The hair. Just look at the hair! It's magnificent. These aren't video game characters. They're men who would like to drink cocktails with you.
Earlier this month in Japan, internet users chattered about how the latest entry in the Final Fantasy role-playing game series, Final Fantasy XV, featured a protagonist who looks like a "host". Here is said protagonist, Noctis Lucis Caelum:
So, what the hell are hosts? And why is this video game character being compared to them?
Hosts are paid drinking companions at nightclubs called, wait for it, "host clubs" in Japan. When you go to a host club, men in suits light your cigarette (if you smoke), pour your drinks (you probably drink), and sing you karaoke (do you sing?). Japan's host entertainment industry, and its female hostessing counterpart, has been called "psychological prostitution" in the past.
Hosts aim to offer companionship and flirting to customers, whether they are old folks, business professionals, homemakers, university students -- or even hostesses or sex workers looking to unwind and blow off steam. Hosts are supposed to be good looking, good singers, good conversationalists, good listeners and good drinkers.
The host subculture has distinctive fashion: Flashy suits, gothic or Western influenced accessories and outrageous hair. For example:
So, when gamers say that Final Fantasy XV looks like a "host fantasy", they are talking specifically about this sort of style -- a style especially evident in the other games of FFXV's creator, Tetsuya Nomura. This time, however, the game's more "realistic" setting and clothing makes host comparisons more palpable. Put a guy with hair like that in a dark suit, and the vast majority of Japanese will immediately think "host".
Some women (and men) in Japan find this style attractive, while others think it looks ridiculous. Regardless of people's opinions, "host fashion" is very much a thing. It's not mainstream (this is subculture, remember), but in the past, there have been "host fashion" magazines. The latest Final Fantasy XV art looks like it's straight out of Men's Knuckle.
This isn't the first time the host comparison has been made: back in 2011, 2ch users also said the game, then titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII, featured "hosts". Certainly, other Final Fantasy games, with their androgynous male characters, have also been compared to hosts.
While some in Japan might be throwing around the word "host" as an insult, the comparison is understandable -- and it shouldn't necessarily be seen as a dig. Much of the host fashion seems influenced by Japanese "visual kei" style, which has also influenced video game designs (and vice-versa).
At this point, most hosts are not actively trying to pull off Final Fantasy or rockstar hair -- instead, they're being influenced by an established host "look" that not only exists in a fantasy world, but also marks that existence: this is the world of the Japanese host. And for a price, you can indulge in that boozy fantasy all night long.
Pictures: Romeo, Romeo, Hiroki, TopDandy, Host.Es, Host-Collection, TopDandy, Host.Es, Host-Collection, TopDandy, ClubNeon, Kazu, Harem, 47News, TopDandy, TopDandy, TopDandy, TopDandy, Host-Yokohama, Aponya, Zerochan, Mennaku, Nagase