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MayoeruHitori

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  1. Love
    MayoeruHitori reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Web Novel Review: Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou   
    Some people may have seen the relatively low-quality anime for Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou and are probably wondering why I am bothering to spout about this.  Lately I've been plowing through LNs and web novels because I ran out of interesting VNs, but this is the first one I feel a need to expound on at length.  Let's be clear, I am one of the freaks who enjoyed the anime, though I did so while wincing constantly at the animators' choices and the horrible monster CGs.  To me, Hajime's story just stood out as being that good, despite the crippling weakness of having used up half the season on the 'buildup arc' that is the content of the first LN.  
    However, I wasn't anticipating just how high in quality the web novel version would be.  To be blunt, Ryo Shirakome is one of those rare Japanese writers who really is as good as the hype and has a very obvious love of the material he is writing.  More importantly, he is very consistent with how he portrays his characters and their growth. 
    Story Intro
    For those unfamiliar with this series, it focuses on Nagumo Hajime, a young man summoned with his class to another world, only to turn out to be the overall weakest of the group and in possession of a class that is both common and unsuited for battle.   In the beginning, Hajime is a kind-hearted, pacifistic young man with a great deal of courage (and enough of an otaku that it survives all his travails) but no standout abilities.  However, when delving into the depths of the Orcus Labyrinth, his fellow classmates get caught in a trap and they are all sent to a much lower floor... to face a Behemoth, a monster that is beyond their abilities.  Hajime, despite his weakness, manages to help greatly in holding it off, but just as he is about to make his own escape, one of his classmates betrays him, directing a fireball to stray and hit him so that he will fall into the abyss with the Behemoth.  
    He survives the fall only to have his right arm eaten by one of the beasts in the depths in front of his own eyes.  In order to survive, he is forced into a corner where his previously kind heart is shattered and reforged in the fires of despair and hatred, reforming him into a man who sees the world in only two colors, those who are enemies and those who are not... and responds to enemies with death.  This is further reinforced when he eats a monster and has to endure immense agony as his body is broken and remade again and again, shaving away at his humanity with each cycle, until what remains is only one step short of a true monster.
    Main Story assessment
    That's a pretty bare bones prologue for you and essentially covers the content of the first episode of the anime and the first three chapters of the web novel.  Oddly, despite the horrific beginnings, this is as much a story about love as it is of hate and killing.  Yue, the story's main heroine, is the reason for this.  She is also the reason that this didn't turn into just another 'dark anti-hero goes out and gets revenge' story.  His meeting with Yue is one of several turning points in Hajime's growth as a character and one of the most well-orchestrated ones I've ever seen (regardless of whether it is the anime or the web novel).  Yue is the kindred spirit who helps Hajime stay one step away from the abyss of endless carnage he would otherwise have stepped into.  This is despite the fact that she is just as broken as he is, psychologically.  
    The way this story uses the various heroines to help Hajime regain bits and pieces of his humanity is perhaps the most emotionally powerful aspect in retrospect.  Yue helps him stop short of losing his humanity, Shia (the bunny-girl) stops Yue and Hajime from becoming completely isolated from the rest of the world, Aiko reminds him of what it is to be human, and Kaori reconnects him to his past, solidifying his reasons for his journey.   Without all of these heroines, it is likely this story would not have been nearly as powerful, as Hajime's journey would have probably just been a series of 'kill this, kill that, have sex with Yue, kill more'.  
    I didn't mention Tio, Shizuku and Myuu in the previous paragraph because they serve slightly different roles from the other girls.  Tio is pretty much just comedy relief as a character, despite being as in love with Hajime and the other girls.  Shizuku is, surprisingly, the most 'normal' girl in the group and the one who serves as the most solid connection between the self-isolating harem of girls who are mostly disinterested in anything other than Hajime (with Aiko being the exception, given her sense of duty to her students).  Myuu... well lets just say Myuu's role is fairly similar to Yue's, except that she awakens Hajime's obsessively protective instincts that come to define him later on.
    The story itself is dark and brutal despite the frequent humorous interactions between the characters.  This is inevitable, as the world of Tortus is a world ruled by an insane god whose greatest pleasure lies in ruining the lives of his slaves.  There are a lot of hugely powerful battle scenes, crazy plot twists, and hilarious results of Hajime's trip through Tortus.  The ending of the main story (which will probably be published sometime next year in the LNs) is as hugely dramatic as the beginning.  
    After Story Assessment
    The After Story, which is still ongoing, is HUGE.  It is almost as big as the main story, but it is told in non-chronological order as a bunch of arcs and one-off postings rather than in order.  Despite this, the After Story has provided me with probably fifty times as many laughs as the main story did.  Part of this is because what trials and tribulations that occur are mostly overcome by Hajime's already beyond-divine power gained during the main story or the power of his OP friends, wives, allies, and classmates.   Whether it is Myuu attracting UMAs, demons, ghosts, and youkai like a bug lamp attracts flies or Kousuke falling deeper into the chuuni abyss as he builds his accidental harem in Hajime's service, I haven't stopped laughing in weeks.  
    Of course, there are some deadly serious points, perhaps the most powerful of which are the stories involving Kouki, who struggles with the after-effects of his time on Tortus more than anybody else (for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who has already read the existing LNs or the main story of the web novel).  However, even in these, Shirokome does an excellent job of keeping the balance from taking you too far into grimdark to truly enjoy.  
    Overall assessment up to the present
    Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou does great at every aspect of what I want from this kind of story.  It has great feels, it has great comedy, it has awesome characters, and its plot is close to sublime.  More importantly, it is put together in such a way that all the elements enhance one another nearly to perfection.  If you like isekai with a wide dark streak that can make fun of itself, this is an excellent choice.
  2. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Templarseeker for a blog entry, Will VNs bring about a revolution in social games? A look at Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine.   
    Welcome back to my blog.
    Introduction
    You might have seen a few headlines about Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine, two upcoming mobile games from writers Maeda Jun and Kodaka Kazutaka.
    These aren't just your average games. They're ambitious ventures that blur the line between visual novel and social (AKA gacha) game.
    So I'm here today to talk about exactly why VNs fans should pay close attention to the potential of these two upcoming games, given both how unique their stories could turn out to be and  their implications for the VN industry as a whole.
    As an important disclaimer, like almost all social games, these two titles will probably be a bad fit for anyone who has a predisposition to gambling addiction. If you think that label could apply to you, my recommendation is: don't even consider playing them (or any other social game). Just stick with VNs, and watch these games' stories on YouTube or elsewhere later.
    The Worn Soil of the Visual Novel Industry, and Social Game Money Trees
    There's no question that Japanese visual novels have declined relative to their peak. (International VNs are very much on the rise, but that's another subject, and they have yet to reach Japan's heights anyway.) The golden age is far behind us, and there are no more VNs that turn into famous multi-industry franchises. The otaku community as a whole has shifted its interest away from VNs and back to anime and manga, or onward to the likes of isekai novels, doujin eroge, and social games.
    If you can't accept this and want to understand exactly when and why visual novels declined, check out this post's prequel, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.
    Back in the heyday of VNs, CEOs of eroge companies were buying sports cars, and there was no lack of investors. When the decline happened, there were a variety of causes/symptoms, but the one that produced the most tremors in the industry is that the cash flow dried up. Somebody moved Baba's cheese. So where did the cheese go, then?
    The best answer is that it went to social games. In fact, the year that the sales decline of eroge leveled out (you might say that people finished evacuating) was the same year that there was a broad movement by the Japanese game industry to take their social games off of SNS and onto independent platforms like GREE to boost profits.
    No social game born from a visual novel IP has drawn more attention than Fate/Grand Order. True, Fate was already a massive franchise even before FGO, and that certainly helped the game succeed financially. However, the all-time revenue from console Fate/stay night is infamously less than a week's worth for FGO. FSN sold less than a million copies on all platforms, but the same core Type-Moon artist, writer, and pair of composers have built the creative foundation of a mobile spin-off with more than a million active users, and vast revenue thanks to whales.
    Bad Stories: An Inevitable Problem with Social Games?
    Visual novels have a reputation for deep and powerful stories. Social games don't, despite the fact that they share so many elements with VNs: they often have an ADV presentation style that's similar to VNs, talents from the VN industry often work on them, the plot can end up quite lengthy and complicated just like VNs, the player meets hero(in)es and builds relationships with them like in VNs, and so on. Instead, what social games have a reputation for is waifus/husbandos and fanservice.
    There's a reason for that reputation: developers' attitudes. As a genre, social games weren't developed with the goal of telling compelling stories; they were created in order to facilitate gameplay that leverages behavioral habits to encourage players' engagement and investment. And while the presence of VN-esque heroines can serve to boost players' engagement, lengthy VN-esque narratives are regarded by social game developers as an impediment to engagement, given the way consumers have trended away from VNs. As a result, social game scenarios are often short, and constrained by the gameplay's predetermined "plot" such as random monster attacks every 2 minutes. They even have silent protagonists, a convention that the story-driven JRPG and VN industries abandoned a long time ago.
    The truth is, developers' disregard for scenario quality actually isn't new at all. Leaders in VN and eroge companies have always had a pattern of naively thinking that the artist is the person who matters most in a VN's development, and that the writer is the person who matters least. In the early days, they would even hire absolutely anyone to be an eroge scenario writer, because they just didn't care. So it's a problem that many decision-makers in these companies are actually idiots whose presence does the social game industry a disservice.
    And so no, bad stories in social games aren't inevitable. In fact, many game development teams recognized their bad stories and belatedly tried to improve them. That's why you will often hear people say of social game stories "the later events at better" or "they didn't think it would be so popular early on..." Unfortunately, a bad story can't truly be fixed by additions to it; it should be at least rewritten, but that rarely happens. So what you have is an industry that's still full of bad stories, and producers who think that's perfectly natural.
    The Ambition to Create Deep Stories in Social Games: Enter Key and Too Kyo
    In December 2019, Key announced Heaven Burns Red. Key needs no introduction; their writer Maeda Jun's nakige Kanon was largely responsible for redefining VNs as emotional experiences in the first place. 1st beat was the last game he had direct involvement in. Pre-registrations are already open, and trailers and interviews have come out which show many indications that Heaven Burns Red has potential:
    The protagonist actually speaks, and forms clear emotional connections with other characters. Without a real protagonist, a social game story's prospects are much lower, because players can't self-insert as well; they wonder why an epic plot revolves around a character who has the expressiveness of an emoticon set. This is one of the major complaints people have toward social games with relatively good stories like Fate/Grand Order. Maeda Jun's humor is as spectacular as ever. Key's writer has once more created a world full of characters who are funny and distinct. Just a few lines spoken between them is enough to entertain or intrigue the player. Good comedy is one of the few things that can instantly grab a person and maintain their attention. Too few social games are actually fun to read early on. Baba, someone whose vision of visual novels' potential aligns with what I've talked about, is fully behind this. Baba Takahiro, a smart businessman who founded and still leads Visual Arts, has shared his views with the world in interviews. He had Key partner with WFS, a competent and experienced developer which has created some of the more story-oriented social games, like Another Eden and Shoumetsu Toshi. He has a realistic awareness that VNs are no longer as popular as they once were, but at the same time, as recognizes and wishes to continue to leverage the potential of VN-style stories to let players form deep attachments to characters. HBR is just one of many projects Baba has approved in order to help Key and its talents adapt to industry trends. You can count on there being nakige elements. This is clear from trailers, if it wasn't already clear from the fact that Baba will naturally leverage Maeda's talents. It's not like other social games haven't made many of their players cry before, via plot elements like tragic backstories and character deaths, but they don't be able to hold a candle to what Maeda can do. The scale is broad, as you'd expect from a social game that's been taken so seriously by its developers. There are already character designs and concepts for 48 main characters, Maeda involved in all of them, beyond the 12 who have been introduced so far. Even just as a social game, the production values and system look better than almost anything I've seen before. The 3D environments and models, special attack animations, character designs, music, and voice acting are all impressive. If you want more of a sense of what Heaven Burns Red is like, I recommend watching the first and second trailers.
    In February 2020, Too Kyo and Akatsuki announced a new social game called Tribe Nine. (For those who don't know, Too Kyo is a collaborative indie company established in 2017 which employs a number of creative talents, such as writer Kodaka Kazutaka the rest of the Danganronpa team, Zero Escape's writer Uchikoshi Koutarou, and Root Double's writer Nakazawa Takumi. They all left their former companies.) Anyway, at the time Tribe Nine was announced, it was a teaser that most people didn't pay much attention to. But in fact, half a year later, Too Kyo secretly went from an LLC to a corporation. Then earlier this year, they put out a call to recruit a number of new writers. While the scale of the changes at Too Kyo isn't clear yet, Nakazawa and Kodaka have described the company's atmosphere as intensely busy and full of enthusiasm.
