What are "visual novels"?

We initially wrote this FAQ back in 2004, and interestingly enough Japanese novel games are now a pretty well-established genre of game in the West. It's now common to see them referred to as "visual novels", even when that term isn't what Japanese speakers would call these games.

Visual novels are best understood as choose-your-own-adventure style interactive fiction, with background images and character sprites. Technically speaking, the term "visual novel" only refers to certain early novel games by Leaf (Shizuku, Kizuato, To Heart), although the term was later popularized and thereby genericized by companies like TYPE-MOON. In the West, the term has been generalized to the point that it refers to all Japanese-style novel games, without further distinction.

There is a related term -- "kinetic novel" -- which technically only refers to an experimental set of short novel games initially offered by the company VisualArt's in the mid-2000s. The first piece in the VisualArt's Kinetic Novel series was Planetarian, which was so popular in the West that the term "kinetic novel" was genericized to mean any (usually short) novel game in which there are no choices to be had.

Are these pieces suitable for all ages?

The Majipuri demo has a censored sex scene in it, and the Anonono demo has several. Otherwise, yes.

<Insert game name here> doesn't work on my computer. What gives?

There are two general categories of downloadables here at insani:

In order to set your Windows language for non-Unicode programs to Japanese, try these instructions.

What's up with those system requirements and story outlines?

The system requirements and story outlines presented in the Projects page are direct translations of the information pages for the various games from Getchu, a Japanese online gaming store that specializes in novel games, among other things.

The system requirements for our releases will be higher than what is listed in the Projects page, for any number of reasons. For instance, many of our releases use onscripter-insani, a branch of the open-source clean-room implementation of NScripter known as ONScripter. This program has much higher system requirements than NScripter did, but those requirements are still so low that any reasonably modern computer (and, these days, some refrigerators, we imagine) can run it without a hitch.

Oh, and the story outlines presented in the Projects page do not represent the views of insani in any way, shape, or form. The only reason they are there is because Seung is lazy.

What is your style of translation like?

Our translation style focuses on capturing the nuances of meaning that exist within any given sentence, not in delivering a "literal" translation. We have an active disdain, in fact, for that thing that most anime fansubbers would call "literal" -- because it invariably culminates in a translation that is not accurate in any sense of the term. The structure of the Japanese language is vastly different from the structure of the English language, and the kinds of expressions used in both languages are thus also widely different. What this means is that any JP->EN translation that is any good has by definition to be a localization of sorts. But if you want a "literal" translation, fine, you can have it -- go off and use Babelfish or Amikai. Finally, think about it this way -- if you are a person who is playing our demos, you are doing so because you probably do not understand Japanese well enough to be playing it in the original language. If the above happens to be true of you, just where did you get the idea in your head that you had any ability to judge how close to the originals our JP->EN translations are? And if the above does not happen to be true of you, why are you playing our translations when you could just be playing them in the original language?

Rest assured that we strive to make our translations as close in both spirit and structure to the original Japanese as we can -- and also that any translation that claims to be "literal" is probably not very good.

What projects are you working on?

insani is best understood as a historical curiosity at this point in time. We wrapped up operations in 2009, as Real Life(tm) overwhelmed us both. We're returning to active operation now for the following reasons:

Will you translate <insert unpopular visual novel title here>?

No. We really are only here to finish our last two projects.

Will you translate <insert popular visual novel title here>?

This is an interesting question for historical reasons. We took a very principled stand against software piracy of any type, which continues on to the present day. We refuse to be associated with software piracy to this very day, which is part of why we focused on freeware indie novel games that we could get permission to officially translate.

We also note with great pleasure that these days, you can go to Steam and find any number of licensed, fully translated novel games to play. Many of those are the classics of their genres, and others are more modern pieces that remain popular in Japan in the present day. You're pretty spoiled for choice, as compared to where we were in 2005. If you love this genre of games, we request that you support the original creators by buying from platforms like Steam.

What's the history of your group?

insani was founded in 2004, during a time when there was no such thing as a complete novel game translation to be had. We were far from the only group active during the time, and indeed we recognize that while we certainly had our role in the popularization of novel games in the West, our role wasn't exactly a central one. We were, however, unequivocally responsible for the following:

There are some who call us "the greatest pioneering group of novel game translation". We are genuinely flattered, but we want to note that there are so many other names that are worthy of mentioning from this time period. We prefer to think that we had a small but vital role in the Western novel game revolution of the mid-2000s, and that we served alongside many who are equally deserving of recognition. Indeed, although at the time we were purposely abrasive at times, our role in the grand scheme of things appears to have been to open doors for teams that may not have had the technical know-how to to a novel game translation -- our efforts with all things NScripter, for instance, included a full translation of the official NScripter API documentation at the time and the assembly (no pun intended) of a translation and development kit for those who wanted to translate NScripter-based games.

P.S. There's much better NScripter API documentation available in English now -- see here.

May I join your group?

Only by invitation. We also don't happen to exactly be active, so there's that as well.

How do I get in contact with you?

Depends on the reason why: