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Key
Type Private (brand of Visual Art's)
Genre Eroge & Visual novels
Founded Osaka, Japan (July 21, 1998 (1998-07-21))
Headquarters Kita, Osaka, Japan
Area served Japan
Key people Jun Maeda (Co-founder)
Shinji Orito (Co-founder)
Itaru Hinoue (Co-founder)
Industry Computer games
Products Kanon
Air
Clannad
Full list
Website key.visualarts.gr.jp

Key is a Japanese visual novel studio which formed on July 21, 1998 as a brand under the publisher Visual Art's and is located in Kita, Osaka, Japan. Key released their debut visual novel Kanon in June 1999, which combined an elaborate storyline, an up-to-date anime-style drawing style, and a musical score which helped to set the mood for the game. Key's second game Air released in September 2000 had a similar if not more complex storyline to Kanon and a more thorough gameplay. Both Kanon and Air were originally produced as adult games, but Key broke this trend with their third title Clannad which was released in April 2004 for all-ages. Key released their seventh and latest game Little Busters! Ecstasy in July 2008, and has worked in the past with Interchannel and Prototype for the consumer port releases of previous Key titles. Key is in the process of developing their eighth game Kud Wafter,[1] their ninth game Rewrite,[2] and are working in collaboration with ASCII Media Works' Dengeki G's Magazine to produce a mixed media project named Angel Beats!, which will be produced into an anime.[3]

Co-founder Jun Maeda is a prominent figure in the company, he having contributed on the planning, scenario, and music composition in the majority of Key's visual novels. Itaru Hinoue, also a co-founder, is Key's main artist and was the art director for Key's first three games. Na-Ga, another prominent artist in the company, mainly worked with background art in earlier games, but with Key's sixth game Little Busters! was given the position of co-art director with Hinoue. Shinji Orito, Key's main composer and another co-founder, has composed music for all of Key's titles. Yūto Tonokawa, a scenario writer, first worked on the scenario in Little Busters!.

Key has been an active participant at the Comiket convention since Comiket 57 in December 1999, where they sold Kanon-related products; Key's latest appearance at Comiket was at Comiket 75 in December 2008. In 2001, Visual Art's created the record label Key Sounds Label to release music albums and singles with music related to Key's visual novels. In December 2007, Key began to produce an Internet radio show called Key Net Radio in regards to the company.

Contents

History

Before forming Key, the founding members worked for another visual novel development company called Tactics. At the time of Dōsei's production, Tactics' first game, four of Key's original staff worked on the game: Itaru Hinoue as art director, Shinji Orito as musical composer, and Miracle Mikipon and Shinory contributing to the computer graphics. After Dōsei, the rest of Key's founding staff joined Tactics and contributed to two more games: Moon., and One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e. After the release of One on May 26, 1998, these developers transferred to Visual Art's where they formed Key on July 21, 1998; the name Key for the studio was decided by majority rule.[4] Key released their debut title Kanon on June 4, 1999, an adult game,[5] though the scenes containing sexual intercourse were kept to a minimum. This gave the player more of a focus on the characters' stories and on the visuals and music, especially for a visual novel at the time of its release. A year later, on September 8, 2000, Key released their second game Air, which was also an adult game and similar in storytelling to Kanon.[6]

The third game named Clannad is a visual novel similar to Key's previous games, but is entirely clean, without any adult content. Clannad was meant to be released in 2002, but was delayed, leading to the game finally being released on April 28, 2004.[7] Seven months after Clannad's release, Key released their shortest game, Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume, on November 29, 2004.[8] Planetarian, in contrast to Key's past games, is a linear visual novel that does not require the user to make choices during gameplay, but just sit back and enjoy the story; this is what is referred to as a kinetic novel. The company's fifth game was Tomoyo After: It's a Wonderful Life, an adult game and spin-off to Clannad released on November 25, 2005, which expanded on the scenario of the heroine Tomoyo Sakagami from Clannad.[9] Key released their sixth game, Little Busters!, on July 27, 2007 with no adult content,[10] but released another version of the game entitled Little Busters! Ecstasy on July 25, 2008 with added adult content, story, and visuals.[11][12]

Key announced their game Rewrite on April 1, 2008.[13] In commemoration of Key's ten-year anniversary, Key and Visual Art's held a two-day event between February 28 and March 1, 2009 called "Key 10th Memorial Fes, Our Song to Pass the Time That Began From That Day" (~あの日から始まった僕らの時を刻む唄~ ~Ano Hi kara Hajimatta Bokura no Toki o Kizamu Uta~?).[14] Key is working in collaboration with ASCII Media Works' Dengeki G's Magazine to produce a mixed media project named Angel Beats!, which will be produced into an anime.[3] Key's eighth game, to be released in summer 2010, is an adult spin-off of Little Busters! Ecstasy called Kud Wafter, which will expand on the scenario of the heroine Kudryavka Noumi from Little Busters! and Ecstasy.[1]

