Nostalgia, Tragedy And Catharsis: An Interview With Innocent Grey

By Ishaan and Laura . June 29, 2011 . 5:01pm

Leading up to today’s English release of Kara no Shoujo, Siliconera recently had the opportunity to interview the game’s developer, Innocent Grey, about their company, development philosophy, and their thoughts on the visual novel market in Japan.


The Innocent Grey staff member we spoke with requested that we not take his name publicly, emphasizing that the views expressed in this interview are those of the company as a whole, and not those of a sole staff member.


Finally, a quick note before we proceed on to the interview. In Japan, visual novels are generally referred to as “ADV” (adventure). For the purpose of this interview, we stuck to using the term “ADV” as it turns up a fair number of times, and we felt it would make for a more faithful translation of the interview.


There isn’t much information on the Internet about Innocent Grey, so can you introduce the company for us? All we know is that a company Gungnir owns two brands. Can you tell us how Innocent Grey and Noesis are different, and what each brand’s goal is?


Innocent Grey spokesperson: Innocent Grey is a game brand that debuted in April 2005 with the game Cartagra. Ever since, Innocent Grey has been a brand that was about depicting mystery stories in addition to creating the “Japanese” atmosphere and the “nostalgic, old-fashioned”1 atmosphere that’s present in Cartagra.


On the other hand, where Innocent Grey deals with the extremely serious stories, Noesis is a brand that handles the concept of ero-games that are both fun and easy to understand.


1. The term used to describe this concept was “Shouwa,” which is an era in Japan that lasted from 1926 to 1989. All of Innocent Grey’s games take place in the beginning to middle of this era. Thus, the nostalgia can also be interpreted as a “nostalgia for older times”.


Let’s talk about the Japanese ADV market. Overseas, many people [mistakenly] perceive ADVs and ero-games to be the same thing. Do you think this holds true for Japan as well? How are they different, and how are they similar?


Ero-games, as a genre, aren’t only ADVs, but they’re also puzzle games, RPGs, SLGs2, and so on. It’s true that they number fewer than ADV, but they do exist, and in Japan their incredibly great popularity can be compared to that of ADVs.


ADVs aren’t ero-games; it’s just that there are many ADVs that are ero-games. Although in reality, with RPGs and such, the game usually changes to an ADV-styled system with erotic scenes.  We believe that the ADV genre is an easy one to use to make ero-games.


2. SLGs = Simulation Games


ADVs are appearing more and more on consoles and portable systems. You can’t really make ero-games for them, can you? Do Innocent Grey or Noesis have any interest in the console market at all?


We’re interested, but, for example, with Innocent Grey’s games, you have corpses and violent images over and above the erotic scenes, making it difficult to port them over to a console.


Also, we don’t want to spend the effort on moving to the consoles when we’re pushing the limits [of what consoles would allow]. We work within the market with the 18-year age restriction.


Innocent Grey published its first game, Cartagra, in 2005. It’s been 6 years since then. Do you think the ADV market has changed?


In the case of our company, we just simply focused on other game types, rather than strictly ADVs. In reality, there are players who wish for simple ADVs and there are people who wish for more “game-like” games, so we believe we can have stable sales with games that achieve that balance.


As a company, how have you adapted to the change?


We’re aiming for games where you don’t just choose choices, but rather games where you have to think.


If there is something lacking from the ADV and ero-game markets, what do you think it is?


Standardized norms like the ones consumer [console markets] have.


Could you elaborate on that in more detail?


With bishoujo3 games, the hardware isn’t standardized like it is with consumer platforms, nor are the packages standardized, so we believe it would be interesting for these aspects to be standardized.


For many bishoujo games, we often hear that the packaging is large and cumbersome. That — and because the games would be easier to manage — is all the more reason for a standardized set of regulations.


3. “Bishoujo” translates to “pretty girl”. Bishoujo games are games centred around interactions with pretty, anime-styled women.


Let’s move on to Kara no Shoujo. You originally released it in 2008, but now it’s coming over in English three years later. Why at this time? Is there a particular reason you chose this time to do it?


It’s because there was an enormous number of requests [for the game] from overseas users. We’d also heard that the game wouldn’t sell overseas due to illegal downloads. Those are the most important reasons. There’s no specific reason as to why we chose this particular time.


Kara no Shoujo is a popular game. Why do you believe it was successful? Overseas, it was the art that drew people’s attention, but what do you believe makes the game special in Japan, where ADVs are common?


Even if you call them ADVs, the content covers a broad spectrum. We think many ADVs are love stories or comedies or other manga-like content expressed in an ADV format, but Innocent Grey writes mystery novels as ADVs.


With the art, too, where the girls are often drawn to look cute, or even sexy, Innocent Grey also expresses the mood and the anxious, unsettling atmosphere you feel while reading a mystery novel.