    The game's storytelling approach comes from Kodaka. Like Baba, he has strong views about the potential of emotionally moving stories to redefine our expectations for game narratives, and he has enough ambition for 3 Babas. The scenario size is already more than the original Danganronpa's, and they plan for it to be more than double that before the game's release. Not that they will release it all at once. Danganronpa was easily a medium-sized VN. Having twice that written before release is unprecedented for a social game. For comparison's sake, the entirety of FGO's Arc 1 (through Solomon) is just comparable to a medium-sized VN that's on the long size, 750K characters. Great value is placed in the writers for Tribe Nine. Look at what I just said about the scenario size; the implication is that Too Kyo will output maybe half a million characters in just the next few months. While it's too early to make any definitive judgments, the implication from recruitment notices and Kodaka's comments about them is that Too Kyo's new writers have been directly enabled to create the kind of stories they want to tell, that they can be passionate about, and fit those stories into the world of Tribe Nine's Neo Tokyo. Both Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine are mobile games, with no PC ports or localizations announced yet. But it's clear that both Key and Too Kyo want to release their works in the West, and I believe that WFS (partnered with Key for HBR) is particularly equipped to make that happen, since they also localized Another Eden. Historically, every Too Kyo project has also seen localization, even simultaneously.
    Conclusion: Exploration and Wandering in Search of Forgotten Beauty and Prestige
    Social games are one of the most lucrative genres of video games in existence, thanks largely to whales' wallets, but also due to their popularity among ordinary people. Yet ironically, they are the subject of constant ridicule, and not just for their gambling elements. Even the most popular ones are often criticized as having generic, snoozefest stories and vapid, grindy gameplay.
    But if you look closely, there's a subset of fans who actually rave positively about social games' stories. Stories that are objectively "okay" at best, even if you don't factor in the bad gameplay that accompanies them. And the reason they do that is actually the same reason people might also praise the potential for lengthy VNs to immerse players: the more time players spend with characters, the more they become attached to them.
    When you wake up every day and tap on an app icon and see your waifu say hello on your home screen, take her into battle constantly, watch as new side episodes and versions and skins of her are released multiple times a year, browse tons of fan art, and so on... you become attached to that character, and all her idiosyncrasies. So even if some new event's plot that involves her is bland by any objective measure, it's still directly about someone you're fond of, who you just love to see talk and act--so you enjoy it. Consider a certain tiny dragon who's a generic JRPG mascot character with the catchphrase "I'm not a lizard" voiced by Kugimiya Rie, and who has zero character depth or character development ever... After you've watched 100+ short slice-of-life scenes involving him over the course of 2+ years, he feels like an old friend with a bit of a silly personality, it comforts your heart a little to just be around him, and you'll even create memes about his love of apples to share on Reddit or Discord. That's what it's often like to become a fan of these games, as a cognitive process.
    Long-lived social games are, inherently, epics. They are expansive worlds with vast casts of characters, explored over the course of months and years. And yet, they're even more than that. They're epics where the gameplay is designed to make us feel emotionally engaged with their world, in spite of their poorly written and ambiguously connected stories which only have a few occasional good scenes.
    If social games that follow these two upcoming games' example were to become the norm, I believe we'd have a chance to see a game that is simultaneously objectively great--at the very least, one tier below VNs' top tier--and epic in scale, and viscerally engaging. That kind of intensively integrated experience, which simmers alongside one's daily life, is something that I hope to one day get a taste of.
    But in the meantime, I will have to wait for these creators' attempts to pan out--for them to crack the code that will successfully fuse the charm of both social games and VNs. And so my eyes are on Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine.
    Misc. Reference
    It occurred to me that I didn't link to many sources for much of the info I have, so to help remedy that a bit, I've edited in this section to add a few links.
    https://news.denfaminicogamer.jp/interview/210930f Tribe Nine, Denfaminico Gamer interview with Kodaka
    https://voice.aktsk.jp/6773/ Tribe Nine, Akatsuki's interview with their producer Yamaguchi
    https://twitter.com/kaibutsukantoku/status/1444452237108039682 Tribe Nine translated info from above 2 articles
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNQNZiy7K2I Tribe Nine game promo movie (no gameplay shown)
    https://www.reddit.com/r/gachagaming/comments/poc3oo/what_we_know_about_heaven_burns_red_so_far/ HBR, good summary of info
    https://www.reddit.com/r/grandorder/comments/k31fxx/jp_script_size_by_singularity/ Source for FGO numbers
  3. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Chronopolis for a blog entry, Will VNs bring about a revolution in social games? A look at Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine.   
    Welcome back to my blog.
    Introduction
    You might have seen a few headlines about Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine, two upcoming mobile games from writers Maeda Jun and Kodaka Kazutaka.
    These aren't just your average games. They're ambitious ventures that blur the line between visual novel and social (AKA gacha) game.
    So I'm here today to talk about exactly why VNs fans should pay close attention to the potential of these two upcoming games, given both how unique their stories could turn out to be and  their implications for the VN industry as a whole.
    As an important disclaimer, like almost all social games, these two titles will probably be a bad fit for anyone who has a predisposition to gambling addiction. If you think that label could apply to you, my recommendation is: don't even consider playing them (or any other social game). Just stick with VNs, and watch these games' stories on YouTube or elsewhere later.
    The Worn Soil of the Visual Novel Industry, and Social Game Money Trees
    There's no question that Japanese visual novels have declined relative to their peak. (International VNs are very much on the rise, but that's another subject, and they have yet to reach Japan's heights anyway.) The golden age is far behind us, and there are no more VNs that turn into famous multi-industry franchises. The otaku community as a whole has shifted its interest away from VNs and back to anime and manga, or onward to the likes of isekai novels, doujin eroge, and social games.
    If you can't accept this and want to understand exactly when and why visual novels declined, check out this post's prequel, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.
    Back in the heyday of VNs, CEOs of eroge companies were buying sports cars, and there was no lack of investors. When the decline happened, there were a variety of causes/symptoms, but the one that produced the most tremors in the industry is that the cash flow dried up. Somebody moved Baba's cheese. So where did the cheese go, then?
    The best answer is that it went to social games. In fact, the year that the sales decline of eroge leveled out (you might say that people finished evacuating) was the same year that there was a broad movement by the Japanese game industry to take their social games off of SNS and onto independent platforms like GREE to boost profits.
    No social game born from a visual novel IP has drawn more attention than Fate/Grand Order. True, Fate was already a massive franchise even before FGO, and that certainly helped the game succeed financially. However, the all-time revenue from console Fate/stay night is infamously less than a week's worth for FGO. FSN sold less than a million copies on all platforms, but the same core Type-Moon artist, writer, and pair of composers have built the creative foundation of a mobile spin-off with more than a million active users, and vast revenue thanks to whales.
    Bad Stories: An Inevitable Problem with Social Games?
    Visual novels have a reputation for deep and powerful stories. Social games don't, despite the fact that they share so many elements with VNs: they often have an ADV presentation style that's similar to VNs, talents from the VN industry often work on them, the plot can end up quite lengthy and complicated just like VNs, the player meets hero(in)es and builds relationships with them like in VNs, and so on. Instead, what social games have a reputation for is waifus/husbandos and fanservice.
    There's a reason for that reputation: developers' attitudes. As a genre, social games weren't developed with the goal of telling compelling stories; they were created in order to facilitate gameplay that leverages behavioral habits to encourage players' engagement and investment. And while the presence of VN-esque heroines can serve to boost players' engagement, lengthy VN-esque narratives are regarded by social game developers as an impediment to engagement, given the way consumers have trended away from VNs. As a result, social game scenarios are often short, and constrained by the gameplay's predetermined "plot" such as random monster attacks every 2 minutes. They even have silent protagonists, a convention that the story-driven JRPG and VN industries abandoned a long time ago.
    The truth is, developers' disregard for scenario quality actually isn't new at all. Leaders in VN and eroge companies have always had a pattern of naively thinking that the artist is the person who matters most in a VN's development, and that the writer is the person who matters least. In the early days, they would even hire absolutely anyone to be an eroge scenario writer, because they just didn't care. So it's a problem that many decision-makers in these companies are actually idiots whose presence does the social game industry a disservice.
    And so no, bad stories in social games aren't inevitable. In fact, many game development teams recognized their bad stories and belatedly tried to improve them. That's why you will often hear people say of social game stories "the later events at better" or "they didn't think it would be so popular early on..." Unfortunately, a bad story can't truly be fixed by additions to it; it should be at least rewritten, but that rarely happens. So what you have is an industry that's still full of bad stories, and producers who think that's perfectly natural.
    The Ambition to Create Deep Stories in Social Games: Enter Key and Too Kyo
    In December 2019, Key announced Heaven Burns Red. Key needs no introduction; their writer Maeda Jun's nakige Kanon was largely responsible for redefining VNs as emotional experiences in the first place. 1st beat was the last game he had direct involvement in. Pre-registrations are already open, and trailers and interviews have come out which show many indications that Heaven Burns Red has potential:
    The protagonist actually speaks, and forms clear emotional connections with other characters. Without a real protagonist, a social game story's prospects are much lower, because players can't self-insert as well; they wonder why an epic plot revolves around a character who has the expressiveness of an emoticon set. This is one of the major complaints people have toward social games with relatively good stories like Fate/Grand Order. Maeda Jun's humor is as spectacular as ever. Key's writer has once more created a world full of characters who are funny and distinct. Just a few lines spoken between them is enough to entertain or intrigue the player. Good comedy is one of the few things that can instantly grab a person and maintain their attention. Too few social games are actually fun to read early on. Baba, someone whose vision of visual novels' potential aligns with what I've talked about, is fully behind this. Baba Takahiro, a smart businessman who founded and still leads Visual Arts, has shared his views with the world in interviews. He had Key partner with WFS, a competent and experienced developer which has created some of the more story-oriented social games, like Another Eden and Shoumetsu Toshi. He has a realistic awareness that VNs are no longer as popular as they once were, but at the same time, as recognizes and wishes to continue to leverage the potential of VN-style stories to let players form deep attachments to characters. HBR is just one of many projects Baba has approved in order to help Key and its talents adapt to industry trends. You can count on there being nakige elements. This is clear from trailers, if it wasn't already clear from the fact that Baba will naturally leverage Maeda's talents. It's not like other social games haven't made many of their players cry before, via plot elements like tragic backstories and character deaths, but they don't be able to hold a candle to what Maeda can do. The scale is broad, as you'd expect from a social game that's been taken so seriously by its developers. There are already character designs and concepts for 48 main characters, Maeda involved in all of them, beyond the 12 who have been introduced so far. Even just as a social game, the production values and system look better than almost anything I've seen before. The 3D environments and models, special attack animations, character designs, music, and voice acting are all impressive. If you want more of a sense of what Heaven Burns Red is like, I recommend watching the first and second trailers.
    In February 2020, Too Kyo and Akatsuki announced a new social game called Tribe Nine. (For those who don't know, Too Kyo is a collaborative indie company established in 2017 which employs a number of creative talents, such as writer Kodaka Kazutaka the rest of the Danganronpa team, Zero Escape's writer Uchikoshi Koutarou, and Root Double's writer Nakazawa Takumi. They all left their former companies.) Anyway, at the time Tribe Nine was announced, it was a teaser that most people didn't pay much attention to. But in fact, half a year later, Too Kyo secretly went from an LLC to a corporation. Then earlier this year, they put out a call to recruit a number of new writers. While the scale of the changes at Too Kyo isn't clear yet, Nakazawa and Kodaka have described the company's atmosphere as intensely busy and full of enthusiasm.
    The game's storytelling approach comes from Kodaka. Like Baba, he has strong views about the potential of emotionally moving stories to redefine our expectations for game narratives, and he has enough ambition for 3 Babas. The scenario size is already more than the original Danganronpa's, and they plan for it to be more than double that before the game's release. Not that they will release it all at once. Danganronpa was easily a medium-sized VN. Having twice that written before release is unprecedented for a social game. For comparison's sake, the entirety of FGO's Arc 1 (through Solomon) is just comparable to a medium-sized VN that's on the long size, 750K characters. Great value is placed in the writers for Tribe Nine. Look at what I just said about the scenario size; the implication is that Too Kyo will output maybe half a million characters in just the next few months. While it's too early to make any definitive judgments, the implication from recruitment notices and Kodaka's comments about them is that Too Kyo's new writers have been directly enabled to create the kind of stories they want to tell, that they can be passionate about, and fit those stories into the world of Tribe Nine's Neo Tokyo. Both Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine are mobile games, with no PC ports or localizations announced yet. But it's clear that both Key and Too Kyo want to release their works in the West, and I believe that WFS (partnered with Key for HBR) is particularly equipped to make that happen, since they also localized Another Eden. Historically, every Too Kyo project has also seen localization, even simultaneously.
    Conclusion: Exploration and Wandering in Search of Forgotten Beauty and Prestige
    Social games are one of the most lucrative genres of video games in existence, thanks largely to whales' wallets, but also due to their popularity among ordinary people. Yet ironically, they are the subject of constant ridicule, and not just for their gambling elements. Even the most popular ones are often criticized as having generic, snoozefest stories and vapid, grindy gameplay.
    But if you look closely, there's a subset of fans who actually rave positively about social games' stories. Stories that are objectively "okay" at best, even if you don't factor in the bad gameplay that accompanies them. And the reason they do that is actually the same reason people might also praise the potential for lengthy VNs to immerse players: the more time players spend with characters, the more they become attached to them.
    When you wake up every day and tap on an app icon and see your waifu say hello on your home screen, take her into battle constantly, watch as new side episodes and versions and skins of her are released multiple times a year, browse tons of fan art, and so on... you become attached to that character, and all her idiosyncrasies. So even if some new event's plot that involves her is bland by any objective measure, it's still directly about someone you're fond of, who you just love to see talk and act--so you enjoy it. Consider a certain tiny dragon who's a generic JRPG mascot character with the catchphrase "I'm not a lizard" voiced by Kugimiya Rie, and who has zero character depth or character development ever... After you've watched 100+ short slice-of-life scenes involving him over the course of 2+ years, he feels like an old friend with a bit of a silly personality, it comforts your heart a little to just be around him, and you'll even create memes about his love of apples to share on Reddit or Discord. That's what it's often like to become a fan of these games, as a cognitive process.
