Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Taro Yoko

Go To
Don't worry, that's not really his face.

"Look, I work in this very strange way. But these are the things I think I do well, and these are the things I don't do well."


Yoko Taronote  (born June 6, 1970) is a Japanese video game director and scenario writer, best known for being the creative mastermind behind Drakengard franchise.

Described as iconoclastic and something of a loose cannon by those around him, Yoko has gained a fair amount of recognition for his unique storytelling approach. Compared to most JRPG's, which tend to be more on the idealism side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, Yoko's games are instead inspired by the bleak storytelling of titles like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Berserk. In other words, his games have a uniquely dark, relentlessly oppressive tone, with characters that are less than virtuous, often with unique, bizarre quirks. There are also very strong elements of Deconstruction and satire present, frequently parodying, lampshading, subverting, or mocking various JRPG and anime conventions. Additionally, his works also tend to contain various subjects commonly viewed as taboo, most notable but not limited around sexuality and the like. A big root of this is his fascination with the tendency for video games to be centered around mass violence and murder and how nonchalantly and casually many games and players treat it, to the point where both Drakengard 1 and NieR attempt to justify and contextualize why someone would do such a thing. Yoko has explained that he feels he must do this because there's no way his games could compete with the likes of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest if he didn't try to stand out somehow.


He is equally famous for being a Trolling Creator, including unusual gameplay design elements to engage in Player Punch to great effect. Drakengard became infamous for its multiple endings which became progressively more difficult to unlock while simultaneously becoming more bizarre, depressing and surreal, culminating in an elaborate Gainax Joke Ending which royally pissed fans off. NieR is known for its unique use of New Game+, offering scenes and additional dialogue which completely transform your understanding of the narrative.

His rise to fame has been quite slow, as Drakengard was a cult hit at best. However, NieR ended up gaining a strong reputation as a Cult Classic over time, and its sequel, Automata, was met with financial success and critical acclaim, turning him into a well-known creator. Various interviews and blog entries by Yoko have since been translated, giving more insight into his opinions on game design and the creative process. He is, as you might expect, a rather strange fellow: a Reclusive Artist, who believes interviews to be a boring chore and frequently hides his visage via masks and sock puppets. Interviews with him paint him as a rather modest if quite cynical man, grateful for the opportunities he's been given and for both Square-Enix's and the fans' support.


On occasion he also works outside of the gaming scene, be it either supervising side materials such as the YoRHa stage play, or creating original works such as Thou Shalt Not Die.

Frequently Used Tropes:

  • Auteur License: After the divisive Drakengard 2note , he was put back as director for the series and given free reign to do as he pleases.
  • Author Appeal: Complex moral compasses, bleak settings, dark humor, cruel twists, and beautiful, white-haired women.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: Going hand-in-hand with Deconstructor Fleet below, Yoko loves to poke fun at various video game clichés in various ways leading to some very Genre Savvy humor.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: In a promotional trailer for a Nier Automata T-shirt.note 
    Taro: Nier Automata T-Shirt! Nier Automata T-Shirt! Nier Automata T-Shirt! Nier Automata T-Shirt! Nier Automata T-Shirt! S**t Square Enix!
  • Black Comedy: The guy has a very dark sense of humor that is reflected in the games, with jokes of killing and the like showing up every so often.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: A great many conflicts in Taro's games arise because of something causing this. The cult-broken Empire soldiers in Drakengard, anybody who hears the Intoners' songs in Drakengard 3, and the logic virus-infected machines and YoRHa soldiers in NieR:Automata. Usually marked to the player via Red Eyes, Take Warning.
  • Break the Cutie: The character who ends up suffering the most is almost always the most innocent and kind-hearted (Seere in Drakengard, Emil in NieR, Two in Drakengard 3, Pascal in NieR: Automata, and Konogg in YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse).
  • Brutal Honesty: He doesn't mince his words and from what interviews show, he not afraid to criticize or make fun of things he's asked to give input, even making fun of himself and how his games actually suck in the process.
  • Clarke's Third Law: In the setting of Nier, the results of Drakengard's Ending E makes the lines between magic, technology, magic derived from technology, and technology derived from magic rather blurry.
  • Creator Thumbprint: A motif of three eyes, and the use of the Angelic Script.
  • Dark Is Evil: Heavily subverted in Nier. The game initially appears to be playing the trope in a fairly standard manner, with the flawed but likable main characters (whose designs are primarily based on white and other light colors) facing against the villainous Shadowlord and his mindless Shade army. It is eventually revealed that the Shades are the original humans of the world (it's a little complicated), the Shadowlord just wanted his daughter back the same as you, and you killed thousands of innocents in your ignorance. Played straight with Caim and Kuroi, black-haired and darkly-clothed mass murderers. They are on the heroic side, too.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Particularly to the JRPG genre.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: For the sake of standing out and providing commentary on the industry, he seems to want to subvert and deconstruct as many genre, character, and even medium tropes as he can in his games.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Pretty much all his main characters are either profoundly messed-up or have some sort of strange quirk, and they often play a part in the aforementioned deconstructive elements of his games. Sometimes it goes straight into Cast Full of Crazy territory.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Any time his stories end in any sort of positive manner, the characters have to suffer immensely for it. This is very deliberate, as he does not believe that any story in which the main character kills hundreds of people in a war deserves a happy ending (referring to the first Drakengard's increasingly bizarre and demented endings). Most famously played straight in NieR: Automata, with Drakengard 3 being a downplayed example.
  • Eccentric Artist: This video alone should give you an idea of just how quirky this man is.
  • Eye Scream: All of his main characters seem to have something up with their eyes. One of Caim's eyes is stabbed by Mana in Drakengard 2, father Nier has a Post-Time Skip Mask in the second half of the game, and Zero has a cursed flower in one of her eye sockets. The YoRHa soldiers of NieR: Automata plays with the trope: they have blindfold-shaped tactical visors covering both of their eyes.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: One of the more famous aspects of his storytelling and game design sensibilities is his willingness to use the medium in unusual ways to reinforce the story. A famous example is Ending D of the first NieR, which deletes all of your save data, reflecting Nier erasing his own existence to save Kainé and restore her humanity. Another is NieR: Automata, which has an extensive Diegetic Interface with everything the player sees, from their health meters to damage numbers and mini-map, is tied to computer chips installed into the playable androids. One joke ending can be achieved by unequipping the OS Chip. One way to defeat one of the final bosses is to hack them until you breach their pause menu, which is also part of the interface.
  • Genre Mashup: His later games NieR and NieR: Automata are Action-RP Gs with elements of a Third-Person Shooter and Bullet Hell games.
  • Genre Roulette: He's stated that he hates doing the same thing when it comes to making video games, which explains why his games are never the same genre.
  • Harmful to Minors: Children are not safe in Taro's games. For example, Drakengard includes a reformed pedophile, a mission dedicated to Caim slaughtering Child Soldiers, a Big Bad who fell under the control of The Man Behind the Man because of her abusive mother, and the aforementioned Man Behind the Man taking the physical form of creepy, stoney 50-foot-tall babies.
  • Implied Love Interest: While there are couples in his stories, they tend to be very downplayed and their relationships are usually not the focus of the narrative.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Many of his characters are very rough around the edges, but either have a soft side to begin with (such as Nier) or grow one as the story goes along (Caim and Zero).
