The “Still Breathing” event in October conveyed that Muv-Luv developer âge isn’t simply still alive, but it’s shifting gears with several new projects.
Yet, details on many of these projects including the Alternative sequel Muv-Luv: Integrate, Project Mikhail, Project Immortal, the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien reboot, and the Alternative anime, are still unknown.
To know more, Twinfinite sat down with the series’ creator Kouki Yoshimune and producer Kazutoshi “Tororo” Matsumura, who discussed the future of the franchise in depth.
Giuseppe: First of all, you’ve been pretty much silent for a long time, so much so that your anniversary event pretty much conveyed the fact that âge is still alive and breathing. What happened to cause such a long silence?
Kouki Yoshimune: The first issue was simply the lack of a producer. aNCHOR has a lot of really good tech people, like the former development team from âge, but we didn’t really have a producer able to take an IP and develop it.
When the company was still called Acid, it was me doing all that work, but when it became aNCHOR I left.
Since I wasn’t a part of the company any longer, as an outsider I wasn’t in a position to take responsibility for moving things forward, regardless of my past qualifications.
The rights for Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and Muv-Luv belong to aNCHOR, so I wasn’t able to do more than being an advisor.
For that reason, we had about two years in which we didn’t have a producer who could take on the responsibility to get things done and say the things that needed to be said.
During that time aNCHOR wasn’t just sitting there doing absolutely nothing. They were trying a lot of things, developing new engines and more. A lot of things were going on under the surface. For instance, the anime that was announced at the 20th-anniversary event is a project they have been working on for this entire time.
Despite the fact that they were working on all of that, there was nobody that could take that kind of higher-level approach from the production and directorial standpoint, and decide the direction for things like branding and more.
They had many very talented and competent tech people and engineers who could look at things from a tactical point of view, but nobody who could look at the strategic layer. That was the cause of the long silence.
About this time last year, there was an internal presentation for Muv-Luv Integrate. That’s when I met with Matsumura-san for the first time in a while and I asked him to become Muv-Luv’s producer.
As the original creator of the series, it didn’t feel right for me to work as the producer at aNCHOR. The reason for that isn’t that I have anything against aNCHOR, but simply that it’s better for the original creator to be outside the company. If the original creator is inside the company, people just tend to do whatever he says. For the good of the content, it’s actually better for me to be on the outside.
Without a producer, there was no one who could act as a bridge between the original creator and the technology side, and he, (Matsumura-san) is the only one who can do that.
The reason for that is that he isn’t just a creator himself but he also worked on the management level and even ran things from a layer higher than that, running multiple companies at the same time. That’s why he’s perfect for this role.
aNCHOR’s president, Iwanaga-san, was essentially trying to do everything himself, but he didn’t have that kind of experience. He is very talented and he was trying very hard, but it was too much to handle. It looked like it was really difficult and I felt bad for him.
By bringing in Matsumura-san, aNCHOR freed up Iwanaga-san to do other things. This had a big effect on exponentially expanding the company’s capabilities.
Giuseppe: So we’re back on track now?
Kouki Yoshimune: Exactly.
Giuseppe: We saw established characters in the gameplay of Project Mikhail that you have showcased, for instance, Ilfriede. Will the game’s story be official canon, or it’ll be more an “all-stars” spin-off like Strike Frontier?
Kouki Yoshimune: it’s not a continuation of the story, but it’s not really a spin-off either. We want to take the structure of Muv-Luv’s world, a world that splits on a quantum level, and represents it in a way that’s only possible now with modern technology.
When we came out with the original games, they took the form of adventure games because that was the optimal way to represent a world that splits on a quantum level with the technology at the time. Now that we have better technology we’re looking for a different way to express that world. The result of this is Project Mikhail.
For instance, you have Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Grand Order. Which one of the two is the real Fate? You can have that discussion all you want but at the end of the day they’re kind of different things on their own, and yet they’re both Fate.
For people who only played Grand Order, Grand Order is Fate, but for people who have been around since the Stay Night days, Grand Order is still an enjoyable part of the franchise.
The goal of Mikhail is to expand the audience beyond what you can reach with an adventure game, bringing the Muv-Luv world to a new fanbase.
The one thing that makes it different from Fate/Grand Order is that you’ll probably be able to play parts or maybe even all the main story of Muv-Luv.
Giuseppe: So the main story of Muv-Luv will be included in Mikhail as well?
Kouki Yoshimune: Yes, as episodes. Muv-Luv is a story about diverging parallel worlds, so no matter what the story ends up being, if you think that it’s real, then it’s real.
Giuseppe: So it is kind of like Strike Frontier in the end?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: What you’re going to see with Mikhail is a bit different. You’re going to have a loop system where stuff will happen, then it’ll loop back to the beginning and it’ll happen again in a different way.
With the traditional Muv-Luv adventure game you have basically a line, and after that comes Integrate.
It’s kind of like Diablo or World of Warcraft, with a story that can get parts added later, alongside parts of the Muv-Luv story.
Kouki Yoshimune: The hero will not be Takeru Shirogane or Yuya Bridges. You are your own character.
Giuseppe: You mentioned that Project Mikhail won’t include gacha mechanics. Are you confident a gacha-less business model is viable on mobile platforms?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: It will be if a lot of people play it (laughs). If we make something good it’ll work. The plan is to make something good and also to make it come out on PC.
Giuseppe: How is the development of Project Mikhail going? Can we expect it by 2020, or we’ll have to wait for 2021?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: Development is going well. We don’t have an official date announced yet, but it probably won’t be this year.
Giuseppe: Will players be able to create and customize their own heroes?
Kouki Yoshimune: Customizing the main character only makes sense when he appears on the screen in third-person perspective, and that’s something we’re still deciding. Would you prefer a first or third-person perspective?
Giuseppe: For me, it’s pretty much the same, but there are radio communications, so you can still see your character’s face, can’t you? That being said, I personally believe Muv-Luv fans would enjoy being able to create themselves in the Muv-Luv world.
Kazutoshi Matsumura: There is a lot of customization, as you have seen in the gameplay footage. The majority of the customization that we discussed is for the TSF. There hasn’t been much discussion as to what you’ll be able to customize for your main character.
Giuseppe: With Project Mikhail and Project Immortal embracing action battles, is that something you’d like to explore for more games, for instance, in Integrate?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: It’s something we might possibly look at, but the thing with Integrate is that if you add a lot of action elements, it limits the number of people who can play it.
Since Integrate is a sequel to Unlimited and Alternative, we want to make sure it’s something that those who played the original games can easily enjoy.
Giuseppe: What about, instead of action, trying turn-based strategy like Faraway Dawn?
Kouki Yoshimune: I personally like that, but that’s kind of a high hurdle in particular for Japanese people who might find those kinds of elements difficult to deal with.
For instance, if you like Fate/Grand Order and want to simply play its story, are the battle elements really doing much for you?
Giuseppe: What made you decide to take Project Immortal under your wing?
Kouki Yoshimune: Matsumura-san made that decision, but Kitakuo, who created Project Immortal, reached out and contacted me on Twitter.
For someone like him who is only 24-years-old to take the risk of actually doing the legwork and come out to talk to the creator with a proposal like that… I felt it was pretty impressive.
When I made Muv-Luv, the three messages I want to convey to the young generations were about choosing, deciding, and acting. That’s something Kitakuo put into practice when he reached out with his proposal, despite the fact that he isn’t from the generation who played Muv-Luv when it originally came out.
Giuseppe: Would you like to bring younger people like Kitakuo into to the team for the other games as well?
Kouki Yoshimune: I’d love to have people like that, regardless of where they are from in the world. If they come and want to do it, they’re welcome.
It’s similar to what I did with Total Eclipse, with heroes that can be of any nationality. All nations have cool TSFs. It’s not like in Gundam. There are no GM robots in Total Eclipse, and that’s due to my desire that creators worldwide could take Muv-Luv and do with it what happened with Chtulhu. A lot of different creators worldwide used that setting.
Giuseppe: About Integrate, we saw an illustration featuring Akane, Gretel, Ilfriede, and Fikatsia, and each of them comes from a different part of the Muv-Luv franchise. Does this mean that the game will actually “Integrate” the many parts of the setting bringing everyone together in one story?
Kouki Yoshimune: Muv-Luv: Alternative is actually pronounced “Alter-Native” in Japanese, not like you’d pronounce the word “Alternative.” That’s kind of a fake word we made up combining Alter and Native.
The words I put into a title and what they mean are very important to me. For instance, Total Eclipse is about having both someone’s negative and positive sides come together to make them into a person. Facing those parts of yourself and empathizing with them is a constant theme that appears throughout my work.
Integrate is something that could represent a lot of words coming together, for instance, but it’s not just about the superficial meaning of bringing all the Muv-Luv worlds together into one thing. There is more to that.
Tell me, do you like spoilers?
Giuseppe: Personally I don’t mind, but I won’t write them (laughs).
[Editor’s Note: at this point, Yoshimune-san talked about something very deep and very interesting about Integrate. Since it’s also a spoiler, I’ll take it to my grave]
Giuseppe: During the presentation, you mentioned that you’re not sure what kind of medium Integrate will be. Has a decision been taken by now? Can you at least confirm that it’ll be a game?
Kouki Yoshimune: This is my personal opinion — remember that I’m not the producer — looking at Vanillaware’s 13 Sentinels, the way they managed to express their story within the game was really impressive to me.
It’s the first time in a while that I found something really amazing in a console game. The battle part was perfectly balanced and the way they managed to make 13 completely different characters interact like that was really fantastic.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as well-received as it deserved in Japan, and the reason for that is possible because with all those different characters it can come across as difficult to follow.
The main thing for us is the story, so whatever form it ends up with, it’ll be something that won’t interfere with the story. Any additional element should add to the story, and not detract from it.
Giuseppe: At the very least can we say it’s going to be an adventure game, maybe with other elements added on top?
[Editor’s Note: in Japan “adventure game” is used to indicate the genre that western gamers tend to call “visual novel.”]
Kouki Yoshimune: That was my personal opinion, remember?
Giuseppe: So what about you, Matsumura-san, since you’re the producer?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: This hasn’t been fully decided yet, but up to this point, we have used the Ages engine to tell Muv-Luv’s story. The goal with that engine was to combine both storytelling and animation, bringing them together as a whole.
Fifteen years ago, when they tried to achieve that, Ages was the result. With Integrate we’re going to try to achieve the same result, and see what it looks like with the technology that’s coming.
Giuseppe: Integrate appears to be set sometime after Alternative. How long is that?
Kouki Yoshimune: Within a decade.
Giuseppe: Gretel looks really young for it to be set ten years after Alternative.
Kouki Yoshimune: You like Gretel, right?
Giuseppe: Does it show? [tapping on the screen of my smartphone that has Gretel as its wallpaper].
Kouki Yoshimune: She looks like she’s forty, doesn’t she?
Giuseppe: To be forty, this would have to be set right at the end of Alternative. Gretel was born in 1962 and Alternative ends in 2002.
Kouki Yohimune: She could be about fifty. Tactical Surface Pilots have to take many drugs that affect their bodily functions.
As a result of the effects they have on the body including lessening the stress on her organs and fewer activations of her cells, she looks younger than what someone would look like at that age.
Giuseppe: With Takeru gone, could you provide any insight on who might play the main hero or heroine?
Kouki Yoshimune: We came up with a character that better reflects the mentality and the way of thinking of a young person today.
Giuseppe: Is it someone we already met or a completely new character?
Kouki Yoshimune: It’s a new character.
Giuseppe: Has development started on the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien remake?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: Actually, there isn’t much clarity on what’s going on with that, so let me explain: we’re not simply remaking the game. We’re remaking the world.
We might end up with a remake of the original game, we might end up with Kimi ga Nozomu Eien 2, or we might end up with Kimi ga Nozomu Eien zero.
Giuseppe: How do you approach rebooting a legendary game like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: There’s something that really makes Kiminozo what it is. It’s like a core. That’s what is going to form the base of what we’re doing.
This is still very much in the planning stage, but we’re looking at something that both people in Japan and people outside of Japan can play and enjoy.
Giuseppe: Is there any other game from your past that you’d like to remake? For instance Kimi ga Ita Kisetsu comes to mind.
Kouki Yoshimune: Didn’t we already remake that?
Giuseppe: Yes you did, but it’s been a while. I’d happily play another.
Kouki Yoshimune: I guess they did remake the Fate anime how many times? And Kanon got remade as well, so that’s something we could do again.
That being said, I’d like to remake Kaseki no Uta, but taking place 1,000 years after Alternative. The name of Project Mikhail comes from the Mikhail System of Kaseki no Uta.
The developer working on Project Mikhail has been a fan of Kaseki no Uta for a long time, so it’s possible that you’ll find some elements from Kaseki no Uta in the game.
Giuseppe: Speaking of the Alternative anime, will it focus exclusively on Alternative, or maybe it’ll have some elements from Extra and Unlimited to introduce the story?
Kouki Yoshimune: There will probably be some elements and the reason for that is that without them it would just be a straight robot show. I’d like to be very clear on the fact that it’s completely impossible to animate the whole Muv-Luv story.
Kazutoshi Matsumura: I did the math, and it would require 360 episodes,
Giuseppe: I’d love to watch every single one of them.
Kazutoshi Matsumura: We’d also like to make something that can be continued.
Giuseppe: So it could have multiple seasons?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: Yes.
Kouki Yoshimune: There are a lot of possibilities. When we created the anime for Total Eclipse there was a need to introduce the viewers to the Muv-Luv world. That’s why I wrote a new story for the anime, the part about the destruction of the Imperial Capital, which was the first two episodes.
When the anime was aired, episodes 1 and 2 were very popular, and when episode 3 came out, it’s in Alaska and there is no fighting. That ended up really surprising everyone.
Once again, this is a personal opinion, but the first season could be the story of Marimo Jinguuji or maybe something focusing on Michiru Isumi, a story that focused on their past. This could work, but I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen.
Giuseppe: Marimo’s story… you mean until that scene?
Kouki Yoshimune: No, no, no. A story about the secondary characters’ story until Takeru shows up. Since we’re talking about the Kimi ga Nozomu Eien reboot, another example could be the story of Haruka, Mitsuki, and Takayuki before Takeru’s arrival. What happens to them could be season 1.
Giuseppe: So season 1 of the anime might not be strictly the same story as the Muv-Luv: Alternative visual novel?
Kouki Yoshimune: It would be the same timeline, but potentially, a part that players haven’t seen. Again, this is not an official announcement, but just my opinion.
Giuseppe: Do you have any idea of when we might hear more about it, or at least whether and when the teaser trailer showcased at the event will be made public?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: There is a good chance that that footage will never be released.
Giuseppe: That’s so sad!
Kouki Yoshimune: The reason is that the people working on the anime created it on their own initiative because they’re passionate about it.
It wasn’t something âge asked for or the director ordered them to do. The 3D staff decided that they wanted to do Muv-Luv and they made it on their own.
That’s simply evidence of how passionate the staff is about this project.
That being said, when you actually have a director running a project, you can’t show things that he didn’t approve publicly.
That sneak peek was a reward for the people who took the risk to come to the event on the Emperor’s coronation day, which is also the day Muv-Luv’s loop started.
Giuseppe: All right. Let me change the question slightly: since that video will likely not be shown publicly, do you have any insight on when we’re going to see something or at least hear something new about the series?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: We’re actually thinking of releasing an improved version.
Kouki Yoshimune: It’s very fast so you may or may not have noticed, but this little clip fully showcases the Takemikazuchi’s battle capabilities. I was surprised because if the Takemikazuchi was a real thing, this is probably what its manufacturer would use as a promo video.
Kazutoshi Matsumura: In terms of when you may see something, Anime Japan is in March, Comiket is in May, and Anime Expo is in July. You’ll probably see something at one of these events.
Also, later this year there might be some sort of announcement on October 22.