Kara no Shoujo is more interactive than the usual ADVs, isn’t it? For example, there’s the diary within the game. Do you believe these [interactive] elements in the game are becoming more and more important to the ADV genre?


It’s more of a memo pad than a diary. This is something that will be essential to Innocent Grey games in the future as well.


While the case (the game) will end if the player “reads” mindlessly, but with this the player can “think” and end the case for him/herself. We want to create a game that gives you that feeling of satisfaction (catharsis) when you solve a case.


We heard that when you were converting the game to English, you ran into a fair bit of trouble and had to completely create a new engine from scratch. May we ask what happened there?


Originally the “notebook” is used during deduction scenes to choose clues or to choose the perpetrator. You choose a person’s name recorded in the notebook to name the criminal.


However, because expressing Japanese and English in the notebook is done differently, it turned out to be completely impossible to use the same system for both.


This holds true for Kara no Shoujo as well, but your games usually have very graphic scenes and the stories are tragic in nature. Do you feel this distances your audience? Or do you feel that your fans expect this from Innocent Grey?


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 acquire clues.


In other words, it’s tragedy that’s necessary for the story. If murders don’t happen, then it would be just like the many normal ero-games out there. It has nothing to do with being Innocent Grey.


The two existing opinions of fans are that they agree and that they agree but still want to save her. 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 believe that there will be both characters that you can save and those that must inevitably die.


What do you think of the overseas market? We’ve heard opinions from many different publishers, but we would like to hear from Innocent Grey what you think about player interests and tastes overseas.


As the Japanese market is gradually shrinking, we must expand our horizon to overseas. Also, the Japanese otaku culture is pretty well-accepted overseas, but we would love to know what sort of literary style is liked by overseas players.


We heard about Noesis’ new game, Cure Girl, in May, but haven’t heard anything about Innocent Grey’s new title. Could you give us a hint?


There’s a tiny announcement on the official site, but we’re currently working on Kara no Shoujo 2 (temporary name). The memo pad system is still present and going strong, so please look forward to the game.

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  • The More I read, the more I want this game

  • this game looks really interesting…but i don’t use windows…so ,unfortunately, i can’t play it.

  • EvilAkito

    Bought it earlier today. This is my first eroge adventure game since Three Sisters’ Story, so I’m really looking forward to playing though it.

  • Ladius

    Bought today, I can’t wait to have some time to devote to it ^^

  • Cuc Tu

    >SLGs = Simulation Games. That’s technically correct, but inaccurate. The Japanese convention primarily use “SLG” and “simulation” to mean “strategy games”, including management and tactical games. That’s something the footnote should make clear, rather than simply translating it as “simulation” without explanation.

  • Exkaiser

    Note that there’s an error in the version of the game on the site right now where the character descriptions will show spoilers if you look at them immediately after that character is added to the journal (as in, while you’re still talking to them). They’re uploading a fixed build, but for now I would just avoid checking the journal while talking to new people.

    Anyways, I bought the game myself, but I’m stuck on a pretty trick dead end so I’m taking a bit of a break right now. Probably will get back on the sleuthing as soon as the fixed version is uploaded.

    • Locklear93

       …hm.  Downloaded it an hour ago, and haven’t started it yet.  I maaaaay just delete that and redownload it on the weekend.  Thanks VERY much for the warning.  I do QA testing for a living, so I’m very tolerant of bugs, but most bugs don’t spoil plot for me!

    • Heard that this was caused by the fact they uploaded their beta version by accident. Problem should be fixed by Thursday. 

  • Natat

    I’ll be getting this as soon as possible, I’ve been waiting a long time for KnS

  • [spoilers] erotic scenes… more like just some poor schmuck trying to have sex with his pregnant wife from behind. The demo gave me nightmares. [end spoilers]
    Please make the horror stopppppppppppppppppppppppppp………ahhhhhhhhhh…

    Why can’t we have Chaos; Head and Steins; Gate in English? If I’m going to have nightmare, might as well be from a popular high-quality title.

    • Azuku

      You sure are easily spooked, huh? I’m curious, why exactly did you play the demo? Were you completely unaware of both sexual and violent nature of this game? Every impression I got from every single bit of information regarding this game seemed to indicate pretty decent levels of both sexual content and gore.

      I also find it interesting that you always seem to bring up the sexual content of the game. I’m not trying to make this personal (or make it look like I’m stalking you, because that would blow my cover), but in each of your impressions of the demo you seem shocked by any and all of the erotic material contained within the game. This, despite the demo having two(?) erotic scenes, both with the same character, which you haven’t mentioned, and so I’m assuming you didn’t get. You’ll have to forgive me, but the amount of distress you express seems not only oddly disproportionate to the content of the demo, but downright silly. Heck, even the preview images on the product page have screens of both gore and sex, separate instances of course, this isn’t guro (and there’s more sexual images than gory ones). I’m just curious why you seem so deeply disturbed by these fairly common concepts.

