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A fundamental difference in the way Japan and the west approach fantasy role-playing games is how much more optimism Japanese creators tend to apply to the genre. Consider the most common opening scenarios for the two regions. How many western RPGs start with a group of grizzled and profiteering adventurers, brought together in a shady tavern by tales of riches waiting to be claimed? About as many as there are Japanese ones that begin with some plucky, clean-cut childhood friends leaving their bucolic village on a quest to see the wonders of the world and help strangers along the way.

The gap even extends to visual designs, with much western fantasy art looking like it’s covered with a thin film of dust, blood, or mead. Japan, on the other hand, likes to believe that everything can look sleek, freshly scrubbed, and even sexy in a medieval setting.

One of the founding fathers of fantasy gaming, though, isn’t right pleased about that aesthetic.

Names don’t get much bigger than Ian Livingstone in the role-playing game industry. The 65-year-old English author is one of the founders of the U.K. gaming goliath Games Workshop, and also co-creator of Fighting Fantasy, a series of gamebooks that’s been around so long the producers of Final Fantasy had to give up on their first choice of name for the video game franchise.

Among the best-loved of the series is Deathtrap Dungeon, written by Livingstone himself. Following the archetypical western fantasy plotline, the player delves into a dungeon in search of treasure and glory. Traps, and often death, are involved, and also some sort of monster with a multitude of eyes, as shown in the cover art for the original 1984 U.K. edition by illustrator Ian McCaig.

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A year after it was released in the U.K., Deathtrap Dungeon was translated into Japanese by publisher Shakai Shisosha. The 1985 edition was titled Shi no Wana no Chikameikyu, literally “Underground Labyrinth of Deathtraps.” That might sound a little clunky to English-speakers, but it’s arguably a more accurate way of describing RPG dungeons, which only occasionally contain prisoners. Moreover, Livingstone recently praised Shakai Shisosha’s cover design as “great,” which seems to mean “practically identical to the U.K. version.”

In 2008, Deathtrap Dungeon was once again released in Japanese, this time by publisher Hobby Japan. For the new edition, the title’s vocabulary was kept in English (rendered in Japanese script as Desutorappu Danjon), which seems like a nice step in keeping the book more faithful to its roots. The cover art, though, was a different matter, as the baffled Livingstone recently tweeted about.

We’ve got to admit, those costumes, colors, and character designs do make for a completely different atmosphere, especially with the swordswoman’s bikini bottom being so snug we’re absolutely certain there are no deathtraps concealed within her labia.

Still, it’s not like this is the only new edition of Deathtrap Dungeon to come with a new cover. When Wizard Books rereleased the gamebook in the U.K. in 2002, the front looked like this.

▼ Less cleavage and more decomposing flesh being eaten by mice, but a change from the original art nonetheless.

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Nor is this the only time someone has tried to add a bit of racy appeal to the Deathtrap Dungeon franchise. The 1998 Deathtrap Dungeon PlayStation game, published by British Eidos Interactive, garnered plenty of attention for its initial character design for the female playable character, who instead of a shirt wore a long necklace to cover her nipples. Even in the final version of the game, the heroine braves the dungeon in thigh-high boots and a swimsuit-like leather one-piece not unlike the openly fetishized ones that recently had tongues wagging in Japan.

▼ It also had an ad like this, and was officially titled Ian Livingstone’s Deathtrap Dungeon, implying the author was at least somewhat OK with the sexual overtones.

We’re not sure why Livingstone is getting riled up about the Japanese cover now, seven years after it hit bookstores. For that matter, Japanese artists have been redoing the covers of Western books for years, sometimes with truly impressive results. Nor is Deathtrap Dungeon the only Fighting Fantasy title to get the anime/manga-style treatment, as shown in this comparison with the originals on top and their redone art underneath.

Deathtrap Dungeon, flanked by Fighting Fantasy Book 10: House of Hell and Fighting Fantasy Book 20: Sword of the Samurai (retitled Samurai Sword in its newest edition)

Apparently Samurai Sword even went so far as to reimagine a number of its fearsome beasts as a color-coded group of monster girls.

Livingstone, we presume, isn’t necessarily entrenched in the Japanese fantasy RPG scene, so it’s understandable that he’d be surprised and puzzled by the cheerier, more colorful artwork for Fighting Fantasy, but giving up some control comes with working with words and leaving the pictures and publishing to someone else. Hobby Japan ostensibly knows which side its bread is buttered on when it comes to selling fantasy books in Japan, and appears to be trying to give its version of Deathtrap Dungeon the best chance of commercial success when rolling the dice and publishing it. You can’t entirely blame the company for doing that, even if in this case Livingstone feels like the dice came up snake eyes/camel toe.

Source: Huffington Post via Hachima Kikou
Top image: Wikipedia/Melesse, Amazon Japan (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert images: Wikipedia/ Melesse, Wikipedia/EvilRedEye