    Long-lived social games are, inherently, epics. They are expansive worlds with vast casts of characters, explored over the course of months and years. And yet, they're even more than that. They're epics where the gameplay is designed to make us feel emotionally engaged with their world, in spite of their poorly written and ambiguously connected stories which only have a few occasional good scenes.
    If social games that follow these two upcoming games' example were to become the norm, I believe we'd have a chance to see a game that is simultaneously objectively great--at the very least, one tier below VNs' top tier--and epic in scale, and viscerally engaging. That kind of intensively integrated experience, which simmers alongside one's daily life, is something that I hope to one day get a taste of.
    But in the meantime, I will have to wait for these creators' attempts to pan out--for them to crack the code that will successfully fuse the charm of both social games and VNs. And so my eyes are on Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine.
    Misc. Reference
    It occurred to me that I didn't link to many sources for much of the info I have, so to help remedy that a bit, I've edited in this section to add a few links.
    https://news.denfaminicogamer.jp/interview/210930f Tribe Nine, Denfaminico Gamer interview with Kodaka
    https://voice.aktsk.jp/6773/ Tribe Nine, Akatsuki's interview with their producer Yamaguchi
    https://twitter.com/kaibutsukantoku/status/1444452237108039682 Tribe Nine translated info from above 2 articles
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNQNZiy7K2I Tribe Nine game promo movie (no gameplay shown)
    https://www.reddit.com/r/gachagaming/comments/poc3oo/what_we_know_about_heaven_burns_red_so_far/ HBR, good summary of info
    https://www.reddit.com/r/grandorder/comments/k31fxx/jp_script_size_by_singularity/ Source for FGO numbers
  4. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from fun2novel for a blog entry, Will VNs bring about a revolution in social games? A look at Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine.   
    Welcome back to my blog.
    Introduction
    You might have seen a few headlines about Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine, two upcoming mobile games from writers Maeda Jun and Kodaka Kazutaka.
    These aren't just your average games. They're ambitious ventures that blur the line between visual novel and social (AKA gacha) game.
    So I'm here today to talk about exactly why VNs fans should pay close attention to the potential of these two upcoming games, given both how unique their stories could turn out to be and  their implications for the VN industry as a whole.
    As an important disclaimer, like almost all social games, these two titles will probably be a bad fit for anyone who has a predisposition to gambling addiction. If you think that label could apply to you, my recommendation is: don't even consider playing them (or any other social game). Just stick with VNs, and watch these games' stories on YouTube or elsewhere later.
    The Worn Soil of the Visual Novel Industry, and Social Game Money Trees
    There's no question that Japanese visual novels have declined relative to their peak. (International VNs are very much on the rise, but that's another subject, and they have yet to reach Japan's heights anyway.) The golden age is far behind us, and there are no more VNs that turn into famous multi-industry franchises. The otaku community as a whole has shifted its interest away from VNs and back to anime and manga, or onward to the likes of isekai novels, doujin eroge, and social games.
    If you can't accept this and want to understand exactly when and why visual novels declined, check out this post's prequel, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.
    Back in the heyday of VNs, CEOs of eroge companies were buying sports cars, and there was no lack of investors. When the decline happened, there were a variety of causes/symptoms, but the one that produced the most tremors in the industry is that the cash flow dried up. Somebody moved Baba's cheese. So where did the cheese go, then?
    The best answer is that it went to social games. In fact, the year that the sales decline of eroge leveled out (you might say that people finished evacuating) was the same year that there was a broad movement by the Japanese game industry to take their social games off of SNS and onto independent platforms like GREE to boost profits.
    No social game born from a visual novel IP has drawn more attention than Fate/Grand Order. True, Fate was already a massive franchise even before FGO, and that certainly helped the game succeed financially. However, the all-time revenue from console Fate/stay night is infamously less than a week's worth for FGO. FSN sold less than a million copies on all platforms, but the same core Type-Moon artist, writer, and pair of composers have built the creative foundation of a mobile spin-off with more than a million active users, and vast revenue thanks to whales.
    Bad Stories: An Inevitable Problem with Social Games?
    Visual novels have a reputation for deep and powerful stories. Social games don't, despite the fact that they share so many elements with VNs: they often have an ADV presentation style that's similar to VNs, talents from the VN industry often work on them, the plot can end up quite lengthy and complicated just like VNs, the player meets hero(in)es and builds relationships with them like in VNs, and so on. Instead, what social games have a reputation for is waifus/husbandos and fanservice.
    There's a reason for that reputation: developers' attitudes. As a genre, social games weren't developed with the goal of telling compelling stories; they were created in order to facilitate gameplay that leverages behavioral habits to encourage players' engagement and investment. And while the presence of VN-esque heroines can serve to boost players' engagement, lengthy VN-esque narratives are regarded by social game developers as an impediment to engagement, given the way consumers have trended away from VNs. As a result, social game scenarios are often short, and constrained by the gameplay's predetermined "plot" such as random monster attacks every 2 minutes. They even have silent protagonists, a convention that the story-driven JRPG and VN industries abandoned a long time ago.
    The truth is, developers' disregard for scenario quality actually isn't new at all. Leaders in VN and eroge companies have always had a pattern of naively thinking that the artist is the person who matters most in a VN's development, and that the writer is the person who matters least. In the early days, they would even hire absolutely anyone to be an eroge scenario writer, because they just didn't care. So it's a problem that many decision-makers in these companies are actually idiots whose presence does the social game industry a disservice.
    And so no, bad stories in social games aren't inevitable. In fact, many game development teams recognized their bad stories and belatedly tried to improve them. That's why you will often hear people say of social game stories "the later events at better" or "they didn't think it would be so popular early on..." Unfortunately, a bad story can't truly be fixed by additions to it; it should be at least rewritten, but that rarely happens. So what you have is an industry that's still full of bad stories, and producers who think that's perfectly natural.
    The Ambition to Create Deep Stories in Social Games: Enter Key and Too Kyo
    In December 2019, Key announced Heaven Burns Red. Key needs no introduction; their writer Maeda Jun's nakige Kanon was largely responsible for redefining VNs as emotional experiences in the first place. 1st beat was the last game he had direct involvement in. Pre-registrations are already open, and trailers and interviews have come out which show many indications that Heaven Burns Red has potential:
    The protagonist actually speaks, and forms clear emotional connections with other characters. Without a real protagonist, a social game story's prospects are much lower, because players can't self-insert as well; they wonder why an epic plot revolves around a character who has the expressiveness of an emoticon set. This is one of the major complaints people have toward social games with relatively good stories like Fate/Grand Order. Maeda Jun's humor is as spectacular as ever. Key's writer has once more created a world full of characters who are funny and distinct. Just a few lines spoken between them is enough to entertain or intrigue the player. Good comedy is one of the few things that can instantly grab a person and maintain their attention. Too few social games are actually fun to read early on. Baba, someone whose vision of visual novels' potential aligns with what I've talked about, is fully behind this. Baba Takahiro, a smart businessman who founded and still leads Visual Arts, has shared his views with the world in interviews. He had Key partner with WFS, a competent and experienced developer which has created some of the more story-oriented social games, like Another Eden and Shoumetsu Toshi. He has a realistic awareness that VNs are no longer as popular as they once were, but at the same time, as recognizes and wishes to continue to leverage the potential of VN-style stories to let players form deep attachments to characters. HBR is just one of many projects Baba has approved in order to help Key and its talents adapt to industry trends. You can count on there being nakige elements. This is clear from trailers, if it wasn't already clear from the fact that Baba will naturally leverage Maeda's talents. It's not like other social games haven't made many of their players cry before, via plot elements like tragic backstories and character deaths, but they don't be able to hold a candle to what Maeda can do. The scale is broad, as you'd expect from a social game that's been taken so seriously by its developers. There are already character designs and concepts for 48 main characters, Maeda involved in all of them, beyond the 12 who have been introduced so far. Even just as a social game, the production values and system look better than almost anything I've seen before. The 3D environments and models, special attack animations, character designs, music, and voice acting are all impressive. If you want more of a sense of what Heaven Burns Red is like, I recommend watching the first and second trailers.
    In February 2020, Too Kyo and Akatsuki announced a new social game called Tribe Nine. (For those who don't know, Too Kyo is a collaborative indie company established in 2017 which employs a number of creative talents, such as writer Kodaka Kazutaka the rest of the Danganronpa team, Zero Escape's writer Uchikoshi Koutarou, and Root Double's writer Nakazawa Takumi. They all left their former companies.) Anyway, at the time Tribe Nine was announced, it was a teaser that most people didn't pay much attention to. But in fact, half a year later, Too Kyo secretly went from an LLC to a corporation. Then earlier this year, they put out a call to recruit a number of new writers. While the scale of the changes at Too Kyo isn't clear yet, Nakazawa and Kodaka have described the company's atmosphere as intensely busy and full of enthusiasm.
    The game's storytelling approach comes from Kodaka. Like Baba, he has strong views about the potential of emotionally moving stories to redefine our expectations for game narratives, and he has enough ambition for 3 Babas. The scenario size is already more than the original Danganronpa's, and they plan for it to be more than double that before the game's release. Not that they will release it all at once. Danganronpa was easily a medium-sized VN. Having twice that written before release is unprecedented for a social game. For comparison's sake, the entirety of FGO's Arc 1 (through Solomon) is just comparable to a medium-sized VN that's on the long size, 750K characters. Great value is placed in the writers for Tribe Nine. Look at what I just said about the scenario size; the implication is that Too Kyo will output maybe half a million characters in just the next few months. While it's too early to make any definitive judgments, the implication from recruitment notices and Kodaka's comments about them is that Too Kyo's new writers have been directly enabled to create the kind of stories they want to tell, that they can be passionate about, and fit those stories into the world of Tribe Nine's Neo Tokyo. Both Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine are mobile games, with no PC ports or localizations announced yet. But it's clear that both Key and Too Kyo want to release their works in the West, and I believe that WFS (partnered with Key for HBR) is particularly equipped to make that happen, since they also localized Another Eden. Historically, every Too Kyo project has also seen localization, even simultaneously.
    Conclusion: Exploration and Wandering in Search of Forgotten Beauty and Prestige
    Social games are one of the most lucrative genres of video games in existence, thanks largely to whales' wallets, but also due to their popularity among ordinary people. Yet ironically, they are the subject of constant ridicule, and not just for their gambling elements. Even the most popular ones are often criticized as having generic, snoozefest stories and vapid, grindy gameplay.
    But if you look closely, there's a subset of fans who actually rave positively about social games' stories. Stories that are objectively "okay" at best, even if you don't factor in the bad gameplay that accompanies them. And the reason they do that is actually the same reason people might also praise the potential for lengthy VNs to immerse players: the more time players spend with characters, the more they become attached to them.
    When you wake up every day and tap on an app icon and see your waifu say hello on your home screen, take her into battle constantly, watch as new side episodes and versions and skins of her are released multiple times a year, browse tons of fan art, and so on... you become attached to that character, and all her idiosyncrasies. So even if some new event's plot that involves her is bland by any objective measure, it's still directly about someone you're fond of, who you just love to see talk and act--so you enjoy it. Consider a certain tiny dragon who's a generic JRPG mascot character with the catchphrase "I'm not a lizard" voiced by Kugimiya Rie, and who has zero character depth or character development ever... After you've watched 100+ short slice-of-life scenes involving him over the course of 2+ years, he feels like an old friend with a bit of a silly personality, it comforts your heart a little to just be around him, and you'll even create memes about his love of apples to share on Reddit or Discord. That's what it's often like to become a fan of these games, as a cognitive process.
    Long-lived social games are, inherently, epics. They are expansive worlds with vast casts of characters, explored over the course of months and years. And yet, they're even more than that. They're epics where the gameplay is designed to make us feel emotionally engaged with their world, in spite of their poorly written and ambiguously connected stories which only have a few occasional good scenes.
    If social games that follow these two upcoming games' example were to become the norm, I believe we'd have a chance to see a game that is simultaneously objectively great--at the very least, one tier below VNs' top tier--and epic in scale, and viscerally engaging. That kind of intensively integrated experience, which simmers alongside one's daily life, is something that I hope to one day get a taste of.
    But in the meantime, I will have to wait for these creators' attempts to pan out--for them to crack the code that will successfully fuse the charm of both social games and VNs. And so my eyes are on Heaven Burns Red and Tribe Nine.
    Misc. Reference
    It occurred to me that I didn't link to many sources for much of the info I have, so to help remedy that a bit, I've edited in this section to add a few links.
    https://news.denfaminicogamer.jp/interview/210930f Tribe Nine, Denfaminico Gamer interview with Kodaka
    https://voice.aktsk.jp/6773/ Tribe Nine, Akatsuki's interview with their producer Yamaguchi
    https://twitter.com/kaibutsukantoku/status/1444452237108039682 Tribe Nine translated info from above 2 articles
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNQNZiy7K2I Tribe Nine game promo movie (no gameplay shown)
    https://www.reddit.com/r/gachagaming/comments/poc3oo/what_we_know_about_heaven_burns_red_so_far/ HBR, good summary of info
    https://www.reddit.com/r/grandorder/comments/k31fxx/jp_script_size_by_singularity/ Source for FGO numbers
  5. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from adamstan for a blog entry, 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.
  6. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Chronopolis for a blog entry, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.   
    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
    ADDENDUM I: A Note on Death VS Decline (added 1/28)
     
