The Reason Behind Innocent Grey’s Fascination With Tragedy

By Ishaan . June 28, 2011 . 3:05pm

Kara no Shoujo developer, Innocent Grey, have a fascination with tragedy. Several of their high-profile games deal with brutal murders and death, often that of the female cast.

 

While murders in mystery stories may not be uncommon in themselves, Innocent Grey don’t shy away from depicting gore either.

 

When the time came for us to speak with them about Kara no Shoujo, we couldn’t help but ask if this approach didn’t distance or possibly even alienate some of their potential audience. Interestingly, they don’t feel it does.

 

“We’re always asked this, but, for example, the sorrow caused by a heroine being killed is what grants the protagonist the power to pursue the case to its end or to obtain clues,” Innocent Grey replied. “In other words, it’s tragedy that’s necessary for the story.”

 

They emphasized: “If murders don’t happen, then it would be just like the many normal eroge out there. The two existing opinions of fans are that they agree, and that they agree but still want to save her [the heroine].”

 

“In response to their requests, we created Caucasus in 2009, where you can choose to save the heroine based on your choices. In later works, we believed that there should be both characters that you can save and those that must inevitably die.”


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  • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

    “If murders don’t happen, then it would be just like the many normal eroge out there.”

    Is it just me, or is there something disturbing about that particular quote? I think the idea of throwing in some gruesome death to spice up your sex just creeps me out a little.

    • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

      That seriously sounds wrong xD.

      Pretty much like, they kill ppl to be different?

      Damn, i wouldnt like my heroine to be killed either… 

    • http://mangagamer.wordpress.com/ Kouryuu

      =p I think the idea is more about distinguishing it apart from the eroge that are all about the sex, and telling a great story.

      • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

        True, but it still seems a little off to me that your promotional plan is to tell people “Hey, our porn game has murders too!”

        Edit: Uh, should probably mention I meant “you/your” in the general sense, not you you, since you’re actually releasing the game…

        • Locklear93

           To be fair, I don’t know how heavy KnS is on the sex, but I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to box it in like that.  That’s like saying of Kira Kira, “Hey, our porn game has a story about music in it!”  The sex was an incredibly small part of Kira Kira.

          • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

            I confess I’m not terribly knowledgeable about eroge, but when you choose to define it that way in the same breath that you say it’s full of murder, I think it’s fair to question just how much of a connection those two things have to each other. If sex isn’t fairly important to the game, why call it an eroge?

          • Locklear93

            I’m definitely not about to tell you it’s not fair to question it–thus my “If I get the feeling that it’s anything like snuff, I’ll stop playing immediately.”  That said, I’ve always had the general impression (and I play all manner of VN, but have no credentials to claim my definition is right) that as soon as you have a full blown sex scene, it’s considered an eroge. 

            Princess Waltz has only two in the whole game: One in the middle, and one with the girl you end up with at the end, and I’m fairly confident it’s still considered an eroge.

          • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

            To call japanese attention, (and even with 1 H-Scene it becomes an eroge i imagine)

            Kira Kira, the eroge Lockblear mentioned, barely had those scenes, and it really felt like some fanservice, like, they just added them on the story because it has to be added, but i imagine that helped to get more sales in japan anyway xD

            (they later released KiraKira without ero scenes tho)

          • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

            Apparently we’ve gone too deep, as I can’t reply to you, but @Locklear93:disqus , I am replying to you, not…me.

            Anyway, I agree with you—one or two sex scenes doesn’t necessarily make something a “porn game”, but the developer’s language—i.e., “it would be just like the many normal eroge out there”—suggests to me that they consider the “ero” aspect relatively central. If they considered it, say, a VN with a sex scene or two, or a murder mystery where people get it on once or twice, it seems like they would have made a point to say that, especially when speaking to a western media outlet.

          • Locklear93

            Argh, thread depth limitations.  As WildArms and I noted below, the feeling is that any sex at all = eroge.  if that’s so, then referring to it as an eroge doesn’t necessarily mean he’s comparing it primarily to the especially sexual ones, just that eroge is what’s it’s considered, and there’s no real wiggle room in his mind.

            Again, I might be putting words in his mouth.  I’m really arguing more from an esoteric position that violence in a game that also involves sex doesn’t automatically mean one fuels the other.  I’m in no position to argue KnS specifically, at least until tomorrow.  You better believe though, that if I feel like the killing and sex go hand in hand in any way, I’m done with it.

          • kroufonz

            @belisarius I think it is easier to explain with some kind of term that generally used to differentiate sex focused game and not

            there is term used for games that put the sexual content first, the story and character development second, it is called “nukige”

            nukige have focus on sexual content above everything else, from standard h scene to darker and hard core stuff(it could be horror demonic stuff, ntr, raep, slave or lot of stuff you can’t imagine and maybe shocked first time you saw it) or just some game with standard every day setting but with almost every choice made in the game will lead to h-scene, usually nukige have much more h scene and revolve around sex, for example rp is nukige

            (but there is also standard eroge that have a lot h scene)

            game with story and chara development like kanon, air, to heart utawarerumono, da capo, shuffle, fate stay night kara no shoujo aren’t nukige, even if it is have sexual content. in most case this non nukige need hours of play before reaching several minutes h scene, this non nukige also can easily ported as an all age game for console/ handheld by eliminating the h scene, and will not be simply called galge after ported

            so like other said eroge simply to address a VN that have ero content, while the game where sex is the main/important point are usually called nukige.

            -there is also term with almost similar pronounciation with nukige called “nakige” (crying game) a game that the purpose to make you cry a.k.a almost whatever VN key ever released (clannad, air,etc)

          • Exkaiser

            If role-playing isn’t fairly important to the game, why call it an RPG?

            It’s just what they’re called. Many of them are rereleased with the ero scenes cut out, and most readers will skip them anyways.

        • Ladius

          Except Kara no Shoujo isn’t a “porn game” in any way :P

          A visual novel is called “eroge” when it has even marginal sexual elements (regardless of the quality of its plot or writing), often included as a necessary evil in order to cater to the fanservice-centered Japanese PC market and promptly removed (without damaging the game in any way, except for some rare occurrences) when the games are ported to console, showing how marginal their role was from the beginning.

          That said, I can understand your conundrum: personally I really dislike the “eroge” label (same as having an all-ages mistery visual novel labeled as a “gal game” because it has female heroines) because it puts the emphasis only on the sexual elements (or lack thereof, in case of the “all ages” titles), thus creating misleading situations that can prompt the eroge=porn thing by dismissing the atmosphere, the plot, the characters and many other reasons that keep most players interested in this kind of games. Nukiges, on the other hand, are visual novels designed to be enjoyed solely (or almost solely) for their erotic contents, and they’re far more deserving of your “porn game” tag.

          • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

            If it contains porn, I would say that it is, in some way, a porn game. That doesn’t have to be all there is to it, but it’s still there and is, as you said, a selling point.

          • Ladius

            The way you word it it seems tha a sex scene equals porn, but that’s like saying that Last Tango in Paris or Pasolini’s films are porn movies or that Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and its tv adaptation are somewhat porn-ish because they use steamy sex scenes. Also, all recent Bioware games would risk to be included in that category.

            Maybe in some extreme viewpoint having three or four three-minutes sex scene in a 20 hours visual novel (because that’s what you have in many eroges) can make it porn, but that’s quite a stretch, especially considering there are “porn” visual novels, and they’re the so-called nukiges.

            That said I have nothing against those who dislike any kind of sex, or even innuendo, in the games they play (be it for religious or ethical reasons, or simply because they find it distasteful), but still that doesn’t justify the “there’s sex, so it’s porn” thing.

            As I said, though, I can understand your problem since having extremely well written vns with explicit sex scenes can sound strange to many western players (and to many Japanese ones, I think), and seeing them called “eroges” by their fanbase is even more baffling. Maybe you could try some quality “eroge” and see for yourself what’s going on.

          • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

            @Ladius:disqus what games would you suggest?

          • Ladius

            I’m no expert, but here I go :P  Starting with English-translated vns with limited erotic contents and good writing, I would sugget G-Senjou no Mao, an interesting thriller with a brilliant soundtrack mainly composed of classical arrangements (music plays a role in the plot, too), an engrossing story, great pacing (the fact that the “fanservice” routes are spin offs of the main story and not part of it helps greatly) and well written characters, Tsukihime, Nasu’s all time classic along with Fate Stay Night (with the added bonus of being rather short and fast paced if you want to clear a single path, while FSN often drags along). Then we have Sekien no Inganock, an extremely fascinating surreal steampunk story with an unique visual style and setting (it suffers from some repetition, sadly) and Sharin no Kuni, an interesting dystopia-meets-slice of life tale about criminal rehabilitation and love (if you decide to play it be aware that after the ending you will need to play Houzuki’s path from the fandisc if you want to further explore the setting and understand some plot twist). Muv Luv Alternative seems to be great, too, but since I haven’t played it and you need to read Extra and Unlimited before it I really can’t comment on its quality.

