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TOKYO CUTTING EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai 10 featuring EDITMODE Masaaki Enami

『TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai』#10 with ㈱エディットモード代表 江南 匡晃
TOKYO CUTTING EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai 10 featuring EDITMODE Masaaki Enami

TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai is column series, which covers Tokyo’s latest cutting-edge culture! In this series she’ll be interviewing creators that have caught her interest, in order to discover the latest cutting-edge culture in Tokyo. We have interviewed Ai☆MadonnaJunya Suzuki from chloma, Etsuko IchiharaTORIENA, and Tadashi ShimayaNukeme, and Keisuke Nagami from HATRA, and Novmichi Tosa from Maywa Denki, and Tomofumi Yoshida from Techno-Shugei Club.

For the 10th installment, we’ll be interviewing Masaaki Enami from Representative of EDITMODE.


Julie: Long time, no see. I haven’t seen you since Fami-mode.(Fami-mode is a chiptune musician event held every January in Tokyo; Julie Watai has also DJed at it.) THE KING OF GAMES (EDITMODE’s apparel label) always has a booth set up there.

Enami: Long time, no see to you as well. I think it’s been round two or three years since we last met.

Julie: It’s been longer than I thought, then. By the way, did you have a booth at Fami-mode 2017?

Enami: Yes, we did. But because of the change in venue, we did an afternoon event instead of an all-night one.

Julie: I see. I can see how it’d be something enjoyable even during the day. Some of the attendees are a little older, and it seems like all night events would be more tiring physically.

Enami: I feel the same way. Also, there were attendees who brought their children with them.

The interview was conducted via Skype. / 対談はSkypeで行われました

The interview was conducted via Skype. / 対談はSkypeで行われました

Julie: By having it in the afternoon, more people that fit into those categories could come. That’s great. By the way, aren’t you around the same age as me? I was born in 1979.

Enami: I was born in 1974. I’m 43 years old.

Julie: Oh, then you’re a little older than me. But that still puts us around the same age. Were you part of the generation whose first console was the Nintendo Famicon (NES)?

Enami: I had a GAME&WATCH in first grade, and then got a Famicon in the third grade.

Julie: A GAME&WATCH? Man, that takes me back! It came out before the Famicon did. Do you remember what the first GAME&WATCH title you played was called?

Enami: Actually, the solar-powered game machine sold by Bandai Electronics called Escape from the Devil’s Doom, and after that it was Donkey Kong. I still have them.

Left:Donkey Kong, Right:Escape from the Devil's Doom

Left:Donkey Kong, Right:Escape from the Devil’s Doom

Julie: They did have solar-powered game machines back then, didn’t they. Come to think of it, it doesn’t seem so strange when you think of how popular solar-powered calculators were back then. Donkey Kong was a really popular title. Nowadays, copies of it that still work fetch a pretty high price at retro game shops. I used to collect junk Game & Watch machines. I thought they made for cool pieces of interior decor.

Emani: You’re right. Not to mention that because the life of the machine depended on its LCD display, eventually they would stop working.

Julie: They had a really short life.

Enami: The Nintendo GAME&WATCH was best when it came to quality, and it had great sound.

Julie: It had such a sleek design that adults didn’t look out of place carrying one, either.

Photo:Julie Watai, Model:Maki, Location:deltatune/撮影:Julie Watai、モデル:Maki、撮影協力:deltatune

Photo:Julie Watai, Model:Maki, Location:deltatune/撮影:Julie Watai、モデル:Maki、撮影協力:deltatune

Emani: Even the first commercial for it didn’t make it seem like it was something they were necessarily marketing toward children.

Julie: I had no idea. I feel like the crystal screen GAME&WATCH was really at the top of its class.


Julie: Tell me what your top three games were when you were in elementary school.

Enami: Oh! That’s a hard question.

Julie: You probably had a lot, but if you can, try and narrow it down.

Enami: Okay, then Super Mario Bros., Dragon Quest III, and Megami Tensei. Dragon Quest III was in junior high school, though.

Julie: Oh! All of three are classics. Ah, I see, Dragon Quest III came out when you were in junior high school.

Left:Megami Tensei, Center:Dragon Quest Ⅲ, Super Mario Bros.

Left:Megami Tensei, Center:Dragon Quest Ⅲ, Super Mario Bros.

Emani: Dragon Quest I and Dragon Quest II came out when I was in the upper grades of elementary school.

Julie: I played Dragon Quest I right after Dragon Quest III, unable to contain my excitement for its next installment. That was in elementary school. Megami Tensei struck me as being “for adults” at the time. It had a kind of sinister feel to it.

Emani: At the time, Megami Tensei it was kind of like an offshoot from a mix of media, since they came out with an anime, novel, and game for it. I got into the anime version of it through the anime show Anime Daisuki! that was broadcast during summer vacations, and then I bought and played the game version.