  7. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from fun2novel for a blog entry, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.   
    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
    ADDENDUM I: A Note on Death VS Decline (added 1/28)
     
  8. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from KyouBell for a blog entry, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.   
    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
    ADDENDUM I: A Note on Death VS Decline (added 1/28)
     
  9. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Formlose Gestalt for a blog entry, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.   
    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
    ADDENDUM I: A Note on Death VS Decline (added 1/28)
     
  10. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Dreamysyu for a blog entry, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.   
    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
    ADDENDUM I: A Note on Death VS Decline (added 1/28)
     
  11. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Ramaladni for a blog entry, Notes on the past and hope of Japanese visual novels.   
    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
    ADDENDUM I: A Note on Death VS Decline (added 1/28)
     
  12. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Mr Poltroon for a blog entry, 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.
  13. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, 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.
     
  14. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Narcosis for a blog entry, 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.
     
  15. Like
    MayoeruHitori reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, March Release: Kieta Sekai to Tsuki to Shoujo -The World was Prayed by The Girl Living A Thousand Years-   
    This review was written by fun2novel and edited for grammar and style by Clephas. 
    Etatoto review
    The mystery genre is one of the most interesting and captivating genres in fiction (Clephas: We are all entitled to our opinions). While there are many mystery vns out there, finding one that has an addictive, twisting plo, and a satisfying ending is a difficult task. It is even harder if you’re looking for something really unique and different from the usual murder who’dun’it, detective, mystery plots... Such as something that will make the reader doubt and rethink what they think they know but also gives satisfying answers.
    Welcome to Kieta Sekai to Tsuki to Shoujo -The World was Prayed by The Girl Living A Thousand Years- or Etatoto. Okina Seiji comes back to his home town for a visit. After his arrival, he reunites with old friends and makes new ones, goes to school with them, and spends time bonding with them. However, the real reason for his visit is the mysterious death of his mother, and his goal is to find out the truth. Nothing goes as planned, of course. As the story progresses, the mystery grows more and more complex, questions are raised, and more mysteries are uncovered. This is ALL you need to know, as saying anything more than that will ruin the plot. So, if you’re looking for a good mystery visual novel that is not quite the usual kind of mystery, something complex and twisty, this is a game for you. It’s not quite as complex as the Infinity or the Zero Escape series, but it’s definitely worth your time.
    In terms of art the game made a few odd artistic decisions. While the backgrounds looks great, and the main characters are all drawn well, some of the characters look as if drawn by a completely different artist than others. On top of that, their sprites look rough and sketched in comparison. CGs have a similar problem due to a strange artistic decision to draw the h-scenes in one style and the other CGs in a different one. The non-H CGs look rougher, almost sketched. These CGs still look good and match the atmosphere, so perhaps it was an artistic decision rather than a budgetary one (Clephas: It is Lacryma... it was probably just a fumble).
    Speaking of production values, the music deserves special recognition. The music is superb, with a variety of deep soothing compositions, atmospheric music, emotional music, and perfectly timed moving pieces. However, there aren't a lot of them, so they might come to feel old with repetition. That said, the music is so good that it shouldn’t be a deal breaker for anyone.
    There are a few low points in Etatoto’s writing as well. Most of the characters are not especially well developed and leave you much to be desired. Though,  this wasn’t a huge deal breaker, as the story was good enough to pull all the right strings.  The reason for this is that most of the game's focus goes into the story, rather than the characters. The romantic elements are a bit sub-par as well, since almost every route develops its romantic relationship in exactly the same way, with pretty much the same amount of time spend on each heroine and with the same ‘date’ spot as everyone else... Not to mention, it takes a while for the story to get going. The first few hours were very difficult to get through, but it is still worth it, in my mind.  Those slow peaceful times are used to introduce the characters as well as do some clever and obscure foreshadowing about the events to come.
    On a technical side, things aren’t perfect either. The auto skip function doesn’t work as expected (Clephas: Lacryma's technical staff sucks), and sometimes it just doesn’t work at all. At other times, it takes a little longer to load the backgrounds after you resume from a saved game. These are relatively small annoyances that could (and most likely will) be patched later; so, thankfully, they don’t become an obstacle for enjoying the experience of the VN as a whole. 
    In conclusion, talking about Etatoto is difficult without spoiling the intricate details of its plot. It’s the kind of VN where you should avoid searching for more information than is contained within this review. This gives you a good idea of the pros and cons of the game, and with a little patience, a mystery lover will get hooked on what is probably one of the best mystery visual novels in a while.
  16. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Kenshin_sama for a blog entry, The Chuuni and Chuunibyou FAQ (自称)   
    The Chuuni and Chuunibyou FAQ (自称)

    Because I wanted to settle the basics first.
     
