I was trying to put together a post on Fate/Stay Night and went on a rambling sideline about what makes for a good visual novel adaptation. You should stick to a single path rather than try to incorporate all routes in a single narrative. If you start from X-rated material and you want to take it out for better distribution options (or because you have something personal against me) you should make sure there’s enough storyline left over and that characters’ relationships remain rational. You have to make sure your point of view character has an actual personality and isn’t just a vessel for the player, so on..
This got me thinking that there is a wealth of great stories currently available in Visual Novel form that I would love to see adapted into anime. These games aren’t necessarily my favorites but these have narratives that I think would lend themselves well to the anime medium (in some cases possibly better than the VN one…). For the surely dozens of anime studio reps that visit my blog every day – take notes!
Saya no Uta
Fuminori Sakisaka, a young and popular medical student, is on track for a life of success and happiness when everything changes. After a car accident that proves fatal to his parents, leaves him with serious injuries, he must undergo emergency brain surgery. The procedure results in an exaggerated form of agnosia that alters his perceptions causing the world to seem covered in blood and gore, people to look and sound like hideous monsters, and food to taste disgusting. With no apparent cure in sight, Fuminori contemplates suicide but as he is tittering on the verge of despair he meets Saya, a beautiful girl among the flesh-covered walls. The mysterious Saya is looking for her father it seems and Fuminori will do anything to help her, desperate not to lose his one beacon of light and beauty in an abhorrent world.
You should know that Saya no Uta is a Lovecraftian horror with all that implies. It is very gory, often disturbing and deals heavily with the metal (obviously I meant mental but metal is cool too so typo stays!) implications of brutal trauma. The X-rated elements could be taken out but they work well within the clearly adult narrative and I would simply move them off camera for a lighter rating. Personally I think certain character designs could use an upgrade and the backgrounds and environment should be deeply detailed to properly sell the ambiance needed.
Why do I think this will make a great anime, for one thing it was written by Gen Urobuchi. Between Madoka and Psycho Pass, the guy picked up a few things on how to write a story. Plus, with his prestige, I bet any studio would gladly let him adapt his own work. The game is not that long overall and the story needs fleshing out, this might be condensed within a short 6 to 10-episode season although I can easily see how a few episodes worth of material could be added to fill a full season.
I occasionally get a real itch for horror animes and think the genre is underserved. This would be a nice addition and the premise would be perfect for some truly memorable visuals and a suitably insane storyline.
No, Thank You
A cheerful young man loses his memories after heroically saving a stranger from getting hit by a car. After failing to find out who he is, the man he saved decides to thank him by giving him a job at a bar he owns and renting him a small apartment until they can figure out what to do next. After picking the name Haru, the young man starts to adjust to this new life and his new co-workers but it seems things are not quite as they appear. Could his new friends be involved in something…unsavory?
Of all my picks, this is the one least likely to ever get adapted and one of my favorite games. It bears mentioning that this is a very hardcore Yaoi title, and has some truly disturbing and realistic violence. The game also has no good endings, at best they are bitter sweet leaning heavily on the bitter side. So why would I pick this?
The characters are wonderful. All of them are so well crafted and fully developed, with complete backstories and logical motivations. Haru, the player character, is possibly the best MC I have ever embodied. I am nothing like him but I want to be. The game is very cleverly constructed. There is a twist which is adapted to surprise no matter which route you chose to play first and subsequent routes get tweaked depending on their order of playthrough. The common route also has little bits and lines added every time you start over to gradually reveal the full picture. It was truly impressive. You could easily take any single route and simply make sure all the tiny bits of information are added in to get a rich and tense story with a great reveal.
The hardcore elements would be easy to remove and as much as I did enjoy them, do not bring anything to the larger story. They sometimes felt tacked on and unnecessary. One of the romantic stories was very touching though. The look of the game is great. All the character models and backgrounds could easily be kept unchanged. But the quality of the CGs is a bit inconsistent. This will have to be addressed in any adaptation. The game is long enough to have material for a full season even if all the romantic elements are taken out. However, No, Thank you is an unusual story and it may be difficult to find an audience for it.
