“I think there’s something wrong with the way her breasts don’t sway. A chest that large– they should have some bounce, shouldn’t they?”

Hiro was tired and his eyes burned. He bit the inside of his lip to distract himself. “Yeah, I suppose so.”

“You suppose so? Have you ever seen a well-endowed woman’s breasts? I mean in real life, like right in front of you. Not in a porno.”

“Sure– now and then.”

“Don’t lie. I can tell when you’re lying.” Kazu had the controller in his hands, making the girl crouch over and over.

Hiro took his glasses off and rubbed his face. Delineate deformable regions, grab acceleration data from the bone in the torso. “I can implement that, sure. You want it on all of the female characters?”

“Put it on the characters that make sense to you. I’ll review it later.”

After Kazu had gone Mayuko crept up behind him. “What was that about breasts?” she said conspiratorially.

“You’re a gossip. He wanted me to add bouncing to the breasts.”

Mayuko looked disappointed. “That’s it? I thought you were talking about real people.”

“No, in the game.”

“Bo-ring. I suppose they do look pretty strange right now, though.”

“I think I’m beyond being able to even notice,” said Hiro, slouching in his chair. It was very late.

“You seem unhappy– are you upset about it being too sexual? Some kind of Christian morality thing?”

“That has nothing to do with it,” Hiro said. “It’s just, I guess for me, this is a little disappointing.”

“Tomorrow why don’t you try telling him what you think, then? Aren’t you old classmates?”

Hiro shrugged and slouched some more.

* * * 

“What are you doing? Don’t look at idol movies,” said Kazu, the next day. “Watch an anime or something for reference. I don’t want the breast motion to be floppy and liquid. It should be springy and hold together.”

Hiro said, “Well, before, you were talking about experience with real women, so I thought you wanted–”

“Are you crazy?” said Kazu. “What about this character makes you think a realistic treatment is called for? Look at her design! Don’t be ridiculous.” He paused, studying Hiro’s face, then pulled up a chair and sat down. “What’s bothering you, classmate? Your eyes have been so heavy-lidded lately.”

“Nothing. I’m just tired. Maybe I’m a little worried about– I thought we were making something a little more universal. But lately the game seems more and more about, you know, fan service.”

“‘Fan service’ doesn’t mean the audience is only in Japan,” Kazu said. “You know, Gotoh just came back from a big convention in Los Angeles and said his most otaku-oriented titles are the ones that are selling the best abroad. Besides, how much more ‘universal’ can you get than a sexy character? That’s a language that everyone immediately understands.”

Hiro nodded, deciding not to explain he meant something slightly different.

“You still don’t believe me, I can tell. Let’s get a foreigner’s opinion right now– where’s Fastow?”

“Come on, we don’t need Fastow here,” said Hiro, but Justin was already close by, maybe close enough to have heard him say that.

“Uh, it doesn’t seem wrong to me,” said Justin, after they’d explained. “It will certainly attract attention– I can guarantee all the American blogs and message boards will make posts on it. But I don’t think it will exactly surprise anyone, either.”

“See?” said Kazu. “He likes it. You’re being overly prude, Hiroyuki. It’s the influence of your parents– your upbringing.”

Hiro hated the constant mention of his background as if that one detail explained everything about him. His parents were not overly censorious, and just because he was a rarity did not mean that was the whole of his being.

“I mean, sure, there’s sometimes a disconnect over the context in which each culture places sexualized content,” Justin continued, unaware that his role was already over, “But it’s not as if comics, anime and game fans haven’t been already exposed to these kinds of elements many times over. I think they’re used to it. Some Americans might think it’s embarrassing to admit enjoying such content, but they do just the same.”

* * *

Mayuko ordered another beer before he could refuse. “Go on, pour out your heart to me,” she said.

Hiro took a long sip. “How many is this? I’ve lost count.”

“Don’t worry about it. You can pay me back tomorrow.”

“Sure. Well in school I studied computer science because I thought that was my talent, but it took me a while to realize that it might not be my number one interest. As I’ve worked at this company I’m finding it harder and harder to be interested in the kinds of games we’re making, and I’m looking back on my life, just wondering where it went, and wondering where I can go next. What avenues are open to me? I don’t think there are any. I’ll always be implementing someone else’s vision, even if that happens to be not particularly inspiring.”

“That sort of talk reminds me of my grandfather,” said Mayuko, “He was a lathe operator in a machine shop for basically his entire life. I don’t think his generation had the same idea of ambition that people our age do. He just assumed he would always operate that lathe forever. The idea that money or power could be obtained was completely alien to him. So to excel inside the constraints he’d been dealt was the only thing he could do.”

“Whatever,” said Hiro. “No offense, Mayu-chan, but I’m not some long-suffering character in a sappy television drama about life after the war. I’m a programmer in the modern world, and I’m already thirty one, and I have things I want to do but I can’t do them because I’m stuck working for laughable wages for a ‘friend’ who thinks nothing of asking me to put in ridiculous amounts of overtime to make his insipid video games. For fuck’s sake, thirty one!”

“Why are you so worried about your age? A lot of people have–”

“Yoshinori Kitase directed Final Fantasy VII when he was thirty one.”

“You shouldn’t compare yourself to–”

“Hideki Kamiya directed Devil May Cry when he was thirty one.”

“Are you saying you want a–”

“Fumito Ueda directed Ico when he was thirty one.”

“Would you shut up for just one second?” said Mayuko. “You’re making random comparisons that have no meaning! You’re not them. You’re you. Why are you so worried about this? I had no idea you had this strain of ambition in you.”

Hiro took another drink. “I wouldn’t call it ambition, exactly. I just hoped for something more. Something a little better than implementing algorithms for breast bounce for my old classmate who, I should add, was always partying in school and got good grades anyway while I actually tried to study hard and did like shit.” He pounded his fist onto the bar like a cartoon character. “Is that okay? Is it alright to acknowledge I want more than this?”

Mayuko shrugged. “Sometimes it can’t be helped, right? Sometimes there’s nothing to be fought for, nothing to win, and the only thing on the line is your pride.”

“So you’re saying the only thing I can do is be proud of doing what I’m ordered to do? No matter what it is?” he said, and snorted. The izakaya’s loudness with its wall of chatter enveloped his head like a wet towel. Coding forgettable bits of soft-porn silliness might be all that he had any right to expect from his non-charmed life, but if that was the case he would just need to understand that human existence would not make him happy or fulfilled.

There was a long pause in the conversation (Mayuko seemed chastened by his acerbic ranting) and Hiro gazed drunkenly at the bar’s other patrons. Surely, playing the cards that the universe dealt was its own kind of art. Not everyone has talent and not everyone has skill. Not everyone is in the right place to take advantage of either, and even then the vicissitudes of the world operated under their own cruel inhuman logic such that a man’s power diminished into nothing but his ability to influence others and his meager personal understanding of craft.

Craftsmanship. Suddenly there was Mayuko’s grandfather in sepia tones hunched over a third-rate lathe making cheap tin toys in the aftermath of the war (what a schmaltzy thing to envision!), meaningless knickknacks that he poured his sweat into because it was the only thing he cared about– the only thing he could care about.

It was true that one could not always choose what work one did, or where, or how, or with whom. Sometimes, the only real choice was how seriously one could take that work, and to what degree it could be accomplished.

The Bible says: whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might–

“Well, that’s fine,” Hiro said abruptly, slamming his pint glass down a little harder than he meant to, his nose flaring with alcohol. “I’ve decided. I won’t program Kazu’s stupid feature for him just because he asked me to. I will do it for myself. And I will program the greatest goddamn breast physics in the world.”