(Full title: “Interview with the developer of The Caligula Effect 2! A spoiler-filled deep dive into how the story began and the intentions behind individual scenes”)
A translation of this interview with The Caligula Effect producer Takuya Yamanaka from February 26, 2022, containing answers to fan-submitted questions regarding the production behind the games and background story details for the The Caligula Effect series.
The Caligula Effect 2 for PS4/Nintendo Switch was released by FuRyu on June 24, 2021. To commemorate a half year since its release, we’ve held an interview with producer Takuya Yamanaka with questions submitted by Gamer readers.
This game is a school juvenile RPG with a theme of “idol killing × modern psychopathology”. It depicts the story of the “Go-Home Club”, formed by the protagonist (you) and a group of friends, who had been trapped in a paradise created by a self-aware virtual idol, and develop their own reasons to return to reality.
Since the original The Caligula Effect released for PS Vita in 2016, a remake with additions titled The Caligula Effect Overdose was released in 2018, followed by the most recent work The Caligula Effect 2 on June 24, 2021. There have also been a TV anime and a spin-off novel, and the series has developed into one with uniquely passionate fans.
We received more than 500 questions from passionate fans of this series, and asked Yamanaka all sorts of questions from that pool for as long as we had time with him. The below article contains spoilers for the entire The Caligula Effect series, so please be careful when reading through it. For this article, the full series will be referred to as “Caligula”, the original game for PS Vita as “the first game”1, The Caligula Effect Overdose as “OD“, and The Caligula Effect 2 as “2”.
About the world of Caligula
–Thank you for your time today. Firstly, please tell us about the detailed process of creating Caligula. The characters have some particularly complicated aspects intertwined with them, so do you start from the characters first when creating the game?
Yamanaka: Generally speaking, the characters come first. In the first game, we naturally had the grand premise of “let’s talk about a world where a virtual idol is trapping people in it,” beyond that, we started our work from figuring out how to bring characters forth from that premise.
We list the characters out saying that they have these worries and gone through this kind of trauma, somewhat come to the conclusion “if they’re worried about this, they’ll have this kind of personality,” and line them up together. So instead of making a full-fledged plot of “what these characters will do and what kind of ending they’ll reach,” the order is actually that I decide a rough image in my head and flesh the characters out from there.
It’s completely character-based. Even if the story would dictate that “it’d be more fun to do this,” I don’t want to have anyone act out of character, so I don’t go that route if there’s no character who would do it. So I won’t do anything that the characters themselves wouldn’t do.
–Did you also deliberately prepare the paired relationship between the Go-Home Club and the Musicians?
Yamanaka: We weren’t deliberately conceiving them in pairs. For instance, for Sweet-P’s “transvestism”…we could easily have had someone with her story if there were someone who wanted to wear cute clothes in the Go-Home Club, and if she were a Musician, her story would be the way it was in the actual game. Even with the same personal worries, the story would change depending on which side they were on.
Caligula’s overall direction is about solving problems that come from the difference between ideals and reality, but I don’t start off by thinking “this problem should be assigned to someone in the Go-Home Club and this problem should be assigned to someone among the Musicians.” Instead, I wanted to “depict a person with this kind of problem,” and then from there I’d decide whether that person should be in the Go-Home Club or a Musician…basically, that’s where I start.
Also, I didn’t specifically decide on “having this person’s worries be paired up with that person’s worries,” but rather, after thinking about what each person would be concerned about, I’d feel “this concern and that concern reflect each other unexpectedly well, don’t they?” Such worries will have elements in common, and elements that directly oppose each other. For instance, in the first game, we could have easily paired up Mifue with Ike-P, but it just kind of happened to fall into pairing up Mifue with Sweet-P.
Of course, we did consider “Izuru and Ike-P would bring more out of each other’s characters if we paired them together,” so after creating the characters, I’d pair them together thinking that it’d make for an interesting story if we had them reflect off each other here and there. However, Doktor and Kranke from 2 are a special case. For them, I conceived of the idea of having a “pair” of Musicians beforehand.
–So then, when exactly would you decide on the character’s name and representative flower?
Yamanaka: After determining each character’s background, I’d then come up with the name. There’s a bit of a mysterious phenomenon where, once I give them a name, I can come up with more about their backgrounds in detail, so the order is the base background profile → name → finer background details.
Also, in regards to names, I’d started off using a musical instrument theme, but I hadn’t expected a sequel to happen, so I’d already ran out of all of my obvious musical instruments in the first game. So I took a slightly different approach for 2.2
For example, the most difficult one to figure out is Kobato, whose name is written 小鳩 and references the ocarina instrument, which is written 鳩琴. I felt the character’s level of impact and the instrument’s melancholic tone were a good match.
Ryuto’s name comes from “lute” being pronounced identically in Japanese. As far as his personal background goes, he’s a child from the newer generation, so I felt it would be acceptable to incorporate a more modern-sense motif for him and make him stick out in a very modern way, so his wordplay uses the sound rather than a traditional Japanese reading. Kiriko’s also uses a unique setup in that her name invokes the “kokiriko” instrument3.
They’re all tied together by being themed around musical instruments, but I also particularly like each name because I tried to make them sound familiar-sounding and cute.
–When it comes to names, which comes first, the Musician’s real name, or their Musician name?
Yamanaka: The Musician name. I come up with their real name last. I personally want to be able to put my all into writing each Musician’s story, so it feels like putting the finishing touches on them…so that’s why I do it then.
–When you pick their representative flower, do you start with a keyword related to the character and use the flower that has its meaning in flower language? Or do you base it on the imagery associated with the flower itself?
Yamanaka: Once I’ve finished up each character’s internal composition and personal story, I research flower language and look for ones that fit, like “this word suits this person,” or “if you know what this flower means in flower language, you’ll have a better understanding of this character’s standout points and be able to see them in a different way.” Each flower has multiple meanings, so after picking their flower based on the main meaning, there are times when I think “it’ll be interesting to see the character in this way” based on their alternate meaning. If I come upon a word that seems to fit them, I pick that flower for them.
I don’t keep the flower language word specifically in mind when working on the story, but there are times when I look more deeply into the flower words I picked and find that, by miracle, there are some anecdotes about them that fit. In those cases, I think it’s like a mark of destiny that such a thing happened.
