Visual Novel Book Club - Planning Phase

(@natarin @AzusaChan Oops I did the thing early – it occurred to me that getting it off the ground will take a little time so I should probably go ahead and see how things look sooner rather than later)

The idea of running a book club for visual novels came up in the read every day challenge. It’s something that’s been on my mind but there are various extra difficulties beyond what books present, and I was unsure about the level of interest. Well, now we’re going solve the latter question by taking it directly to the people.

For those not familiar, visual novels exist at the intersection of books and videogames, often on the PC but sometimes on consoles as well. They are written stories that always feature at minimum the written text, accompanying music, and images. They often but not always also include things like voice acting, multiple choices (which lead to different routes, with a full playthrough of a visual novel generally involving seeing all of said routes), and occasionally even some gameplay elements. Games you may be familiar with like Danganronpa, Ace Attorney, and 13 Sentinels sort of sit on the edge of being considered the most game-y that visual novels reach.

I consider visual novels an extremely good medium for learning Japanese, and they’ve been one of the primary ways I’ve done so thus far. Most feature a solid mix of narration and dialog, with characters falling into various types of role language, to get a pretty wide variety of practice. They usually feature a log to look back at past lines, when they have voice acting they often allow replaying lines, and the mix of voiced dialog with usually unvoiced narration (and often an unvoiced protagonist) allows for a mix of reading and listening type practice. Above all, many can be easily “texthooked” with outside programs to allow for instantly word lookups, and if Anki is your thing, you can turn those into instantly created cards through Yomichan.

If you’d like to look into any visual novels, is an excellent resource.

So, as a general concept, what do you think?

  • I am interested in joining!
  • I might be interested in joining
  • I’m not interested in joining but simply must click a button

0 voters

I’ll do my best to run things and work it out as I go, but primarily right now I want to see whether people will even join me if I do this. That said, there are various elements we can start to discuss for those interested. I had thought the best way was to mostly minimize these wrinkles in our initial choices, and that might still be a good idea, but above all else, the best way is to just see what the people involved think. So here are some things we have to think about

  • Visual novels tend to be quite long, and reading in a foreign language is significantly slower for most of us. Do we want to try to limit our choices to a relatively shorter one? I’m willing to commit to whatever, but that might not be true for all of us, nor a good way to start.

  • Making a schedule is really difficult because we can’t see how the VN is divided ahead of time very well (if it even is) by chapter or whatever, nor can we really know how long said sections will be the way the book reading clubs can. Is there any way we want to try to tackle that, or do we simply make an open club to check in as we progress?

  • VNs with multiple choices and routes could further fragment us from each other. We could either aim for a visual novel without meaningful choices right now, or we could figure out how they work and pick an order, whether through voting or some other means?

  • Some visual novels feature, well, strong sexual content. I consider a lot of them really good stories that happen to have that thrown in and am usually willing to overlook it, but unless we end up with a group of people totally willing to do the same, I feel like we likely should aim for VNs that lack that or have versions available to cut that content so we don’t alienate potential members?

There’s probably more! Planning this is a lot of work. Now I want to hear from you or not. I figure we can handle specific reading choices in the next thread once we’ve hammered out that this is indeed going to happen and some general gameplan for it, but if you have things you’ve been wanting to read or other thoughts, have at it. I recognize VNs span a lot of genres so it’s hard to say “yes I definitely want to do this!” blindly because this is equivalent to asking people if they want to read a book, with no more detail given lol.


Ok, so I haven’t made a poll before, and I thought I set it to show who voted but it doesn’t look like I did? :grimacing:

No, it doesn’t look like :joy_cat:

It’s unfortunately not the default and a bit tricky, let me take a few screenshots.

If you click the cogwheel in the bottom right corner, you can then select the checkbox:



Thank you! I remade it and fixed it I think. This thread also originally wasn’t in the book club section even though I thought I did that, but I moved it pretty quickly…

Experience all these blunders and more, if you join!


Thanks for the invite, but I’m afraid this might not really be my medium…

Anyways I’ll keep an eye out, if only out of curiosity.

I was just gonna say! All sorted now :smile:


Oh yeah I kinda figured based on experience of what you’ve said/read so far, that was meant as a more general statement. Wide marketing speak, y’know? Thanks for looking out for me anyway :sweat_smile:


Nice, thank you for making the thread! I think if we decide on a game, it would be a good idea for the first one to be something short + kinetic just to get a feel for things. A shorter VN would let people get used to the medium and having it be kinetic (no choices/linear story) would keep everyone on the same track.

