There are few online game creatives as tireless of their pursuit of perfection as Kazunori Yamauchi. The top of the Polyphony Digital studio, and creator of Gran Turismo, is a motoring obsessive whose undertaking for the final 25 years has been to construct an interactive temple to automobiles and motorsport. He lives and breathes this quest. Between 2009 and 2016, he raced GT automobiles in 24-hour races, then gave the event workforce notes on precisely the way it ought to look when the solar comes up over the Nordschleife Nürburgring.
There’s one thing of a mythology round Yamauchi (or, as many GT followers name him, Kaz), and I went into the Gran Turismo film anticipating him to make an look as himself, maybe stepping out of one in all his beloved Nissan GT-R automobiles in racing overalls. To my whole delight, the very first shot of the movie was of Kaz — totally suited up, after all — kneeling on a racing circuit’s asphalt, rigorously finding out the camber of a flip. However right here’s the twist: It isn’t Yamauchi. It’s an actor portraying him.
Yamauchi doesn’t play an enormous position within the movie, which tells (with a superb diploma of inventive license) the true story of Jann Mardenborough, a Gran Turismo participant who graduated from the GT Academy program to a profession as knowledgeable racing driver. Other than the nakedly promotional opening montage that establishes the brilliance and perfectionism of Polyphony and the Gran Turismo video games, Yamauchi (the character) largely seems within the background of press launches and different notable moments in Mardenborough’s profession, trying on approvingly (so far as you may inform from his stoic countenance). He solely has one line, and he’s largely known as on to supply response photographs wherein he doesn’t react very a lot. However he hangs round fairly a bit, and maybe this position was thought-about past the performing skills (or the provision) of the famously laconic Kaz. Both manner, fictional Yamauchi is performed by Takehiro Hira — in all probability most recognizable because the Japanese lead of the wonderful BBC/Netflix crime drama Giri/Haji — who offers him an acceptable gravitas.
Ultimately, although, I wasn’t disillusioned — Yamauchi does make a cameo within the movie. Simply not in the best way I anticipated him to.
[Ed. note: Very mild spoilers for Gran Turismo follow.]
Picture: Gordon Timpen/Sony Footage
Halfway by way of the movie, Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) makes a visit to Japan to advertise his contract with Nissan and takes his girlfriend, Audrey (Maeve Courtier-Lilley), with him. The pair go on a date in Tokyo and go to a complicated sushi restaurant. Mardenborough takes a chunk of the sushi and his face lights up. “Oh my God, that’s wonderful!” he says. Lower, for only a second, to the sushi chef, who smiles appreciatively and provides the slightest nod.
I acknowledged him immediately, however requested Sony PR to substantiate for good measure. I used to be proper: The sushi chef is Kaz.
I anticipated one thing extra car-themed, however in reality, director Neill Blomkamp and his workforce created the right cameo second for Kaz right here. To know why, it is advisable to perceive a bit concerning the man.
Yamauchi is a real auteur, one of the well-known in gaming, after the likes of Hideo Kojima and Shigeru Miyamoto. He leads his personal studio and is granted near-total inventive freedom by Sony to pursue his private imaginative and prescient. However he doesn’t make playful explorations of childlike marvel like Miyamoto, or cinematic epics laden with philosophizing like Kojima; he makes scrupulously lifelike driving simulators which might be usually — understandably, if not totally pretty — considered dry. If his private traits are understood, they’re “perfectionist,” “technocrat,” and “likes automobiles.”
However, as illustrated in interviews and within the hagiographic however revealing 2014 self-importance doc Kaz: Pushing the Digital Divide, Yamauchi is mostly a dreamer, a real romantic. As a baby, he drew endlessly on the partitions of his home, which his mother and father indulgently re-papered for him. When he joined Sony’s gaming program within the 1990s, earlier than PlayStation was even a factor, Gran Turismo already existed in his head. It’s the one sport he ever wished to make, and he clearly finds one thing soulful in exploring, by way of his re-creations of the historical past of motorsport and the auto trade, humanity’s striving for one thing extra.
By picturing him as a sushi chef, Gran Turismo casts Kaz accurately as not only a well-known online game maker and automotive fancier, however as a craftsman and aesthete: somebody who, with nice ability, precision, and artfulness, places a bit of himself into all the pieces he makes, and lives so that you can respect it.
Gran Turismo opens in U.S. theaters on Aug. 25.