Interview with Josh Kaplan, Creator of Highway Blossoms

June 21st, 2016

key-art-with-solid-logoYesterday, I had a chance to read through the new Yuri Visual Novel, Highway Blossoms. And I generally found it to be good. Today, we welcome creator Josh Kaplan to Okazu to discuss the game. Welcome Josh!

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Are the any Japanese VNs that inspired HB? And what artistic influences inspire you, personally?
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For me at least, I generally take more inspiration from regular novels and fiction than anything else, if only because I read more books than I do VN’s. In particular, I love young adult fiction, and I think that HB fits under that umbrella. Recently I’ve been devouring just about everything by Siera Maley, and I also love The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer. There’s a doujin Yuri VN by Cosmilica, called Love, Guitars and the Nashville Skyline that is currently being localized by our publisher, and it also includes a lesbian pair on a roadtrip through the US. At the time that we started planning Highway Blossoms, though, we’d never heard of it. I’m looking forward to reading it, though, and the developer of that one is very fun to talk to.

I asked Syon, the other writer and the director for the project, and he said his biggest influence was the anime Trigun, as well as the film and novel Holes.

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Haha, so the whole desert location is sort of baked into Syon’s references then. ^_^

 The idea of the road trip is uniquely American. You’ve said elsewhere  that you’ve been to most of these places. Was it your intention to inspire fans to visit these places? It does seem a bit of  travelogue. ^_^
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I wouldn’t say that it was our intention to get people out and visiting these places, but it’s definitely a happy side effect. Hell, I was getting some wanderlust just as I was writing. We’ve had a number of fans say that they’re inspired to take a roadtrip now, though, and I think that’s awesome. We actually have a couple ideas to reward people who do go out and see these places after they read HB, but we’ve gotta see if they pan out, first.

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You mentioned in the Yuri Nation interview that you’re consuming a fair amount of contemporary lesbian work. What themes did reading/watching that inspire you to cover? I notice, for instance, that Amber starts out the story having had girlfriends already, so that “coming out”, which is so often a major theme in lesbian literature and entertainment is skipped over almost completely.
Is there anything you definitely did NOT want to do in the narrative?
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We specifically wanted to avoid the “b-but we’re both girls” trope that dominates most Yuri media. Not to belittle the difficulty and courage it takes to come out, but simply because there’s a lot of stories that deal with that out there already. Throughout the entire thing, nobody gives a second thought to the fact that the two girls are in a relationship – and that’s how we think it should be. Sadly, we know it’s a little idealistic right now.

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Music is a huge part of this story… do you have a story behind the music you mention in the narrative?
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The music that Amber listens to and talks about were meant to characterize her Grandfather more than anything, and the kind of person that he was. It’s also supposed to set Amber apart a little bit – she’s never heard of any of the bands that Marina likes. But as for those artists having personal significance to us in real life? Nah, not really.

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I thought the sex scene interesting, rather than sexy, per se…what was your thinking behind the way that was handled? 
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Having the sex scenes be a part of character development and not just fanservice was definitely intentional. Especially with the first one – it sets up a lot of important things that happen later. You can also see how Amber misinterprets some of what’s going on or just assumes things about Marina that aren’t quite true. The second sex scene is definitely a happier, lighter one and is supposed to be kind of silly, not just erotic. Both as consumers and developers, we prefer sex scenes that feel like they mean something, rather than just being tossed in there.

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What themes or messages do you hope folks will take away from playing Highway Blossoms?
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Like I mentioned, I think the big theme is simply that “love is love,” no matter who you are or who you fall in love with. Recent events have been a tragic reminder that not everyone is on the same page there yet, but I hope that every day we get a little bit closer to that. There’s also the recurring notion that everyone deserves to be happy, and that you deserve to allow yourself to be happy.

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Any last thing you want to say to fans?

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I’d just like to emphasize that 2016 has been and is a great year for Yuri media in the West. Aside from HB, there have been titles like Starlight Vega, Rising Angels, and A Little Lily Princess, that have all had releases this year. There are also some interesting looking upcoming ones like Alpha’s Adventures. I know that HB isn’t for everyone, but hopefully all Yuri fans will find a new game that they love this year.

I think that’s just about everything. I’ve said it a lot, but thank you! =)

Thank you Josh and best of luck with Highway Blossoms and future projects!

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