Pigeons are quite common creatures, simply strutting around and pecking at whatever food they find on the streets. Many don’t spare thoughts for pigeons and others find them a nuisance, calling them “rats with wings.” So when bird enthusiast Hato Moa decided to create the concept of “Hatoful Boyfriend,” a pigeon dating sim for April Fools’ Day, she didn’t expect the wildly positive reception that ultimately compelled her to turn it into a full-fledged game. Upon release, “Hatoful Boyfriend” quickly became a cult classic in Japan and even overseas. The story of “Hatoful Boyfriend” takes place in a world where birds become the dominant race, as avian flu has wiped out most of mankind. You are a human girl sent to a school of birds, where you try to prove that birds and humans can co-exist peacefully and well, romance starts brewing. You might not have cared much for birds before (like me), but once you play this game, you might suddenly find yourself harboring some affection for them.
APA spends Valentine weekend chatting with the masterminds behind the wacky pigeon dating sim game, Hato Moa and Damurushi, during their first visit to the US.
Hato Moa: I am Hato Moa. I am a Japanese freelance illustrator and I also write game scenarios.
Damurushi: I am Damurushi and I am a freelance illustrator. As for my contribution to Hatoful Boyfriend, I was an assistant, drawing the backgrounds and such.
Could you also share any interesting fact about yourself?
HM: Oh wow, that’s tough. An interesting fact would be that my debut manga was for a French publisher.
D: Hmm… well, I really love animals. I have a bunch of pets like pigeons and java sparrows, as well as many others that have passed on… I have written essays about them.
I hear this is your first trip to America. Welcome! What have you done so far?
HM: It’s been super fun! I almost don’t want to go back. Actually, we have… gone to look for birds. [laughs]
Where did you go to find these birds? To the zoo?
HM: We just went around to places like Shoreline Park and Telegraph Hill. We got to see a lot of different kinds of birds, so that was really nice.
What do you want to do in America before you return to Japan?
D: See a drag show! [laughs]
Oh, in San Francisco?
HM: After this, we’ll head over to Las Vegas, so we hope to catch a lot of shows before returning home.
That sounds like a lot of fun! I hope you enjoy your time here! Let’s switch gears and talk about your work. What inspired you to become an illustrator/writer?
HM: Well, it might be because there’s nothing else I could do. [laughs]
How did you two meet and become a team?
HM: We first got to know each other through an internet community, as we both were interested in the same games and we would fangirl together. [laughs] We actually lived quite far away from each other since I lived in Osaka and Damurushi lived in Saitama, a city near Tokyo.
HM: I think there’s really no other way than to say that it’s a pigeon dating sim. [laughs]
D: Which has an amazing story!! [laughs]
I hear that Hatoful Boyfriend was originally created as an April Fools’ Joke, but the story is actually pretty complex. It first starts out a dating simulation game, but then there’s lots of comedy thrown into the mix and even a mystery. What inspired such a game?
HM: I like RPGs, especially JRPGs and I noticed that there are a lot of games with twists in them, so I wanted to try that as well. But mostly, I just love birds.
How did you go about developing the game?
HM: Most of it was just randomly thought up, but for the mystery, I consulted with a pro and we worked together to build that last mystery.
I don’t have much experience playing dating simulation games, but it seems that Hatoful Boyfriend is much more humorous than others, considering that the suitors are birds and there is so much silly dialogue and puns. What were the most challenging and most enjoyable parts about creating Hatoful Boyfriend?
HM: The humor wasn’t hard to come up with and it was really just a lot of fun. I feel that the people who translated the game into English did a great job carrying the humor over as well. I’d say that the most difficult part was figuring out the end of the final mystery and how to bring it all to a conclusion.
D: I remember that she would spend a lot of time at restaurants open late at night with her notebook, wrestling with her ideas and I would look at her and think, “Wow, she’s really working hard.” [laughs]
HM: I write silly manga with even sillier characters in the first place, so that just naturally carried over into the game.
D: You could say she got a bit carried away. [laughs]
Out of all the many characters in Hatoful Boyfriend, who is your favorite and why?
HM: Picking one would be impossible! But if I were to pretend that I’m not the game creator and am a regular player, I would pick the King. Most of the birds in the game are actual pictures of birds, but he’s special because he’s drawn in watercolor by Damurushi. He’s an important character from Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star who appears in the latter half of the game, but it’s hard to describe him without giving away the story.
DM: Iwamine Shuu. I took part in designing him, so I can’t help but like him. And I like that he’s a little grotesque. [laughs]
Hatoful Boyfriend is popular not only in Japan, but also overseas. What do you think is the reason for its international popularity?
HM: I think there’s no real competition, you know, in making pigeon dating sims. [laughs]
Do you plan on making more Hatoful Boyfriend games?
HM: As of now, we’re not looking to release any major sequel games, but we’re releasing individual shorter pieces online for free.
What else are you working on now?
D: As for me, I’m working on a BL game titled “Queens Lingerie Show” which features a guy who inherits a lingerie club and crossdressing boys. It’s very Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque.
HM: I’ve been working on a project that’s been delayed for a while due to an illness, but I have recovered now and am back on it again. It’s a mystery game called “Black Holmes” and I hope to bring more news on it soon.
And lastly, what would you do if the avian flu wiped out most of mankind like in Hatoful Boyfriend?
D: I don’t think there’s any chance of us surviving. We’d totally just die. [laughs]