In Real Life

The Young Girl Who Loves Old Games

After one of Japan’s most beloved gaming mascots Takahashi Meijin revealed that he was leaving Hudson Soft, 23-year-old pin-up model Haruna Anno took to Twitter and her blog. She knew that he was leaving beforehand and talked to Takahashi about his decision, revealing that the conversation made her weep. But there’s an upside.

“I can’t spill all the beans yet,” Anno blogged, “but I’m starting something with Meijin. Please stay tuned!” Nice and all, but who the hell is Haruna Anno?

Gamers come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re old bald men, and sometimes they are young girls in bikinis wearing Pac-Man heads. Haruna Anno is a retro gaming idol, but originally started out as a junior idol. When she was 14 years old, she starred in DVDs like Beautiful Young Girl Uniform Field Guide: Haruna 14 Years Old and Haruna’s Blue Sky. She also appeared in young girl pictorial rag Cream.

Junior idols are young girls who appear in fashion mags, but also in image photos books and DVDs, prancing about in skimpy clothing and bikinis.

In recent years, there’s been a crackdown on the junior idol industry and photos and videos have become less revealing. In the past, the amount of “near nudity” and questionable props blurred the lines between simply questionable taste and child pornography.

Former junior idols have moved into the mainstream; Kill Bill actress, Chiaki Kuriyama, for example.

By 2008, Anno made the leap from the junior idol ghetto to game idol stardom. Anno expressed her passion for retro games back in early 2007, then 18 years old, doing things like attempting to find out just how tough Super Nintendo cartridges were. She initially started playing retro games to distinguish herself from other idols, but she soon found herself head over heels in love with them.

“I want to show people that anyone, even a young girl like me, can play games.”

Anno’s room is a gaming shrine, and her collection is apparently worth thousands. “For me, games are pop and cool,” Anno told Otaku2 back in 2008. “I want to show people that gaming isn’t something only lonely people do in dark dirty rooms.”

“That is one reason I try to display my collection this way and keep my room and clothes clean,” she continued. “I want to show people that anyone, even a young girl like me, can play games.”

The young pin-up model is quite good at games, able to clear Super Mario Bros. 1-1 without looking at the screen. She’s also a solid Street Fighter IV player and a top Spelunker player to boot.

She still does pin-up pics, but Anno is also quickly becoming a regular fixture at gaming events like the Tokyo Game Show as well as game promotional launches. Early last year, she even published a book on retro games. And now, she’s kicking off a new venture with one of Japanese gaming’s most beloved ambassadors, Takahashi Meijin.

Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome—game related and beyond.
(Top photo | tokyozukananno)