Life imitates art, and nowhere is this more apparent than through these YouTube videos of a guy running through the streets of Tokyo, Japan as if he were a character from Grand Theft Auto 3. While the movement is strange for a human, it will look familiar to anyone who has tried moving around in a video game programmed with limitations for how to interact with the world. From the awkwardly loud footsteps to the way that the man runs in place when he hits an invisible wall to the way that computer-controlled characters take hits like a ragdoll, the video is a brilliant parody of Rockstar’s open world game from 2001. The stilted NPC interactions are also a riff from the popular series Yakuza.
KOMAZAWA ISOLATION is the name of a Japanese YouTube group that creates parody videos of urban open world games. Aside from their Grand Theft Auto shorts, they’ve also made lengthier videos of the Yakuza games and Resident Evil. Their videos are immensely popular in Japan, and they’ve accumulated over 20 million views on YouTube. Though their content is in Japanese, their videos have also found global appeal.
They’ve been making the GTA TOKYO skits for the past three weeks, with the most recent one having gone up in early May 2022. While the performers spend most of their time running through the streets and hitting ‘NPCs,’ the most satisfying part is watching the character run into objects without actually touching them. In game development, the invisible wall is called a “collider.” Characters usually hit the collider before touching the object, preventing weird clippage issues from occurring. “Clipping” refers to when one game object goes through another because the computer hasn’t perfectly rendered the solidity of an object. By engaging in these GTA physics, it feels as if KOMAZAWA ISOLATION is imposing video game logic onto the real world.
According to an interview with Japan Go!, Hayaken and Ganso are a pair of award-winning street dancers who film their skits in Tokyo. Hayaken originally performed the janky movements for his friends, and they “always bursted out laughing.” So he started to make Grand Theft Auto YouTube videos during the pandemic. He specifically thought of skits that could be performed when there were relatively few people outside (due to coronavirus). The team is mainly composed of the duo and a cameraman, but they occasionally have their friends participate as extras.
Hayaken specialises in a dance with a lot of stomping, while Ganso engages with a style called “Pop-dance,” which consists of a lot of robotic movements. These movements were perfect for capturing the drama of exaggerated, yet stilted animations of video game characters.
”We want to film at Times Square next.” said Hayaken. “We’ll just be careful we don’t actually get shot.”