American Decline and who’s Objectively to Blame

Colonel Schulz and Count Ciano visiting a technical and air war academy

Originally posted on March 27, 2018:

In this addition to my post about the situation in the United States, I think that I will get into the reason why the United States is in decline and about what Israel represents.

First of all, what place does capitalism occupy in Western states? Capitalists are the rulers of the West, and what we have in the West is a dictatorship of capital. What this means is that capitalists are above the law and above the state in Western countries. The state and even some other forms of accumulation of surplus are tolerated in Western countries, but capitalists are the real rulers, they make the laws, and they control the thoughts of the masses. In other words, everything in Western countries revolves around capitalists. This is why it’s not surprising that the capitalists of different Western countries have close ties and that they even bypass state power when they make agreements. It’s a whole system and governments don’t play the main role in it.

I have to disagree with the people that call what has been happening in the USA for the last several decades fascism. To me, fascism is industrial capitalism in its post-expansion, imperial form, like what happened in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or, less significantly, in other Western states like Augusto Pinochet’s Chile or Francisco Franco’s Spain. Under fascism, capitalists, who used to be the rulers of some state, finally give up real power to the instruments of class oppression and imperialist war that they’ve been funding and supporting. They do this in order to oppress the disgruntled masses and to prevent upheaval. So, the capitalists take a back seat to the new, authoritative people in power. Under fascism, the new military rulers begin massive spending and usually begin attacking other states in the civilization, and even outside of the civilization, in order to alleviate the economic crisis and to create an empire. The massive spending and the loot that comes from wars of aggression result in stability and prosperity, for a time. This is why the German Nazis, for example, had military, social, and scientific successes before they were defeated. This is why many Germans and other Europeans fought to the end for the defense of the Third Reich. The same can’t be said about the USA now. In the USA, power is still in the hands of capitalists, like the Rockefellers, the Kochs, the Fords, or those unpleasant members of the Bush family. I think that many people are still under the influence of American propaganda, which states that capitalism equals freedom. No, in the end, capitalism becomes oppressive, just like any other system. South Korea, for example, used to be an oppressive capitalist state before the Korean Miracle was created by the Americans there. South Korea became a less oppressive state because fast economic growth and industrialization began there several decades ago. The reason why capitalism didn’t appear to be so oppressive in the USA before is because of the serious economic growth that used to exist. But it’s worth pointing out that, since the 1930s, this growth has been coming from the imperialist operations of the USA. Another way of putting this is that, since the 1930s, the USA hasn’t been growing from the inside. It’s because “expansion” came to an end in 1929 in the USA. The USA has been growing by exploiting the peoples and the resources of the many territories that are outside of the USA. The USA has spread its tentacles all over the world, to the extent that there’s no serious opposition to American force and economics anywhere in the world now. But even this tremendous imperialism hasn’t been enough to put an end to the decay in the USA. It has only postponed and softened this decay because the vested interests of capitalism have remained in power. These vested interests continue to resist change and progress. Therefore, now that there’s little or no economic growth under capitalism, and now that the Soviet Union doesn’t exist to keep the capitalists in check, the capitalists are showing the masses in Western countries who their daddy is. So, as Paid Liar Jones (Alex Jones) once said, “Shut up, slave filth” and don’t raise your voice or you’re gonna get it.