Finding one that has all of that + no h-content might be difficult. I know when they do console ports they make them all-ages, but not sure many people here would be able to play the console version & you wouldn’t be able to texthook that? That’s not to say that short, all-age PC VNs don’t exist, just that our selection might be smaller then haha. I guess when the time comes we can nominate a few games and see what the general consensus is?

I think if we can manage a shorter kinetic VN, then we can try something with more routes and decide on a route order beforehand. If we played a game with routes, could breakdown a schedule by finishing common route by ○○ date, Girl/Boy A’s route by ○○ date etc. Although some routes can be longer than others and unless there is an in-game date display or chapter breakdown, might be harder to plan a more concise schedule. Not really sure what the solution to that would be?
For a kinetic VN it’d be hard to plan a schedule as well since there’s not really a point to tell people to stop at unless everyone was tracking their character count but I think that would be too much to ask. I think in that case, it would be better to just have it be a free-for-all type thing and we can use the thread to discuss/ask questions and just have one ultimate end date?


Yeah, I’m glad you gave me the push to do so! I think I’m pretty much in agreement with everything you said being a good way to start, it’s basically where my mind was currently anyway. If only The House in Fata Morgana wasn’t medium-long, I’d love to suggest it as a kinetic-ish novel and reread it in Japanese, heh. There’s always Narcissu, which is free, if people want to be depressed! Been meaning to read that for a long time.

Yeah I know what you mean. I was banking more on Steam versions than console, which don’t always, but do frequently remove the sexual content, too, so it could still be played on PC. But there are enough that don’t have sexual content to begin with, I’m sure we’ll manage something. Luckily VNDB is extremely useful for this thing. Here’s a search where I’ve limited to linear route (better than specifically kinetic because sometimes there are choices that don’t really do much), no sexual content, short (2-10 hour) length, and then sorted by rating. We could nudge those in various ways, but with this sort of tool it makes restricting easy.

Of course there are a ton of other considerations – most do, but the occasional game doesn’t play well with the texthooker, and we’ll have to look into if the Steam version or some other accessible place lets you play in Japanese, on and on. Occasionally the Japanese versions are annoying about not letting you open them on computers not in Japan (Summer Pockets was a real pain)… it’s gonna require a lot of careful attention, but I’m willing to take most of that on if this takes off :grin:


Actually, Marco and the Galaxy Dragon might be a really good starting candidate? It’s on Steam in Japanese and hits all the requirements, if it plays well with texthooking too… been meaning to try it myself. Edit: I see there’s a bit of umm, very blatant stuff going on under the “suggestive” tag for images which I assumed it totally lacked, I know it’s no outright sexual content. Anyway we’ll see it’s just one that jumped out at me that I heard good things about.

Anyway! I’ve distracted myself from actual Japanese learning for a bit now so I’m going to head out and check back in later :blush:


Fata would be a good choice if it was shorter, although based on the content in that one I imagine the language would be pretty difficult haha.

That is true. I usually use other sites to buy jp visual novels, but if it is on steam it should be safe to play. The VNDB search is helpful, there seems to be a good amount of short, kinetic novels there. Just saw the new Key VN LUNARiA is on there, looks really interesting It wouldn’t be a bad idea to nominate a few from there for everyone to vote on once the club starts up?

As far as playing jp games on your computer, I know changing your locale to Japanese usually fixes any issues regarding that and that shouldn’t effect anything else you do on your computer. Or at least I’ve never ran into any issues.


Ok one more quick one, I’m excited:

I actually just looked into that and saw people saying the maid’s speech is a little more complicated, but overall the author actually wanted it to be decently accessible and that it’s written more modern and simply than you’d expect. pegs it at fairly average, however much we want to trust its automatic ratings…

Yeah that sounds good. I mean I’m happy to have people bring their own ideas but for those dabbling in the medium you/I/whoever can definitely seed some curated choices too.

It fixes it in a lot of cases, and I’ll make sure to put up tutorials on that when relevant, as well as share how to use a texthooker and etc when the real club comes about. I just mention it because I know they CAN be worse. Summer Pockets (and I guess everything using siglus engine or whatever it’s called) actually checks your system time and language and everything and will refuse to launch if ANYTHING is off. It took me an evening to sort out everything I needed for that game.


Oh hey, Loopers is part of the results. I may have spur-of-the-moment acquired that one earlier this week. :eyes:

Anyway, I agree that we should poll a couple games that catch our interest eventually.

I’m not too fussy about how we do this, especially for linear games. For a game with multiple routes, I don’t necessarily want to be told which order to play them in though. XD I kind of like to play blind on a first play through, which goes against that… But if there’s chapters/ we specify what route we’re in, we should still be able to share our thoughts and such?

Or, you know. I don’t mind keeping my thoughts for later if I stray from an agreed upon path. ^^


I’ll primarily be focused on trying to read through よつばと! and Satori + improving my grammar this summer/autumn but I’d definitely be up for joining a visual novel book club (depending on the vn) starting sometime after September -ish:) Although I’ll keep an eye on the thread in case I’ll find myself wanting to join before that.

I think for a first vn my preference would lean toward shorter ones, and I’d be adjusting to a new medium so an unscheduled/free-for-all format would be much less pressure for me.

I don’t know how/if this would work with visual novels (at the very least somebody would have to do some research/planning ahead) but I’ve participated in some fun CYOA stories where the author presents choices for voting and then writes each chapter/episode based on the votes, so I thought maybe it could be fun to identify major decision points in a vn, set up a schedule based on those, and vote on which direction to go as they come up? Just a thought :upside_down_face:


That’s not too bad, although based on how other VNs are rated on there, I think the 6/10 rating might mean its a bit more advanced? I’ve tried out some stuff that jpdb has rated as a 3 or 4/10 and I think the content in that is generally harder than something I’d see rated at around lvl 30 on Natively for example. Although I guess that brings up another question on what our intended difficulty level is for the club - if we have one at all?

Ah, I haven’t played any jp games with that engine before so I didn’t know it could be that bad. Sounds like a pain but hopefully we don’t run into any issues like that :sweat_smile:

Yeah, that is one concern about having multiple route games is I wouldn’t want to force someone to play the game in a way they normally wouldn’t. Can always mark stuff with spoiler tags to specify what route you’re in though? Could make multiple threads for like the common route and each person’s route as well, kind of similar to how book clubs have multiple threads for volumes. I’m not sure if that would get too messy though. I guess the main issue with that would be if everyone chose a different route to start on then conversation or getting questions answered might be delayed a bit but since we’d all start on the common route at least the beginning should be very active? I’m open to hearing more opinions on it.


That’s kind of crazy. It’s like I’d need a separate computer just to play their VNs.

Since you all are talking about how difficult it can be to get everything set up right to play VNs in Japanese in learner-friendly environments, I just want to say that I haven’t played any VNs in Japanese for that reason. (I’ve only played two even in English though.) Personally, all that sounds like a nightmare, and I don’t like the idea of installed random things from the internet to make them more friendly either. I wish I could just buy a VN on Steam and play it in Japanese, but most I have on my list aren’t even in Japanese on Steam. :roll_eyes:

By the way, the two I have my eye on that are available on Steam in Japanese are Planetarian and Island, though I haven’t been motivated to buy/play them yet. Maybe I’ll get them next time they are on sale. Planetarian seems to meet all the criteria that was outlined, but I don’t think Island does at all.


Higurashi’s first chapter is still free to get on both Steam and GOG. It has no choices at all and should take around maybe 15-20hs to read, but, well, it is only the first out of eight chapters so there’s that.

I think narcissu is also free now, and I remember that one being pretty short.

Other than that, maybe the Ace Attorney games come to mind? If you wanna count those as VNs.


The first half of Mamiya is free as a demo on Steam. I don’t think it’s too difficult. There’s a route split at the very beginning, but each route is basically self-contained.

The Japanese version of Project Sekai is free, PG and very good for beginners. Each story part is separated into chapters to make scheduling easy. It’s also voice acted.


I want to mention, while we’re knocking around idle thoughts on games, it occurred to me that Parquet is another I’ve been meaning to play, which just got excluded from the search by very slightly pushing past 10 hours.

Oh hey yeah, that game looks neat. Key should be a safe choice all around. Could be a good one! And yeah I wanted to just make sure this thread wasn’t gonna be completely ignored but it seems people are down so we’ll give it a little time to settle and I’ll make the real thread for nominations and etc at a later date. Have no idea when I’m trying to get this started, guess we’ll see how that works for everyone when the time comes.

Yeah I feel you. Part of the appeal for some people is the freedom to jump around. We could have a thread per route the way the book clubs do weeks or… something, especially if we go more free for all. My worry that made me want to put us all together is just that routes might be long, with reading speed what it is, so if we all fragment to different paths the threads might see very little activity for extended times. Depends on the size of the group too.

I definitely think the vibe I’m getting is people are down with that general structure, at least for the beginning. Which helps me a lot cause any other way is much harder hahaha. Would be nice to have you if you can swing it!

Yeah if we want to group together, that’s the way to go I think. @AzusaChan and I both don’t particularly mind guides for figuring out those broad strokes so that could work. I just need to get the feel for where the whole group of participants land when the time comes, since I know @Belerith prefers the other way.

