Don't Blame Mii, Japan

Jen Lancaster


Remember when Japan was cool? We used to run around with "Mr. Roboto" on our Walkmans, "The Karate Kid" in our Betamaxes and wore T-shirts embossed with the characters for "storm sewer" and "dishwasher." Our nation loved Japanese culture so much we even started eating sushi, which surely caused our Founding Fathers to spin in their graves. "Raw fish? Wrapped in seaweed?" they'd cry. "Did we lose a war or something?"

Much like Australia did after our short-lived passion for Crocodile Dundee died out, Japan's fallen out of favor. One might think Toyota's massive PR FAIL is the root of the problem, but that's just a smoke screen. The real culprits are far more insidious. I'm talking about the Wii console and its "Wii Fit" video game, of course.

"Wii Fit" is a Japanese video game designed to get the player moving. Said game topped Christmas lists across the country. Like the rest of the nation, on 12/26 I finished my eggnog, knocked cookie crumbs off my lap and quickly hooked up the console.

OK, that's a lie. I tasked my husband with the setup, which took three hours, a pint of bourbon and more anguished cries of, "Where's a 13-year-old boy when I need one?" than our neighbors were comfortable hearing.

Before I could try bowling or tennis, the game wanted to assess my "Wii Fit" age. I'm not thin, but I'm strong -- plus my balance is such that I can navigate a flight of stairs with a basket of laundry and a stack of Pottery Barn catalogs, vaulting over cat-and-dog hurdles never once spilling my coffee. I figured the test would more or less reflect my 42 years. Which it did. Then it added 30, bringing my "Wii Fit" age to 72. That's when I suspected there could be trouble.

I created a Mii avatar and started playing. I could handle the other smug Miis who gloated every time I went out of bounds and I wasn't disheartened when YOU LOSE flashed across the screen in 900-point font.

The real problem began with the balance board. Upon determining my BMI, my adorable avatar looked as shocked as I did when she swelled Veruca Salt-style, turning lumpy and potato-headed, enthusiastically exclaiming, "You're obese!" Um, thanks?

The first "Wii Fit" games I tried were the slalom and ski jumping. I believe my spectacular failures here had more to do with the board resting on thick carpet than my shoddy balance. I grew consistently worse with every run, to the point that my Mii got down on her knees and began pounding her head against the ground. Such was her shame, I'm surprised she didn't whip out a Hanwei sword and off herself samurai-style.

Deciding I wasn't making the cut for the 2014 Sochi games any time soon, I switched to the board's fitness test. That's when the machine really got vicious. In getting a feel for the sensitive calibration, I biffed so many exercises that "Wii Fit" noted "balance wasn't my thing" and suggested maybe I'd "enjoy some nice memory games." These unsuccessful tests prompted responses such as "Are you forgetful?" and "Do you normally have trouble concentrating?" Too bad "Wii Fit" wasn't measuring how hard I could kick the TV stand.

The final insult came when I got to Lotus Focus. The goal of this game is to sit still. That's it, just sit. Judging from my four gold stars -- "Wii Fit's" highest honor -- I'm an Olympian at not moving. And that's when I realized that "Wii Fit" is actually Japanese for "You're Fat."

Japan, if you want to win us back, it'll take more than a brake job. Unless "Wii Fit" stops acting like a mean girl, it's over between us forever. (P.S., I hear Paul Hogan's itching for a comeback.)






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