Narrative Analysis: Structure
Katamari Damacy is one story told in two parts: the story of the celestial beings who rule the cosmos, and the story of the human beings who live on Earth. The two stories impact each other as the player navigates through the various levels, and their component parts come together for a satisfying conclusion. Due to their parallel nature, both stories fit equally well in the kishōtenketsu structure.
The main story of Katamari Damacy begins with the introduction of the King of All Cosmos, an all-powerful being who has the power to destroy the stars. At the beginning of Katamari, that’s exactly what he has done. After a cutscene in which the King spins through the stars, shattering them all in a violent ballet, he attempts to explain his actions, saying: “Yes, we were naughty. Completely naughty. So, so very sorry. But just between you and Us, It felt quite good.” His lack of remorse is obvious, yet the situation remains the same: the sky is now bereft of stars, and the King of Cosmos is to blame. This is the heart of the Introduction step, as it lays the groundwork for everything to follow.
Katamari’s secondary story, centered around the humans on Earth, begins with two children watching television. Their mother tells them it’s time to leave the house, but before they can go, a newscaster interrupts the show the children were watching to report that the stars have gone missing. This update connects the story of the humans to the story of the celestial beings, as it shows that the humans have been impacted by the King of All Cosmos’s actions. Since the human story is a secondary story, this single scene is sufficient to form the Introduction step, as it establishes everything the audience needs to know.
Katamari Damacy develops its main story with the first consequences of the King’s actions and introduction of the Prince, the King’s tiny son. The King brings the Prince into the story because everyone else in the cosmos is extremely upset that the stars are gone, and they want someone to fix it. Although the King could easily accomplish this task himself, he enlists the Prince instead, saying: “Our problem, your problem. Yes? You owe Us your existence, We collect on the debt. Yes? Hand in hand, always there. Yes? The very definition of the father-son bond.” In other words, this father-son bond means the Prince is duty-bound to clean up the King’s mess. It’s an unfair shake for the Prince, but it’s also a natural development from the characters and events established in the Introduction. In step one, a selfish King destroyed the stars; in step two, that selfish King avoids responsibility by putting it on someone else. The progression of events makes logical sense, and the story continues to move.
The Development step of Katamari’s secondary story occurs when the children try to tell their mother that the stars have disappeared. Their mother, who did not see the newscast, dismisses their claims and says they have a cab to catch. Although the children know what they heard, they begin to doubt themselves as they set out on their journey. Unlike the Development step for the primary story, the secondary story’s Development step stretches across several scenes, each of which show the children’s increasing frustration with their mother as she ignores the evidence mounting in their favor. This elongated Development step makes sense when set against the primary story, as the secondary story’s events depend upon the events of the primary story. In other words, the secondary story cannot move into its third step, Twist, until the Twist of the primary story has been explored.
The Twist step is the most important step in the kishotenketsu structure, as it adds the complication that connects the other events. Katamari Damacy’s Twist occurs when the Prince is sent to Earth to create new stars. The King is all set to leave his son to his own devices, but then he realizes something shocking: his son is very small. “We didn’t notice, not one jot, what with the stars and all,” he says. “Could you really be Our son?” Much to the King’s dismay, this ‘new’ information makes it seemingly impossible for the Prince to perform his duties, but the day is saved when he comes up with a clever scheme. “Build yourself up while you roll the katamari (ball). Work out and get bigger.” This scheme makes up the heart of the story, as well as the gameplay. To rebuild the stars, the Prince must grow bigger and stronger while rolling a ball. Everything that happens from here will be a result of this twist, all the way through to the Conclusion.
Unlike the primary story’s Twist, which occurs in the opening minutes of the game, the secondary story’s Twist step occurs close to the end. By this point in the primary game, the Prince has recreated most of the stars in the cosmos, but he has yet to recreate the moon. This segues into the Twist step in the secondary story, as the children and their mother have been traveling to see their astronaut father’s lunar launch. The Twist occurs when the father parachutes down from his rocket and tells his family that the launch has been cancelled, as the moon has disappeared. The mother’s plans have been disrupted; the children finally have evidence she can’t ignore. What the humans need now is a Conclusion.
Katamari Damacy’s Conclusion is a happy one, as it is the result of the Prince’s hard work in fulfilling the requirements of the Twist. After rolling up countless objects, the Prince finally restores the stars and the moon to their rightful place in the sky, and the King acknowledges his own efforts in making things right. “Phew, We are tired. Rolling a katamari is very hard. Right, Prince?…Well, it was hard for Us as well. To watch it from the Cosmos was very hard. So, so boring.” Clearly, the story’s events have not done anything to change the King, but the Prince has grown from his efforts: exactly 2cm, which the King deems worthy of celebration and cake. The progression of events has come to its Conclusion; at last, all is right in the universe.
Like the other steps in the secondary story, the human’s Conclusion step is impacted by events of the primary story. In this case, the humans on earth have been literally impacted by the Prince’s efforts, as they were some of the many people and objects rolled up to create the new moon. One would typically think that being rolled up and launched into space would be a dire outcome, but for the humans in the world of Katamari Damacy, it’s an exciting lunar vacation. Now, the children and their mother are able to join their father on the moon, thus satisfying everyone’s initial desires.
Thanks to their peaceful simplicity, Katamari Damacy’s interconnected stories weave together to form a perfect example of the kishōtenketsu structure. Each plotline introduces a scenario, develops it, adds a twist, and takes it to a natural conclusion. Even though there are no forces of antagonism or clashing ideals, the progression of events still forms a satisfying story that serves as a strong model for other conflict-free narratives.
* Reference Run: RabidRetrospectGames. Katamari Damacy Reroll Full Game Walkthrough – No Commentary (#KatamariDamacy Full Game) 2019. YouTube, 2019.
** Additional Reference Footage: ApolloGreen3. ALL CUTSCENES Katamari Damacy REROLL 1080p HD. YouTube, 2019.
*** Reference Script: Katamari Wiki. Katamari Damacy Dialogue. Fandom.com, 2010.