It’s not easy nowadays to make sense of what’s going on in the Western world and with its dominant state, which is the USA. But one thing that’s clear to me is that the USA and other Western states are now demonstrating incompetence such as they haven’t demonstrated before. This is happening because Western civilization is in a crisis. And this crisis didn’t begin in 2008. It began in the second half of the 19th century, first in core states like England and France. This is why the British Empire and the French Empire collapsed some decades later and why they no longer exist (though England and France still act as imperialist powers). This crisis reached peripheral Western states like Germany and the USA in the first half of the 20th century. The reason why this crisis appeared is because capitalism (more precisely, industrial capitalism) is no longer functioning as an expansive system in the West. In the West, industrial capitalism has turned into a structure of vested interests called monopoly capitalism. This means, as Carroll Quigley explained in his books, that Western civilization has been in the Age of Conflict, the third in Western history, for about a century already. When a civilization enters the Age of Conflict, this doesn’t mean that progress and growth come to an end. Progress and growth begin to slow down. The USA, for example, definitively entered the Age of Conflict in 1929, several decades after England did so, because it’s a peripheral Western state. Therefore, the USA has been demonstrating incompetence since 1929, and this incompetence has only been growing since then. For example, some American nationalists say that if there had been more determination in the USA, and if the politicians in Washington hadn’t been so afraid and so hesitant, the USA would have won the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975). And, sure, there’s a possibility that the USA would have won the Vietnam War, but only if the Vietnam War had taken place decades earlier, when the USA was in the Age of Expansion. Since the Vietnam War took place after 1929, and since the Americans were fighting against a strong-willed enemy (an enemy that also had the backing of the Soviet Union), the Americans had to give up and leave Vietnam. And the war itself may have been started simply to boost the profits of the American military-industrial complex. It has even been admitted that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a false flag. In other words, there’s a reason for the American loss in Vietnam. This reason is the fact that the USA has been losing strength and morale since 1929. This has been happening because industrial capitalism has become a structure of vested interests called monopoly capitalism in the USA. But American nationalists and right-wing radicals, who are brainwashed and who are still obsessed with a fictional communist enemy, just can’t accept that capitalism is the root of their problems. Therefore, they say that they would have cut through the Viet Cong like butter, and that the USA would have bombed Vietnam back to the stone age, if only the politicians in Washington hadn’t been so weak. So, instead of looking for faults in the capitalist system, they imagine that some “other” is responsible for the problems. This “other” takes on the shape of something that they already don’t like. For example, in the case of the American right (who are often irrational, poorly educated liars), the “other” is usually communism (though communism doesn’t exist), or the Jews, or some conspiracy of bankers, or “cultural Marxism”, or some other country like Russia, or certain left-wing politicians. What’s interesting is that some people in the ruling class try to take advantage of this irrationality and shortage of knowledge by supporting them. Through their agents in the media and in culture, some monopoly capitalists support claims about a communist conspiracy or about a banker conspiracy because this shifts attention away from the real root of the problems, which is the uninvested surplus of the capitalist ruling class. This is especially the case when conservative leaders (like Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan) are in power in the USA or in the UK. They bring out people such as Joseph McCarthy, Anthony Sutton, or Yuri Bezmenov on television in order to make the dupes believe that the evil commies are out to get them or that there’s a conspiracy of the left. Because, you know, it’s not the all-powerful capitalists who are at fault but those non-existent or few-in-numbers commies. Carroll Quigley called these people, and the oligarchical faction to which they belong, the “lunatic radical right” in his book ‘Tragedy and Hope’ (1966). If I remember correctly, Quigley also wrote that Douglas MacArthur was close to this oligarchical faction, and this is why he disobeyed Harry S. Truman during the Korean War. Economic growth and population growth in the USA have been slowing down, and all kinds of social problems have been appearing, because the vested interests of capitalism no longer invest their surplus. I’m not saying that conspiracies (like a conspiracy of some bankers) don’t exist. I’m saying is that, even if some of them do exist, they’re not the root of the problems. By the way, what has been happening in the USA since 1929 is what happened in Russia from 1900 to 1917. There’s a reason why a revolution took place in Russia. The Russian state, which was the “instrument of expansion” of Russian civilization, became a structure of vested interests in 1900, during the rule of Nicholas II of Russia. Therefore, problems began to appear in the Russian Empire after 1900 and “expansion” began to slow down. Like the Americans, the Russians began to demonstrate incompetence, they began to lose wars, and it took only 17 years for order to collapse in Russia. In the USA, on the other hand, this has been going on for almost a century already because the USA doesn’t have the problems and the issues that Russia had.

So, when it comes to the election of Donald Trump and to what’s been happening since then, I don’t really agree that the American authorities are engaged in some effective deception with Trump. The American authorities are simply demonstrating incompetence and desperation, and there’s a possible struggle in the American ruling class. When it comes to me, I don’t really pay much attention to this struggle, even if it exists. Well, firstly, I’m not American. Secondly, I need proof that there is a struggle. I can’t just rely on maybes and assumptions. I’ve come across information that seriously puts in doubt this “left vs. right” nonsense. Thirdly, even if there is a struggle between oligarchs, there’s really no difference for the average person because the oligarchs are all monopoly capitalists anyway. They may disagree on minor issues, but they agree on major issues. I’m still surprised sometimes when I see people running after the next big thing. They still haven’t learned, after all these years, that it’s not important who they vote for. Sure, I kind of supported Trump in 2016. I did this only because of his anti-war rhetoric. But even then I knew that he won’t change anything. I’m a little wiser and older now, and I think that I shouldn’t have thrown my weight behind any of the presidential candidates in the USA. Still, it was interesting to observe what happened because the majority of the Anglo-American establishment didn’t want Trump in the White House. Even Morgan Freeman, the “Voice of God”, was brought out for a funny propaganda stunt. I also can’t forget the 2016 film Independence Day: Resurgence, which was released just before the election. In this film, which I kind of like by the way, the president of the USA is a woman. This was a clear suggestion that the next president should be a woman (Clinton), and it’s just one example of the backing that Hillary Clinton received. Still, even all of the support from the media and from Hollywood didn’t get Clinton to the coronation hall. I mean, don’t get me wrong. This support got her very far, but it wasn’t quite enough to beat Trump because Clinton was just so hated. When I was dining at a restaurant once, in 2016, I overheard two young women talking not far from me about what was happening in the USA. One of them called Clinton an old bag. Later, I found even more useful information and opinions on Scott Creighton’s (American Everyman) website. I basically knew what was happening, but his observations about why Clinton lost the election were so good that I began donating some money to him every month for his work. Creighton is an American, and, therefore, he follows what’s going on in the USA. He’s also old, which means that he knows things. This also means that he grew up at a time when Americans were provided with a somewhat better education. He’s not like the 20 year-old or 30 year-old airheads who ramble on the internet these days. It’s somewhat refreshing to listen to a knowledgeable person like him because there are just so many middle class reactionaries and pro-fascists on the internet these days. These middle class people have the time and the money to ramble on the internet. They’re wealthy enough to afford a computer and other accessories. They generally believe that they benefit from the system and from the existing order. Consequently, they have an aversion to change. But they’re also angry and insecure because they’ve been brought down by the economic crisis, thus losing some of their prospects and expectations. Since they believe that leftist ideas are alien to them, and since they can’t sympathize with the working class, they generally support conservatives and reactionaries. Hence, many of these people voted for Trump because most of Trump’s rhetoric is reactionary.

When it comes to Israel, I also have a few thoughts. Well, first of all, I think that the most important thing is that Israel seems to be a Western state because it was founded mainly by Western Jews. Moreover, Israel is the youngest Western state because it was created in 1948 on the territory of the dying Islamic civilization. Since Israel has existed for only several decades, we can deduce that it hasn’t been institutionalized yet, like England, France, Germany, or even the USA have been institutionalized. This is why Israel, which is a capitalist state and which has a population of about 8 million, seems to be functioning more effectively than even the USA. In other words, the process of decline that has reached other Western states hasn’t yet reached, or is now reaching, Israel. Therefore, I don’t buy into the mythology that Israelis, or Jews in general, are supermen. Israelis aren’t as incompetent as the Americans or as other Western peoples simply because Israel isn’t yet in serious decline. Obviously, Israeli capitalists have ties to other Western capitalists, like American capitalists (or a faction of American capitalists). So, the fact that Israel has influence and friends in the USA isn’t at all surprising to me. Israel is a very important strategic ally for the USA. What’s also worth mentioning is that since Israel hasn’t yet been institutionalized, and since it has been growing so far, Israel has been taking land from its neighbors and settling the land with Israelis. This is the same process that, for example, happened in the USA more than a century ago, when the Americans drove away the Native Americans, took their land, and then settled it with Anglo-Saxons and other Americans of European descent.

The Empire of Genghis Khan

In the thirteenth century, Genghis Khan and his brutal heirs swept from the Asian Steppe as far as Eastern Europe, creating the largest land empire in world history. The empire existed between 1206 and 1405, eventually extending to thirty-three million square kilometres. At its peak, it contained an estimated population of over one hundred million.

