Romeo Tanaka’s New Visual Novel: Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu – An Insider Look at the Visual Novel Industry
Romeo Tanaka is best known in the English-speaking anime fandom for writing Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, one of the better light novel series out there. He’s also a visual novel writer, and two of the titles he’s worked will be getting anime adaptations next year: Rewrite and Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu.
Today, I’m here to hype up Kouya. The full version of the game hasn’t actually been released yet (it’s coming out on the 25th March 2016), but a trial version came out a couple of days ago. I played it and I have opinions. I feel it is my God sworn duty to hype up the game and its upcoming adaptation for all you visual novel fans out there.
For those of you who don’t care about visual novels, there is no hype. The anime will be shit. I guarantee it.
Here’s the synopsis (courtesy of vndb):
Buntarou doesn’t know what he wants to do in the future, he does not have any kind of dream that he wants to pursue. So currently he just spends his days hanging around with his friends. When one day his classmate Sayuki asks him if he wants to help with development of a galge. She says that she had become interested in his help after she read one his works intended for the drama club.
Buntarou doesn’t know anything about gal games but Sayuki claims that she has the ability to make it a success. Can they make the game and will it be a success like she claims it will be? This is the story of youths taking a daring step into the unknown…
And here’s the anime PV:
This PV is a very good representation of the Kouya story. “What story?” you ask. That’s the point. The VN is almost pure slice of life in its presentation. It involves a bunch of high school kids making a visual novel, a la Saekano, and just like Saekano there are no real stakes nor tension – at least, not in the 5-6 hour trial version I played. It won’t be an interesting anime, visually speaking. Most of the interest will come from the story’s insider perspective on making visual novels, written by a guy who clearly knows his stuff.
Our heroine Sayuki is an interesting girl. Her brother works in the VN industry, which explains how she has access to so much insider knowledge. I also suspect (although it wasn’t outright stated in the trial) that her obsession with creating a pro-level visual novel while she is still in high school is driven by a desire to reach her brother’s level. Whatever her reasons, she knows what’s commercially appealing and what’s not. When Buntarou samples a romcom visual novel and says he finds all the slice of life content boring, she explains to him that high-profile visual novels are expected to have more padding in them in order to justify the high price. Considering that Kouya will cost ¥9,800 (and the limited edition will cost ¥12,800), I can’t help but wonder if the game is making a meta-commentary on itself.
Sayuki also helpfully explains all the roles involved in creating a visual novel. The game tends to explain every little detail, but some of this stuff I genuinely didn’t know. I’ll just translate the important stuff for you:
How to make a visual novel for dummies: The visual novel production team
The person who writes the scripts for a PC game. They can also double up as producers, and plenty of them are directors as well.
While some write the script alone, there are also cases where a number of people write each scene separately. Since there’s a demand these days for scenarios in PC games to have a lot of content, it’s difficult to write an entire route by oneself, but nevertheless it’s quite common for scenario writers to want to write it all themselves.
To become a game scenario writer, you can simply submit your script to a company, and if they think it’s good, you’ll get the job on the spot.
There’s a lot of variation among scenario writers when it comes to output and speed, and many writers get paid between ¥500-2000 per kilobyte of text. 1 kilobyte is approximately 500 Japanese characters, so while some people get paid ¥1 per character, others are paid ¥4.
Ducer (short for “producer”)
The person who holds all the real power over the production of a PC game.
In most cases, power over the production process is given to the director while the producer is in charge of the production costs, PR, sales etc., but in PC game production, the same person often assumes all those roles, so it’s an extremely important and taxing job.
Since they’re going to the workplace, talking with various people and accumulating information, knowledge and a desire for more money, they need to be able to get money together for a budget, a strategy for spreading the word across town, and the ability to communicate with potential benefactors… they’re pretty much managers.
Not only is their skill set somewhat unusual, it’s extremely rare for people to aim for that position from the start of their careers, so they receive a considerable remuneration. However, while they might be able to keep their position if they do the job properly and the game sells, they will be replaced by someone else if the game doesn’t sell, so it’s an extremely high-risk job.
The person in charge of the key illustrations in a PC game.
While some illustrators join the team after studying basic drawing skills at an art school or technical school, others may attract a company’s eye by uploading their illustrations on an online art community or their homepage, but most of them start off by submitting their own work and doing small jobs selling their art for money.
Though it’s preferable to work on-site, many illustrators enjoy working from home, and in those cases the illustrator needs good concentration skills and self-discipline since they have to keep strict control of the schedule and budget.
Since colouring is the next step of the illustrating process, it’s necessary for colourers to have a detailed meeting as early as possible to make the job easier.
Many illustrators are paid per drawing, so it’s necessary for them to balance their workload and profits to a certain degree. Since they are paid purely by the amount they draw, it is possible for a quick illustrator to reap huge benefits.
(Note: “Genga” (ゲンガー) is based off the Japanese word 原画, which is also used in anime production to denote key animation – or, more precisely, the initial drawings upon which the animation (or douga) is based. Sayuki is confident that this word will eventually be adopted into the English language, just like sushi. It’s definitely a useful word, so try to remember it.)
Grammer (short for “programmer”)
The person in charge of the programming in a PC game.
