Most seasoned visual novel fans (or perhaps just otome game fans) have come across scandals involving artists allegedly tracing others’ works at least once or twice. However what rocked the otome gaming world in Japan recently is by far a larger scale and has apparently spanned several years unchecked. Here I will give a report of what happened with my translation of any relevant information. My translation notes are foreworded with T/L note in italics.
Yuiga Satoru is a mangaka and artist who had worked together with Otomate to produce art for both of the otome games that form the Psychedelica series, Kokucho no Psychedelica (Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly) and Haitaka no Psychedelica (Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk).
As of 30th May 2019, Yuiga posted that she would be suspending the manga serialisation of Haitaka no Psychedelica.
Early June 2019, Yuiga wrote in a blog post that she would be limiting her work due to harrassment, but gave no further details.
Yuiga wrote in a blog post of being harassed for 4 years, garnering worry from her fans. Continuing from this, she wrote of drawing a new piece of art for E’S (one of her old long running manga serialisations) but requiring the company she was working with to adhere to strict rules.
Three months later, Yuiga posted another blog with a detailed recount of her experiences with this “harasser”. In the interest of speed, I’ll translate the important points rather than the entire post…although it is most of the post anyway:
- “On October 23rd, after 4 years of piggybacking off me (using my art to fake their own art), I called them out and with a lawyer present, asked for a demonstration of their art. Note: if clothes, small items and hair style were different, that did not matter to me (since the problem does not lie there), it was fine if they could just show that these 4 years was just their own work and art skill.”
- “On the sheet that detailed what to draw with the expression and pose included the texts ‘if you apologise, I can promise to not make this public’ and ‘if you’re not going to admit to tracing and continue with demonstrating your skill, then please show me that you have the minimal skill that is expected of an illustrator’.”
- “Result: the image drawn was completely a different person, while drawing collapsing anatomy they were objecting with ‘I’m innocent’. ‘Even if I don’t use materials (Yuiga’s art), I can still draw can’t I? I don’t remember tracing at all.'”
- “I asked them ‘without using trace guidelines, this is your art. But if you were to give this art to a client or comapny, would you be able to present it with your name attached to it?’, and was met with silence.”
- “They could not draw expressions and when drawn from a bird’s eye view or low angle, the hair looks like its pasted on the same angle. (Without understanding the shape) the back of the head does not change, there’s no perspective on the poses and they don’t realise that they’ve drawn legs two different lengths.”
- “At the demonstration, there was to be no internet, but they just casually went online and referenced their art… Surprisingly even then (while referencing), they drew a messed up piece that looks nothing like the original (they can’t even reference).”
- “Even up until the demonstration of their skill, my experience was terrible. They kept running away with unreasonable excuses. I negotiated many times to get them to prove their legitimacy. For about a year, I negotiated with my lawyer.”
- “As part of their excuse to extend the negotiation time, their lawyer relayed that they said ‘I’ve always been Yuiga’s fan so its unthinkable. I’m scared. If Yuiga is there I can’t draw properly’, (I don’t believe the first half at all though), so I agreed to that condition and was not present.”
- “Of course, there were a whole lot of other conditions that I agreed to that couldn’t be believed.”
- “Even under all these conditions, they couldn’t even draw without a guide line”
- “In the video I was given of the art demonstration, I could hear laughter; there was no sense of anxiety at all.”
- “After the art demonstration, it became time for a meeting and they said to me ‘you blocked me didn’t you?’ (it’s not like we were mutuals so it was a sudden stalkerish outburst…) and then continued with ‘I have never seen Yuiga’s art at all’. ‘It doesn’t overlap at all’, ‘its not similar at all’ <-> ‘but I’ll keep producing similar art’. They kept saying inconsistent things that give one a headache.”
- “They kept talking……..’A result is a result, I’m going to make public the 300 pieces showing you trace a collage of my pictures’ was the only reply I could make.”
- “I expressed that I was the one worrying about being stalked and that in the worst of times, feared that my art would be shown after theirs (T/L note: as in Yuiga was worried about being the one accused of tracing instead because her art would be revealed after the actual traced one), so much so that I couldn’t draw for a time. Normally I wouldn’t even want to meet with them.”
- “After the demonstration, they made preparations to sue me into not releasing the piece drawn by them.”
- “Their argument was not ‘you have already released the piece so take it down’ but ‘it hasn’t been released so don’t release it’. (I haven’t even done anything so they can’t sue me. I could only laugh at the idea that they were troubled by it in the first place…?)”
- “The Tokyo courts ruled that it was ‘a decision to be made by a specialty advisory panel’ and as I was about to agree, the other side revoked their threat…”
- “As of the October 23rd art demonstration, I was able to stop the 4 year long parasitic attachment.”
- “(I don’t count the pieces that were already given to companies for publishing on the internet or magazines that were drawn before the 23rd though)”
- “Just, the reason they probably stopped their relentless stalking of me was not that ‘they apologized at the demo and promised to never do it again’ nor ‘they will stop tracing and now draw in their own style’, but ironically that ‘they will use the same methods but have changed target altogether’. I have been released, but now they’re probably doing it to someone else.”
- “If after this they continue to use a mashup of my work and trace it, continuing to leech off me, then I can release the images any time, as well as their name.”
- “I will continue to show the video and the resulting piece to publishers I know so they won’t be victim to this.”
- “Even if I don’t make it public, they’ve released an unremovable trail of evidence. I think that the 4 years they gave up on improving their own skill but chose to piggyback off someone elses’ work is worth suffering repercussions for.”
- “They seem to think that if the victim doesn’t notice, there’s no damage done, but for those who have noticed and want it to stop but then given up and remaineed quiet, is due to the fact that they are tired of it and not because they are fearful.”
- “Finally, to all those publishers I’ve shown the video and piece to and gave advice, staff in companies worried about the risk, creators in other fields and my art teacher, the assistants that knew about the ordeal 4 years ago but maintained confidentiality in anger and dumbfoundedness, as well as my supervisor who helped me move to another serialisation after one was stopped. (In the end, I didn’t end up working with them but rather than preparing for the serialization it was better to directly confront them)”
Just to be very clear; Yuiga is not saying this culprit was tracing her work 100% and copying her style, but taking bits and pieces of different pieces and mashing that up into a new piece and claiming it as their own work.
This method is what’s called “chimera trace” (キメラトレス) in Japanese.
Updated 25th March:
In reference to this event, Yuiga tweeted the following:
At first, one would be forgiven to think that this was the end of it, perhaps Yuiga was making a big deal out of nothing.
But then on the 13th of March, Yuiga spoke of the ordeal, taking to twitter.
Here Yuiga mentions that something “filled with dissatisfying feelings” was released yesterday. Note the date is March 13th and CollarxMalice for Switch was released on the 12th. “Since there will be less opportunities from now on to see those contents I feel slightly relieved. (That’s what I hope for though) But as I thought, the harrassment hasn’t stopped.”
“They declared that they will continue to use a traced icon with editing as long as they aren’t told otherwise. True to their word, I was able to confirm this the other day. Note: I was told this by someone who knows the entire situation at my exhibition. (I want them to change the icon that they used Jed’s face for already…)”
(T/L note: Jed is the heroine of Haitaka no Psychedelica)
At first when I was told by my friend that the Japanese otome game community was pointing fingers at Hanamura Mai, I wasn’t so sure. I doubt someone with Yuiga’s work history would chase down someone who was merely an assistant or less popular in such a way, so it would only make sense that the other person involved was someone rather popular. So like others, I overlayed the images that I thought they referenced.
All of the facial features align in the exact same position along with the fact that Yuiga specifically called this out is suspect in my opinion. But probably not enough to point fingers on its own.
There is no information on which pieces were traced from what so this is all I have to go by, but Yuiga says she has 300 pieces of evidence…. On twitter, there were other possible traces:
I didn’t even consider saving the images as the twitters responsible for the overlays have deleted their tweets/accounts, I can only upload what has been archived by Google/saved by others. All of these overlays were provided by others.
“H who thinks that except for me who was treated as a materials source, (or those who can use software with materials) won’t bother with overlay the images to check. &, H’s ex-coworker in the same field who pretended to be H’s family and pretended to be in a different profession was present at the art demonstration.”
Here, Yuiga first writes of someone called ‘H’. This is the first time she has even gone remotely close to identifying this person and again, Japanese users are thinking that perhaps H=Hanamura Mai. The fact that Yuiga is revealing anything that may identify the culprit may also indicate that Yuiga is not going to take anymore harrassment sitting down and may perhaps reveal their actual name one day.
The ex-coworker who Yuiga is referring to here is unclear, but there are rumours that it may be Kinami Yuki which Hanamura is reportedly close to, having collaborated in a doujinshi previously.
“It feels as if they are participating in a game of chicken, pushing to the limits whether they’ll be exposed or not. (Because if its to a level that can be ignored, discussion can’t be opened up).
Note: I’m not sure if the mysterious family member (temp name) thought the heat was off them or if they were just being forward, but I’m questioning their decisions by revealing their name. I don’t want people with no common sense to enter my field of view from now on.”
If suspicions are correct the first part of this tweet does seem to reference the tracing of the icon I wrote about above, since its rather difficult to prove such a small thing was actually traced, as many have commented in my original thread on twitter.
As for the second part, I have not seen any information regarding this so I’m not in the position to guess.
An important part is Yuiga’s final tweet in the thread:
“It may be normal that artists are taught in a workplace environment where the unique mashup-tracing method is used, but as long as those above don’t correct these behaviours, I think it will only be to the detriment of the industry and that is unfortunate.”
If all of the clues before were leading toward Hanamura then this tweet is likely referring to Otomate’s practices where even Kazuki Yone has left for good (but that’s a story for another time perhaps). If it was brought up to Otomate or perhaps they encouraged the behaviour, it would be a key to understanding why the Psychedelica series has received no new additions despite its popularity.
Unfortunately in Yuiga’s moment which details all of the above, she mentions that the perpetrator has access to her unpublished images which would lead one to think that someone (or company) had given the data away to the culprit.
