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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:07 am    Post subject: BattleTech Reply with quote
The use of various Japanese themes in Western fictional works (to include those feauring some sort of samurai-esque setup) is nothing new; but, with some of the recent (and forthcoming) works in this particular setting, I wanted to note one game-based franchise in particular that does this: BattleTech.

As the above image shows (a larger version of which can be seen here), one of the major factions of the Inner Sphere, the Draconis Combine, makes a point of self-identifying with an imagined ideal of pre-modern Japan.

It should be noted, however, that even from an in-universe perspective, the Combine is not intended to be a direct successor to modern-day Japan, and nor is it the only "Japanese" legacy within the Inner Sphere. The founder of the Draconis Combine, Shiro Kurita, made a point of enforcing his romanticised vision of Edo-period Japan upon his subjects in the coreward-spinward quadrant of space which he established his rule over; and subsequent generations of Coordinators (and the various state entities set up to enforce their will upon the populace) have gone to great lengths to highlight and promote this vision in the centuries since.

As a point of comparison, the actual country of Japan on Terra became a member state of the Terran Alliance in this timeline (which diverges from our own at some point in the 1980s), and would become an Administrative District (one of a handful on Terra to retain a hereditary ruling family, but as Dukes rather than Emperors) under the subsequent Terran Hegemony. But culturally, it would maintain a more direct link to contemporary Japan, rather than the more fancified edition engineered out in the Combine. (By and large, the Japan-Japanese on Terra, and on worlds like New Kyoto colonised in other parts of the Inner Sphere, don't care much for House Kurita - or for its grandiose territorial ambitions.)

To make another in-universe comparison, there's a periphery realm known as the Marian Hegemony, which self-styles itself as a re-imagined Roman Empire; complete with plebians, patricians, slaves, Senators and Legionnaires, and even a half-hearted attempt to re-habilitate Latin as a working language. In this case however, no-one is fooled concerning the "historicity" of Marian culture; from the outset, it was considered to be a vanity project by its founder, and has no connection to the culture of future-Rome (still the capital of Italy, itself another administrative district on "modern" Terra).

But still, from a gaming perspective, the Combine (and the Hegemony) at least allow players to immerse thesmelves as "space Samurai" or "space Romans" - or to shoot at said factions, perhaps. As the cover of TRO:3145 Draconis Combine shows, the recent material for the weapons of war used by the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery has included more "totem" BattleMechs and other unit types, intended to play up the "Samurai" angle for propraganda purposes in-universe (and to help promote the product line from a real-world persepctive).

Also, after a series of delays, there should finally be a release next year for Handbook: House Kurita, which will give a more in-depth look at the history, culture, and political organization of the Combine (as of 3067, the cut-off point for the various sourcebooks in the Handbook series). Reportedly, this volume will try to offer a somewhat more nuanced look at the DC relative to some of the earlier background works written about that realm; but it will likely highlight how the combine has evolved its own "Kuritan" culture, rather than simply aping anicent Japan in space to a greater or lesser degree of historical accuracy.

No-one should pretend that the "Japanese" elements in BattleTech should be taken too seriously from a real-world perspective; but even so, it is interesting to see how this particualar franchise has taken its developers' perceptions of pre-modern (and contemporary) Japan and adapted them into their own setting.
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