Out of all American superheroes, there is one that many in Japan seem to like best: Spider-Man. But why? In a recent interview, Hideo Kojima explains how Spider-Man is like Japanese heroes, which might explain the character’s appeal to local audiences.
How better to explain this than a man whose Twitter profile says his body is made of 70 percent movies?
Kojima told Famitsu how the first X-Men movie was a stylish motion picture that appealed to adults. “As for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, the age bracket dropped slightly and it was a youth fantasy film,” Kojima said. “I’m not saying that derisively, as I really like Raimi’s Spider-Man.” In particular, he was moved by Spider-Man 2.
Famitsu asked Kojima which American comic book character was his favorite, and he replied that he perhaps liked Spider-Man the most. “He’s a hero with worries, and that’s similar to Japanese heroes,” explained Kojima, who added that he basically like masked Japanese heroes like Kamen Rider and Tiger Mask.
Rich superheroes or superheroes without flaws are less appealing to him, Kojima says. Besides Spider-Man, he is also a fan of the Flash, adding that he liked the character’s recent TV series.
“Don’t you think how Spider-Man was originally a normal person who, because of an accident, became a masked superhero has similarities to Kamen Rider?” asked Kojima. Kamen Rider is a regular person who was kidnapped by an evil terrorist organization and turned into a grasshopper mutant who then escapes, dons a mask and battles evil.
Obviously, he doesn’t mean that the Spider-Man and Kamen Rider are the same (they are very, very different), nor does it necessarily matter which was first, because there are enough thematic similarities that make the American character appealing to those who grew up with masked Japanese heroes, like the iconic characters Kamen Rider (literally “Masked Rider”) or “Tiger Mask” (a do-gooder wrestler in a tiger mask).
I’d also add that the character’s costume and physique would appeal to Japanese who grow up on Super Sentai (Power Rangers outside Japan) type shows.
Out of all the American superheroes, it is easy to see why Spider-Man would be easiest for Japan to embrace and why Kojima likes the character so. Spider-Man is not a leap. There is a familiarity. It couldn’t happen to a better character.