For instance, Marie’s flower is the snowdrop, and there’s a story where, after Adam and Eve ate the apple and were banished from paradise, an angel made snowdrops bloom to comfort them. The protagonist of 2 is associated with the apple blossom, but I’d assigned it to them based on the word “regret” without knowing about this story. So I think it’s a kind of destiny that Marie’s flower, which I’d reused from the previous game, would be linked to the apple blossom in this one. These kinds of miracles happened quite a lot while working on Caligula, to the point it surprised me.
–How much are the composers told about the characters?
Yamanaka: In 2, you can see information about what each Musician is like in reality and what their regrets are by rematching them after clearing the game, but the composers were given long essays that were about 1.5 to 2 times that in length. This person has this kind of personality, and had this kind of upbringing…Once I’ve conveyed the image of what kind of dungeon we want to make out of it, the pace it should have, and how early or late in the game it’ll play…they’re able to create a wonderful song out of it. I do give them rough instructions such as “I think it’d be fun to have this kind of gimmick” or “I think it’d fit if you used this kind of motif,” but I leave the details of how to handle it up to each composer. I do the bare minimum when asking them to make adjustments after that. This part sticks out too much, so please dial it back a little, that kind of thing.
–For instance, the way the lyrics of “Miss Conductor” are expressed invokes Kudan’s personal troubles. Was that an intended gimmick of the song?
Yamanaka: Yes. I don’t give them detailed instructions about how they should make the songs, but I do propose those kinds of gimmicks.
–How did you communicate with the character designer, Oguchi?
Yamanaka: Oguchi-kun has to have more freedom, so I do give him a tentative writeup, but…I tell him not to not limit himself too much with it. It’s a good thing for him to go against the instructions (laughs). Instead of him drawing from my direct instructions, it’s better that he takes in different elements from it and loosely follows them in his own way. I feel we’ve reached our most fitting workflow by taking the world he’s expanded and finding a way to use my words to verbalize it and make it into something more literary. For 2, I’d already worked with Oguchi-kun for a while by that point, so he came to my place and we conceived of everything together while scribbling tons of different things on paper.
–Did the art or songs end up having any influence on the story?
Yamanaka: In terms of the basic story outline, the timing of the process makes it difficult for such a thing to happen, but since the field conversations in 2 are done by visualizing how they look in mind, those parts might have been affected. It’s difficult to say how exactly, but because I’m constantly listening to the music while producing the game, I think it naturally ends up reflecting its imagery.
–Were there any particular parts you were particularly concerned about when creating the characters or writing the story?
Yamanaka: For the first game, our workflow involved asking Satomi-san, the story and original draft writer, to express everything in it, but for 2, my job expanded to include the story, so there were quite a few parts that I had to figure out on my own. In particular, I had a lot of pressure to never let up for a single moment once Regret’s true nature was revealed. I had to use only around ten words to express a sense of weakness to the players, so I had to put a ton of forcefulness into it. I had to express how raw and helpless she was to the point where players would think “there’s no use discussing it with this person anymore.” For this particular moment, I had to treat it with particular care because everything had been building up until this moment. I asked Arisa Kouri-san to redo her takes multiple times, over and over again until we could get a convincing one.
Also, because this was a continuation of the Caligula story, I was particularly concerned about Gin because I felt that he was a character that I absolutely needed to depict without shying away from the issue. It was a particularly task for me to express his feeling of modernity, without bias towards men or women, one who doesn’t get too up-close-and-personal with others and approaches things with a straight-faced perspective with a proper balance of idealism and practicality.
On top of that, because of their character backgrounds, I had to depict Ryuto and Kudan as “smart” characters, so that they would come off as truly convincing examples of being “smart”. I needed people to think that Ryuto and Kudan were wise and strong people. Caligula’s characters have their own weaknesses, and those parts of them can be said to be their charm points, or rather, even if there’s something that’s off with them, they feel properly established as characters, but…for these two, their personal troubles were related to their own wisdom, so that put a lot of pressure on me.
Among the characters, I’m particularly attached to Sasara. A lot of different works have the archetype of the perfect female character, the “holy mother” who’s full of affection for others, but I just end up thinking “wouldn’t it be tough for a young girl to have the burden of carrying such high ideals?” But it makes perfect sense for a person who’s lived more than eighty years to be able to have so much affection for others. I wanted to depict a “convincing holy mother” in that you understand “she can probably understand and forgive everything because she’s lived through so many different experiences.” But I myself haven’t lived that long and I haven’t had that many experiences in my life, so I have no choice but to imagine harder.
I think it would have been impossible to depict someone like Sasara in 2015 when Caligula was first conceived. She can be said to be a character who was born through my own experiences gained over the years and my interactions with the players over said years, so I believe this game is one that was made just for 2021 being in that era of society. So in terms of theme, the difficult one was Gin, and in terms of making them convincing characters, the most difficult ones were ones like Ryuto and Sasara.
–It feels like there was a change in direction in terms of the characters’ psychopathology between the first game and 2. Was there a particular reason for this?
Yamanaka: As times have changed, our understanding of mental disorders has also progressed, so it wouldn’t make much sense for 2 to have the same tone as the first game. If we did, I felt we’d just be going over something that everyone already knew, so for 2, I wanted to strike a balance of touching on more things only the relevant people themselves could understand, or things like the harsh things that come from being gifted, or unimaginable worries from old age that we can’t even imagine.
I’ve heard some people say things like “I expected something more grotesque or dark,” but I deliberately decided that we wouldn’t go in that direction. If you were to push harder on treating human mental disorders and psychology as stimulating entertainment, it would, in a sense, be the opposite of what Caligula is meant to stand for, so I felt it might be better to avoid that kind of thing. There’s already a ton of works that deal with those kinds of things already, so I could easily just leave it to them. On the other hand, I felt it might be more meaningful for Caligula to find those things that are hard to make entertainment out of, to expand on and pick up on the feelings that make you think “this is the only piece of media that hit me this deeply.” I understand the need to find stimulation in entertainment, but there are already other works that can do that, so Caligula is meant to play the role that only Caligula can.
