• Question: Do you feel it is a point in a narrative's favour that the potency of the emotional devastation caused by a major loss (the most obvious example being a character's death) leaves you completely numb to everything that happens thereafter? - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    No, but kinda if you’re feeling charitable.

    If you want to intentionally cause massive emotional devastation, it’s not exactly hard. There are literary recipes for that kind of thing, even. It can happen (semi-) unintentionally too. But either way, pathos is a tool in a writer’s toolbox and people respond to it differently. A moment that totally wrecks someone might not move another person at all. Is that a point in the narrative’s favour? A point against the narrative? The first person’s favour? What if the first person was a super cynical asshole and the story still made him cry? Great success? What if the author wanted a later event be more impactful but it isn’t to someone because of this? A point against? There are too many variables to give a universal answer, it’ll always depend more on who is reading than what they are reading.

    So, my bottom line is that if you set out to write a story with the goal of building up and then executing a tearjerker, and pull it off so that it works as intended, there’s merit to it for sure. Maybe at its most basic form it’s not the hardest thing, but doing it properly is more than what a whole lot of writers can do.

    Of course “emotional potency” can be considered a very desirable thing, and many people do so. If you bake your entire narrative around this goal you get something our scene calls nakige, or crying games. The fact there’s a term like “crying games” belies a phenomenon: there are these feelsnauts who specifically look for that exquisite moment of catharsis when their waifu du jour dies of plot cancer while they reach for the tissues with shaking hands. They are our equivalent of horror movie junkies who seek a different kind of thrill, and often get it from jumpscares (which really are the cheapest trick in the book). It’s a VN term because this is one of the best mediums ever invented for eliciting an emotional response. We can attack multiple senses and the medium works well for reader self-insertion AND the reader can progress at their own pace through the experience. The only better thing would be if the readers were provided with a small bottle of cherry blossom scented perfume to lightly mist their faces with and a life-like hug pillow to squeeze during the climactic moments. Maybe then we could finally truly feel something.

  • Question: What are some good comedy anime you can recommend? Like, something that actually brought you to tears from laughing - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    Can’t think of anything. I’ve not seen much comedy anime as it’s not my thing. Anime bringing me to tears from laughing is usually unintentional and caused by some sort of hilarious trainwreck of badness. For that, I can recommend currently airing Gokukoku no Brynhildr.

  • Question: What do you think about Saya no Uta? - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    SnU is okay. Neat and concise, doesn’t trip over itself except for the sex. It’s one of the eroge where the sex is really poorly handled and detracts from the story so much that it’s a legit annoyance even to someone who expects that. They want to use the element for effect in the story, but also eat their cake too which results in having unnecessary, dumb H scenes all the time. Otherwise yeah, a fine VN. I especially like the divergent endings.

  • Question: Will you read Love Despite or Missing Stars when they come out, if only because of how they draw inspiration from KS? I know that on one hand, that might not matter at all to you, but I figure there's a chance. - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    Maybe, but the fact that they’re inspired by KS probably isn’t a factor.

    Both of them are inspired by (or rather, share) what I think are some of the least attractive aspects of KS so it’s not really much of a selling point for me. However, obviously the fact that someone did get so inspired that they’d make a thing of their own is super.

  • Question: Could you give more clear directions on making the Watermelon Carpaccio (such as time grilling, etc.) - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    Oh wow there’s actually someone who cares about the food posts! I sort of gave up on those because it felt like anyone who’d want to read my blog wouldn’t give a care about my interest in xtreme home cooking.

    Anyway, the searing time depends on the thickness and temperature so you’ll have to develop a gut feeling for it, but it’s pretty fast. A couple of minutes per side at most. What you want are evenly thick slices of watermelon, no more than 2mm if possible. A mandolin or a meat slicer will give the best results. Then heat a grill or a frying pan with some oil to smoking hot, this is really vital as in any searing/grilling type of cooking, and just lay your melon slices in. Turn over only once with. You want a nicely caramellized look, almost slightly charred at edges.

  • Question: What would you reccomend to someone as an example of great writing? - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    Steven Hall’s only novel “The Raw Shark Texts”.

  • Question: What are the things about Katawa Shoujo that you don't like? A past post of yours revealed that KS embodies many of the "traits" common to garbage VNs. By no means am I insinuating that you aren't proud of your hard work. I just thought it would be interesting to read your reservations on the concept/finished product. - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    If we go with just the things that are superficially shared by every ren’ai visual novel.