Giuseppe: Can we expect the art style to be extensively renewed compared to the original game to appeal to modern viewers, or it’ll stay the same?
Kouki Yoshimune: It has to evolve.
Giuseppe: I have to say I love the old art style…
Kouki Yoshimune: I’ve been saying to the Japanese fans for years that an anime is not a reward for veteran fans. It’s a tool to bring in new fans.
Veteran fans got the best possible experience playing the game on their PC at the best time and in the best environment. I don’t want to take that kind of feeling away from the anime viewers.
Giuseppe: What I was about to say is that I love the old art style, but I actually want to see something new.
Kouki Yoshimune: Let’s say hypothetically that this anime is the trigger that turns Muv-Luv into a worldwide phenomenon. If that happens, we’ll make a remake with the old art as well (laughs).
Kazutoshi Matsumura: That may have sounded like a joke, but in the future, you’ll see a lot of interesting things happening. Animation is moving from 2D to 3D and when 3D tech improves, you’ll see anime rendered in real-time. You might see something that enables the viewer to change the characters in real-time. One day that might happen.
Kouki Yoshimune: Some people apply nude patches on an MMORPG on their PC and in the same way one day you may be able to apply an “old art style” patch to an anime’s characters to replace the character design with the one you’re familiar with.
Being part of a technology group as we are, also means considering things like that. Mikhail may end up being the first version of a project like that.
Kazutoshi Matsumura: Our goal is telling stories and sharing messages with people. It’s like in school, you may have one teacher that you really listen to, and one that you don’t really listen to. We’re considering a future in which you can adjust what you make for the person who is viewing it.
Giuseppe: … So is the anime is going to be a TV series?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: Please wait for the official announcement. (Laughs)
Giuseppe: You’ve recently strengthened your team with a number of well-known developers. What effect can we expect on your production?
Kouki Yoshimune: In terms of the actual production process, having them on is going to keep the schedule running, so you won’t see any more three-year delays.
Kazutoshi Matsumura: We’re going to get closer by one âge! (Laughs)
[Editor’s Note: Japanese fans jokingly refer to each three-year period as one âge]
Giuseppe: Apparently, the Producer of BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle [Toshimichi Mori] by Arc System Works would like to include Muv-Luv characters in his fighting game. Are you aware of this? And if you are, has any contact been made to actually make it happen?
Kouki Yoshimune: I know him. We went out drinking together and he has mentioned being a Muv-Luv fan in the past. So yeah, we know.
Kazutoshi Matsumura: Maybe if we can make the timing work…
Kouki Yoshimune: When something like this comes up, it’s always better if fans encourage the company that might include our characters to contact us.
I’m often asked about including our mecha in Super Robot Wars or Armored Core, and I’m like “it’s their show, so please ask them to do it.”
If the fans ask them to do this collaboration, and they contact us with a plan, it might eventually happen.
Giuseppe: Have you ever thought about a dedicated Muv-Luv fighting game, maybe letting an external developer specialized in fighting games take care of its development? I reckon we haven’t had a really good mecha fighting game since Kikaioh [Tech Romancer] on the Dreamcast.
Kouki Yoshimune: There was a Gundam fighting game on PlayStation that had really good and smooth animations. When I saw that I thought I really wanted to do something like that. That being said, I really suck at fighting games.
Giuseppe: Me too!
Kouki Yoshimune: It’d need to have a super-easy-mode that lets you button-mash all the way to victory. (Laughs)
Giuseppe: Visual novels have become more and more widespread on consoles, but Muv-Luv is pretty much absent on any current console platform. Have you given any thought to porting some of your games to the Switch or PS4?
Kouki Yoshimune: It’s possible, but probably not PS4, maybe PS5? It’s very possible that you could see Project Mikhail on PS5. We could even put it on the car they just announced. (Laughs)
Giuseppe: What about the original visual novels?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: It’s possible.
Giuseppe: Is it something you’re actively looking into, or is it just a vague possibility for the future?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: There are very very early plans. There’s a company that says they want to do it.
Giuseppe: The Anniversary Box promises to make many of your older games compatible with Windows 10. Can we expect any of them to be released digitally on Steam, even just in Japanese?