Moscow – Along the ancient Zemlyanoy Val (1984)

Zemlyanoy Val in Moscow (Russian: Земляной вал) is a line of fortifications that existed on the site of the present Garden Ring from 1593 to 1830. It served as the boundary of Zemlyanoy Gorod and defended it from external attacks. It was first built from 1592 to 1593 under Feodor I of Russia and covered only the northern part of the city, without Zamoskvorechye. It represented an earthen rampart with a moat in front and wooden fortifications. The fortifications were burned by the Poles in 1611. It was renewed and elongated from 1638 to 1641. Under Alexis of Russia, it also defended Zamoskvorechye. Zemlyanoy Val was dismantled at the end of the 18th century on the orders of Zakhar Chernyshyov.

Soviet sculptor Mikhail Anikushin 1917-1997 – Soviet Art

In 1958, Mikhail Anikushin became a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR and four years later – Academician (1962). He was People’s Artist of the USSR (1963), and Hero of Socialist Labor (1977). Among his awards – the Lenin Prize (1958) and the RSFSR State Prize of Repin (1986). He was a member of the Communist party since 1944, and veteran of Great Patriotic War (1941-1945).

Born 19 September 1917 in Moscow, Anikushin grew up in a working class family. Meanwhile, the artist wrote: “I – the son of the Moscow parquet floor maker, a wonderful wizard Konstantin Anikushin. He made parquet floor for those who stay in the hotel “Moscow” in the capital. My elder brother – an engineer-surveyor Vladimir Anikushin participated in the discovery and creation of Karaganda industrial area. And I had to be on a par with them. All that I did, and what happiness I had – I am obliged to Great October. And what I haven’t done yet – I must do”. Anikushin studied at the Leningrad Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture named after Ilya Repin from 1937 to 1947 with a break for the war years (1941-1945).

One of the most famous works of the sculptor is a monument to Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, opened in 1957 in the center of the park (sculptor Anikushin, architect VA Petrov). The sculpture – 4.1 m, with the pedestal 4.5 m. The monument made of bronze, tetrahedral pedestal of red polished granite, and the base – wrought granite. The sculptor portrayed Pushkin in a relaxed pose, as if the inspired poet reads his poems.

Maria Litovchenko (1917-2003), the wife of Mikhail Anikushin, was also a sculptor, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Arts, and People’s Artist of the Russian Federation.

The memory of artist never fades. Thus, October 2, 2007 on the house where Anikushin lived (Sand Embankment, 16) appeared a memorial plaque. Also, there is Anikushin square, in honor of the sculptor (Kamennoostrovsky Avenue). In addition, there is Anikushinskaya alley, just in the park where his sculpture “Friendship” (“Dancing Girls”) stands. The alley runs from this square to Vyazemsky Lane, where he worked. Besides, one of the art schools in the city of Kronstadt bears the name of the sculptor. There is even Anikushin planet – a minor planet number 3358 discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh in 1978.

From the autobiography of the sculptor: “I was born at the beginning of October 1917. Not Yet the Aurora volleys thundered, and not yet Winter and Smolny palaces became symbols. But in Russia reigned a revolutionary heat of passion, such depth of revolutionary consciousness, not previously known in the human world… There is a special meaning in the rank “the same age with October”. I did not choose it, but felt the high responsibility in front of people”.

Review – New Dominion Tank Police

I’m a little bit late with this one, by about fifteen years. My first dalliance with anime came in the mid-nineties during the Manga Video boom. This was also when I was seriously into cyberpunk, so titles like Akira, AD Police, Cyber City, Genocyber, and the original Ghost In The Shell movie were essential items on my video shelf. With that in mind, you’d think that I would have bought the original Dominion Tank Police, and New Dominion Tank Police quicker than you can blink. There were two reasons why I did not. First is VHS. You youngsters may not know this, but VHS takes up quite a bit of room. I had one shelf of anime, about 16 titles, and that was it, no more room at the inn. The second reason was that no one had invented the Internet. It’s easy now, if you want to know more about something, you just Google it. But back in 1995, after being blown away by the latest cyberpunk anime video, if I was interested in finding out more, it was seriously hard work. What I wouldn’t have given back then to have a handy resource to just type Masamune Shirow, Katsuhiro Otomo, or Yoshiaki Kawajiri in and see what else was available. Maybe instead of the Junk Boy, Urotsukidoji and Angel Cop videos that I still have, I would have bought shows like Appleseed, and Dominion Tank Police instead. Dominion Tank Police is available on DVD from ILC if you are interested, although the dub only discs put me right off (Manga dubs of the period are painful). The Region 1 release is deleted, although still available for ridiculous sums of money. Fortunately, there is plenty of the sequel, New Dominion Tank Police still to be had, courtesy of Manga Entertainment.