There aren’t many things out there that can depict stories about gender or people on the verge of death in the same way Caligula can. I think one of our unique devices is our ability to use this kind of premise and worldbuilding, so we’ve prioritized the themes that should be handled specifically because it’s Caligula. In terms of its theme, I think Caligula needs to depict ideals and reality, idols and fans, and the sentiment “humans cannot be made into pieces on a pedestal.”
The Go-Home Club can rematch the Musicians in 2 after the game has been cleared, but specific labels for their psychopathology are not written there, and my reason for not giving them specific names is that there are people who actually have these kinds of worries in reality, so it’s a sort of response to the changing of the times in avoiding this kind of specificity. In particular, because the Musicians weren’t able to speak about themselves in the same way the Go-Home Club did, we were able to write much longer essays about them than the Go-Home Club had, so I feel there might not be a need to specifically name the issues.
—2 has “neon pink” as its theme color. Why neon?
Yamanaka: Caligula has white and pink as its primary colors. For its logo, the black above represents reality, and the pink on below represents ideals, as in reflecting the pink of an idol. The pink used for the first game is a naturally occurring pink, but because Regret’s pink is meant to represent her being a fake, it’s an artificial color, and therefore neon. Because of that, it’s lighter and weaker than the pink used in the first game, and the neon pink has no strength in it. So it can’t match up to real pink in terms of strength, but it also has its own kind of fragile beauty. So for that reason, we made it neon pink.
Also, unlike OD, which was originally a port, 2 was made from scratch with historia, so we were able to express lighting in more interesting ways, and I thought it would be interesting to use the neon lights and broken pieces of glass from the game’s motifs in the logo. Glass is also an artificial object, and I feel it fits 2 in that it’s beautiful, but also fragile. Incidentally, the fact you can technically beat Regret during the event you’re intended to lose to her is because historia wanted to have a little fun.
–You mentioned once that the first game aimed to cast younger actors, but 2 seems to have a wider range of people involved. What was the reason for the change?
Yamanaka: One of my big priorities is to work with people who want to try working with me, people whom I’d be happy to see a certain part drawn out of, and people who are exciting to work with. For instance, Inori Minase-san, who played #QP, might seem too “in the middle”, and not the type of person I would pick for this. But I thought it truly would be interesting to have someone like Minase-san playing #QP. I’ve said this before, but I want to get rid of the sentiment that someone will play a role because they seem like that type, as much as possible. I feel like fans who would rather see this instead would enjoy it.
So when I cast, one of my leads is taking into account the opinions of the voice actors I’m working with. I like to talk with them and ask them questions like “who’s got interesting performances these days?” when going out to dinner with them or messaging each other. Then, when I hear “this person can do interesting things” or “I think Yamanaka-san would like this person,” I immediately go to hear the samples in their portfolio. Aoi Ichikawa-san, who played Gin, was picked when Shun Horie-san, who’d worked alongside him in a different work, told me “Yamanaka-san would love hearing his performance.” And, as he said, I truly did adore it.
This is a digression, but the lines that the world hears are only the takes that were selected after many, many rerecordings, and many of them are formed by filling in noise and gaps. On the other hand, when I’m working with someone and they say something like “this person wasn’t asked to do it, but they were trying to do something interesting,” while it might be an obtuse way to put it, I’m the kind of person who goes “I’d like to keep that and make use of that, and to provide a way for them to do that.” When people in the field tell me about someone who takes on interesting challenges, I want to work with them.
Even if it’s not quite an indie game, I believe Caligula is something that allows for this kind of thing. Even if we have each person doing whatever they want, we still have someone supervising the whole thing, so everyone is able to comfortably take the stance “this person is good at making things work together, so I can do what I want!” This goes for everything, including illustration, music composition, and acting.
—2 had bits and pieces that seemed to invoke the Caligula anime. Was this intended as fanservice?
Yamanaka: The anime came to fruition thanks to everyone who supported the first game, so I consider it to be one manifestation of the Caligula timeline. I didn’t want to separate it from the overall Caligula narrative, so I wanted to create a world that included that of the anime. So I hope those who watched the anime can still be able to see 2 as being what happened after those events.
While it’s also meant to connect to the first game, I added little shout-outs to show that the world of the anime also had a proper place. The location name was brought up during meetings for the anime’s scripts. When I was considering what to name the location in 2, I figured that if Mobius’s resources were being appropriated, it might be a good idea to use the next station over.
Regret reacts when you input a certain person’s name. When Bluffman browsed through data from Mobius, he would have been able to dig up certain names, like those of the mastermind or the Go-Home Club. Bluffman also shared that data with Regret and told her “these people were central figures behind Mobius,” so when Regret heard that certain person’s name, she thought “Really?”…I had that image in mind.
–The game was also released overseas, so what kind of supervision work was done for the translation process?
Yamanaka: I wasn’t the one who supervised it, but FuRyu staff members who are fluent in English seem to have looked over it. So when I played it afterwards, I was impressed that they caught little nuances that I’d never explained to anyone. For instance, there’s a subtle difference between “Niko” when used as a first-person pronoun, “Niko” when referring to a certain person with that name, and “Niko” when referring to the one that’s here right now, and they did a great job matching that very closely.
About the music/composers
–Within the game’s universe, who composed “Orbit” and “SINGI”?
Yamanaka: I imagine “Orbit” to be something like an official demo song made to be used when a new vocal software product is released, to show off what it can do. “SINGI” wasn’t made by Regret herself, but was made with the idea that Regret found it among the countless numbers of virtuadoll songs in the world and happened to personally empathize with it.
She’d never written a single song for herself in her life, and after coming into tons of different songs in the world, she found that song and thought “this song feels like it was made to describe my life!” It was a song made by someone out there on the Internet, and Regret was singing it thinking “this song was made for me!”…It wasn’t made by any of the characters in the game itself. While the game wasn’t able to show all of it directly, Regret sings many more songs than just the ones she sings in the game, so it’s not like those are the only ones she’s ever sung.
–How easily did the process of picking real-life composers go?
Yamanaka: While I had people I wanted to bring on, for 2, we also had DECO*27, who assisted with sound production, suggest people to use, and that was something we didn’t have for the first game. It’d been five years since the first game released, and time had passed in the game’s world, too, so while we had composers from the Nico Nico Douga generation in the first game, for this one, we tried to get people who are active on YouTube.4 Since he was someone who was actually involved in that field, I discussed it with him and figured out if there was anyone we really wanted to bring on. Among them, Ayase-san particularly stood out when we listened to each composer’s music, and I think we were able to bring him on specifically because we used this method. I really wanted him to do Pandora’s songs thanks to DECO*27’s knowledge of the actual field.
I think console games will often pick voice actors based on their name value, but I don’t think this is the right time to be overly influenced by what’s trendy in the world in this day and age. Instead of hiring someone who’s already got huge sales value, I think it’ll be more resonant to bring out someone whom everyone’s hyped up about recommending to others. When that happens, the artists involved will be more motivated and the fans will be happier.
You pick the people who are just about to take off, right around the time where they really want to show off their best, when they’re not already huge names in the market; you hear out the opinions of those already in the field, trust their experience in it, and proceed with a certain degree of courage. I don’t think we should be making things that are like mainstream games, so I place priority on the opinions of those in the actual field and my own gut feelings. This needs to be a game where we meet artists and cast members while they’re still on the slope upwards.
–How were the 2 battle videos made?
Yamanaka: We started with the concept of “fighting within a Vocaloid PV”, and asked historia’s designer to draft up a proposal. They’d include character motifs and other things that would invoke each character.
For example, Doktor and Kranke’s videos have motifs that appear in both because they’re a pair of Musicians that go together in a way that didn’t happen in the first game, so we had their respective motifs and song atmospheres be similar.
–What kind of ideas did you have in mind for the remixes?
Yamanaka: For 2, we requested that TeddyLoid “take the original song and go nuts with it”. Teddy-san effectively made something that shows off “when this character expresses their true nature, this aspect comes out of it.” Beyond that, we also requested that the sense of excitement should rise during the boss battle, and that there needs to be something fun about the disparity between it and the original song.
–What’s actually being said during the “XXX” part in “SINGI”?
Yamanaka: We recorded many different versions with different rhyming words. We won’t reveal the details, so that’s why sasakure.UK didn’t put it on the lyrics card, but I think anything you hear in it is correct.5
–Within the game’s timeline, which was produced first, “xxxx/xx/xx” or “Distorted†Happiness”?
Yamanaka: “Distorted†Happiness” is Thorn’s most recent song, so “xxxx/xx/xx” was probably made first. Perhaps it was kept as a scrapped song and wasn’t released because it exposed too much of the composer.
About the characters
–Please tell us about the meaning of each protagonist’s flower.
Yamanaka: We wanted the first game’s protagonist to be like a hero, so we assigned them ginger flowers, in that they’re escaping into ideals and playing the role of a protagonist. In the language of flowers, it refers to something that is loved, or expresses a sense of charisma. It also has a tinge of irony in it in that it means “useless things”.
Yamanaka: For 2, we picked apple blossoms, which mean “regrets” and “choices” in the language of flowers, because I wanted people to understand that they were going to make a huge decision.
–How did you decide on each character’s weapon? For example, did you have to pick between multiple different options for each?
Yamanaka: We figured that if we had this character, if they had this kind of personality and this kind of personal worry, this weapon would go alongside them. So now that you ask me that…now you’re making me worried about the fact I didn’t worry too much about it (laughs).
For Ryuto, since he was putting himself out in front of of ordinary people, I was personally content with the idea of giving him a parrying dagger to repeatedly dodge enemy attacks with. Kobato’s weapon expresses his anger, or perhaps you could say it’s an allegory…so his anger is expressed like an iron ball. If you’re hit by it, it’s not something meant to cut through you, it’s not a long object like a club, and since he’s going to be releasing stress by raising a heavy object and hitting things from above, an iron ball is a natural fit. Niko had conscious awareness of “Niko” being good at hula hooping, so it needed to be something that spun around like that, and the corresponding weapon would be a huge chakram. It didn’t particularly have a deep meaning beyond “it needs to be this way.”
If I had to say one thing was particularly forced, for 2, it’d be the protagonist. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s said that soldiers like using guns because it doesn’t make them personally feel like they’re killing someone. However, for this game, there was a possibility of actually killing someone, so I wanted them to use a shorter weapon that gave off the sense of killing someone with their own hands, and I changed it from twin pistols to knives. I thought it’d be good to make it a weapon that everyone would have a real possibility of using.
–Hearing that makes it feel more fitting that the protagonist of the first game was carrying guns, meaning that they were more likely to hurt their opponents without hesitation. So then, who comes up with the characters’ skill names?
Yamanaka: To be honest, it’s all me. The characters don’t actually shout their own skill names in the game, but I imagine they secretly named them thinking “this would be this skill.” It feels like they named things after things they like, like in EarthBound. For Gin, it’s Marvel heroes, for Kobato, he doesn’t really care, Ryuto uses philosophical terminology, and Niko uses onomatopoeia noises. As a game creator, I’ve come up with a lot of names in my life, but my personal masterpieces are “Rolling Combo” and “Rooolling Combo”6. I was shaking when I came up with it.
–What is the meaning behind Regret’s physical appearance in the game?
Yamanaka: In reality’s terms, that appearance would be a beautiful avatar that an indie singer would use for her icon when posting a video of herself singing a cover song. It’s quite full of her own personal ideals and the image of a character she wants to come off as. The image is that of her desire to be this kind of character, in that she wants to make herself look more beautiful to the audience.
This is probably where Bluffman’s role of a producer in “making her more like a goddess” came in. The face and appearance are from Regret’s ideals, and the costume and atmosphere comes from Bluffman. The angel ring is a bit ironic, in that it expresses that she’s actually a fake.
Her weapons are from a defense system that Bluffman equipped her with. It’s like the extreme extension of giving a child a security buzzer.
–For the Musicians who don’t have particularly standout appearances, do they look close to how they do in reality?
Yamanaka: Even at the base level, I think there’s a difference between how one sees themself in the mirror, how one sees themselves with their phone camera, and how one imagines themself more objectively. And everyone has their own unconscious impulse to have “a slightly better” version of themself. That kind of thing happens already. So I think everyone has that kind of bias. For those like Pandora, who aren’t particularly concerned about their appearance, I think they would come off as being very close to reality to some extent.