Julie: I also used to watch Anime Daisuki!, too. They used to broadcast OVA anime and the like. There was something unique about the Megami Tensei anime.

Enami: I really loved Anime Daisuki! and I would always record it on tape.

Julie: Not to change the subject, but which part of the Super Mario series did you play through the most?

Enami: Definitely the first. I had it memorized so well that I would doodle world maps of it in my notebook during class. At the time I thought, “If only it had an edit mode…” and that became the inspiration behind the label’s name (EDITMODE). I wish I could have told my younger self that someday they would come out with Super Mario Maker like they have now.

Photo:Julie Watai, Model:Natsumi Goto, Location:deltatune/撮影:Julie Watai、モデル:後藤夏実、撮影協力:deltatune

Photo:Julie Watai, Model:Natsumi Goto, Location:deltatune/撮影:Julie Watai、モデル:後藤夏実、撮影協力:deltatune

Julie: So that’s the backstory behind the company name. I played through the first Super Mario a lot myself. I’ve often wondered what exactly made it so playable time after time. Recently I’ve been replaying it on the Nintendo Classic Mini Family Computer, and even now I remember the world maps in it.

Emani: I guess that’s what happens when you develop muscle memory. But now I can’t play it as well as I used to. (laughs) I’ve gotten older…

Julie: There were a lot of unforgiving rules for reflexes, or if one pixel was off it’d immediately be game over, etc.


Julie: You talked about where the name for your company came from, but tell me a little more about the backstory behind launching KING OF GAMES.

julie_watai_EDITMODE_006

Enami: It would take too much time to go into detail, but originally I worked in the clothing industry. I also worked as a retail staffmember at a well-established select boutique in Kyoto, both buying and coming up with original items. One day I was working retail at the shop and was holding a customer’s jacket while he tried on a coat. He was wearing a shirt with a Nintendo logo on it…

Julie: Oh?!

Enami: I told him excitedly that I’d like one for myself, and I learned that he worked for Nintendo, and that his t-shirt was a staff worker shirt from an exhibition called Nintendo Space World.

Julie: That makes sense seeing as Kyoto is Nintendo’s turf. It’s not hard to believe something like that would happen around that area.

Enami: He told me that he would bring me a shirt if there were any left over at the next event, which I was really looking forward to, but what I ended up receiving from him was an American-sized, geeky looking polo shirt with “Gameboy” embroidered on it.

Julie: That was back when they only made staff member t-shirts.

Enami: Because of this, I thought about making some myself and I gave him my business card, and asked if I could make a Nintendo logo shirt with an original store design. When I did, he told me that he thought it was an “interesting concept”, and I eagerly got to work, creating different colored versions every night on a computer my friend had at his house, which I sent to him along with a letter I wrote about how much I loved Nintendo. But then I didn’t hear anything back from him for weeks, so I called him up.

Enami: When I did, he told me as the director of the Mario Kart series, that he was only in charge oof making games and that he’d introduce you to another division that would hear me out, and then the next day I went to give my first presentation pitch to Nintendo. This was back when they had the Nintendo64.

Photo, Model:Julie Watai, Location:deltatune/撮影、モデル:Julie Watai、撮影協力:deltatune

Photo, Model:Julie Watai, Location:deltatune/撮影、モデル:Julie Watai、撮影協力:deltatune

Julie: So this happened more than 15 years before THE KING OF GAMES was first launched.

Enami: Yes. I was around 26 at the time.

Julie: You were really passionate!

Enami: I gave the presentation, but my hopes were completely sunk.

Julie: Why was that?

Enami: Well first of all, the Nintendo logo mark could only be used by Nintendo. Even though they were being made overseas.

Julie: There were a lot of regulations like that.

Enami: Then right after they came back to me with something and asked, “Well how about a t-shirt for this game?” which was for the Animal Crossing game they were about to release.

Julie: So they suddenly they wanted to talk about t-shirt design proposal a for a new game?

Enami: What they gave me was a pamphlet for the first Animal Crossing game, which prompted me to asked them about doing a Super Mario t-shirt, but they informed me that I would only be able to use original Super Mario packaging, design, and character illustrations.

Julie: At the time, they were often marketing toward children.

Emani: It was common for the officially licensed Nintendo merchandise at the time to just have an illustration slapped on it. That’s why the same Super Mario images were featured on so many different stationery items.

Julie: I had no idea.

Emani: Seeing that I was in trouble, one person that had attended the meeting in casual clothes piped up by saying,“But that’s not what you want to do, right?” Back then I would write my ideas down on a notepad that I always kept in my pocket, and in my notepad I had drawn a Super Mario t-shirt design. When I showed it to them, they gave me a chance by asking me to get some ideas together and to come back to them again.

julie_watai_EDITMODE_008

julie_watai_EDITMODE_009

Julie: Just who was that person? (laughs)

Enami: They even gave me the hint that,“Soon the first Mario that appeared in Donkey Kong will turn 20”.

