It all began with a 2ch post on Romancing SaGa 2 by an anonymous user.
In the post, someone wrote that Asellus is the queen of yuri and also decided to recommend two yuri works. One of them was SeaBed, a very obscure doujin visual novel. Hadler, a fellow doujin media hunter from France, was bored and prowling in the Saga thread and stumbled upon this random post. He took note of the two works, in particular SeaBed. Maybe at some point he’d download and play it.
Meanwhile, I was bored out of my mind and waiting for a big up-and-coming title slated for a late April 2016 release. I tweeted about how I needed something to kill time before that was going to be released. Hadler replied not long after with this:
That was on April 7, 2016.
The original website for SeaBed, which still stands today, reveals little about the work. The original CM was stored in a ZIP file, so I was too lazy to check it out properly. There weren’t many reviews in Japanese (let alone English!) and only one person had voted on it on Erogamescape, a database for visual novels and adjacent media then.
Since I didn’t really have much to do on spring break, I saw this title as a visual novel that could be a good way to waste time before this big title’s release and practice my then amateur skills in Japanese (if you’ve read my post on Learning Japanese Through Subculture, I was in my fourth year of learning the language). I clicked on its DLSite page and — while I don’t remember the exact numbers and Web Archive won’t let me see the download count — it had around 50 downloads. The game was sold to more people when it was featured in a convention at Osaka, but the sales numbers probably remained relatively low. The page featured several images of the protagonists being cute together and a user named Niwatori reviewed the work with high praise (夢と現実が混ざった海の中で記憶という気泡を探る物語, roughly translating to “a story about the search for the bubbles of memories within the seas of dreams and reality”). It was the only review then. With very little information to work from but a small price tag (600yen), I decided to take the plunge without trying the trial once.
After downloading the title from DLSite’s anciently slow servers, I loaded up SeaBed and started reading it. I wasn’t sure if the game was good or not (I initially thought it was boring), but after a certain point it got really engaging.
I was getting into it and so was Hadler. We began talking about it on social media, which attracted a bunch of important people in the visual novel community.
Moogy, the founder of TLWiki and editor of various JAST USA/NitroPlus titles like Saya no Uta, became another compatriot of ours. Hadler and me continued talking to each other about how wild the work was. This was when the late Conjueror, translator for titles like Tokyo Babel and Dies Irae, and editor Garejei took notice of the title:
Only a day had passed since we both first downloaded SeaBed, but the ball had already started rolling. I started tweeting more and more about it even when I returned to school. People, including translator mutuals, were becoming fascinated by our constant ramblings about the rabbit hole that is SeaBed.
On April 14, 2016, I finished the game. The visual novel didn’t intend to devastate me, but I was devastated thanks to how strongly low-key it was. It resonated with me more deeply than eroge like SubaHibi because it was just … so different:
I became particularly obsessed with SeaBed and began joking about how someone should review the title.
This is how the SeaBed — A Diary Entry post, the first English-language article on the visual novel, came to be.
Looking back, I think it’s a very hazukashii post filled with personal cringe. But writing that post unlocked something deep within me: I was beginning to realize that the aesthetics I love from SeaBed are the ones I wished to emulate as a writer all along. Its plain, polished writing is so captivating that it invites its readers into its atmosphere with ease. More importantly, it avoids conflicts and epic resolutions. Nobody in real life looked for fights and had their narratives deal with their victories or losses. We just see pretty things, go “this is pretty”, and leave.
Such an approach may look detached artistically and emotionally at first, but it’s able to have a measured emotional distance between reader and work. The reader has to fill in the necessary details by themselves, leading them to make poignant and personal conclusions about its themes and ideas. This is what makes SeaBed so uniquely evocative to most of us fans.
Before I published the post, Hadler gave me the small but great idea of @ing the SeaBed devs in the tweet that would eventually advertise the post:
In a few hours, the developers replied to me:
Thanks to this interaction and how cute the devs were, around 20 downloads happened in the next week. It was small talk at first because I was after all writing about an untranslated visual novel, but the reception of new people beginning to read SeaBed was very positive.
It made me very happy that my post was able to spread the word to new potential readers, even if the writing is at best convoluted lmao.
The SeaBed community was now growing. Another English-language review of Seabed, this time more direct and straightforward, popped out. Simply titled “SeaBed” on the Medium blog catgirl reviews, it goes over the emotional impact that SeaBed had on the reviewer Anonyshiki. It’s an easier review to share with everybody than my silly post and I think that got more people to read SeaBed than I did.
