On September 24, the Muv-Luv Team took to Kickstarter in the hopes of getting enough funding to release an English translation of Muv-Luv Extra, Muv-Luv Unlimited, and Muv-Luv Alternative outside of Japan. The trilogy is a visual novel series that starts out as a traditional love triangle between Takeru, a high school boy, and two girls named Sumika and Meiya. It then transitions into a science-fiction adventure where the Takeru from the original universe discovers he’s in a parallel timeline with an alternate history. There, he becomes a mecha pilot, while still having the chance to fall in love with the women around him. With an initial $250,000 goal, the project has since raised over $820,000 from over 5,000 people as its November 3 end date draws near. Siliconera got in touch with Koki Yoshimune, author of the Muv-Luv series, to learn more about his series.
Muv-Luv begins with the protagonist waking up next to a mysterious woman. Why did you want to start the story with this scene and what inspired the fusion of mecha with a romance novel?
Koki Yoshimune, Muv-Luv Creator: We’ve filled Muv-Luv with a lot of typical scenes that are found and commonly used in Japanese content. This was to make it easier for the players to read the moral lessons of the game, that an ordinary everyday life is actually vulnerable and peace isn’t free of charge.
The tone of Muv-Luv differs greatly from Muv-Luv Extra to Muv-Luv Unlimited and Alternative. Why did the visual novels shift their tone to a more serious and futuristic storyline if the original was a success?
It’s not about writing the story based on just the idea of “it’s a mecha and romance visual novel”, it’s more about my desire to match the setting where a country is under the brink of elimination because of war, where human rights and personal freedom are very limited, and then it eventually felt natural for me to include the mecha element. After the Pacific War, the implementation of the “War Guilt” plan made it impossible for anyone to talk publicly about war. This restriction has continued for over 60 years, and the only choice for creative media to discuss war outside of manga and novels is just through robot anime.
Big humanlike robots fighting became a replacement for “scenarios where people equipped with strong weaponry or military power kill or destroy one another,” which is impossible to depict in Japan in any other form. The only way for us to cope with this cultural background in portraying war to young people is through mecha battles, which have a lot more realistic impression for us rather than when tanks or fighter planes chase and destroy one another.
Please tell us how the narrative evolved with each game?
First, I need to make something clear to our dear overseas fans: Muv-Luv Alternative was not really a sequel to Muv-Luv 2003 [Muv-Luv Extra and Unlimited], nor it was made because of its success. It is well known in Japan that Muv-Luv 2003 and Muv-Luv Alternative were meant to be released as one game. However, the scale of the development and cost was too big and caused delay of the release for years. We decided to split the release for financial reasons.
After the release of Muv-Luv, it still took 3 years to complete Muv-Luv Alternative. The main reason was we had to rewrite the scenario a number of times. You may ask, why? This is because in Japan, harmonizing the contents of the game with recent events is very sensitive. This is especially true in anime. The slightest relatability to any traumatic events will immediately remind people of what happened, and we as creators will not release a game which may cause problems with the Japanese community.
We actually had an offer to make an anime out of Muv-Luv Alternative from another 3rd party company, and it was affected greatly by the events of the world during those 3 years of development. Major earthquakes, tsunamis, and an anti-Japan movement in China forced us to change the scenario. At the end of it, the anime was cancelled. We could’ve released it without all the rewriting… but look at the results, the final product is a lot better after all that work!
Muv-Luv fans like to refer to Meiya as the series’ main heroine, and not just as a love interest for Takeru. What character traits do you think make her so revered? Which characters at the office are viewed as the main heroine?
Mitsurugi Meiya is a tragic heroine, similar to Hayase Mitsuki of Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien (Rumbling Hearts). Mitsuki is a very emotional character, but Meiya is straightforward, noble-minded, and is more like a righteous heroine of justice, but overall she is unrequited. Japanese fans see Meiya as “an admirable person, pure and just, but expects no reward in return”, and I think this character makes her easy to identify with or see as a role model.
I was very surprised when foreigners understood Meiya’s personality and liked her. People could see the depth of her characteristics and personality through her katana wielding, samurai girl appearance. When I released Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien in North America, that’s when I realized how closely foreigners are to Japanese culture and society. Even if anime and manga are normally targeted for teenagers, it is seen as potentially adult in nature for advanced countries across the world.
For Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative, Kagami Sumika is designed to be the undisputed main heroine, and there’s no need for the staff members to debate about it, haha. However each people has their own preferences, and as for me, I like Meiya and Yuuko the most, haha.
The strength of Muv-Luv as a series is driven by its popular characters. Can you tell us the process of designing characters? Do you start with artwork first? Pick out personality traits? What do you think is the “secret sauce” that makes a character loveable for Muv-Luv fans?
First, I setup the theme of the game, and then work on the story. Then, I design the characters and their relationship to reinforce the theme. Finally, I plan for the visual designs. These were the steps I took to create the main protagonists of the game for Muv-Luv. On the other hand, with Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien I solidified the character details and relationships first before deciding the theme of the stories, so I do not follow a definite rule for the creation process.
In case of manga and light novels, since these formats are continuous by nature, the establishment of the visual character design and personality comes first. Through this method, strong and lively characters are established. This way, the characters can easily weave the story on their own. On the other hand, visual novels are full package releases that contain content from start until the end. One of the reasons why we’ve made the visual novel characters theme and story driven, rather than character driven, is because if the character themselves weave the story, the project budget and development time would be out of control.
I’m very careful in making sure that none of my characters in Muv-Luv end up as a cliche of visual novel character tropes, and actually represent real human behavior precisely. When story driven, the characters have a tendency to speak only to move the plot along, but I didn’t design Muv-Luv that way. I take care in understanding each character’s position, background, and feelings regarding their current situation, and then based on all those 3 factors, I create their dialog. I also ask other writers on the team to do the same.
Akane Suzumiya received a fan disk game called Akane Maniax, which even received an OVA. Could this end up eventually released in English if Muv-Luv is well received?
Of course it’s possible! However, either an English translation of Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien or its 2008 remake comes first. The Muv-Luv Kickstarter campaign is the beginning of our long desired Western development, and it will not end there. After the campaign is over, we will be releasing the game through Steam for Windows PC and also for the PlayStation Vita. We’re really looking forward to the western audience’s feedback on our game.
Why was an all-ages release made after the original adult version of Muv-Luv? What was the response to the all-ages release and how do all-ages releases expand a fan base for eroge visual novels?
This is really a hard question… To make a long story short, we believe that an all-ages production would cover a wider audience. Maybe some people who played the full version might find it a bit less satisfactory, though. But for us, for the sake of having our work transmitted as widely as possible, an all-ages version is necessary. Also, the 18+ version is a director’s cut edition, and is very Japanese in nature. It is the result of adult-oriented content evolution for Windows PC gaming. We all have our own beliefs about freedom of expression, but we respect each country’s’ ethics and regulations. The director’s cut edition is made for domestic release, and all-ages is made for broader audiences.