New Dominion Tank Police is set in the high rise, concrete and steel, neon metropolis of Newport City, a world populated by advanced cyborgs and androids and robots, where technology defines how society lives, works and plays, all set in the distant future of 2010. Hey! It seemed like the distant future back in 1995 when this show was made. At least there aren’t any flying cars. But there are tanks, plenty of tanks. In a world where crime and terrorism are rampant, the police need a little more firepower to accomplish their role of urban pacification. When rioters have RPGs, you’ll be glad of 2-inch thick titanium steel armour between you and the villain. The thing about tanks is though, that they aren’t exactly kind to the environment, and the Tank Police often wind up causing more damage than they prevent. It causes friction with the chief, and the city mayor, especially when Squad Leader Leona Ozaki and her specially modified mini-tank Bonaparte are often at the centre of the havoc. All six episodes of the OVA series are presented here on a dual layer disc from Manga Entertainment.

When Leona drives through a funeral of a top civic official, just to get to a fleeing criminal, she winds up wrecking a city block, being caught on camera, and has the Chief and the Mayor as an audience. The Tank Police is grounded, until Detective Higashinada can come in and audit them. It isn’t long before he’s suggesting new ways of doing things and rubbing people the wrong way, especially Leona who just finds him creepy. Then a new machine appears in Newport and starts wreaking havoc.

A woman fleeing through a car park is caught by a mysterious tattooed man, and murdered. The only witnesses are android catgirls Unipuma and Annapuma. The dead woman was Leona’s ex-partner Charon, and when she presses the chief to let her investigate, she winds up out of work. It isn’t going to stop her though, and she’s soon tracking the Puma sisters down to find out what they know. It leads her to the front door of the Dainippon Giken Research Corporation, and straight into trouble.

The Mayor has enacted a Clean up the City policy, which means getting all the weapons off the streets, and which means stopping a suspected arms shipment at the docks. That’s all forgotten though when a truck goes out of control on the highway, crushing several cars and even wrecking Bonaparte when Leona tries to stop it. The truck is on autopilot, loaded with explosives, and heading directly for the centre of the city. The Mayor orders the evacuation, but it may be too little too late. It falls to the Tank Police to avert disaster. And it’s a Dainippon Giken truck.

With the city shrouded in toxic smog, it’s the perfect cover for the android Puma sisters to steal Bonaparte, and with the smoky atmosphere and Leona’s malfunctioning alarm clock, the theft isn’t noticed until it’s too late. It all falls down to Dainippon Giken again, as with the Mayor’s anti-weapon policy, they are looking to other means to turn a profit, and one of their operatives actually chose Bonaparte in which to hide a valuable data disc. When Leona and her partner Al eventually track down their tank, they find a deal about to go sour.

It looks like the city is about to fall apart, when a raid engineers a mass breakout at the prison. The Tank Police are run ragged just trying to keep up, and meanwhile Dainippon executives use the mayhem to mask their own illegal activities. Leona has just managed to capture the Puma sisters, who were taking advantage of a bank raid to fill their own pockets, when the news comes in. Someone is going to assassinate the Mayor.

The Tank Police had tried to keep the Mayor’s survival secret, but the secret got out. Unsurprising, when you have a battalion guarding the city hospital. As the hostile takeover of Dainippon Giken Research gathers pace, it becomes part of the deal that the job be finished with regards to the Mayor. Another set of robots is unleashed. The Tank Police do their best to stop them, while Leona tracks down the hidden controller by tracking the radio connection. The trail leads to a foreign embassy, and Leona finds her hands tied by diplomacy.

It’s one of those 4:3 regular transfers that get the job done. With nearly three hours of animation on a dual-layer disc, you’d be forgiven for not expecting pin sharp definition and absolute clarity, and indeed New Dominion Tank Police is prone to compression artefacts. That said, it looks pretty good for its age, the image is sharp enough, and the animation comes across with vibrancy and energy.

