[Our resident Visual Novel Explorer Lifesong had some thoughts about a recent controversial title that underwent major changes before getting a Western release. Take a look at what he had to say and let us know what you think. -Jel]
If My Heart Had Wings released recently. I bought it, but I am honestly not that excited for it. My primary reason for buying it was any credibility that might add to this blog post and honestly I hadn’t purchased it before I started writing this. As someone who greatly enjoyed Princess Waltz I want to make it clear that I am a potential customer and not just an entitled brat on the internet who won’t pay for his software.
I feel like I should be excited for this release, but despite the gorgeous artwork and high praise of Japanese fans something about this release leaves me without any joy. I’ve been giving this some thought and I think I have come to understand why the English language visual novel community on the web has been having such an overwhelming negative reaction to this release.
I am writing this in hopes that it might help enlighten companies to the mentality of western fans. I realize it may never get read by more than the crowd that already feels this way, but I still feel like this should be said. This is neither an attempt to justify the mentality of fans or to tell the publishers how to fix the problem. I simply want to help raise awareness of the mentality that western visual novel fans hold. While I will be the first one to admit that I am only one person myself, I think I have worthwhile insights to share.
First I want to take a minute to inform anyone who is not aware of this whole issue what the western visual novel community is so upset about. Basically Moenovel, a sister company of Pulltop, released a heavily modified version of Pulltop’s visual novel “If My Heart Had Wings”, or “Kono Oozora ni, Tsubasa wo Hirogete” in the original Japanese. The original visual novel was an 18+ title with erotic content in it. The western release is was submitted for ratings and received a T rating by the ESRB and 12 by PEGI.
The one thing I know was changed for sure is the removal of all the erotic content. I’ve read rumors of how the humor of the entire series has been rewritten and how bits of the plot depend on the sexual encounters. Upon downloading the file the visual novel off mangagamer’s site I see that the visual novel I’ve bought and downloaded is 3.18 GB in size. Upon a quick search of the internet I can see that the original is 4.56 GB in size. So some quick math… 1.38 GB of content has been cut from the western release. There is also the issue of the humor and possible plot issues.
If anyone wishes to become more informed on the issue at hand you can find more opinions that these locations. Mangagamer forums, ANN forums and Fuwanovel forums. If you look around the web it isn’t hard to find more as well, but those 3 cover all the basics at stake here. The comments on Kakera Complex’s blog regarding this issue are also a good source of opinions on this issue.
For context this blog post originally started as comment on Kakera Complex’s post on the issue. He specifically makes a comment about art and sexuality that I think is missing the heart of the issue here. His says this specifically: “Eroge is a strange parallel world from the foreign land of Japan where the lines between pornography and art become very blurred. Within the Otaku sphere, people even make a distinction between ‘Nukige’ and ‘Eroge’, the former of which is basically Eroge minus the plot. You know, actual pornography.”
The problem with this argument is that these are classifications for dividing content and not one for creating a moral boundary. Such a convenient moral line does not actually exist and so it can’t be blurred. The truth of the matter is that all visual novels with erotic content in them are in fact pornography. Classification’s such as “nukige” help to establish the focus of the story. In the case of nukige the focus is on sex, story or anything else for that matter be dammed. Another term used for visual novels is “nakige” which basically means crying game. This visual novels tend to have a heavy focus on telling an emotional story. That said, if a nakige contains erotic content it is still in fact pornography.
The issue of pornography in fiction is one that I think most western visual novel fans struggle with when they start reading visual novels. The thing is that the mentality begins to shift pretty quickly once they actually start reading eroge. I experienced this myself. You will rarely find people who genuinely enjoy and also hate something. When you come to love something part of that process is learning to accept it for what it is. This is something that I believe the audience for visual novels has largely either done and will continue to do as it grows.
It is a misnomer to say that depictions of sex are not also art. There isn’t a good reason to draw a line there I think. The idea that art can’t be pornographic is a silly one. I don’t begrudge anyone for disliking erotic content. That said, sexual content is a big part of the visual novel culture and for those of us who are okay with it, having it cut out for our culture feels like a betrayal. This is a sentiment you will find repeated by fans just about every place on the web that talks about visual novels.
As I said above, I don’t begrudge anyone their opinion, but I think I understand the mentality of the “larger audience” here pretty well and at the same time I don’t think it holds up once they have begun to enjoy visual novels. There was a time when I felt like a line needed to be drawn between erotic content and art myself, but after I actually started reading eroge I realized something. The definition really has nothing to do with the products themselves and is just a convenient excuse for social interaction. AKA it was something to make me feel better about myself, something I quickly realized I didn’t need.
At the end of the day fiction is enjoyable because it can create different experiences. What it boils down to is that sexuality in art and the way it is viewed is a social issue and not a matter of fictional content. I know from my own experience that sex in a story doesn’t really degrade the work. To put it another way sexual content is no more of a way to potentially ruin a story than anything else you can stick in one. It might not be something that everyone likes, but that can be said for a lot of things in storytelling. It’s impossible to please everyone etc etc.
What having sexual content does do is create a social stigma. When a localization company brings over a visual novel with the content changed they are basically reinforcing that stigma. What is important to realize here is that intent really isn’t important. The publishers could probably get around some of this by actually talking to the fans. The truth is that while I’ve only jumped into visual novels in the last few years myself there’s a culture in the west that has been slowly growing for the last fifteen plus years and for that culture this is a repeat offense.
The social stigma in the west isn’t something that Japanese developers seem to understand. When they release a visual novel and modify it for the western audience they are not only removing content that quite a few fans want to see, but are also ripping the scab off an old wound.
What Moenovel and others fail to realize in the process of doing all of this is that the culture in the west that reads visual novels has come to accept reading fiction with pornographic content. That group will always be the majority so long as the majority of titles available to us have pornographic content in them. What they need to realize is that the wider audience they wish to reach will become a part of the audience that doesn’t like censored or modified content. That is simply how the western visual novel culture feels about this issue at large.
I think the truth of the matter is that most visual novel fans are either okay with or enthusiastic about erotic content in their visual novels. Let us say that Moenovel manages to successfully sell their visual novel to a new audience. The problem for them is that they won’t really win even if they manage that. Eventually those fans will either move on to new things or read other visual novels and join the vast majority of fans who either okay with or enthusiastic about erotic content because that is a big part of what visual novels are.
For my own part I plan to give this visual novel a shot to impress me and I will be reviewing it sometime in the near future. Ever 17 is probably my favorite visual novel and it doesn’t have any erotic content. Sex is hardly something that a visual novel needs and I hope that no one will misinterpret my words here to mean otherwise. The problem is in the modification of content and not what that content actually is. Hopefully we can all settle our opinions on this topic soon and move on to more pressing issues… issues like the awkward translation present in the demo.