Daikatana’s Bleeding Edge

The moment I’ve chosen to examine comes from Chapter 14, during Maxine’s conversation with Lester Traipse, a former employee of hwgaahwgh.com.  He tells Maxine that he met Gabriel Ice in person at hashslingrz shortly after Ice’s purchase of hwgaahwgh.  Maxine guesses that hashslingrz had Lester sign a nondisclosure agreement, and Lester replies, “Not that anything was ever gonna be disclosed around there, nobody was exactly opening their kimono, even now, with hwgaahwgh.com liquidated, the NDA stays in force till the foreseeable end of the universe or Daikatana finally comes out, whichever comes first” (Pynchon 157).  This caught my eye originally because I’m familiar with Daikatana’s storied history, and my mom’s husband owned it at one point.  At first, I thought the joke lay in Daikatana’s eventual release, not long after summer 2001, meaning his metaphor is faulty.  Such humor is sprinkled throughout Bleeding Edge, little tidbits of dramatic irony we can enjoy (or dread, as the case may be) from our existence more than a decade removed from 2001.

This is not the case.  In reality, that is to say, our reality, Earth-Real, Daikatana came out for Windows in May 2000.  This makes the joke something different: one of a number of markers that the reality of Bleeding Edge is not our own, but merely like it.

Given that Pynchon is a septuagenarian who is aware of Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy X, and the associations these titles invoke, I cannot believe this was simply an oversight on Pynchon’s part.  He specifically chose Daikatana when, for example, Duke Nukem Forever is a game that would have performed a similar function in the dialogue.  On Earth-Real, Duke Nukem Forever is notorious for being repeatedly delayed after its initial announcement in 1997, finally being released to negative-to-lukewarm reviews in 2011, long after the dream was thought to be over.  So why did Pynchon choose Daikatana, beyond the aforementioned function of separating Earth-Edge from Earth-Real?

Daikatana is a spectacular financial flop of a sci-fi yarn full of time travel.  The primary antagonist of Daikatana used the eponymous blade to change history so he could rule the world in the 25th century.  The protagonist is Hiro Miyamoto, a descendant of the smith who forged the Daikatana in feudal Japan.  He must get the sword back and fix history.  The alternate times featured in Daikatana are 25th-century Japan (Hiro’s native time), ancient Greece, Norway in the Middle Ages, and San Francisco in a future much closer than the 2400s.

Because Earth-Edge’s version of Daikatana is still in development hell in 2001, it differentiates Earth-Edge’s pop culture history from that of Earth-Real, which goes along with Daikatana’s theme of changing history.  There’s also the fact that parts of the game take place in Japan, a leader in the development of digital technologies, and San Francisco, which is in California.  This could be a further example of Pynchon’s interplay between California and New York.

A final reason Pynchon might have chosen Daikatana is that it was a game that crashed its own hype train.  Developer John Romero was advertised as the most important man behind Daikatana, and he heralded a massive amount of content being in the game while living an extravagant and publicized lifestyle.  Delays plagued Daikatana for a few years, and it was ultimately disappointing.  I can’t help but draw comparisons between the development of Daikatana and that all-important dot com bubble central to the plot of Bleeding Edge.

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2 Responses to Daikatana’s Bleeding Edge

  1. specifictortoise says:

    That is a very interesting observation. I would point out, though, as there were actualy delays in Daikatana, as you mentioned, it might be a case of just referencing those delays instead of the game actually not being out. I could imagine someone today using “until Duke Nukem Forever comes out” just as a reference to how long it took. For instance, people still propagate the “Half Life 3 confirmed” meme even though the trademark has been registered at this point, and I could see it continuing even if the game is made. Although, I’m not sure if the same kind of memes were prevalent back in 2001 or if Lester would have used one in a real-life conversation, so it’s still a bit of a stretch that it was that way.


  2. danwillisdan says:

    Wow! There’s no way that reference wasn’t deliberate. The whole idea of the game is that someone ignores necessary history for their own personal gain, and through a singularly powerful piece of technology (the daikatana) over which he has complete proprietorship. Not to mention that the technology is quite literally ‘bleeding-edge’.


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