MangaGamer recently announced that they will be publishing two more of visual novel developer Innocent Grey’s games in the west—Kara no Shoujo 2 and a prequel to the Kara no Shoujo series, Cartagra. Both games, as is the case with most Innocent Grey titles, are more mature than your typical visual novel, telling stories of murder and intrigue.
Siliconera recently caught up with Innocent Grey artist Miki Sugina, who has worked on all of the company’s games, to ask a few questions regarding Kara no Shoujo 2, Innocent Grey’s development philosophy, and Sugina’s own taste in games, via e-mail.
(Note that the interview may contain minor spoilers for the first Kara no Shoujo.)
It’s previously been stated that there will be two protagonists in Kara no Shoujo 2—Reiji and Tomoyuki. Could you go further into the dynamic between these two characters, both in and out of investigations?
Miki Sugina, artist: Reiji is overseeing the new incidents in the game objectively, as the detective who is investigating the case. Meanwhile, Tomoyuki is an important witness in the case—in other words, someone who is deeply involved with the incident.
Yukari suffered through a lot of tragedy just two years ago. She was already a very mature for a person her age in the first game, but how has she changed in the second?
In the previous game, she was an outsider who wasn’t able to do anything to stop her friend’s death. Because she deeply regrets this, she will do anything she can to help her friends in this game, even if it means putting herself in danger.
What is Touko to Reiji? From a completely platonic point of view, what about this case stuck to him all these years that he is still searching for clues?
We won’t go into details since it would be a spoiler, but we feel that, because she was someone who had a sense of emptiness just like himself, they were able to seek each other out, surpassing their bodies and minds.
Creating a sequel can be difficult because of the need to add more characters to your existing cast. How did you come up with the new characters in the game with regard to how they would interact with the returning characters?
[Note: Kara no Shoujo 2 has two story lines to follow—past and present.] One of the themes of the sequel is the growth of the old characters. The main characters in the Present section are also characters who matured from the Past section, so showing how they changed, or haven’t changed, was very difficult.
How will the Past and Present sections of the game be connected presentation-wise? Will it be as flashbacks, as Reiji discovers more about the past, or will both stories play out simultaneously?
We can’t go into the details because this is also a spoiler, but you basically go back and forth between them. As new truths are revealed, the Past and Present section will be gradually connected at the end.
One of the most iconic images in the game is the flying bluebird. Is there a specific reason the bird is colored blue? Is it connected to The Blue Bird story?
Yes, the blue bird is an icon of freedom, and shows Touko’s changes in her mentality. Since Azure has many religious meanings as well, we used it as Touko’s image color.
Reiji’s old friend, Kyoko Hazuki, who was the owner of the Moon World Cafe, was an extremely intriguing character. Will she have a bigger role in this game than in the previous game?
She will actually be related indirectly to this game’s case, so please do observe carefully.
What is it about tragedy that makes for good motivation on a hero’s part? Heroes always seem to be born out of tragedy. Do you feel like there are other ways for a person to go above and beyond the call of duty and become a hero as well, or to make players/readers relate to them, or do you feel a tragedy is necessary?
I agree, it is easier for people to relate with a hero with some kind of tragic background. Even from the developer’s perspective, it is easier to compose the story if the main character had a significant traumatic experience in the past. However, I do believe it is possible to create an appealing hero without tragedy.
However, although it’s fairly common, I do like it when a kid who was originally weak goes through hardship and grows up to be a strong character that can stand up against great evil.
Caucasus is an Innocent Grey game that doesn’t necessarily involve tragedy, in that you do have the option of saving the heroine, should you choose to do so… and most people would, I think. So why not make more games with that choice available?
Innocent Grey’s main attraction is hopeless tragedy, lol.
How do you deal with working on such tragic stories all the time? Doesn’t it ever get depressing, to the point that you want to create something happier, just to remind yourself that not everything in life is about loss?
Moe games and happy stories are all over the place in the market, so I don’t think I would like to make one, lol.
RPGs are a popular genre in Japan, and are often a genre that focuses on storytelling, like visual novels. As a studio that makes visual novels, what do you think the most influential RPGs of the last few years have been?
The Megami Tensei and Persona series.
The first Kara no Shoujo had a memo pad system. Are there any game-like aspects to Kara no Shoujo 2?
Rest assured, those systems are basically inherited in the second game as well.
You aren’t bringing just Kara no Shoujo 2 over this time, but Cartagra as well. Since Cartagra was your very first game, what differences would you like people to look out for between it and your later games?
Since the rating restriction has become stricter nowadays, there are some nice grotesque moments [in Cartagra] that can’t be seen in recent games.
When we first spoke with you two years ago, you told us that Innocent Grey’s strengths was working within the adults market, with regard to violence and horrific imagery. Do you feel this is still the case, and do you ever intend to try and branch out to a wider audience?
Nope. I’m not interested in something that is already abundunt in the market, so we will continue to make something that only we can make, and would like to make.
What’s the current visual novel market like in Japan? What are the challenges you face on a regular basis, especially since Innocent Grey doesn’t make the kind of games that you can really merchandise with figurines and card games and things? How does the company survive and keep paying its staff?
It looks like the entire market is having difficulty. Since we are running two game brands simultaneously [in Noesis and Innocent Grey] to reduce development costs, we are able to stay afloat for now. Although we’ve chosen a niche genre, it’s encouraging that we have a certain number of fans.
This is more of a personal question, but what kind of games are the staff at Innocent Grey interested in? And do the games you enjoy influence your work or do they act as more of a way to help you kick back and relax?
Since I receive a lot of stimulation from playing other kinds of games, I am willing to try out games that interest me as much as I can. I previously stated that I like the games that Atlus makes, so I play a lot from them. The Megami Tensei series where I can choose to be lawful or chaotic is especially my favorite.
Images sourced from VNDB.org.