Key Sounds Label

In 2001, Visual Art's created the record label Key Sounds Label (KSL).[15] The music albums and singles released by Key after this were put under this label, meaning that this does not include the first two albums and one single which were released before it was officially formed. The first album on this label was Humanity..., though the only direct connection to Key's works is that it contains a remixed version of the opening theme to Air. The albums under this label are composed by Key's signature composers: Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito and Magome Togoshi. Three of the singles feature songs sung by Lia and one album, Love Song, features the singer Riya from Eufonius. Three drama CDs have been released as well.[15]

To celebrate Key's ten-year anniversary, Key hosted a concert called KSL Live World 2008: Way to the Little Busters! EX on May 10, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan, and again on May 17, 2008 in Osaka, Japan. Each time, the concert lasted for two and a half hours and featured songs sung by Lia, Rita, Chata, and Tomoe Tamiyasu who have previously sung songs for singles and albums released under Key Sounds Label.[16] Another concert called KSL Live World 2010: Way to the Kud-Wafter will be held in Tokyo between May 21 and May 22, 2010.[17]

Key Net Radio

Key began to produce an Internet radio show called Key Net Radio (Keyらじ Key Raji?) in regards to the company with the first recording released on December 13, 2007.[18] It is hosted by Shinji Orito and Itaru Hinoue of Key, and another woman named Chiro who works for Pekoe, another visual novel studio under Visual Art's.[19] Listeners can submit thoughts about the show and any requests they may have for the show, along with submitting questions to the host trio.[20] The broadcasts are available via download on Key's official website and were available for download on the radio show's official blog for the first nine broadcasts.[19][21] The broadcasts can also be listened to on Visual Art's' YouTube channel named Visual Channel.[22]

For the first six episodes, the show had five corners, or parts, which started with opening greetings from the hosts and went onto thoughts and impressions that listeners had about the show. This moved on to an informal talk between the hosts, followed by a section where entries previously submitted by listeners concerning their enthusiasm for Key were read by the hosts. The fourth corner concerned answering questions that had been submitted by listeners, and the final corner had Orito playing the flute; listeners could submit suggestions for songs he was to play.[19] Two more corners were added starting with the seventh broadcast. The first corner added concerns scary stories that the hosts can tell themselves, or read from submissions by listeners, and was added party because Hinoue enjoys such stories. The second corner added deals with submissions by listeners describing a new fictional character, and Hinoue will take these submissions and form a new fictional character out of combining elements from multiple submissions together. During the broadcasts, tracks from the soundtracks released under Key Sounds Label play in the background.

Comiket involvement

Comiket, short for Comic Market, is a large comic convention held twice a year in Tokyo, Japan during August and December, which are referred to as the summer and winter Comic Markets respectively. Key has been an active participant in the convention since Comiket 57 in December 1999, where they sold Kanon-related products (as Kanon was their only release at the time); one such product was a Zippo lighter.[23] The first Air-related products Key sold at the convention were at Comiket 59 in December 2000.[24] Typical products include: postcards, telephone cards, calendars, posters, and albums.[24][25][26][27] The products Key sells at Comiket are all related to the visual novels the company produces.[24][25][26][27]

Key, through Visual Art's, generally participates at the winter Comiket in conjunction with other brands under Visual Art's, but has been known to appear at the summer Comiket too, such as with Comiket 70 in August 2006 where they sold Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume related products.[28] The combined total of the products Key sells at a given Comiket range in price between 3,000 yen (about US$27) and 5,000 yen (about US$45).[25][26][29][30][31] This includes the selling of music albums released under Key's record label Key Sounds Label which has been releasing albums since Comiket 60 in August 2001 with the release of the label's first two albums, Humanity... and "Natsukage / Nostalgia". If there are any unsold products by the end of a given Comiket, Visual Art's has been known to set up an online mail order to sell the remaining goods from all the brands under Visual Art's that participated at Comiket. After Comiket 73 in December 2007, Visual Art's started taking mail orders on March 4, 2008, and only six days later on March 10, 2008, Key reported that all of Key's goods sold at Comiket 73 were now sold out.[32][33] At the end of the second day of Comiket 75 in December 2008, all of Key's goods at the convention were sold out.[34]

Staff

Main

Key's main staff members are attached to the visual novel studio, and therefore Visual Art's. Most of the main staff have been with Key since its formation, and do the majority of the work involved. Jun Maeda has worked on the planning for the individual projects and was one of the main scenario writers; he has also composed music for all of Key's games except Planetarian.[35][36][37] Maeda was reported to say in the February 2007 issue of Comptiq that after the completion of Little Busters!, he would not be working on the scenario staff for Key any longer.[38] However, in an interview in the December 2007 issue of Dengeki G's Magazine, Maeda said that he would still be working on the music for Key's next game.[39] Itaru Hinoue is Key's main artist and was the art director for Key's first three games.[40] Na-Ga, another prominent artist in the company, mainly worked with background art in earlier games, but with Little Busters! was given the position of co-art director with Hinoue;[10] Na-Ga was later staffed as the sole art director for Kud Wafter. Further computer graphics have been provided in the past by four graphic artists: Shinory, Mochisuke, Minimo Tayama, and Torino.[41][42] Key's main composer, Shinji Orito, has been with the company since Kanon.[36][43] With Maeda no longer contributing to the scenario, another scenario writer, Yūto Tonokawa, joined Key and first worked on the scenario in Little Busters!, but is also working on the scenario for Rewrite.[2]

Former and outsourced

Many of Key's staff have left the company over time, or have been briefly employed as outsourced contributors. Naoki Hisaya had worked as one of the main scenario writers for Kanon,[41] but once the project was complete, he left the company; Hisaya later provided the original concept for Sola. Another member of the staff that made Kanon was OdiakeS, an outsourced composer who has since helped Key with two music albums, one each released for Air and Clannad, but has done nothing with Key since 2004.[44] One of the staff members for Air, Takashi Ishikawa, only participated in this game as one of the scenario writers, but did not contribute in future games released by Key.[45] Kazuki Fujii helped write the scenario for Air, working as a scenario assistant.[41] Air and Clannad had Tōya Okano and Kai who contributed as scenario writers; Kai later headed the planning and design of Kud Wafter. Another scenario writer, Yūichi Suzumoto, worked with Key between Air and Planetarian. Eeji Komatsu worked as the art director for the kinetic novel Planetarian,[46] and another artist, Fumio, worked as the art director for Tomoyo After.[47] Leo Kashida worked as an outsourced writer with Key on Tomoyo After and Little Busters!.[10][48] Chika Shirokiri, another outsourced writer who worked with Key on Little Busters!,[10][48] is writing the scenario for Kud Wafter. Two composers—Manack and PMMK—helped with the music in Little Busters!, and MintJam helped with arrangement.[10] One of the original computer graphics artists, Miracle Mikipon, left after Clannad. Magome Togoshi had been with Key since Air, working as one of the signature composers, but left the company in October 2006.[49] Two out-sourced writers are working on the scenario for RewriteRyukishi07 of 07th Expansion, and Romeo Tanaka.[2] Yūichi Shimizu will head the musical composition in Kud Wafter.

Impact

A promo character card of Yumemi Hoshino from Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume from the Lycèe Trading Card Game.

According to Satoshi Todome's work, A History of Adult Games, Key's impact on the visual novel (primarily the adult game variant) world stems from before Key was formed and most of the founding members of Key worked for Tactics under Nexton.[50] Due to an influence by Leaf's visual novel To Heart released in 1997, the developers at Tactics created a simple formula for a game: a comedic first half with a heart-warming romantic middle followed by a tragic separation and finally an emotional reunion formed what is known as a "crying game". The main purpose of such a game is to make the player feel for the characters and make them cry due to emotional scenarios which serves to leave a bigger impact on the player after the game is over.[50] Tactics' second title One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e was created based on this formula.

After One was complete, the development team quit Tactics to form Key where they developed their first title Kanon also based upon on this formula.[50] Kanon was "heavily hyped [and] had gamers impatient until its release. It was only one game released by Key so far, and yet [it] had already sent major shockwaves around the industry. And yet another game [Air], two years later, sent even more shockwaves. Air was equally hyped and well received."[51] The success of One and Kanon on Key's formula to create a "crying game" was later adopted by other visual novel developing companies which were influenced by this formula. Examples of this include: Kana: Little Sister by Digital Object, the Memories Off series by KID, D.C.: Da Capo by Circus, Snow by Studio Mebius (also under Visual Art's), and Wind: A Breath of Heart by Minori.[50]

Ryukishi07 of 07th Expansion wrote in 2004 how he was influenced by Key's works during the planning of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.[52] Ryukishi07 played Key's games as a reference, among other visual novels, and analyzed them to figure out the reason why they were found to be so popular. He figured that the secret was due to how the stories would start with ordinary, enjoyable days, but then a sudden occurrence would happen leading the player to cry due to the shock value. He used a similar model for the basis of Higurashi but instead of leading the player to cry, Ryukishi07 wanted to scare the player with the addition of horror elements. In this way, Ryukishi07 wished to be in some way associated with Key who he described as a "masterpiece maker".[52]

Key is one of seventeen brands under Visual Art's with games included in the Lycèe Trading Card Game published by Broccoli. Characters from Key's first five games were included in the first three out of four Visual Art's card sets,[53][54][55][56] and characters from Little Busters! were featured in the fifth Visual Art's card set.[57] There are also seven out of fifty-five rare promotional cards with characters from Key titles.[58] Other big-name visual novel companies included in the card game include: AliceSoft, August, Leaf, Navel, and Type-Moon.[59]