They have a good grasp of programming skills, and their main job is to operate the game engine. The engine is a collection of programs that processes the graphics and sounds necessary for games, but when it comes to ADV* games, a lot of emphasis is placed, not on complex functions and machine power, but on sophisticated 2D graphics and reducing the number of bugs.
Again, since many of them develop the system in teams, they need more than just programming skills – communication skills and managements skills are highly sought after as well.
A lot of problems come up during the scripting and debugging sessions, so most programmers panic and get nervous at those times.
The overall number of people who can do programming work is low, so the pay is stable. However, programmers who are confident in their skills can take part in multiple large projects at the same time, so it is possible for them to make a significant profit.
* ADV = Adventure, as in “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. This is the Japanese term for the kind of visual novel where your choices affect the ending.
Phicker (short for “graphicker” or “graphics artist”)
The person in charge of colouring the illustrations in a PC game.
Their main job is to use CG (Computer Graphics) and colour the line drawings produced by the illustrator. Many technical schools offer CG courses, and it is possible to learn the specialised knowledge necessary to handle painting software, so this job is easy to get. Not only do they need technological know-how to use CG tools, they need the creative power to grasp what the illustrator was trying to express with their drawings and convey it in 3D.
There are many cases where graphic artists take up a part-time job colouring and then join the company after they get recognised for their skills, as well as cases where they are judged according to the approach they took to the chosen title. Plenty of illustrators double up as a graphics chiefs, but in those cases, they work concurrently on illustrations and graphics, so they need stamina, willpower and concentration.
When the work is done in-house, it is possible for graphics artists to work and do retakes at the same time, but when the art is outsourced, most of it is done on a unit-by-unit basis, so it is quite likely that retakes will be a major source of problems.
Ripter (short for “scripter”)
The person in charge of the script of a PC game.
They carry out the job of making the game more colourful and fun to play for the user, which they achieve by fiddling with the scripting language provided by the game engine. They figure out the game’s theme and clarify how to get from A to B. From there, they prepare and gather the materials for the finer details. They are directors sought after for their both their creativity and technological prowess.
They piece together all the separate elements like graphics, sound and text into one cohesive game, which means that their workload is huge towards the latter half of the game production – not to mention they cover a lot of different jobs.
While they might be an extremely necessary part of the project, they do not actually have much to do until all the materials are gathered, so it is difficult for them to get a high wage.
The business of dubbing for anime, Western films, commercials, narration in television shows, and, last but not least, games.
There are also cases where they are asked to perform a wide range of activities: event performances, singing, and so on.
When it comes to games, they voice act according to the script. Through their acting, they bring the characters to life, and so plenty of users are delighted with the voices.
There are many cases where prospective voice actors enter a technical school and audition for a seiyuu production. It is one of the occupations admired by many young people. For that reason, it is highly competitive.
And finally, here are all the CGs present in the trial version:
There you go, now you don’t have to play the trial yourself. If you do want to, though, there’s a download link here. It’s only in Japanese for now, so have fun waiting years for this to get translated. On the plus side, it should be relatively easy to translate, although there are lots of pop culture references that should probably go over your head.
The preview at the end of the trial hints that the full game will involve dealing with a VN company. I’m not sure if I’ll have the time or patience to play the full game, but I’d appreciate it if someone could play through it and share the juicy VN industry knowledge, as I’ve done here.
So what did I think of this game overall? As a game, it was a bit of a disappointment. Romeo Tanaka is well known for his powerful, poetic prose, but it was mostly absent from this game. He does make up for it somewhat by creating likable characters, and the story convey the MC’s restlessness with his life very well. But it’s still pretty cookie-cutter VN writing overall.
There are some great scenes, though. I think my favourite part was when the MC’s friend, who has up till then been such a sweet, self-effacing guy, suddenly flips his shit about his ex-girlfriend and declares that 3D girls can all go suck a dick. Sayuki applauds and tells him, “Your hatred of the 3D realm will be useful for making a game,” and lets him join the team.
There’s also another amusing part where one of the girls (Rias Gremory with glasses) argues with Sayuki because she wants to make a BL game. I personally thought a bishojo visual novel about making a BL game would be really interesting and unconventional, but alas, Sayuki shoots down the idea straight away. This causes the two girls to have a major fight… only for it all to get smoothed over two scenes later.
Honestly, that’s probably the biggest problem with the game. The plot works entirely in service of the meta-narrative about making a visual novel. The conflicts and relationships between the characters take a back seat whenever the visual novel explanations become a focus. For example, the story is set into motion when Sayuki asks Buntarou to go on a date with her out of the blue, but Buntarou’s romantic feelings are never mentioned again after Sayuki convinces him to make a visual novel. It’s also a bit jarring to see Buntarou transform from “visual novel noob” to “addict” literally overnight.
These issues aside, I think visual novel fans should find Kouya an entertaining read. So, yeah. If you have any questions about the game, feel free to ask. While I don’t know everything there is to know about the game, I can look up any information you’re interested in, hopefully.
In the meantime… GET HYPE FOR THE FULL GAME/ANIME! WOOHOO!
Posted on October 29, 2015, in Reviews and Impressions, Translations and tagged jinrui wa suitai shimashita, rewrite, romeo tanaka, saekano, shoujo-tachi wa kouya wo mezasu, visual novel. Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.