Today’s Goals and Jobs – 4/11/2016

Here are my goals and the jobs I’m working on for 4/11/2016. Thanks for all your help and support! Remember to follow me on Twitter to get more updates.

What’s Going On:

I met my goal, here are the translations and Fawful Friday articles:

Kisaragi x Velour C

Foleo x Soleil C

Foleo  x Soleil  B

Deere x Joker C

Deere x Joker B

Deere x Joker A

Kisaragi Skinship Lines

Translation: Interview with Keiko Erikawa

Translation: Games are Poison for Children?

Marx/Marks Character Name Poll

Elfie/Elfy/Elfi Character Name Poll

Today’s Goals

  • Translate as much as I can even if I can’t upload it.

Possible Complications: Holy moley! It took me about 20 tries of reloading to get this “add new post window” to finally appear and who knows how many times it will take until it actually posts it. Something in my area seems to be interfering with my internet connection, because I feel like I’m some modem computer scientists used in the 80s or something. I don’t know if it’ll get better today, but if it doesn’t, I’ll be translating in the background, so that I can upload them all in a batch once it gets better.

How you can help out: Err, pray for my internet connection? Or if you’re irreligious, vaguely hope in its direction?

Jobs I Need Done

  • I will always and forever need people to comment on my translations as much they can.
  • Vote! It’s spoiler free. If you’re waiting for the translation patch, these polls aren’t going to ruin anything for you.
  • I’m going to continue to request help for the method of doing in-page links, because nothing I’ve tried so far is working!

As always, there’s a page to discuss matter with others or contact me about how they’d like to help out with the Fire Emblem Fates project. It’s been updated to a new page for April. You can use that page for April to discuss things with other members in a more general nature. Thank you for all the people who contacted me or contributed so far! Much love and respect! As well, don’t forget there’s also a page for you to request any kind of Japanese information you need, regardless of whether it’s about Fire Emblem Fates or not. This page has also been updated for April.

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Translation: An Interview with Keiko Erikawa, the Pioneer of Games Marketed Toward Women

Keiko Erikawa

Keiko Erikawa has one of the longest careers in video gaming, having been around since its early inception and is still active today. She’s done many, many interviews, but I thought this one by Famitsu done on June 29th of 2015 asking about the Angelique series and her neologistic Neo Romance genre, which many overseas gamers are not aware of, would be of most interest. So brew up whatever drink you prefer, settle down in your favorite sitting device and learn how one of gaming’s pioneers pretty much single-handedly created the otome genre of romance games about pretty guys marketed toward women, as I translate the Famitsu interview in its entirety below.

An Interview with Keiko Erikawa, the Pioneer of Games Marketed Toward Women, Is There Going to Be “Surprising Announcement” Sometime This Year!?

Last year Koei Tecmo Games’ “Neo Romance” brand faced its 20th anniversary. We had Keiko Erikawa talk to us about the path from the birth of its first game Angelique to today and the future developments of Neo Romance.

Talking about the trails that lead to cultivating a new genre and the development from here on

Angelique, Harukanaru Toki no Naka De (Amidst Faraway Times), La Corda D’oro … … the series of women-marketed games that Koei prides itself on is called Neo Romance. The Ruby Party, or the development team where the female staff of the same company gather, has worked on these games and they’ve been known, with their high quality and media mix features, for capturing the hearts of many fans and developing from there. In September of 2014, it faced its 20th anniversary.

Games marketed toward women didn’t exist 20 years ago. What kind of work and struggles were there in creating a new genre and continuing to work in it? On top of that, what kind of new development are they thinking of from now on? We asked Ms. Keiko Erikawa of Koei Tecmo Games.

*This interview was published in the 2015 June 25th edition (on sale June 11th) of Weekly Famitsu Magazine.

Koei Tecmo Games CEO and Honorary President Keiko Erikawa

A business woman who supported Koei Tecmo Games and it’s predecessor Koei from the time they were founded. The woman who gave birth to New Romance and started up the Ruby Party development team at Koei Tecmo games. Currently, while she is involved in management on one side, she’s also deeply taking part in game making.

She Had Held onto the Concept of Games Marketed Toward from 30 Years Ago

――Congratulations on 20 years of Neo Romance. Today I think I’d like to inquire about all sorts of stories to you, Ms. Erikawa, as someone who was able to see the birth of games marketed toward women from then until today. To begin, please tell us what you think the impetus was to create the first Neo Romance, Angelique, around 20 years ago.

Keiko Erikawa (below, Erikawa)  Angelique went on sale in September of 1994, but the impetus was well before that. It was over 30 years ago that I developed The Investment Game and Combat together with Erikawa (Yoichi, also CEO and Honorary President of Koei Tecmo Games), but at that time all the customers were men.

Games were seen through men’s eyes. That’s when I came to think, “I’d like to create games marketed toward women” for women.

――Well before Angeliqe went on sale, you had the plans in mind for games targeting women then.

Erikawa Yes. At that time, in the development offices, there was only one woman, so I thought first we’ve got to hire more women. So then around the time right after we had released Nobunaga’s Ambition in 1983, we began looking for female developers. At the time there were only a few women who who were learning programing in the sciences, so we hired women from the humanities. Of course, we left up the scenarios to women.

――So you’re saying 10 years past since you started hiring women to the time that Angelique was finished?

Erikawa It took some time for the female staff to get used to making games. Because at the time it was common place for everyone you hired to have never developed a game before. So it took quite some time from the place where we started hiring women to the time when we could start up the Ruby Party development team.

――Certainly just because you’ve hired women doesn’t mean you can expect them to immediately take on the development of an unknown genre. As you continued to feel your way along, how did you come to develop Angelique?

Erikawa At first I thought if we’re going to make a game marketed toward women, we’d better put our whole weight into making it for women. The protagonist had to be a cute girl and her clothes had to be red. The interiors should be girly and pink. I myself actually don’t really like pink, but my daughter absolutely loved it. Then, because we wanted to have all sorts of lovely men appear in the game, we set the theme as Greek myth and created male characters with a ton of individuality. But it wasn’t much of a game. It had become something that wasn’t very fun if you looked at it as a game. (laughs)

――And why was that?

Erikawa Even though we were finished with the scenario, it wasn’t a romance game. We had done a weak job of creating gameplay where you achieved goals and compete. From there on it was time for Erikawa the game-making pro to make her entrance. I had them decide on a game system, and Angeliqe became a game where you could enjoy romance by competing with your rivals while you gained the cooperation of the guardian saints.

――What kind of reaction was there to Angelique when it went on sale back then?

Erikawa  Because as a game, there had been nothing like it before, it’s not like it sold like gangbusters. But from all around us, the praise was amazing. Saying, “There’s finally a game for women!” we were taken up by all sorts of media. “This is a great job you’ve done here for us,” we received a lot of letters from female users like that. I was glad we had piqued the interest of a lot of people. Except, like I said before, it didn’t become a big hit like the stuff for guys. But because I had understood it would be that way, that’s why I thought it should have a media mix from the very beginning.

――Before you even released the game?

Erikawa Yes. I thought that we couldn’t express everything in this setting we had gone through so much work to create in just a game. We released a drama CD around the same time that the game went on sale. Moreover, we thought around that period that we wanted to do anime and events too.

――You had thought to awaken female users to the new genre for them by preparing all sorts of content.

Erikawa That’s right, even if just a little of them were there, I wanted all of the female players to have fun. Within the company, there were opinions like, “The market is small and therefore even if we created games marketed toward women, they wouldn’t sell,” but I thought, “There is a market.” I’m glad that I kept holding on to that thought till it got through.

A Storm of Controversy From Fans in the First Held Event

――Speaking of the media mix in Neo Romance games, the events with the voice actors holds a special impression.

Erikawa The first event we held was in 1995. It was at a hall in Roppongi called Velfarre and was graciously sponsored by NEC. It was pretty nuts on the day of the event.  Customers were lined up in looooooong lines and even the police had to come.

――It was a time when even the management of such events was something you were feeling out.

Erikawa We thought of doing all sorts of things for the content of the event, but decided on a good atmosphere of combining ballet and music. The opinions from customers were split.  Some said, “It was totally great!” Others said, “This is totally different from what I expected!” The latter thought that it was different from the hardened image they of Angelique they had developed in their minds. So then our staff got scared away. They said, “There’s so many opinions against it, let’s not do another event.”

――What, they said to just limit it to one event?

Erikawa  There were some who said, “I want to do another event,” and even though it might need a little brushing up, it was said that “the customers will get angry with us.” Nobody would address a plan and I pushed it forward with an order from the top. I thought it’s quite difficult to create content marketed toward women when there’s no previous example.

――However, with you as the pioneer of Neo Romance, there has been a great deal of events with the voice actors until now.

Erikawa At the time, nobody had ever heard of the idea of doing a media mix among other game makers. The troubles of that time spur our liveliness now, I think.

Female Game Developers Increase from the Opportunities Brought by Neo Romance

――It’s been 20 years since you started up Neo Romance games, but how do you think the situation of female users changed since then?

Erikawa  Now with consoles and smart phone games, there’s lots of games aimed toward women and we have made a place for women to enjoy games. To the same extent, the way we look at games for women has improved, I think. The hurdle for male voice actors has risen and I think it’s rather tough for the voice actors.

――Because it’s an age where they’re expected to have presentation skills, sing and perform.

Erikawa It really is tough! But when I see voice actors splendidly rise to my expectations, I feel like I’ve seen the possibilities of voice actors in a whole new way.

――From the perspective of a creator, how has the situation for women changed?

Erikawa It’s really changed for female creators. Perhaps it’s best to say it has the feel of a generational leap? There are many people for whom Neo Romance was the impetus for them to enter engineering departments and many who aimed to enter the industry because they liked Angelique, and they come to try out for our entry tests. It’s a story that makes me grateful.

――You’re saying that Neo Romance became a motivating factor for women developers in the gaming industry to increase.

Erikawa Yes, it’s quite a happy thing.

――Ms. Erikawa, you’ve said for a while, that you “want to support women in their progress in wider society,” did you mean that among the backdrop of making games marketed toward women, you wanted to urge the hiring of women?

Erikawa  That’s true. Among the world, when it comes to how much women are venturing out into wider society, Japan is one of the countries that is very late. If women work well with men in their jobs, 1+1 can become not just 2, but 3. There are a lot of Japanese women who hesitate a lot, and there some men who aren’t good at working under women, but if women contribute more to society, it can become a nice society. I do want to create more managerial roles for women in our company. I want the women reading this article to be active, whether they’re doing jobs or raising children. In order to do that, I want them to learn more about their bodies and think hard about how they want to live their lives. I’ll be supporting them.

Aiming For Even More Accomplishments At the Crossroads of 20 Years

――From here on out, I’d like to ask more about Neo Romance games in the future. After facing a 20 year anniversary, what do you think you’d like to challenge yourself on in terms of plans from now on?

Erikawa Not long ago, we held an orchestral concert to commemorate the 20 year anniversary. We prepared videos related to the titles, called the voice actors and meticulously prepared every part and the reception was absolutely amazing.  I thought these events really have been accepted. From now on, at the crossroads of 20 years, I’d like to open up a new avenue for events and hold those. I want to try plans like traveling around the holy places in La Corda D’oro or Harukanaru Toki no Naka De (Amidst Far Away Times) where you can have a real experience. I want to create content that both men and women can enjoy.

――You’ve been planning Angelique Retour as a 20th Anniversary title, tell us about what this is.

Erikawa It’s a remake of the first Angelique. I’ve been creating it, thinking I want to fly to ever greater heights without betraying the setting.

――It looks like there are characters who didn’t appear in Angelique.

Erikawa Please look forward to it, because I want people who are touching Angelique for the first time and those who have long enjoyed it to have fun.