    Q. What is chuunibyou?
    A.  "Chuunibyou" (中二病) is a Japanese word that literally means middle [school] second [year] syndrome. But it's not an actual medical syndrome. It refers to certain behavior.
    So what exactly does it mean? That depends on who you ask.
    The person to coin it, radio host Ijuuin Hikaru, defined it more or less as the foolish behavior of second year middle school students, in the context of school life.
    But the term quickly spread and took on a life of its own. Pixiv's wiki has one popular definition: "a colloquial term intended to poke fun at the behavioral tendencies of pubescent kids stemming from their self-absorption and psychological complexes".
    ...Personally, I don't like Pixiv's definition. It's too condescending, focusing on psychoanalyzing behavior rather than accurately cataloging what it consists of. I realize that it's hard to pin down what exactly chuunibyou is, so it's tempting to take a step back, vaguely reference a few psychological terms, and declare that sufficient. But that's NOT sufficient, and here's why.
    This term has long since passed the point when it was just a casual way to talk about how silly kids can be. It's been fully embraced by otaku culture. In other words, "chuunibyou" behavior--in terms of what it stems from, how it's expressed, how others should react to it, what its appeals are, what tropes it connects to, and so on--has been deconstructed and re-evaluated a thousand times over.
    Here's my personal definition, that I believe to be more modern: chuunibyou is a personality trait that refers to behavior supposedly commonly seen in many second year middle school students. That behavior consists of a person acting or speaking so as to emulate what they consider the cool or admirable demeanor of characters within stories. Furthermore, that behavior is starkly mismatched with what a layman would perceive to be a rational behavioral foundation for that person, resulting in others viewing their behavior as peculiar. The person in question either doesn't notice or doesn't care about the mismatch.
    Let's run through a couple of quick examples and break them down in terms of character, emulated demeanor, and perception of mismatch.
    Person considers a character in a light novel who speaks mysteriously to be cool. Adopts mysterious phrasings, even when talking about mundane things. This is viewed as pointless by others, because there is no benefit to speaking cryptically about mundane things. Person considers a character in a manga who has a dragon sealed in his right arm to be cool. Inks a dragon tattoo onto their arm, and covertly shows it off to others, as an approximation of that character's demeanor. This is viewed as silly by others, because the ink on their arm does not actually materially benefit them or affect their life in any way. Person considers a character in an anime who possesses a cursed katana that unleashes it power when an incantation is recited to be cool. Buys a katana prop, occasionally carrying it around, and muttering a personally written incantation occasionally, as a way to mimic the feeling of being that character. This is viewed as silly by others, because the katana prop has no supernatural properties that would respond to an incantation. Person considers a super-strong delinquent or a heroic vigilante in a story to be cool. Begins to dress like and use the slang of a delinquent, act like a tough fighter despite have no real knowledge of martial arts beyond a few tidbits, and occasionally spout rhetoric about justice or strength, out of a desire to emulate those characters. This is viewed as silly or awkward by others, mostly because the person in question can't actually fight and because the lines they spoke about justice and strength just came off as pretentious. Note that I narrowed my definition of chuunibyou in order to make it better match otaku culture. The broader and popular definition of chuunibyou includes people who aren't inspired by stories, such as hipsters. Lastly, I'll note that chuunibyou can be shortened to just chuuni.
     

     
    Q. Aren't people like Hiei from Yuu Yuu Hakusho and Gilgamesh from Fate/stay night also called "chuunibyou"? But they're not delusional middle school students--they actually have special powers.
    A. Yes, and no. This ties back to what I said about how the term chuunibyou has expanded. You can call them chuunibyou if you want, but for clarity, it may be better to call them "chuuni". I'll explain why in the next section.
     

     
    Q. What is chuuni?
    A. Remember how I said that otaku culture has changed the term chuunibyou? I already went over the fact that Ijuuin Hikaru's initial meaning was essentially abandoned, and gave my personal definition for chuunibyou in the context of otaku culture.
    Well, to put it simply, the word chuunibyou ended up having ANOTHER meaning, on top of the more traditional one that describes a behavior. Also, in order to make that other type of chuunibyou distinct from the traditional one, people ended up typically shortening it to just "chuuni".
    The heart of "chuunibyou" is its source, the "coolness" that makes people behave in a chuunibyou way. And as discerning otaku, people quickly wanted a way to refer to that "coolness". THAT is "chuuni". The "byou" (syndrome) part is cut off the end, so the shortened version of the word fits this meaning well.
    Stated more formally, the broadest possible definition of chuuni is any story or story element (whether a character or trope) that inspires, or could inspire, a person to behave in a chuunibyou way. In other words, it's whatever a second year middle school student would view as cool or enviable.
    HOWEVER, people haven't been content with such a broad definition of chuuni. There are many informal, narrower trope-oriented definitions. I say "informal" because few people try to provide any exact list of what tropes are "sufficiently" chuuni. But you can be sure that different people have different perceptions of the word chuuni. More on that in later posts, potentially.
    Finally, I'll note that as I said earlier, the traditional definition of chuunibyou is also occasionally shortened to chuuni. As a matter of fact, neither "chuuni" nor "chuunibyou" is exclusive to any specific meaning, which can admittedly make things confusing.
     

     
    That's all the questions I can think to pose to myself currently. Maybe I'll come up with more later and add them.
     
  17. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Narcosis for a blog entry, The Chuuni and Chuunibyou FAQ (自称)   
    The Chuuni and Chuunibyou FAQ (自称)

    Because I wanted to settle the basics first.
     
    Q. What is chuunibyou?
    A.  "Chuunibyou" (中二病) is a Japanese word that literally means middle [school] second [year] syndrome. But it's not an actual medical syndrome. It refers to certain behavior.
    So what exactly does it mean? That depends on who you ask.
    The person to coin it, radio host Ijuuin Hikaru, defined it more or less as the foolish behavior of second year middle school students, in the context of school life.
    But the term quickly spread and took on a life of its own. Pixiv's wiki has one popular definition: "a colloquial term intended to poke fun at the behavioral tendencies of pubescent kids stemming from their self-absorption and psychological complexes".
    ...Personally, I don't like Pixiv's definition. It's too condescending, focusing on psychoanalyzing behavior rather than accurately cataloging what it consists of. I realize that it's hard to pin down what exactly chuunibyou is, so it's tempting to take a step back, vaguely reference a few psychological terms, and declare that sufficient. But that's NOT sufficient, and here's why.
    This term has long since passed the point when it was just a casual way to talk about how silly kids can be. It's been fully embraced by otaku culture. In other words, "chuunibyou" behavior--in terms of what it stems from, how it's expressed, how others should react to it, what its appeals are, what tropes it connects to, and so on--has been deconstructed and re-evaluated a thousand times over.
    Here's my personal definition, that I believe to be more modern: chuunibyou is a personality trait that refers to behavior supposedly commonly seen in many second year middle school students. That behavior consists of a person acting or speaking so as to emulate what they consider the cool or admirable demeanor of characters within stories. Furthermore, that behavior is starkly mismatched with what a layman would perceive to be a rational behavioral foundation for that person, resulting in others viewing their behavior as peculiar. The person in question either doesn't notice or doesn't care about the mismatch.
    Let's run through a couple of quick examples and break them down in terms of character, emulated demeanor, and perception of mismatch.
    Person considers a character in a light novel who speaks mysteriously to be cool. Adopts mysterious phrasings, even when talking about mundane things. This is viewed as pointless by others, because there is no benefit to speaking cryptically about mundane things. Person considers a character in a manga who has a dragon sealed in his right arm to be cool. Inks a dragon tattoo onto their arm, and covertly shows it off to others, as an approximation of that character's demeanor. This is viewed as silly by others, because the ink on their arm does not actually materially benefit them or affect their life in any way. Person considers a character in an anime who possesses a cursed katana that unleashes it power when an incantation is recited to be cool. Buys a katana prop, occasionally carrying it around, and muttering a personally written incantation occasionally, as a way to mimic the feeling of being that character. This is viewed as silly by others, because the katana prop has no supernatural properties that would respond to an incantation. Person considers a super-strong delinquent or a heroic vigilante in a story to be cool. Begins to dress like and use the slang of a delinquent, act like a tough fighter despite have no real knowledge of martial arts beyond a few tidbits, and occasionally spout rhetoric about justice or strength, out of a desire to emulate those characters. This is viewed as silly or awkward by others, mostly because the person in question can't actually fight and because the lines they spoke about justice and strength just came off as pretentious. Note that I narrowed my definition of chuunibyou in order to make it better match otaku culture. The broader and popular definition of chuunibyou includes people who aren't inspired by stories, such as hipsters. Lastly, I'll note that chuunibyou can be shortened to just chuuni.
     

     
    Q. Aren't people like Hiei from Yuu Yuu Hakusho and Gilgamesh from Fate/stay night also called "chuunibyou"? But they're not delusional middle school students--they actually have special powers.
    A. Yes, and no. This ties back to what I said about how the term chuunibyou has expanded. You can call them chuunibyou if you want, but for clarity, it may be better to call them "chuuni". I'll explain why in the next section.
     

     
    Q. What is chuuni?
    A. Remember how I said that otaku culture has changed the term chuunibyou? I already went over the fact that Ijuuin Hikaru's initial meaning was essentially abandoned, and gave my personal definition for chuunibyou in the context of otaku culture.
    Well, to put it simply, the word chuunibyou ended up having ANOTHER meaning, on top of the more traditional one that describes a behavior. Also, in order to make that other type of chuunibyou distinct from the traditional one, people ended up typically shortening it to just "chuuni".
    The heart of "chuunibyou" is its source, the "coolness" that makes people behave in a chuunibyou way. And as discerning otaku, people quickly wanted a way to refer to that "coolness". THAT is "chuuni". The "byou" (syndrome) part is cut off the end, so the shortened version of the word fits this meaning well.
    Stated more formally, the broadest possible definition of chuuni is any story or story element (whether a character or trope) that inspires, or could inspire, a person to behave in a chuunibyou way. In other words, it's whatever a second year middle school student would view as cool or enviable.
    HOWEVER, people haven't been content with such a broad definition of chuuni. There are many informal, narrower trope-oriented definitions. I say "informal" because few people try to provide any exact list of what tropes are "sufficiently" chuuni. But you can be sure that different people have different perceptions of the word chuuni. More on that in later posts, potentially.
    Finally, I'll note that as I said earlier, the traditional definition of chuunibyou is also occasionally shortened to chuuni. As a matter of fact, neither "chuuni" nor "chuunibyou" is exclusive to any specific meaning, which can admittedly make things confusing.
     

     
    That's all the questions I can think to pose to myself currently. Maybe I'll come up with more later and add them.
     
