White Album (ホワイトアルバム Howaito Arubamu?) is a Japanese adult visual novel developed by Leaf, and was originally released on May 1, 1998 for the PC as a CD-ROM. A PlayStation 3 version published by Aquaplus with several modification and a sequel to the original visual novel, titled White Album 2: Introductory Chapter, were announced to be released in Winter 2009. The gameplay in White Album follows a linear plot line, which offers pre-determined scenarios and courses of interaction, and focuses on the appeal of the female main characters.
White Album has received several transitions to other media. A manga adaptation illustrated by Japanese illustrator Chako Abeno began serialization in the shōnen magazine Dengeki Daioh in August 2008. It was followed by an anime adaptation produced by Seven Arcs, which began broadcast in Japan on January 3, 2009.
The gameplay in White Album requires little player interaction as most of the game's duration is spent on reading the text that appears on the screen, which represents either dialogue between the various characters or the inner thoughts of the protagonist. Before the beginning of every week in the game's storyline, the player is given the option to plan a schedule, and is allowed to participate in various activities or to take the day off for rest. Different events associated with different characters occur depending on the activities the player chooses to participate. During several of these events, the player will also be given the chance to engage the character in a conversation, where he or she may also pick a topic as the basis of the conversation. Every so often, the player will come to a "decision point", where he or she is given the chance to choose from options that are displayed on the screen, typically two to three at a time. The time between these points varies and can occur anywhere from a minute to much longer. Text progression pauses at these points and depending on which choice the player makes, the plot will progress in a specific direction. To view all of the plot lines, the player will need to replay the game multiple times and make different schedules and choices during decision points to progress the plot in an alternate direction.
The player assumes the role of Tōya Fujii (藤井 冬弥 Fujii Tōya?, voiced by: Tomoaki Maeno), White Album's male protagonist. Tōya is a twenty year-old university student in his second year attending the Yūnagi University (悠凪大学 Yūnagi Daigaku?). He has a timid, yet vulgar personality, and is often unorganized. He often laments the amount of time he has to spend with Yuki Morikawa (森川 由綺 Morikawa Yuki?, voiced by: Aya Hirano), whom he is romantically attracted to. Yuki, White Album's main heroine, is an idol singer rising in popularity, and is affiliated with the Ogata Productions. She has a warm and kindhearted personality, and is in her second year attending university with Tōya, with whom she attended high school together. Rina Ogata (緒方 理奈 Ogata Rina?, voiced by: Nana Mizuki), another heroine, is a popular idol singer under the same management agency as Yuki. Rina is elegant and intelligent, and maintains a mutual friendship with Yuki. She is often occupied with work, and becomes attracted to Tōya to compensate her loneliness.
Tōya also meets several other characters throughout the story. Misaki Sawakura (澤倉 美咲 Sawakura Misaki?, voiced by: Megumi Takamoto), also a heroine, is a gentle and caring third year university student. She holds an affection towards reading and cooking, and like Yuki, she has attended high school with Tōya prior to commuting to university. Haruka Kawashima (河島 はるか Kawashima Haruka?, voiced by: Nozomi Masu), another heroine, is Tōya's childhood friend since kindergarten, and is in her second year attending university. Haruka is often very quiet and rarely remarks on her surroundings. She is athletic and generally prefer leisure sports such as taking walks, and has once participated in tennis prior to her brother's death. Mana Mizuki (観月 マナ Mizuki Mana?, voiced by: Haruka Tomatsu), White Album's fifth heroine, is a high school student tutored by Tōya. Mana has an impudent, and aggressive personality. She is antisocial and dislikes interacting with others, to the extent where she at times skips school or refuses Tōya's tutoring sessions.
White Album is the sixth game developed by Leaf, after their previous titles such as To Heart. Scenario for White Album was worked on by Udaru Harada, as his second work on a visual novel; scenario assistance was provided by Akihide Takebayashi. Art direction and character designs for the game was provided by Hisashi Kawata. Work on the music for the game was split between three people, Shinya Ishikawa, Kazuhide Nakagami, and Naoya Shimokawa, the president of Aquaplus. Much of the development team, with the exception of Harada, have previously worked on Leaf's previous title, To Heart.
White Album was first released to the public on May 1, 1998 as a CD-ROM, playable on only a Windows 95 PC. The game was later re-released on June 20, 2003, with additional support for later versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system. An all-ages version for the PlayStation 3 was released on June 24, 2010 by Aquaplus, with full-voice acting and additional scenarios, while eliminating simulation elements found in the original release. Shimokawa stated that the development team decided to produce a PlayStation 3 version as they wanted to recreate the game in high-definition quality, and because they wanted to provide accessibility for players who have played Tears to Tiara: Kakan no Daichi.
White Album's PS3 version employs Motion Portrait technology in its graphics rendering. Shimokawa explained that although other visual novel titles employed 3D computer graphics, the technology was unable to interpret the details that illustrators maintain, and the decision to use Motion Portrait was made in order to allow animations using 2D computer graphics. The technology took the development team a year to perfect, because of complications such as unnatural character movement; Kawata commented that the process took more time than illustrations to complete. He noted that it was complicated to design characters for the PS3 version, as he attempted to maintain an overall image which resembles that of the Windows version and does not appear dated.
A sequel to the original visual novel entitled White Album 2: Introductory Chapter developed by Leaf was released on March 26, 2010. The second part, White Album 2: Closing Chapter is currently under development.
White Album was first adapted into a manga series illustrated by Japanese illustrator Chako Abeno, known for her previous work on Sola. The manga adaptation began its serialization in the shōnen manga magazine Dengeki Daioh on June 27, 2008, and is published by ASCII Media Works.
White Album has also received an anime adaptation based on the visual novel. The anime series, produced by Seven Arcs, directed by Akira Yoshimura and written by Hiroaki Satō, is broadcast in two sets of thirteen episodes. The first thirteen episodes began broadcasting in Japan on January 3, 2009 on the TV Kanagawa broadcasting network, and was followed by other networks later the same month. A second set of thirteen episodes was broadcast in Fall 2009. In a magazine published interview, producer Akio Mishima and Aquaplus' president Naoya Shimokawa stated that an anime adaptation was considered by King Records as early as the time the visual novel was released, but was not discussed until three years prior to the interview.
Three pieces of theme music were used in the visual novel. The opening theme, "White Album", also used as an insert song, was performed and written by a ghostwriter and is credited to Yuki Morikawa, one of the heroines of the game, and was composed by Shinya Ishikawa. The insert song, "Sound of Destiny", was credited to Rina Ogata, another heroine, for performance, and was written by Shōko Sudani and composed by Kazuhide Nakagami. The ending theme, "Powder Snow", was sung by Akko, and was written by Sudani and composed by Naoya Shimokawa. Each song, with the exception of the ending theme which was arranged solely by Shimokawa, was arranged by Junya Matsuoka and the songs' respective composers. A maxi single titled "White Album" was later released on December 23, 1998, containing the three theme songs.
The opening theme to the first season of the anime adaption, "Shin'ai", was performed by the voice actress portraying Ogata Rina, Mizuki Nana. The ending theme, "Maiochiru Yuki no You ni" was sung by Suara. The opening theme to the second season of the anime adaption, "Mugen (song)", was also performed by Mizuki Nana, and released on October 28, 2009. Likewise, the ending theme, "Akai ito", was released on the same date and was performed by Suara. Five insert singles were also released under the names of the main heroines. "WHITE ALBUM" and "Koi iro sora" were performed by Hirano Aya as Morikawa Yuki; "SOUND OF DESTINY" and "POWDER SNOW" by Mizuki Nana as Ogata Rina. A final single, "POWDER SNOW (Live Ver.)" was released by both singers as a duet. The soundtrack and character songs were compiled into the album, WHITE ALBUM Character Song BEST & Soundtrack.
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- Official Leaf White Album visual novel website (Japanese)
- Official Aquaplus White Album visual novel website (Japanese)
- Anime's official website (Japanese)
- White Album (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia