In White 1999: The Time D2's Laura Appeared as a Model in a Japanese Fashion Magazine

Kenji Eno seemed to look at game design differently to other developers. If you've played his major Dreamcast outing D2, you'll know exactly what I mean. He was always pushing the boundaries of what made a game a game. Something he very much championed was the idea of a 'digital actress.' It's a bit of an odd concept to explain, but perhaps the most modern equivalent we have is the likes of Hatsune Miku, a fictional character that has transcended her original source material (as the mascot for a piece of music software) to become a celebrity in her own right, crossing over into other forms of media, almost like she's following some kind of real world career path. 

Laura, created by Kenji Eno, was very similar. She's a familiar face we see in Eno's D trilogy, but in each game she 'plays' a completely different character, in the same way real-life actors play different roles in movies. In D, she is Laura Harris; in Enemy Zero, she is Laura Lewis; and in D2, she is Laura Parton. Despite sharing a similar-looking character model, they are all different characters who are involved in completely separate storylines.
Laura Harris (top left), Laura Lewis (bottom left), Laura Parton (right)

Being the creative genius he was, Kenji Eno's vision for Laura did not end at games. Prior to the release of D2 in Japan, Laura modelled clothes designed by Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto in the August 1999 issue (no. 268) of the Japanese fashion magazine High Fashion (or simply "HF"). Not only was she included within the issue's pages, she was featured slap-bang on the cover too. 

I can't imagine how stressful it must have been for many hard-working fashion models back in 1999 to have a precious front cover spot pinched from them by a 3D-rendered Dreamcast woman. Below are all the covers of High Fashion from January 1997 to December 1999 (source). Laura definitely stands out amongst the other mortals - a definite case of "one of these things is not like the others".
Video game characters modelling clothes isn't unheard of these days, though. In the last decade, we've seen Final Fantasy XIII-2's troupe of characters model a range for Prada in Summer 2012, while the game's main character Lightning did a virtual shoot for Louis Vuitton in 2016. But this photoshoot of Laura could potentially be one of the first instances of this odd concept to ever occur. 


I was so intrigued, I tracked down this issue with the promise to myself that I'd document it here for the enjoyment of all who love the more esoteric side of Dreamcast lore, and as an extension, the legacy of Kenji Eno and D2. So here we go. I present to you issue 268 of High Fashion magazine. Feel free to click on any of the scans if you want to view a larger version of them.

Rather awkwardly printed in white text over the collar of Laura's white shirt, the issue dons the headline "High Fashion Special: Yohji Yamamoto in the world of D2," followed by a strapline in Japanese which translates to "Kenji Eno X Yohji Yamamoto." The render of Laura here is the same as the one used on the American D2 cover art and the standard Japanese cover art, but altered so she’s wearing the clothes designed by Yamamoto. Her hair is also more of a platinum blonde and her skin is paler than how she is presented on the D2 covers. 

Unfortunately, it seems like my copy of the issue has gotten somewhat sun-damaged over the years. The white background around Laura has become slightly yellowed (which I was able to remove from the scan above) and the left side of the cover has also suffered too, leaving part of Laura’s black suit jacket a nice bright blue. Opening the magazine to page 20, where the D2 feature begins, we see the following:
As the magazine reads from right-to-left, the opening page to the feature reads "open the gate to the next world of fashion" on a striking red background, contrasted by a white page to the left with the initials "Y X E" for Yamamoto cross Eno, complimented by an actual red feather stuck to the bottom right corner of the page. Holy crap it's lasted well. I'm genuinely surprised it hasn't become unstuck over the course of the nearly 22 years it's been there. 