It’s an old style cel animation so there’s not a lot of digital accuracy and perfection here. But the animation is excellent, fluid and expressive, while the character and especially the mecha designs come across well. The future city is a little generic, but once you’ve seen as many future metropolises as I have, they begin to blur into one.

You have a choice between DD 2.0 Japanese and DD 5.1 and 2.0 English. Pick Japanese, it’s far more easier on the ears. This anime comes from the old Manga Video days, when English language dubs were recorded in the UK, but for universal saleability, the characters were given American accents. It isn’t good, and admittedly there is some fun to be had with these old dubs, as they in no way let you take the show seriously. The dub also changes the essence of the show in some instances. There are scenes in the original Japanese that have just music playing over the action, and for dramatic effect, the dialogue and the sound effects drop out, this is immediately apparent in the opening sequence. The English dub puts the dialogue back in, which isn’t the original intent.

As for the subtitles, they aren’t the dreaded dubtitles; the opening theme gets its lyrics translated (while the English version uses an instrumental version). However, it does look as if they were taken from an early dub script, and by and large they do match with the English dialogue. The English audio does have the added dialogue mentioned before, though, and it is liberally laced with profanity that isn’t in the subtitles. The music works well with the theme of the show; indeed the opening track is memorable from a thousand Manga Video trailer reels.

Inside the Amaray case, you’ll find a mini-poster featuring the Puma sisters, as well as some information about the show on the reverse. On the disc, you’ll find a Manga Entertainment trailer reel, as well as the New Port City Tank Police Personnel & Weapons Files. 13 characters and two pieces of technology are looked at here, but you should leave reading them for after you have watched the disc, as there are plenty of spoilers for the episodes.

New Dominion Tank Police was a blast from the past, an anime from a bygone age, where the immediate aim was to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. That’s before Manga Video got their mitts on it and inserted a few choice swearwords into the dub to spice things up. So while New Dominion Tank Police has plenty of action and sci-fi at its core, it’s also played broadly for laughs, has some unexpected slapstick, a pair of sexy android catgirls, a little romance, some politics, corporate double dealing, and some stereotypical comedy sidekick characters. Compared to the modern diversity in anime, the story driven plots, careful characterisations, and reluctance to pander to audience sensibilities, it seems charmingly naïve.

It’s also a good deal of fun, certainly one of the stronger shows of the era, with high production values and no little thought put into its story. Of the three Masamune Shirow stories I have encountered, New Dominion Tank Police is the most accessible, lacking the esoteric philosophies of Ghost In The Shell, and presenting a future more immediately recognisable than that of Appleseed. Instead New Dominion Tank Police feels like what he did to relax after a hard day of slaving over ink and pad. It feels like a playground with all the same pieces of his other creations, cyborgs, androids, mecha, and metropolises, but one in which the main aim is to have fun.

New Dominion Tank Police is fast paced, action packed, entertaining silliness, the sort of thing that works just fine as post pub viewing. I must admit that it holds a special place in my heart simply for the nostalgia factor alone. It’s the sort of anime that I was weaned on back in the nineties, and although I never actually saw it then, it still feels like coming back to an old friend watching it now. It’s also a sign of how much the anime industry has changed. I recall the dub videotapes for sale in Forbidden Planet. Each half hour episode got its own tape, and the typical retail price was around £15. The whole series would have put you back £90. This single DVD collects all six episodes, adds a few extras and retails for the price of a single VHS tape back then. I got this disc on sale for £4. For that price, you may as well take a chance and buy it.

Postscript: The Man Behind Nintendo

When Hiroshi Yamauchi dropped out of college in 1948, to replace his grandfather as the president of the Kyoto-based hanafuda playing-card manufacturer Nintendo Koppai, the company, founded in 1889, had seen only moderate success. By 1991, fourteen years after the company launched the plainly named “Color TV Game 6,” Nintendo had supplanted Toyota as Japan’s most successful company, earning around $1.5 million per year per employee; in the early nineteen-nineties, the company’s earnings exceeded that of all the American movie studios combined, consistently posting more than a billion dollars in pre-tax profits each year.

Beyond the numbers, Yamauchi, who died this week at the age of eighty-five, was both the architect and the savior of the video-game industry as we know it today. With the Nintendo Famicom—known outside Japan as the Nintendo Entertainment System—and the famed Nintendo Seal of Approval, which assured wary consumers that its games would be functionally sound (unlike many of those released during the Atari boom) and enjoyable, his company restored public trust in video games following the American market’s grim crash in the early nineteen-eighties.