Kazutoshi Matsumura: First of all, we’re going to see what will happen with the box releasing on March 27.
Giuseppe: Considering that you’re close to delivering all the localizations you promised with the Kickstarter and that you announced several new projects at the 20th-anniversary event, did you think about launching a new poll among the fans to see what they’d like to see localized next?
Kouki Yoshimune: (pointing to Adam Lensenmayer, who was taking care of the interpretation of the interview and is in charge of PR for the west) It’s his field now, so if it doesn’t happen it’s his fault. (Laughs)
Adam Lensenmayer: My answer is yes, it’s something I’m planning. I don’t have a timeframe set in stone, but I am very interested in knowing what the core fans are interested in. They’ve been super-loyal so far.
[Editor’s Note: just after our interview was published, the survey was also released by aNCHOR on the original Muv-Luv Kickstarter. If you have a preference about what you’d like to be localized next, you should definitely vote to get your voice heard]
Giuseppe: What are your priorities with regards to localization? Personally, I’m hearing many who would love to play Schwarzesmarken and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien in English.
Kouki Yoshimune: Isn’t Schwarzesmarken what you want localized? (Laughs)
Giuseppe: You got me here, but it’s not like I’m the only one! There are really a lot of people who want Schwarzesmarken.
Kouki Yoshimune: It did get an anime after all…
Adam Lensenmayer: Personally I’m more into Total Eclipse…
Kouki Yoshimune: He’s been telling me that we need to restore the Yui route that was cut (Laughs).
Adam Lensenmayer: Jokes aside, we will have official announcements about localization soon.
Giuseppe: At several points in the past few years, I’ve seen people claiming that visual novels are a dying genre. Yet, developers keep creating and even Aniplex just launched a visual novel brand. What’s your view on the visual novel market nowadays?
Kouki Yoshimune: I’ve been hearing that visual novels are dying since when I was a kid. It’s the same for physical trading card games. They’ve been supposedly been dying for years.
When you get to a point in which there are big projects and companies that start failing you see lots of who start to say that it’s dying.
Since the PC eroge market in Japan isn’t selling as well as it used to, people are saying that visual novels are a dying genre. Despite that, you still have brands that are selling 50,000 copies.
Kazutoshi Matsumura: I remember that Attack on Titan came out after people started saying that manga was dead.
Kouki Yoshimune: And when people said that social games were over, Fate/Grand Order was released and it ended up being a massive hit. There are always people that want to say that it’s over.
Giuseppe: Are you interested in including more of your older characters in the Muv-Luv world for future games?
Kouki Yoshimune: It’s not impossible, but personally I’d like to make something that’s not Muv-Luv.
With Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and Muv-Luv the plan existed since the beginning, but the mentality of young people has changed since their release. I’d like to come up with something that will encourage them as well. Integrate, with all of its characters, could bring an end to that period of the Muv-Luv universe. Everybody in the Muv-Luv world ages, exactly like real people, and even if they don’t end up eaten by the BETA, they’ll eventually reach the end of their life.
The end of the comic depicts the world fifty years after and the importance of generations going forward with new generations coming into being. I think it’s important to pass things down across these generations.
Due to that, I believe it may not be the best thing to continue using older characters. You don’t want Luke to be in every Star Wars movie, do you?
If you’d like to know more about âge‘s games and the Muv-Luv franchise, you can read my article from a few months ago explaining all you need to know to get into one of the best visual novel series of all time.
You can also enjoy my analysis of the characters revealed so far for Muv-Luv: Integrate.
Incidentally, Yoshimune-san recently revealed an updated version of a relevant image board for Muv-Luv Integrate, and explained another showcasing a few custom TSF.
You should then check out my report of the 20th-anniversary event recently hosted in Tokyo, which was rich with announcements, including the reveal of Muv-Luv Integrate, the announcement of the action game code-named Project Mikhail, an update on Muv-Luv Unlimited The Day After and on the Android version of the original trilogy, the tease of the reboot of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, and the announcement of the Muv-Luv Alternative anime.