During Anime Expo 2011, JAST USA said it was looking into licensing the Starry Sky series of otome visual novels. That’s a dating sim for girls, in case you aren’t familiar with the term. The release of such a series would have marked its first foray into translating and distributing a dating sim for girls since it started selling Two-Five and Hirameki International’s Yo-Jin-Bo . It’s been over two years since then, so I decided to contact Peter Payne, head of JList and JAST USA, to find out what’s going on with Starry Sky.
Unfortunately, the news isn’t good. When asked about the state of Starry Sky, Payne said, “We have talked with companies about Starry Sky since we know there are many fans who would love to have this game released for English-speaking fans to enjoy. Sadly we did not get a good response from the companies in question.” He went on to explain that the problem with a Starry Sky is it’s all-star cast. Famous seiyuu like Daisuke Kishio, Akira Ishida, Hikaru Midorikawa, Hiroshi Kamiya, Daisuke Ono, and Tomokazu Sugita are among the bachelors that voice the 12 bachelors. That kind of star quality comes with a price.
Payne explained that secondary use, which is what a US release would fall under, would require a big licensing fee which could result in the voice actor studio asking for as much as half of the original pay out for the additional release. Payne also recognized the importance of voice acting to this particular series. He said, “We could of course release the games without voice, but that would defeat their commercial value since fans would not be cool with a move like this.”
I followed up, asking if JAST USA would consider doing another otome game, since the road to Starry Sky seemed irreparably blocked. Payne said that the company is open to releasing an otome game in the future, but there are some obstacles to one’s release that don’t happen with the kind of eroge dating sims the company is known for. The first is the aforementioned voice acting issue. Payne specifically said, “We are absolutely open to doing otome games, but from what I understand any game is liable to have this issue, e.g. voice actor studios looking to profit from any secondary use of their voices and unwilling to negotiate.”
The other problem is that most otome games are released on consoles and handhelds in Japan. At the moment, the PSP is still the go-to system for many developers and publishers looking to make a dating sim for girls. JAST USA works with PC games, and that causes a rift, especially since many of these console and handheld games couldn’t be ported.
Finally, Payne brought up yaoi games, which involve relationships between two men. While it seemed otome would be a problem for JAST USA, he seemed optimistic about the future of yaoi titles and the prospect of releasing more of them outside of Japan. Earlier in the discussion, he had said, “Eroge companies are usually happy to negotiate for lower royalties.” And when he brought up yaoi, he said, “Anything with sex in it is easier since the voice actors are much easier.”
Which means an English release of Starry Sky is officially bust. If you’re still set on hoping for an official release, you may want to try pleading your case to Aksys. Starry Sky ~In Spring~ 3D was released on the 3DS in April 2013, and Aksys is known for taking on the challenge of bringing otome games to North America, having already brought us Hakuoki and Sweet Fuse. If you’re set on playing Starry Sky on your PC, you may want to head to the JAST USA forums and let the company know you’d still want to play it in English, even without any voice acting.
Site [JAST USA