With the show’s ban on the “strongest console in history”, the PlayStation 2, finally being lifted, and a new generation of ADs finally appearing on the show, Game Center CX has entered a brand-new era. We’re once again speaking to Arino Kacho, Japan’s national treasure, just ahead of their 20th year on the air.
Interview – Kiyoshi Tane (https://twitter.com/bigburn)
Photography – Matsuzaki Hiroyuki (https://www.instagram.com/itl_mtzk/)
Entering the Show’s 19th Year, The PS2 Ban Has Been Lifted!
Game Center CX is now in its 18th year. And even though your age is double that of the newest AD, the ADs on the show recently aren’t afraid to talk to you in a very outspoken manner these days.
(Arino) They’re probably coming in thinking “I’ve gotta take care of that old guy that’s so bad at video games,” right? (Laughs)
Since AD Inotani wasn’t born until after the original PlayStation launched, he doesn’t play the same kinds of games.
(Arino) That’s why I think it was still a little too early to lift our ban on playing PS2 games! It must be a difference in generations.
Even though when he said, “Earth Defense Force” on the PS2 was nostalgic, I thought “Huh?!”.
(Arino) But it must feel that way for someone who was a young student at the time. Nobody knew that the PlayStation logo could be turned horizontally and vertically on the console either. That was really funny.
It was also fun to see you take on newer games on Game Center KBX (which aired on 03/28/2021) too.
(Arino) I time traveled into the future with Kibe! Though I’m still not sure that I understand very well just what the setting was supposed to be…
It’s following the Game Center CX rule that you can play a game if it’s at least 20 years old.
(Arino) So then there are people who think I’m not allowed to play modern games? I just didn’t like that idea of time traveling into the future. I was thinking about how dumb it was as I was doing it, but Kibe lost his motivation first. I said, “You wrote this scenario, you’re responsible for this!” (Laughs)
I did get a kick out of seeing you two spinning your arms around in circles though! (Laughs)
(Arino) I was thinking that if we have another live event, they’re going to make us do this for sure. So I’m kind of glad we’re in a period where we’re not having any! (Laughs)
Not only are you not having live events, but studio recording has gotten a lot more difficult. The staff aren’t actually filming from inside the room that you’re playing games in, and ADs are helping you remotely via monitors. You’re doing your best in that room all by yourself.
(Arino) There may be a better way of saying this, but Corona is messing everything up. It’s like I’m working remotely. But I never had any co-stars in the first place, so I guess it’s not that different.
In a sense, it’s something that could only really be done under these circumstances! (Laughs) I was on the edge of my seat wondering how it will go when you have to get yourself back to where you left off in the game after continuing.
(Arino) After it was all done, everything was sprayed down with disinfectant too. After however many years of playing games with acrylic dividers between everyone, fans might watch those episodes on DVD and think “Those things just get in the way!”. I hope we quickly get to a point when all of that’s just a memory.
CX Brand Glasses Finally Release
You haven’t been able to go on location for any Tamage segments lately, so it’s been a re-run of greatest hits.
(Arino) But we’ll be able to start doing Tamage again soon. We have some candidates, right? (He says to Ogawa from marketing)
(Ogawa) We decided on some in a meeting the other day. They’ll be in Aichi Prefecture.
(Arino) That’s so close by! (Laughs) Since we’ll be in the area, we might as well go to Tokyo German Village. Though maybe that’s not possible yet. I always look forward to Tamage lunches.
It seems like everyone always looks forward to them.
(Arino) It’s because we scout out such odd places. Like a sushi place that serves rolls with spaghetti in them or something! (Laughs)
And you did have lunch on a table with Space Invaders playing inside of it.
(Arino) There aren’t many of those table type cabinets left either.
The number of those sorts of restaurants is gradually decreasing, so you have to go to them while you still can. I wonder if you’ll take more trips overseas in another year or two?
(Arino) I’d like to when we’re able! I hope we can all go together with our vaccine passports. Two countries in two years!
You’ve gone all the way to Russia, but where would you want to go next?
(Arino) Even though we were in Russia, I was always mentioning how I wanted to meet the guy who created Tetris! But I guess I probably stopped when I learned he didn’t live in Russia anymore.
It seems like the arcades in southeast Asia would be pretty fun…
(Arino) That’s true. There are a lot of places with arcades or even PlayStations and such setup in them. I guess you just pay some amount of money per hour and use your own account. The street stalls are really interesting too, and there are stray dogs just running around, so it’s a little bit scary. It would be fun to bring Kibe along! (Laughs)
Kibe certainly doesn’t like a lot of things!