Despite playing only a handful of his company’s products himself (he fumbled with the Famicom’s controller the first time he picked one up to play a digital version of Go, eventually passing it to a junior staff member in frustration), Yamauchi’s philosophy was that creativity, not technological advancement, was the key to the medium’s development. “We cannot guarantee interesting video games just through the use of better technology,” he once said. For Yamauchi and his lieutenants—including the Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, who was Profiled by Nick Paumgarten in the magazine, and the late Gunpei Yokoi, the designer of the Game Boy—eliciting the joy of discovery and surprise in a player was video gaming’s great purpose. In this way, Nintendo and its games have continued to redefine the way humans play for more than three decades.

Henk Rogers, the man who brought Tetris out of the Soviet Union and secured the rights for Nintendo, was one of only a handful of Westerners to befriend Yamauchi. The pair would regularly discuss the state of the industry over a game of Go; Yamauchi was a master player with the advanced rank of sixth dan. Rogers once likened his friend to the fictional mobster Don Corleone. “He was tough as nails and quick to reach a decision,” he said. “When he did, everybody fell in line. He was a difficult man to please. If you publicly disagreed with him, your days were numbered.”

Yamauchi’s reputation as a callous businessman was forged early on. After suffering a severe stroke, his grandfather, Sekiro Yamauchi, offered the twenty-one-year-old the presidency of Nintendo from his hospital bed. (Yamauchi’s father had left when Yamauchi was just five years old; unable to cope as a single parent, his mother, Kimi, gave her son up to her parents, putting him next in line to run the family business.) The young man agreed to quit his law degree on the condition that he be the only family member working at the company. Regretfully, Sekiro fired his grandson’s cousin, a longtime employee, and in 1949 Yamauchi was appointed the third president of Nintendo. Company employees, many of whom had worked at Nintendo for their entire careers, resented Yamauchi’s youth and inexperience. His first act was to fire these dissenters en masse.

While Nintendo had no direct links to organized crime, in those early years the company benefited from its patronage nevertheless. The yakuza operated high-stakes games with hanafuda cards in casino-like parlors. Professional players would begin each game with a fresh deck, greatly increasing demand for Nintendo’s product. In 1951, Yamauchi changed the name of the company to Nintendo Karuta—Nintendo Playing Cards. His first business breakthrough came in 1959, when he brokered a licensing arrangement with Walt Disney to print images of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters on the backs of playing cards. With distribution to toy stores, Nintendo sold an unprecedented six hundred thousand packs of cards that year.

Eager to expand further, Yamauchi dropped “Karuta” from the company name and rebranded as Nintendo Company, Ltd. However, forays into selling instant rice and managing love hotels, which provide rooms at an hourly rate, typically for trysts, failed to meet his high expectations—though Yamauchi himself was reportedly one of the most reliable customers.

In the mid-nineteen-sixties, Yamauchi charged Gunpei Yokoi, a technician hired to maintain the hanafuda assembly-line machines, with designing a toy in time for Christmas. Yokoi, a keen amateur inventor, showed Yamauchi one of his latest creations, an extendable mechanical arm with a clasping hand on one end. Yamauchi immediately ordered production the Ultra Hand, Nintendo’s first toy, which sold over 1.2 million units. Yokoi established Nintendo’s first research-and-development group, dubbed simply “Games,” in a warehouse in the Kyoto suburb of Uji in 1969. More creative toys followed: the Ultra Machine, a mechanical ball pitcher; the Love Tester, a machine that measured the “current” between a hand-holding couple and offered a pseudo-scientific readout of their attraction; and a series of Beam Gun games, in which players shot beams of light at targets in an amusement arcade and watched as bottles appeared to explode.

Having experienced the commercial potential of games, and after watching the video-game market emerge in America in the late nineteen-seventies, Yamauchi negotiated a license to manufacture and sell the Magnavox Odyssey, one of the first American home-video-game systems, in Japan. Nintendo’s own systems, which played variations of Atari’s Pong, followed, but Yamauchi pressured his engineers to find a new way of designing games—ones not based around tennis. “We must look in different directions,” he said. “Throw away all your old ideas in order to come up with something new.” Yokoi had the solution: a pocket-calculator-sized series of handheld systems called Game & Watch, which each played a single game and could be mass-produced for a relative pittance. Introduced in 1980, Nintendo sold tens of millions of units over the game’s eleven-year lifespan.

