REVIEW: ‘Ask Iwata’ Is A Thoughtful Love Letter

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ask Iwata - But Why Tho?

Ask Iwata was written by the titular Satoru Iwata, one of Nintendo’s most dynamic presidents. Originally, Iwata’s book—rather, this collection of articles—was published on the Japanese website Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun, which fans of globally beloved planner company Hobonichi will recognize whether or not they read Japanese. Some were also published on the Nintendo website in the form of the “Iwata Asks” series. Additionally, the book collects a multitude of thoughts and insights from those articles. The book itself was compiled in 2019, and now, English-speaking readers have a chance to sit down with Iwata and learn more about this very thoughtful man. 

Ask Iwata was translated by Sam Bett, with illustrations by 100% Orange. Sam Bett is known for his work with authors Yoko Ogawa, Nisio Isin (often stylized as NISIOISIN), and BananaYoshimoto. Francesca Truman handled the design and layout for this edition, with Hobonichi serving as editor. While no specific individual is mentioned I would like to recognize them for their work on this title as well. And excitingly, this edition is a nice hardcover from Viz Media, who once again, brings their A-game on this very special book.

Ask Iwata is broken up into parts which are further divided into chapters. Each part, or section, is packed with a range of topics from Iwata’s youth -when he learned how to create and program on a programmable calculator- to articles from a multitude of creators. Some notable creators include Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of The Legend of Zelda, and Mario.

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect in this book. I knew it would be a book of thoughts: really, a book “suffused with Iwata’s thinking and philosophy,” which is a quote from the preface. However, I think Ask Iwata is quite humanizing, especially for someone who made such a big impact on the gaming world. What’s clear in the book is Iwata’s immense kindness. It’s also clear that he wasn’t afraid to remain human while in his role as president. Whether meeting with every employee one-on-one during his time at HAL to making space for others who were more fitting for roles, Iwata maintains a deep sense of community in this book of thoughts. 

Honestly, I think that’s why so many fans remember him fondly. At the core of Iwata’s work was a deep sense of community and communal sharing. He clearly took care not to step on any toes, or to dishearten or put down anyone in his care. As a creator myself, I deeply respect community-building. Seeing someone so key to Nintendo’s modern history hold that in his heart feels wonderful.

Out of all of the pieces compiled in Ask Iwata, I found Shigeru Miyamoto’s piece on remembering Iwata to be the most touching. It’s clear that both men regard one another not only as colleagues but trusted friends. Miyamoto even remarks that they never butted heads while working together. Part of that might be due to Iwata’s rather modest manner and general desire to uplift, rather than put down.

Many fans will recognize Iwata as one of many creatives on loads of titles that are beloved globally, including cult classic EarthBound, Pokemon Snap, and Super Smash Bros. In fact, I think that’s how a lot of fans in English-speaking countries remember him. And though Satoru Iwata left us on July 11, 2015, his legacy in gaming resonates powerfully through this entire book. I found myself aching to sit down at a lecture and just listen to his thoughts. It’s clear that Iwata was someone who really treasured creating. At the end of Iwata Asks is the quote “No part of my experience has turned out to be a waste of time.” I truly think that Iwata meant what he said and never wasted time: instead, he put all of his creative energies into putting excitement and good into the world.

All in all, Ask Iwata is certainly a keeper, especially for readers who are passionate about video games and the good they can put into the world. I know that I’ll keep Ask Iwata on my shelf for a very, very long time.

Ask Iwata is avaliable now. You can buy a hardcover copy or a digital edition from various retailers online and in-store now.

Ask Iwata
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TL;DR

All in all, Ask Iwata is certainly a keeper, especially for readers who are passionate about video games and the good they can put into the world. I know that I’ll keep Ask Iwata on my shelf for a very, very long time.