  18. Like
    MayoeruHitori reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, Why I always play games with nonhuman heroines first.   
    My name is Clephas, and I am a pervert.
    lol, just kidding... or not.  Considering how long I've been playing eroge, I'm definitely a pervert.  However, that isn't really what this post is about.
    When I look at the VNs for a month, the first thing I look for are chuunige, then fantasy/sci-fi, and then non-human heroines (though the last two are interchangeable depending on my mood).  The distant fourth is an interesting protagonist, the fifth is an interesting heroine (if I don't find any of the heroines interesting in setting or character description after eliminating the factors above, I generally have trouble picking the game up). 
    Why do I love nonhumans...?  It is pretty much the only 'romantic' part left in my body. 
    To be frank, I don't believe in or trust romance.  I firmly believe that romance is a lie we tell ourselves so we can ignore the fact that we are being driven by our body's desire for children and the resulting psychological hunger for a close partner.  That might seem like a cynical way to think of things, and I don't think about things like that while I'm playing.  However, when it is over or before I start?  Always.
    I like the strange, the weird, the warped, the unusual... what is the point of telling a story if it is about the girl next door?  If I want to know about the girl next door, I'll walk over and say hello.  I love power trips, I like heroines with different instincts and outlooks, and I like heroines who simply don't share mine or the protagonist's culture. 
    I love heroines who have lived hundreds of years.  I like heroines that used to be animals.  I am deeply fond of vampire heroines.  I could go on forever about this.
    The fact is, we are shaped by our experiences, and a heroine that has had some seriously unusual experiences is generally far more interesting than a heroine who grew up next door and comes to visit every morning. 
    This is actually the main reason why I find it difficult to comprehend racism on a gut level... though I can comprehend it on the anthropological and sociological studies level. 
    This is also why I hate 'nerfed' nonhuman heroines.  Need to have a vampire heroine attend school?  Make her a unique 'daywalker' or have vampires not worry about the sun in the first place.  Need to have a succubus be safe around men?  Make it so she only needs regular food and the seduction thing is just an ability (these are both actual examples, incidentally).  You have an immortal heroine?  Make sure she gives up that immortality in her route so that the protagonist doesn't have to worry about being outlived by his wife (ugh, I mean, ugh.  Sometimes that works, but most of the time it is a let down).
    Thanks for reading this random ramble, lol.
  19. Like
    MayoeruHitori reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, A preview of the first quarter, 2018   
    I felt like giving a you all a preview of the first quarter of 2018, after reading this blog post:
    I generally choose to refrain from posts like this that cover the future of an entire year, but I feel that I have a good grasp on what is coming out over the next three months that is worth paying attention to, based on my own experiences.
    Grisaia Phantom Trigger Vol. 4
    This is something to look forward to for anyone who has liked this series so far... more assassin action based in the same universe as Kajitsu and the others.
    Yorite Konoha wa Kurenai ni
    Let's get something straight... I don't have an absolute faith in Lump of Sugar as a company.  If anything, their work over the last five years has proven to me that this is one of the least predictable moege companies out there.  For every great VN they make, they make at least two games (usually three) that are pure crap or mediocre.  The reason I keep going back to this company is for experiences like Hello,Goodbye, Tayutama (the original, not the sequel), and Sekai to Sekai no Mannaka de.  This game looks like it is based in the far future of the same universe as Tayutama, where coexistence between humans and the spiritual beings have stabilized somewhat (based on the content from the Getchu page).  As such, I'm willing to give this the benefit of th doubt, despite the somewhat sour experience I got from Tayutama 2.
    Sora no Baroque
    So far, Light has yet to produce a bad game.  I have no reason to think this game, another work from Light's more prolific second team, will be an exception.  For chuunige fans, this is the game to pay attention to for the first part of the year.
    Chuuni Hime no Teikoku
    With a scenario team that was involved with both the original Love Kami (the later games had a different set of writers) and Haruka ni Aogi, Uruwashi no, this is definitely a VN that will be worth looking at, despite being the first work of a new company.  Of course, it could end up being delayed for the seventh time... it wouldn't surprise me at this point.
    Shin Koihime Musou Kakumei Son Go no Ketsumyaku (note: The title used on vndb is incorrectly romanized)
    Originally planned for a release this upcoming summer, this game has been moved forward to February.  Like the release of Gi's rewritten route this past summer, we can look forward to a nicely reworked version of the original Go route from Shin Koihime Musou, which was already an excellently-written work.
    Hataraku Otona no Ren'ai Jijou 2
    This is worth noting because this series (of which this is the third game, despite the numbering) is one of the few non-nukige VNs out there that is set outside a school, and the previous games were enjoyable experiences. 
    Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteiru Mitsu no Kiraboshi (note: again, what is with the shitty romanizations on new entries on vndb of late?)
    This is the third game in the Otoboku series, a third game made over seven years after the second, which was a kamige.  Caramel Box has been a lot less prolific in the last few years than it was, so I was gleeful to find a new release by them coming up so soon.
    Unjou no Fairy Tail
    A new VN based in the same universe as Hoshi no Tsukurikata, meaning that we can look forward to yet more antics in a dystopian steampunk setting.
    Kieta Sekai to Tsuki to Shoujo
    This is the game for fans of Japanese horror mysteries to pay attention to this quarter.  A dark-looking game about a young man who has returned to his hometown, only to find the people around him disappear one by one.
    Butterfly Seeker
    A new game by Silky's Plus.  I am unsure if I want to hold out hopes for this game, as the writer is mostly an unknown, though he has worked for Liar-soft in the past.
     
  20. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Chronopolis for a blog entry, 2018, A Year of Possibility in Visual Novels   
    2018, A Year of Possibility in Visual Novels

    [source]
    ~ Leaving Behind the Old Year ~
    Let's face it. 2017 was not an impressive year for Japanese visual novels.
    Sure, the OELVN scene had a breakout hit in the form of Doki Doki Literature Club.
    Sure, the VN localization industry amazed everyone with prominent official releases of super-popular titles like Muv-Luv Alternative, Little Busters, and the never-before-translated Subarashiki Hibi, Dies irae, and Chaos;Child, to name a few.
    But the heart of the visual novel industry remains in Japan. And this year has been fairly mediocre for it.
    I mean, if you take a look at the numbers on Erogamescape (also known as EGS, it's Japan's equivalent of VNDB), you'll find that Hikari no Umi no Apeiria [vndb], and Nora to Oujo to Noraneko Heart 2 [vndb] were the only VNs with a median around the mid-80's or higher and more than a hundred votes [EGS source data]. For reference, 2016 had 6 titles at that level: Island, Chaos;Child, Akeiro Kaikitan, Utawarerumono 3, Tokyo Necro, and Baldr Heart.
    Of course, that data point doesn't tell the full story. EGS is geared toward eroge players; in terms of pure adventure games (also known as ADV, the common way Japanese players refer to visual novels) New Danganronpa V3 [vndb] was very well-received. (V3 is also the only 2017 VN among VNDB's top 100.) The very recently released Kiniro Loveriche's [vndb] reception has been extremely positive, and though it hasn't had time to accumulate votes yet, I'm optimistic it will stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Apeiria. It's not like there aren't an assortment of noteworthy VNs that merely fall short of the top tier statistically, such as Ouka Sabaki [vndb] and ChronoBox [vndb]. Fans of particular studios like SMEE [vndb], Purple software [vndb], and Moonstone [vndb] were also able to get their fix this year. The VN industry is far from dead; if anything, it's evolving to fill various niches.
    But that's a whole other topic. The bottom line is I'm ready to move on from 2017. And once you see what's in store for us in 2018, I'm sure you will be, too.
     
     
    ~ Ringing in the New Year, Along with Potential Kamige ~
    Every year has promising titles. Unfortunately, they often don't live up to their promise. Still, some titles are so promising--the studios behind them so reputable, the staff working on them so consistent, so little room for error--that it's hard not to get excited.
    There are, in my opinion, 5 such confirmed titles for 2018.
     
    ~ Summer Pockets (Key) - June 29, Delay Likely ~

    Let's start with this one, because it's the one I'm personally most hyped for.
    To state the obvious, Summer Pocket is a major ADV from Key. No matter who the staff behind it is, you'd be foolish to underestimate it. Key's complete major titles are Kanon, Air, Clannad, Little Busters, and Rewrite. (I skipped Angel Beats because it's not complete.) Every one of these VNs is resoundingly famous.
    But let's pretend we don't know that Key, with its reputation for ambitious works that are patiently crafted rather than quickly pumped out, is behind Summer Pockets. Instead, let's take a look at the staff.
    The heart of Summer Pockets is Niijima Yuu. He's the mastermind behind Hatsuyuki Sakura, a massive hit from 2012. His prose is hilarious, fresh, and really endears you to the characters. With his tendency toward fanservice and lewd humor, and the way it's always hard to discern the supernatural from the metaphorical in his narratives, he has a lot in common with Maeda Jun. ...Hopefully you already knew this because you've read Hatsusaku. Nobody should miss out on that one, whether they're a romance fan, an action fan, a mystery fan, or a FEELS fan.
    Anyway, the problem with Niijima Yuu is that he can't be allowed too much creative control. If he is, you end up with the likes of his later works Majo Koi Nikki and Koi x Shin Ai Kanojo, where he made creative decisions that alienated many players. When he was with Saga Planets, they reined him in well. When he was with Amuse Craft, they obviously didn't. But he announced a period of self-reflection in response to Koikake's criticisms. And he adopted a very humble attitude in the first Summer Pockets interview from back in December 2016. Furthermore, Key is a company incredibly concerned about its brand identity, and on top of that, Summer Pocket is constrained by Maeda's outline. So I'm confident that Niijima's strengths will truly shine through, like they haven't since Hatsusaku.
    And my optimism has been boosted further by all the Summer Pockets info released this past week. Not only are the character designs and backgrounds beautiful, but the excerpts of scenes with each heroine are charming and demonstrate that yes, this is Niijima at his finest.
    On a final note, it's very possible that Summer Pockets will be delayed--hopefully not past 2018--because Niijima's recent tweet indicated that he's not at all confident he'll be done with the scenario in time for a June 29 release.
     
    ~ Kimi to Mezameru Ikutsuka no Houhou (Navel) - April 27 ~

    I won't say a lot about this one. I'm not a Navel expert; I've watched the Shuffle anime, and read Oretsuba and Tsuriotsu, but that's it.
    One reason I'm so optimistic about Kimimeza is rooted in the way Navel handles their creative works. A cynical way to look at it is that they squeeze all their works dry with at least one or two fandiscs, often way more than that. A better way to look at it is that they rarely put out a title that doesn't deserve fandiscs. Navel has finally moved on from Tsuriotsu, and I believe they haven't done so casually.
    The real question, to me, is how much of a creative role Jackson will play. A fair amount of what made Tsuriotsu so special to me came from Jackson (yes, I'm aware of what interviews and such say, and I believe it's deceptive). We know Jackson does miscellaneous work for Navel, but will he involve himself in this new VN? Or will Navel just let Kazuki Fumi do what he wants within a particular framework, and hope for a decent reception?
    Even if Kazumi Fumi doesn't receive any support from Jackson, Kimimeza could still wildly succeed. He's a talented writer who wrote Gun Knight Girl and Akeiro Kaikitan, among others, and the constraints of Navel's brand identity could help refine the finished product into one that's broadly appreciated. The premise of Kimimeza feels really interesting, not overly generic but not silly or half-assed either--it's the premise of Chobits where a guy finds an abandoned android, except the girl isn't an android, she's disguised as an android but actually a victim of human organ trafficking, plus there are apparently assassins.
    Although the story seems like it'll be exciting, the fact that there are only 3 main heroines makes me wonder if Kimimeza will be smaller-scale than Tsuriotsu. Still, there are plenty of reasons to pay attention.
     
    ~ Rance 10 (Alice Soft) - February 23 ~

    Rance needs no introduction, and doesn't lack proponents. The Rance games are always above average in quality, and they always sell well.
    In case you hadn't heard about Rance 10 in particular, it will be the final one in the series. As the concluding chapter, the big question is whether fans will consider this a fitting end that wraps everything up the way they hope it will. My gut is telling me that it will be.
    What's also awesome about Rance 10 is that once it's out and the series is over, people like me who aren't into the series will no longer have to feel jealous that they can't join in on the hype.
     
    ~ Minikui Mojika no Ko (Nitroplus) - Summer ~

    The literary core of the current Nitroplus, and the brain behind many ambitious and unique titles, Shimokura Vio, is making a new eroge.
    I haven't researched this much, and not a lot has been announced either (maybe more has been mentioned in interviews that I'm just not aware of). The tagline is "I (僕) know your ugliness (醜さ)" and the title is a play on "The Ugly Duckling". "Mojika" is probably a reference to 文字禍 (lit. "letter calamity"), Nakajima Atsushi's 1942 short story about a fatal curse upon an Assyrian king, which originated from a spirit (霊) of written language (文字). I'm not someone who reads classic Japanese literature, so I don't know more than that. In any case, my impression is that it will be another deconstructive work by Shimokura.
     
