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Zero no Tsukaima’s Secret Eroge Lineage Exposed

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It has been known for some time that the author of the original Zero no Tsukaima light novels, ヤマグチノボル/ Noboru Yamaguchi, was originally a writer of scenarios for adult games, but now we hear that even the illustrator responsible for the design of Louise and company, 兎塚エイジ / Eiji Usatsuka, is in fact an eroge “graphicker” too.

It seems that for years he risked being sacked from his work at eroge maker Visual Arts with his secret moonlighting, in fact being uncovered with the aid of Wikipedia by one of the writers of Clannad.

Eiji Usatsuka is an artist whose works are now probably instantly recognisable to most fans of anime and manga, in the form of tsundere icon Louise, of Zero no Tsukaima, whether in her original light novel form, or in the derivative anime form.

Until recently all but unknown is his career as eroge illustrator, exposed by a member of the Visual Arts staff in a recent interview published in the February edition of Dengeki HIME magazine.

It seems that, whilst working at Visual Arts, the company which oversees dozens of visual novel brands, including Key (of Clannad fame), he undertook the “sideline” (probably it soon became his main line of business) business of illustrating the blockbuster Zero no Tsukaima light novels, which have sold many millions of copies in Japan.

This work was however quite against company policy, which strictly forbade any such moonlighting, apparently with penalties as severe as sacking.

He apparently avoided detection for three years, being once discovered by a scenario writer for Clannad, 魁 / Sakigake, due to his educational background and birthplace (both in Osaka) being reproduced in his Wikipedia article. It’s not clear what became of this.

However, as you will see below, anyone with any familiarity with both his lines of artwork could likely easily tell they were by the same hand.

It also looks as though he must also have employed some careful accounting practices, as usually such moonlighting is readily apparent to the employer if declared in income tax filings, and he must surely have been earning enough to have to declare such. Via the black arts of accountancy, such earnings can be legally concealed however…

It seems now his situation is regularised, for his eroge “debut”, with “Angel Magister”, is to be under the name of Eiji Usatsuka. Presumably, Visual Arts is keener to have such talent on board than to hound them over their work outside the company?

You should be able to ascertain for yourselves the degree of resemblance with a comparisons of the two.

First, Eiji Usatsuka’s works, of which you can see more on the Channel:

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Now, a selection of CG from Visual Arts (under the Bonbee! brand) title “Scramble Heart“, upon which he apparently (obviously, to look at these images) worked:

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The similarities seem very striking, particularly in that most telling region, the eyes. The anime design also seems very similar in this respect. The hair also bears a strong resemblance.

No pictures of his latest work, “Angel Magister”, only just announced, have surfaced, but we might speculate that the resemblance will be strong?

Zero no Tsukaima author Noboru Yamaguchi is himself an even more prolific eroge creator, having the authorship of over ten adult titles to his name, including Ino‘s Kimihagu and 魔界天使ジブリール / Makai Tenshi Jiburiiru (Jibril – The Devil Angel).

With this knowledge of the total eroge lineage of Zero no Tsukaima, suddenly developments like the tentacle raep OVA swim into sharp focus… So this is what they were planning all along?

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