Archive for the ‘Saori Kumi’ Category
[Part one of the afterword is available here.]
It isn’t much of a career for an author, but as a mercenary of Famicom RPG novelizations it’s pretty dang good. I’ve built up enough experience and HP and MP to withstand anyone. I’ve sorted through weapons and items to optimally equip myself. So now I’ve got pride and confidence!!
Now that I’m in that kinda state of mind… when MOTHER 2, the work that became such a huge turning point in my life, came onto the scene, I felt—as one who has warmed up to the genre—an obligation to repay it. I didn’t want to hand over the position of Novelizist of the Great Honorable MOTHER Series to anybody else.
Finally, the third influence of my novelization work: I’ve been able to expand my writing into the fantasy genre. When I was a child, I loved stories with swords and magic, monsters and ghosts, princes and sorceresses and dragons and talking creatures. I’d always revered and envied them. But I assumed there was no way someone like me could write something like that. You had to have a vivid knowledge of myth and folklore, history, religion, and ethnicity; you had to analyze it well and understand it; you had to be an expert on the human psyche.
On top of that, having read through all the famous fantasy works, new and old, I thought you had to handle your writing in a beautiful and noble style. I thought of fantasy as a mysterious and expensive gem that nobody, under any circumstances, should smudge with their dirty little hands.
But doesn’t this world I had to novelize have a fantastical feel to it? When I gave it my best shot and sat down to write, I had a lot of fun with it. I really got sucked in. I was burning with excitement.
So—fully aware of everything, my inexperience, shame, and insolence, I had the pleasure of being allowed the opportunity to give it a try. The final product wasn’t as good as I’d have liked to be, but my goal is to get better day by day. I hope you’ll follow my progress with an open mind.
At the very moment I was diligently writing my third volume of Son-Ton-Cycle for Shinchosha, the MOTHER 2 ROM arrived. I wanted to finish my book as soon as possible, so I held off on the game for the time being. (I already had arrangements with another company, so I couldn’t just come back to it—I hope you understand.)
So. The game awaited orders while the better part of a year passed. Then I finally came face to face with the newly created, long-awaited MOTHER game to which I owed so much. Oh, I was so happy!
[Editor's note: This is part one of the 2700 word afterword with which Saori Kumi ends the MOTHER 2 novel. It's filled with a lot of great stuff—notes on her process, the reasons why a novelization was created and why she was uniquely suited to writing it, her thoughts on adapting other people's work, and, most impressively, the fact that she is in possession of a MOTHER 2 Dragon Jacket, quite possibly the coolest piece of merchandise on earth. We'll be posting the second half later on.]
MOTHER turned into BROTHER… (laughs)
Well, it’s been a while. Saori Kumi here. I bring you the long-awaited novelization of MOTHER 2. I somehow managed to meet the deadline—and I’m bursting with excitement.
Come to think of it, it’s coming up on two years already since I first heard rumors about MOTHER 2’s release. I frantically contacted Shinchosha about it. “Please let me do it. I’ll do anything! Please don’t let anyone else write it!”
Benimaru Itoh had a manga that was already set to start running in Fifth Grader. I was worried that they’d just tell me, “We don’t need a novel. We already have a comic.” I thought maybe Itoi and everyone at APE didn’t really like my first novel. On the verge of panic, I sent in my desperate request.
“Sure, go ahead.”
When I heard these beautiful words, I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. (I’ll explain why later.) I think it was March 1993 when I had the appointment to pay a visit to APE in Aoyama. At that point I knew it wasn’t just a dream. Right before my very eyes—still in bits and pieces, mind you—was the nostalgic world of MOTHER. Little by little, MOTHER 2 was steadily coming to life!
I borrowed a copy of Shigesato Itoi’s handwritten story notes, documents explaining the timeline of events, and videos that showed off the new towns and characters.
“When the ROM is ready, please let me test it, okay?”
And with that, I managed to play through MOTHER 2 before anyone else did!
As if that weren’t enough to psyche me up, before long a big package from APE arrived at my house. When I opened it up, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a team jacket. There’s a huge MOTHER 2 logo on the back, with an embroidered Chinese dragon arranged on each side of it—it’s a totally chic and simple piece of work. My Guts shoot up by ten points when I put it on.
But I live in a quiet, unpopulated town in the countryside. It would be extremely difficult to find anyone who’d even know about MOTHER 2, an unreleased game, let alone who would see my jacket—which boasts of my status as a staff member—and get excited about it.
Without a moment’s delay, I headed out to Shinjuku to make my rounds in the Super Famicom section at Yodobashi Camera. I perused the aisles, pretending to browse through the games while I paid special attention to sticking my back out at customers in all directions. It’s not that I knew who anyone was, but I could recognize the guys who seemed to be great authorities in the gaming scene, and the self-confident, composed little children; I checked to make sure their eyes had widened in marvel, and, satisfied, happily made my way home.
But still… that crucial ROM hadn’t arrived in the mail yet…
One of the reasons I was looking forward to MOTHER 2 so much was that I—along with many other gaming fans—was in love with the world of MOTHER. The other reason was definitely more personal.
The fact that I had written the MOTHER novel had a deep impact on me this time around. The Saori Kumi before MOTHER and the Saori Kumi after MOTHER had gone in two different directions. You could say that I became an entirely different person after MOTHER.
First: I was able to climb onto a new stage, Shinchosha.
Up until then I had only been at one company, just writing novels geared toward young girls. Once in a great while I might have done a tiny bit of side work, but it was just isolated instances here and there.
But even a tiny, run-down, simple little used bookstore in the remotest of countrysides would be lined with Shinchosha’s books. Back when I was in school I would stop by the bookstore on my way home and pick up dozens of books from Shinchosha—old ones and new ones, ones I wanted to read and ones I felt socially obligated to read—and completely absorb myself in them. I think they cover the “high chance of being inadvertently snatched up by bookworms” genre. Even now I couldn’t possibly be more proud to have had the opportunity to participate as a writer in such a group. MOTHER turned me from a young girls’ author into a novelist.
Next: it opened my eyes about novelizations.
To be honest, I was pretty indignant about it at first. This is the arrogant way I thought about it: I am an author. If there’s already an original, leave it to the people who can’t come up with anything good on their own. I don’t mean to benefit at someone else’s expense—I’ve just got creativity of my own, and there’s plenty of stuff I already have in mind to write about.
But at Science Fiction events, I talked to an aquaintence of mine who worked at Shinchosha—Nozomi Ohmori, a writer and translator who is quite famous among the Otaku crowd—and for some reason he convinced me otherwise.
MOTHER is, indeed, Shigesato Itoi’s work, he said. And if it were just to be traced straight from the original, Itoi could have written it himself or had someone from the APE crew write it—after all, they were involved in it all along. But Itoi said himself that he didn’t want that.
Essentially, MOTHER is something that Itoi created out of his love for RPGs. There was no way he could entrust this to an author who had never even touched a Famicom before. And if a man were to write it, it would be difficult to mesh his personality together with Itoi’s. If it were a woman she could add her own unique nuances to the story without destroying the distinct characteristics of the original.
“That’s why you’re the only one that can do it, Kumi-san!”
Oh, he’s good. So I went and gave it a shot…
And it was a heck of a lot harder than I’d expected. But I had a blast. It was a really challenging task. Sadly, by the time I was finished, it had turned out better than anything else I’d ever written. (Or so I thought.)
“Maybe I was just made to write scripted novels…”
But just as I started to get depressed about it, Enix got in touch with me. “We read MOTHER. It was excellent. On that note, we have something we would like to discuss—“ They ended up asking me if I would write a story about the goddess Rubiss, from Dragon Quest, and her adventures when she was young.
Actually, before that, I had been invited by the director of a record company and Marchen Maker—a manga artist—to go to Enix to pitch an idea. I was absolutely crazy about Dragon Quest, and asked if it would be all right for us to make a Dragon Quest doujinshi. In the end we weren’t able to go through with it.
But now I feveredly wrote The Legend of Rubiss, followed by the novelizations for Dragon Quest IV and V. I couldn’t have become the chronicler of the Famicom RPG world any other way—it was all because I was determined to write the MOTHER novel.
Dragon Quest and MOTHER were my two favorite games out of all the Famicom RPGs I had played. There were a few other famous titles out there, but I had either not played them, or gotten sick of them halfway through and thrown them aside. I had no connection to them, so I couldn’t care less if someone else had done the novelizations for those games. But I wouldn’t allow anyone else to work on the RPGs that I was so genuinely attached to. How could I!?
Yes, even now, I’ll take the liberty to say such a thing: This—this is my life’s work!
Click here for part two.
Here’s a follow-up to the last e-mail with Saori Kumi; if you’re like me, you were wondering about the chances of a MOTHER 3 novel. First, in reference to the MOTHER novel, she made an interesting comment:
“With my novelizations, I think the M1 novel turned out better than the M2 novel. I made it a point to avoid just bringing out all the ideas I had already used up in the M1 novel.”
For those of you who don’t know, the main character of the MOTHER novel was actually Ana. I haven’t read the book yet myself, but I look forward to reading it after this project is done; I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. Tomato has some page-by-page summaries to quench our thirst, for now.
Anyway, as I had feared, it looks like there were never plans for a MOTHER 3 novelization. I was skeptical about the idea, because the layout of the game was so drastically different from the last two, particularly its use of chapters. The story itself is so much deeper in MOTHER 3 that compressing it into a single book actually seemed like too intimidating a task… Turns out I was right. Kind of.
“As far as a MOTHER 3 novelization, honestly, I was mulling it over at one point. But Itoi-san (from the time of MOTHER 3’s release up until last year, when another publishing company expressed interest in it) just stated, ‘I don’t think we’ll be doing one.’ So there’s really no chance of it working out.
Itoi could change his mind about it, but who knows.
To tell the truth, M3 is an extremely difficult story to put into a novel. I think you’ll understand what I mean when you play through the game, since one of the twin boys, a main character, is simply missing throughout the entire game, and doesn’t show up until the very last moment.
As an author, I think it would be fascinating to write the story from the perspective of Claus after he had gone missing and of Lucas while on his search for Claus. Or rather, write the entire story about Claus during the time he was missing. But I’d have to make it in such a way that Itoi-san could get behind, lest he say something like, ‘Well, actually, it was really like this.’
If I were allowed to do what I wanted with it, it wouldn’t be impossible—but when certain limitations start coming into play, I feel like even then it would still be pretty tough to pull off.”
So there you have it. The excuse of limitations doesn’t really fly with me because we all just saw Jeff Gump fly through Winters on a Hyper Wheelchair, but hey, who am I to judge? Anyway, the nail in the coffin was the oh-so Japanese answer of “I don’t think we’ll be doing one.” For those of you not well-versed in the Japanese Zen of Obsessively Avoiding Confrontation and Rejection, that translates to “No.”
I believe this leaves us with one of three options:
1. Itoi remains steadfast in his decision against a novelization. Unnamed “other” publishing company whimpers off with their tail between their legs. Kumi watches TV or something.
2. Unnamed “other” publishing company starts dropping hints on their big upcoming project—nothing obvious, but they mention something about cross-dressing gypsies and a boy named Mucas. Kumi watches TV or something.
3. Dance, dance, dance.
Really, there’s nothing any of us can do about those first two options, so I think it’s up to us to work on that third one. Don’t even think why. Because if you start to think, your feet stop, and if your feet stop, we get stuck. So don’t pay any mind, just keep the step. You gotta loosen what you bolted down, or we’re never going to get this novelization up off the ground! So to speak.
I got in touch with Saori Kumi to let her know about my plans to translate the novel, and to give her my general fangirly regards. Luckily, she was nice enough to write back to me with some kind words. This might clear up some questions regarding an official publication of the English version.
Thank you for your e-mail.
I’m glad you liked the MOTHER novel!
As for an English translation, the copyrights to the novel (publishing rights, etc.) are not only with me, but the owner of the rights of the original—in other words, the game production company (Nintendo), the original creator, Shigesato Itoi, and all of his staff. So while it is my novel, I cannot decide the various other matters at my own discretion.
This is unfortunate, as I’d like to tell you to just “go ahead,” since I’m sure there are many people who would be pleased with an English translation.
For the time being, I’ll show this e-mail to the editor in charge at the publishing company who published the MOTHER novels.
[In response to my expressing interest in her other works, undoubtedly, not just her tooting her own horn:]
By the way, I also wrote the MOTHER novel. People who read that ended up liking it, so I also wrote a spin-off novel for the popular RPG Dragon Quest (Was that released in America, too? I wonder if that one is also under a different name) as well as for the sequels, 4, 5, and 6. Personally, I like 5 the best. If, by chance, you happen to come across these and read them, I would be very grateful.
Thank you for such a happy e-mail. May you and all of your friends have many wonderful things ahead of you!
I was glad to see her enthusiasm for an English translation of her MOTHER 2 novel, and was even more excited when she offered to pass my message on to the editor at the publishing company. Unfortunately, I don’t think she’ll make much of a ripple against all the walls between our translation and the publication rights. I might as well hire Indiana Jones to scuttle through a booby trap-ridden Temple of MOTHER 2 Publishing Rights Doom.
This isn’t the end of the road, though, as we’ll be evaluating our options for how to approach the project later. In the meantime, the translation continues apace.