The addition of Overwatch favourite Genji to Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm this week has revealed yet another big, important fact about him: This guy loves memes.
The cyborg ninja has remained relatively mysterious since the game’s release last year. Every time Blizzard ekes out another clue about his past, the Overwatch fandom analyses it for clues about his personality. Up until now, Genji has been depicted as a tragic figure. Blizzard’s official Overwatch animated short focuses on Genji’s high-stakes rivalry with his brother Hanzo, and a recent official comic detailed his edgy backstory working with Blackwatch.
Now we have this new aspect of his personality. Heroes of the Storm isn’t necessarily canon, of course, since it’s a game that mashes up multiple Blizzard games. Overwatch heroes have opportunities to trade fourth-wall-breaking barbs with characters from StarCraft, Warcraft and Diablo. Up ’til now, though, the other Overwatch heroes in the HotS roster haven’t revealed anything we didn’t already know about them. Lucio, Zarya and Tracer all stay within the boundaries of what we’d expect from their personalities. Given that, it seems fair to assume that the HotS version of Genji isn’t too far off from his canonical personality. And now, we finally have a taste of what that personality might be.
Genji’s lines say a lot about how he spends his time. We know from his official Blizzard description that, in his youth, he had a “playboy lifestyle” and he didn’t take his ninja training as seriously as his older brother Hanzo. If his Heroes of the Storm voice lines can be believed, though, his youthful “playboy lifestyle” involved going to arcades and marvelling at the ninja characters he saw there, and also reading The Official Ninja Webpage, a joke website from 2002. He must have seen Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime present Wii Fit at E3 2007, given his “my body is ready” reference in HotS. And based on his dance emote in HotS, he’s a fan of Vanilla Ice’s “Go Ninja Go” song from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, a movie that only a ninja could love.
Maybe Genji didn’t participate in these nerdy pursuits until after he gave up his “playboy lifestyle”, though. Perhaps he got into this stuff after Overwatch saved his life and replaced his body with a “high-tech prosthesis” (his current description of himself, via HotS). As his voice lines show, he’s a fan of The Six Million Dollar Man and he even checked out Grey Fox’s storyline in Metal Gear Solid, which makes sense, given the similarities between those characters’ storylines and his own history with life-saving cybernetics. But don’t forget, Genji is a cyborg, not a robot — as he explains in HotS, via a line that references Styx’s 1983 pop hit, “Mr Roboto”.
In HotS, Genji pokes fun of his own heavy-handed Overwatch family history and voice lines, which characterise Genji and Hanzo as two dragons. One fan drew this illustrated comic based on Genji’s jokey retelling of his backstory:
Considering we haven’t heard Genji joke much, this is all a refreshing surprise. That said, Genji did always seem more energetic than his brother based on how his voice actor, Gaku Space, reads his lines. Plus, we know from Blizzard’s descriptions that he was less serious than Hanzo in their youth, even though we’ve never gotten to see that side of him before. Now, thanks to Heroes of the Storm, we finally have a version of Genji who cuts loose and goofs around.
Admittedly, the references to tired-out memes like “my body is ready” and The Official Ninja Webpage do not make Genji seem like a cutting-edge humorist. But he’s from the future, so maybe all of those memes become cool again in the 2070s? In any case, the memes humanise this cyborg in a way that nothing else has before, and Genji fans love it:
Oh — also, Genji has an Evangelion-inspired armour set in Heroes of the Storm. Because of course he does.