Good Cover Art: Tokyo Jungle
The cover art to Tokyo Jungle, an exclusive Playstation Network downloadable title, represents mystery, confusion, humor, and terror by setting up a proper scenario for the viewer to follow. The immediate focus of the piece is not the eventual focus of the piece. At first you see the Pomeranian (my Lebowski sense is tingling) but then you are, wholly against your will, forced to stare into the foggy abyss of post-apocalyptic Tokyo.
Start with the dog in the lower center of the cover. Aside from the game’s title (which is unfortunately a little intrusive here) your first focus will be the dog. Not only is it the only concrete figure in the lower third of the cover, but the light brown of the animal contrasts against the almost complimentary cold blue/gray colored street. Then you notice two important details: there is a blood spatter to the left of the dog, and the dog is dragging an unmanned pink leash with it.
The cute/strange humor begins to unfold here. A Pomeranian (a tiny, wimpy, non-threatening breed of dog), with a pink leash on (pink is our standard feminine color, still) has to somehow survive in this desolate Hell with nobody to feed it. It gets even more goofy when the blood spatter to its left is considered. Sure, it could be from an unrelated encounter, but what if our fluffy little puppy here was a real cold-blooded killer? Maybe it fought. Maybe it killed. Maybe it devoured the flesh of a fallen enemy for sustenance. We’re not talking laugh-out-loud humor here, but our focus here most certainly gives us a darker inward smirk.
The dog was our first focus but it’s not the only one. Soon after the dog is considered by the viewer you are forced into the smoky abyss that is the middle third of the cover. It’s not your fault, though. The artist has crafted this carefully. Notice the angles of the buildings and signs. They are all drawing your eye towards the center of the frame. You’re being pulled into this strange game whether you like it or not. Even the blood spatter and pink least form almost an”arrow” that points to the center. This is not an accident. For a classical example of this look to surrealist, self-proclaimed “metaphysical” painter of the early 20th century, Giorgio de Chirico. Below is his painting Mystery and Melancholy of a Street. While the angles are far more extreme, the concept is the same. All of the data on screen is in service of playing out a specific scenario for the viewer to follow.
You awake in the foggy desolate ruins of Tokyo. What happened? Where is everyone? It doesn’t look too far into the future. How long has everyone been gone? A week? A month? In front of you is a dog. A Pomeranian, it would seem, with a leash on it. A fully domesticated animal separated from its owner. The leash is close to you. It’s almost pointing at you. This poor dog probably needs some help. You take a few careful steps closer, reaching for the leash. The dog turns tail and sprints away. It is swallowed by the smokey air that lies ahead. There seems to be only one way to go. You step forward into the abyss. Welcome to Tokyo Jungle.
October 8, 2012