Leaf, Key BBS

A bulletin board system (BBS) based on the interface of the large Japanese Internet forum 2channel (2ch) was formed on January 26, 2000 named "Leaf, Key BBS" (leaf,key掲示板 leaf,key Keijiban?), otherwise nicknamed as "Leaf-Key Board" (葉鍵板 Ha-Kagi Ita?).[60][61] The board originated from 2ch's video game discussion board due to a dispute involving the game Kizuato in December 1999;[60] Kizuato was an early game of another visual novel producing company named Leaf. Ultimately, fans of the game moved to 2ch's adult game board, but there was not much resolution, and at the time Key fans on the board were being shunned for discussions on Kanon and, at the time, Key's upcoming game Air. This resulted finally with the Leaf and Key fans moving away from 2ch and forming again on the PINKchannel Internet forum.[61] The board serves as a discussion board for anything related to Leaf and Key. This includes the games the companies produce, but also the companies themselves and the staff that make up those companies. The BBS gets approximately 1500 posts per day as of November 2007. Like 2ch, the board has a default anonymous posting setting, and the default name is "Nanashi-san Dayomon" (名無しさんだよもん?, lit. "Mr. Nameless-dayomon"), a reference to the heroine Mizuka Nagamori from One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e who uses the words "dayo" and "mon" frequently.[61]