――Other than Angelique Retour, there are some expecting a new Neo Romance title, thinking it’s about time, how about it?

Erikawa I want to create new IPs. Because our company’s mission is to always keep creating new things. We’re continuing our plans for it, but because we’re trying all sorts of things, it will take 2 or 3 years. Even though it only takes other makers about a year to create them.

――But I think it’s because you put that amount of effort in making them well that the Neo Romance series has continued for 20 years.

Erikawa Thank you. There truly is so much I want to create. But because there is a limit to how many employees we have, I can’t do it all at once. Of course, I’d like to develop Angelique and comparatively new IPs like FabStyle and Geten no Hana (Flowers Under Heaven).

――It looks like there’s various plans in progress, so we’ll look forward to it. What is it that you want to especially pour your strength into?

Erikawa For me, it’s the progress of Geten no Hana (Flowers Under Heaven). I’ve been thinking I definitely want to do this. Then next, a new collaboration. I think I might be able to guide us to some projects that will surprise everyone. Please do look forward to them.

Erikawa is always interesting to listen to. As one of the people who’s been around since the dawn of the gaming industry, there’s a lot more she’s been involved in and has had an important role in, but those interviews will have to come at a later date.

Translation: There’s No Future in the Current Environment Where Criticism is Swallowed Down Without Any Skepticism, The Game Industry Has Started to Fall Down the Path to Hell

Tracer

Damonge, another Japanese gaming site which tends to have some strong focus on international news, recently published an editorial about one of the many controversies to rock the gaming world about female characters, specifically the Blizzard issue with Tracer and Overwatch. I’ve translated the article in full below:

There’s No Future in the Current Environment Where Criticism is Swallowed Down Without Any Skepticism, The Game Industry Has Started to Fall Down the Path to Hell

The Dangerous Censorship of Expression Seen in Blizzard’s Response.

By BIG MON on April 3rd, 2016

The Social Justice Voices Swallowing the Game Industry

These days, voices are shouting their opinions from on high to attack the portrayal of female characters in games and as they put pressure on game creators, throughout the world people involved in games are being swallowed into it.

Maybe it’s announcing the policy decision that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 European and North American releases would be canceled, or Street Fighter V making changes on its expressions due to bashing. All of these are companies’ responses related to the radical feminism (third-wave feminism) that is stirring up a whirlwind in Europe and North America.

This movement claims that “games spread misogynistic attitudes toward women,” and it has progressed on this basis, to the point that not even now huge worldwide corporations can’t ignore its voice. One incident that symbolizes that is probably the example of Blizzard.

Bringing the Influence Over Even Worldwide Corporations

In March Blizzard announced a decision to delete and change a pose from its new game Overwatch, receiving criticism that “a pose that unnecessarily emphasizes female sexuality” existed in the game.

Blizzard is a game company under the helm of Activision Blizzard, and according to a market report done in 2015, they are an elite company ranked 5th among the world’s game corporations. Even that type of corporation, if they receive one driblet of criticism about the portrayal of female character, will be forced into changing things as a response.

Of course, the act of making changes to expressions in general is not a bad thing. If there’s a bigoted portrayal going on, that should probably be corrected, but I cannot bring myself to think that in this case with Blizzard that there was any problem at all with the portrayal.

I want to precede this by saying that I feel a sense of crisis in this current climate that whenever anyone screams, “there’s a problem,” that’s all it takes for a strong and forceful guilty verdict creating pressure to change it.

When you look at the current situation in which famous huge corporations are one after the other getting weak-kneed and running around like chickens with their heads cut off to put out the flames, all that’s waiting for a game industry that continues to drink down the criticism without skepticism is death. Right now the game industry has begun to turn a ship’s wheel that will guide it on a slow and drawn out suicide.

There’s No Future in a Game Industry That Continues to Swalllow Criticism WIthout Skepticism

In Overwatch, if you ask what guided Blizzard to the point they decided to change things, it was due to the criticism that claimed a pose that gave off an impression of bright activity for one female character to those who saw it, was actually emphasizing women’s sexuality.

It’s a situation where the first user who criticized the pose claimed it did not fit the character and said, “It’s an unnecessary sexual appeal,” and Blizzard unquestioningly accepted that claim. The Overwatch director is apologizing to people for making them feel uncomfortable.

If you ask what the problem is to this response, it is that a huge worldwide corporation is affirming that if it is shouted and screamed that a character takes actions that don’t suit them, they should be changed.

It was written in the post of the person who brought forth the criticism that it’s a problem that a bright and active character takes a sexual pose, and that they had no plan on touching on the poses of characters who are sexy and voluptuous.

If there was a policy that if all of the characters appearing in the game showed even a slightly sexual pose that it would be removed, I couldn’t accept it, but I would understand the consistency. But nothing was said of characters who originally were positioned to emphasize their voluptuousness.

This is equal to saying that any speech or action taken by a character that does not fit them is a sin.

The Claims That Will Allow Only One-Sided Portrayals

If Blizzard is going to remove speech and action that don’t fit characters in response and affirm these opinions, then the final resting place is going to be a world where only one side is ever allowed to be portrayed.

For instance, if there is a character who is “full bright and active energy,” then it is not to be allowed to have anything but that image, and all other images they could have would need to be changed and removed. Tracer (the criticized character in this instance) is boyish, bright and active, if she shows even the slightest bit of eroticism in a pose, it becomes a taboo image that instantly criticized.

So if a character comes to be seen in one way, any other way of looking that character becomes unforgivable. What an unimaginable hell!

A Plan to Destroy Bigotry is in the Process Becoming Bigotry Itself

So one character who houses a personality with contradictions, who surprises with their dynamism, which is said to be, in somewhat otaku vocabulary, “gap moe,” someone like “a character who gave off a gruff and mean impression, but actually also had a more gentle side” is not to be allowed.