  • Kill 'Em All: In his stories, characters tend to die by the droves, and it is not uncommon for half the cast or more to wind up dead by the end. And that is just for the named characters.
  • Mind Screw: One of the hallmarks of his style.
  • Multiple Endings: All of his games have at least 4 endings so far, and unlike most games, getting all the endings is usually vital to understanding the full story and getting the most out of the narrative.
  • New Game+: One of the key aspects of his games. Instead of merely being a second playthrough that's harder or easier, his games offer additional scenes, pieces of dialogue, branching paths leading to new endings, etc. Most notable in NieR which was engineered specifically to use the feature as a transformation of its narrative.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Averted. In fact, NieR goes out of its way to tear into this and tacitly point out that there are multiple sides to every story, and that just because you believe what you are doing is right doesn't make it so. The first Drakengard kept hammering the point that while he is fighting an evil empire that is about to destroy the world, Caim himself is a horrifying individual.
  • Reclusive Artist: By his own admittance, Taro despises being on film, to the point where he got his distinct Emil mask to hide his face in public appearances. He has also claimed he cranked up his Eccentric Artist tendencies when forced to be part of the presenting team for Drakengard 3, in hopes that he would make a big enough scene to the point where he wouldn't be forced to do a public presentation in the future (naturally, he ended up being one of the most popular presenters).
  • Refuge in Audacity: Yoko Taro has gotten away with a lot of shit that other creators would be fired if they tried to do the same thing. Partly because of his well-known Trolling Creator and Brutal Honesty nature, partly thanks to his connections, the sheer brazenness of his Signature Style storytelling, and his funny antics are often relatable to the player base. He said a few times in interviews that he was nearly fired for this, but a few friends from the top and his Cult Classic games kept him working for Square Enix.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Defied. Yoko has stated that he hates this trope, and as a result often subverts and deconstructs it, such as with Furiae of Drakengard.
  • Self-Deprecation: Taro almost never has anything good to say about his own games, and frequently takes potshots at himself.
  • Signature Style:
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Actually played with a bit. While his works are often far on the cynical end of the spectrum, a strong central theme in many of them is hope that the main characters, and by extension the often very screwed-up societies they live in, can eventually learn from their mistakes and charge for the better; and that even in worlds as hopeless and cruel as the ones he creates, things like love, decency and personal sacrifice still matter.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Most notable with Caim from Drakengard and Kuroi from Thou Shalt Not Die, neither of whom really merit being called a "hero" at all. Also applicable to a lesser degree for both Zero and Nier. They usually share a few similarities with Guts of Berserk fame, though only Caim has been explicitly confirmed to be based on him. The chief idea behind this is challenging the idea of heroism in games and pointing out that a person that engages in wanton murder of several people would most likely not be very nice or mentally stable, either to begin with and/or as a result of it.
  • Tomato Surprise: Is very aware of the general expectations of both the player and the medium and is very interested in playing with them to craft interesting experiences. Most notable in NieR.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Keiichi Okabe. Interviews and videos show them ribbing and good-naturedly insulting each other like how Okabe admits he knows Yoko Taro's game doesn't sell well and Yoko jokes he's salty about how Okabe is getting praise from his music. That doesn't stop the two from working together for years.
    Yoko Taro: "Please do not give any more awards to Mr. Okabe, ever. Please"
  • War Is Hell: A recurring theme in many of his stories is the utter pointlessness of war and the tragedy that often ensue from it, be it from the characters directly involved or those around them. It tends to most often be told through the use of subtle metaphors, though he isn't above being blunter about it on occasion.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Discussed. After the events of 9/11, Yoko came to the conclusion that people don't need to be insane or evil in order to commit atrocities and kill people; they just need to believe that they are in the right. This led to the creation of Nier, a game in which the protagonist's quest to save his remaining family ultimately dooms humanity in the process; and that the Big Bad is only doing the same things to save his remaining family.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: One of the main themes of NieR, which featured several characters who aren't "human" in the traditional sense. NieR: Automata extends it into Do Androids Dream? territory by focusing more specifically on mechanical lifeforms.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Frequently zig-zagged and Played With. Many of his characters after NieR have white hair, with some of them being quite ruthless and rough-around the edges, such as Zero, but they don't necessarily play into the typical Japanese villain role in quite the way you'd first expect.

Alternative Title(s): Yoko Taro


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: