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MayoeruHitori

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MayoeruHitori last won the day on December 28 2019

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  1. Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.

    Hey Ramaladni, thanks for the recommendation! I've just checked out the Amazon reviews. I don't, specifically, have more interest in the details of early eroge history, or eroge alone, but since the latest 2017 edition covers even relatively modern history, I'd love to check it out. I did find a download for the older 2013 edition on manga-zip.net. In any case, thank you for the offer of help. Hmm, too bad there's no 2019 or 2020 edition, since there've been many developments in recent years (or even just the past 3 months frankly). I'd say that the main subject of these notes (which you may not have finished yet) is the decline and evolution of adventure games and visual novels. Eroge declined somewhat too, but I think it's already firmly stepped onto the path of evolution (after deemphasizing ADV). And nope, I have no plans for this to be a series.
  2. Welcome to my blog. Where have we been? Where are we going? TIMELINE 1980s: - Early eroge largely consist of still art (what we call pixel art now), very short dialogue/narrative elements, and some primitive interactive elements, while spanning many genres. 1990s: - The point-and-click adventure game, which has its roots in 1980s video games, establishes itself as one of the most popular genres of eroge. Many games emerge which have interfaces that are visually similar to those of most point-and-click adventure games, but with gradually differing gameplay. These games are all collectively called "adventure games" or "ADV" in Japanese. The general style of having an interface which consists of a rectangular text box at the bottom of the screen, and a collage of visual elements meant to serve as a guide for what the main character sees, is also called "ADV". In other words, ADV becomes a genre that embodies a style of presentation. - The non-adult game company Chunsoft puts out Otogirisou, a kind of illustrated story in which pictures are placed in the background as visual aids while the full narrative is conveyed as overlaid text. This style of presentation is called a "novel game" or "NVL" in Japanese. The gameplay of Otogirisou purely consists of the player making choices on where to take the story, similar to "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, a simple yet powerful narrative tool which would prove influential to ADV as a whole. - Two major eroge brands that specialize in ADV, elf and Leaf, create popular games like Doukyuusei and To Heart. These games stand out from their competitors by the way they utilize talented artists and writers to focus on the personalities of charming heroines, rather than treating pixel porn as what matters and the characterization as an afterthought. This character-centric evolution is called a charage (character game) and encompasses both NVL (like Kizuato) and ADV. And with the release of YU-NO and Kamaitachi no Yoru, two ADV/NVL games that have well-written stories, the term scenarioge (scenario game) becomes more popular. 1999: - Kanon is released by Key. It's the first time a large number of players became very emotionally moved by the story of an eroge, or any ADV at that. Even someone like Baba from Visual Arts, who was just a businessman without much personal interest in ADV, became interested after Kanon. Aside from inventing the nakige (naki game, which means "crying game") genre, it awakened in players a desire for longer scenarios as necessary to deepen their attachment to the heroines. But its most significant role is being the first major moege (moe game) at a time when the term "moe" wasn't even very well known. 2000: - The doujin NVL Tsukihime comes out, and its quality lets it rank among the very top, if not at the very top, of both scenarioge and charage. See Popular Views on What Defines the Chuuni Genre for more info on the influence of Type-Moon's works. 2000-2006: - Now that Kanon and Tsukihime have come out, it seems like a dam bursts and a flood of popular and influential ADV/NVL are released. There are comparatively fewer in 2001, with the most notable ones in my mind being Kiminozo and Kazokei. But in 2002 you have Ever17, Higurashi, Kusarihime, Baldr Force, Hello world, Da Capo, and others. And every year after that just has more and more top quality ADV/NVL. The biggest year is 2004, which sees the release of both Clannad and Fate/stay night (successors to Kanon and Tsukihime, respectively). - Around the middle of the decade, the term "visual novel" is invented among English speaking fans of these games, and basically refers to any game which has an ADV/NVL-style interface and a strong and constant narrative. Since the rest of the world directly bypassed the early history of Japanese eroge and ADV/NVL, they didn't bother with the origins of these styles of games, and just chose a term which seemed to more naturally describe the most famous and representative ADV/NVL. Since then, the term "visual novel" has been recognized by the Japanese too, although the broader Japanese playerbase still commonly thinks that VN is synonymous with "adventure game". In any case, the term is excellent and I like it. - Over the course of this decade, the major tropes and popular genres of VNs, which were mostly foreshadowed in the late 1990s, are firmly established and standardized. They include TIPs, unlockable routes/end, true ends, bad ends, hidden heroines, time loops/leaps, moe, chuuni, nakige, utsuge, imouto games, and many more. The diverse and awkward gameplay of the 1980s and 1990s more or less disappears. - Meanwhile, many of the most successful eroge companies like Key, Type-Moon, and Leaf/Aqua-Plus successfully rebrand themselves and reduce their focus on adult content for the sake of marketing their works to the rest of the Japanese "otaku" industries. They adopt the label of "bishoujo game maker". Many of their most popular IPs (intellectual properties) receive anime adaptations or evolve into multimedia franchises, with "Fate" being the most famous example. On the other hand, as these industries embrace VNs, they also learn from them and try to emulate that same appeal within their own IPs; Fate/stay night is especially influential as a progenitor of the "chuuni" genre. 2006: - Statistically, eroge sales begin to decline. The industry itself doesn't immediately begin to decline, though, because investors take time to notice and react to such trends, companies are still in the midst of developing games, and they will try to shift strategies to fight the trend. The decline in sales won't slow down until 2012. WHY Causes of the trend? This was fiercely debated for years and still hasn't been completely settled. But it's more or less clear. VNs served as a creative outlet without rivals for several years. At first, in the early 1990s, nobody expect much from eroge. But as we entered the later part of the decade, that changed. Eroge was always a venue for weird and exciting scenarios that wouldn't be accepted elsewhere, and it was easier than ever to make quality audiovisual experiences, with multiple free or cheap VN engines available. Writers like Maeda Jun and Nasu took advantage of the medium's ease of entry, along with the freedom of expression it afforded. It was a fresh, mature alternative to the LN industry. However, that didn't last forever. Major publishers in other mediums distilled the parts of eroge that appealed most to players: the nakige components, the moe components, the fanservice and unapologetic harems, the handy sci-fi tropes, the balloon breasts. Everything except the deep emotional and mental investment that's only possible with literature. And of course, the mature themes and content. Above all, what VNs brought to the table was no longer as fresh to people. Without a sense of excitement, the fact that VNs require people to sit down and actually read continuously for hours became... problematic. The era of smartphones and social media also heralded the era of low attention spans. People came to think that "adventure games" = "boring". This was coupled with the fact that more and more people play bishoujo games on their smartphones, and who wants to play eroge in public? Waifu/husbando social games like Fate/Grand Order and Granblue Fantasy dealt especially heavy blows to players' interest in VNs. They let players pick between countless more waifus and husbandos than VNs, have more exciting plots to engage casual players (not some ordinary school life drama), have the slutty outfits and exaggerated figures of nukige heroines, continually put out new content for the most popular characters, let you put your waifu/husbando in your home screen so you can constantly look at her, and tap on the portrait of her/him to hear some flirty line voiced by a popular anime seiyuu. They even copied the feature of some VNs where you can give your favorite hero or heroine chocolates on Valentine's Day or White Day. The proof is in the recent anime Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy where the "guy who's only interested in 2D girls" stereotype no longer involves VNs on a PSP, but rather depicts a social game on a phone. To be frank, even the latest Fire Emblem game probably makes VNs less appealing by comparison. The main draw of VNs was always the cute and flirty heroines and romance, but these elements have been thoroughly exported. The exact same situation arose with Japanese web novels on the site Shousetsuka ni Narou. An initial wave of authors pioneered new genres with certain distinctive tropes, most of them related to isekai, and started a trend which has dominated the Japanese web novel scene. But the mainstream LN industry quickly learned and started to put out its own isekai LNs, as well as aggressively recruit these authors (who naturally didn't object to being paid for what they'd initially put out for free online). A few years later, Narou's talents have more or less moved out, and the stories at the top of the popularity charts haven't been supplanted by any new talents. In any case, the major difference between Narou and the VN industry is that Narou authors are overall much better off with editors, whereas the transition from VNs to LNs/anime is absolutely a creative downgrade. WHAT DO 1. Copy FGO. Social games are a natural evolution of the appeal of many VNs. Unfortunately, they're also largely vapid experiences with have less voice acting, silent protagonists, a massive cast of heroines who receive little character development, a disjointed narrative, a story that's mostly dialogue and constantly interrupted by battles, and many other flaws that prevent them from achieving literary excellence. These games have invariably underestimated how popular they'll become and worked with cheap art assets and flimsy storytelling, only to fix this by hiring better artists and writers for the more recent arcs of their ongoing main storylines. However, even those recent arcs are still shallow experiences compared to VNs. The best they can do is have good comedy--no one will ever feel as empathetic toward the characters as they do in VNs. But of course, despite the problems with social games' storytelling, they are still... inevitable. They will still successfully rake in cash from people with personalities prone to gambling addiction. So one VN company after another has tried to become the next FGO. Eushully, light, August, Key, Lilith, Frontwing, Nitroplus and many others have pursued social games, virtually all of which failed to really take off like FGO--in part because they weren't very well-made, and in part because the Fate franchise is more popular with more devoted fans. Frankly, this solution has been thoroughly pursued by all sorts of VN companies, and we know exactly what happens: it fails unless they're very lucky. 2. Give up. This is a wise and fine choice. The river of life flows ever onward. Sometimes it's best to accept defeat. 3. Make NOT a visual novel. Be Kodaka Kazutaka. Start from the idea that you want to make an adventure game. Then to appease your producer, call it a detective game instead, and add a 3D world with gameplay that takes place within it while occupying a lot of the player's time, so it in no way feels like a pure ADV. Make the narrative largely dialogue-driven. Write in a way that wastes less time on subtlety and imagery and takes more advantage of humor, twists, and action. Then call it Danganronpa and be successful, while feeling that you tricked the world by making an adventure game with the quality storytelling of an adventure game that doesn't feel like an adventure game. Too Kyo Games plans to water down a full-fledged ADV-quality scenario with meaningful realtime gameplay, by partnering with studios that actually know how to make fun games. It's a long-term experiment on tricking people into playing adventure games. 4. Make a visual novel, but be better. Find a slightly new angle. Gather the A-Team. Target non-traditional markets. Cultivate one's prestige. In short, reorganize and rebrand. But still make a visual novel, with ordinary 2D art and probably little to no gameplay. The only problem is that people don't like VNs anymore because smartphones shrunk their brains until they had flea-sized attention spans. So at best, such "better" VNs will simply exist in the top tier of modern VNs, able to survive and maybe make a little profit. These are VNs for the sake of creators who want to stay in the VN industry despite how comparatively little it pays. Aniplex.exe, a new VN brand started under Aniplex that Makura staff like Sca-ji are involved with, seems to fall under this category. They're identifying as makers of "novel games" probably because that sounds more respectable these days than bishoujo game. I'm frankly more interested in Sca-ji's other still unannounced projects (but that's just because I'm not personally a fan of Konno Asta or Umihara Nozomu). 5. Copy FGO, but EVOLVE. Before Light's "Pantheon" mobile game died mid-development, Masada planned for it to have a substantial scenario. That kind of story would fatally clash, like matter and dark matter, with social games as they exist today. Unless they rethought the entire premise from scratch, I assume they'd have to at the very least dilute such a lengthy narrative into segments with constant breaks, rewards, and mini-games. And they'd have to make a tough choice about whether they seriously want to market it for smartphones, or stick to PC like Granblue Fantasy. It's easier to not evolve or just give up. But moreover, I think industry veterans are just pissed off and unable to accept that something as amazing as VNs can't find its consumers anymore. So they will struggle. Visual Arts will struggle, for sure. Key pretended to be half-dead in their 20th anniversary message, but they were actually hard at work. They've let Maeda take on the scenario of a high budget smartphone game called "Heaven Burns Red". Will he be able to do for social games with "Heaven Burns Red" what he did for VNs with "Kanon"? I'm not too optimistic, since I haven't seen any indication that the overall story concept was Maeda's. 6. ??? To quote Sca-ji, a writer who's qualified to talk about the unique worth of eroge, from late October: "People across various otaku industries have said, 'I want the wonderful culture of eroge to stay alive.' They're going out of their way and doing many things to make that happen. If I'm pessimistic, this might be our last chance to revive this industry, so I'm cheering them on. Do your best. ... People around their late twenties to thirty years old have started to take positions of power in society, praising eroge and doing many things for us." ZZZ 「Kanon」や「CLANNAD」「Angel Beats!」など…「泣きゲー」からアニメ原作まで、美少女IPを仕掛け続けた28年! ビジュアルアーツのユニークなブランド戦略と経営思想を馬場隆博社長に聞いてみた 『ダンガンロンパ』、『東京クロノス』、『グノーシア』の開発者が語る。「アドベンチャーゲームは滅ぶのか?」緊急座談会 「なぜエロゲ業界は衰退してるのか」 それをまとめた画像が話題にwwwww https://twitter.com/gannbattemasenn/status/1015644154271973376 https://enty.jp/avestan https://twitter.com/sca_di https://vndb.org/ EPILOGUE A new decade is upon is, and we're in the midst of a wave of 20th anniversaries that inevitably prompt retrospection. What I'm keeping an eye on, out of concern for the industry, as we enter it: - Too Kyo Games - Heaven Burns Red (unveiling on February 28) and Visual Arts as a whole - Sca-ji's Twitter account - Aniplex.exe as a whole - Any news from Masada about new publishers for Pantheon - Major non-adult scenarioge companies like Spike-Chunsoft and Mages (they may absorb some talent or try to carry on eroge culture) - Any actual new VNs from Nasu, like the Tsukihime remake
  3. (8/1 update) Results of the honorifics survey

    @HonorificsSurvey Oh, wow. Thanks for the chart. Looks like I underestimated the amount of localizations that keep honorifics. The last localization I personally tried was Dies irae, and the last localizations I paid any attention to were Sorcery Jokers and Leyline which came out about half a year ago, plus I always seem to hear translators criticize honorifics... Speaking of SJ, you have it listed as Kept, but I'm not sure that's correct, at least, judging from the VNDB screenshot which has "Mr. Senri" instead of Senri-san.
  4. (8/1 update) Results of the honorifics survey

    All right, at this point all I can do at throw up my hands at how much you guys love to talk about statistics...
  5. (8/1 update) Results of the honorifics survey

    All the comments about the the imperfections of polling are quite interesting, and it's nice of @Toranth to provide rational input. On the topic of honorifics, what @HonorificsSurvey said about how newcomers tend to be least opposed to honorifics surprised me. I always had the impression that since the number of official localizations exploded a few years ago, and official localizations tend to avoid honorifics, newbies wouldn't be as used to honorifics as older fans. Looks like that's not the case. Now that I think about it, there are potentially multiple reasons that VNs fans tend to care more about honorifics. VNs focus relatively more on interpersonal relationships and school life, where honorifics are more meaningful (compared to, say, a slapstick action story). VNs let you replay voiced lines if you didn't hear them properly, and click at your own pace to hear them properly, so it's easier for players to pick up on the honorifics. Unlike manga which isn't voiced and anime which people are often introduced to via television dubs, VNs as a medium emphasize voiced lines, which contain honorifics for Japanese VNs. Also, as was said earlier and @TheCrimsonFucker echoed, the more a person becomes acquainted with Japanese, the more it tend to feel odd when they read a non-literal translation. They pick up on the nuance attached to specific names & words that aren't particles which can be recognized audibly. And as @HonorificsSurvey said, people who play VNs often have experience with voiced anime (and manga which sometimes notes honorifics, esp. scanlations). So yeah, I'm starting to see a lot of reasons why many VN fans' desire to welcome honorifics won't change easily, even if they're absent from many localizations and many translators swear off them. People like @AdventSign talk about a war over honorifics, but as far as I can tell, everything has completely settled down: For the above reasons and probably others, most VN fans tend to prefer honorifics. I don't think you can change their minds if they already know what honorifics are and attached importance to them. You'd essentially have to convince them that Japanese culture isn't important. Or change the demographics of fans of Japanese VNs through marketing (didn't turn out well for MoeNovel). On the other hand, the localization side is firmly opposed to honorifics. There are big ego wars over perceived translation quality on Twitter, and translators know that it's frowned upon to include honorifics instead of trying to finding various ways of conveying them differently (or not at all) which is the traditional in the prideful professional translation industry. In addition, localization companies probably think that they can market their products to a broader audience when VN translations are non-idiosyncratic and remove honorifics. I don't think you can change their minds either, since they're doing what they think is right. Although @sanahtlig pointed out already that it would've been a little interesting to survey whether people would refuse to play a VN with or without honorifics, I'm personally glad that this survey asked what people think, instead of just asking what they're willing to tolerate in their purchases. Questions along the lines of the latter are something we already get enough of from localization companies' surveys. And I think it's probably not necessary either, because like I said earlier, my impression is that most localizations these days don't have honorifics, and people just tolerate it. (Or does anyone disagree with this?) So honestly, the bottom line is that fans might be a little happier if more localizations included honorifics, but since it's not a do-or-die issue for them, many translators will continue to shy away from honorifics.
  6. (8/1 update) Results of the honorifics survey

    @HonorificsSurvey I agree with a lot of the sentiment of your post there. I just want to chime in to say that I think it's a mistake to suddenly start talking about markets. IMO, this survey has meaning because it deals with the views of VN fans. It doesn't try to account for anyone who has ever or could ever buy a VN. Once you selectively focus on people who are into one particular VN for whatever reason (like Ace Attorney fans, or Umineko fans) rather than people who like various VNs, I think you've stopped talking about what VN fans generally care about, and are at best instead conducting market research on how to expand the VN fanbase by finding different ways of appealing to people. The survey questions about honorifics are only relevant to people who play a variety of JP->EN translated VNs.
  7. (8/1 update) Results of the honorifics survey

    @Toranth Nice post! Now that you mention it, I've heard about sample bias and selection bias before. It's just that there are always limitations to polls. After all, you mentioned "these communities do not represent the entirety of the population" but the only way to do that perfectly is to literally ask everyone, otherwise your only choice is to do your best to sample as many diverse parts of the population as possible. So you're right that it isn't representative. In retrospect, what I probably really wanted to ask was closer to, "Is there a reason to believe the results aren't what the overall community believes?" Though it might be unfair to shift the burden of proof like that. The bottom line is that I found the survey results fascinating, and plan to tentatively accept them as fact about public opinion in the VN community, unless I learn that there's been some major oversight in the way the survey was conducted which would have clearly led to a different result if fixed. @Decay Hmm. It's true that many fans don't participate in fan communities. VNDB is proof enough of that, since it has over 100,000 users who largely lurk. I had assumed that the existing VN communities would be representative of such people.
  8. (8/1 update) Results of the honorifics survey

    I don't understand, why isn't this poll representative? Where are the VN fans if not in the communities that the pollster here surveyed?
  9. Summer Pockets Review

    Summer Pockets Review Before I begin, I'd like to point out that the Frontline Japan review is excellent. The only part I didn't like is that they indirectly reference one of the most important hidden elements of the story (but it's possible some people won't notice or think too hard about it) and that they say it's too short. Edit - Just to re-emphasize, this is an atypical style of VN review. If you want a more normal review, check out the Frontline one. This is intended to be a spoiler-free review. I never reveal anything concrete about the story itself or its themes, that isn't clearly evident from the first hour, or assumed if you know anything about Key (like the fact their games are nakige). Key's Creative Intent If you didn't know, Summer Pockets is the next major Key title (not a short VN like Harmonia) that came out recently. In Key's promotional interview back in December of last year (translation), the director and writer Kai revealed that Key staff tried to have a "fresh approach" and come up with ideas for the next Key title internally, but didn't like any of the proposals. Then Maeda Jun spoke up and said, "Uh, I have this one idea..." And they said, "This is Maeda Jun!" and went with it. That's the core of Summer Pockets. Maeda was unable to write for Summer Pockets due to medical problems. Key had already hired Niijima Yuu by then, and Kai worked with Niijima to flesh out the story. Hasama and Imashina Rio also wrote part of the scenario. How Summer Pockets Actually Turned Out, Overall Summer Pockets is easily the most Key-like game since Clannad. It's not an unconventional title like Rewrite. Niijima's influence definitely stands out; he was responsible for many of the most important parts of the scenario, and from what I've seen, fans have praised those parts most. However, Kai's role shouldn't be understated, since he was the director and worked closely with Niijima. Despite some people's fears, Summer Pockets was not turned into a distinctly "Niijima" work like Majo Koi Nikki or Koikake. That was only to be expected, since Niijima didn't come up with the concept behind Summer Pockets, and he wasn't the sole planner either. Although Niijima is no Maeda, IMO he's the best Maeda they could possibly find, because their overall styles are similar. There was no sense of discord with Niijima as the lead writer. The parts not written by Niijima weren't problematic in any way, either. At the worst, you could say they were typical Key routes. To me, each route felt very unique, and each heroine had her own charm and appeal, so even if the prose didn't wow me, I always had fun. The production quality of the rest of Summer Pockets was also extremely solid. They seriously didn't skimp on the CGs this time. Since Angel Beats! -1st beat-, Key's art has been (in my personal opinion as a non-Itaru fan) much more beautiful and expressive. The seiyuu are top-notch too. But it's too bad that the male lead Hairi wasn't voiced. Key always has nice music, too; I've spent hours with the jukebox in the extras menu. Orito's tracks are typically my favorites, and I also like Maeda's "Sea,You Next" and "Pocket o Fukuramasete". Normally I'm a major Mizutsuki Ryou fan, so the fact she's overshadowed by two people just makes me think, "Yep, that's Key for you." My favorite track from her in Summer Pockets is "Yoru wa Mijikaku, Sora wa Tookute". What It Feels Like to Play Summer Pockets From here on out, this review will be "less spoiler-free" simply because I'll talk about stuff like... the extent to which the heroines interact with one another in the common route, or the common route's structure. Don't worry, I never reveal anything concrete about the story itself or its themes, that isn't clearly evident from the first hour. At the story's start, the male lead Hairi arrives on a small island that's located off the coast of his home city. He's ostensibly there to help his aunt dispose of his recently departed grandmother's possessions, but she tells him, "I'm still sorting through everything, and don't need your help yet. Go out and have fun!" So he has no choice but to wander around the island every day. A major part of the charm of Summer Pockets rests in the island and its inhabitants. As Hairi wanders around, he becomes friends with the handful of locals who are his own age. They already know each other well and have their various humorous character dynamics, so it's wonderful how they accept Hairi into their circle despite the fact he's not from around there. To quote someone on EGS, it's "an island atmosphere filled with kindness and consideration." Many people love this aspect of Summer Pockets. It probably appeals to players even more than the nakige aspect does (judging from the EGS tags). The fixed part of the common route is very short, and from then on you have to repeatedly choose who you want to spend time with in order to select a route. It's very typical. In the heroine routes, you'll learn about the hidden sides of the heroines and come into contact with various mysteries. Unless you've never heard of Key before and want zero expectations (don't confuse "intended to be spoiler-free" with "completely blind"!), I don't think it is a spoiler to say that you should expect to deal with drama that arises from supernatural plot devices. The average reading time of Summer Pockets on EGS is 30 hours. That's the same length as Air, and longer than Kanon. Of course, it's much shorter than Little Busters EX, Rewrite, or Clannad. The Bottom Line: How Good Summer Pockets Is Just look at the numbers. Summer Pockets has an extremely robust score on EGS, a median of 89 with 200+ votes. For comparison, the only clearly better-received VNs in the past 5 years are