You might be right; I kind of assumed a whole bunch of them seem to clump at 5-6 so that feels “average,” but honestly I struggle with determining where difficulty lands. I’ve notoriously misplaced my own abilities constantly haha. The question of difficulty is hard… definitely want it to be accessible enough that we aren’t leaving people out for now who could otherwise do it, to the best of our ability? I envision this club really only having space to run a VN at a time rather than the book clubs that can split by difficulty. I think we start relatively easy to average if possible, then see who all does indeed join and where those we’ll have for next time want to put the difficulty in the future… can’t think of a better answer than that.

I think it would be fine, since other clubs make threads per week. I don’t expect a thread per route, or chapter, or whatever to get excessive.

It is ridiculous. I bypassed it another way but… yeah. It’s a shame how hostile some things in Japanese are to people playing them outside the country.

I feel you on that one. It varies a lot by VN, and most aren’t really that bad. I’ll be sure to both check for it not being totally unreasonable, and to do my absolute best to walk people through any process needed. The texthooker requires a bit of upfront setup for those who want it, but I find it mostly just works after and pays off majorly, similarly to setting up Yomichan once. All the same, yeah, a lot of things aren’t totally plug and play.

Yeah, Island is longer than we want right now. Planetarian seems to fit, and I’d be up for it! I at first wanted to say I thought it would be too difficult, with the stronger sci-fi slant, but if difficulty ratings mean anything (I genuinely haven’t played enough in JP yet to know for myself what I think of them), it’s at 5, which is lower than what I was suggesting as “probably not that hard” in Fata Morgana. To some degrees, we’re flying blindly, but I’m doing my best to steer it!

Thank you so much for the ideas! I absolutely adore Higurashi, though it’s paced very slow even in English, and I worry reading through club games at reduced speed would drive some people up the walls, haha. At first I was thinking that sort of cliffhanger is a bad idea but it’s not THAT different from clubs doing one volume of something then offshoots, I suppose?

Narcissu I think is a great choice and I mentioned it earlier as well! It being free is a great draw.

Ace Attorney is fine by me, though I did read the first very recently which gives me a small personal bias against it haha. It also doesn’t work with normal texthooking so you have to use something a lot more imprecise like an OCR.

And thank you too! Really appreciate the accessible, free ideas. Mamiya pushes the length a little more but looks overall pretty suitable. Seems it would definitely need some content warnings but I’m not opposed to such a thing if we’re not alienating others as we get going.

Project Sekai looks to be part rhythm game? I think that might be more non-reading gameplay than we might want (ie I’d consider Danganronpa and Ace Attorney and the like to have mostly word related puzzle gameplay so they’re more suitable I think), but I’ll look into it more when I have time and keep it in mind as a suggestion too!

Thank you all so much for your ideas and interest; I’m very glad I brought this up :grin:

Edit: Just to add, of course, assuming we make it to VNs that have actual routes (and I’ll be doing everything in my power to stick with it if the audience is there :crossed_fingers:), if opinions are split, there’s of course no reason we can’t have a sort of hybrid approach where those of us who prefer to discuss quicker could follow some sort of “suggested order” and others can simply play how they want and pop in whenever.


Can you not just set up a virtual machine and set it all to Japanese, then you can keep your normal system exactly how you like it.

Maybe that’s an option for people who are new or concerned about messing with their settings.

That being said, getting a VM set up might be a pain in its own right, but once it’s done you probably never need to worry about it again.


The jpdb ratings can be a bit misleading I think. For example, I saw someone mention Planetarian which is only a 5 on that site but from people that have read the game, I heard it is rather tricky/one of Key’s hardest VN while something like Loopers which is a 4 on that site is pretty easy to go through. Difficulty can be pretty subjective though so kind of hard to tell for sure outside of asking a bunch of people that have read the games :sweat_smile:

But I do agree that it’d make sense to only run 1 game at a time for the club and not splitting it off by difficulty like the book clubs do. Like you said, starting off with something relatively easy and short will be a good indicator of what we can all handle and what works. Then later on we can choose further games more appropriately.

I will throw out some suggestions keep in mind for the future that I’d be interested in reading.

Some of these I saw people post already but I’ll repost them just to show I have interest too.

LUNARiA -Virtualized Moonchild- | vndb .

PARQUET | vndb .

LOOPERS | vndb .

9-nine- Kokonotsu Kokonoka Kokonoiro | vndb - This one technically has two routes but the playing order is enforced I think. It is apart of a bigger series but this one is pretty short and there is an all-ages version. Not sure if it’s something we’d be interested in as our first game but might as well throw it out there. Was a bit hard to find too many all-age kinetic VNs in the less than 8hr range that looked appealing and not hard.