We’ve got something a little special to share with everyone today: some background on how No, Thank You!!! was developed and a bit of insight into its creators. This is a translated excerpt of the Q&A section of No, Thank You!!! Setting Sourcebook. This post contains some spoilers about the plot of the game, so if you haven’t finished at least one route yet, you might want to refrain from reading zontil you do.
Any answers not specifically attributed to a staff member are from Amemiya, the game’s director. Hamashima, the game’s artist, is referred to by her BL penname, Sanpei here.
Tell us about how the game came to be.
It all started when Sanpei said, “Let’s make a BL game!” The topic came up somehow when we were talking to the president of our company. I believe that was back in the winter of 2009. We kind of threw it out there as a joke at first, but by the winter of 2010 we were serious about making it happen. Sanpei would do the art, I would direct and Uzuki agreed to help out with the script. Since I had the most familiarity with BL as a genre, I was given the task of handling planning and whatnot.
The whole project really came out of nowhere and I hadn’t ever expected to be making a BL game, so I really wasn’t mentally prepared for it at all, and I didn’t have any ideas ready either. When I asked Uzuki what kind of game we should make, I got the response, “I think you should make something you like.”
But all I could think about was how I didn’t have the ability to make a BL game that I’d be happy with using the things I like (depressing western games, foreign detective shows, crime novels, and stuff like that) as inspiration, and even if I could pull it off, it’d be full of elements that would make it unviable commercially.
I recall consulting with Uzuki in a diner late into the night at one point. After several hours of chatting, Uzuki said, “What about something set in a bar?” and that’s where No, Thank You!!! really got started.
Uzuki continued, “My favorite novel series is Bloody Doll. It’s a story about an assassin coming to a bar, and there’s the bar’s owner, a pianist, a bartender… Wouldn’t you be into something like that too?”
I definitely remember that at first I said something like, “But I want to make the main character top, and I just know if we have an assassin protagonist, I’m going to want to make him bottom. Won’t it get too complicated to make anyone but the assassin the protagonist with that kind of premise?” But a hardboiled story set in a bar dealing with the underworld definitely did sound right up my alley, and it did seem like it could work as a BL game.
Plus, it gave us an instant story and characters. Note: I was worried that I’d be overly influenced by the book series Uzuki had mentioned if I read it, so I worked out all the background and outline before reading it.
I started with the protagonist: he’d be fulfilling the assassin role, and he’d be exclusively a top. I went through a lot of ideas before he started to become my kind of protagonist. I do recall thinking pretty early on that the ending would be too obvious if you knew from the start that the protagonist was an assassin, so I considered having him fake amnesia and using some tricks in the narration to deceive the player. Narimiya was conceived of to shoulder some of the misdirection, a mysterious man designed to draw both the player’s and the love interests’ attentions away from what Haru is doing and occasionally lead them to think he might be the one pulling the strings.
Since it was just a matter of my preferences, minimal romance, straight love interests, relationships starting from neutral rejection, and a harsh worldview that’s still as realistic as possible became major components.
In the interest of maintaining some balance, I’d decided from the beginning to have four love interests. I’d decided on four abstract character types based on my preferences for bottoms, without specific ages or other attributes. I came up with a bartender (Hiroyuki), a pianist (Ryu), and the bar’s owner (Kouichi) without any trouble.
Maki started out as a bodyguard, but when I got to thinking about the story, I concluded that the bar really needed a head chef. The pianist couldn’t fill both roles, and neither could the owner. And if I added a new character to fill that role, he’d end up being the only major figure at the bar who you couldn’t pursue. Thus, Maki became the head chef/bodyguard.
I developed the love interests’ endings and the nature of their relationships with the protagonist more or less as I was developing the character concepts. The endings were one of the first things I planned out, but they didn’t really change much in the final product.
After that, I thought about other components the story might need––a reporter (informant), a Yakuza, a police officer, and so on––and added two of those: one being a reporter (Kazuki) and the other, a Yakuza (Tatsuya), both figures from Kouichi’s time on the force. From there I added Yamato, because I figured a Yakuza isn’t complete without an underling.
Ren came about because I’d sort ended up creating pairs of main characters and sub characters, and the pianist character needed one. It had also occurred to me that there needed to be someone to help take care of the bar while the others were busy with their unofficial work, and we didn’t have a generic pretty-boy type yet either, so I figured he could do the job too.
The other characters developed while I was thinking up episodes to fill the space between the opening and endings.
I worked out the major outlines of the five main characters’ plots alongside my other work, and production started in earnest in the summer of 2011. Initially, we’d planned to make it a quick production and get it all done in about a year, but it was my first time planning and actually writing a game script, so I was having a hard time moving things forward… production dragged on and two years later, after causing a lot of people a lot of trouble and getting plenty of help, we finally got the game out.