Flushed with this success, Yamauchi turned his attention to a more substantial home console, one that could play multiple games via slot-in cartridges. In contrast to Atari’s 2600, with its wood-panelled face and black-plastic-rimmed hood that lifted up to reveal a panel of orange knobs and levers, Yamauchi wanted Nintendo’s console to look like a toy, so that it would appeal to the entire family—a family computer, he instructed: a Famicom. The heart of the machine, based on a Motorola 6502 chip derivative, was nothing unusual, though the system’s controllers, which were hardwired to the console, featured a unique cross-shaped directional pad whose design offered both elegance and functionality. (Three decades later, “d-pads” remain a staple of video-game controllers.)

The Famicom’s real innovation, however, was its business model. In May, 1983, Yamauchi addressed the Shoshin-kai, a Japanese wholesalers group, and told them that Famicom retailers should not expect to see large profits from system sales. His reasoning would change the gaming industry. “Forgo profits on the hardware,” he said. “It is just a tool to sell software. This is where we shall make our money.”

Nintendo’s new system launched on July 15, 1983, and sold for fourteen thousand eight hundred yen, around half the cost of its rivals. Within two months, the system had sold over half a million units. Within six, disaster struck: a faulty chip in the original manufacturing caused certain games to crash. Yamauchi, with typical flourish, recalled every system Nintendo had sold, missing a crucial sales window during the Japanese New Year holiday but protecting the company’s name as a consumer-centric manufacturer.

Yamauchi soon learned that software sold hardware, not vice versa, and appointed Shigeru Miyamoto, then a young artist and the designer of Nintendo’s first global arcade hit, Donkey Kong, to head a new game-design research group called R&D4. Yamauchi recognized that artists, not technicians, made the best games, and filled R&D4 with likeminded creative people. The internal-software division soon established itself as Nintendo’s most successful department, launching Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda, successes buoyed by Yokoi’s R&D1 group, which released similarly well-regarded titles such as Metroid, Kid Icarus, and Excitebike.

But success only seemed to isolate Yamauchi. “As I grew to know him more, he seemed to become more isolated, even from his own family,” said Rogers, who tried and failed to convince Yamauchi to attend his own granddaughter’s wedding a few years ago. Nevertheless, the elder statesman of video games maintained a laconic sense of humor. Rogers once shared a flight with Yamauchi on the airline Northwest. “I had no idea he was on the plane,” he recalls. “We met in an aisle when he was stretching his legs, and he complained to me about the service he’d received in first class. He called the airline ‘Northworst.’ ”

Yamauchi retired from his position as president of Nintendo in 2002, but his influence and philosophy continued to be keenly felt; he remained as the chairman of Nintendo’s American board of directors until 2005. He refused to draw a pension from the company, saying that Nintendo could put it to better use—as Japan’s thirteenth richest man, he had a net worth of $2.1 billion.

While Yamauchi maintained that being a non-player gave him an advantageous perspective on the industry, this assertion was only half true, perhaps to maintain the illusion that his business decisions came from his head, not from his heart. “After the release of Tetris on the Game Boy, I’m told he played the game extensively,” said Rogers. “He would call staff members, sometimes in the middle of the night, to ask them questions about the game.”

When Yamauchi left Nintendo entirely, in 2005, the company was a year away from launching Wii, the best-selling console of the so-called Last Generation of video-game hardware. Today, it’s in a somewhat precarious position: its latest console, the Wii-U, is underperforming, and in 2012 the company lost 36.4 billion yen ($366 million), its second consecutive annual loss. But the erstwhile president’s belief in the power of invention, of “throwing away your old ideas,” still characterizes the company’s products, which over the past decade have continued to sidestep the technological arms race that defines the products of its rivals, Sony and Microsoft, in favor of playfulness and novelty. It is a philosophy that, over seven decades, brought Yamauchi and the company he inherited a great deal of success, even if that playfulness, if it was ever within him, rarely made itself known from behind the carapace, one that seems to have been formed in childhood and tempered in business.