the city of Milwaukee tried to get the game banned back in 2000 due to the negative connotations of spray painting gang tags on urban street furniture. This is all academic in the grand scheme of this article though. The reason I'm writing all of this is because we need to examine one central character in particular...
Now, the popularity of Jet Set Radio has ballooned in recent times, and not least because of the number of people on Twitter calling for a HD remake or current-gen sequel. There actually is a HD remake for various systems like the PS Vita and PS3, but the overarching allure of Jet Set Radio (or Jet Grind Radio, if you're in the United States - quick fact, it's actually called Jet Grind in the US because of a band called Jet Set Satellite) is more down to the varied cast of cool as fuck protagonists and their spiritual leader Professor K, than anything else. Yes, the adolescent pranks and sick skating skillz of the likes of Gum, Beat and Tab are by far the most enticing thing about JSR. Furthermore, the ongoing turf war with the Poison Jam and Noise Tanks gangs is more than enough to make anyone want to get involved in this whole neon-hued, futuristic romp through Tokyo-To.
Hideki Naganuma and Richard Jacques' finest mixes blast through the speakers would leave an indelible mark on anyone's mind, but let's turn our attention to the main antagonist in Jet Set Radio. A man so hell-bent on stopping this immature masquerade that he'll revert to lethal measures. The man at the centre of the whole operation and tasked with ridding Tokyo-To of the menace of street gangs and graffiti and banging pirate radio choons once and for all - at the tax payer's expense, I might add. One Captain Onishima.
Height: 5ft. Shorty. With a five o' clock shadow, dirty hair and a creased suit, this joker's obviously been watching too many 1970's police shows. Watch out when he loses it 'cause he'll start shooting rubber bullets. His catchphrase is "I'm the judge and jury and I'm gonna send you down the river." Maybe the reason he hates young people so much is because of some past trauma.
So a fairly rudimentary introduction, then. The first time you see Onishima in Jet Set Radio is when he orders his squad of rank and file Tokyo-To officers in to apprehend you after a certain amount of time has ticked down in whichever level you happen to be covering with paint. He is the archetypal baddie, with his own brand of justice and an army of henchmen (aka the Tokyo-To police department) at his disposal. Later in the game, Captain Onishima reverts to his trusty side arm in an attempt to bring you down, but also calls in heavy ordnance in the form of police helicopters and armoured vehicles. But - and this is a big but - is he actually the bad guy here?
Look at it from the point of view of any of the citizens who happen to inhabit Tokyo-To. A city with a wealth of public transport options, cycle lanes, clean pavements (sidewalks), a decent sanitation system and a working train network. Tokyo-To looks, for all intents and purposes like a pretty decent place to live. The only real criminals are a bunch of kids dressed in stupid outfits who like to dance on rooftops and spray paint stuff, for God's sake. The criminals in Jet Set Radio are the characters you play as. Gum and Beat and their ring leader Professor K...they are the real criminals here. As they blast around childrens' play areas and busy shopping districts, trying to evade the choking clouds of CS gas they bring with them...what are the bystanders doing? Just going about their daily business.
Carlito Brigante because they spray-painted a love heart on the side of a bus (that incidentally, was full of well-behaved kids on their way to a nice, well-funded and respected school). It's not right mate - this is Tokyo-To, not Salford.
Onishima isn't flashy. He isn't suave. His physical appearance of unshaven and greasy-haired is a staple of down-and-out gumshoes like Columbo. He is the embodiment of every stereotypical superior in every cop show you've ever seen. The only stereotype not layed on him is that he's black...but let's not get into that shite. But the fact remains that he continues to chase these punks because he believes that what they are doing is wrong. Graffiti is a legitimate form of art and can be spectacularly beautiful and awe inspiring, but Onishima is doing his job. Plain and simple.