–What kind of relationship do the Musicians in 2 have?
Yamanaka: Compared to the ones from the first game, they have more of a business-like relationship. Unlike with the first game, the people in 2 have already decided what they want to do. That doesn’t mean the people from the first game were in the wrong, but the people in 2 already know what mistakes they made, so they have a clearer sense of direction on where they want to go. So as an organization, they do the bare minimum for each other, they don’t feel any sense of fellowship nor feel any value in it, and since they have their own individual goals, they place low priority on engaging with others.
As Bluffman’s assistant, Kudan was the one in a position to keep in contact with all of them. Bluffman can only see people at a very superficial level, so he isn’t good at this. Kudan simply treats the other Musicians as chess pieces, but she spends a lot of time observing them and understands their motivations to some extent, so she labels them with nicknames. Since she herself is someone with weaknesses, she understands what weaknesses each other Musician has, and knows how to exploit them to get them to act in the way she wants. That’s why she was able to make certain decisions, such as not telling MU-kun about certain things or not telling Pandora anything because she wasn’t going to be there anyway.
–The WIRE conversations in 2 bring up the topic of height, but does that refer to their height within Redo?
Yamanaka: It’s effectively their height in Redo. The official illustrations aren’t necessarily to scale because they’re tailored to their appearance, so please refer to the actual text instead of using the illustrations to compare them.
–Please tell us the Musicians’ heights.
Machina: 180 cm
Pandora: 169 cm
MU-kun: 165 cm
#QP: 161 cm
Doktor: 179 cm
Kranke: 157 cm
Kudan: 155 cm
Bluffman: 178 cm
Regret: 169 cm
–Please show us the physical structure of the 2 male protagonist’s uniform.
About individual scenes
*The following text contains spoilers.
–At the beginning of the game, Regret seems to be concerned about something depending on your choices, but what was that intended to mean?
Yamanaka: Regardless of the reason, she must be dealing with her own share of concerns. But the way she tries to uplift you makes her seem like a sort of ideal figure pushing you forward, as if making you think “she must be bearing a great deal of trouble” or “she must be a tragic heroine,” and when you look back at that scene after understanding everything, her expression there becomes very difficult to describe.
As far as Regret is concerned, she didn’t say anything wrong. When she says “you wouldn’t understand, not a thing,” that’s what she’s actually thinking. But she had to say it in a manner befitting of her role of Regret, and if she were to say it without carefully choosing her words, I imagine it’d come out more like “you wouldn’t understand a damn thing!”
–When χ headed to Redo, how much had μ told her about the Micro Mobius?
Yamanaka: Since Marie was in that condition, μ wanted to speak positively about it, so she didn’t tell her much about it. Beyond that, nobody else knew about Marie and that world, so I think she would have wanted to keep it a secret. Of course, she had no idea it was being exploited for something else.
–In the world of Redo, all of the facilities are directly connected to the train station. Was Regret the cause of that?
Yamanaka: That may have been the case. Having all of the facilities be connected by railroad tracks is a very lazy way to arrange things, isn’t it? It’s like putting everything around your bed for convenience, so I think Regret would have that kind of habit.
–Why does χ refer to μ as her “Mom”?
Yamanaka: To put it simply, you have Vocaloid products that have background lore like “these two are twins”7, right? So in the same way, χ’s product itself is officially given the background lore of being “μ’s daughter”. Hence, χ thinks of μ as her mother, and μ thinks of χ as her daughter.
It’s not a very dreamy way to put it, so if you want something with more romanticism, you could say χ was created after μ’s creator, who loves her very much, confirmed that love with her…so in that sense, χ is her daughter.
–Are there male virtuadolls?
Yamanaka: There certainly must be. I imagine there are other companies that would make virtuadolls like χ and μ.
–When Bluffman said at the beginning that “the time has come”, does this mean he’d forseen χ’s arrival?
Yamanaka: He’d probably been entertaining the possibility of some kind of rebel arriving in the corner of his head, but since Bluffman thinks poorly of μ and anyone associated with her, he thinks of it as conversely being an opportunity to show off how much better Regret is.
–Pandora’s botanical garden has her favorite idol in it. Was that a coincidence?
Yamanaka: It’s a coincidence. Isn’t that sad?
–Why was Gin so angry about everything to do with MU-kun?
Yamanaka: Gin is someone who had to struggle against reality. He had no choice but to make do with what he had and make his appearance conform, and he struggled with reading the room around him. Instead of being someone who stopped because of his uncertainties with his gender, he came to terms with the fact he was in reality, and after struggling with things through trial and error, he couldn’t do anything about it, and yet he still tried to push forward with a job he could do…and kept living like that.
MU-kun took shortcuts and surrounded himself with yes-men to validate him. He does whatever he wants, and dislikes people who rely on their surroundings. In any case, MU-kun was the perfect example of a model case of Gin’s most hated things. From Gin’s point of view, he was “the kind of person he hates most”, in the sense that if you collected everything Gin hated most into one person, that would be MU-kun.
It wasn’t that MU-kun particularly struck any personal chord to do with his gender or anything like that. That, he’s already experienced, and he’s already aware of that. If it were simply a person who had outdated ideas about gender, or someone discriminatory about his gender, or that kind of prejudiced person, it wouldn’t do much more for Gin as a character. It had to be someone whom Gin would personally hate as a sheer human being for him to work.
–Why did χ get a sense of “nostalgia” at the coffee from the school festival?
Yamanaka: A certain person suspected of being her creator has the scent of coffee on them.
–When Machina and Niko encountered each other at the Tatefushi Academy Annex, what were they talking about?
Yamanaka: Niko was starting to become aware of reality at that moment, so she didn’t take Machina flying for granted, and was shocked or at least had some kind of reaction. Normally, when people see Machina flying, they just think “oh, he’s flying.” Machina didn’t perceive Niko as a member of the Go-Home Club, but it seemed she like knew something…
–When Kranke speaks, only “life” and “death” are written with kanji.8 Why is this the case?
Yamanaka: She has strong awareness of those concepts. Her lines are in hiragana to express the fact that she’s had no contact with the outside world and has an immature mentality for her age, but because the motifs of life and death are ones that turn around over and over within herself, she has detailed awareness of them.
