for MOTHER-related products at Hobonichi. I’ll start off by explaining what we’re doing today. I know I’m holding a mic right now, but that doesn’t really mean anything in particular. [Everyone laughs.]
Nagata: To simply state the facts, the other day, Tanaka – he’s sitting right by me – told me that Ryokun had just put out a new CD and comic set, and wanted to ask Mr. Itoi to do the packaging.
Hironobu Tanaka, essayist and film critic: That’s right.
Nagata: Ryokun is a fan of the MOTHER series, and of Mr. Itoi himself, and so he asked if he could meet him. And I said, “sure, absolutely.”
Nagata: And the next day, Moegara and Koga got in touch with me and said, “Kenny Omega, a famous pro wrestler, is a huge MOTHER fan. He’d like to meet Mr. Itoi.” Really, the very next day!
Moegara, writer: Hey, you’re right.
Nagata: Yep. So I said to Mr. Itoi, “I don’t really know how it’s going to play out, but why don’t we have the three of you meet together?” And Mr. Itoi told me, “I don’t get it, but it sounds interesting, so let’s do it.”
Moegara: I see.
Nagata: So the basic idea was just to get these two together to talk with Mr. Itoi, with MOTHER fandom in common.
Tanaka: So don’t you think we’re playing this up a bit too much?
Fumitake Koga, writer: You had commemorative T-shirts made and everything…
Itoi: And I don’t know if I’d say I’m a MOTHER fan, exactly.
Nagata: Um, well… Anyway, let’s get started! Before the three of you get talking, I’d like to introduce our two guests of honor. The rest of us will be their seconds, if you will, so we’ll stay on the sidelines.
Moegara: In Kenny’s corner, I’m Moegara! I got involved with this because I overheard someone at Shinchosha, the publisher behind my book, saying that Kenny wanted to have lunch with Mr. Itoi. I mentioned it to Nagata and, well, here we are.
By the way, Mr. Itoi, are you familiar with Kenny?
Itoi: I’d heard of him, of course. I saw the big match where he became champion.
Moegara: So you saw him win with the One-Winged Angel?
Tanaka: What are you talking about?
Moegara: The One-Winged Angel – it’s one of Kenny’s special moves. He named it after a song from Final Fantasy. That’s how much he loves games.
Omega: I have a move with a name taken from MOTHER, too. It’s a combination move with Kota Ibushi that we call the “PK Kokoro.”
Moegara: Dammit, I was right about to get to that!
Koga: Can I jump in? Oh – right, I’m Koga. I’m a second –
Itoi: We know, you’re all seconds!
Koga: Kenny’s the current IWGP Heavyweight champion
Antonio Inoki created that title with the goal of unifying the world of pro wrestling. It’s the highest honor in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and champions from outside Japan are quite rare.
Even aside from his title, Kenny’s wrestling ability is recognized and respected all over the world. You could say he’s the star shining at the top of the whole wrestling world right now.
Omega: You’re too kind.
Koga: He’s also quite good at Japanese, too, so we won’t be needing an interpreter today.
Itoi: Wow, that’s fantastic.
Omega: I’ll do my best to keep up.
Nagata: Next let’s hear from Ryokun’s second.
Tanaka: I’m Tanaka; I’ll be seconding for Maximum the Ryokun today. Hello to all of you. [Tanaka pops his laptop open.]
Koga: You brought a computer!
Tanaka, reading in his best Narrator voice: Maximum the Hormone was formed in 1998 in Hachioji, Tokyo. They soon became known for mixing infectiously catchy pop melodies with harsh metal instrumentation. Their lyrics, which often seem like nonsense at first, are deeply profound on further inspection. They’ve amassed a following of dedicated fans that call themselves “the hungry ones.”
Moegara: What are you, some kind of announcer?
Tanaka: For the record, please abbreviate “Maximum the Hormone” as “Hormone.” Something about calling them “MaxiHoro” just rubs the members the wrong way, evidently. [Everyone laughs.]
Tanaka: Joining us today is Maximum the Hormone’s cofounder, guitarist and vocalist Maximum the Ryokun. He’s also their drummer’s younger brother. Oh, please write the “-kun” in his name in kanji. Hiragana bums him out.
Ryokun: Uh, yes, that’s true.
Tanaka: Ryokun is also a huge MOTHER fan, so I’m hoping today we’ll get a nice mixed martial arts bout between him, Kenny and Mr. Itoi.
Itoi: What’re you even talking about?
Nagata: That’s all we had for introductions.
Itoi: So you’re just going to drop off there? That’s rough. Shouldn’t someone act as emcee or something?
Nagata: Alright then, I’ll keep things moving. To start off, how did each of you first encounter MOTHER?
Omega: Is it okay if I go first? Check this out. [Kenny holds up a MOTHER-themed notebook cover made by Hobonichi.]
I’ve been using this to hold my passport for years and years now. It’s not made to be a passport cover, but still.
Itoi: Oh, thank you.
Ryokun: Hey, my wife’s got the same one!
Omega: Twinsies? Oh yeah! [Everyone laughs]
I first came across the MOTHER series when I was twelve years old. Truth be told, before MOTHER, I didn’t like RPGs very much. I thought they were kinda boring.
But then I saw MOTHER, and it had a whole different atmosphere from any RPGs I’d seen. I gave it a try and ended up getting really into it. It made me want to play more and more games. So you could say that I like games as much as I do today because of MOTHER and Mr. Itoi.
Itoi: The one you played was called EarthBound overseas, right?
Omega: Yeah, EarthBound. Different title, but MOTHER 2 on the inside.
Ryokun: Huh, I didn’t know it had another name.
Omega: I didn’t, either, until I came to Japan in 2008 and found out it was called MOTHER 2 here. When I saw there was a MOTHER 3, that was a trip – “Oh my god, there’s a third one?!” [Everyone laughs.]
MOTHER 3 was truly moving. The story goes in a really heavy direction. I couldn’t tell you which I like more, 2 or 3. The answer changes based on how I’m feeling at the moment. But I love them both the same.
Itoi: I’m so glad to hear that.
Nagata: How about you, Ryokun? How did you first come across MOTHER?
Ryokun: Ever since I was a kid, I liked to make up imaginary bands. I’d think up album covers and slogans for groups that didn’t exist.
Ryokun: Back then, I saw the slogan for MOTHER – “Don’t cry until the end” – and that grabbed my attention hard.
At the time, I hadn’t seen any screenshots in books or anywhere. So when I saw MOTHER, in its red box, I had no idea what kind of game was inside.
Itoi: That red box was actually an homage to the cover of Elvis Costello’s “Blood and Chocolate.”
Ryokun: Whoa, really?
Itoi: Back then, almost every game had a box designed to get kids interested. But I thought there was something appealingly adult about that red box.
Itoi: This seems like it’s turning int a normal MOTHER fan meetup, is that okay?
Nagata: No problem!
Itoi: One more thing – Kamo, what’s your role here?
Kamo Aso, writer and PR: Don’t worry about me.
Nagata, Tanaka, Koga and Moegara: Don’t worry about him.