References

  1. ^ a b "クドわふたー Key Official HomePage [Kud Wafter Key Official HomePage]" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/kudo/index.html. Retrieved December 30, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c "Rewrite visual novel official website" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/rewrite/index.html. Retrieved May 16, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Key's Angel Beats! Project Gets TV Anime Green-Lit". Anime News Network. May 27, 2009. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2009-05-27/key-angel-beats-project-get-tv-anime-green-lit. Retrieved May 27, 2009. 
  4. ^ Tonokawa, Yūto (July 7, 2008). "Answering Questions Journal" (in Japanese). http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/diary/2008/07/post_27.html. Retrieved July 8, 2008. "At the time, the staff decided on majority rule. (当時のスタッフの多数決で決まったようです。)" 
  5. ^ "Kanon's visual novel official website" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/product/kanon/. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Air's visual novel official website" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/product/air/. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Clannad's visual novel official website" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/product/clannad/. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  8. ^ "Planetarian's visual novel official website" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/product/planetarian/. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Tomoyo After's visual novel official website" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/product/tomoyo/. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Little Busters! products page" (in Japanese). http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/product/little/products.htm. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  11. ^ "Visualstyle web magazine January 2008 issue" (in Japanese). Visual Art's. December 28, 2007. pp. 23. http://visualstyle.jp/01/index.html. Retrieved February 25, 2008. 
  12. ^ "Little Busters! Ecstasy official website" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/newsoft/. Retrieved February 25, 2008. 
  13. ^ "Key's Latest Work, Rewrite, to be Produced!!" (in Japanese). Key. April 1, 2008. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/info/2008/04/eyrewrite.html. Retrieved March 31, 2008. 
  14. ^ "Key 10th Memorial Fes official website" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/10thfes/. Retrieved December 29, 2008. 
  15. ^ a b "Key Sounds Label discography" (in Japanese). http://key.soundslabel.com/discography.htm. Retrieved May 3, 2007. 
  16. ^ "Presenting Information on an Event - KSL Concert" (in Japanese). Key. March 14, 2008. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/info/2008/03/post_6.html. Retrieved March 14, 2008. 
  17. ^ "KSL Live World 2010 ― way to the Kud-Wafter" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/ksllive_2010/index.html. Retrieved March 13, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Key's official blog entry on the radio's first recording" (in Japanese). Key. December 13, 2007. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/diary/2007/12/key.html. Retrieved December 13, 2007. 
  19. ^ a b c "Key Net Radio section at Key's official website" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/gallery/radio/index.html. Retrieved December 6, 2007. 
  20. ^ "Key Net Radio's submission form" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/gallery/radio/radio_form.html. Retrieved December 6, 2007. 
  21. ^ "Key Net Radio's official blog" (in Japanese). http://www.voiceblog.jp/visualarts/. Retrieved December 28, 2007. 
  22. ^ "Visual Channel official website" (in Japanese). YouTube. http://jp.youtube.com/user/visualarts. Retrieved July 11, 2008. 
  23. ^ "Image of a Kanon Zippo lighter sold originally at Comiket 57". http://img300.imageshack.us/img300/5396/kanonc57lighterfz0.jpg. Retrieved September 20, 2008. 
  24. ^ a b c "Key's Comiket 59 products" (in Japanese). Visual Art's. Archived from the original on October 13, 2002. http://web.archive.org/web/20021013195151/http://catalog-of-59.product.co.jp/visualarts.htm. Retrieved November 29, 2007. 
  25. ^ a b c "Key's Comiket 63 products" (in Japanese). Visual Art's. Archived from the original on April 15, 2003. http://web.archive.org/web/20030415211013/http://catalog-of-63.product.co.jp/key.html. Retrieved September 20, 2008. 
  26. ^ a b c "Key's Comiket 71 products" (in Japanese). Visual Art's. Archived from the original on December 17, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071217101133/http://c71.product.co.jp/brand/key.html. Retrieved September 20, 2008. 
  27. ^ a b "Key's Comiket 73 products" (in Japanese). Visual Art's. Archived from the original on February 8, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080208181134/http://c73.product.co.jp/brand/key.html. Retrieved September 20, 2008. 
  28. ^ "Key's Comiket 70 products" (in Japanese). Key. Archived from the original on July 6, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070706211910/http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/c70/c70-goods.html. Retrieved September 20, 2008. 
  29. ^ "Brands under Visual Art's that participated at Comiket 65" (in Japanese). Visual Art's. Archived from the original on December 2, 2003. http://web.archive.org/web/20031202203616/http://catalog-of-65.product.co.jp/. Retrieved September 20, 2008. 
  30. ^ "Brands under Visual Art's that participated at Comiket 67" (in Japanese). Visual Art's. Archived from the original on October 7, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20061007075531/http://c67.product.co.jp/. Retrieved November 29, 2007. 
  31. ^ "Brands under Visual Art's that participated at Comiket 69" (in Japanese). Visual Art's. Archived from the original on October 5, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20061005014437/http://c69.product.co.jp/. Retrieved September 20, 2008. 
  32. ^ "Comiket 73 Goods Via Mail Order Has Begun" (in Japanese). Key. March 4, 2008. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/info/2008/03/73_1.html. Retrieved March 10, 2008. 
  33. ^ "Comiket 73 Goods Sold Out!" (in Japanese). Key. March 10, 2008. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/info/2008/03/73_2.html. Retrieved March 10, 2008. 
  34. ^ "Comiket 75 Second Day Journal" (in Japanese). Key. December 29, 2008. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/diary/2008/12/post_49.html. Retrieved December 29, 2008. 
  35. ^ Untranslated quote: 自分の書いた曲では一番気に入ってます。
    Translated quote: "Out of the songs I wrote myself, I like this one ["Zankō"] the most."
    Kanon Original Soundtrack booklet, page 4.
  36. ^ a b "Chudah's Corner on the Kanon Original Soundtrack". http://www.chudahs-corner.com/soundtracks/index.php?catalog=KSLA-0006. Retrieved November 13, 2007. 
  37. ^ "Jun Maeda's visual novel contributions" (in Japanese). http://erogamescape.dyndns.org/~ap2/ero/toukei_kaiseki/creater.php?creater=938. Retrieved November 16, 2007. 
  38. ^ "Getchu.com's yearly Bishōjo Game Ranking poll results for best overall game titles from 2007" (in Japanese). http://ranking.getchu.com/pc/2007_g_ranking/2007_g_ranking_all.html. Retrieved March 15, 2008. 
  39. ^ "Jun Maeda and Shinji Orito Interview", Dengeki G's Magazine (MediaWorks) (December 2007) 
  40. ^ "Itaru Hinoue's visual novel contributions" (in Japanese). http://erogamescape.dyndns.org/~ap2/ero/toukei_kaiseki/creater.php?creater=621. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  41. ^ a b c "Key-Tactics staff information" (in Japanese). http://airfun.fc2web.com/staff.html. Retrieved September 18, 2008. 
  42. ^ "Sketches of art by Key staff, with staff position listed" (in Japanese). Key. http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/gallery/uro02.html. Retrieved December 1, 2007. 
  43. ^ Untranslated quote: サウンド担当 折戸伸治
    Translated quote: "Sound Director Shinji Orito."
    Kanon Original Soundtrack booklet, page 5.
  44. ^ "OdiakeS' personal website" (in Japanese). http://www.beta.or.jp/~odiakes/. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  45. ^ "Takashi Ishikawa's involvement in Key" (in Japanese). http://erogamescape.ddo.jp/~ap2/ero/toukei_kaiseki/creater.php?creater=941. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  46. ^ "Key's official Planetarian website" (in Japanese). http://key.visualarts.gr.jp/product/planetarian/. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  47. ^ "Tomoyo After staff information" (in Japanese). http://erogamescape.ddo.jp/~ap2/ero/toukei_kaiseki/game.php?game=5986. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  48. ^ a b "Leo Kashida's visual novel contributions" (in Japanese). http://erogamescape.ddo.jp/~ap2/ero/toukei_kaiseki/creater.php?creater=3064. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  49. ^ "Magome Togoshi's official blog announcement of his resignation from Key" (in Japanese). July 10, 2007. http://magome.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2007/07/key_8ca9.html. Retrieved November 29, 2007. 
  50. ^ a b c d Todome, Satoshi. "A History of Adult Games, chapter 3" (in Japanese). http://www.kyo-kan.net/column/eroge/eroge3.html. Retrieved November 22, 2007. 
  51. ^ "Short Key history". http://bluemist.animeblogger.net/archives/key/. Retrieved May 3, 2007. 
  52. ^ a b Ryukishi07 (July 9, 2004). "Key's Essence is Actually...(Bitter Smile)" (in Japanese). 07th Expansion. http://naderika.com/Cgi/log_cbbs/logcbbs.cgi?mode=red2&namber=399&no=1. Retrieved May 15, 2009. 
  53. ^ "Lycèe Trading Card Game Visual Art's 1.1 card set" (in Japanese). Broccoli. http://www.lycee-tcg.com/card_list_serch.cgi?version=VA1.1. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  54. ^ "Lycèe Trading Card Game Visual Art's 2.0 card set" (in Japanese). Broccoli. http://www.lycee-tcg.com/card_list_serch.cgi?version=VA2.0. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  55. ^ "Lycèe Trading Card Game Visual Art's 3.0 card set" (in Japanese). Broccoli. http://www.lycee-tcg.com/card_list_serch.cgi?version=VA3.0. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  56. ^ "Lycèe Trading Card Game Visual Art's 3.0 card set" (in Japanese). Broccoli. http://www.lycee-tcg.com/card_list_serch.cgi?version=VA4.0. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  57. ^ "Lycèe Trading Card Game Visual Art's 5.0 card set" (in Japanese). Broccoli. http://www.lycee-tcg.com/release_2008spring_va500.html. Retrieved April 1, 2008. 
  58. ^ "Lycèe Trading Card Game promotional cards" (in Japanese). Broccoli. http://www.lycee-tcg.com/card_list_serch.cgi?version=all&rare=P. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  59. ^ "Lycèe Trading Card Game card sets" (in Japanese). Broccoli. http://www.lycee-tcg.com/card.html. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  60. ^ a b "Chronology of the Leaf, Key BBS" (in Japanese). http://nippoudairi.2-d.jp/hakagi_ita/nenpyou/. Retrieved December 16, 2007. 
  61. ^ a b c "Leaf, Key BBS" (in Japanese). http://pie.bbspink.com/leaf/. Retrieved December 16, 2007. 

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Key
File:Key-VisualArts-Logo.png
Type Joint stock company
Founded 1998
Headquarters Osaka, Japan
Products Visual novels
Parent Company {{{parent}}}
Website key.visualarts.gr.jp

Key is a Japanese visual novel studio under Visual Art's, known for making dramatic and plot-oriented visual novels. Kanon was Key's debut release, which combined an elaborate storyline, an up-to-date anime-style drawing style, and a musical score which helped to set the mood for the game. Key's second game, Air had a similar if not more complex storyline to Kanon and a more thorough gameplay. Both Kanon and Air were originally produced as eroge, but had non-erotic console ports released for the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable. As of July 2007, Key has released six games, and has worked in the past with Interchannel, and Prototype for the consumer port releases of previous Key titles.

Every soundtrack that is released based from one of Key's titles is on a record label called Key Sounds Label. There are other albums on the label not directly related to the visual novels, such as two albums by Lia and one by Eufonius. The albums on this label have music composed by members from Key, such as Jun Maeda, and Shinji Orito. Three of Key's works, Kanon, Air and Clannad, have been made into anime. Key supervised the production of these anime while working with two animation studios, Toei Animation, and Kyoto Animation. Toei Animation animated the first Kanon TV anime series, the Air movie and the Clannad movie. Kyoto Animation animated the Air TV anime series, the second Kanon TV anime series, and the Clannad TV anime series.

Contents

History

Before forming Key, the founding members worked for another visual novel development company called Tactics. At the time of Dōsei's production, Tactics' first game, only two of Key's original staff worked on the game: Itaru Hinoue as art director and Shinji Orito as musical composer. After Dōsei, the rest of Key's founding staff joined Tactics and contributed to two more games: Moon., and One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e. After the release of One, these developers transferred to Visual Art's where they created their debut title Kanon in 1999. Kanon was an eroge, though the scenes containing sexual intercourse were kept to a minimum. This gave the player more of a focus on the characters' stories and on the visuals and music, especially for a visual novel at the time of its release. A year later, in 2000, Key released their second game Air, which was also an adult game and similar in storytelling to Kanon.

In 2001, Visual Art's created the record label Key Sounds Label. The music albums released by Key after this were put under this label, meaning that this does not include the first three albums which were released before it was officially formed. The first album on this label was Humanity..., though the only direct connection to Key's works is that it contains a remixed version of the opening theme to Air. The albums under this label are composed by Key's signature composers: Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito and Magome Togoshi. Three of the albums feature songs sung by Lia and one other, Love Song, features the singer Riya from Eufonius. Three drama CDs have been released as well.