(Arino) Taking him to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant to eat mysterious things would be so much fun! (Laughs)
Kibe appears on the program fairly regularly these days, doesn’t he?
(Arino) He’s been appearing on the mini segments in every single episode. We’ll have to kick him out one of these times! (Laughs)
But then I’d feel sorry for him! (Laughs)
(Arino) He was really in high spirits during KBX. It’s like he was getting carried away and saying, “It’s finally my time to shine!”
The program did have his name in the title, after all.
(Arino) It was called “KBX”, but I guess that was close enough? But if we leave him to his own devices, he might end up turning it into a TV shopping program! “And now, here’s this week’s patterned shirt!”
He does want to be on stage at Saitama Super Arena, after all.
(Arino) He’s getting carried away. But even if we let him get up on stage, he’d still speak in a very quiet voice! (Laughs)
He’s gotten used to recording in a studio, but it may be difficult for him at a huge arena.
(Arino) He had a mini segment at the Makuhari Messe event in 2018, but it was completely cut from the broadcast.
It was, wasn’t it? (Laughs) Huh, it was pretty funny too.
(Arino) Continue is the only place I’ve heard that from! (Laughs) I didn’t hear any buzz online when it was cut from the broadcast. 10,000 people agreed that it should be cut.
The show hasn’t had any live events or been on location anywhere, but fan meetings have started happening.
(Arino) I think the official fan club was established around last summer?
That’s right. There are certain pieces of content that only fan club members can enjoy, like “Producer Kan’s Serial Murder Case”.
(Arino) Are they actually enjoying it though? The quality deviation in content for the fan club is pretty amusing. I’ve heard that Kusuda’s radio program is pretty difficult to listen to. I want to ask an actual radio director for their opinion and hear them say that they wouldn’t have picked him as a radio personality! (Laughs)
The new Game Center CX brand glasses really feel like they carry the last 18 years of the program’s history with them. I wonder if that’s because you put your glasses on every time you read an instruction manual?
(Arino) It feels a little bit sad though. I guess I’ve just gotten old! I’m feeling my age because I need reading glasses now.
I saw footage of you from 10 years ago on the Tamage special compilation, and you’ve got nothing to worry about.
(Arino) The shininess of my face is completely different now. But I never figured that reading glasses would come out that had the show’s branding on them, or that there would be a manufacturer that would want to release them. I hope we get a branded vape next. I don’t smoke, but I hope they put out squid flavored vape.
You wouldn’t need to put the official squid snacks on top of the desk then! (Laughs) It’s not unusual for long running programs to have product collaborations, but Game Center C” is the only program that has squid and glasses.
(Arino) We go to some weird places. I wonder if Yocchan Ika or Black Thunder will reach out to us. Before I would just eat Kororo gummies on the show, but Kororo never reached out with an offer of making “The Kacho Won’t Give Up” branded Kororo! (Laughs)
It looks like the age range of the collaboration products goes up as you get older. Will there be an officially branded cane one day? “Arino Kacho’s Cane!” (Laughs)
(Arino) That’s a good idea. But I’d want to put out health food products before that. I want to drink something that’s good for eyestrain and say, “I can see all the enemy character’s movements!” I wonder if such a supplement even exists.
There would be a lot of persuasive power behind that coming from you, who plays video games for so many hours! (Laughs)
(Arino) But it would probably be accompanied by narration that said, “Or so he said, but then he wasn’t able to clear the game.” (Laughs)
From Tape to Digital, 18 Years of Broadcasting
Isn’t playing video games for so many hours during a single day taxing for you?
(Arino) People tell me “I can’t believe you play games for 14 hours a day at your age.” But in my free time I usually don’t even spend two hours a day playing them.
But you really got into “Ghost of Tsushima,” didn’t you?
(Arino) I’d get home from work, and I wouldn’t even play it for two hours a day since I wasn’t starting it up until my family all went to sleep. I was just using whatever time I had, so sometimes I’d get in an hour of play at a time.
Slow and steady play, even in your time off! (Laughs)
(Arino) The most fun part of games is when you’re not doing very well at them, right? When you’re saying things like “Oh my god, this boss is so hard!” or “I don’t have enough hit points!” you’re having fun. It’s just not as good when you go into the last boss of the original “Legend of Zelda” with too many hearts and it’s just too easy. Being a little bit weaker is just more fun.