–Was it an intentional decision to have “Marie Mizuguchi” and “Maria Ideguchi” be similar-sounding names?
Yamanaka: The similarity is intentional, and we wanted the name “Maria Ideguchi” to invoke the name “Marie Mizuguchi”. Doktor most likely remembered Marie Mizuguchi’s name because of how similar it sounded to Maria Ideguchi. Normally, a doctor wouldn’t easily remember what patients they had, so Marie’s name had some resonance with Doktor due to the similarity.
While we’re talking about names, if you write the kanji characters “人” and “見” next to each other, you can get the kanji “俔”, which carries the meaning of tracing, imitating, or comparing something. Bluffman and Regret’s surname is “Hitomi” (人見) in the sense that Bluffman was pretending to be something else, and Regret pretending to be a goddess. I was impressed seeing that some people actually picked up on that.
–If you choose to “kill” Marie, did everyone actually return to reality?
Yamanaka: I think they did. But something’s going to be lingering in each of them, and we don’t know if they ever actually met again. In terms of game mechanics, we thought about even making that a game over, but we refrained.
–Wicked’s actions become clearer when you choose not to kill her, so was this done to make the players experience the feeling of making a choice and having regrets?
Yamanaka: There is that. We made it so that whichever you choose, you’ll still have something lingering. “I wonder if this was the right thing to do.” We wouldn’t have prepared that choice in the first place if either of them were 100% correct. Even if you don’t kill Marie, there are still some challenges that’ll lie ahead in the future and things that can’t be resolved.
But even though there’s no certain correct answer or guarantee as a result of your choice, the ending of this game is one where you can at least expect something better in the future, somehow. Even if you choose to not kill her, Marie will be in the same state she was in the first game, and nothing will have changed. However, after 2, she’ll have more people who can come to visit her, and Ryuto may become a doctor and be able to do something about it. That “may” can be considered to be a kind of salvation in its own way. If Ryuto becomes a doctor…it’s not a complete pipe dream, and in actuality, in 2021, Professor Yamanaka’s9 famous IPS cells were used in treating a spinal cord injury. That kind of hope wasn’t even imaginable back in 2016. There was meaning in those five years.
–What kind of person did “Iori” see “Niko” as?
Yamanaka: One can only imagine this, but because Iori said so, Niko was probably a genuinely nice girl. She was probably thinking “you should be more confident in yourself” or “people would probably accept you more if you were a little brighter…”
And Iori never said anything bad about Niko, probably because Niko never tried to force Iori into doing things with her own brightness or say something pushy like “you should do this more!” She probably had her own way of respecting Iori’s personality and went along with it, so Iori didn’t particularly hate her nor did she push her away. So when she accidentally ended up thinking “I got lucky,” she felt terribly ugly, and it led to her falling into such a deep degree of self-rejection. I think her opinion of herself had been steadily declining, especially after the decision regarding Marie.
–What was the thought process behind having Niko bring a sketchbook with her into the χ Express?
Yamanaka: Niko and Iori had almost opposite hobbies. Niko was an extroverted person and liked girls’ manga, and Iori was an introvert who liked drawing, boys’ manga, and horror…I think we put the sketchbook there to show off her more introverted hobbies.
–Why did Iori choose to keep being Niko?
Yamanaka: I think there are multiple different reasons why, for instance, because she’d already started doing it so she might as well keep doing it, because she wanted to keep being “Niko” for everyone who’d met her as “Niko”, because she wanted to mourn “Niko” by living the youth she couldn’t have anymore, because she wanted to do it for her sake, because she wanted to live out more of her high school life as “Niko”…I think there are many different thought processes behind it.
–It seems that Kudan had fully expected to be defeated by the Go-Home Club, but if they’d actually gone through with it to the very end, wouldn’t she be unable to fulfill her purpose?
Yamanaka: She wouldn’t have, no. But because of what had happened with Marie, she knew they were a group that refused to kill people, so she felt it would be good enough to simply let them think they’d defeated her.
–What’s the difference in Gin’s attitude when he refers to Kobato as “Kobato-san” versus “Kobato-senpai”?
Yamanaka: Games and anime will often have characters exclusively use a specific first-person pronoun, and there’ll be an honorifics chart that clearly defines who refers to whom with what, but it’s actually pretty forced10…Of course, they’re doing this so that the story writer won’t get confused, so making that kind of chart is necessary, but I think it’s normal to flip between “-san” or “-senpai” on the spot.
I personally think that’s more realistic, and that if these characters were alive, first-person pronouns, second-person pronouns, and variations in how characters call others would be perfectly normal. We actually wanted to do this earlier, and so in the anime, Mifue starts off using casual language with Naruko, despite Naruko being her senior. The background behind that was that Mifue initially hadn’t realized that Naruko was her senior at first, but I didn’t think it was necessary to fixate too much on it because things like this will naturally change depending on the situation.
–What’s the intent behind Gin and χ saying “Hey χ!” and “Excellent Job.” after they finish a battle?
Yamanaka: They’re saying it like they’re doing “Hey Siri”, and I think it’s basically just the two of them playing around together.
–How much did Machina know about Regret?
Yamanaka: Nothing at all. I think he admired Regret because she’d given him power, and there were many things about her that he worshipped, such as the fact she was a virtuadoll who was free from death.
–Were there any actual measures taken against Astral Syndrome?
Yamanaka: Bluffman’s public announcement of “let’s create a lasting paradise” was a lie to begin with, and I don’t think he was thinking all that much about the future. His goal was to further amplify Regret’s power and increase her influence in reality, so whatever the Musicians did in reality would have no meaning for Bluffman.
Ryuto was overthinking things when he believed Bluffman and Regret to have some kind of grand purpose and detailed plan. He’s the kind of person to have his own detailed motives, so he wants to see what others are planning. People like this are prone to getting confused because they think there must be some strong organization beyond their imagination, and that there must be some kind of purpose…and that’s their blind spot. Ryuto never accounted for the idea that someone would do something like this “for no good reason”.
–Was everything inside the Tower of Epimetheus intended for some purpose?
Yamanaka: Bluffman made it. He wanted to make Regret into a goddess. So it’s a tower that enshrines a goddess.