    ~ Sakura no Toki (Makura) - TBA ~

    Is it stupid of me to assume that the sequel to Sakura no Uta, of all VNs, will actually come out within a mere year, rather than suffer delay after delay? Probably, but it's being steadily developed and Sca-ji initially aimed to release it in 2017, so the whole of 2018 should be enough time, unless... well, unless history repeats itself.
    Again, this will be the sequel to Sakura no Uta, the best VN in the last half a decade. And it'll be done by the same writer, and probably mostly the same audiovisual staff (too lazy to check). Although it's possible that it won't be as ambitious as Sakura no Uta, it will naturally feature Sca-ji's writing and have some excellent parts, and probably be rated highly too.
    I don't have much to say about Rance 10, Minikui Mojika no Ko, and Sakura no Toki, because their staff situations aren't as complicated as Summer Pockets and Kimimeza, as far as I can tell.
     
    ~ Other Notable Titles~
    Many other VNs will be both announced and released in 2018, so this is far from a representative portion, but here a few other titles that caught my eye. Sorry if I missed your favorites, hypothetical reader.
    Kieta Sekai to Tsuki no Shoujo on January 26: A collaboration between La'cryma and Hiyoko Soft. I love Kamiya (writer of fortissimo), but although he's involved with the scenario, it doesn't seem like he's personally writing it. The developers announced they'd be deliberately concealing the staff who work on this. I'm also a little afraid it may repeat the mistakes of Lass with an overly dark scenario. But it's worth paying attention to. Butterfly Seeker on March 30: Another Silky's Plus VN, this one is from Unabara Nozomu, writer of Fairytale Requiem and Shinsou Noise. (The writer of Apeiria doesn't have any announced VNs in the works, if you were wondering.) Riddle Joker on March 30: The new Yuzusoft VN. Many moege fans swear by Yuzusoft, and although their VNs usually aren't rated very high, they sell very well. Toishi Hiroki (an apparently decent writer) will also be taking part in this one.  
    ~ Other Predictions for 2018 ~

     
    My wild prediction is that 2018 will be the year that people accept that the eroge industry won't be pumping out kamige like Fate/stay night or Muv-Luv Alternative reliably any more, and won't be standing at the cutting edge of moe again anytime soon, but still has unique worth as a medium and will continue to steadily produce awesome works that rival any popular anime or manga. The big investors and talented writers are mostly gone, but in exchange, studios are getting smarter and playing to the medium's strengths. Maybe we'll also see people categorize less in terms of eroge versus console ADV, and more in terms of (doujin) eroge versus commercial ADV.
     
  21. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from fun2novel for a blog entry, 2018, A Year of Possibility in Visual Novels   
    2018, A Year of Possibility in Visual Novels

    [source]
    ~ Leaving Behind the Old Year ~
    Let's face it. 2017 was not an impressive year for Japanese visual novels.
    Sure, the OELVN scene had a breakout hit in the form of Doki Doki Literature Club.
    Sure, the VN localization industry amazed everyone with prominent official releases of super-popular titles like Muv-Luv Alternative, Little Busters, and the never-before-translated Subarashiki Hibi, Dies irae, and Chaos;Child, to name a few.
    But the heart of the visual novel industry remains in Japan. And this year has been fairly mediocre for it.
    I mean, if you take a look at the numbers on Erogamescape (also known as EGS, it's Japan's equivalent of VNDB), you'll find that Hikari no Umi no Apeiria [vndb], and Nora to Oujo to Noraneko Heart 2 [vndb] were the only VNs with a median around the mid-80's or higher and more than a hundred votes [EGS source data]. For reference, 2016 had 6 titles at that level: Island, Chaos;Child, Akeiro Kaikitan, Utawarerumono 3, Tokyo Necro, and Baldr Heart.
    Of course, that data point doesn't tell the full story. EGS is geared toward eroge players; in terms of pure adventure games (also known as ADV, the common way Japanese players refer to visual novels) New Danganronpa V3 [vndb] was very well-received. (V3 is also the only 2017 VN among VNDB's top 100.) The very recently released Kiniro Loveriche's [vndb] reception has been extremely positive, and though it hasn't had time to accumulate votes yet, I'm optimistic it will stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Apeiria. It's not like there aren't an assortment of noteworthy VNs that merely fall short of the top tier statistically, such as Ouka Sabaki [vndb] and ChronoBox [vndb]. Fans of particular studios like SMEE [vndb], Purple software [vndb], and Moonstone [vndb] were also able to get their fix this year. The VN industry is far from dead; if anything, it's evolving to fill various niches.
    But that's a whole other topic. The bottom line is I'm ready to move on from 2017. And once you see what's in store for us in 2018, I'm sure you will be, too.
     
     
    ~ Ringing in the New Year, Along with Potential Kamige ~
    Every year has promising titles. Unfortunately, they often don't live up to their promise. Still, some titles are so promising--the studios behind them so reputable, the staff working on them so consistent, so little room for error--that it's hard not to get excited.
    There are, in my opinion, 5 such confirmed titles for 2018.
     
    ~ Summer Pockets (Key) - June 29, Delay Likely ~

    Let's start with this one, because it's the one I'm personally most hyped for.
    To state the obvious, Summer Pocket is a major ADV from Key. No matter who the staff behind it is, you'd be foolish to underestimate it. Key's complete major titles are Kanon, Air, Clannad, Little Busters, and Rewrite. (I skipped Angel Beats because it's not complete.) Every one of these VNs is resoundingly famous.
    But let's pretend we don't know that Key, with its reputation for ambitious works that are patiently crafted rather than quickly pumped out, is behind Summer Pockets. Instead, let's take a look at the staff.
    The heart of Summer Pockets is Niijima Yuu. He's the mastermind behind Hatsuyuki Sakura, a massive hit from 2012. His prose is hilarious, fresh, and really endears you to the characters. With his tendency toward fanservice and lewd humor, and the way it's always hard to discern the supernatural from the metaphorical in his narratives, he has a lot in common with Maeda Jun. ...Hopefully you already knew this because you've read Hatsusaku. Nobody should miss out on that one, whether they're a romance fan, an action fan, a mystery fan, or a FEELS fan.
    Anyway, the problem with Niijima Yuu is that he can't be allowed too much creative control. If he is, you end up with the likes of his later works Majo Koi Nikki and Koi x Shin Ai Kanojo, where he made creative decisions that alienated many players. When he was with Saga Planets, they reined him in well. When he was with Amuse Craft, they obviously didn't. But he announced a period of self-reflection in response to Koikake's criticisms. And he adopted a very humble attitude in the first Summer Pockets interview from back in December 2016. Furthermore, Key is a company incredibly concerned about its brand identity, and on top of that, Summer Pocket is constrained by Maeda's outline. So I'm confident that Niijima's strengths will truly shine through, like they haven't since Hatsusaku.
    And my optimism has been boosted further by all the Summer Pockets info released this past week. Not only are the character designs and backgrounds beautiful, but the excerpts of scenes with each heroine are charming and demonstrate that yes, this is Niijima at his finest.
    On a final note, it's very possible that Summer Pockets will be delayed--hopefully not past 2018--because Niijima's recent tweet indicated that he's not at all confident he'll be done with the scenario in time for a June 29 release.
     
    ~ Kimi to Mezameru Ikutsuka no Houhou (Navel) - April 27 ~

    I won't say a lot about this one. I'm not a Navel expert; I've watched the Shuffle anime, and read Oretsuba and Tsuriotsu, but that's it.
    One reason I'm so optimistic about Kimimeza is rooted in the way Navel handles their creative works. A cynical way to look at it is that they squeeze all their works dry with at least one or two fandiscs, often way more than that. A better way to look at it is that they rarely put out a title that doesn't deserve fandiscs. Navel has finally moved on from Tsuriotsu, and I believe they haven't done so casually.
    The real question, to me, is how much of a creative role Jackson will play. A fair amount of what made Tsuriotsu so special to me came from Jackson (yes, I'm aware of what interviews and such say, and I believe it's deceptive). We know Jackson does miscellaneous work for Navel, but will he involve himself in this new VN? Or will Navel just let Kazuki Fumi do what he wants within a particular framework, and hope for a decent reception?
    Even if Kazumi Fumi doesn't receive any support from Jackson, Kimimeza could still wildly succeed. He's a talented writer who wrote Gun Knight Girl and Akeiro Kaikitan, among others, and the constraints of Navel's brand identity could help refine the finished product into one that's broadly appreciated. The premise of Kimimeza feels really interesting, not overly generic but not silly or half-assed either--it's the premise of Chobits where a guy finds an abandoned android, except the girl isn't an android, she's disguised as an android but actually a victim of human organ trafficking, plus there are apparently assassins.
    Although the story seems like it'll be exciting, the fact that there are only 3 main heroines makes me wonder if Kimimeza will be smaller-scale than Tsuriotsu. Still, there are plenty of reasons to pay attention.
     
    ~ Rance 10 (Alice Soft) - February 23 ~

    Rance needs no introduction, and doesn't lack proponents. The Rance games are always above average in quality, and they always sell well.
    In case you hadn't heard about Rance 10 in particular, it will be the final one in the series. As the concluding chapter, the big question is whether fans will consider this a fitting end that wraps everything up the way they hope it will. My gut is telling me that it will be.
    What's also awesome about Rance 10 is that once it's out and the series is over, people like me who aren't into the series will no longer have to feel jealous that they can't join in on the hype.
     
    ~ Minikui Mojika no Ko (Nitroplus) - Summer ~

    The literary core of the current Nitroplus, and the brain behind many ambitious and unique titles, Shimokura Vio, is making a new eroge.
    I haven't researched this much, and not a lot has been announced either (maybe more has been mentioned in interviews that I'm just not aware of). The tagline is "I (僕) know your ugliness (醜さ)" and the title is a play on "The Ugly Duckling". "Mojika" is probably a reference to 文字禍 (lit. "letter calamity"), Nakajima Atsushi's 1942 short story about a fatal curse upon an Assyrian king, which originated from a spirit (霊) of written language (文字). I'm not someone who reads classic Japanese literature, so I don't know more than that. In any case, my impression is that it will be another deconstructive work by Shimokura.
     
    ~ Sakura no Toki (Makura) - TBA ~

    Is it stupid of me to assume that the sequel to Sakura no Uta, of all VNs, will actually come out within a mere year, rather than suffer delay after delay? Probably, but it's being steadily developed and Sca-ji initially aimed to release it in 2017, so the whole of 2018 should be enough time, unless... well, unless history repeats itself.
    Again, this will be the sequel to Sakura no Uta, the best VN in the last half a decade. And it'll be done by the same writer, and probably mostly the same audiovisual staff (too lazy to check). Although it's possible that it won't be as ambitious as Sakura no Uta, it will naturally feature Sca-ji's writing and have some excellent parts, and probably be rated highly too.
    I don't have much to say about Rance 10, Minikui Mojika no Ko, and Sakura no Toki, because their staff situations aren't as complicated as Summer Pockets and Kimimeza, as far as I can tell.
     
