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May 21, 2013

Manly Songs: Theme of Jin

You know, I’ve always found iTunes to be a little redundant.

Admittedly, this is coming from someone who’s always at least two years behind on the latest tech trends (ask me about my cell phone!), but I have to say I don’t see the point behind some of these music services.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating pirating music; I’m just saying that if you’re out for good songs, you won’t be left wanting -- and you don’t have to spend a cent.  I’ve made a couple of full CDs out of songs from Newgrounds composers, and gotten some great satisfaction out of them.  OverClocked Remix is absolutely packed to the brim with high-quality, high-impact tunes, and can applea to your sensibilities whether you know the game songs each remix handles or not (pro tip: go download EVERYTHING by Sixto Sounds).  Artists will occasionally offer entire soundtracks online for free, whether they’re by game composers or not.  And that’s ignoring the existence of YouTube.

The tradeoff for this is that I’m severely limited in my knowledge of current music stars and trends; IIRC when asked about what the difference was between the music of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, my response was “Maybe they’re isn’t one, and they’re both robots out to conquer the world with audio-based brainwashing for their villainous overlords.”  I don’t know what a Nicki Minaj is supposed to be, but it sounds unpleasant.  Even meme-tastic songs like “Gangam Style” and “Call Me Maybe” (I think that’s what it’s called) are lost on me.  Then again, the tradeoff for that is an intimate connection with video game music -- and when that music is firing on all cylinders, man oh man is it something else.

Which brings me to today’s post -- and the Repository’s first video game-themed song.


Song: Theme of Jin
Game: Marvel vs. Capcom
Composers: Yuko Takehara, Masato Kouda
Year: 1998

Song Recommended by: Eric R. Jackson @ Memories of a Dimanagul

Here comes a new challenger!


Hey, have you ever heard of that book Rem World?  It’s kind of old, but it’s still kind of good; might need to see if I can grab it and give it another read.  In any case, at one point main character Arthur meets a bunch of bird people on his journey, and he’s out of his element considering that he’s tasked with saving reality from an overflowing mass of nothingness (which is kind of overflowing because he didn’t read the directions to some mondo-cool weight loss device…yeah, long story.)  During his stay and eventual training session on how he’s going to learn how to fly -- cripes that book is weird when you have to describe it to someone -- he says that he doesn’t know anything.  One of the other bird-men counters by saying “No one knows everything, but everyone knows something.”

It’s sage advice, to be sure.  It’s certainly an idea that’s applicable to me; I may know a lot about video games (and I seem to have a habit of assuming that what I know is common knowledge to others), but there are still a LOT of titles I’ve missed out on.  The fact that I share a world with millions of other gamers certainly eases the sting, at least, and can fill in certain gaps that I never would have thought existed.  Such is the case with Jin Saotome, who I only knew thanks to Marvel vs. Capcom 1.  Even now I’m not well-versed in who this guy is, or what his game is all about.  If you’d asked me about a year ago “Who’s Jin?” I would have pointed you toward this guy:


Or alternatively, this guy:


Or even this guy:


Whatever the case, I hope you’ll forgive me for assuming that Jin Saotome’s game was about nothing but men who spun around in self-generated whirlwinds and threw off their clothes in explosive bursts.  Granted I never had much of an interest in Jin prior to this post, seeing as how my brother liked/used him more than I did, and therefore was required to hate him (“He has your stink on him,” I’d say at the character select screen).  And I was okay with that. 

Now, you may be wondering why I’d go off on such a huge tangent before even mentioning the song besides needlessly pointing out the word count.  Well, that’s because I thought that -- as usual -- I’d offer a bit of context.  And more importantly, I want you fair readers to understand the effect this song can have…and thus, why it’s so manly.

I have -- or had -- a pretty strong image of Jin in my head.  For the longest time I thought of him as just some over-the-top goofball.  Someone along the lines of BlazBlue’s Bang Shishigami, with wild moves but not much in the way of clout.  The art I’d seen of him didn’t do him a lot of favors, either.  Somehow it made a character made out of pixels even less realistic.


But for the sake of this post I decided to look for a few other pictures.  And in my search, I ended up finding a few extra pictures -- likely from Jin’s appearances in his game of origin, Cyberbots: Fullmetal Madness.  And man oh man, what a difference a change in artists’ hands can make; he looks like he’s about to murder a bull elephant with his bare hands!