Sakura no Uta, Rance 10, and ChuSinGura 46+1. It's similarly well-rated on VNDB. What appeals to people most is, as you'd expect, that this VN successfully nails the Key formula: comedy, lovable characters, and of course, tears. As one person put it, "Key isn't dead. I've been convinced." And like I said earlier, the production values are excellent. Key's VNs used to be known to skimp on art (of course, the music was always solid) but they've broken away from that limitation. There are so many nice CGs in Summer Pockets, as well as sprites. It seriously improves the experience. Summer Pockets is truly a modern VN. There were other improvements over previous Key VNs, too. Kai probably deserves credit for them. He mentioned in the December interview that for Summer Pockets, they tried to make the heroines interact with each other more, and they also added handsome male side characters. Key pulled this off well; while the level of inter-heroine interaction still wasn't at the level I hoped for (I know I'm crazy to want harem love comedy situations in a Key VN...) it was still solid. The two boys, Tenzen and Ryouichi, resembled Kengo and Masato (from Little Busters) respectively. Although they clowned around a lot, and rarely seemed as reliable as the Little Busters boys. Not that they didn't have their cool sides. But if you're Kyousuke-sexual, you probably won't find what you want in Summer Pockets. If anyone, perhaps Ao was the "Kyousuke" of Summer Pockets, socially. Despite being a heroine, she's a friendly person who's easy to talk to and well-connected on the island, so there were plenty of roles for her to play in every route of Summer Pockets. I would say that Summer Pockets has 2 notable "flaws". The first is that some routes are better (worse) than others. Frankly, this should surprise no one who has read Key VNs--or VNs at all. Not all writers are equal, and Key often has multiple writers work on the same VN. But as I said before, none of the routes are especially bad in any way. I personally enjoyed every one of them. Only 1 of them felt fairly predictable. To offer you an idea of what my tastes are like, I was decently entertained by every route of Little Busters aside from the ones Tonokawa did (Komari and Kurugaya). So if you're someone who would say that every route but Refrain and maybe [some other route] was terrible, then maybe you actually will think that ~2 of the routes in Summer Pockets are terrible... Tastes vary. The second "flaw" is that it's fairly derivative of other Key VNs. Maybe now you see why at the start of this post, I related the little anecdote from the interview. It shows how Key attempted to innovative, but in the end, they went the safe route with a very Maeda-esque story. Since I read this interview before I played Summer Pockets, I didn't expect a revolution... Anyway, I personally don't think it makes Summer Pockets any less excellent, except to the extent that it doesn't blow anyone's mind because they've played VNs like this before. A lot of people realize that Clannad copied from a certain other classic VN, but that doesn't make Clannad any less of a masterpiece which achieved success beyond that classic. Even if Maeda recycled some themes or plot devices when he came up with Summer Pockets, the fact of the matter is that Summer Pockets delivers them in an unpredictable way, with plenty of red herrings. You can tell from the impressions people left on EGS that few people care about the parts that are derivative. And for the record, it's not completely derivative thematically. For example, the themes about summer and summer vacation are potent and unique to Summer Pockets. The final title drop especially wowed me. Niijima VS Maeda I want to talk about Niijima's style. A lot of people assumed that a Key VN wouldn't feel like a Key VN without Maeda Jun, with comparisons to Rewrite. But a Key miracle happened. Summer Pockets has been just as successful (I mean, when you adjust for the fact that the industry is smaller than it used to be) as many of Key's past titles, like Air. Credit where credit due: Niijima Yuu, the same person who wrote the hit Hatsuyuki Sakura (#1 VN of the year 2012, as voted by 2ch), who has been praised by many writers in the industry, did for Key what I presume someone hoped he would when they hired him: he utilized his Maeda-like style to capture the sort of atmosphere that they'd previously relied on Maeda to deliver. For the record, I'm not denying that there are still many people (even those who loved Summer Pockets) who, after they played it, still think, "I miss Maeda." Niijima and Maeda are not exactly the same. I personally love them both. From an objective standpoint, Maeda is probably better. However, Niijima has his own strengths. Both Niijima and Maeda like to write comedy that involves eccentric side characters, with male leads who tends to wander around like a loner. They both write scenarios that make the player cry at climactic moments. They both lean toward narratives with unlockable routes and true ends. They both tend to incorporate the supernatural into their plots, yet at the same time don't completely rely on it, or employ it as a kind of metaphor. A major part of what I feel is Maeda's charm is that there is a deep sense of intimacy, or camaraderie, between his characters. The characters don't subconsciously keep each other at a distance--they form a unique bond almost immediately which deepens as they come to know each other, in a way that every reader loves to see, especially more socially isolated Japanese readers. Niijima's flaw is that he can't quite do this--it wasn't until some of the scenes toward the latter part of Summer Pockets (perhaps not written by Niijima) that I really felt I could sense a heartfelt connection between Hairi and the side characters. There were many parts of Summer Pockets where a character would have some sort of comic reaction, where they became really upset or passionate, but then 2 sentences later when another character switched the subject to move on with the conversation, that upset character suddenly was calm and matched the pace of the conversation, as if they'd instantly quelled their emotions with zero explanation, or as if their previous reaction had been totally fake. I'm sure that Maeda would have depicted more smooth conversational transitions. Niijima's humor has its own brilliance, but often it feels like the characters just relate to one other with humorously eccentric behavior at a superficial level, without the sense of closeness of Maeda's character dynamics. On the other hand, Niijima's text appeals to me a lot more as a fan of eroge. His humor may not be quite as... hmm, "creative" and "unprecedented" as the weird situations Maeda comes up with, but it feels less childish too. One very Niijima-esque technique is to have a set of ~3 side characters who talk back and forth to each other about the male lead in the male lead's presence for comic effect. In other words, he pokes fun at misinformed attitudes and social expectations. Compared to Maeda, Niijima's humor is a bit more, hmm... "mean-spirited"? It feels like the humor often revolves around one character who teases another based on a misconception. Connected to that, it often feels like there's more of a flirty atmosphere. Well, honestly, Summer Pockets was still a lot less lewd than I expected from Niijima. The lewdest parts of the VN weren't even written by him. So the overall more "eroge-like" atmosphere of Summer Pockets may owe itself to the director Kai more than Niijima. But I think that Niijima's style is what enabled this. Anyway, this is the first Key VN I've read where I actually really wished it had ero. Still, as a Niijima fan, I wished I'd seen a little more of his style in the fabric of Summer Pockets. While it's true that the text definitely felt Niijima-like, and one of the routes that Niijima wrote deeply resembled a route he wrote in a certain other VN... Part of what I had really hoped to see Niijima introduce to Summer Pockets are elements of action. It's not like I expected the amount of combat to match Hatsusaku, but at least once or twice, I would've liked to see a few short battles. The nature of the way Niijima writes such clashes, as half-metaphors which emphasize differences in perspective, leaves the story's atmosphere intact, so it wouldn't have hurt. But I'm afraid that Kai may have wanted to avoid any Rewrite-like action, as Key attempted to return to their foundation with Summer Pockets. In any case, without this, Summer Pockets suffered from a deficiency of 盛り上がる要素 (excitement/tension). Despite the fact that in many ways Summer Pockets felt like a modernization of Key's style, it still lacked one of the most prominent elements of modern console ADVs--action. Kai may have perhaps clamped down on Niijima a little too much, but I'm still very happy with Niijima's role in Summer Pockets. The "summer vacation" that's at the core of the story (adjacent to the parts that Maeda came up with) as it's developed is 100% Niijima thematically, and is also the most memorable part of the story to me, besides just how fond I am of the characters. Key, After Summer Pockets Actually, I'd rather ask you, theoretical reader of this post. Do YOU know what Key plans next? Has anyone at Key said how they feel about the positive reception to Summer Pockets? I haven't heard any information yet, but then, Summer Pockets only came out recently. All I want to say is that Key's future is on my mind. I'm hopeful they will make a fandisk, because they've made a fandisk for every other major Key VN besides their first 2. If so, they will probably keep Niijima around for a little while more. I want Maeda back, but I think Key is an excellent fit for Niijima, and maybe Key can allow him a tiny bit more creative freedom next time to repay him for Summer Pockets. I wouldn't mind if they let him direct a smaller-scale project like Harmonia. That's all from me. Have a nice day.
  10. The Heart of Chuuni

    You bring up a good point. Although I personally emphasized a certain perception of "society" and "the masses", that's just the way I chose to verbalize the inspiration behind chuuni. In fact, many people who are immersed in chuuni tend to forget about other people's perceptions and simply enjoy themselves. Being a cynic, when I described chuuni people's sentiments from my viewpoint, I just couldn't help but highlight that they're implicitly devaluing conventional truths and those who subscribe to them. Especially since I've been considering everything from a historical perspective.
  11. The Heart of Chuuni

    The Heart of Chuuni My previous blog posts were about analyzing common definitions and attitudes toward the word "chuuni" and the chuuni genre. I was establishing a baseline. But now it's time to delve into the essence. Background Most VN fans have heard an "explanation" of the chuuni genre before. "It's stuff like Dies irae" "It's hotblooded and over-the-top action" "It's about detailed settings with cool characters" "It's edgy shit" "It's a story with characters who act chuunibyou, except nobody tsukkomi's them" "It's people with heterochromia or special powers and victim complexes" "It's shounen for adults" Whatever you may have heard, there's one thing I'm sure about: it's vague. Most people zero in on a specific element of chuuni that holds their attention or that they like about it, and say, "This is chuuni!" In truth, though, chuuni is a broad genre that encompasses many literary mediums, many sources of appeal, many tropes, and many cases where the trope is hard to describe. People are expected to experience a lot of chuuni works, and experience a lot of references to "chuuni" within other Japanese works, and thus by cultural osmosis, form an abstract concept of what is "chuuni". But do we really have to settle for that? Can't we precisely say what exactly is and isn't "chuuni", at least in spirit? I believe we can. Let's throw out popular perceptions and attitudes, along with all the baggage associated with the word "chuunibyou" that formed the basis of the word chuuni. Let's move beyond the cultural background that has been established in my previous post, discard all preconceptions, and finally... approach the true heart of chuuni. . The Path to Chuuni What follow are largely my own informed inferences. They lack evidence, because there's no easy way to prove a cultural trend. If anyone has an alternative theory, they're free to present it in the comments or their own blog post. Early manga was expected to conform to the "common sense" of society. Or rather, there was little market for contrarian works. Works that targeted the youth often centered around "heroes" who were expected to help maintain the peace of society, living according virtues such as kindness and mercy, and achieved success and peer recognition as a result. Works that targeted adults, on the other hand, might be more cynical, but they still revolved around adult protagonists who had conformed to society. For a parallel outside Japan, look to Western comic book heroes like Superman, who stood tall amid the Comics Code Authority regulations. In fact, the style of early manga was significantly inspired by its Western counterpart. But society doesn't stay the same forever. Decades passed, and people's sensibilities changed along with their attitudes. ...No one can possibly trace chuuni to its origin point, because there is no such thing. Throughout history, there have always been isolated elements within works of literature that speak to our chuuni hearts. Like, for a fairly "recent" example, everything about the style of Hiei from Yuu Yuu Hakusho. If there is an origin of chuuni as a genre, it occurred when those elements fused together. But what degree of fusion is necessary to birth a "genre"? The only point by which it's absolutely certain a "genre" had come into existence was the advent of Fate/stay night. What We Desired So, what is chuuni? Chuuni is completely pointless from a practical standpoint; it just sounds cool. Chuuni-style nicknames, throwing in random German, or donning a scarf or a cape. Chuuni doesn't serve to create a conflict, or add necessary depth in ways typical of fantasy stories. Rather, it serves to emphasize the special coolness of the lead character. Having a "unique infection", wrestling with madness, experiencing an "awakening", or possessing memories of a past life. Chuuni depicts the "alternate truths" that contradict what others think and feel. A morality that is not subordinated. Killing to survive, references to the food chain, massacre as self-expression, or a rebellion against the natural order of a hypocritical "God". Chuuni reveals the "hidden truths" about society that have scarred the people within it. Conspiracies, cover-ups, or human experimentation. At the heart, chuuni is a celebration of the virtue of "chuuni" characters--and the chuuni fans who recognize them--as the true heroes of this world, in touch with a reality the masses can't conceive of, capable of facing harsh truths and shouldering emotional burdens that typical, mundane people would be overwhelmed by--because those people lack character, lack mental strength, and are emotionally weak, capable only of clinging to the foolish perceptions, beliefs, and morals espoused by society. I believe that everything that chuuni has become started from that. Young people in society often experience alienation, or some kind of frustration with their inability to perfectly conform. Such people are often tempted by a certain wild idea, and think like this: "I feel like shit because no one sees the world the same way as me. But even after I've let myself stew in this rotten emotion, I still can't make myself be just like everyone else... What if everyone else is actually deluded, and I'm correct? In that case, my perception is superior to others, and I'm aware of truths they aren't, AND I had the boldness to stick with my beliefs instead of delude myself and conform like the rest of them. Aren't I quite awesome?" People who feel like this, even if it's just a slight inclination rather than full-blown chuunibyou, tend to admire and seek out characters and stories with a chuuni spirit. When Fate/stay night came out, it was like a bomb went off. Fate hit just the right note with its moral complexity, the mystique of the rich world it depicted, a lawless secret world of the supernatural, ordinary people depicted as clueless sacrificial sheep, a male lead whose evolution is a condemnation of traditional moralistic leads, and so on. People with an inclination toward chuuni tropes flocked to it in droves, plus everyone else, because Fate/stay night was just that good. That said, in the present day, what we (especially VN fans) call "chuuni" often refers more to famous tropes from chuuni works, and what those tropes have evolved into, and doesn't necessarily seek as its audience the sort of person I just described. But it's worth keeping in mind the origin of this genre. More Human than Humans I'll close with this wonderful piece of prose that truly captures the essence of chuuni. They, who wandered and pursued that formless “humanness,” who couldn’t see any significance in their existence outside of battle, who, because of their hearts becoming akin to blades, didn’t know how to grasp any hands extended to them, who never had anyone understand their beauty, and had no choice but to seclude themselves among each other, who had no choice but to estrange themselves with fake smiles when with other people so they could maintain themselves, who couldn’t pride themselves in anything but destruction, who therefore were particularly cynical and were born with inhumane powers, and therefore were continuously called monsters, were, more than anyone and anything else, human. -- Excerpt from "Psyren: Another Call 2" by Iwashiro Toshiaki, translated by himetsuri I'm not entirely satisfied with this post, so I may revise it later.
  12. Hiya fuwanovel community

    Nice to see a fellow Psyren fan in 2018.
  13. How do you honestly feel about President Trump?

    I feel like I'm the only person in the universe who finds Trump amusing in many ways, while not supporting him. It's like everyone else is either a crazy Trump supporter who talks in memes and worships the man, or they hate Trump with a fervor and distrust anyone for whom revulsion isn't their primary attitude toward Trump. Also, lately I've been fixated on the idea of a moe version of Trump, like "My Girlfriend is the President" except more directly based on actual personality traits. Because there's such an insane number of weird stuff Trump does and says. Think about it. "covfefe" would be the equivalent of "uguu". His stupid nicknames for everyone. His smug obsessions with walls and deals. So much of this stuff is appalling to see in a grown man, but I honestly think it could be endearing in a moe character. Basically some combination of Suzumiya Haruhi (charismatic, unreasonable, rampaging) and Aqua from Konosuba (irresponsible, vain, obsessed with her own personal philosophy and deeply fond of her worshipers). Am I broken?
  14. Popular Views on What Defines the Chuuni Genre In my last post, I talked about the most abstract way to understand chuuni (the term as it's used in the "coolness" sense). But at the end, I noted that most people narrow it down further. They say that certain works constitute a "genre". And so, I intend to now gather my thoughts and talk about the major tropes and commonalities between works that people tend to identify, which have given rise to several different conceptions of the chuuni genre. Most of these conceptions, although they approach things from subtly different directions, end up specifying the same works. So maybe to most of you guys, it's not that useful to carefully examine them. I find it interesting, so I'm doing it. Chuuni As Language-Oriented This is the most common way for non-chuuni fans, and some youthful fans of hotblooded works, to look at chuuni. Simply put, this is the view that the heart of chuuni is in its over-the-top lines. Chuuni fans usually view the people who say these lines as extremely cool. And yet simultaneously, it's easy for non-chuuni fans to look at these lines and say, "That's so cheesy!" This duality, this contradiction, is what makes it so easy to point and say, "Prose is the heart of chuuni." Language can be utilized in infinite ways, but in my view, the two major types here are "soliloquies/speeches" and "cultural allusion/deepness". To start, what do you think of this quote from To Aru Majutsu no Index's Kamijou Touma? "I was never fighting because I wanted to. It’s just that I always saw someone holding back tears in some horribly painful situation. Even if they cried and cried, no one would have complained, but they put up with it anyway. ...And I couldn’t allow it to go on. I clenched my fist like an idiot, charged in, and somehow resolved the incident. I didn’t do it to be thanked. I didn’t do it because I wanted anything in return. But overcoming those things increased the number of people around me. I began to think those connections with people had some kind of meaning!! And this is where it got me. I had everything taken from me." Even if you're haven't read Index, it's not hard to form an impression of the situation from these words. Saving people is cool. Especially if they're someone who doesn't dare to hope to be saved--when there's zero social obligation to do so, the action is all the more meaningful. But it's not like what's driving you is some inner urge to save others, either--you have a free spirited attitude