Even though that original Zelda game is one that takes a long time if you go into without having prepared, you were able to impressively clear it in only 2 days.
(Arino) I look forward to when I have to take a game home with me to practice, which maybe happens once a year or so. I just sit there thinking “Wow, I’ve written any entire day’s worth of stuff in my Hobonichi notebook again,” because I write down all the techniques and stuff.
And it’s really funny when you forget them in the moment! (Laughs)
(Arino) It’s surprising, isn’t it? I’m doing so many different things that I forgot about them!
On the second day of playing “Dragon’s Lair” you just completely forgot the controls! (Laughs)
(Arino) The staff were all telling me that I absolutely had to clear the game that day. Even though I said that I would, I couldn’t do it at all because I forgot the controls! (Laughs)
Watching people play games online is very popular these days, but the best thing about Game Center CX is when you spend so much time just messing up, and then they really put the parts where you make those mistakes at to good use on the show.
(Arino) The early staff members always said that it was really difficult to separate the footage of me screwing up during editing. Even though I’d just think to myself “Yeah, I know! This is hard for me too!”
Arino who messes up that many times, and the staff members who record that footage and use only the good parts of it. Game Center CX is the only show that can do that.
(Arino) It makes for a lot of material. I guess they still have all the tapes that they used to record on. They haven’t thrown any of them out in 18 years.
Really?! There must be so many of them!
(Arino) It should be okay to just keep the tapes of the footage that aired, but they have everything still. After we recorded a Tamage segment one time, they said that the warehouse where they kept the tapes was full and made me go see it! (Laughs)
When you finish too early, you’re told that it’s “unusable footage,” right?
(Arino) Even though recording 2 hours of footage for a 1-hour program is completely normal. But when we end at night I wonder where we’re going to use some of the footage, and the director brings out the atmosphere in it. There are plenty of times when I’m just quiet because I’m concentrating! (Laughs)
So you’ve gotten used to 14 hour recording sessions! (Laughs)
(Arino) When we promote ADs to directors, we should really make them pass a test where we give them old video footage and edit it down into one hour. I want to see what each of them decides to leave in.
Seeing what they decide to leave in really shows their personality, doesn’t it?
(Arino) I wonder if that’s why they’ve saved everything? 18 years ago, tapes were the only media that we recorded on. We had a short break every hour so they could change the tape, but now everything is recorded digitally, so they can just keep the cameras rolling non-stop. It’s scary because I can’t even go to the bathroom unless I ask to! I wonder if someone will release a product called “Diapers overflowing with the Kacho’s enthusiasm”. And if you wet them the words “game over” appear.
You’ve been getting a lot of official work from Nintendo lately. Playing Zelda and Mario games as a part of the Yoiko Channel series on the official Nintendo YouTube channel, and such.
(Arino) You know, everyone’s been coming up to me and telling me so happily that they’ve been watching those videos. But they say “Kacho, I’ve been watching them” in such a whisper! (Laughs) They say “Yoiko Channel” in a whisper too. But people from Nintendo say it normally, so I wonder what’s with the difference. They say it so secretively.
Even though it feels like the GCCX challenges take way more years off your life.
(Arino) Even after 18 years, we still haven’t found an efficient way of doing those. That’s why they still take so long. If it was a project for a real company, they’d get so angry at me! (Laughs) “You can do it in way less time than that!” They’d tell me to rethink the way I worked.
Though it seems more likely you’d be told to not try to change a thing about the way CX works! (Laughs)
(Arino) There was only one time that I wanted to go on strike, but it was just me. Kan, the producer, told me to go on ahead. There was no point in going on a hunger strike because they would have just said “Okay, so you don’t need a bento then.”
You can’t really call it a union in the first place if it’s just you! (Laughs)
He Doesn’t Read Manuals Because He’s from The Drifters Generation?
You absolutely don’t read the manual before you play a game, right? Is that intentional?
(Arino) It would probably go better if I did read them, actually. Maybe I don’t read them because I want to be able to say, “I don’t get this”.
So then you intentionally don’t read them.
(Arino) Yeah. Modern games teach you how they work as you go along through tutorials. I want to show just how unfriendly older games were. I want younger generations to know all about it! (Laughs)
It was so funny when you were playing “The Firemen” and you didn’t realize until the very last stage that you could fix the direction where the water was spraying.
