In case you visual novel fans needed reminding, MangaGamer will be releasing ef - The First Tale, a new visual novel from minori, the lowercase-named developer behind the likes of Wind: A Breath of Heart and Eden*. To get you HYPE for it, whenever it does come out, they've also released a spiffy new trailer below, as well as a (translated) blog update on the localization courtesy of minori itself.
Unfortunately, it's not all cake and sunflowers (and erotic CG), as the same update contains some bad news: Unlike most officially localized H-games (like Magical Teacher, for one), ef - The First Tale's English localization will not be uncensored. It will retain the customary Japanese-law-abiding mosaics covering the nonexistent anime womens' naughty bits.
Now, before you hammer your Boycott Button in a fit of speech-protecting rage, or act like a moron and call for some kind of fan-sourced "alternative solution", read the whole statement (conveniently placed below, under the trailer) for minori's side of the story. It's important you do, even if you don't agree with their reasoning. Minori in particular have been pretty sensitive (some might say paranoid) following the scandal that blew up a couple of years ago surrounding Illusion Soft and its game Rapelay.
We would like to first apologize to those who are eagerly waiting for the English release of “ef – the first tale” for all the delays.
We have been making progress, but because the matters we’ve been working on are not things which get shown to the public, many of you might be thinking, “What the heck are they doing?” However, in order to release the title as an acceptable product, there are many problems we must resolve that occur away from the public eye. There are still several hurdles we must overcome before we can release the game, but there is a matter that we would like to discuss with everyone overseas before that time comes–namely, the way those of us in Japan think about ethics.
We operate under the fundamental principle of “make it clear who will bear responsibility for the release.” In the domestic Japanese market, our products undergo inspection by EOCS (The Ethics Organization of Computer Software), and the business known as minori bears responsibility. This is because they establish a standard for what level of expression is considered to be socially acceptable within our society’s constantly changing values, and passing inspection means that we have abided by them. In contrast, this release is not undergoing inspection by any organizations such as the ESRB nor the PEGI. When we discussed this issue with MangaGamer.com, MangaGamer.com made it clear that they will be the ones who will preside over ethical issues and bear responsibility. In other words, the release of this English version was possible because it was made clear who would accept social responsibility for it.
This is exactly where the main problem with “fan translations” lies: the product that we made in accordance to the ethical standards of Japan winds up being circulated outside of Japan without a clear responsible party. If this work circulated without our input happens to cause some kind of trouble, who is to take responsibility for it? Will the fan-translation groups who went and translated it on their own take responsibility for us? No, that probably won’t happen. What is likely to happen, is that we will be held responsible since our existance is clear and we are the ones who developed the game. And of course, we won’t be held responsible merely for the product we created, but also for the effects any problems surrounding that work has on our society and our industry. As such, allowing this to occur poses a serious risk to our continuation as a company. That is why we decided not to ignore this risk, and to release an official English version.As we move towards the release, one of the major problems we face is how to treat the concealment of genitals (hereafter, mosaics). Though MangaGamer.com has requested us that we release the product without mosaics, it was our decision to include them as we did in the Japanese version.
There are several reasons behind this decision, but the biggest of them all is that we, minori, are a company who conducts business in the Japanese domestic market. You can imagine what would happen if we were to release a product without mosaics, can’t you? Such data would be leaked back into Japan with almost 100% certainty. With networks now being worldwide, this is only a matter of course. Yet for us, this poses nothing other than a business risk.
In the past, people have developed tools to extract the data archived in our games. We requested that they cease distribution of this tool, and there were times when we took the problem to the court. As a result, some people have listened to us and ceased development, but there are also other people who claim fair use as a shield and continue to develop such tools. It is an extremely sorrowful matter, but so long as there are people who refuse to comply with our requests to stop, we are forced to take measures against them as we have to bear responsibility as the developers of our games.
In other words, if we were to make the uncensored CG available to the world, then some inconsiderate person would extract the data from our archives and leak the CG back into Japan. If it was just the CG alone it might be a different matter, but one can easily imagine that just as many of those fan-translating bishojo games have done, someone would then take the English version’s CG, create a patch that allows one to play the Japanese version with uncensored CG, and spread that across Japan as well.
This poses a significant possibility of jeopardizing our business. Even if these games have passed the ethical standards for domestic release in Japan, it is not uncommon that they are not accepted outside of Japan. (You all remember the incident in Canada, right?) Similarly, even if mosaics are unnecessary abroad, so long as there is a chance they will leak back into Japan, we must abide by Japanese standards. This is because we, minori, are a Japanese registered company and there is always a possibility that our business may be held responsible if our releases for the western audience happen to cause problems due to such differences in standards. We believe many fans may remember the “Rapelay Incident”. So long as we remain a company registered in Japan, we cannot avoid such issues.
However, if one were to examine other media in the Japanese market such as manga and videos, it does seem to appear that the mosaics used in bishojo games are a bit too big. So, we carefully examined the treatment of mosaics in other media distributed within Japan and decided to revise the mosaics to a level that we believe should be socially acceptable even if it were to be leaked back into Japan.
One day, when the bishoujo game market expands in the west and Japan becomes but one small, local market, then perhaps minori may decide to cast away its Japanese nationality. However, so long as the present worldwide market for bishoujo games remains a very small one in comparison to the market in Japan, we must abide by our domestic laws. It would be impractical for us to abandon the Japanese market at the present time (If we were to abandon the Japanese market, minori would not be able to exist in the world. It would mean death for our company.)
It would be wonderful if one day, bishoujo games became more worldwide and we were able to establish our base in San Francisco! (Cool in the summer, warm in the winter, nice all year round! Perfect for all the fatties here at minori!) If that day comes, then surely we would be able to produce our works according to a global ethical standard.
It may be slow, but progress is steadily being made in the localization.
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