And in this construction, are they not becoming the very stereotypes that feminists claim to be aiming for when they try to break down the long-ingrained thoughts of “like a guy/like a girl?” This character is only allowed these actions and words, pushing that view, pushing a stereotype onto the image of others is the very definition of racism itself.

Right now, the game industry is regressing back to an age where the world thought “black people = slaves.”

If diversity and dynamism is lost and only a one-sided portrayal is allowed, one day it will probably be visited upon us, a day in which the entertainment born from a storm of inexplicable criticism and shrieking will lose the charm it had and disappear.

Stand up for the criticism you should accept, but running around like a chicken with your head cut off to extinguish flames without distinguishing the validity of criticism will lead at last to a crushed and pulverized game culture.

It’s quite a strongly-worded article, don’t you think?

Report: Osaka’s Sakai City Adopts New Rule for Covering Up Adult Material in Stores, Publishers Protest

Photo by Nikkan Sports

Photo by Nikkan Sports

It has recently been reported that Sakai City of the larger Osaka metropolis in Western Japan is taking a further step in the restriction and regulation of adult material in convenience stores, prompting magazine makers to revolt and claim it is a breach of free speech rights. What follows is a translation from what I think is the best of the articles on the issue from Sankei’s livedoor NEWS site:

To sum up briefly:

  • Sakai City’s initiative to put covers over adult magazines has lead to the industry raising its voice in opposition.
  • The Japanese Magazine Publisher Association  and The Japanese Book Publishers Association have announced a protest seeking the halt of the practice.
  • The Associations claim, “It is an extreme form of censorship. It’s obvious this is deviating from the act.”

Sakai City’s idea! Publisher and magazine associations bite into the putting on of “blindfolds” on adult magazines, announce a call to halt it

April 1st, 8:17 PM 2016, Sankei Newspaper

In regards to an initiative to reduce the amount of children who see adult magazines lined up in convenience stores wherein Sakai City and Family Mart have started putting vinyl sheets on the pictures of magazine covers in order to hide them, the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association and the Japan Book Publishers Association decided to announced a call to seek the cancellation of the practice on April 1st.

At the beginning of the week, it will be displayed on both associations’ home pages and sent to the city. [Translator’s note: you can find the  announcement here in a PDF file. While I link to the Japan Book Publisher’s Association, the file is the same on both sites.]

The city and Family Mart reached an agreement on March 16th for an initiative wherein the middle portion of an adult magazine’s pictures and other things would be covered to hide it by a dark green sheet (12 centimeters tall) and it started in one store in that same city. By the next day on the 17th, it had expanded to 10 other stores within the city. The targets are the magazines in the separated section designated as “harmful publications” under Osaka’s Act for the Healthy Growth of Children and Teens.

Hearing of the initiative, the two associations sent an open letter of question to Mayor Osami Takeyama. It stated, “Covers are an important trait in deciding whether or not to buy,” and continued with eight questions such as, “Does this not touch on our right to freedom of expression?” They also asked, “Does this not deviate from the act?” because  in the same act, there is no provision for not letting people see covers.

In regards to this, Mayor Takeyama responded on 30th of the same month. “Whether to join in on the agreement or not is left up to each convenience store. As it is at in its character an agreement [between industry people and the city], it does deviate from the prefecture’s act,” he claimed and went on to say, “This does not count as a violation of freedom of speech.”

The Japan Magazine Publisher’s Association claims, “The vinyl covers are provided with public funds and it amounts to an extreme form of censorship. It is obviously deviates from the act,” and seeks to terminate the agreement between Family Mart and the city in its statement. On the other hand, the Division of the Citizens’ Activism and Cooperation says, “We want to think of a way to handle this once we’ve seen the statement.”

The Japan Magazine Publishers Association represents 88 publishers who publish magazines, while the Japan Book Publishers Association represents 423 publishers.

If you want to see in detail what it looks like, MBS News has a video on their site. MBS News also reports that in response to the associations’ statements, Mayor Takeyama said, “I’ve got the agreement of women and people who have children. I want to continue this from now on.”

Nikkan Sports also offered some quite relevant quotes. In summing up some of the reaction from the average citizen, they offered this paragraph:

A 36-year-old business man who came to the store with his fifth grade son in tow said, “I’ve been troubled when my children stare at the covers with interest,” agreeing with the initiative.  A 52-year-old man who owns his own business took one of the “blind-folded” magazines off the rack and tilted his head to the side, saying, “I think children grow by seeing these types of things here and there. I wonder if this isn’t a little ‘overprotective.'”

Nikkan also quoted an anonymous editor from an entertainment information magazine based in Tokyo who expressed a sense of crisis, saying, “A magazine’s cover is its life. If it were to spread nationwide, we’d have to think of a layout where we’d have to put catchy information on the bottom or the top that is not hidden.” It’s not stated in the article of course, but my speculation is that this one of the many entertainment/lifestyle/fashion magazines which usually don’t have adult content, but can from time to time feature sensational sex issues with famous stars posing nude or semi-nude on the covers.

Nikkan also gave some context for other cities’ regulations concerning adult magazines: “Kanagawa Prefecture has limitations for presentation among several methods, including separation, display behind the register or on the inside of the register, and the placement of a 10-inch partition. Kagawa Prefecture’s law enforces a display method that separates materials so that they are not easily seen by children and teens, and enacts visiting inspections and guidance regularly. Sakai City’s wrapping initiative is rare among the nation.”

Some Japanese government officials, such Taro Yamada of the Parliament, and Shun Otokita of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, have recently come out to protest the government deciding which publications are “harmful publications,” contending that it will eventually lead to more heavy curtailments of free speech. The same acts for the “healthy growth of teens and children” that designated what “harmful publications” are, have also been seen as the primary motivation behind the formation of gaming industry self-regulations boards such as Sofurin and CERO due to sometimes scandalous court cases involving adult material being purchased by minors.