I'm not too familiar with how often Japanese fashion publications put "feelies" within the pages of their magazines, but if Eno had any say in this feather's inclusion, I wouldn't be surprised. This was the bloke who packaged seeds and braille instructions inside Real Sound for the Dreamcast, after all. Either way, it definitely had me excited to read on.
Next is a two-page spread that shows a snowy backdrop, which is an obvious reference to D2. "Yohji Yamamoto in the world of D2" is repeated from the cover, and we see the full signatures of Eno and Yamamoto, complete with the reoccurring "X". The text in the centre of the spread reads "In WHITE 1999", which not only sounds like a song title by a vaporwave artist or a Soundcloud rapper, but is revealed a few pages later to be the true name of the feature, while "Yohji Yamamoto in the world of D2" is simply a summary of its contents.
The following spread is of what looks like a pair of Dr. Martens buried in snow, with "In the State of Emergency" in black text to the right, then "A last memory, falling down on the snow, seeing my shoes." presented in white at the bottom. While this isn't a quote from D2, this is most likely a vague reference to the plane crash Laura is part of at the beginning of the game, where she ends up stranded in the snowy Canadian Rockies. Obviously they've just reworked those events a little to work designer shoes into it.
On page 26, we have a poem of sorts from Yamamoto. To translate, I enlisted the translation talents of SnowyAria (whose previous translation work includes the English fan patch of Japan-exclusive Dreamcast horror title Seven Mansions - more info on that here!), who provided a possible interpretation:
My clothing is 
my home 
my life 
where I belong.
(Yohji Yamamoto)
Below the poem we see what looks to be a camera film timestamp, that includes Yamamoto's name followed by his signature below. To the left of all this, on page 27, is the body of Laura lying in the snow wearing the same suit/shirt combo seen on the magazine's cover. At this point, it's clear that some kind of story is gradually being built up from page to page. 
We turn the page to see that same red and white imagery we saw before on pages 20 and 21. This time it's more snow with blood splattered across it, presenting a more concerning angle of the photo of Laura we saw a page before. Near Laura's hand is a white cassette with its tangled black tape stretched out all over the place. It's been a few years since I last played through D2, but I'm pretty certain a cassette tape wasn't featured within the plot at any point. Still, the whole shot is still really cool.
Turning over to pages 30 and 31, we see Laura on the right overlaid with an aesthetically pleasing snowflake effect. This render is a similar shot to that of the cover, except now she's a bit more, um, revealed. Not sure this is the best look for a trip to the Canadian Rockies, but then again neither is the office outfit she wears for the entirety of the game, so I guess hypothermia is just how she prefers to roll. Moving to the left, we see what I'd personally consider to be one of the coolest things in this entire feature: sheet music for the song "D2 Sketch #2 ~Snow theme", composed by Kenji Eno himself, with parts for what appears to be vocals and piano. For those who aren't aware, Eno was incredibly multi-talented and took on a lot of roles within the development of his games, including composing entire musical scores. 

This particular piece was first featured a year prior on the "D2 Sketches" CD (released June 1998), which I can only presume was put out as a way to tease the game that was still a year away. If you hadn't heard that CD, and could play piano, you could have perhaps played this to give yourself a little taste of what was to come. I actually wondered if the cassette seen previously in the feature is supposed to represent this particular piece of music? Well, it probably wouldn't be playing much music after going through a plane crash and having its tape pulled out all over the place, but it would definitely give a better explanation as to why the cassette was included, as opposed to just simple set dressing. If you'd like to listen to "D2 Sketch #2 ~Snow theme", it has been uploaded to YouTube, along with the rest of the D2 Sketches CD.
On the final page of the fashion part of the feature, we see a list of credits. Kenji Eno is credited as the art director and graphic designer, alongside another WARP employee, Marie Yamada, so my suspicion about it possibly being Eno's idea to include the feather on page 21 might actually be plausible. The page also includes a commemorative cube that can be cut out and constructed. The cube features the faces of Laura and Yohji Yamamoto, as well as his signature, the title of the feature (in white 1999) and the Japanese for the word "atari," which apparently means something along the lines of "to hit the target" or to "win something by chance." Apparently it's a Go term or something. Anyhow, the page to the left of the credits page is red with the Japanese for "D's Diner 2" (the Japanese name for D2) printed in white, as a way to introduce the next two pages that talk about the upcoming game.
And here they are: comprised mostly of screenshots from D2's in-game cinemas, with a few gameplay shots interspersed between, the right-hand page talks about the game itself, while the page on the left has some words from Kenji Eno. SnowyAria came through again to provide translations of these paragraphs.
The introduction to the article, at the top of page 34, starts with the heading "Much was decided before she was born..." in English, followed by a paragraph in Japanese that translates to "Laura started her journey as an idol in Japan while starring in Kenji Eno's "D's Diner" before spreading to America, Canada, England, France, Germany, and beyond. What world will she enter next in the highly anticipated "D's Diner 2," coming out for the Sega Dreamcast on November 18th...?"
In the bottom right corner of the page is a summary of D2's plot, which translates as follows: "Christmas 1999, Canada. Our terrifying adventure begins onboard an airplane where the "incident" occurs. Laura sees a mysterious vision of a meteorite racing towards the Earth, but suddenly men who appear to be terrorists discharge their guns, causing the plane to crash into the Earth just like the meteor she saw. 
In just a brief moment, fate throws her into this cruel ordeal. She's helped by a woman named Kimberly and wakes up in a small shack while a blizzard rages on the snowy mountain outside. Then, Laura and Kimberly witness a terrifying man transform into a monster... Why did that event happen? Why are people turning into monsters? Find the answers in the gripping story as you witness the tragedy of fate unfold before your eyes. Just what does Laura find while trapped on that mountain...?"