Remarkably, this is actually consistent with his Cyberbots portrayal.  From the Capcom Database:

“Jin's father (Ken Saotome) belonged to a unit that was killed in what was thought to be an accident one year before the start of Cyberbots. To honor his memory, he seeks to become the best Variant Armor pilot alive and wants to prove his worth through the VA battle circuit. He begins to question his father's death after meeting SHADE for the first time, who, it turns out, was the one responsible.
Jin's mood goes from calm to rage within seconds, but he remains a good guy.”

Interesting.  And then there’s his ending.


…You know, a lot of people give Capcom trouble for having terrible stories.  And while I wouldn’t say that everything they’ve ever put out is top-shelf quality (especially in lieu of Resident Evil 6), if nothing else they DO have some understanding of how to make intriguing characters.  The company might be prone to taking baby steps -- and in some cases two steps forward, one step back -- but every now and then I see glimmers of greatness.  There’s potential that can be realized.

With that in mind, I’m starting to realize something about the song.  See, even if Capcom completely bungled the story (and continue to bungle stories and the potential therein), there’s a saving grace as long as they have manly songs like this.  Simply put, everything you need to know about Jin is in this song.

As you’d expect from a fighting game track, the pace is just about right; it’s the key and the notes therein that cause problems.  If Jin is supposed to be some kind of hero, or at least an admirable main character a la Street Fighter’s Ryu, you’d expect his song to be a little more upbeat.  Admittedly, I’ve always argued that Ryu’s theme song is a bit melancholy in its own right, but it’s still fitting with his character; in contrast, Jin’s theme almost sounds villainous -- or if not that, then at least anti-heroic.  It’s in complete opposition to his moveset and base-level characterization; if he’s a hot-blooded fighter like Rival Schools’ Batsu or Sengoku Basara’s Yukimura, you’d think that he’d have a song that got you ready to fight.  Or, alternatively, set yourself on fire.


But that’s the clincher, isn’t it?  Jin is literally a whirlwind of destruction -- and in this case, that’s a bad thing.  From what I can gather, Jin is regularly in (or put in) maximum 100% super overdrive crush-time mode, and while that might make him a cool fighting game character, it’s less than practical for a real-life circumstance.  Just look at his ending; he freely admits that all he cared about was revenge and ambition, and ended up blinding himself to all the details that could have made his life easier and more fulfilling.  But violence and fighting are, presumably, the only things he knows.

And if you listen closely, that element is reflected in the song.  I won’t deny that Jin’s theme manages to get me a little hyped, considering that there’s a certain…shall we say, maliciousness to it.  Just close your eyes as you listen to the opening of the song, and imagine the scenario: Jin descends onto the battlefield in his mech Blodia’s hand, and leaps off to stare down Ryu.  The two of them make eye contact.  Ryu’s ready for a fight as usual, and refuses to back down.  He’s expecting a chance to improve his skills, and find a worthy opponent.  But I can’t help but imagine Jin -- fists a curling, and blood starting to boil -- telling Ryu “Don’t cross me” or “I’ll kill you”.  Or something that says that the fight is about to get very violent very fast.


I don’t think I need to tell anyone just how destructive a tornado can be.  And while this is a game mired in fantasy and extreme powers, Jin -- as far as I know -- is supposed to be a regular guy.  In other words, it’s his rage that’s giving him the drive to turn himself into a fleshy hurricane.  That kind of power isn’t something to be taken lightly, and I can only imagine what kind of damage it might do to, say, Spider Man or Strider.  (Doubly so when you consider that he’s got no problems blasting the hell out of opponents with an array of Vulcan shots from the cockpit of his mech.)  And I’d say that his song takes that into consideration.  The part that kicks in at 0:28 is notably calmer, and dare I say it sorrowful.  

Why?  Easy.  Imagine if you will, this scenario: Ryu hits Jin with a couple of Shoryukens, prompting Jin to max out his rage.  As a result, Jin calls in Blodia to slam an arm the size of a bullet train into Ryu’s face, incapacitating a genuinely-good (if fight-happy) man.  As he looks down on the battered fighter before him, Jin realizes that he’s gone too far once again, and as the fervor of battle subsides he realizes his mistake…but alas, he knows he’s going to just end up making the mistake (and plenty of others) again soon enough -- and as a result, he departs from the battlefield, with his scarf flapping in the wind.


