MangaGamer held a panel titled “the Now and Future of Bishoujo Games” on the third night of Anime Expo 2010, where they introduced some upcoming products and put on a mini-concert while trying to stick to a script but failing at it. Amongst the chaos, MangaGamer announced that they finally finished negotations for Da Capo Innocent Finale, an all-ages game, in addition to announcing Da Capo II, Dear Drops and a release date of July 29 for the final chapter of Higurashi Kai. They also talked about plans to release an original game about studying abroad in Japan before the next Anime Expo. Eroge company âge also said during the panel that they would like to release games with MangaGamer if there’s good reason to. Finally, the panel concluded with a mini-concert by the musical artists they brought and a raffle for prizes, including the raffle box.
The panel started a little late as the previous panel was a bit slow to clear the room. Before the panel, various sound tests were going on, including bamboo testing out the sound system by shouting out “moe!” Bamboo opened the panel using his English and then proceeded to name his nephew as translator (first of six interpreters in some weird musical chairs dance who attempted to translate for the panel). The main panelists were then presented — CIRCUS head tororo-dancho, CIRCUS illustrator Yuka Kayura, OVERDRIVE illustrator Shinji Katakura and finally OVERDRIVE president bamboo. MangaGamer translator John Pickett, also known as kouryuu on the web, started the main part of the panel from his script by introducing the panelists in my detail. However, as we heard from him later, the panel had already derailed from the script at that point.
Introducing himself as being from Saitama, near Tokyo, tororo-dancho said that he was producer, songwriter and president of CIRCUS. He also looked over and said that “John is very nervous” to much laughter. Next to be introduced was producer and musician bamboo, who represented OVERDRIVE and has made games such as the old Green Green as well as KIRA KIRA, Edelweiss and Dear Drops. He also sang the ending song for Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu to which someone shouted “Hideyoshi!” Unfortunately, both introductions were not translated into English, although there were English slides on the display.
Next up were the illustrator introductions. Yuka Kayura introduced herself as an illustrator from CIRCUS and said that some people remember that it’s her fourth year being at Anime Expo. She is also working on the currently-serialized Da Capo II manga adaptation and was the character designer for Otome from the original game. Shinji Katakura, no longer in ninja garb like he was last year (or during the first day of this year’s Anime Expo), then introduced himself as an illustrator from OVERDRIVE, having made games together with bamboo by illustrating them. At that point, bamboo said, pointing to Katakura, “we are yaoi!” Immediately afterwards, though, he corrected that “it’s joke!”
With the round of introductions done, the panel moved on to what bishoujo games were. However, after surveying the audience to see that a majority had already played bishoujo games, they decided to sum up the definition as being about “moe”, with bamboo asking the audience to shout “moe!” along with him. He then went on to discuss the situation with bishoujo games in Japan. He stated that there has been a big boom in these games, but they are being blamed for crime. He then stated that it was not the point of his company to cause violence or problems like that but rather for everyone around the world to enjoy their games, which are a little cute and sometimes a little erotic. Katakura interrupted him, though, saying that sometimes it’s cool to be the source of crime, like the Mafia. Tororo-dancho then continued by saying that many people discuss bishoujo games when a crime occurs, but they never discuss bishoujo games when something positive happens, like people getting moved emotionally.
Following a discussion on games in general, the panel then started introducing games released by MangaGamer from the different companies. First up was CIRCUS, with their Da Capo and Suika. The former was described as a romantic tale and the romantic things that you can find in everyday life. It was also the tenth-year anniversary of the company last November and the company focuses on making “pure love” games. The anniversary line took about three interpreters to translate correctly. Next was OVERDRIVE. Since kouryuu worked on these himself, he proceeded to introduce them. Edelweiss was touted as more of a “sexy” comedy than a romantic comedy, referring people to Green Green as being a similar title. KIRA KIRA was next, described as a game about a bunch of friends getting together and making a band and succeeding beyond all odds. He then said that it reminded him of shows like BECK and K-ON! and there were a lot of things in the game that were emotionally moving. Lastly, he stated that this is now the fourth year that OVERDRIVE has been in operation. Afterwards, bamboo wrapped up by mentioning the five games that they have released in Japan and then stated that he has apparently made more music CDs than games. Shinji Katakura backed him up by saying he has drawn more album art than game package art.