Interview Translation Part 1: I Want to Create Soul Food for the Fans. An Interview With Star Ocean 5 Creators Shuichi Kobayashi, Hiroshi Ogawa and Akiman

Star-Ocean-5

Earlier this week, the infamous matome blog Hachima Kikou posted an excerpt of an interview from 4Gamer about Star Ocean 5 in which the consideration of certain female characters’ designs was raised. It was revealed that their clothing has been changed both due to internal Japanese pressure and overseas feedback. Miki’s clothing change received a lot of attention, but personally I must admit I found it odd that Fiore’s clothing change received comparatively little.

The actual interview though, is much longer and covers much more than that, and as I received a request to translate it all, here is the first part. As the entire interview is gigantic, I’ll post part 2 later. For now, this first part covers mainly the beginning stages of development and character design.

I Want to Create Soul Food for the Fans. An Interview With Star Ocean 5 Creators Shuichi Kobayashi, Hiroshi Ogawa and Akiman

Star Ocean 5 – Integrity and Faithlessness (below, SO5) is about to release on March 31st (the PS4 version, the PS3 version is on April 28th).  The latest entry in the series that meshes science fiction and fantasy together in one setting features a system that seamlessly links movements on the field with battle and private actions (events that occur between characters).

We shall deliver the contents of a chance we got to speak to this game’s producer Shuichi Kobayashi, director Hiroshi Ogawa and character designer Akiman. Since this release comes after a seven year gap from the previous Xbox360 verson’s release, it appears as if there was various troubles and effort involved in starting up the plan for the game and its development work.

4Gamer: Thank you for speaking with us today. I think you’ve still got work left to do on the PS3 version, but I want to hear your feelings right now as you’re about to release the PS4 version.

Akiman: It’s been a while since I’ve been in charge of the graphics all the way to the in-game UI, so I’ve been happy to be able to be involved with the game in every respect. I’m not good at depicting heaps of people, so this job, where I have to draw seven people certainly was a study for me.

Hiroshi Ogawa (below, Ogawa):We still have work left to do, but the feeling of “immense relief” has been huge with this release. Part of that is because I’ve been involved with the series since 2003’s release, Star Ocean Till the End of Time, and when this title was announced, the reaction was more than I anticipated. I’m glad to be putting a period on the project, because I’ve always felt this nervousness and pressure involved with the job, thinking, “I have to create it with a genuine sense of meticulousness.”

Shuichi Kobayashi (below, Kobayashi): I want to look back on it as something of a difficult pregnancy, but after the PS3 version, we have to work on the overseas version, so I don’t feel like it’s “finished.” In the first place, there’s so much we still want to do with Star Ocean, so once the development work has a period put on it, I believe it becomes the “thinking” turn in the battle. Once SO5’s jersey has been retired after every player’s impressions and the sales come out, it’s time to think about how to continue the series.

4Gamer:Just then, used the word difficult pregnancy, but from the first announcement there was a delay of one month for the PS4 version and two months for the PS3 version.  What part of development needed that delay? In this one, the game enters events and battle seamlessly from the field and on top of that in battle a maximum of seven characters can participate, so I imagined that tuning that bit would take some time.

Kobayashi:We did do some balance tuning, but we received some time to add in some new elements in response to feedback we got from our demo at Tokyo Game Show 2015. To put it more concretely, during battle we added the ability to “step,” and while moving in the field the ability to “dash.”

4Gamer: So you were still adding new elements even during that period? Now development is at its climax.

Kobayashi: Well, yes. I had argued with Ogawa quite a bit, that adding the step move would not be for adding tactics to battle, but as an improvement to the feel of play, and that’s how we brought it in.  And because of that, it’s not like you could say the gameplay has greatly changed.

Ogawa:We added an element where you can start a new battle with the character you ended the previous battle with. When we initially announced it, it was something that we wanted to put in, but there were problems with that and a seamless system, so we weren’t able to realize it at the time of the demo. We got a lot of opinions from people who played it, so we thought to implement it in that time period.

Kobayashi:When the development had reached a climax and we had come to a point where we saw the remaining number of things to do, we were able to reach a decision and say, “If we had a month, we could add this.” At the beginning, we had too much to do and couldn’t see that far forward. I was the one who came out with it, but the actual work was tough and in the midst of it, honestly I regretted the delay. (laughs) It was one hellish month.

4Gamer: Just because you’ve delayed it, doesn’t mean you’ve got the time to relax, I’d say it on the other hand it means the things you have to do have increased.

Kobayashi:In the titles up till now, if you fixed a certain part, like battle or events, then it was all good, but this time because it’s all connected together seamlessly, if you add a change to one part, that influence comes out in other areas you don’t predict.

4Gamer:Ah, that sounds like it takes lots of time and hands.

Kobayashi:On consoles, there are people who aren’t connected to the internet, so I thought I wanted to squash as many bugs as humanly possible and checking everything was a pain.

Offering Akiman, “the designer with the will and the power,” the job twice

4Gamer:In the last interview we heard the story of how you’ve been involved with this title’s character design from the first days of development, but I would like to hear how you decided on hiring Akiman from all the other designers you could choose.

Kobayashi:All right, this time I thought I wanted to continue development jobs in a different style than what has been usual up to this point and and have the character designer and 3D model production unit play catch with each other, reflecting each other for the game and illustrated characters. And that’s why, I thought I’d like to work with designs that have “the will and the power,” and what immediately came to mind was Akiman.

Akiman:Actually, the first time I got an offer from Kobayashi, it didn’t fit into my schedule and I totally turned him down. After that, I received another offer, and I was a little surprised, because until now there weren’t really many cases like that.

Kobayashi:The first time I met him, I had talked one-sidedly of our schedule, and I felt as if I had only spoken of my situation, and so I thought to offer again, by asking what kind of thing might work?

Akiman:And the second time, it had just been around the time that I had lost a job I thought I would have to put all my energy into.

Kobayashi:And then we had a little more detailed conversation and it was at that point that we got his attention. Inside my head, I had already decided I would pester him at least three times.

4Gamer:It’s the “Three Acts of Gratitude.” (laughs) [Translator’s note: This refers to a famous scene in Sangokushi or Romance of the Three Kingdoms and is an expression wherein someone pays special reverence and politeness to someone to get them to do something.] So that’s how enamored you were of Akiman. Now I’d like to ask you Akiman, for the designs you did in this game, if you have a character you are most partial to, or there’s a character that took a particularly long time to develop, please tell me about it.

Akiman:I had a little trouble with Miki. I pretty much designed all the other characters from scratch, but with Miki there was a certain basis for her design. There were various levels of trial and error with that.

Ogawa:For Miki, we had already implemented a prototype for the basis of her character model in early development.

Akiman:It’s probably best to use the series other works for reference when designing characters, but when I looked at Star Ocean 4, the lines used to draw the characters were so intricate ……

4Gamer:The characters from 1-3 weren’t all that complex though.

Akiman:Yeah, that’s true.  In the end, my illustrations became quite complex with line work, but it took a long time to get it all to come together. When you’re illustrating and have a lot of lines, it can become a bottleneck. (laughs)

4Gamer:You took the illustrations from 4 in your hands and that just happened to connect to the character illustrations of this title.  Speaking of that, in the last interview, we heard about Kobayashi’s reservation about odd-numbered title’s having a main character with blue hair, so he asked you to do that, didn’t he?

Akiman:Yes. I gave Fidel blue hair like he had in the planning documents. For every character, I first start by choosing their color. Since 7 of them will be acting all together at once, that was in order to suggest which one is which by one glance. For instance, for the smallest character, Lilia, I made her a yellow so that would stand out.

4Gamer:Certainly, when I look at the official site, it’s easy to understand.

Akiman:Because if the player think “where is he?” for even a second, the game’s fun is lost. Today’s console’s games have such a great power to express things, we could have brought out a black-type character that we couldn’t have done before, but instead I didn’t and chose colors that would stand out.

4Gamer: Certainly, if there’s that many characters, black might be hard to see and not stand out. Is there anything else Mr. Kobayashi asked of you, Akiman?

Kobayashi: “How does this character act and what do they do?” I wanted him to make it so you could tell from their appearance.

4Gamer: Like someone looks like a magician and someone looks good at martial arts … that kind of thing?

Akiman: We truly made Fiore feel like a traditional magician, but when I presented the rough draft to them they were absolutely delighted about it, and I thought, “I’m really on the same wavelength of this development team.” (laughs)

4Gamer: Now that you mention it, Fiore’s design really makes an impact.

Kobayashi: It was OKed on the first try. (laughs)

4Gamer: Had you been holding on to a design like that for a while?

Akiman: No, I just got the idea on a whim. This series’ magic users are typically erotic* or so I’ve been told, and that’s where the idea was born. Lately in the game industry, if you put out a female character with lots of skin showing, you’ll have to eat up time to correct it, so I then decided to go with the principle of, “She’ll be erotic, but won’t be revealing too much skin in terms of total area.” … It actually turned out we got a CERO C!

*The setting is that Fiore shows off her pride in her high level shaman magic by exposing her skin and the runes she has on it.

4Gamer:Whoa, wait a minute, the reason for the rating couldn’t have been just Fiore’s clothes, right? (laughs)

Ogawa: Nope, most of the reason was Fiore’s clothes. (laughs)

Kobayashi: And then, from overseas, we had this feedback about Miki, “it’s not good for teens to be wearing sexual underwear,” and so we increased the amount of cloth covering her.

Ogawa: That was really a shame. I felt bad about it. (laughs)

Kobayashi: When we designed the 3D models from the base of Akiman’s design, and added texture to it, the voluptuous quality of it increased and I was bit surprised.  “I wonder if this is okay for  inspection?” I thought. (laughs)

Ogawa:That’s because when we put them up in their 3D model form, their proportions were a little squashed and the feeling of body fat being emphasized became really strong.

Akiman:When something based on geometry gets stuck onto something that was organic, that will happen. (laughs)

4Gamer:Akiman, you’ve been involved with games since the time they were pixel graphics, but as the power to express things in these consoles has grown, I bet the methods of production and character design have changed.

AkimanIt has changed. Back then, you’d draw illustrations to help players’ imagination. “On the screen right now is a collection of dots and that’s supposed to be a girl,” that type of thing.

These days the amount of information in games is so huge, if you don’t include as much information into your illustrations as time allows for, then they’ll be overshadowed by the environment around them on the screen.

Kobayashi:Just a while ago we were talking about how the 3D model team and and the character designers played catch with each other, but to put it more concretely, first Akiman would draw a character, based on the 3D model of the character that would be created, it would be returned to Akiman, Akiman would draw illustrations of them standing or for PR use based on the 3D models … it was that type of back and forth.

4Gamer:From the stance of an amateur, they’re probably thinking why take the time to do things twice, why take such an approach?

Akiman:I wanted to make the difference between the in-game characters and their illustrations as small as possible. As well, because there were others who added details to characters beside myself, I thought it best to unite all of the feeling we were trying to bring about.

KobayashiI asked him to get near to the balance we’d have with the 3D models when drawing the illustrations. When you do it that way, when the player sees the Fidel shape they recognize it as Fidel, whether that’s an illustration or 3D model. That way we can perhaps keep it like past series entries where you don’t feel the difference.

4Gamer:So when you first designed the characters and when the final design came through, what parts changed?

Akiman:If we’re talking Fidel, it was his hair. At first, it flared out more and the behind was like Cyborg 009’s Joe Shimamura with wild shaved spiky hair, something like that. When it became a 3D model, while they did accept that image, the prickly parts were smoothed out into a more natural feeling and from then on, the illustrations followed that kind of hair style.

4Gamer:So both the 3D modellers and the illustrators gave each other influences and it became like it’s current form.

Akiman:That’s right. SO5’s 3D models have a unique charm to them. It’s not photo real, or comical. The illustrations I draw are have tall proportions, but when they become 3D models, they are squeezed and shrunk and it feels like the amount of visual information per unit increases. Since the screen is longer on the sides, I suppose it’s also best that they shrink. Seeing the character I’ve drawn be reborn, I think I’d like this new power too. (laughs)

4Gamer:Of course. To return the discussion a bit, Akiman said there was a base for the prototype of Miki’s character model from the days of early development. Why wasn’t that Fidel?

Ogawa:It had been a while since the last game when we decided to start work on the sequel, so the first hurdle was deciding how we should approach making the visuals. Should we make them photo real, or like cartoons … we’re talking about the direction of how to represent them materially. When you think of that from that point, the most appropriate decision is to start thinking of this problem with a girl, because when it comes to getting the size of their eyes, the balance of their parts and the amount of defined features in their faces, the hardest characters are them.

Akiman:When we say it’s photo real or toon, that’s to make it easy to understand, but actually, for each work, the most appropriate art style ends up changing slightly.

I personally think cartoonish manga is the type of drawing that has evolved to involve the least amount of effort when you want to tell a story. Is it best to represent things in a manga art style where you draw each frame by frame, or would it be best represent them with computeristic expressions … you always have to think about stuff like this.

For SO5, I thought it would be interesting not just to aim for a simple cartoonish thing, but search for the most appropriate art style, and I like this way of doing it.

4Gamer:And with an aim to search for those points that can’t be expressed in words, Akiman and the design team’s back and forth boiled those character design’s down.

Akiman:That’s it. Perhaps after SO5 is released, we’ll have words to express what the art style is like.

KobayashiThere’s an easy part to toon shading, but I noticed that the type of drawings that make players excited have things that are different from that. Especially, when the it’s a setting for adventure, you want the background to be dense with detail. We argued quite a bit how to depict this. Of course I oversaw each character, but until the “final form of the pictures” came out with all the background and lighting, I couldn’t confirm that the choices I made were right and there was a time spent being quite anxious.

When I showed Akiman the test version of an event scene between Miki and Fidel, he said, “This Miki is cute,” and I remember being incredibly relieved.

Akiman:When Fidel started moving around in-game and the remaining 6 characters came running out of the woodwork, I thought it felt so fun … like the type of fun you have when on the way home from school you all go to a department store and buy stuff to eat.

That’s it for now. Tune in later for Part 2.

Japan’s Parliament Member Taro Yamada Responds to Latest Salvo in UN Attacks on Free Speech

(Please note: the video above is queued to the part we’re talking about.)

On Twitter, Japanese government representative and leader of the Party to Protect Freedom of Expression said that the UN had responded to Japan’s response and offered further justification for the censorship of manga, anime and video games, and that he planned to fight it again, mostly through the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This week, on his weekly net broadcast, he brought it up and talked about it at length (about 25 minutes). One of the guests was Kotaro Ogino, who is the founder of The Uguisu Ribbon campaign, which works to protect free speech in Japan. He also offered his responses. What did they say?

First of all, let’s get the important part out of the way. The overall consensus was that the rebuttal was “nonsense,” (Yamada actually said that exact word) and referring to the sneaky way a UN representative on the human rights commission tried to use an interpretation of international child pornography acts to pressure them, Yamada reiterated, “No matter what kind of warnings or reports the human rights commissions tries to point out in this way, our Japanese government has as much as said we will not concede to them.”

This came out in a conversation of how it wasn’t just CEDAW (Committee to End Discrimination Against Women) that was pressuring Japan for censorship of their artistic industries and how both people on the panel thought it was important to fight every time they try a new angle. Ogino mentioned how six years ago, the argument was to ban all comics, anime and games.

Now because of the reaction to that, they’ve narrowed it down to “ones that express sexual violence” from CEDAW or ones that they believe could be interpreted as child pornography from the humans rights commission. Yamada pointed out that governments tend to try to enforce censorship laws and it is important for their people to stand up and fight each time it happens.

To back up a minute, in response to CEDAW’s argument that the stereotypes in manga, anime and games promote violence toward women, Ogino said he thought their argument was constructed backwards. Ogino characterized their argument as, “Gee, I don’t know what’s wrong, but there’s something I don’t like about this, it feel like it’s dangerous, first they decide that. Then therefore, how should regulate censorship for Japan’s manga, anime and video games? As a logical argument, it’s backwards.”

Again, Keiko Takemiya’s The Song of the Wind and the Trees was brought out as an counter-argument to the argument that only “extreme” violent acts would be outlawed. It was again pointed out that women in these fields have been extremely prosperous compared to wider fields and that censoring the material would limit them. Yamada pointed out that in the wider publication industry, Japanese women fought back in the manga industry the most for control of their work and that their slice of the market could by no means be considered insignificant.

Both Ogino and Yamada agreed that to single out manga, anime and video games was in Yamada’s words, “discrimination.” Yamada said if you’re going to make an argument that art causes these problems, then you have to explain why you’re not trying to regulate novels. Yamada went on to explain that an argument could be made that since novels leave more to the imagination, that they encourage the mind to run free, so why not censor them? He then went on to say that if you think about it in this way, it’s strange that they’re focusing on anime, manga and games. (In other words, their choice seems to be selective.) Both thought that none of the UN’s representatives knew what they’re talking about and speculated that they’re not familiar with Japanese society and would welcome somebody actually knowing more about Japanese society representing the UN.

There was some discussion that it was the EU trying to enforce their values on Japanese culture. They pointed out that the consensus seemed to be that they tend to be more sensitive about their children over in a lot of the EU countries, but as Yamada has repeatedly said and repeated in response again on his web page, to the point where it has almost become his catch phrase, “While it’s important to talk about human rights on a global level, when it comes to cultural problems, they should as much as possible be discussed by each country that is actually affected by the problem.”

Yamada reinforced his commitment to fight whatever they came up with and said that he thought that Japanese Foreign Minister’s comments and his commitment to responding to each attack has, in Yamada’s words, “a lot of meaning,” going forward.

Finally, there was discussion of what kind of society the UN’s recommendations would lead to. I personally liked this part the best, as Yamada said:

Expression is free, but once you’ve said it, you’re responsible for what you’ve said. If something you’ve said has hurt somebody or made them feel disgusted, you might be punished or it might lead to you losing some of your integrity or honor. And if it has some sort influence on their life, you might be expected to own up to it. However, when it comes to what to say, what can and can’t be said is a problem everyone solves with their inner voice. If you start punishing people for that, they will start to fear what they can say and be unable to say anything. Nevertheless, Boer-Buquicchi and the human rights commission think that way. First, decide that it’s all evil. Because it’s evil, go to court and prove your innocence. That would be some kind of society, all right.

 

Translations from Soul Cry: Homo RPGs, Hot Men and Fright Masochists

tameshi no sakebi

The Cry of the Soul is a collection of essays from book writer and columnist Yasuhiro Nagata, a man who did a column for Famitsu. Each weekly column is a paragraph that contains an anecdote about people enjoying games together. It was written right in the period of time before the DS blew up and Nintendo expanded the market during the mid-2000s.

The style of the column makes everyone anonymous and in Japanese, pronouns and subjects aren’t needed, so it’s often impossible to tell the gender of the participants. Every now and then though, he’ll label that week’s characters as women or men. (The author sometimes posts his own experiences and sometimes those of his acquaintances and sometimes those of people who contact him to share their own stories.)

What makes the columns interesting is they revolve around a moment where somebody says something notable and Nagata interprets this moment as “the cry of the soul.” This is when somebody suddenly says something that truly shows the nature of their soul from the bottom of their heart. Something that’s not linguistically correct or even logical, but just kind of pops out of one’s mouth organically while playing a game.

The book contains hundreds of columns and within those, today I thought I’d highlight a few of the more notable ones where he specifically notes the participant was female. I thought you might get a kick out of them:

Stated by K’s sister. Original text taken from a reader submission. K and her sister were both game fans. They enjoyed their friendly game life by taking turns playing games together, telling each other about their strategies and so on. The two sisters especially loved RPGs and they each held the dream that one day they’d be able to maybe create their own. One day, the elder sister bought a game she’d been eying that might help bring them a little closer to their dream. It was RPG Maker Advance. Now that our older sister had this game that lets you use pre-made parts to create an original RPG, there were an endless amount of possibilities before her. What type of game should it be? What would the theme be? How about the setting? The story and its lore? The personality of the main character? How would they meet the heroine of the story and how would that scene be drawn? While she was thinking of this, the younger sister came, and noticing that the older sister had just brought home the game, with all the passion she could muster, implored her sister strongly. In particular, what did she shout to her sister? “Make a Homo RPG! With every single character as a man!” The older sister’s grand vision was blown into smithereens. A heart that bluntly states the things it likes is a wonderful thing. However, I wonder if she couldn’t be a little more mild in the way she expressed herself, wondered the sister? Rock ‘n roll.

By the way, since then quite a few “Homo RPGs” have been created in RPG Maker, both by men and women. On to our next soul crier, a possible fright masochist:

Stated by a female customer. I had visited a small game shop located on the corner of a street mall. Looking through the games, I saw that contrary to the big chain stores, there was a lineup of old and new games mixed together. As I stood on the corner, I saw a pair of girls enter the shop together. The two were dressed like most of today’s young girls and were screaming at each other delightedly in high pitched tones, so it wasn’t hard to hear their conversation. “This looks scary, really scary.” “It doesn’t look that scary to me.” “How about this?” “Eh, looks meh.” “Look, maybe this is scary?” “This one here’s more fun tho.” It would appear that one was more informed about games. Whenever she took interest in a game, the other one shot it down without remorse. “This one’s the sequel to that one.” “Oh really.” “This one’s more silly than it is scary.” “Look, look, look, look at this. Doesn’t this one seem amazing?” “Oh that one? Bought it, hardly even played it.” “Oh, okay …” One of them wanted to buy some sort of game, but the other one just seemingly wouldn’t allow the purchase. If I’m allowed to be blunt, she was quite critical and cutting. The well-tanned pair’s conversation straggled off and died. After some moments of silence, the female customer who had every one of her suggestions negated and undoubtedly felt pressed to say something, shouted in a strong tone. “I want to be scared out of my fucking miiiinnnd!” Stop hemming and hawing, if it’s scary, whatever, we’ll have fun, the girl argued. Rock ‘n roll.

This next one’s my favorite:

Stated by the wife of a friend. One day, our writer had visited a friend’s house. For a very long time, our writer and his friend love of games was something they shared in common and even after his friend got married, they would sometimes play games together. His friend’s wife, who had little interest in games would often look on from afar. However, that day was different. Our writer and his friend were deep into playing Samurai Warriors when, who knows why, his wife suddenly said, “I want to play.” I think any male game fan who’s been playing games for a long time will appreciate how precious an opportunity this is. I believe those men who have long been playing games will also appreciate how extremely carefully and delicately they wanted to convey the greatness of the game to her without any chance of misunderstanding. She gripped controller in her hands and began trying to choose a character. The two began explaining the intricacies like a wine connoisseur at a three-star restaurant. This character is hard to control, but strong; this one’s got the speed; this one’s got a really useful move; my recommendation is this one; well I think this one’s the best personally … And at last, all of this information had been deposited into her brain. Against the backdrop of all that detailed and personalized advice, she made her decision and screamed. “I … am going to be a hot guy!” With that, she quickly picked Saneda Yukimura. Oh, well, yes, that’s one option, sure, silently thought the two men. Rock ‘n roll.

In any event, I think Nagata does a great job of depicting the lives and personalities of people who enjoy gaming. I might translate a few more at a later date. Let me know in the comments below if you want more. If you’d like to check out the book and you can read Japanese, you can get it on Amazon here.

Rock ‘n roll, ravens!