      Furthermore, what exactly makes you think that either Chaos;Head or Steins;Gate are “higher quality” than Kara no Shoujo? Is it really popularity? Both those titles exist on multiple platforms, PC, 360, PSP, of course they’re going to sell better, and thus, be more popular. In terms of content, they’re too different to be gauged on the same scale, in my opinion. I’ve only had the opportunity to play Chaos;Head, and I did enjoy it, but how are these two titles similar? Both have gore?

      To me, the best part of Chaos;Head was the main character, who is the most accurate – and I mean this is the best way – the most accurate representation of someone who frequents places like 2ch/4chan I’ve ever seen. Honestly, I don’t think you’d really like him, as he’s quite the pervert.

      I don’t mean for any of this to sound personal, or aggressive. I mean it’s fine if you don’t like something, but you’ve posted more or less the exact same reaction three times now (my cover’s been blown), and I just wanted to finally express my curiosity.

      • With a name tag such as ‘yahoo-2WNP7FYA3VYJQKEYYV5GXH3K5Y’ it’s hard to remain incognito:) Regardless, it seems I have made an impression… hopefully not a completely bad one.  
        Anyway, sorry if I came off as a prude. I’m nothing of the sort I assure you. I am a big Higurashi fan (even though the gore scenes do upset me terribly) and I have played my share of ero-games. It’s just that sex scenes make it impossible for me to care about the characters and ultimately the story. 
        Seeing my favourite heroine taking it up the proverbial ass is simply horrible. 
        I’m a gamer at heart and just as I couldn’t stand seeing a Final Fantasy or a Dragon Quest character having sex, the same applies to characters from Visual Novels.
        I gave Chaos; Head and Steins; Gate as an example simply because these are titles that have been ported on almost all of the available platforms out there.
        Surely, gore/sex scenes can’t be that bad in a game that passed Microsoft’s & Apple’s regulations.
        I hope you continue stalking me. It makes me feel special:)

        • Azuku

          Ah, I understand better now. I would like to apologize myself if I came off as accusatory or anything. It’s just that from my position I see a lot of comments sharing a similar… tone to your previous posts (not so much from Siliconera, just in general). So I guess I was picking on you a bit. It just gets a little frustrating seeing something you enjoy get relentlessly misunderstood, or picked on, very frequently without any real explination.

          In regards to your distaste for sexual imagery relating to games, I suppose I can understand your sentiment, though I don’t really share it. Having said that, maybe you would like Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate, they don’t actually have any erotic content. Fan-service and gore, sure, but no actual sex, on any platform. Chaos;Head’s main character is still a wonderful pervert, though.

  • JustaGenericUser

    Too bad that with the voices removed there’s going to be even MORE pirates out of protest. Unless a voice patch is made, but by the time the patch is made the damage probably would have already been done.

  • it’s not right to say that visual novels and adventure games are the exact same thing.
    A visual novel is a game where the text is all over the screen, and superimposed over background images. Just because the game has a lot of text doesn’t mean it’s a visual novel.
    Most Japanese adventure games are games where the text is displayed in text boxes. Visual novels are a subset of adventure games, but not all adventures games are visual novels, so saying that adventure games in Japan is kind of misleading.

    Many games considered usually to be visual novels in the West, like Phoenix Wright,
    Jake Hunter, Time Hollow, aren’t visual novels but adventure games.

    Japanese game makers gradually streamlined the game play found in Western adventure games, and replaced the icon clicking (where you lick on icons like move, open, stuff like that, or later on graphic icons like an eye to look at something) or puzzle and pixel hunt with dialogue tree style choices. This was because console gaming has been predominant for a long time, so getting rid of pixel hunt and clickable icons made the games easier to play. The only different thing is the form, but these games are bonafide adventure games.

    Also, visual novels tend to focus more on the story, in most of these games, you just read the story the story, while adventure games tend to have puzzle solving elements.

    • Initially, I was confused with the classification as well, thinking adventure games were explicitly referring to some type of gameplay function. VNDB did a nice job with the difference between the two styles you are referring to: and

  • john411

    >you have corpses and violent images over and above the erotic scenes, making it difficult to port them over to a console.

    Chaos;Head Noah for 360 says hi.

    • I doubt the 360 had any erotic scene with the penis between the boobies

  • PrinceHeir

    will buy this just to support this guys ^^

    always love buying niche games. there’s just something special about them :P

  • André “Iori Yagami” Gabriel

    Were’s the question about the voices in Kara No Shoujo MangaGamer’s version??????

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