and don't have to give a shit about what anyone wants you to do. And as a result of saving people repeatedly, you became super popular, completely not of your own will of course. But wait, someone took that all away from you, and you became a tragic hero! See what I mean? It's cool, but it's also cheesy, depending on how you look at it. That's an example of what I'll call, for convenience, a chuuni soliloquy. Of course, it's not a literal soliloquy in that people DO respond to it (or rather, they can) but it's also a bit of a soliloquy in that... it doesn't matter if they do, does it? Touma's speech stands on its own. Single sentences or lines can also have this same sort of quality, but I think it's easier to make a distinction about it when the length is at the level of a mini-speech. After all, cheesy lines appear in countless shounen manga, but very few people would put all those manga on the same level as Jojo or Hellsing. Next, what do you think of this quote? If you haven't heard it before, you've been living in a cave. "I am the Bone of my Sword Steel is my Body and Fire is my Blood. I have created over a Thousand Blades, Unknown to Death, Nor known to Life. Have withstood Pain to create many Weapons Yet those Hands will never hold Anything. So, as I Pray-- Unlimited Blade Works" The way to sum up this kind of language is that it's DEEP. It references life and death, pain (you know that suffering is cool, right?), the angst of not being able to hold anything (angst is a type of suffering), evokes the image of fire in one's blood, and so on. It doesn't clearly state any ideas. It's poetic, or maybe literally poetry. It involves references to themes that are deep (like death, eternity, justice, and so on), cultural elements that are consider deep (like Alice in Wonderland, the Cthulhu mythos, Norse mythology and Ragnarok, Shinto, and so on), or kanji and foreign lingo that are associated with deepness (like English furigana, 眼/絶/紅蓮, random German, rondo/requiem, and so on). It may exist as an aspect of the writer's narrative prose, or within incantations. Chuuni as Trope-Oriented In a way, people who view chuuni as a matter of language just have to worry about the quantity. The question is whether a work has "enough" chuuni-ish lines to be chuuni. There's no answer to that question, of course. In contrast, if you think of chuuni as about its trope, then the question is quality. That is, is the trope itself chuuni enough? Is there a single trope that makes something chuuni, or is it a combination of tropes? Or perhaps some abstract aspect of the way the tropes are presented that makes them chuuni? When it comes to chuuni, this is where opinions are most diverse. I'm going to go over two major approaches that I'll call the ability battle view and the Fate primacy view. By the way, both of these views are connected more to "jakigan-kei" chuuni (which basically refers to admiring special powers) than other types like "DQN-kei" (which basically refers to admiring yankees). In other words, they're narrower in scope than language-oriented views of the chuuni genre. The Ability Battle View Like "chuuni as language", this is a view of chuuni that people cynical of it often hold. They view chuuni as merely a subset of the ability battle genre ("inou battle mono"). To clarify, what's translated as "ability" (inou) specifically refers to superhuman abilities. The ability battle genre has existed long before the word chuuni was used to refer to works of fiction. Furthermore, most examples of chuuni works could also be considered to be about ability battles. Which is no surprise, because powerful characters who are viewed as cool or admirable tend to have supernatural powers that facilitate hotblooded action scenes. So as a result, people tend to say, "Isn't chuuni just about ability battles?" It's true that a large part of the appeal of many prominent chuuni works centers around ability battles. Similarly, there's no easily specified element of such chuuni works that makes it necessary to call them chuuni works instead of ability battle works. And so, this view exists. The Fate Primacy View I'm extremely far from an expert on Fate/stay night, but I can't avoid talking about it in the context of chuuni. Fate/stay night is a lengthy and complicated work with a multitude of tropes and themes, and it's impossible to say exactly what all its charm points are. However, no one can deny its massive mainstream appeal, as by far the most successful visual novel of all time, which led the way for the Nasuverse to completely dominate otaku culture, dwarfing even Index. I'm not sure exactly how to describe what I call the Fate primacy view, because I could approach it from many different angles. You could say that Fate is so popular that it has simply permeated itself into the public consciousness and rewritten what it means to be chuuni. You could say that it redefined chuuni by virtue of its influence on other writers which has spanned for more than a decade. You could say that it's simply so GOOD that it must have nailed what it means to be chuuni. The bottom line is that one could easily hold the view that a work is chuuni to the extent it copies Fate/stay night. Of course, this is a very narrow view. It marginalizes relatively bright and happy stories like Bleach and Kyou Kare Ore Wa. However, in exchange for that narrowing, you could say that the remaining few stories are "higher quality" on average, in that they're very obviously chuuni. On a side note, some people might have more of a Dies irae primacy view. Dies irae has become very loved (at least, among its fans--its mainstream appeal can never match Fate's, though it perhaps comes closest) and many people perhaps view it as more definitively "chuuni" than its primary influence. In any case, this view reveres tropes and story elements from Fate/stay night which have proven popular like battle royales, human sacrifice and massacres, ability battles conducted in secret, justice and morality, tragic childhoods, magical rituals, magical contracts, the Catholic church, and serial killers. Unlike the ability battle view where people will just outright say it ("Isn't chuuni just about ability battles?"), people who hold a so-called Fate primacy view rarely ever verbalize, "I want my chuuni to be exactly like Fate/stay night!" They may not have even ever experienced Fate/stay night. That's why I said you can approach this from different angles. It's not really a "view" so much as a near-inevitability in our Fate-dominated otaku culture. Also, note that when it comes to jakigan-kei chuunibyou as depicted in otaku media, its associated delusions are easier to formulate when they're closer to reality, such as isekai situations or urban fantasy. Fate/stay night, as an urban fantasy that depicts an ordinary student discovering a hidden world that covertly affects the public, is the sort of scenario that exemplifies such delusions. Whew, I covered it all. After taking care of the basic definitions, I wanted to outline other people's views before talking about my own feelings, which are what I actually care about 'cause I'm the center of the universe FYI.
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