    ~ Other Notable Titles~
    Many other VNs will be both announced and released in 2018, so this is far from a representative portion, but here a few other titles that caught my eye. Sorry if I missed your favorites, hypothetical reader.
    Kieta Sekai to Tsuki no Shoujo on January 26: A collaboration between La'cryma and Hiyoko Soft. I love Kamiya (writer of fortissimo), but although he's involved with the scenario, it doesn't seem like he's personally writing it. The developers announced they'd be deliberately concealing the staff who work on this. I'm also a little afraid it may repeat the mistakes of Lass with an overly dark scenario. But it's worth paying attention to. Butterfly Seeker on March 30: Another Silky's Plus VN, this one is from Unabara Nozomu, writer of Fairytale Requiem and Shinsou Noise. (The writer of Apeiria doesn't have any announced VNs in the works, if you were wondering.) Riddle Joker on March 30: The new Yuzusoft VN. Many moege fans swear by Yuzusoft, and although their VNs usually aren't rated very high, they sell very well. Toishi Hiroki (an apparently decent writer) will also be taking part in this one.  
    ~ Other Predictions for 2018 ~

     
    My wild prediction is that 2018 will be the year that people accept that the eroge industry won't be pumping out kamige like Fate/stay night or Muv-Luv Alternative reliably any more, and won't be standing at the cutting edge of moe again anytime soon, but still has unique worth as a medium and will continue to steadily produce awesome works that rival any popular anime or manga. The big investors and talented writers are mostly gone, but in exchange, studios are getting smarter and playing to the medium's strengths. Maybe we'll also see people categorize less in terms of eroge versus console ADV, and more in terms of (doujin) eroge versus commercial ADV.
     
  22. Like
    MayoeruHitori got a reaction from Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, 2018, A Year of Possibility in Visual Novels   
    2018, A Year of Possibility in Visual Novels

    [source]
    ~ Leaving Behind the Old Year ~
    Let's face it. 2017 was not an impressive year for Japanese visual novels.
    Sure, the OELVN scene had a breakout hit in the form of Doki Doki Literature Club.
    Sure, the VN localization industry amazed everyone with prominent official releases of super-popular titles like Muv-Luv Alternative, Little Busters, and the never-before-translated Subarashiki Hibi, Dies irae, and Chaos;Child, to name a few.
    But the heart of the visual novel industry remains in Japan. And this year has been fairly mediocre for it.
    I mean, if you take a look at the numbers on Erogamescape (also known as EGS, it's Japan's equivalent of VNDB), you'll find that Hikari no Umi no Apeiria [vndb], and Nora to Oujo to Noraneko Heart 2 [vndb] were the only VNs with a median around the mid-80's or higher and more than a hundred votes [EGS source data]. For reference, 2016 had 6 titles at that level: Island, Chaos;Child, Akeiro Kaikitan, Utawarerumono 3, Tokyo Necro, and Baldr Heart.
    Of course, that data point doesn't tell the full story. EGS is geared toward eroge players; in terms of pure adventure games (also known as ADV, the common way Japanese players refer to visual novels) New Danganronpa V3 [vndb] was very well-received. (V3 is also the only 2017 VN among VNDB's top 100.) The very recently released Kiniro Loveriche's [vndb] reception has been extremely positive, and though it hasn't had time to accumulate votes yet, I'm optimistic it will stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Apeiria. It's not like there aren't an assortment of noteworthy VNs that merely fall short of the top tier statistically, such as Ouka Sabaki [vndb] and ChronoBox [vndb]. Fans of particular studios like SMEE [vndb], Purple software [vndb], and Moonstone [vndb] were also able to get their fix this year. The VN industry is far from dead; if anything, it's evolving to fill various niches.
    But that's a whole other topic. The bottom line is I'm ready to move on from 2017. And once you see what's in store for us in 2018, I'm sure you will be, too.
     
     
    ~ Ringing in the New Year, Along with Potential Kamige ~
    Every year has promising titles. Unfortunately, they often don't live up to their promise. Still, some titles are so promising--the studios behind them so reputable, the staff working on them so consistent, so little room for error--that it's hard not to get excited.
    There are, in my opinion, 5 such confirmed titles for 2018.
     
    ~ Summer Pockets (Key) - June 29, Delay Likely ~

    Let's start with this one, because it's the one I'm personally most hyped for.
    To state the obvious, Summer Pocket is a major ADV from Key. No matter who the staff behind it is, you'd be foolish to underestimate it. Key's complete major titles are Kanon, Air, Clannad, Little Busters, and Rewrite. (I skipped Angel Beats because it's not complete.) Every one of these VNs is resoundingly famous.
    But let's pretend we don't know that Key, with its reputation for ambitious works that are patiently crafted rather than quickly pumped out, is behind Summer Pockets. Instead, let's take a look at the staff.
    The heart of Summer Pockets is Niijima Yuu. He's the mastermind behind Hatsuyuki Sakura, a massive hit from 2012. His prose is hilarious, fresh, and really endears you to the characters. With his tendency toward fanservice and lewd humor, and the way it's always hard to discern the supernatural from the metaphorical in his narratives, he has a lot in common with Maeda Jun. ...Hopefully you already knew this because you've read Hatsusaku. Nobody should miss out on that one, whether they're a romance fan, an action fan, a mystery fan, or a FEELS fan.
    Anyway, the problem with Niijima Yuu is that he can't be allowed too much creative control. If he is, you end up with the likes of his later works Majo Koi Nikki and Koi x Shin Ai Kanojo, where he made creative decisions that alienated many players. When he was with Saga Planets, they reined him in well. When he was with Amuse Craft, they obviously didn't. But he announced a period of self-reflection in response to Koikake's criticisms. And he adopted a very humble attitude in the first Summer Pockets interview from back in December 2016. Furthermore, Key is a company incredibly concerned about its brand identity, and on top of that, Summer Pocket is constrained by Maeda's outline. So I'm confident that Niijima's strengths will truly shine through, like they haven't since Hatsusaku.
    And my optimism has been boosted further by all the Summer Pockets info released this past week. Not only are the character designs and backgrounds beautiful, but the excerpts of scenes with each heroine are charming and demonstrate that yes, this is Niijima at his finest.
    On a final note, it's very possible that Summer Pockets will be delayed--hopefully not past 2018--because Niijima's recent tweet indicated that he's not at all confident he'll be done with the scenario in time for a June 29 release.
     
    ~ Kimi to Mezameru Ikutsuka no Houhou (Navel) - April 27 ~

    I won't say a lot about this one. I'm not a Navel expert; I've watched the Shuffle anime, and read Oretsuba and Tsuriotsu, but that's it.
    One reason I'm so optimistic about Kimimeza is rooted in the way Navel handles their creative works. A cynical way to look at it is that they squeeze all their works dry with at least one or two fandiscs, often way more than that. A better way to look at it is that they rarely put out a title that doesn't deserve fandiscs. Navel has finally moved on from Tsuriotsu, and I believe they haven't done so casually.
    The real question, to me, is how much of a creative role Jackson will play. A fair amount of what made Tsuriotsu so special to me came from Jackson (yes, I'm aware of what interviews and such say, and I believe it's deceptive). We know Jackson does miscellaneous work for Navel, but will he involve himself in this new VN? Or will Navel just let Kazuki Fumi do what he wants within a particular framework, and hope for a decent reception?
    Even if Kazumi Fumi doesn't receive any support from Jackson, Kimimeza could still wildly succeed. He's a talented writer who wrote Gun Knight Girl and Akeiro Kaikitan, among others, and the constraints of Navel's brand identity could help refine the finished product into one that's broadly appreciated. The premise of Kimimeza feels really interesting, not overly generic but not silly or half-assed either--it's the premise of Chobits where a guy finds an abandoned android, except the girl isn't an android, she's disguised as an android but actually a victim of human organ trafficking, plus there are apparently assassins.
    Although the story seems like it'll be exciting, the fact that there are only 3 main heroines makes me wonder if Kimimeza will be smaller-scale than Tsuriotsu. Still, there are plenty of reasons to pay attention.
     
    ~ Rance 10 (Alice Soft) - February 23 ~

    Rance needs no introduction, and doesn't lack proponents. The Rance games are always above average in quality, and they always sell well.
    In case you hadn't heard about Rance 10 in particular, it will be the final one in the series. As the concluding chapter, the big question is whether fans will consider this a fitting end that wraps everything up the way they hope it will. My gut is telling me that it will be.
    What's also awesome about Rance 10 is that once it's out and the series is over, people like me who aren't into the series will no longer have to feel jealous that they can't join in on the hype.
     
    ~ Minikui Mojika no Ko (Nitroplus) - Summer ~

    The literary core of the current Nitroplus, and the brain behind many ambitious and unique titles, Shimokura Vio, is making a new eroge.
    I haven't researched this much, and not a lot has been announced either (maybe more has been mentioned in interviews that I'm just not aware of). The tagline is "I (僕) know your ugliness (醜さ)" and the title is a play on "The Ugly Duckling". "Mojika" is probably a reference to 文字禍 (lit. "letter calamity"), Nakajima Atsushi's 1942 short story about a fatal curse upon an Assyrian king, which originated from a spirit (霊) of written language (文字). I'm not someone who reads classic Japanese literature, so I don't know more than that. In any case, my impression is that it will be another deconstructive work by Shimokura.
     
    ~ Sakura no Toki (Makura) - TBA ~

    Is it stupid of me to assume that the sequel to Sakura no Uta, of all VNs, will actually come out within a mere year, rather than suffer delay after delay? Probably, but it's being steadily developed and Sca-ji initially aimed to release it in 2017, so the whole of 2018 should be enough time, unless... well, unless history repeats itself.
    Again, this will be the sequel to Sakura no Uta, the best VN in the last half a decade. And it'll be done by the same writer, and probably mostly the same audiovisual staff (too lazy to check). Although it's possible that it won't be as ambitious as Sakura no Uta, it will naturally feature Sca-ji's writing and have some excellent parts, and probably be rated highly too.
    I don't have much to say about Rance 10, Minikui Mojika no Ko, and Sakura no Toki, because their staff situations aren't as complicated as Summer Pockets and Kimimeza, as far as I can tell.
     
    ~ Other Notable Titles~
    Many other VNs will be both announced and released in 2018, so this is far from a representative portion, but here a few other titles that caught my eye. Sorry if I missed your favorites, hypothetical reader.
    Kieta Sekai to Tsuki no Shoujo on January 26: A collaboration between La'cryma and Hiyoko Soft. I love Kamiya (writer of fortissimo), but although he's involved with the scenario, it doesn't seem like he's personally writing it. The developers announced they'd be deliberately concealing the staff who work on this. I'm also a little afraid it may repeat the mistakes of Lass with an overly dark scenario. But it's worth paying attention to. Butterfly Seeker on March 30: Another Silky's Plus VN, this one is from Unabara Nozomu, writer of Fairytale Requiem and Shinsou Noise. (The writer of Apeiria doesn't have any announced VNs in the works, if you were wondering.) Riddle Joker on March 30: The new Yuzusoft VN. Many moege fans swear by Yuzusoft, and although their VNs usually aren't rated very high, they sell very well. Toishi Hiroki (an apparently decent writer) will also be taking part in this one.  
    ~ Other Predictions for 2018 ~

     
    My wild prediction is that 2018 will be the year that people accept that the eroge industry won't be pumping out kamige like Fate/stay night or Muv-Luv Alternative reliably any more, and won't be standing at the cutting edge of moe again anytime soon, but still has unique worth as a medium and will continue to steadily produce awesome works that rival any popular anime or manga. The big investors and talented writers are mostly gone, but in exchange, studios are getting smarter and playing to the medium's strengths. Maybe we'll also see people categorize less in terms of eroge versus console ADV, and more in terms of (doujin) eroge versus commercial ADV.
     
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