The thrust of my argument about the song is this: whereas other songs in the Repository uphold some virtue, some tenet of manliness, I’d say that this one doesn’t.  Like plenty of other video game songs (and in a lot of cases, songs in general), it tells a story.  And in this case, it’s offering a cautionary tale.  In the same sense that overconfidence ended up being Casey’s downfall in the poem “Casey at the Bat”, so too is Jin’s overzealousness emblematic of his constant struggles -- he’s stuck in a vicious cycle of destruction and fury, all sparked by a crippling dependence on that magical drug known as “hot-bloodedness”.  As a result, his song isn’t something that celebrates his heroic feats or epic battles.  It’s sad, sad tale of his long journey.  It’s all about the pain he’s borne, and the pain he’s brought.  All because he can’t calm the hell down.

That’s…kind of a downer, when you compare it to the other Manly Songs named in the past.  But while I’d say that my interpretation is a valid one, I don’t think it’s the only one.  There’s no denying that there’s something grim and downhearted about Jin’s theme, but then again, maybe that’s the point.  Maybe that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  It’s a cautionary tale, which automatically helps lend it it a bit more merit, but think about the virtue being offered here: moderation.  We like to think of being manly as going in all guns blazing, ready to stomp and crush and blast anything that gets in our way.  In some ways, that’s acceptable.  In some situations, it’s ideal to be hot-blooded.


But there are times when self-control and consideration are to be valued.  Appreciated.  Each and every one of us is in command of our own destinies, as it should be -- but we aren’t alone in this big blue world of ours.  There are people around us, and before us, who have their own destinies to try and realize.  It’s because of that fact that you have to use your power -- manly or not -- with great caution.  Go all out against anything that stands in your way, and you’re likely to ruin more than someone else’s life; you’re likely to ruin yours as well.  Can you bear the sorrow of knowing what your violent advances have wrought?  Can you take in the resentment brought by those so dearly bonded to the ones you stepped all over in your selfish quest for glory?

To that, I say no.  To act so foolishly and egotistically does no man no favors.  And as such, there is but one course of action.  One must do his best to harness the power he holds within, and use it to better his lot in life…BUT he must do so with others deep in his heart -- if not for the sake of others.  To act otherwise is a betrayal of human decency; to act accordingly, with that power controlled instead of made catastrophic, is perhaps a virtue we must all keep nestled within our hearts.  Act in moderation and burn brightly for ages to come…or act in excess, and burn out in an instant.  The choice is yours to make.  But should you make the right choice, a new plateau of manhood awaits.  Beckoning.  Reaching out to you.  Awaiting your thunderous footsteps and your impassioned cry from atop its skyward summit, and eager to see the age you create with your ignited heart.


…Still, the song’s pretty damn cool regardless.  And as such, I have only one thing to say when it comes to Jin’s theme:


Now hurry up and make a new Rival Schools, Capcom.  I’m ready to get in on that HD Cross Cutter action.

Don’t forget to check out Memories of a Dimanagul!  It’s manlier than a Gundam made out of other Gundams that shoots Gundams -- and is also on fire!

 Do you have a manly song to recommend?  Then you, too, can have your suggestion turned into a full-fledged post!  Just leave a comment naming a song (limit one song per comment), and your song will be analyzed -- and if you have a blog or other net-haven, you’ll be suitably honored.  So get to it; feel the rush of testosterone, and help make THE MANLIEST PLAYLIST IN THE UNIVERSE!

2 comments:

  1. I couldn't have said it better myself. Coupled with Jin's Golden / Silver (depends on if he's 1p color or 2p) This theme fuels many the comeback. As an amusing side note. That melancholy section it doubly appropriate if Jin fails and ends up flat on his back, or you successfully demolish your opponent in a wave or relentless rage. The message: Remorse.

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  2. Remorse, eh? Yeah, I can buy that; I seem to recall many instances where Jin ate a fist sandwich from Hulk. I can't think of anything better to induce remorse...or regret, for that matter. Or alternatively, a desire for better decision-making in the future.

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