BaseSon was next to be introduced, as kouryuu talked about Koihime Musou and how it was based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms and that you are the only male with a face in the game, nudging the audience with that hint. He also said that this is the first game to feature real battles that must be won before the game can progress. After BaseSon, kouryuu started introducing Navel. Of course, he felt that no introduction for SHUFFLE! was needed. It was apparently the most popular game MangaGamer offers. An animated adaptation is available from FUNimation but kouryuu says that MangaGamer has something that FUNimation doesn’t have — the chance to end up with those girls. Next to be introduced was Soul Link, a survival game with lots of bad endings. Finally, a message was delivered from Navel’s president: “if you buy a lot, we’re going to put out a lot more of it.”
After summarizing their current releases, the panel then proceeded to invite a representative from the company âge as a special guest onto the panel. Kouki Yoshimune, scenario writer, mecha designer and director behind âge’s top hits Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and MuvLuv introduced himself using a very good impersonation of a foreigner trying to speak Japanese. He did eventually revert to his typical fluent Japanese. The âge representative was asked on the spot about whether they’d be interested in releasing their games with MangaGamer. His reply was a non-commital “if we have reason to, we will do it.”
Following this, the panel moved on to MangaGamer’s upcoming lineup. First, a July 29 release date was set for the final chapter of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, according to kouryuu and the script, although the slides had a different date. The panel stated that the previous chapter revealed all the mystery as to who was causing the incidents in Hinamizawa, whereas the final chapter delves more into that person’s character (although the panel leaked the gender of said character unintentionally). Next, Da Capo Innocent Finale was announced. Previously, it was said that the voice actor royalties were too high for the game, but it appears that MangaGamer has managed to finish negotiations for it somehow. The game will be an all-ages release, and kouryuu told people to find someone who’s not 18 to buy it. Kotori is the main character in this game, according to tororo-dancho, and the game covers the events before and after her wedding. Next up was Da Capo II. Tororo-dancho commented that he’s sure that a lot of people have probably watched it on YouTube or something, and that it is essentially a sequel to Da Capo but more like a powered up version. The reason he gives is that in Da Capo, you only have a little sister, whereas in Da Capo II you have a big sister (named Otome) in addition to a little sister. Yuka Kayura then commented that she had been doing sketches all day and that Otome was requested a lot. She’s very happy that Otome is loved by a lot of people and is thankful.
Following the Da Capo games, kouryuu talked about recent progress with Koihime Musou. He apologized for the delays involved in the release and stated that it was very difficult to make sure everything was consistent and that everything ended up in a high quality release. Areas of difficulty included terms for the attack names, Chinese places, formation names and nicknames used in previous translations of the original Romance of the Three Kingdoms. He states it’ll probably be out soon, but that he cannot give a date. Lastly, he announced OVERDRIVE’s Dear Drops as MangaGamer’s latest acquisition. This would be the second band-based main game released by OVERDRIVE in Japan. When asked about how it is different from KIRA KIRA, bamboo stated that the exposition is a lot more powered up, with live recordings used for the sounds in the game, adding that “of course, including the H-scenes!” Using that as a segue, bamboo moved on to talk about their latest project, Dengeki Strikers using as much hyperbole as possible.
In the final stretch before a question and answer section, MangaGamer broached the idea of an original game about studying abroad in Japan, since a lot of people haven’t gone to Japan yet (according to an impromptu poll of the audience). They hoped people would check out the game when it comes out and if it’s successful, more of its kind would be produced.
