"A game isn’t something that can be made by one person alone. Well, it’s possible that a really hard-working game creator could finish a game all alone, but even then he would still need a player. Games grow and mature when they’re created, played, and conveyed over and over."—Itoi, in a 2007 issue of Nintendo Dream magazine
"Being free does not lead to decadence. It brings out potential."
Shigesato Itoi (糸井 重里, b. November 10, 1948) is a Japanese essayist and copywriter whose works are widely considered to have had a defining influence on modern Japanese culture. He's dabbled in pretty much everything at some point or another over the past thirty years or so - he's done books, he's done songwriting, he's done websites, he's done voice acting, he's done film, he's done television, he's done day planners... The man is an endless font of variety, really, and Japan loves him for it.
Of course, that's not what he's known for in the western world. No, the west knows him better for something that to him and to Japan was little more than a little experiment in storytelling he did on the side. Around here, he's best known as the brilliant mind behind the MOTHER trilogy of Nintendo video games, namely MOTHER, Earthbound and Mother 3. He's a good friend of Shigeru Miyamoto, Hirokazu Tanaka and Satoru Iwata (who singlehandedly reprogrammed Earthbound from scratch midway through development, rescuing the entire project when all seemed lost), he served on the board of Nintendo subsidiary HAL Laboratory for a while, and he is an occasional participant in the Iwata Asks interview series. Other video game endeavours of his include bass fishing video games for the Super Famicom and Nintendo 64 (he was really into bass fishing in the late 90s) and a health diary for Nintendo D Si.
In 1998, he established the Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (Pretty-Much-Daily Itoi News, commonly called Hobonichi), a strange news site-hybrid themed around the idea of brightening peoples' days. It's partially a news site, but its biggest draw is its status as the home of his essays and thoughts on life, living, philosophy and his dog, and interviews with interesting people. On that note, he really loves interviewing people - his interviews never fail to be long and interesting and he's filled multiple books with them. This is pretty much why Iwata sometimes gets him to do important Iwata Asks interviews instead - because he's really, really good at it.
He has a Twitter account, which is quite the interesting read if you're versed in Japanese. It's pretty easy to tell whenever he mentions MOTHER, because the title is always written in English.
Things Itoi has worked on
- Let's Meet in a Dream (in collaboration with Haruki Murakami)
- My Neighbor Totoro - voiced Mei and Satsuki's father
- Iron Chef - judge on four episodes
- Mother 3
- Super Smash Bros
- Norwegian Wood - portrayed the Professor
Tropes associated with Itoi:
- Nightmare Fuel: In-universe example, you could say - pretty much everyone knows the story behind him and the film that ultimately inspired Giygas, but in case you don't...
- Bishonen: Dear God, just look at him on this mid-90s magazine cover!
- Celebrity Endorsement: Sort of, because he obviously created it - in Japan, the big selling point of the MOTHER series was always the fact that he, a rather popular celebrity, made it; the ads for MOTHER made a point of pointing that out. Also, he likes to endorse food he enjoys (several of these crop up in the MOTHER trilogy), with a curry restaurant actually using a page full of his praise (and scribbles) as its packaging.
- Cloudcuckoolander: If MOTHER wasn't enough to convince you that this is the case, the rest of his body of work will!
- Cool Old Guy
- Gold Fever: He tried his hand at gold mining in the early 90s; this later inspired the Dusty Dunes Desert mining site in Earthbound, which was in development around that time.
- Grandpa, What Massive Hotness You Have: General consensus among the MOTHER fandom is that still looks fantastic for someone aged 61, never mind someone of that age who used to smoke.
- Harmful to Minors: Again, the story about Giygas's creation.
- He Also Did: Unsurprisingly, many people in the west aren't aware of his non-MOTHER work; it's kind of inverted in Japan, where MOTHER is just another thing he dabbled in and comparatively obscure.
- The Merch: This is how his site is supported, as it contains no advertisements. Memorably, his line of customizable Hobonichi day planners has sold over 300,000 copies (that's right, Itoi can make day planners sell like hotcakes). And yes, there have been MOTHER shirts at some point. Also, ramen.
- Nice Hat: They're quite common in photos of him from the past three years or so.
- Renaissance Man
- Signature Style: His work is always offbeat yet borderline poetic, carry its point well, and will demonstrate a deft mastery of Mood Whiplash.
- Tagline: Once his primary job; he's responsible for many particularly famous Japanese ones.
- Trademark Favourite Food: Croquette rolls. Inevitably they showed up repeatedly in MOTHER.
- Widget Series: Quite a bit of his work.