Welcome back to the big fat otome multi-series! If you missed the first round, look at my introduction post and the history of otome here!
This time we’re looking at who’s who in the otome world by delving into the developers for our favourite localised and non-localised otome. Look out for the next post covering the localisers’ side! With some analysis and a pinch of (optimistic) prediction, I think we can illuminate the direction otome has and will go.
I tried to do something I haven’t seen before and actually log every officially localised otome in this spreadsheet. I used a combination of referring to the English Otome Games Wiki, vndb, and old-fashioned scouring. This spreadsheet covers console and PC releases (mobile omitted due to sheer number), although mobage ported to console are included. I can’t promise that it’s completely accurate or comprehensive but it should be a good starting point and I’ll try to update it with new releases when I can. Anyway, it has all the gritty details (use the filters!) and I’ll be using it to analyse the games themselves in another post.
This post ended up being ridiculously long so I’ll cover OELVN developers and publishers in a separate post/spreadsheet. I want to treat OELVN otome/amare with equal validity as traditional otome and there are so many interesting things happening in this space that deserve a proper analysis, so for your sake and mine that article will be coming at a later date!
Warning: this list doesn’t cover all the players! I’ve no doubt missed some lesser known developers!
Known for: Hakuouki, Code Realize, Collar x Malice
Idea Factory’s otome branch. Most of our big name Japanese otome come from here via Aksys Games. According to vndb, they’ve developed over 150 otome, of which 23 have been localised/confirmed (about 15%). For the past three years, they developed/published about six otome per year on average, which is fewer than previous years. Between 2014-2018, they released thirteen otome per year on average. I’m not sure of the exact cause but the industry is definitely niche so setbacks are expected and hit hard. The popularity of mobage has likely fractured the market as well. Regarding the last two years, Covid might have slowed things down on top of standard delays. Then again, these numbers omit a large number of PS Vita to Switch ports, which Otomate are probably using to pad out their release schedule.
One interesting development is that Otomate recently revived QuinRose after the dissolution of their parent company in 2015. We’ve yet to see how relevant QuinRose Reborn will be but they are continuing the Kuni no Alice series (Spade no Kuni no Alice launches September 2021 in Japan). Heart no Kuni no Alice – Wonderful Wonder World received a brief (bad) mobile translation back in 2014 but it’s uncertain whether QuinRose’s old releases will see the light of day again – a shame because they created many otome over their decade long career.
Known for: Uta no☆Prince-sama♪, Jack Jeanne
A multimedia company that additionally trades in anime and manga, their superstar series is Uta-Pri but they’ve developed/published many other popular otome like Kamigami no Asobi and Meiji Tokyo Renka. Excitingly, Jack Jeanne, an upcoming joseimuke thespian-simulator, is being released globally. This is their first English otome-adjacent localisation so hopefully it’s successful enough for them to dip into the international market more.
Known for: Steam Prison, Ephemeral, Arcana Famiglia
An old company with a long catalogue of bishojo and joseimuke games, HuneX had a few otome hits but since the mid 2010s they’ve transitioned from console games to mostly mobile titles. They have a subsidiary, Dramatic Create, which localised Ephemeral, but they partnered with Mangagamer for Steam Prison. Most of their mobile titles are localised in-house, but they aren’t widely known and their translation quality has been inconsistent in the past.
Red Entertainment (2000)
Known for: Nightshade, Birushana Senki, Kenka Banchou Otome
A developer with fingers in many pies (JRPGs/VNs…), Red Entertainment’s otome are well received, although most haven’t been localised. Nightshade was brought over by D3 Publisher, while the recently announced Birushana Senki is in the hands of Idea Factory International. Kenka Banchou Otome won Spike Chunsoft’s Twitter poll for most wanted localisation in 2016, but it’s unlikely that it will be translated.
Known for: Bustafellows, Sidekicks
eXtend is a female-orientated brand under Nippon Cultural Broadcasting Extend, a Tokyo radio station. I’m not sure how a radio station got into otome but no complaints because Bustafellows was delightful. As expected, their catalogue is short (four games in total) but a sequel to Bustafellows was confirmed – hopefully pQube also picks the sequel up!
Known for: Taisho x Alice
Primula is an indie team under Production Pencil, a small company dealing with games and CDs. Primula has only developed three games (Taisho x Alice and its fandisc, Heads & Tails, and a catboy otome) so it’s wild that they localised Taisho x Alice and even wilder considering they were burned by a cowboy translation company (read Krystallina’s thorough breakdown of the E2 debacle here) and eventually ended up self-publishing Taisho x Alice onto PC with a decent translation.
They aren’t very active in making new games, considering their most recent release was in 2018, but they’ve been porting their games onto Switch/PC since 2020. Pencil were cautious with Taisho x Alice’s localisation and episodically released the English translation, but the whole game has now been localised over a period of three years as a set of four episodes so there’s hope that Heads & Tails gets the same treatment. While buying the game episodically comes out slightly more expensive than typical Aksys releases, PC games are regularly discounted so this seems like a good outcome for both Primula and consumers. Honestly, this staggered approach could be effective for other companies hesitant about dipping into international localisation.
Karin Entertainment (2001)
Known for: London Detective Mysteria, Princess Nightmare, The Exorcism of Maria
A doujin (i.e. hobbyist) company, Karin Entertainment hasn’t developed many games – their last one released in 2015 but they partnered with XSEED to localise London Detective Mysteria for the PC/Vita in 2018. They also have a BL and mobage branch, with the latter being their main focus since 2019. I doubt they would localise their other games, which is a shame as they’ve created a few unusual gothic otome.
Known for: Storm Lover series, Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi, Prince of Stride
A longstanding developer specialising in otome, bishojo, and yuri visual novels, VRIDGE doesn’t have many localised games besides the fifteen year old Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi, which was randomly localised by D3 Publisher. That said, Bakumatsu Renka arrived very recently so maybe they are open to licensing other/future remasters.
Known for: Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome, Fxxx Me Royally!! Horny Magical Princess
Yes, despite the name of the second title, that is an otome game. Kalmia8 is a fairly new outfit with four games under their belt and one upcoming in 2022. They’re a rare breed of adult otome developer – not the fade to black kind but yep, that’s hentai. Their games are quite exaggerated and comedic, which can be hit or miss, but I personally like them because there aren’t many similar otome. Mangagamer, a major adult visual novel localiser, picked up both FLML and FMR so it’s possible that they’ll continue to partner with Kalmia8.
Known for: Mystic Messenger, Nameless, Dandelion
Cheritz is the Korean developer behind the cult hit Mystic Messenger, a game that set the bar for innovative mobage. Before Mystic Messenger, Cheritz developed Nameless and Dandelion and self-published them onto PC. Cheritz are consistently active in English – all their games were released simultaneously in English and they even have an English website (one of the few on this list!) The downside is that they are very erratic. Still riding the 2016 Mystic Messenger wave, Cheritz dropped the ball after announcing The Ssum in 2018, which remains MIA with little update. I hope they eventually develop another game because their titles are quite special.
Known for: Ozmafia!!
An indie otome team, Poni-Pachet released Ozmafia!! in 2013, which was localised by Mangagamer in 2016, but since then have only produced one joseimuke mobage in 2020. They have three games in development hell, one of which is an Ozmafia prequel originally demo-ed as an April Fool’s project in 2017 so hold your horses.
Dogenzaka Lab (~2015)
Known for: Men of Yoshiwara series, Gakuen Club, Pub Encounter
Dogenzaka Lab has been quiet lately after a busy few years. Many of their games were made in partnership with other developers like OperaHouse or HuneX and published by D3 Publisher and themselves. I rank Dogenzaka Lab’s works on the same level as OperaHouse (i.e. mid-tier, churned out stuff) but with the bonus of being understandable. Their otome are typically cheap and available on PC/Switch so if you don’t mind compromising overall quality (less polished art/partial voice-acting/shallow routes), they’re fun as quick n’ dirty reads.
Otusun Club (~2015)
Known for: The Bell Chimes for Gold, A Day in the Life of Maria, Marialbum
We’re getting into specialised territory here. Otusun Club is a doujin group that focuses on adult otome with old man LIs. Their three oldest otome are localised: The Bell Chimes for Gold by Sekai Project while its two spin-offs were self-localised and funded via Kickstarter. These games are otome marmite with an atypical style so it makes sense that they’d go this route. Otusun Club haven’t done much since 2018 besides localise the two Maria spin-offs but they may create new titles now that they’re freed up.
Known for: East Tower, Eroolia [How to~] series, Cafe 0 series
Roseverte is an impressively prolific but widely underrated indie developer that writes mystery and lighthearted rom-coms equally well. Roseverte games have distinctive visuals and partial voice acting and they are one of the few to self-publish their games into English pretty much simultaneously. Until I did my research, I actually assumed they were an OELVN company! I hope Roseverte gets more love so they continue to grow.
Yetu Games (~2014)
Known for: Lost in Secular Love, My Vow to My Liege
A Chinese indie company that has developed and self-published two otome with unique premises – one involves romancing monks (hair optional) and the other puts you in the shoes of a crossdressing ‘king’. Yetu has been open to communicating on Steam and they’ve made the effort to improve their games by adding animated CGs and touching up translations. With polished visuals, voice acting, and a unique flair, Yetu’s otome seem critically and commercially successful and I’m excited to see what they get up to next.
OperaHouse Corporation (2012)
Known for: Gakuen Club, Charming Empire, awful translations
A developer that goes under the radar but for good reason. Although they’ve localised a large number of games onto PC and Switch in-house or with Digimerce, the translation quality of these titles is infamously bad and the games themselves are generally deemed mediocre.
Ruby Party (1990)
Known for: Angelique, Haruka Toki no Naka de, Kiniro no Corda
Localisation chance: Maybe?
The grandmama of otome and the reason why we’re here. Ruby Party is Koei’s otome branch and they’ve been at it the longest and are still making quality games. Despite Koei’s voluminous wallet, we’ve never gotten a whiff of a localisation until extremely recently with the announcement of Touken Ranbu Warriors’ global release. Sword boy simulator, Touken Ranbu Online received an English version in April 2021 via Johren so maybe this is more on the original developers (DMM/Nitroplus) wanting to expand Touken Ranbu but it’s exciting that Koei is rolling with it.
Somewhat promisingly, Koei showed interest in the Western otome market a few years ago in a Twitter poll, where the overwhelming consensus was ‘YES, WE WANT YOUR GAMES’! And, though the tweet was expectedly neutral, two years later they are localising something otome adjacent, albeit a musou action title. Let’s hope this isn’t the first and only Ruby Party game to get localised!
Known for: Diabolik Lovers series, Ken ga Kimi, Black Wolves Saga
Localisation chance: Low
Rejet is an acclaimed otome developer known for darker content. They were fairly vocal about not wanting to release overseas or onto PC, although they may be easing up on this stance. In 2020, they tweeted intentions to ‘frequently’ post in English, although this hasn’t manifested into anything noteworthy. Likewise, they ported Ken ga Kimi onto Steam last year in Japanese and Chinese. Fan translators have made patches for some of their popular games, but official releases are unlikely. One thing I’ve found strange is how people refer to Diabolik Lovers as the cincher for whether Rejet starts localising. Most people think it’s a white whale because it’s a controversial hot mess but while it’s Rejet’s most famous series, it isn’t their only one (or the one I’d pick to localise…) Still, their works might just be too risky for localisers (Aksys said some of Rejet’s stuff is too hardcore for ESBR ratings).
Known for: Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side series
Localisation chance: Low
Konami, like Koei, is a mega company with a history of mostly non-otome games. They had a bad patch of pachinko mania before returning to game development recently. The first Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side came out in 2002 and they only have a few otome throughout their catalogue. That said, Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side: 4th Heart is coming out soon in Japan after a decade-long gap. Konami has localised many games but rarely any visual novels, so I doubt they’ll throw us a bone.
Known for: Starry☆Sky series, Ayakashi Gohan, Re:Birthday Song
Localisation chance: Maybe?
Honeybee (and their sexier sister company, Honeybee Black) has a nice catalogue of games – some of which have received unofficial English patches – but their parent company, Asgard, dissolved in 2018. There’s a slim ray of hope in that Arithmetic, a mobage company, absorbed Honeybee. Nevertheless, I’d be wary about future localisations since most mobage companies have awful records for converting console otome into mobile format. Asgard’s dissolution probably means the end of traditional releases since mobile developers usually reiterate popular titles rather than produce new releases (Arithmetic hasn’t created a new game since 2018).
Known for: Himehibi series, Shinigami to Shoujo, Sweet Clown
Localisation chance: Low
Takuyo has the weirdest company origins, being the offshoot of a construction company. I don’t see them mentioned much amongst English-only players, although they’ve consistently made female-orientated games since 1998 and have a decent catalogue of well-received titles. Unfortunately, they don’t have the same brand name power as others on this list nor have they indicated interest in the international market.
Known for: Sangoku Rensenki series, Zettai Kaikyuu Gakuen series
Localisation chance: Low
An otome company with a short catalogue mostly hanging off Sangoku Rensenki. They release sporadically but have two new titles in production. Like Takuyo, they don’t garner much interest overseas, which is too bad because Sangoku Rensenki is about a girl isekai-ed into Romance of the Three Kingdoms who gets to work as a strategist – i.e. it hits the same market as the popular Ikemen Sengoku.
Known for: Chou no Doku series
Localisation chance: Maybe?
Aromarie specialises in risque titles. Chou no Doku often gets mentioned as a holy grail. Well, turns out it has been localised but in a not-so-nice way. Abracadabra, a mobage company, got the greenlight but this led to the game being stripped of its R18 content and voice acting. The pricing was exploitative (all routes: $89.99; individual routes: $29.99 – remember this was for an incomplete game), the translation was wonky, and the icing on the cake? It launched Q1 2020 and was discontinued and inaccessible a mere year later. It’s frustrating to see a good title treated so poorly. Considering Chou no Doku’s mature content, our only chance for a proper localisation is Mangagamer.
Known for: Yoshiwara Higanbana
Localisation chance: Maybe?
MariaCrown is a one hit wonder. To my knowledge, the R18 Yoshiwara Higanbana is their only game and they’ve been running with it ever since with new console ports and a Chinese localisation on Steam. Funnily enough, Yoshiwara Higanbana frequently features on localisation surveys, ranking highly in Mangagamer’s 2018/2019/2020 most wanted licenses.
Looking at the full stats on this spreadsheet, it’s clear to see that Otomate is the leading otome developer amongst those localised and this is mostly due to Aksys Games consistently publishing for them since 2012. The next biggest group is Voltage, a mobile developer, who have been porting a handful of their popular titles to console. OperaHouse and Dogenzaka Lab follow shortly after, being fairly prolific on PC and console, and finally Roseverte, an atypical indie team that just keeps chugging along. The overwhelming number of developers have only localised 1-2 games. Overall, we’re looking at just under a hundred officially localised games across console and PC after the very first otome localisation of Yo-Jin-Bo in 2006.
If you’ve read this far – thank you! In the next post, we’ll be analysing the localisers and come to some more detailed conclusions, so please follow my blog if you want to stay updated! If you’re new around here… Welcome and look out for my monthly Good Goings posts – I usually start with Otome Corner for news about upcoming games!