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Friday, August 13, 2021

The Dragon Quest Overture at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics Wasn't a "Scandal"

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Manufactured outrage.

While there were many reasons to not like the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Opening Ceremony (especially as presented by NBC), the presence of videogame music during the Parade of Nations was a legitimately happy highlight that everyone should appreciate. (Unfortunately NBC's selective editing also meant the soundtracks were cut up and sometimes skipped.) The very first videogame song was the Dragon Quest Overture theme, as originally composed by franchise musician Koichi Sugiyama. Although, at least on the NBC stream (who knows what happened in reality?!), it wasn't part of the soundtrack loop—which made its one appearance at the start very special. And according to many of the commenters on Dragon Quest YouTube videos, the song made a very positive impression. (I'll give a screenshot of just one screen's worth of comments later in this article.)

Dragon Quest XI S Heliodor this tune's a banger musicians Koichi Sugiyama
“This tune's a banger!” is how the vast majority of people must've reacted when they heard the Dragon Quest theme at the Opening Ceremony.
It's the NORMAL reaction.
Anyway, note the white text at the top:
Sugiyama's rights management to his compositions is so strong he gets to appear in every screenshot exported from Dragon Quest XI S.

I would include a video clip of the Dragon Quest Overture at the Olympics, but unfortunately, NBC is on a mission to copyright strike any uploads of that. You'll have to take my word for it (or read my live reaction log linked in the opening sentence, where I was talking about the Overture many times throughout). Here's the song itself (or one version of it anyway):

Unfortunately, it seems like “journalists” try to ruin everything nowadays. Specifically, Jake Adelstein of The Daily Beast wrote an “EXCLUSIVE” called “Japan’s Ex-Prime Minister Is Behind This Hateful Olympic Scandal”. The so-called “scandal” that created “global outrage” is that, when Dragon Quest franchise composer Koichi Sugiyama isn't composing music, he's a political activist in the interest of right-wing Japan nationalism, and he's a regular donor to former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. (Abe stepped down last year due to health issues.) Abe was also one of the people working behind-the-scenes to make Tokyo 2021 a thing.

Adelstein, the journalist, cited anonymous sources claiming that Shinzō Abe's influence over the Olympics planning was tremendous, and that him and Koichi Sugiyama are actually personal friends or something. So Abe was doing Sugiyama a big personal favour by getting the Dragon Quest Overture in there. Adelstein and The Daily Beast apparently didn't investigate what ties all of the other game franchises that had music at the Olympics (including Monster Hunter, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Tales of) have to Shinzō Abe. Adelstein cites an anonymous source claiming that the Dragon Quest overture theme was first because “Abe deemed it the most important.”

The anonymous source (by the way, you shouldn't assume this anonymous source is even a real person who actually has contextual knowledge of everything that happened) didn't get into why it's the most important—Adelstein was filling in the blanks by implying there's a pay-to-play ideology-based nose-rubbing, but a far more likely and simple explanation for why the Dragon Quest theme was first is because it's the opening (title) music to the Dragon Quest games, so it makes sense for it to be the opening (title) music to the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games. The other themes weren't... necessarily title/opening themes.

I'll now present some YouTube comments from the above embedded video as evidence:

Dragon Quest Overture Tokyo 2021 Olympics Opening Ceremony YouTube comments
Just a few of many comments of people very pleased at the Overture appearing in the Olympics.

Observe that last comment. In Japan, everyone knows this theme. The videogame industry in Japan basically considers Dragon Quest to be their national representative game, and it tends to release on Saturdays so the release day doesn't negatively impact school and work attendance. It's quite well-respected in Japan. Perhaps that's why Japan's Opening Ceremony organisers would consider Dragon Quest to be the most important game on the list of game songs to appear at the Olympics?

If The Daily Beast is to be believed, the very existence of the Overture theme would be considered a national embarrassment and a great shame worthy of committing seppuku. But you can also listen to the Overture several times over in SQUARE ENIX's very recent Dragon Quest 35th Anniversary Special presentation. It's just total FAKE NEWS that this song being played caused a big scandal, and Jake Adelstein failed to substantiate that claim in his article. The article claims that Nintendo would've had music as well, but they quit since “the decision to use Sugiyama’s music” was considered “a ticking time bomb [that caused Nintendo] pulled out at the last minute.” Reminder that the following trailer happened at Nintendo's E3 2019 (and nothing has changed with Sugiyama between 2019 and 2021)... and note which theme is playing about 58 seconds in and whose name appears in the copyrights at the very end of the trailer:

Perhaps the real reason the Tokyo 2021 had controversy (and why Nintendo wouldn't want to be part of it) is due to the whole Chinese Communist Party Virus pandemic and how Japanese citizens were worried that all of the (potentially unvaccinated) foreigners (who clearly did a bad job wearing masks, as seen in the Opening Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony) arriving in Japan would be a super-spreader event that'd harm public health. ...Y'know, and nothing to do with Koichi Sugiyama's music.

It's more likely that the journalist is, in fact, not a news reporter, and is just an activist who has a personal vendetta against Koichi Sugiyama representing the biggest (reputationally) videogame franchise in Japan. Really all I can find about people being mad about this theme playing is... from The Daily Beast saying so. In other words, it's a fake story and manufactured outrage. My apologies for not having already added The Daily Beast to KoopaTV's list of sources to stay away from.

Some people might find Sugiyama's nationalist politics to be abhorrent, but Ludwig is sympathetic to him. Sugiyama is to Japan what Ludwig is to Koopa Kingdom, in terms of glorifying their nation of origin and downplaying any bad things that might've happened in the past. Let Ludwig know if you were personally outraged from hearing the Overture and if you are triggered whenever anyone plays on the Yggdrasil's Altar stage in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (because of Sugiyama being the one who composed the music... not because they use the non-orchestrated versions of the songs).

The article that was published the day before this one was also about a journalist trying to ruin something, this time the creation of a new indie game studio.
If you want the future of Dragon Quest to have a completely different soundtrack and no association with Koichi Sugiyama, did you let SQUARE ENIX know in this survey?
Koichi Sugiyama died on September 30, 2021. Jake Adelstein seemed happy about it. Shinzō Abe was assassinated and died on July 8, 2022.

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