Lamento -Beyond the Void-
The Ribika (cat people) have fallen on dark times. Their world is rejecting them! A mysterious phenomenon, known only as the void, is slowly making certain places and even animals harmful to the mere touch. Food and resources are rapidly dwindling. On top of that, a strange and deadly disease that has killed off a large percentage of the female population. It is the end of times for the Ribika.
In the miserable world, Konoe strives to survive in his small village when he starts being plagued by horrible nightmares and strange marks on his body. Thinking that he might have gotten cursed, Konoe decides to head to Ransen (the big city) in search for a cure.
Ahhh, a surreal Nitro Chiral Boy Love game, is there anything better? This may be the best-known game on the list and frankly I’m surprised that it hasn’t already been made into an anime. The rich fantasy setting full of magic and demons is both superbly suited for mesmerizing visuals and an easily marketable storyline. I kept thinking what a great show it would make as I was playing through this. If it wasn’t for the fact that I enjoyed all the individual routes for their own reasons, I might say this would be better as an anime.
The characters are a little tropey but appealing. This isn’t supposed to be a particularly serious or deep narrative. It was a fun romp and I would love to see it play out on my TV. The romantic storylines would be very easy to remove or tone down without affecting the overall narrative but they were actually quite sweet so I wouldn’t mind if some hint was left.
The game is pretty much unending (at least twice as long as DMMD if not longer) so you would have material for a full 26 episodes maybe more, even without BL. I think the only reason this game isn’t more popular is that it’s such a long playthrough.
And of course, the visuals are the best. Just keep the cat boys as is, pretty please.
Kamidori Alchemy Meister
The jewel city of Yuidora is thriving. As one of the seven major cities, it attracts alchemists from all over the world hoping to make it big. Among them, a young orphan named Wilfred is working to get his license and revive his parents’ workshop as one of the greatest in the land. As he strives for greatness he will have to prove himself to the Alchemist guild, gather the resources he needs and convince powerful allies to lend him a hand
Kamidori is a weird little hybrid turn based SRPG, crafting sim and hentai visual novel mash up. It’s pretty fun. The basic storyline is very much a light fantasy Shounen (think Magi for instance) with an enormous pretty girl harem thrown in. The x-rated part is completely unnecessary and just there for fanserve but the girls are surprisingly likeable (if underdeveloped). Nothing special but everything was enjoyable and the visuals are quite pretty.
The routes are an aside to the main storyline which is unaffected by your choice of partner, so they could be cut out altogether. This is also the type of story that can easily go on forever. Each step in Wilfred’s quest to become the best (i.e. level up) could be made into a few episodes loosely adding up to the main arc. To be honest this would probably end up something like Fairy Tail.
Wakaba is an aspiring playwright and nothing gets your name out there better than a bit of controversy. After writing a play about the infamous traitor Ein who killed a ruler of the White Kingdom, Christina, but reinventing him as her loyal supporter, framed by an unknown evildoer, she thinks she might just have struck gold.
In the meantime, her friend Cero needs to make a trip to the capitol to get Coco maintenanced. Coco is a highly advanced doll (a magical android of sorts) and like every other doll, she occasionally needs to get “tuned”. Seeing an opportunity, Wakaba decides to join him in the hopes of finding some actors for her play. Along the way, they meet a beautiful doll with one wing named Belle and an aspiring actress named Angelina.
Katahane is a tender yuri story about regret and redemption. The narrative itself is split into what could be a somewhat slice of life adventure following Wakaba’s attempts to get her play together and a historical thriller recounting the events leading to the fall of the White Empire and the assassination of their ruler. I would say that the story dragged a bit in parts and could use some editing and adjusting to get the pace right but the core of it was interesting.
The “dolls” being, more or less, immortal, serve as a perfect vehicle to tell a story across multiple timelines being able to directly contrast present events and historical ones. The setting is a mix of sunny rural and what I have decided to call “pastel” steampunk. There’s a little bit of magic thrown in the mix.
The visuals are pretty but I think they may need a bit of extra detailing to make the jump to anime format. I would definitely keep the romance in this one as it’s an integral part of the narrative but you could tone it down to a PG setting.