On page 35, we see a photo of the legend that is Kenji Eno. Explaining his inspiration for the fashion feature, the quote translates to: "In the Inuit language, they say there are more than 30 words to describe the subtle beauty of the colour white. I wanted to present another kind of symbolism to you, the reader, or any other number of players, that differs from the white world of snow Laura traverses in her journey through D's Diner 2. That goal lead me to the fashion of Yohji Yamamoto."
So that is the end of the magazine’s D2 feature, but not the end of the magazine. While the rest of the issue is basically all fashion-related, there are still some extra bits of interest. As an addendum, I thought I'd include these.
Fully on a roll with the apparent “let’s get video game characters to model real-people clothes” theme of this issue, turning to page 168, we see the Tomb Raiding Butler-In-Freezer-Locking extraordinaire herself, Lara Croft. Back in the 90s, Lara was no stranger to being hailed as a video game celebrity, appearing in many magazines, often photoshoot style. She was probably the closest the West got to their very own Laura. 

However, it seems that perhaps the staff at HF got the intern to piece together this feature (titled "Japan Futuristic Mind"), because compared to the Laura piece, let's just say it looks a little rough in places. I mean just look at the two pages above: the mountaintop and half of one of the helicopters have been chopped out of existence. The article spans six pages and features Lara wearing different designer brand outfits in various scenarios that would render them impractical.
The latter pages of the magazine discuss and review various forms of media, such as books, cinema, music, etc. From pages 176 to 181, there is a timeline titled the "Chronological Table of Japan Culture". Starting on page 178, game consoles start to get introduced, starting with the Nintendo Famicom. On page 179, we see our favourite white box of dreams. A beautiful sight indeed, one that makes me want to shed a tear. The Saturn makes an appearance too, so shout out to the pals over at The Saturn Junkyard. Not sure what that other thing is with the weird fork for a controller, though. Weird.
And that brings this article to a close. I'm so glad that I decided to track this magazine down, as the experience of digging up this forgotten part of Kenji Eno's legacy did not disappoint. He truly was ahead of his time in many ways, and the world definitely lost an incredible mind when he passed away in 2013. I’d like to thank SnowyAria for her generous assistance in translating these articles, you can follow her on Twitter by clicking here. I also want to thank you for being interested enough to read this niché-as-hell article all the way to the end! Let’s hang out sometime.
 
If you have any questions about what you've read, or simply just want to chat Dreamcast, you can find me on Twitter: @LewisJFC.  

5 comments:

Tom Charnock said...

Absolutely amazing stuff Lewis. Bravo

Anthony817 said...

Wow this is really awesome. I always loved D2, one hell of an underrated game we will most likely never see ported in HD to another system since Kengi-san is no longer with us. He was such a great person with a beautiful mind.

I was thinking about Laura Croft in the back of my head a bit when reading this article as I saw some similarities between her picture in western society similarly portrayed somewhat as a digital celebrity in media of the late 90's. So cool that you showed the other stuff in the magazine about her as well. I guess it is no coincidence then that they gave her a mention since she was definitely more famous.

Back to D2. Did any of you guys ever play the D2 Shock promotional playable demo? It had a really awesome minigame not in the final game like snowmobile checkpoint time trial racing and exclusive features.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FS-UDypCbjc

Spaceturnip said...

Top class article Lewis. This is the sort of content that the Junkyard is absolutely known for, and it did not disappoint. Fantastic.

Lewis Cox said...

Hi Anthony,

Thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed the article!

I haven’t played the D2 shock demo yet, but am currently on the hunt for a nice condition version of Real Sound, complete with seeds and the demo, etc. Tom wrote a good article on the Shock Demo though, which you can find by searching the site. Highly recommended!

Geebee said...

Wow, they really just replaced the actual model's head for Laura's on the cover and on pg31. The body and clothes look too realistic for a render from 1999.