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So Many Missiles: Revealing the Itano Circus in Video Games
Earlier this week, Strike Suit Zero: Director’s Cut was released for the PlayStation 4 and XBox One after shipping to PC users back in January. This transforming, hybrid ship-to-mech space dog fighter simulator pits players in a race against time to defend the Earth from colonial invaders. The game’s design aesthetic flourishes from the beauty of streaking light arcs emanating from everything from ship exhaust trails down to outlining the flight path of weapon fire as it seeks to make contact with your opposition. At its highest potential, your ships (as well as your opponents) can fire dozens of munitions simultaneously. This creates a hellish firestorm, littering the open space battlefield with an extravagant ballet of pain.
This spastic phenomenon all tapers back to a vision first birthed by a Japanese animator named Ichiro Itano. He entered the world of animation in the early 1980’s and was quickly acknowledged for his work on the iconic Gundam and Macross franchises. These futuristic space operas were one of many in a fraternity that fueled humanity’s desire to not only reach the stars but conquer them as well. Prior to Itano’s work, all anime fight scenes had a heavy newsreel effect, depicting point-by-point descriptions of all action and motions. He sought to simply alter the art & choreography to a manner that he felt made sense and was realistic enough. It became an effect that he pulled off so successfully, animation insiders coined the phrase “Itano Circus” in lieu of it.
So where exactly does someone find inspiration to reinterpret their idea of rocket fire? The following is a direct quote from an interview with Itano from 2004 and sums it all up rather well.
“When I was in high school, I would play around and attached about 50 fireworks rockets on the side of the motorcycle. I would go to Enoshima and there’s a stretch that’s about 300 meters long. I would ride the motorcycle and launch all the rockets. It looks very good from my perspective on the bike and from the target on the other end. Something that hasn’t been done before is action scenes so fast that you can’t tell entirely what’s going on, but you know something’s going on. It’s more like a handi-cam perspective. That’s what I remembered when I came up with the Itano Circus. It wasn’t something done before, and that became the basis for the Itano Circus.”
Now, let me go ahead and throw a disclaimer down on this one before anyone goes running downtown to their nearest fireworks shop. No matter how awesome this actually sounds, we here at Leviathyn do not condone or encourage recreation of this event in any real life context. We can certainly use our imaginations at this point and have some fair idea as what that moment had to look like. Even better yet, there are several video game titles out there in the wild where we can recreate these delightful doom blossoms to our heart’s content.
Granted, many people still find this manner of attack is one that abandons some fundamental common sense of combat. For one, a Circus quite simply sacrifices all substance and sensibility in exchange for dramatic flair and style. Chances are you’ve now completely obliterated what may be a single target out of the sky and back into the Stone Age, given the caveat that you’ve potentially depleted all of your ammo in order to do so. The long run off a short pier here is that the Itano Circus is that certain special something that awakens everyone’s inner military madman.
Or Michael Bay.
In much the same fashion that Eric Bana’s character Nero got to carry the order out in the first modern Star Trek film, the Itano Circus is a gamer’s meal ticket to fire until your hands get tired. From the closing acts of Metal Gear Solid 4 where we are placed behind the controls of Metal Gear REX to the outrageously lag-laden Bangai-O: Missile Fury, there is a veritable buffet of missiles ready for launching. Perhaps you’re more in tune to classic titles for your firepower fix, which would make us gladly offer the frenzies of Nintendo’s Metroid Prime 2: Echoes or the wildly ridiculous (though Japan exclusive) Metal Wolf Chaos.
Zone of the Enders. Armored Core. Ace Combat. Sins of a Solar Empire. Even the RYNO weapon from the Ratchet & Clank franchise all carry their own creative interpretations of the Itano Circus. The trope also has more efforts planned for the future ahead of Strike Suit Zero with the development of Galak-Z: The Dimensional still in full swing and headed for the latest generation of systems. While there are literally dozens of games that have used this trope to one effect or the other, we’ve sought to not inundate this page with an absurd amount of videos and offer the fact that several of this featured suggestions are searchable through your video service of choice.