–What specifically did Bluffman do for Regret?
Yamanaka: He was basically doing everything a producer would do to help a single artist sell. For example, he’d do the promotional work himself through social media, he’d advised her “if you do this, your fans will love it,” and shill her to influencers, basically everything like that. He’s that kind of straightforward person.
–So he didn’t just “do things”, but rather “everything”.
Yamanaka: That, I think, is “love”. Recently, I studied Erich Fromm’s book The Art of Loving, and I was very convinced by what I’d read from it. When people seek love, their appearance and behavior will naturally become “efforts to be loved” and “efforts to not be disliked” . However, few people will think of “a specific method of being loved”. Everyone thinks love is a natural occurrence, and it’ll come across if you just go along with it. But in actuality, “loving” also requires skill, and if you mess up, you’ll end up only with “dominance” and “brainwashing”. According to the book, it takes effort and proper investigation in order to truly love someone.
I created the character of Bluffman myself, but after reading that, I realized, “ah, he really messed up.” A relationship that’s nothing but sadism and masochism doesn’t have a proper sense of love in it, and the right way to love is to accept what the other person wants, bring it together with yourself, and aim for greater heights together. Bluffman is someone who couldn’t aim for those heights. His mistake was assuming that if he loved her enough, that love would get across by itself. Instead, he ended up pushing Regret further and further into this situation.
Looking at it objectively, Bluffman’s actions were absolutely in the wrong. But if you think of it from his perspective, you can still understand that, as a father, he loved Regret to the very end. Takehito Koyasu-san, who played him, kept having to dodge spoilers on his official website cast comment, probably because he really wanted to say that kind of thing. After making 2, I’d start crying anytime I’d see some kind of TV show like Old Enough11. Regardless of how absurd the world is, one wants to prioritize their child over all else. I think there are few people in a similar position to Bluffman who could fully deny his actions, because you understand his position just by imagining it.
–How did you come up with Bluffman’s background?
Yamanaka: I wanted there to be a connection to the previous game, but I didn’t want it to be a direct one. Rather, I wanted it to be so that the more someone loved the previous game, the more likely they were to be misled. For someone with a high level of Caligula knowledge, the normal line of thought will be that the same composer means the same person. They wouldn’t be able to remotely entertain the idea that it might be a coincidence. That’s what makes an entire world of difference between those who played the previous game and those who haven’t.
He’ll come off completely differently to those who’ve played the first game and are constantly thinking “what if…”, and those who don’t know anything. That idea of “the Musician is inherently tied to the composer” makes the song itself be the blind spot that deceives the player. I wanted to use that kind of gimmick to break the idea that they know Caligula well enough to expect that.
Every so often, you see someone claim that they made someone else’s work online. Bluffman himself has no respect for creators, and thinks of himself as Thorn when he says he made the song, so that works very well for his purposes. He’s the kind of person who thinks, “how easy that was, how fortuitous it is that they’re all such idiots.”
People who aren’t interested or care about attachment to a work of art, pouring your life into it, and working yourself to the bone for it are the kind who will casually steal someone else’s name. This also goes for the relationship between Pandora and Kiriko, in that people who aren’t interested in idols will have no idea why people would spend their lives and money in devotion to one. The lack of understanding is what repels them from it. Bluffman is completely that sort of person.
–What happened to Thorn?
Yamanaka: Missing, with life or death status unknown. As for the other characters from before, especially the Go-Home Club, we don’t intend to really discuss what happened afterwards…All of you who played it can follow your own hunches, and I think you can consider whatever you come up with to be the right answer.
…To be exact about it, we really shouldn’t have needed to have those pictures after the ending of the last game. For this game, we put an end to that because I’d thought back on it and felt we should have fully abstained in the previous game, too. Of course, I agree that it’s a pleasure to see them, but as a concept, I think it’s too cushy. So for 2, we left it entirely to your imagination. We don’t know if they’re happy or unhappy. Even so, they’ve all made it to the end together, so you can imagine that everyone in the Go-Home Club was able to find at least a little happiness. I think that’s enough.
–Did Regret know that dying in Redo would make you die in reality?
Yamanaka: Regret is the only one who wouldn’t die even if she died in Redo. Bluffman set it up that way, so she’s well aware she wouldn’t actually die, and thus has that attitude. I apologize for not fully explaining that.
–Why did you decide to depict a virtuadoll who was actually a human?
Yamanaka: Kiriko and Pandora’s story is meant to lead you into a complete trap. How many people come out of it with the conclusion that Pandora’s troubles are “meaningless”?…For people who haven’t had the experience of being dependent or devoted to something other than themselves, like idols, it’s hard to understand people like Pandora. Nowadays, it’s considered normal to be a hardcore idol fan, so I hope people who emotionally resonate with that can take it as it is. On the other hand, I wanted even the people who couldn’t empathize with it to at least be able to anticipate that feeling, or rather, to actually experience the feeling of having an idealized version of something while playing 2. This is why you meet them in the second dungeon. That’s one of the main mechanisms I wanted to achieve with 2.
Caligula is something that can either resonate with people who have experienced such things or go completely over their heads, and that’s both its strength and weakness. So for instance, your experiences with Marie make it difficult to make that one important choice, and because you’d already seen Kiriko and Pandora, they serve as a counterpoint to any emotions you might have been harboring towards Regret throughout the game. That’s something I wanted to have in this game. It’s like a single interaction with a single Musician, like a smaller-scale reenaction of 2 itself.
The same goes for the relationship between this series and the audience, and Caligula received a huge amount of support for a work of its scale. I tried to do my best to match those expectations, but I can’t reach the needs of every single player for reasons of budget, corporate restrictions, individual situations, and such. I tried my best and pushed myself to the limit and tried to do what I could, but some of our audience members were disappointed or angry. It’s still different from the relationship between that of an idol and a fan, but I directly felt the difficulty of maintaining a relationship between the side that creates those ideals and the side that actually plays the games.
While it’s not the relationship between an idol and a fan, I used Caligula’s ending to express what I felt in the relationship between the one who creates and the one who plays. I’m not μ, but it’s realistically impossible to entertain everyone with only one work, even after doing everything I could. I have to deal with these conflicting thoughts in my head, but I felt that, as a single human being, I couldn’t bear all of it at once, and that led to what happens in 2. Even so, I also included the fact that I have no choice but to continue creating.
