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Japan's White Haired Heroes

By Zeus | 2007-12-25

Cool splash image montage thingy.
Thanks to Wikipedia for Angelo & Dante image; Viz Media for InuYasha.

Synopsis: Why do so many of Japan's video game and anime characters have white hair and red robes? Zeus investigates.

Attention: Professional gaming blog Kotaku was recently caught printing pictures without the photographer's permission. In other words, they got busted for using Google Images. $200 later, Kotaku has made amends. But frankly, we don't have that kind of money laying around. As such, every image in this article has been fully attributed.

Tecmo recently announced Rygar: The Battle of Argus for Wii, a reimagining of their hit PS2 game. In addition to a hilarious new slogan ("New Hero. New Enemies. Swing Action.") the titular character has transformed from He-Man into some sort of smirking albino.

Evolution of Rygar
Thanks to The Arcade Flyer Archive for Arcade & NES; Wikipedia for PS2; Blog: The Video Game for Wii

So now we have Rygar 2.0, Devil May Cry's Dante, InuYasha and a host of others not even worth naming. This leads to two obvious questions:

  1. Why do Japanese gamers worship gray old men in crimson coats?
  2. What cultural difference could possibly keep Americans from liking white hair and red jackets?

British soldier circa American Revolution
Thanks to Topics on The American Revolution for the image.

Oh. Well, that leaves us with one question, anyway.

But where DID Japan's obsession come from?

I could look it up. There's a logical explanation out there. But logical explanations are bullcrap. Here's the real deal:

As every American knows, American culture is sort of like a message in a bottle: Twenty years from now, it washes up on the shore of some far off land. (This is why hair metal still rules Tokyo.)

Steve Martin, Christopher Lloyd, Billy Idol
Thanks to 75th Academy Awards for Steve Martin; Geek Coefficient for Christopher Lloyd; Sister Ray for Billy Idol.

In the 1980s, America enjoyed a brief infatuation with white hair. From Steve Martin to Christopher Lloyd (awesome guy), to Billy Idol, who is technically British, or Australian, or a Kiwi, or something.

Just an aside here, but do Americans sound NEARLY as British as the rest of the English speaking world? Because it's kind of hard to tell the rest of you guys apart, aside from your "G'days" and your "Lucky Charms" and your "Yarr, Me Maties."

Back to Rygar -- he's gone from some earnest Warrior-King to looking like a spiky-haired date-rapist from Georgia Tech.

Evil White Haired Man
Thanks to Blog: The Video Game for Rygar; Wikipedia for Yellow Jacket.

But why redesign the hero of Rygar in the first place? If Tecmo did it to appeal more to an Asian market, it seems a little late. They've been making Rygar games for more than twenty years, and he's never looked any more Asian than Conan O'Brien.

As I write this, someone is playing Dragon Quest VIII. Angelo, the white-haired, red-caped fencer, has just dispatched another slime. And I wonder: What's the real reason behind white hair?

According to the medical books, a vitamin B-12 deficiency or thyroid condition.

Black Haired InuYasha minus B12 equals White Haired InuYasha
Thanks to Kal-Chan's little world of Anime and Art for Inuyasha; Vaxa for B12; Absoloute Anime for Human Inuyasha.

I've got it! There HAS to be some link between red robes and vitamin B-12!

Still, I can't help but wonder what other PlayStation heroes will get the white-haired Wii treatment.

Jak? Dexter? Solid Snake?

Jak, Daxter, Old Man Time
Thanks to Madoka for Jak & Daxter; Crank Left for Old Snake.

I guess we'll never know the real reason why those crazy Japanese are so in love with white-haired guys in red robes. Maybe it's a B-12 deficiency or thyroid condition. It's sick, if you ask me. Sick and immoral and wrong!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put out some milk and cookies for you-know-who.

Thanks to Xenia for Santa.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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