The following is the opinion of the author and does not reflect the views of MangaGamer or any other third party.
On 8 March 2018, A Kiss For The Petals – Maidens of Michael was made unavailable on Steam after only 14 days on sale. No notification was given to the customers, and MangaGamer has stated on 9 April 2018 that there has been no progress in communicating with Valve Corporation to address their objections, or even what they could have been. For my part, I have remained out of the public eye due to the extremely sensitive nature of this incident, and I did not make any statements for fear of causing further damage. Rather, I relied on MangaGamer to provide a statement of their own as I am not privy to the details of their talks with Valve, and I did not want any statements from me to misrepresent their ongoing efforts. Nearly two months have passed since the depublication, and all hope for speedy resolution has expired. I believe a personal statement on my own perspective on these events is long overdue.
As I have stated several times in announcement posts, Maidens of Michael is my largest project in all respects. With consideration that my work on it began in May 2013, several years before I joined MangaGamer, it is also the longest single effort I have undertaken, professionally or otherwise. The journey to secure the English localization license incurred great personal expense to me, which included travelling to Japan and meeting with the production staff of St. Michael Girls’ School in February 2016. With the announcement that it would be published on Steam in August 2017, I focused the majority of my energy and resources in the final months of the project in preparation of the Steam launch. In those months, I modified the project to support an adult content patch, which was added to the project specifications after MangaGamer received clarification from Valve on their content policies. This was a challenge to implement in a short timeframe—I followed content standards established by MangaGamer’s previous releases on Steam and focused on avoiding major disruptions to the narrative. Though difficult from a technical perspective, it was easily justified by the much larger audience it would afford us. It must be emphasized here that MangaGamer did their due diligence and the final build was reviewed and approved by Valve prior to release.
In a single motion, all of that concentrated effort was rendered void with Valve’s unexpected decision to remove Maidens of Michael from Steam. For all of the work by MangaGamer staff and myself in publishing Maidens of Michael to the largest digital marketplace to be undone so effortlessly, and for the excitement and passion from fans to be so quickly replaced with anger and confusion, was devastating to me personally. The impact to me has only worsened with each day that passes with no action taken by Valve to seek remediation.
In the days immediately following the depublication, I had been very sparse in posting to all of my public channels, as little information was known. I was asked on every channel, public and private, from both fans and fellow developers, about the situation. With no information that I was at liberty to divulge, I felt that I had no option except to disregard all such messages. In spite of the senders’ good intentions, the mounting volume of these inquiries served only to trouble me.
After a month of near-total silence on the matter, MangaGamer made their own frustrations known in a statement issued on 9 April 2018. In response to this potential explanation for the reversal of Valve’s consent to sell Maidens of Michael on Steam, the leading sentiment from both fans and other staff members was enmity toward those responsible within and outside of Valve. Regrettably, a side effect of this is that fans have also been quarreling with each other over factors such as content standards and questioning the merit of A Kiss For The Petals in the larger English visual novel market. I feel that such invective is counterproductive to the goal of reinstating Maidens of Michael on Steam and can have negative effects on the community for A Kiss For The Petals in the future. I will not share any desire to bear grudge against any party in public or in private, nor will I ever endorse any statements or actions to that end.
With that said, as has been pointed out in several places of discussion, Maidens of Michael is currently the only title published by MangaGamer on Steam to be subject to this situation. (It remains available on MangaGamer.com regardless of its status on Steam.) Many titles with similar content and themes from other publishers continue to be available on Steam, including new publications since 8 March.
Since the removal of Maidens of Michael from Steam, MangaGamer staff has collaborated with high urgency to seek a solution, but I found that any actions I could have taken have already been done by staff in more privileged positions than me. This realization, combined with my inability to assist in substantial capacity, left me feeling severe guilt, and it affected my ability to act rationally in response to every development. I was unprepared for an incident of this nature, as I believed that the only adversity I would face in the visual novel localization field would be negative reviews. The ramifications of such naivete have struck me to my core.
I have concluded that the primary cause of all of these dilemmas is my singular focus on A Kiss For The Petals. I have since come to understand that my level of fanaticism for a single series has hindered my ability to maintain a rational stance. Ultimately, I now feel that my uncompromising loyalty to A Kiss For The Petals had been misplaced. My zeal in presenting Maidens of Michael to an audience unfamiliar with A Kiss For The Petals caused me to attach myself deeply to my project with no regard for my own safety. Regardless of how this incident concludes, it will be a black mark on the history of A Kiss For The Petals, and it is only through this that I have learned the dangers of involving myself with its growth to the extent that I have.
For all of these reasons, on 10 March 2018, I took an immediate hiatus from all public internet activity—a drastic action, but one I felt was a necessity to protect myself. However, in the intervening weeks, the weight of this incident did not relent. Where the staff of MangaGamer have shown incredible strength during this predicament, I have been overwhelmed with uncertainty and anguish over the setbacks inflicted on my largest single project in my lifetime. During this period of silence, I have been forced to re-evaluate the value of A Kiss For The Petals to me, the investment I place into all of my projects, and my future in the visual novel field. These are questions that I did not believe I would need to have answers for, and I must now begin to seek what these things will mean to me going forward. I believe resolving them will reveal to me the reasons I continue to feel such crippling heartbreak, as I have for the last two months.
I have written this statement as an extended confession as the first step in the long process of rebuilding trust with the public. I can only ask forgiveness from all of my followers on all of my public channels, for my lack of open communication since 10 March and for failing to recognize the vulnerability of any high-profile visual novel release in the international market. I hope to find your understanding and support during this trying time.
A Kiss For The Petals – Maidens of Michael will continue to be available on MangaGamer.com. Customers who have difficulty purchasing it are encouraged to contact MangaGamer staff to arrange for alternate payment.