The third game named Clannad is a visual novel similar to Key's previous games, but is entirely clean, without any adult content. Clannad was meant to be released in 2002, but was delayed, leading to the game finally being released in 2004. Seven months after Clannad's release, Key released their shortest game, Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume, in late 2004. Planetarian, in contrast to Key's past games, is a linear visual novel that does not require the user to make a choice, but to sit back and enjoy the story; this is what is referred to as a kinetic novel. The company's fifth game was Tomoyo After: It's a Wonderful Life, an eroge and sequel of sorts to Clannad released in 2005. Key released their sixth game, Little Busters!, on July 27 2007.

Comiket involvement

File:Key's booth at Comiket 71.jpg
Key's booth at Comiket 71 (December 2006).

Comiket, short for Comic Market, is a large comic convention held twice a year in Tokyo, Japan during August and December, which are referred to as the summer and winter Comic Markets respectively. Key has been an active participant in the convention since Comiket 57 in December 1999, where they sold Kanon-related products (as Kanon was their only release at the time); one such product was a Zippo lighter. The first Air-related products Key sold at Comiket were at Comiket 59 in December 2000. Typical products include: postcards, telephone cards, calendars, and posters. The products Key sells at Comiket are all related to the visual novels the company produces.

Key, through Visual Art's, generally participates at the winter Comiket in conjunction with other brands under Visual Art's, but has been known to appear at the summer Comiket too, such as with Comiket 70 in August 2006 where they sold Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume related products. The combined total of the products Key sells at a given Comiket range in price between 3,000 yen (about US$27) and 5,000 yen (about US$45). This includes the selling of music albums released under Key's record label Key Sounds Label which has been releasing albums since Comiket 60 in August 2001 with the release of the label's first two albums, Humanity... and Natsukage / nostalgia.

Key Radio

Key began to produce an Internet radio show regarding the company with the first recording released on December 13 2007. It is hosted by Itaru Hinoue and Shinji Orito of Key, and another woman by the name of Chiro who works for Pekoe, another visual novel studio under Visual Art's. Listeners can submit thoughts about the show and any requests they may have for the show, along with submitting questions to the host trio. The broadcasts are available via download on Key's official website and the radio show's official blog. The show has five corners, or parts, which starts with opening greetings from the hosts and goes onto thoughts and impressions that listeners have about the show. This moves on to an informal talk between the hosts, followed by a section where entries previously submitted by listeners concerning their enthusiasm for Key are read by the hosts. The fourth corner concerns answering questions that had been submitted by listeners, and the final corner has Orito playing the flute; listeners can submit suggestions for songs he is to play.

The first broadcast was originally over an hour long, but was cut down to thirty minutes. The main topic of discussion of the first broadcast was Key's products at Comiket 73 to be held in late December 2007. The second broadcast was an end-of-the-year special released on December 28 2007 and was longer than the first broadcast at forty-one minutes and thirty seconds. The third broadcast was a New Year Expansion edition released on January 22 2008 and ran for forty-three minutes and thirty seconds.

Staff

Main

The main staff in Key are members that have had a hand in nearly every game released by Key and do the majority of the work involved. Jun Maeda has worked on the planning for the individual projects and was one of the main scenario writers; he has also composed music for all of Key's games except Planetarian.[1][2] Maeda was reported to say in the February 2007 issue of Comptiq that after the completion of Little Busters!, he would not be working on the scenario staff for Key any longer. However, in an interview in the December 2007 issue of Dengeki G's Magazine, Maeda said that he would still be working on the music for Key's next game.[3] Itaru Hinoue is Key's main artist and was the art director for Key's first three games.[4] Na-Ga, another prominent artist in the company, mainly worked with background art in earlier games, but with Little Busters! was given the position of co-art director with Hinoue.[5] Further computer graphics have been provided in the past by three graphic artists, Shinory, Mochisuke, and Minimo Yamada.[6][7] Key's main composer, Shinji Orito, has been with the company since Kanon.[8] With Maeda no longer contributing to the scenario, another scenario writer, Yūto Tonogawa, joined Key and first worked on the scenario in Little Busters!.

Other

In addition to the main staff, there are others who have helped make the games released by Key. Tomotaka Fujii helped write the scenario for Air, working as a scenario assistant.[9] Eeji Komatsu worked as the art director for the kinetic novel Planetarian,[10] and another artist, Fumio, worked as the art director for Tomoyo After.[11] Further scenario writers include Leo Kashida, an outsourced writer who worked with Key on Tomoyo After and Little Busters!, and Chika Shirokiri, another outsourced writer who worked with Key on Little Busters!.[12][5] Two new composers named Manack and PMMK helped with the music in Little Busters!, and MintJam helped with arrangement.[5]

Former

Many of Key's staff have left the company over time. Naoki Hisaya had worked as one of the main scenario writers for Kanon,[6] but once the project was complete, he left the company; Hisaya later provided the original concept for Sola. Another member of the staff that made Kanon was OdiakeS, a composer who has since left Key. OdiakeS returned to help in two music albums, one each released for Air and Clannad, but has done nothing with Key since 2004.[13] One of the staff members for Air, Takashi Ishikawa, only participated in this game as one of the scenario writers, but did not contribute in future games released by Key.[14] Ishikawa has since moved to another brand in Visual Art's as of 2000. Kai, one of the scenario writers, contributed in Air and Clannad, as did a different scenario writer named Tōya Okano. Kai moved to the company Ram under Visual Art's in 2004 and Okano moved to the company Giant Panda, also under Visual Art's the same year. Another scenario writer, Yūichi Suzumoto, worked with Key between Air and Planetarian. Suzumoto has since transferred to Leaf as of 2004 under the publisher Aquaplus. One of the original computer graphics artists, Miracle ☆ Mikipon, left after Clannad, and a different computer graphics artist, Torino, worked with Key from Kanon until Clannad. Mikipon had been working for Psycho under Nexton starting in 2004, but then moved onto the company Ham Ham Soft under Visual Art's; Torino left for Ram in 2004, also under Visual Art's.[15][16] Magome Togoshi had been with Key since Air, working as one of the signature composers, but left the company in October 2006.[17]

Impact

File:Promo yumemi.jpg
A promo character card of Yumemi Hoshino from Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume from the Lycèe Trading Card Game.

According to Satoshi Todome's work, A History of Adult Games, Key's impact on the visual novel, or rather primarily the adult game, world stems from before Key was formed and most of the founding members of Key worked for Tactics under Nexton.[18] Due to an influence by Leaf's visual novel To Heart released in 1997, the developers at Tactics created a simple formula for a game: a comedic first half with a heart-warming romantic middle followed by a tragic separation and finally an emotional reunion formed what is known as a "crying game". The main purpose of such a game is to make the player feel for the characters and make them cry due to emotional scenarios which serves to leave a bigger impact on the player after the game is over.[18] Tactics' second title One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e was created based on this formula.

After One was complete, the development team quit Tactics to form Key where they developed their first title Kanon also based upon on this formula.[18] Kanon was "heavily hyped [and] had gamers impatient until its release. It was only one game released by Key so far, and yet [it] had already sent major shockwaves around the industry. And yet another game [Air], two years later, sent even more shockwaves. Air was equally hyped and well received."[19] The success of One and Kanon on Key's formula to create a "crying game" was later adopted by other visual novel developing companys which were influenced by this formula. Examples of this include: Kana: Little Sister by Digital Object, the Memories Off series by KID, D.C. ~Da Capo~ by Circus, Snow by Studio Mebius (also under Visual Art's), and Wind: A Breath of Heart by Minori.[18]

Key is one of seventeen brands under Visual Art's with games included in the Lycèe Trading Card Game published by Broccoli. Characters from Key's first five games were included in the first three out of four Visual Art's card sets.[20][21][22][23] There are also seven out of fifty-five rare promotional cards with characters from Key titles.[24] Other big-name visual novel companies included in the card game include: AliceSoft, August, Leaf, Navel, and Type-Moon.[25]

Leaf, Key BBS

A bulletin board system (BBS) based off of the interface of the large Japanese Internet forum 2channel (2ch) was formed on January 26 2000 named "Leaf, Key BBS" (leaf,key掲示板 leaf,key Keijiban?), otherwise nicknamed as "Leaf-Key Board" (葉鍵板 Ha-Kagi Ita?).[26][27] The board originated from 2ch's video game discussion board due to a dispute involving the game Kizuato in December 1999;[26] Kizuato was an early game of another visual novel producing company named Leaf. Ultimately, fans of the game moved to 2ch's adult game board, but there was not much resolution, and at the time Key fans on the board were being shunned for discussions on Kanon and, at the time, Key's upcoming game Air. This resulted finally with the Leaf and Key fans moving away from 2ch and forming again on the PINKchannel Internet forum.[27] The board serves as a discussion board for anything related to Leaf and Key. This includes the games the companies produce, but also the companies themselves and the staff that make up those companies. The BBS gets approximately 1500 posts per day as of November 2007. Like 2ch, the board has a default anonymous posting setting, and the defalt name is "Nanashi-san Dayomon" (名無しさんだよもん?, lit. Mr. Nameless-dayomon), a reference to the heroine Mizuka Nagamori from One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e who uses the words "dayo" and "mon" frequently.[27]

References

  1. Untranslated quote: 自分の書いた曲では一番気に入ってます。
    Translated quote: "Out of the songs I wrote myself, I like this one the most."
    Kanon Original Soundtrack booklet, page 4.
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  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named littlebusters.21
  6. 6.0 6.1 Template:Citeweb
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  8. Untranslated quote: サウンド担当 折戸伸治
    Translated quote: "Sound Director Shinji Orito."
    Kanon Original Soundtrack booklet, page 5.
    Template:Citeweb
  9. Template:Citeweb
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  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Template:Citeweb
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  26. 26.0 26.1 Template:Citeweb
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Template:Citeweb

External links

  • Key's official website Template:Jp icon
  • Template:Ann company



This article uses material from the "Key" article on the Gaming wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.







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