But seriously, how did this whole Bluebird's Illusion phenomena start? Some nerds had free time and made a game. That is too basic. The story of Bluebird's Illusion is a drama, one meant to be shared with every generation of netizens, citizens of the Internet. Like any good legend, this game has a past surrounded in mystery for newcomers, but for those who lived it, common knowledge. This is the legend. This is the premier Fullmetal Alchemist doujin-soft. This is Bluebird's Illusion.
I will admit before I start that some of this is speculation. Since I was not a fan when the game premiered I have only second-hand sources and word-of-mouth to draw upon. If you read something that you know is wrong or find that something vital to the story is missing, please do tell me. I am most eager to listen. I mean for this to be a preview post, as in, once I collect even more information that I get as feedback on this blog post I can later post an extended, more detailed article for you to feast upon.
The Very Beginning
When I first began looking into Bluebird's Illusion the original release date was unclear. Often it was recorded as 2003/2004. I have speculated that either Neoland Ocean-X announced that they were developing BBI in 2003 or that they finished it early and released the game in 2003. All the official BBI wallpapers I possess list the release date as August, 2004. I chose to believe the later date, 2004, because nowhere could I find evidence of BBI's release in 2003, but in quite a few places I found 2004.
Thus, production of the visual novel was announced in 2003, probably on their website, and the game was released in August of 2004.
From there it gained popularity not only in its native country, but overseas as well thanks to the Internet. Ocean-X was well aware of this. It is hard to miss when you are making a killing off well over a hundred physical copies. But there are always the cons of such popularity, and BBI is where it is today because of them.
Issues of the Law
Because of its use of copyrighted tracks (Motherland, Brothers, and Moments, among others), characters, and setting, the fact that Ocean-X was selling physical copies of this game without the intellectual copyright holder's permission made it illegal activity. Every doijin-soft creator tries to stay on the down-low. In East Asia, the creation and selling of these illicit products are almost an "accepted" illegal practice. They along with doujinshi and other fanmade wares are sold at gigantic conventions, like Comiket, and sometimes receive small followings. In fact, those who are actually good at creating any form of doujin work will sometimes go on to become independent manga/games makers, like the manga group CLAMP.
Bluebird's Illusion was a smash hit all over the world. I have found trails online that lead me to places like Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands (Dutch), Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and of course Taiwan and China. I have downloads for BBI in Portuguese, Japanese, and a sketchy English patch weaseled out of a foreigner on a forum. Don't ask me for it. Trust me when I say Bluebird's Illusion: Rebuild will be releasing the better product.
Obviously, with a fan following spanning the globe there was no way Ocean-X could stay under the radar. Generally, little money is made off the selling of doujin-soft. Sometimes it is even lost. Typically, authorities in East Asian countries will only take action against doujinshi if it gains enough momentum to make a profit. In the case of Bluebird's Illusion, that is exactly what happened.
I can guess that money was demanded and a cease-and-desist of illicit activities was acted upon, because Ocean-X stopped selling physical copies and asked that distribution in any form discontinue. In the end they were shut down, and probably lost the fight with attorneys. Four university students VS the Square Enix/Avex Trax Double Entente doesn't look good to me.
Today In the News...
Even with the head cut off, this chicken continued to cluck.
Now original (or secretly fake) copies of the game were in high demand and on foreign auction sites sometimes sold for over 100 USD before they were blacklisted in China and Taiwan. Bootlegged downloads became common and were usually the only way for a fan to play the game.
Much fan activity around this game (e.g. fanart, fanfiction, cosplay, merchandise, blog posts, webpages) funneled into a sluggish flow of about 3.5 mentions every month per English speaking Internet use by 2006, which was way down from the advent of the Bluebird's Illusion craze. Many of the accounts managing those online fan activities are dead now. For every fifteen messages I sent, two were answered and one refused to leave my outbox, telling me that the address I aimed to email had been shut down by the government. I have never received a message like that on my computer.
It is almost undocumented, but sometime between the visual novel's release in 2004 and the year of 2011 a localization group calling themselves "Deja Vu: All Over Again" began efforts to create an English patch for Bluebird's Illusion. But updates on progress slowed to a stop, and Archeia, part of the Bluebird's Illusion: Rebuild team, asked for the files. They were graciously given.
Presently Bluebird's Illusion: Rebuild works as the only group to localize the game, and despite what could be considered slow progress they are nearing 100% completion on their Progress Report page and are over halfway done.
Stats to Bring Home
- Roughly 2,858 days have passed since the game was released.
- That's almost eight years.
- Two localization groups have worked on this game.
- Apparently, 67.9652% Bluebird's Illusion: Rebuild version of the game is complete as of today.
- AutumnBirdsCircle (Lordofawesomeness), the main translator, turns 17 today.
- This group has:
- 214 members
- 232 watchers
- 527 pageviews this month as of the 29th
- 18 on average per day
- 31 on the 15th as the high
- Too many deviations to count (especially in the Pride folder)
Gaze Into the Sunset!
This tale is not yet complete. The happy ending seems far away, but someday our endurance shall pay off. Someday the hard work and suffering of the BBI RB team will end in victory. But for now we dream. Remember the game and look to the future. The momentum of eight years will catch up sooner or later. The history of Bluebird's Illusion will not be brief. It will go on.
WarriorLoverInc: Whoa, melodrama much? I've been reading too many Greco-Roman war speeches. Anyway, sorry for the extended silence. The moment I committed myself to this group real life slapped me in the face. I spit at its feet today and wrote this post in four hours time. Personal record! Really, I beseech you. If you know anything tell me. All I've got are forums, Live Journal, and (if I'm lucky) a blog post somewhere "credible" (more credible than forums anyway) to get detailed information from. Additionally, just comment with your thoughts or suggestions. I'm not running a dictatorship here (NicoleEdxAl is your Fuhrer), I'm running a diplomatic state. I can't read your minds (that would be cool) so I have to read your words. That, and you guys are a bunch of cool cats. Have a nice night/morning/day (damn time zones).
After staring at this post for over an hour trying to burn holes through any flaws and getting nowhere, this self-conscious author will just post it! *clicks "Submit" vigorously*