My favorite part of this one though is that the very much Yuri story completely avoids all the more problematic pitfalls of the genre. The story never feels exploitative, no insulting tropes are used and the relationship is presented as very natural and healthy. It’s a little naïve but for those of us who enjoy happilies ever after (that is probably not the proper plural of that expression) it is a rare example of a respectful, happy Yuri couple.
Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning
The year is 1908. The 20th century is still young. An unfamiliar 20th century – in an unfamiliar world. This is a world that experienced a 19th century very different from our own. A world filled with innumerable steam-powered Engines. The unnaturally rapid development of this steam civilization has left the world’s skies shrouded in grey… and its seas dyed in shades of black. In this world, The Marseille Offshore Academia is known to all as the place to go if you wish to become an engineer. However, the Academia is also a city with a secret. A dark secret known only to the elite and protected by the powerful Academia Governing Council.
In the spring of 1908… A single young man appears within its walls. After declaring his intent to wage war against the Governing Council, he introduces himself in this way: “Nikola Tesla. 72 years old. I’m a transfer student.”
Gahkthun should be an anime. It would actually be better as an anime. The story is completely linear, there are no routes at all and the choice mechanics simply unlock superfluous extra scenes. The game is even constructed so that you can skip gameplay all together and simply read it as a digital novel. And the story is great. The trippy steampunk setting may seem a bit out of fashion but I think we had a long enough break from it to enjoy once more and the deeply environmentalist moral appeals to me. On top of that, the central couple are really very charming together.
The fanservice can get a touch too exploitative and a bit out of place but that’s easily remediated since it’s purely in character design rather than narrative. The ladies aren’t given too much clothes at times but they always have brains. The story, told through a set of mysteries, is perfectly suited for an episodic structure and the art styles is already great.
The only drawback to an adaptation is that, even though I read the translation, the actual writing, as in the grammatical structure and cadence of the sentences, is extremely interesting. There is a prominent use of repetition and peculiar sentence structure which gives the narrative a certain rhythm. I really enjoyed that (some people hated it) and I can’t see how it would make it into an anime. Otherwise though this would be a fairly easy adaptation and a very fun story.
And because I would be remiss not to include a couple of otomes, even though I think these are generally ill suited for conversion here are the two top reverse harem contenders.
8 bit lovers
I’ve already made my love for this game known. There isn’t that much in way of raw material but it would be a great funny short program in my opinion. And I would love to see that type of story with a female lead for a change.
Do you guys know Cheritz? They made the uber popular Mystic Messenger iOS game. (That game forced me to make homemade honey butter chips – and now I constantly crave them) Anyways, before Mystic Messenger and after the “bang your pets simulator” Dandelion, they made a traditional format otome visual novel called Nameless – The one thing you must recall.
The story follows Eri, a freshman at Crobi Academy, who finds herself suddenly living alone after her grandfather’s death. Left by herself, Eri begins to obsess over her ball jointed dolls; a hobby she’s unable to tell anyone about, even her friends. She talks to them and takes care of them as if they were her family and one day, they kind of are.
Otomes have some harebrained stories barely coherent stories that often end up being shallow nonsense. If you just read the synopsis you would think Nameless is one of those. Admittedly, it does get a bit cheesy. But it’s also a bag of pure nightmare fuel. A lot of the underlying themes are very dark and heavy and I was unprepared for how harrowing those bad endings were. When you strip away the bubbly surface, which the game itself does on several occasions, you are left with an unsettling story dealing with some decidedly adult fears.
As with most otomes, this one is already PG and unlike a lot of the previous games has an established route order and a single true path that gives you the entire story, making adaptation fairly simple. The art is gorgeous but I’m not sure how easy it would be to animate.
So there you have it. My top picks so far. I just finished HighSchool Romance, which was cute but not really anime material and I started OzMafia. I haven’t seen the anime but so far (maybe 40 minutes in) the game is completely hilarious. I had wine coming out of my nose on several occasions. Do you guys want to hear about it? Do you want to hear about any visual novels for that matter? Do you have any to recommend?