Curious to note, thanks to a reply to my thread:
Double checking Yuiga’s work history page, Idea Factory/Otomate is indeed not listed and her blog post states expressedly that she will only work with the listed companies (below). Which begs the question, what did they do to Yuiga? But only she would know for sure.
Updated 23rd March: Thanks to more information provided by others, there are more pieces of evidence that H may be Hanamura.
Curiously, Yuiga’s blog post commented on a piece of art with 3 joints.
This sentence may refer the following piece brought to my attention in the reply below.
The piece, which was for Musiclavies, was published in B’s log on the 19th of January.
For clearer demonstration of the arm, thanks to my artist friend @halcamint:
Ultimately, unless more information is revealed by Yuiga, a lot of the links to Hanamura are all speculative.
It has been noticed that recently Hanamura’s art is becoming quite inconsistent, which is a sign that the artist lacks skill, which does not help her.
For Hanamura it would be a lose/lose situation for her to speak out about it because 1) it would identify her as H and 2) it would also reflect poorly on her attitude alone (according to Yuiga’s recollection anyway). Which is why I believe we’re not likely to see any follow up. However if H is not Hanamura and all the criticism she is receiving at the moment is unwarranted, I believe Yuiga would speak out about it thus I’ll be keeping a close eye on this. OK It was most likely Hanamura, more in the update section from the 2nd of April.
Update 23rd March/25th March:
After speculation on the identity of H broke out, some have begun to accuse Hanamura of switching targets to other artists such as RiRi (artist for Yunohana Spring, Piofore no Banshou) and Pako (artist for Scared Riders Xechs from Red Entertainment as well as for certain characters in Fate Grand/Order).
If these are real traces and H=Hanamura, then Yuiga was correct in assuming that the target of tracing has just changed.
Incidentally, Yuuya (in a now deleted post on twitter, the artist for many Otomate games such as the Hanayaka Series, Gensou Kissa Enchante, and the new Cupid Parasite) spoke about illustrating on the 20th:
“You have the freedom to draw however you want, but there is a minimal set of rules you should follow. For scribbles or for comissioned art, if they’re pieces which people will see then you must take responsibility and complete the drawing with the skills you yourself have.”
If you’re still reading then this seems to hint heavily at someone ‘not using their own skills for their own drawings’ for example, tracing.
Given Yuuya has also worked with Otomate (and continues to do so), deleting the post is likely just a precaution to ensuring continual work. And again, the common denominator between Yuiga, Yuuya and Hanamura would appear to be Otomate thus far.
As much as everyone would like to see justice for Yuiga, there are those worried about companies (such as Otomate) then later on putting pressure on Yuiga for coming out with this.
Update: 2nd April
Hanamura has released a statement on Twitter which most likely indicates that she is the ‘H’ that Yuiga was referring to:
In the statement written by her lawyers, it says that because of the information Yuiga had uploaded online on both her blog and twitter, there was a possibility for others to perceive H as Hanamura so the statement was provided to clear up the situation.
In the statement, there are two claims made. One is a difference in opinion with Yuiga and two is that the claims have caused people to attack Hanamura online.
In one, Hanamura claims that she has not traced anyone. Possibly as evidence she has uploaded the following on twitter:
As a recount of the events, Hanamura’s lawyers state that in April 2019, Yuiga had visited a certain company that she worked with and asked about the case (as in the possibility of tracing) and starting around June of the same year, they began discussion through representatives and Hanamura demonstrated her ability to draw which was checked by Yuiga. On Hanamura’s side, because of the information released by Yuiga, she says she felt that the situation caused by Yuiga was regrettable and felt strong resentment for it. Since the situation has decidedly become impossible for discussion, she and her lawyers are looking at options to pursue this case.
In regards to the internet attacking Hanamura, as far as she’s concerned Yuiga’s tweets are what lead people to her and she believes that it will damage her reputation. In the statement, she claims that those perpetrating the attack should also feel responsible. There is a possibility those sharing statements as well as retweeting may also be individually held responsible. In short, she’s also threatening people who are questioning her work with legal repercussions.
So basically, Hanamura is saying Yuiga defamed her by posting all those things online, which also lead to people attacking her. However it goes without saying that Yuiga had not mentioned her by name. By her releasing this statement she almost admits that it was her that Yuiga was talking about as the circumstances are quite unique…..which…..is honestly not ideal for her own case. If Yuiga does indeed have evidence against Hanamura, I suppose we might be able to see it in the future should Yuiga respond publicly.
As of the 3rd of April, Yuiga tweeted that she will be unlikely to reply to each individual message she got regarding the case, but she thanks everyone for the support.
Yuiga Satoru spoke up about 4 years of borderline stalking/harassment and tracing of her work. Hints dropped seem to lead to Hanamura Mai.
Update 2nd April: And then Hanamura Mai came out and all but admitted that it was her that Yuiga was talking about.
I will update the article if more information comes to light, but as of now we can only hope Yuiga continues to flourish away from this situation.