Ni no Kuni's Funny Bone Has Quite the HistoryS

The Kansai area of Japan includes Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. It's famous for its food, such as okonomiyaki and beef, its companies, like Panasonic and Nintendo, and its comedians, which include about half of the people on television.

Japanese comedy is synonymous with Kansai. The country's most famous comedy agency, Yoshimoto Kogyo, started in Osaka in the early 20th century, and helped spearhead manzai's popularity.

That's exactly why Kansai dialect speaking comedians are appearing in the PS3's most beautiful game of 2011, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.

Manzai is a style of Japanese comedy with two comedians—kind of like Martin and Lewis or Abbott and Costello in the West. There's the funny man, called a "boke", and the straight man, called the "tsukkomi". A few manzai groups have three or four members, but they usually have two.

Sometimes, manzai groups seem to have two bokke. In manzai group Yoiko, Shinya Arino, of Retro Game Master fame, is supposed to be the bokke, but his partner, Masaru Hamaguchi does an amazing job at playing the fool.

Some Tokyo comedians actually have a hard time winning over Kansai audiences. Seeing them bomb in clubs can feel like a more reserved version of Show Time at the Apollo. It might be their accents or their style of comedy, but if you're not from Kansai and hope to get laughs there, you better be really funny. Certainly, there are non-Kansai comedians who are incredibly funny and incredibly famous, such as Beat Takeshi.

Some of Japan's most famous manzai duos, like Downtown or Hot Mario pitchmen Ninety-Nine, are from Kansai and speak the Kansai dialect on television.

Manzai comedian turned television personality Shinsuke Shimada, the recently disgraced TV host, speaks with a heavy Kansai accent.

Because so many Japanese comedians speak the Kansai dialect, people elsewhere in Japan associate it with comedy—something that bothers some Kansai people. The traditional capitals of Japan—Nara and Kyoto—are in Kansai, and many Kansai people like to think that the Kansai dialect is real Japanese.

It's worth noting that there are slight differences between the Kansai dialect spoken in Osaka and Kyoto. In Osaka, people speak "Osaka-ben" (Osaka dialect) and in Kyoto, people speak "Kyokotoba" (Kyoto dialect).

There are various dialects across the country, and all of them are real Japanese. After the capital moved to Tokyo during the Edo Period (1603-1868), the Tokyo dialect became the de facto standard dialect.

Tokyo is a collection of people from around the country. When the majority of them show up in Tokyo, they ditch their regional dialects and speak Tokyo Japanese. Kansai people are infamous for continuing to speak their dialect in Tokyo. It might be pride, or the fact that since so many comedians speak it on television, people from around the country are familiar with the dialect and can understand it.

The associations with comedy remain. Which is why, even in the mythical world of Ni no Kuni, the manzai comedians—here, played by real manzai group America Zarigani—speak in the Kansai dialect. This isn't a first for Ni no Kuni. The game's lantern-nosed Shizuku, voiced by Arata Furuta, speaks the Kansai dialect.

In the above gallery, there are several Ni no Kuni manzai clips, which, obviously, are more enjoyable if you understand what the characters are cracking about the differences between the DS and PS3 versions of Ni no Kuni, what the game's title means, and more.

Note: in one clip, the comedians point out that the PS3 version doesn't come with the big spell book that the DS version had.

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(Top photo: 安田大サーカス | zabieru48bus)

You can contact Brian Ashcraft, the author of this post, at bashcraft@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.