(Arino) Did I really make that big of a mistake? I really didn’t know that from the very beginning? I’m really an idiot! (Laughs)
The AD just couldn’t let it go, and so they told you! (Laughs)
(Arino) I bet it’s because I’m from The Drifters generation (The Drifters being a famous comedy group). I want someone to tell me “Behind you, behind you!” I want someone to tell me “Kacho, read the manual!” Comments come in during the live broadcasts saying, “Make him read the manual!” I want someone to tell me “No, not that!” when I have the manual and just read the introduction.
It’s great when you talk to each other. During “The Firemen” the staff would shout out “Get down!” to help you put out the fire. It was like they were giving commands to a dog! (Laughs)
(Arino) Everyone just wants to order me around. In a way, it’s like being targeted by a mob! (Laughs)
Everyone got very excited shouting “Dive!” at you during “Super Mario World” too.
(Arino) Shouting out single word commands is pretty fun, after all. It’s also really funny when kids shout out “Concentrate!” at me during live events. That’s the epitome of a live event, the audience being there.
Matsui & Mikan and the Continue Cannon Explosion!?
Kan’s narration has been getting more and more merciless lately.
(Arino) Kibe is the one who gets him to say those things! (Laughs) Even Kan says, “I’m just reading what’s in the script.” But ever since Kibe’s other show “Yushaaaaa” ended, I think he may have gotten a bit cocky.
So Kibe’s workload has gone down? (Laughs)
(Arino) I’m just saying that he’s really been letting me have it lately! (Laughs) Speaking of which, the staff all celebrate Kan’s birthday in between recording sessions every year. And apparently one day, Kibe told one of the ADs, “You know my birthday is in October too.” When I contacted Kobayashi and said, “Why don’t we give him a surprise video call right after recording?” and I was rejected with “Apparently he doesn’t pick up the phone during dinner meetings” (Laughs) Even when we didn’t make it a surprise and specifically said that I mentioned it, he replied “I can’t” back over LINE. In 18 years of the show, my relationship with Kibe is the only one that’s gotten worse. I’m making it known here that we won’t try celebrating his birthday again! (Laughs)
Even though Kibe is married, no one has met his wife, right?
(Arino) No one has ever seen her. He doesn’t even have a photo of her on his phone wallpaper or anything. It makes me wonder if he’s even married at all! I wonder if he isn’t just thinking that he’ll make more fans sad if he says that he is? (Laughs)
(Arino) One time when we going to drop him off at home on the location bus, and I said “Let’s all hang out at your place!”. He refused and got off the bus a bit further away from where he lived.
He’s very desperate to keep this all a secret!
(Arino) Will you post it in Continue for me? (Laughs) Fire that Continue cannon! (Laughs)
It’ll be a scoop on him driving in a luxury car to go buy fish! (Laughs)
(Arino) It’s the Kacho’s scoop! (Laughs)
Even though he was just going to the fish market, it’s like he was photographed for Friday magazine or something.
(Arino) He would have fit in much better if he’d been going to a game store. How uncool.
Speaking of marriages, Matsui and Mikan got married.
(Arino) And everyone said “Yeah, I knew they were dating”. Were you all just pretending that you didn’t?
(Ogawa) I asked them about it. They wanted to keep a secret, but I was stubborn and asked directly! (Laughs)
(Arino) The reporters at the Continue cannon were on the case! (Laughs) But it looks like there was already some evidence to be had.
(Ogawa) I had eyewitness information. Mikan is my senior at work, so I always use polite language with her. But every now and then I talk to her more casually. So I went up to her and was like “Ohh, what have we here?” (Laughs)
(Arino) So the secret was already out. But it’s great that they went so far as to get married.
With GCCX as the connection, you’re all really turning into one big family!
(Arino) The Gascoin Company has been hiring more female employees than male ones lately, after all. The whole industry is changing.
Game Center CX Will Go on Forever?
I never thought Game Center CX would be going for this long.
(Arino) It’s at the point where it’s like “Is this ever going to end?”, right? When I asked, “The show will end if Kan commits embezzlement or something, right?”, the reply was “Of course it won’t end for something as minor as that” (Laughs)
And I can’t imagine what you’d be involved in a scandal over either! (Laughs)
(Arino) I wonder if it would end if Kibe committed adultery? Would he be forced to step down if he did that?
(Ogawa) Well Kibe isn’t really the face of the show in the first place, so…(Laughs)
(Arino) Well then let’s see what happens if does commit adultery! (Laughs) Let’s have the Continue canon do an expose on whether he’s forced to step down!
But if that happens before the 25th season starts, he’d be completely overwhelmed.
