J-List has been involved with translating and selling visual novels, alternatively called VNs, bishoujo games, dating sims and “gal-games” since 1996. Visual novels have been a popular genre of games ever since the first computers with color displays arrived in the early 1980s, and they’ve become a huge part of Japanese popular culture, with games like Fate/stay night, Clannad and When the Higurashi Cry forming the cores of media empires. There was much less awareness of these games back when we first started, and I remember having long discussions with fans at conventions, explaining that, no, these are not anime DVDs but interactive games for Windows computers in which you could choose the girl (or guy) you wanted to pursue romantically and try to reach their game ending. Things are much better these days thanks to the long trend of visual novel elements being featured in mainstream anime such as Excel Saga, Welcome to the NHK and Genshiken, and today whole series are built around de-constructing the themes in eroge, including Date A Live, I Can’t Believe My Sister Is This Cute, and The World God Only Knows. Another series I like is Watashi no Motenai no wa Dou Kangaete mo Omaera ga Warui!! (No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!!, conveniently shortened to WataMote). It’s the story of fujoshi (a female otaku) who’s spent 50 years in high school and dated more than 100 handsome guys…all inside otome games, girl-centric romantic games, and now she lacks the social skills to make any normal friends.
“Gal-games” have really gone mainstream in anime culture.