            There are more extreme “eroges”, too, titles where violence and sex have a greater role without undermining the game’s narrative or crossing the nukige border. Swan Song, for example, is the rough, often cruel tale of a group of young earthquake survivors and of their attempt to rebuild a civil society during a terrible winter. It has a really unique atmosphere, and even if some scenes can be cheap in the last part it is still a powerful experience.
            Then there are Nitroplus’ titles: Hanachirasu and Saya no Uta are both short, disturbing (especially Saya’s mix of lovecraftian horror, ethical distortions and explicit scenes – they can be cruel, but the worst thing is that what’s really going on is far more hideous than the game will ever show you) well written pieces by now-famous Madoka author Urobuchi Gen, Hanachirasu is an interesting tale about revenge in a dystopian isolationist Japan with a strong emphasis on sword fighting (its author is extremely knowledgeable on that topic, aside from the obvious liberties he takes for narrative purposes). It shoulde be mentioned that Hanachirasu and Kikokugai have explicit scenes right at the beginning. Another game with some explicit contents (and a somewhat morbid approach to human relationships, that part personally troubled me) is Cross Channel, the tale of a group of students forced in a time loop in a lifeless city. The main character is a hit-or-miss type, as is the writer’s style and the pacing of some parts of the game but the ending is tantalizing.
            I should also mention that Kara no Shoujo’s beginning seems to be extremely interesting, not to mention its reputation in the Japanese vn fanbase aside from its gore and sex scenes.

            This list encompasses extremely different games: maybe you will be able to overlook the explicit scenes and appreciate some of those titles, maybe you will be digusted by your first approach and never give them a second chance, but that’s another matter.

            Speaking about vns, I would also like to express my gratitude for the work you and the other Aksys guys did with 999 :) More all-ages quality visual novels would be a boon for this genre’s popularity in the west.

    • DanteJones

      Yeeeeah, I was thinking the same thing. Major “do not want” there.

    • Locklear93

      I see where you’re coming from, certainly, and if I get the feeling that it’s anything like snuff, I’ll stop playing immediately.  I think (hope) that it was just poorly expressed, and that that the intent was that stories without some real danger/crisis/misery/whatever are just fluff.  Mind you, I may be putting words in the guy’s mouth here.  (And also, nothing wrong with fluff–I love me some fluff from time to time.)

      In any event, not yet having played KnS, I don’t really see it as any different than any other story that includes violence unless (again) the killing and the titillation are tied too closely.

    • puchinri

      That was my first thought. It’s creepy (not in a good way either sadly) and sounds a little desperate. (And not great, considering a few eroge are already dark and have murder, etc.)

    • http://twitter.com/PafuPafu7 Kevin Lor

      Holy crap theres sex scene in this? I havent seen any yet ^^ I’m guessing theres none in the demo but so far the demo felt like a mystery/murder flash game that I use to play wayyy back and I loved it. But who plays these game for sex? Why not just go watch some porn/hentai instead. Well maybe a lot but I usually look for VN that has little as possible sex if not needed in the story AND thats hard to find.

      • Exkaiser

        Interestingly enough, they made an OVA of Kara no Shoujo that appears to be your typical hentai OVA.

  • Locklear93

    As a hobbyist writer, I have to agree with them completely.  If nothing bad happens, there’s no emotional impact, and the story is worse off for it.  If the player can always save the day, emotional impact is traded for a sense of accomplishment, relief, or both.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but giving the player positive feelings of success isn’t the same as providing an array of emotion.

    As a reader/viewer/player of fiction, however, AAAAAAAAAARGH.  It drives me up a wall when I can’t save a character I care about. I raged harder than I care to admit at being unable to save Aerith (yeah, yeah, laugh it up :P) in FF7, or Melissa in Magna Carta 2.

    I suppose there are two reasons it bothers me more in games or interactive fiction like VNs than it would watching it play out in a movie, or reading it in a book.  The first is that if I can’t save a character, it feels as if I’ve lost a measure of my agency as a player.  The game or story usually needs to refund that, or I may not finish it: my biggest gripe about VNs is how often they give me an option and then do the other thing anyway.  In the case of a character I liked and wanted to retain being killed no matter what I do, that might mean letting me wreak serious revenge on the villain, for example.

    The second reason is simply that most of the time, when I’m doing something interactive, I want it to turn out my way.  Reality railroads us down certain paths often; I like games and interactive stories for opportunities to avoid that.  This one’s on the reader or player (myself included).  Sometimes the story we want isn’t the best story–it’s the story we want.  In the end, the author has to decide which story he wants to tell, and the reader has to decide whether they value the impact, or whether they felt frustrated and wanted a “let me have it all” situation.

    I guess I won’t know where Kara no Shoujo falls for me until I read it, but it’s nice to see that Innocent Grey is serious enough about the writing that I have to wonder.

    • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

      I can’t really speak from experience, but I would guess that the best way to solve the problem you’re talking about and still retain the “tonight, someone dies!” element of your story would be to make it so that you have to chose (or your actions chose for you): i.e., you can save one heroine, but that means the other one dies.

      • Locklear93

        That’s a way to do it, yeah.  It does mean you may have to limit the story you can tell, somewhat, unless the killing happens only at/near the very end, or else do LOADS of rewriting to account for either character being written out very early.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1769064526 Vivian Mai

    So…they couldn’t think of any other way to spice up the eroge?

    Or did they just think that murder was the only way to give an eroge a certain “edge”?

    • http://geekouts.blogspot.com/ miruki

      Err, I think it’s about the mystery/crime theme in general, which they use to make their eroges special. And since one of the things that moves you most is the loss of a character (which you can easily convert to other genres of games, like RPGs) they went for murder crimes, instead of thievery or the likes. 

      I really do like Innocent Grey’s approach, as I’m a huge suspense/crime/mystery novel fan and I also do enjoy eroge. And in most crime novels you’ll have a detective stumble across corpses while trying to find the murder, so imo it just fits the genre well, tho I do get that some people might be annoyed when going for a certain character only to find out that this character will die no matter what. 

      • Ladius

        Agreed, the lack of tension in many visual novels is one of their biggest problems in keeping the player interested throughout the whole ordeal, especially seeing how many vns (even much lauded masterpieces like Ever17) suffer from pacing problems, sometimes due to their age.

  • http://twitter.com/loliwars Komeirin

    “If murders don’t happen… *snip*”
    Tragedy does necessary, but just by having murder doesn’t mean they can be different from other typical eroge. I think this is just a simple mishap in expressing their intent.

    • puchinri

      Pretty much. Besides, I’m pretty sure at least a few eroge are popular for how violent they are and for having murder. (And you don’t need murder to have effective tragedy either.)

  • Ladius

    The demo was really well-crafted, I hope to be able to buy it tomorrow :) It’s nice to see such an interesting and well polished visual novel released in the west, this is really a great moment to be a fan of this genre (JAST’s new announcements are awesome, too).

  • http://twitter.com/BlackCycFan Michael Connell

    I like that IG isn’t afraid to kill characters, especially heroines and yet it does seem like they also know not to overuse the death=motivation and/or plot advancement. Don’t want to overstuff that refrigerator, lol

    In a couple of hours this game will finally be available for purchase. I can’t wait

  • Aoshi00

    I understand what they mean by the loss of a char motivating the main char, but personally I’m rather squeamish w/ grotesque murders in VNs, especially when it happens to the heroines, it just kind of turns me off instinctively and I have to fight to keep playing to find out how the story unfolds, it feels a bit like “snuff” for the shock value like someone said..  The violence might give it more of an impact, but it doesn’t sit well w/ me.  I prefer they don’t show it in such gory detail.. however, if it’s gratuitous and stylish violence like say the Nic Cage movie Drive Angry, I’m not as bothered and just kinda laugh it off because it’s supposed to be grindhouse..  but since VNs are supposed to be taken seriously and require heavy emotional investment, I find it a bit repulsive at times.  I’m glad Steins;Gate didn’t really have much extremely violence (there were some death scenes but nothing gross or explicit), that’s why it’s rated Cero C instead of Cero Z like Choas Head, many scenes are quite shocking and bother me quite a bit, that I don’t feel like going on, the grotesque murders and the main char’s often delusional negative imagination of bad things happening to the heroines (though you’re given a choice to imagine positive things).

    I like murder mystery and thrillers too, but like Heavy Rain, there wasn’t that much gross stuffs in it (the scene when Ethan had to crawl thru broken glass gave me goosebumps lol, or that cutting off fingers part, that was gross, well I guess there was nudity and sex too, the Jpn ver I played censored the nudity and sex scene), but otherwise it didn’t gross me out at all like some VNs.. like now I hear about this and seen these screenshots, it made me want the game less even though the story might be really good..

    I guess I just want a good story and don’t care much for the ero or guro scenes, but since it’s a PC game, those elements are often there and half expected by fans..

    Now that I think about it.. I’m not sure explicit violence is really necessary for a unique VN.. Anata wo Yurusanai on the PSP felt very mature and deals w/ adult subjects like adultery/infidelity (not sexual, just mature and realistic), and it didn’t have graphic and disturbing violence, just a good story and unique presentation (holding the PSP vertically like Hotel Dusk) and art (drawn by a fashion magazine artist instead of anime artist), and cool Uematsu jazzy music :)

    I can’t say I have played that many VNs in recent years, but Phoenix Wright is also a kind of VN right, the mystery part was just fine w/o graphic stuffs even though we can check out the murder scenes.. but I guess the series is more cartoonish overall, and kara no shoujo is really dark stuffs since it looks like it deals w/ occult or black magic or something. I could only speak from experience the ones I really enjoyed didn’t have any overly disturbing scenes in them to make them memorable..

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