(Arino) There have probably been some overseas TV dramas that have run longer? But in our case, the characters haven’t changed all that much.
You, Abe, and Kan have barely changed at all! (Laughs)
(Arino) I haven’t gotten a promotion from Kacho either. I wanted to be Bucho, but I guess that’s not going to happen. Overseas it’s “Kacho”, without the long o at the end (Note: The proper Japanese word here is technically “kachou”)
Everyone seems to have forgotten it was established that the Kacho works at CX Industrial Enterprises.
(Arino) Well it’s not like I say “Hello, I’m Arino Kacho from CX Industrial Enterprises” (Laughs)
Even though you used to conduct yourself in a very company employee-like manner during interviews, with presenting your business card and everything. You haven’t been able to go anywhere lately.
(Arino) I’d go to small candy stores for Tamage and hand out my business card, but now I can’t do that anymore. But I still carry my business cards around with me! (He pulls his business cards out of his pocket, and they’re in a Famicom-shaped case)
Just what I’d expect you to carry them around in! (Laughs) Now going into the 25th season of the show, there could be 30 or 40 of those.
(Arino) There could be. The number of consoles banned on the show has been going down. But I didn’t like that the official Twitter account retweeted us when I was playing “Earth Defense Force!” (Laughs)
You made them very happy. Was that the beginning of this pattern? (Laughs)
(Arino) The secret’s out! (Laughs) Even though it was obvious since we asked them for permission. It’s just a lot of pressure being watched by their official account.
And you refused to use the tactic where you got a bunch of powerful weapons by playing on Inferno difficulty, and then cruise your way through normal difficulty.
(Arino) I didn’t play “Earth Defense Force” at all back when it came out, aren’t they all the way up to part 5 now?
Those games have gotten so packed with content that there are over 100 missions in any given one now.
(Arino) That’s so long! I wouldn’t be able to finish that even if I took it home with me. On the show they’d probably say, “This week, you’re going to defend the earth!” (Laughs)
The number of game consoles that are banned for use on the show may be decreasing, but it’s getting more difficult because you’re increasing in years.
(Arino) The scariest thing of all will be when I end up with a game that I already played on the show once before. I’ll just keep thinking “I feel like I’ve played this before…” as I’m going through it! (Laughs) I’ll make mistakes in the same places and make the same jokes. The day will come when I just get teased about that endlessly. They’ll say “Oh Kacho, you haven’t noticed yet?”
Those kinds of practical jokes are no fun! (Laughs)
(Arino) I’m wondering if the number of horror games I play on the show will increase too, since I can play PS2 now. I want to shriek out loud while I’m playing them, but I also don’t want to let my feelings influence things too much.
A Famicom or PC Engine game could come right after a PS2 game though, so you really can’t predict what you’ll get next.
(Arino) There’s no way it would turn in nothing but PS2 games though. And it’s quite the process to get permission to play these games on the show. It would make things a lot easier for us if viewers send offers out for us saying “Please give them permission!” (Laughs) Or if people in the fan club would say “I’ll figure out who has the rights to this game.”
That might give away the next game on the spot, though! (Laughs)
Arino Kacho’s Inauguration Ceremony at Saitama Super Arena?
To close things out, please tell us about any aspirations you may have go into the 20th year of the show.
(Arino) I want to do something in front of an audience again. But before that, I’ll probably end up having the last game challenge of my 40s. At any rate, there will be a lot of events: The whatever episode anniversary, the whatever year anniversary, they’ll always be something going on! (Laughs)
They’ll be a lot of celebrating going on, won’t there? (Laughs)
(Arino) My comedy industry mentors celebrate age in groups of five years. When I wondered why that was, I realized that it was because if they don’t do it that way then they can’t work! (Laughs) So I think it’s going to be that way for me as well. I’d really like to be promoted to Bucho by the 20th anniversary too. I want to have my inauguration ceremony at Saitama Super Arena!
That would be the first ever inauguration ceremony for someone being promoted to that rank! (Laughs) There’s no company that would ever do that.
(Arino) I’d be designated as a living national treasure on stage, there would be taiko drums playing, and Tani would shout “I hereby bestow upon you the rank of Bucho!” And the audience would all be like “They do THIS when you’re promoted to Bucho?!” (Laughs)
More and more people will start wonder just what kind of company CX Industrial Enterprises actually is! (Laughs) Well Arino Kacho, we’re very much looking forward to your activities going into the show’s 20th year!