When asked about the currently empty comics section, it was stated that there will soon be some comics up — “H ones”, as bamboo put it succinctly. MangaGamer has apparently lined up a contract with a publisher for this. The next question asked the artists whether they would insert cameos of themselves or friends into the background art, since no one normally looks at them. The âge representative noted that they do insert cameos of characters from their previous games into their recent games, since their games are kind of related. Katakura said that he has also done the same and bamboo noted that he has heard before that someone has scribbled “Gundam” in the background before. He also notes that it is a very dangerous thing to do, since if Sunrise found out, the company would be in big trouble and could become bankrupt. It was compared to randomly inserting Mickey Mouse somewhere and trying to not get sued. Kayura stated that she couldn’t say out loud, but that she has and it’s a secret. The third question asked kouryuu about why he hinted at TYPE-MOON with his last hint on Twitter, to which kouryuu replied “you mean Azrael?” He then stated that by the time of the second hint, there were already a sizable number of people guessing TYPE-MOON, and that once he saw that a character in Azrael could see “death”, he decided to go with it. The last question asked if there are any plans to release Saishuu Shiken Kujira and why isn’t it as popular as their other games. As readers may remember, the trial version was translated by insani a while back, and this translated trial version was actually shown to CIRCUS back in 2007 during Anime Expo. Apparently, there is one good reason Kujira isn’t as well known, tororo-dancho affirmed — it is because people don’t like girls who don’t wear school uniforms. Thus, he stated that releasing this game would depend on a lot of other factors; they wish to release what’s popular first, and hinted that maybe this game will come up if MangaGamer becomes more successful.
As time was running out, Q&A was stopped short for the mini concert, held on the left side of the panel. First up was Aina Kase, and after introducing her self, she asked if everyone knew what “zettai ryouiki” was. She then commented that she loved zettai ryouiki and over-knee socks and got the audience to say “zettai ryouki” with her. Commenting on her success on getting the audience to say that phrase, she started singing. Her set consisted of “Kimi ni Tsuzuku Kiseki” and “Growing”. As soon as the first song started, a bunch of ardent fans with glowsticks ran up to the right side of the panel room and started wotagei-ing along. (Everytime a song stopped, they quickly ran back to their seats, and there seemed to be a slightly different set of people each time.) After the first song, she asked the audience if they knew what those guys where doing, stating that it was “wotagei” and that in Akihabara, it’s really common for otaku to clap and jump around with glowsticks. She concluded by saying that if people get a chance to visit Japan or if an artist from Japan comes to give a concert, that people should cheer them on using wotagei.
After Aina was UR@N. She ran out on stage in classical Japanese attire and introduced herself, stating that she came all the way from Japan to meet everyone and that it was her first time in the USA. UR@N then opened with the song “traveler”. After the song, she said that she did the vocals for the rock band in the game KIRA KIRA and that since it’s a rock band, she wanted everyone to stand up for the next song, which was the opening song of the game. At that point, the wotagei crowd ran up to the stage to cheer her on during the song.
With UR@N’s performance finished, rino (CooRie) was introduced next. She noted that it’s been four years since she has come to Anime Expo (she was a guest of honor back in 2006). She then introduced herself as a vocalist, composer and lyricist for the Da Capo series. She apparently also sang a song for Kimi ga Nozomu Eien under the MEGUMI name. She states that her career was built by and changed by bishoujo games and that she’s very thankful and want to sing with a lot of thanks to all the companies who supported her. Finally, she would like to take home to Japan everyone’s smiles. Her set consisted of the opening theme to the just-announced Da Capo Innocent Finale titled “IF: Kono Sekai de” and the ending theme to Da Capo Second Season titled “Akatsuki ni Saku Uta”. By the time the first song started, the glowstickers had already returned to their normal wotagei positions on the right side of the room.
Last up to sing was Minami Kuribayashi, who introduced herself as a singer and songwriter for anime songs in Japan. She also noted that she does voice acting as well. For Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, she sang the opening song and voice acted a role in the game. She also wore the school uniform from that game for the performance. Her set consisted of the opening song entitled “Rumbling Hearts” and the opening song to Chrono Crusade called “Tsubasa wa Pleasure Line”. The last song drew a lot of people from the audience to wotagei along.
After the performances were finished, the panel concluded with a prize raffle. When the prizes ran out, the audience demanded to have the cardboard box holding the prizes to be signed and raffled, followed by the box holding the raffle tickets. The panel finally wrapped up and asked the audience to buy more goods at their booth the next day and that they are talking to other game makers to localize their games in order to please everyone. At the very end, there was another “moe” chant.
UPDATE: Slightly more detail added to Yoshimune’s introduction and we’ve been informed that the final arc of Higurashi comes out on July 15 instead of July 29, and that the main MangaGamer webpage has the correct release date.