    1) The setting. Japanese highschool is an overused and restrictive setting for anyone who is even a bit familiar with Japanese pop culture. Further, we failed to make the particular setting of KS interesting, though this was mostly by design. Not an excuse though.
    2) The structure. This is kinda unfair to say about KS because I’ve not been satisfied with the narrative structure of a single visual novel ever. Branching/interactive narrative is such an impossibly tough nut to crack, and we certainly didn’t manage a very good job at it. More to the point, the general story structure in KS also leaves a lot of be desired. Choose a story path centered around romancing your waifu-to-be? Meh.
    3) Generic presentation. Sprites posing on backgrounds is boring and the wholly unoriginal background music style is forgettable (but turns out the actual soundtrack is very memorable to the audience!). Again, this was a conscious design decision but that still is not an excuse.
    4) Nudge nudge. We successfully killed almost all of this, but there are a couple of “funny” references remaining that serve no purpose at all. Every anime/game visual cameo should’ve been original, a bunch of stupid puns should’ve been hunted down and killed, the book references should’ve been better thought of (for example I like A22’s idea of Hisao using phrases from other novels as a part of his inner narration, we should’ve utilized that more), stuff like that. References and intertextuality are good only when they mean something.
    5) Familiar ground. Stock scenes and story events. Should never feel mandatory to use this stuff. Like above, we successfully culled a whole bunch of them, but many remain (BEACH SCENE FUCKING WHERE?). This also was actually a conscious design decision. Remember, the original concept of KS was “a generic ren’ai visual novel made by 4chan based on this one image”.
    6) Words words words. KS is too big, like many visual novels. Even if it is actually 5 novels in one, it still has too many words for its content.
    7) Can’t handle the sex. This is a tricky thing because again, we almost did a really good job with this, but didn’t quite get there. What I dislike is that there’s enough of it and it’s just explicit enough that it creates a glass ceiling for KS’s audience and for many people tosses KS into the category of eroge. Also this is where many of the devs had divergent visions, so different parts of the novel handle it differently.

    Many of these problems we fought against, some were caused by our gigantic design debt from the early stages of the project, some were actual legit design choices, and with most the vision I have now only developed during the long years of KS’s development. If you spend five years on anything, you get bored of the generic. But as I’ve said before when alluding to my misgivings about the novel, I absolutely don’t regret anything and yeah, that’s right: I’m super proud of us and KS, even with all of its flaws (which are many).

  • Question: Just out of curiosity, what, in your opinion, constitutes "hack" writing? - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    I think it’s writing that’s primarily concerned about something else than the quality of the text or elegant expression of ideas. So it’s stuff like: pulp literature (and other penny-a-word things), hypertargeted rearrangements of Best of TV Tropes, most high school and university essays, significant parts of journalism and copywriting and such. Some stuff to note: a single writer can be both a hack and not, even within the same text, and hack writers are not bad by definition. Not even exaggerating much, Edgar Allan Poe was a hack writer for a lot of his career, and look at what he came up with. Which reminds me, hack writers tend to be more successful than others on certain meters, like not being a wretched shadow of a human being (though Poe certainly failed at this) and yearly income (Poe was poor as fuck, but he was the first author to actually live off his pen).

    Also, I hadn’t really put any thought on this term before this question, so I literally hacked up my opinion in a couple of minutes.

  • Question: You know, you said a while ago that you wanted a visual novel that "your mom would like." No crappy moe shenanigans, and etc. Have you ever played one of those point and click from back in the day? A bit different from a visual novel, but they have a lot of reading, and it might be what you're looking for. Not all of them are pixel hunting quests, too. - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    Sure I have. I’ve played pretty much all of what these days are maybe considered “classics” and a hefty pile of not-so-classic adventure games. And yes, many of them are quite good and probably(?) more palatable to a “mom” than your generic eroge script.

  • Question: Sorry for asking here rather than the KS boards, but I wanted to be anonymous: a year ago or so, you said that 4LS was working on some other stuff and might even do some recruiting soon. Is that still the case, or not gonna happen? - Anonymous
  • Answer:

    I can’t really say anything more than that. The situation has not changed.