Julie: In timing with its release.

Enami: The person who came dressed in casual clothes was from the advertising firm Hakuhodo, later transfering jobs to work at Nintendo, where he worked on the commercials for Famicon Wars and The Legend of Zelda.

Julie: The commerical for Famicon Wars really made quite an impression. Because it used real photography, you wouldn’t have thought it was a Famicon ad. I can still sing the song from the commercial. It seems like that person understood your position about wanting to do something different.

Enami: In light of the opportunity they had given me, I started to work from my friend’s house every night, and began rethinking everything from scratch about whether to sell it in boxes, online, etc. The hint I got about Mario’s 20th anniversary would become THE KING OF GAMES’ first pipe Mario t-shirt, which was difficult to accomplish.
The first hurdle was “no pixelated Mario”.

julie_watai_EDITMODE_010

Julie: They wouldn’t let you use a pixelated Mario?

Enami: I was told that Mario, or at least the Mario I was shown at the meeting, had a sign that couldn’t be expressed in pixels.

Julie: So that’s what they meant. They were being stubborn about it.

Enami: But I emphasized that the Mario that people like me had grown up with was the pixelated Mario that had appeared on their TV screen.In order to convince them, I had to get approval from every department at Nintendo, and then each time someone took an issue with it, I would have to edit it, and days and days went on like that. At this rate I wasn’t really getting anywhere, and it took two years before I was able to turn it into a product.

Julie: I guess you could say that they represent a unified front, but… It seems like it took a long time to become officially licensed.

Enami: During those two years, I had come up with various other designs. I bought my own computer, and I learned to master Illustrator and the like. Though the release of the pipe Mario shirt was in 2002, Mario’s actual 20th anniversary was in 2001. So the 20th anniversary t-shirt came a year late. (laugh)

julie_watai_EDITMODE_011

julie_watai_EDITMODE_012

Julie: It was a really good design, though.

Enami: Thank you! Before we started selling it online, we only offered it for sale at the Kyoto shop I was working at, and all of the shop’s staff worked really hard to push sales of it, which I was really appreciative of. Because of my background in the apparel industry, first and foremost I wanted to create a game t-shirt that a clothing shop would seriously produce. My perspective hasn’t changed since then.
I apologize that it was a long-winded story after all. (laughs)

Julie: Coming up with a fitting design and straight up graphic design are two separate things, aren’t they. There’s a lot of design apparel spanning different fields of interest, but sometimes items that just have a large print on the front are difficult to wear. But the clothing that THE KING OF GAMES makes looks cool to people who aren’t familiar with its origin, and the designs are really good.

Photo:Julie Watai, Model:Maki, Location:deltatune/撮影:Julie Watai、モデル:Maki、撮影協力:deltatune

Photo:Julie Watai, Model:Maki, Location:deltatune/撮影:Julie Watai、モデル:Maki、撮影協力:deltatune

Enami: I appreciate you saying that! Sometimes trends come into play so I can’t really speak in regards to that, but originally I just wanted to design the kinds of t-shirts that I wanted to wear, which became the reason behind starting my own brand, since I wouldn’t make anything I wouldn’t wear myself. I guess you could say I’m the kind of person that prefers designs where you go like, “Oh, it’s Mario!” when you get up close to them, and so I have a habit of making designs like that.

Julie: One-point embroidery designs or casual designs are nice, too. Speaking of THE KING OF GAMES, I think the character of one of your staff members, Chicano, is really cute and unique. Could you tell me how you two first met?

julie_watai_EDITMODE_014

Enami: Chicano was originally a student of Director Hashimoto from Sarugakucho (a tuning company for video games located in Tokyo), which he was teaching a gaming course at Seika University in Kyoto, and she was the first to graduate from the course.

Julie: Seika University is Kyoto’s College of Art, isn’t it?

Enami: That’s right. When she was still a student, she had brought an original work of hers with her to the Salon du Saragaku event hosted by Mr. Hashimoto in Shibuya. I used to sell merchandise at each one and met his acquiantance that way. Around the same time one of my staff members had left the company, and Mr. Hashimoto introduced me to Chicano. She a new graduate recruit.
Julie: Mr. Hashimoto has worked on a lot of really interesting projects. I also participated in his Salon du Saragaku numerous times and DJed there. So you recruited her as a new graduate.

Julie: Mr. Hashimoto has worked on a lot of really interesting projects. I also participated in his Salon du Saragaku numerous times and DJed there. So you recruited her as a new graduate.


Julie: In July 2017 you put on THE KING OF GAMES World Exhibition in Nakano. It was talked a lot about on SNS and on online newsites, but what kind of event was it?

Enami: It was an event to commemorate THE KING OF GAMES’ 15th anniversary, and was held inside select shop METEOR’s basement gallery, the first shop I ever handled a wholesale order for.
METEOR was originally located in Kichijoji, but it moved to Nakano and where it had enough basement gallery space, and so we held it there.

Julie: Even when METEOR was still in Kichijoji, it was well-known for being a stylish, 8-bit select shop! What kind of content did you exhibit?

Enami: I exhibited one piece for each year, to represent each of our 15 years, and so there were 15 pieces on display in total to show the world of games and toys that THE KING OF GAMES was founded on. The exhibit’s main feature consisted of 108 gold Mario statues, which I called “Mario Greed”. (laughs) It also put my spending habits on display for everyone to see, too. (laughs) And later I did I appeared on a talk show with Bose from Scha Dara Parr, to discuss my spending habits.

Julie: Those gold Mario figures are given out as prizes to Club Nintendo (Nintendo’s membership service) members, right?

Enami: Yes. It’s such a silly thing.

Julie: So it seems you are also quite the collector then, too. You even made a special carrying case to hold them. (laughs)

julie_watai_EDITMODE_018

julie_watai_EDITMODE_019

Enami: I’ve always liked small, heavy things; the gold Mario part was just a bonus.

Julie: So you did a talk show with Bose from Scha Dara Parr. That must have been a blast.

Enami: Bose also teaches at Seika University, and comes down to Kyoto every week. When I asked to be on his talk show he readily accepted. I was blown away by how good at public speaking he is.

julie_watai_EDITMODE_020

Julie: Both of you are connected to Kyoto, and also you both love Famicon, so I imagine it was a deep talk.

Enami: Yes, you could say it was deep. (laughs)

julie_watai_EDITMODE_021


Julie: As Edit Mode welcomes its 15th anniversary, can you tell me about any prospects regarding future work?

Enami: We’re about to head into our 16th year, but since we’re all pretty laid back, we just do whatever we can each day, gradually expanding our activity. We plan to continue doing this now and in the future as well. Just collaborating with people we meet as we go along to make things and put on events. Something I’d like to pursue is designing clothes for a character and then making that into a t-shirt. Of course it would be a hidden setting. (laughs) I think as far as licensing goes, nobody has done that yet.

Julie: It would be cool if you could do some kind of reverse mixed media with t-shirts and games, similar to Megami Tensei like we were talking about before. I hope you can make it a reality. Thank you for all of the wonderful stories you’ve shared with me today!

Enami: Thank you for the lengthy chat!!

Photo:Julie Watai, Model:Kozue Haruna, Maki, Location:deltatune/撮影:Julie Watai、モデル:はるな梢、Maki、撮影協力:deltatune

Photo:Julie Watai, Model:Kozue Haruna, Maki, Location:deltatune/撮影:Julie Watai、モデル:はるな梢、Maki、撮影協力:deltatune


After the Interview/対談を終えて

Since Enami and I are both from the same generation, from the very beginning we had a lot to dicuss about the Famicon, before talking about how it tied into the launch of THE KING OF GAMES. I got the impression by the way he passionally talked that he felt very moved by Nintendo.

Whenever I encounter an interesting subject (often a robot, machine, or something like that) when shooting, I have share how it moves me with other people involved when negotiating a shoot, and in that way, felt like there were certain points we could definitely relate to each other on.

As a gamer for life, that love for the content itself makes you really value your relationship with that company. So because of that, I felt like other gamers can understand their commitment to their officially licensed releases, and that with their support THE KING OF GAMES has become what it is today.


Maasaki Enami’s Profile

EDIT MODE Representative
After aqcuiring a license from Nintendo in 2002, THE KING OF GAMES, an apparel brand making use of early domestic Nintendo (NES) game motifs was launched, where he put in charge of planning, design, and production management.
He’s helped produce over 120 different t-shirts, and currently has more new projects in the works.
Major game titles that they’ve turned into t-shirts are Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, MOTHER, Kirby’s Dream Land), Fire Emblem, Pokémon, GAME & WATCH, and Splatoon, among others.


Related Links

EDITMODE Official site:https://editmode.jp/maintenance/
EDITMODE Official Twitter:https://twitter.com/editmode_kyoto

Translated by Jamie Koide

Author
Julie Watai
Julie Watai

After working at an idol in Japan, Julie Watai moved by herself to Italy, publishing SAMURAI GIRL in 2006 while working as a photographer for Italian publishing company DRAGO&ARTS. She quickly became an international Japanese pop culture figure, gaining a large following. After returning to Japan, she continued her work as a photographer, along with developing electronics as a hobby and iPhone apps, and has been remarkably successful as part of the Akiba-style geek culture, too.

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