4Gamer Interview with Maruto Fumiaki and Nakamura Takeshi

For those who want to face society with all their strength: White Album 2 (PS3). An interview with scenario writer Fumiaki Maruto and lead artist Takeshi Nakamura about their intentions

The moment it launched for the PC in 2011, this work made major waves on the internet and became a representative title for the “Bishojo genre” in 2012. Just what is its appeal? In the Aquaplus development room in Tokyo, we had a conversation with Maruto and Nakamura about everything from the development of the project to the thoughts and feelings they poured into the game.

White Album 2: Depicting the “correct farewell” to society

4Gamer:

Maruto-san, White Album 2 [“2”] was a concept that you brought in yourself. What was it that inspired you to make a sequel to White Album [“1”]?

Maruto:

Well, of course it was because I absolutely loved 1, but the opportunity came when Aquaplus were developing Tears to Tiara: Garland of the Earth for the PS3, and reached out to the writing group I belong to, Kikakeya. I happened to let it drop that I really liked White Album and would love to try writing a story like that myself. The conversation carried on from there, I wrote up the scenario, and everything wound up going pretty smoothly. (laughs)

4Gamer:

White Album touches on some themes that are fairly heavy for so-called “Bishojo Games”—infidelity, love triangles… Nowadays, these are common themes, but at the time, they were still rare, and the game caused quite a stir. What was it about 1 that appealed to you?

Maruto:

I liked the feeling of being carried along by the protagonist’s circumstances, There was nothing you could do, no way of fighting the flow of things. That powerlessness was a very strong pull for me. I especially liked the route with Misaki-san [Misaki Sawakura]—you really see it in that story in particular.

4Gamer:

I think there are quite a lot of people who were struck by Misaki-san’s route in 1. In general, there’s a love triangle waiting regardless of which route you take, but for Misaki-san’s route, even the protagonist’s best friend gets wrapped up in it, so it actually becomes a four-way thing instead of just a triangle. At the time, I think everyone must have experienced a lot of turmoil over that mess. (laughs)

Maruto:

Right, right. While I was playing, I was thinking, “I could never make something like this,” but that was exactly what made me admire it. Every character is going, “I shouldn’t be doing this,” getting more and more deeply mired in it all the while. When the protagonist holds Misaki back on Christmas, obviously you think it’s terrible, but that makes it even better.

4Gamer:

Now, why do you say, “I could never make something like this”?

Maruto:

In the stories I write, the protagonist always moves. So, when Haruki—the protagonist of 2—gets into a mess, he thinks, “I have to change this situation,” and tries to take action. However, as a result of his attempts to change things, he actually ends up getting stuck even worse.

4Gamer:

Haruki is definitely a pretty active character, compared with the essentially passive protagonist of the first game. Apart from the romantic side of things, he is depicted as an admirable student and a solid member of society, someone who is very reliable.

Maruto:

My decision to have an honors student type as my protagonist was the result of a desire to depict realistic relationships between characters and society. Games in this genre often spoil the societal side of things for the sake of showing an idealized romance, or at least they seem to have that tendency.

4Gamer:

Right, like a high school protagonist living alone for some reason, or the story only progressing at and around the school campus. You do see that a lot.

Maruto:

Exactly. But I wanted this work to have a solid sense of reality, and for that purpose, I felt I couldn’t avoid a depiction of the ways in which the characters and society faced one another.

4Gamer:

Romantic stories usually give this very dramatic picture of a guy who’s determined to choose the girl over everything else, even if it means abandoning society. But in the case of this work, you show the workings and ins and outs of all the preliminary steps very carefully, and there was something really fresh about that.

Maruto:

No matter how great your love is, there’s no escaping from society. In fact, you mustn’t run away from it. Just deciding on the spot to hop on a train, flee to some other country, and end it there—I have a hard time believing in a life for the characters after that point.

If you’re going to leave a company, you have to put in your notice two months before and pass the baton to someone else. I wanted to show that, even to the point of checking it against my own experiences in society. That’s why the three of them take all of the required steps for abandoning the lives they’ve lived up to that point, and make their farewells to society a piece at a time. If I were to call anything the main theme of 2, that would be it.

4Gamer:

Yes, that makes a lot of sense. So, the game is broken into three parts—starting with Introductory Chapter [“IC”] about their time in high school, then Closing Chapter [“CC”], which concerns their time as college students, and ending with Coda, which takes place after they have become adult members of society—spanning seven years total. Was this composition also about showing their relations to society?

Maruto:

I didn’t want to allow any responsibility to be shifted off. Honestly, falling in love and falling apart when you’re in school isn’t that big a deal. There are terrible ways to split up with someone, but it’s all pretty forgivable since you’re a student. But once you’re an adult, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t take responsibility for literally everything that goes on between you and the other person, but you can’t get away with running away from that responsibility, either.

4Gamer:

You wanted to have them look back on the mistakes they made as children—their inner problems—and resolve them from an adult standpoint.

Maruto:

That’s right. There are things that you can’t decide as a child, but can decide as an adult. In exchange, a certain responsibility arises. That’s what being an adult is about, right? That’s why you always want the protagonist to make his own decisions. Even if those decisions are mistaken.


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