Label-Crazy Blast

Something I love about Tokyo is the prevalence of handmade signs. It’s totally normal even for high-end department stores to stand staff-constructed cardboard beside the till with laminated announcements and explanations. Anyone who’s tried to make any kind of contract or formal application will have noticed that the Japanese do in general seem to be fond of copious written information. An opportunity to add some more is never passed up.

Although the signs are handwritten, there is a distinct set of norms that govern how they should always look: thick, chisel-tip markers of various colours; colours changing between words or parts of speech but not within a word; words highlighted by drawing boxes neatly around them; optional ruled-line border.

But rarely have I seen something so over-served with signs as this Sega Blast City cabinet in the P&P game centre in Jimbocho.

The official marquee advertises Sengoku Densho 2001 (Sengoku 3 in the West – a samurai side-scrolling slice-em-up) and Metal Slug 3 (the celebrity super-soldier side-scrolling shoot-em-up).

Just for good measure, the same information is on the move strip behind the controls as well.

But why settle for the official printed bills? In addition to the marquee posters and move strip, a handmade notice beneath the screen says the same thing: Sengoku Densho 2001 and Metal Slug 3. Further to this quite unambitious elucidation are supplementary instructions of similarly modest informational value: “Press select to select; press start to start.” A sign well worth it’s weight in paper.

Perhaps you’re not following. How about if we add another handwritten sign? This time above the screen, saying Metal Slug 3 again. And 4. What? Yeah, actually it has Metal Slugs 3 and 4 in there. Is that a mistake? Or was the previous sign a mistake? Better clear this up…

Back to the bottom sign. It’s been extended with a stuck-on flap adding “& 4” to the end. That should be clear now. Looks a bit indecisive though. Maybe we need another sign!

Back above the screen – new sign: Includes Metal Slug 3 AND 4! No doubt what’s going on now.

But the move strip still just says Metal Slug 3! How about another neat little sign just there: Metal Slug 3 & 4. Done.

Oh crap. Metal Slug 4 is actually broken. Maybe I should take down the newer signs? But maybe some people have read those already and will be confused… hmmm… another sign!

To the right: UNDER REPAIR. Metal Slug 4 is NOT included due to malfunction. Job done – finally!



What iiif… what if someone reads all the signs down the middle of the cabinet but doesn’t look to the right? They might be sorely disappointed. At ¥50 a credit, the refunds could clear me out. Maybe just one more sign…

In the middle, above the screen, between the two signs saying that Metal Slug 3 and 4 are included, perhaps the best sign of the lot: Metal Slug 4 is under repair. But this sign isn’t really saying that – this sign is just to tell people about the sign that says that over on the right, so it’s got a big arrow pointing at that sign as well.

In summary, a redundant sign saying which 2 games are in there, updated to 5 separate signs explaining that Metal Slug 4 has been added and 2 more signs noting that it is under repair. 7 handwritten signs. On one cabinet. But it *already said* – on the marquee, on the move strip *and* onscreen – all it needed to say: Sengoku Densho 2001 and Metal Slug 3.

Photographer and writer covering Tokyo arcade life – the videogames, the metropolis and the people