A man in a black shirt standing near Hachiko Square in Shibuya
Photo: Komazawa Isolation/YouTube

This Japanese YouTube series turns Shibuya into a realistic video game world

The most amazing part of these GTA-inspired videos is seeing how empty Shibuya can get during the pandemic

Kit Kriewaldt
Written by
Kit Kriewaldt

If you’re a fan of open world video games like Yakuza, Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption, you know the thrill of wandering around a sprawling city, hunting for treasure and beating up bad guys. The team behind Japanese YouTube channel Komazawa Isolation have created their own open-world game – complete with cutscenes, bad acting and janky animations – in real life on the streets of Shibuya.

A man in a red shirt runs into a wall in the same way a video game character might.
Photo: Komazawa Isolation/YouTube

Dubbed ‘Grand Theft Gotoku Solid – Shibuya Chronicles’, the IRL game re-creates all the tropes of a third-person open-world video game using actors, an impressively mobile camera and some surprisingly good special effects. But while the concept and production values are remarkable, we just can’t take our eyes off the empty streets of Shibuya. There’s no denying this project would’ve been much harder to film under normal circumstances.

The story begins with the main character, Hayaken, waking up outside Shibuya Station with a headache and no idea how he got there. Shibuya’s notoriously busy Hachiko Square has just a handful of people in it, and even the famous Scramble Crossing is quiet.

Although all the people Hayaken bumps into, and fights with, are part of the project, you can spot some bemused onlookers, including a couple of local cops, staring at his not-very-realistic movements.

Just like most Japanese video games that make it outside the country, this ‘game’ even has English subtitles. The story plays out over four episodes – the most recent one dropped over the weekend. Watch the first three here and keep an eye on Komazawa Isolation’s YouTube channel for the final instalment.

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