Life imitates art, and nowhere is that more apparent than through these YouTube videos of a guy running through the streets of Tokyo, Japan, like he’s a character from Auto grand theft 3. While the movement is odd to a human, it will look familiar to anyone who’s tried moving around in a computer game with limitations on how to interact with the world. From the awkwardly loud footsteps to the way the man runs in place when he hits an invisible wall to the way the computer-controlled characters take punches like a rag doll, the video is a brilliant parody of the open-world game. from Rockstar from 2001. Interactions with NPCs are also a popular series riff Yakuza.
KOMAZAWA ISOLATION is the name of a Japanese YouTube group that creates parody videos of open-world urban games. Apart from their Grand Theft Auto short films, they also made longer videos of the Yakuza games and resident Evil. Their videos are immensely popular in Japan and have racked up over 20 million views on YouTube. Although their content is in Japanese, their videos have also found global appeal.
They’ve been doing the GTA TOKYO skits for the past three weeks, with the most recent taking place in early May 2022. While the performers spend most of their time running around the streets and punching “NPCs”, the most satisfying part is watching the character run into objects without touching them. In game development, the invisible wall is called a “collider”. Characters usually hit the collider before hitting the object, preventing weird clipping issues from occurring. “Clipping” refers to when one in-game object passes through another because the computer has not rendered an object’s solidity perfectly. By engaging in these GTA physics, it’s as if KOMAZAWA ISOLATION imposed video game logic on the real world.
According to a meeting with Japan Go!, Hayaken and Ganso are a pair of award-winning street dancers who film their sketches in Tokyo. Hayaken originally performed the janky moves for his friends, and they “always burst out laughing”. So he started doing Grand Theft Auto YouTube videos during the pandemic. He specifically thought about sketches that could be performed when there were relatively few people outside (due to the coronavirus). The team is mainly made up of the duo and a cameraman, but they sometimes involve their friends as extras.
Hayaken specializes in a dance with a lot of stomping, while Ganso engages in a style called “Pop-dance”, which consists of many robotic movements. These moves were perfect for capturing the drama of over-the-top but stilted animations of video game characters.
“We want to shoot in Times Square next.” Hayaken said. “We’ll just be careful not to get shot.”