About what happens next
–Are there plans for a Musician route, like in OD?
Yamanaka: Firstly, people like Ryuto, Gin, and Kiriko are hanging around you, so you wouldn’t be able to get away with sneaking around them like you would in a Musician route. The fact the protagonist is bound to χ also results in preventing such a thing from being a possibility. I personally think it would be dangerous for betrayal to become a staple of the series.
To put it simply, the option to betray left an effective impact in the last game, so we included it as an option. I think it would feel a little off if you got the exact same effect from betraying everyone in 2. Even in terms of the characters involved, it wouldn’t have the same impact as the previous game. We were already able to express that “betraying people will have this kind of result,” so even though I know it’s popular, I felt it may not really be necessary to imitate that in 2. I didn’t want to hold back on the story to leave room for there to be a betrayal option, nor to leave gaps so we could add on later, so I think it’s best to just not have it. We wanted to prioritize having a complete story as a single game.
–Are there plans for expanding into different kinds of media, such as anime or novels?
Yamanaka: There currently aren’t any, so please contact us anytime if you have a proposal!
–Will you be releasing a self-cover album for 2?
Yamanaka: The soundtrack is selling well, so we should probably start discussing it sometime soon…We haven’t decided on any specifics, but I think we can do it if everyone involved thinks it’ll sell enough. We’ve already informed the voice actors beforehand that we might do something like this.
–Are there any plans to release sheet music?
Yamanaka: If it’s determined to be potentially profitable, we might be able to do so, so it might be a possibility if everyone is emphatic enough about wanting it. FuRyu is a game company, so we’d have to rely on other companies in other fields to do something like this.
And whether or not other companies will agree to work with us depends on whether it’ll sell or not…We can do certain things because Caligula is somewhat of an indie-like game, but a major disadvantage is that we can’t do certain things that a huge company could do without issue. That’s the inevitable good and bad of being into something small-scale like this. So if you’re into something where this kind of merchandise can easily happen, please enjoy that happiness as much as you can.
–Can we see art of the version of Wicked in 2?
Yamanaka: Sounds good. It might be possible to make it happen if we can make it into merchandise, but…if it’s going to sell, then we definitely have to make it happen. If we get a lot of people telling us “I’ll give you my money, so make it!”, we’ll consider it.
–What on earth are Devilmanmo and Bluffmanmo supposed to be?12
Yamanaka: Nothing at all.
- The actual term used for the original PS Vita game is “mujirushi” (無印), a catch-all term used for the originating work in a series where future entries use the same title with a subtitle. The term literally means “unmarked”, in contrast to “Overdose” and “2” being the extra subtitle “marks”. [↩]
- Every member of the Go-Home Club in the first game has a kanji (Chinese-based character) in their name that corresponds to a musical instrument or musical motif. For instance, Shogo’s name is 笙悟, with the “shou” (笙) meaning a Japanese reed pipe. As described in the interview, in The Caligula Effect 2, while there is still a musical naming pattern for every club member, the connection in the wordplay for some characters is more oblique. [↩]
- Kokiriko = An instrument made of wood with parts clapped together during Japanese folk dance. [↩]
- Nico Nico Douga = A Japanese video site that was considered a major factor in Vocaloid’s popularity boom in 2007 due to its high focus on indie creator content. The website started to fall in decline in the mid-2010s due to concerns about outdated and overly restrictive management policies; while it was still the dominant upload center for Japanese Vocaloid music at the time the first The Caligula Effect was released, by the time The Caligula Effect 2 was released in 2021, the tide had predominantly switched to YouTube. [↩]
- It is generally agreed that the easiest-to-hear word in “SINGI”‘s “XXX” position is “world” (sekai) in Regret’s version and “era” (jidai) in χ’s version. [↩]
- The original Japanese names for these skills are “Full-Bokkombo” and “Full-Bokko-Bokkombo”, playing on a pun with “full-bokko” (meaning to beat something to a pulp) and “combo”. [↩]
- Yamanaka is probably referring to Kagamine Rin and Len, a dual set of Vocaloid products released in the same series as Hatsune Miku, and voiced by Asami Shimoda, who also voiced Aria in The Caligula Effect. Contrary to popular belief, they are not actually officially defined as twins, but they are often treated in a similar sense in marketing and are commonly perceived by fans and users as such. [↩]
- In the Japanese version of The Caligula Effect 2, all of Kranke’s lines are predominantly written with the hiragana script. Japanese is normally written with hiragana in combination with Chinese-driven kanji characters; since hiragana is phonetically-driven, writing only in hiragana is associated with being childish or immature, as children often don’t use kanji due to it being too difficult for them at that age. However, Kranke’s lines have “life” (生) and “death” (死) in kanji, in contrast to everything else in her dialogue. [↩]
- “Professor Yamanaka” = Refers to stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka, with no relation to the producer here. [↩]
- As Yamanaka says, Japanese fiction usually has its characters use only a specific first-person pronoun (assertive ore versus polite boku, etc.) as a reflection of personality, and the honorifics each character uses for others will follow specific patterns that will be tightly kept track of by both writers and fans. If a character suddenly changes this, it’s usually understood to have some kind of plot significance, but in reality, people are more likely to switch between these based on the situation and context. [↩]
- Old Enough (original title Hajimete no Otsukai/はじめてのおつかい, “First Errand”) = A variety TV show based on a concept from the picture book Miki’s First Errand by Yoriko Tsuitsui. The book and TV show center around the concept of sending a child alone on a “first errand” (such as buying something from the store on a parent’s request) to train them in independence. [↩]
- “Devilmanmo” is a mysterious character who appears in the “Extreme Go-Home Club” gag comics hosted on the official blog for The Caligula Effect. No explanation was ever given for its appearance or where it came from. Another character named “Bluffmanmo” appears in the sequel “Extreme Go-Home Club 2” series made for The Caligula Effect 2, with equally as little explanation. [↩]
One thought on “Gamer interview with The Caligula Effect producer Takuya Yamanaka”
Fantastic interview for a fantastic game.