Was the No, Thank You!!! button something you knew you were going to incorporate from the start?
I was planning to include it from the very early stages. I believe I settled on it when I introduced the idea that Haru would have amnesia to hide some things. I wanted something that would allow us to hide Haru’s identity and give the player blind choices, while also really giving a sense of the whole flag mechanic.
Where did the brand name come from?
At first we’d been thinking it’d be something that put an emphasis on the hardboiled aspects, like AIM, KNIFE or SPIKE, but once No, Thank You!!! started to take shape, we decided to rethink it and go for something that gave a brighter, more cheerful image.
The word “parade” actually came from a Shikao Suga album title. Out of several options, we settled on parade––“the excitement of a festival that’s going to end, but the fun and passion of the parade lingers in your mind even after it’s over”––because I felt that it fit No, Thank You!!!’s image and would generally work for the kinds of games I wanted to make.
How were the lyrics for the opening theme song written?
I prepared a summary of the game with spoilers along with key words I wanted in the song and asked milktub to write the lyrics.
We had a meeting in addition to passing some documents over, and I remember him laughing and saying he wasn’t expecting a story like this.
I asked him to make some changes to some phrases that didn’t fit the image of the game (particularly some lines that were a little too hopeful). I actually recall asking to make some last minute changes to the lyrics when I was imposing during the recording session…
But the theme song is extremely fitting as a result of all that.
Tell us about what each of the writers was responsible for.
I came up with the outlines of the characters, and Uzuki helped me solidify the plot outline.
The detailed plot to give to the sub-writers was split up like this: Uzuki helped write it through chapter 2, I did the first half of chapter 3 by myself, and Kurashiki helped write the outline from the second half of chapter 3 through the endings.I plotted all the sex scenes myself.
As far as the actual script goes, I wrote the opening through Haru’s introduction, but Uzuki wrote from there through the middle of chapter 3. Abe picked up from there and wrote the second half of chapter 3 and Ryu’s route, Sawa wrote Hiroyuki’s route, Kurashiki wrote Maki’s route and Izumi wrote Kouichi’s route.
Uzuki wrote pretty much all of the sex scenes, but I wrote the scene where Haru comes onto Hiroyuki in the storeroom, and the part of the scene with Ryu in the shower that was published in advance in magazines.
Beyond that, I oversaw the whole script, added additional scenes where I thought it needed them, and wrote the transitions between the sex scenes Uzuki wrote and the other writers’ work.
I also wrote all of the short stories and additional material of that nature.
Were all the event CGs drawn by one person?
The SD scenes were drawn by Kazuhito, but other than that, all of the event CGs and character sprites were drawn by Sanpei alone. A whole bunch of people at the office helped with coloring.
Kouichi’s face was left pretty much unmarred in the CGs right after that fight. Did you keep the depiction of injuries to a minimum out of consideration for the BL audience?
AMEMIYA: Personally, I would have preferred it if he were a little more beaten up looking, but there wasn’t enough time to revise it, so we left it as-is. On that note, in that last battle in Maki’s route, the script had described some pretty showy facial injuries, but I hadn’t anticipated it and we didn’t have art to match, so I ended up revising the text instead.
How did you go about deciding how hairy to make each of the characters?
For the most part I decided that, but I consulted with Sanpei and Uzuki from time to time.
I gave Sanpei a description of what kind of body hair each character had like you see on the character pages [in this book], then she drew them, and I asked her to change things if I thought anything needed a little more––like Maki’s happy trail or Kouichi’s nipple and finger hair.
I asked Sanpei and Uzuki if they thought we could get away with giving Hiroyuki armpit hair and butt hair, and they both thought it’d be fine so we went with it.
I recall spending a lot of time consulting with Sanpei about the sub characters––
“I really can’t imagine Tatsuya with chest hair.” “Oh, really?” or “I wonder if that’ll work…” “I think it will!” Stuff like that.
So, do you guys prefer hair or no hair?
SANPEI: I can love them both ways, hair or bare! …Though, I definitely prefer pubes… on…
AMEMIYA: Generally I prefer hair, but no hair is fine too. I wouldn’t throw a fit if no hair at all was the only option.
Are there any qualities about the male body that you guys are particularly hung up on or fetishize?
AMEMIYA: I love it when you can see a man’s buttcheeks from the front. Like in that Hiroyuki scene where he and Haru are seated facing each other or Kouichi’s festival scene.
I like hands too––hands like Ryu’s beautiful ones and big, rough ones like Kouichi’s too. I like it when you can see veins on a guy’s hands and arms, and when a guy’s upper arms and pecs stretch out a t-shirt like Maki’s do, and I love the gentle slope of boobs like Ryu’s, and nice plump ones like Kouichi’s too. I think Hiroyuki’s just slightly squishy thighs are adorable too.
There are too many other things for me to even list, but I like all sorts of other things too!
SANPEI: I like men’s bones and muscles!!! Also, this is just kind of my preference regardless of gender, but I like hands and lips and hair. If I like the character, I tend to enjoy just about everything about them.
Was there anything particularly tricky or difficult about creating all the event CG variations?
SANPEI: There is one thing I regret now: we didn’t have enough variations for the scene where Hiroshi gives Haru a blowjob, so he’s just licking the air for part of it… It’s still bugging me!!
AMEMIYA: The thing Sanpei just mentioned bugs me too, but my biggest regret is that, because we were running out of time toward the end, I couldn’t direct the variation split up for all the scenes. I had to tearfully ask someone else to handle the latter half of Maki’s sex scenes for me.
Do you have any favorite scenes, lines or CGs?
SANPEI: I really like the scene where Maki and Haru are washing blood off themselves in a stream. I got to draw something you don’t normally get to see, and I think that kind of casual relationship between two guys like that is really cool.
AMEMIYA: I have a mountain of them, but that CG from the first time Ryu has sex with Haru is definitely a favorite. It just kept making me think, “Haru’s really not going to blow his load on that amazing back!?” Also, I’m so glad that we got to add variants for hand positions––normally we hold off on that because it ups the CG count too much.
Were there any difficulties during production?
SANPEI: I was working from home when we first started production, so communicating effectively with Amemiya was unfortunately rather difficult.
Mid-way through production, I was back in the office, working side-by-side with everyone and from there it was a sprint to the finish line.
Things got difficult for me health-wise in the latter half, but I’m glad I could keep my motivation up.
AMEMIYA: I was working all alone in the office until the mid-way point, both Uzuki and Sanpei didn’t seem to be doing so hot, and I didn’t have much opportunity to talk to them. I got a little depressed because I was convinced they didn’t like the plot I’d come up with and getting work done at that point was very difficult. It really is a lot easier to work on something when you can have fun chatting about it together. I think, beyond that, the hardest thing was my own feeling of powerlessness when I just wasn’t getting anywhere with the work.
You mentioned on Twitter [shortly before release] that you hadn’t spent a night in your own bed in four months, does that sort of thing happen often in game production?
It depends on the company and the person. In this particular instance, it was a combination of me being carless, my home being kind of far away, my excitement over the release, being seriously behind on work, and my desire to do whatever I could to make the game even the slightest bit better.
I wasn’t praised for my behavior at all either, in fact I got scolded by a younger coworker: “you shouldn’t be doing this,” “you’re setting a bad example.”
I think the people most worthy of respect are those who come into the office on time, get their work done and go home on time. I wish I could be like that some day…
Do you have any funny stories from production?
SANPEI: All I can really remember is having tons of fun laughing and talking about stupid things with Amemiya every day.
It’s not much, but I wrote down a few things I remember saying a lot while we were working on the game:
“Maki-chan is a fairy. A macho fairy*.”
“Ryu is an angel.”
“Hiroshi is such a total virgin.”
“I wanna grope Pops.”
AMEMIYA: It kind of became a thing that Sanpei would say the phrase “macho fairy” in reference to Maki at every opportunity.
We had a lot of fun laughing and chatting and talking about what we thought was hot in the middle of the night when no one else was in the office. But toward the end of production, we’d grown so accustomed to doing that, when we’d get started on that in the middle of the day, our male coworkers would tell us we were sexually harassing them!
We have a male coworker named “Hiroshi” so whenever we’d joke about stuff like, “Well, Hiroshi can’t help it, he is a virgin after all,” sometimes he’d react [like we were talking about him].
It was funny hearing our male coworkers say things like, “I feel a little embarrassed working on Pops’ sex scenes after all.”
*- To be clear, “fairy” here isn’t meant as a slur.
Tell us how you guys feel about BL games.
SANPEI: I was sooooo happy to get to draw lots of cool dudes banging!! Yaaay!!
AMEMIYA: They’re like an oasis in a desert, water to quench my thirsty soul. But I can’t usually find [the kind I like], so I had no choice but to make it myself…!
Did anyone tear up at the endings during testing?
SANPEI: Yes, I cried.
AMEMIYA: I cry pretty easily, so even my own story moved me to tears. I got a bit bleary-eyed while I was editing the script and supervising the voice recording. I cried during debug and applying script corrections too.