Later on, I learned that a Japanese review brought my thoughts on SeaBed into the Japanese language world. I think people on the doujin side of things were also recognizing the tiny, brewing fervor over the title too. It was also very pleasing to learn that toppoi, a Japanese yuri visual novel blogger and fellow Saki superfan I respect, loved SeaBed too. No big doujin reviewer was discussing it as wildly as we were, but I was elated to see this growing interest in the work.
I was also talking to people like Zeria, now a somewhat popular Anituber, about the game and how cool it was. If I was given the chance to talk about it, I’d dive deep into it and why people should learn Japanese to read it. The few other people who had read it said similar. Thanks to our collective ramblings, there was some interest brewing in the non-Japanese English yuri and visual novel communities and a few people had remarked about how nice it would be to see it get translated.
The possibilities of a translation still felt slim to many people, both Japanese-reading and not. It was unthinkable for anyone to consider translating what felt like such a niche title.
Before a full year had even passed, this happened:
Conjueror and Garejei, mentioned previously, were announced as the staff behind the translation. What was even more surprising to me was how the devs of SeaBed even credited me and the other reviewer as the driving forces behind the possible translation:
They didn’t think about the prospects of any translation, but thanks to our reviews they wanted to see what other foreigners like us would think of the game. The devs were also pleased to see that it was shown alongside other cool titles like Chuusotsu at Tokyo Game Show 2017:
According to my personal correspondence with Phlebas, he learned about the visual novel through Conjueror and Garejei. He was surprised to discover such a visual novel existed since he would attend conventions like Comiket to scout for possible titles to publish. However, since it was only sold at an Osaka convention, it escaped his notice. He later emailed the devs about a possible translation of SeaBed and then became enamored with the work. The development behind the Steam version of SeaBed, which is a way better version that fixed some of the bugs in the original DLSite edition, also has a fascinating history behind it too. I recommend reading up on it if you have the time.
Fruitbat Factory sent out review copies to bloggers like Zeria who I’d been hyping the title to. Suffice to say, she liked it so much that she first wrote a blog post about it and later produced videos on it. Her SeaBed article, along with those written by many others around that time, were leaving praises for a previously thought unsellable title.
On December 19, 2017, Fruitbat Factory released the visual novel on Steam with dual language options (I asked for a Japanese option) and it became the small cult hit it is today. The Japanese language option also allowed people who didn’t like traversing the abysses of DLSite to find this work on the more mainstream Steam client. I was filled with bliss reading this small trickle of new reviews that were coming out. I was also surprised by how much the English yuri community were taken into it then, but in retrospect it’s so in line with the aesthetics that many English yuri fans crave for.
Once it became easy to get SeaBed on Steam and itch.io, it was all smooth sailing from there on. People started doing cool let’s plays of the visual novel and writing neat reviews of it. There’s even a Korean translation now! Fanart of it started existing too, woah! What could possibly be better than this?
Well, it now has a Switch port with additional sidestories that will later be added into the PC version. It’s now on sale in most Nintendo eShop regions.
SeaBed is just that incredible.
There’s a bit more to the recent developments in SeaBed’s international reception, but I’m not too familiar with it. For example, the Paleontology devs were amused to learn that Takako got a nickname, Bakako, from the community. BenjaminHerder (@MagusVerborum) took full credit for it because they adored the lovable idiot Takako. I’m sure there’s more tales like that about this magical visual novel.
So there you have it, the more or less complete story of how a bunch of weirdos found this obscure yuri mystery visual novel from a 2ch yuri Saga fan, accidentally got it translated, and saw it get released on a console. It’s been crazy to be a pioneer of a movement that’s gone this far and it feels like this is just the beginning.
And while I am writing this post as a long-time participant in spreading the word about SeaBed, I don’t take full credit for discovering this special visual novel. Many people helped out. The miracle is only possible because of a small yet strong community effort. Special thanks to Hadler for mentioning the title to this bored teenager, Moogy for letting me ramble on his website, Conjueror and Garejei for translating and editing this visual novel for an English release, Steiner for carrying the torch and translating SeaBed’s new sidestories, Phlebas for publishing and supporting it under Fruitbat Factory, and of course the random 2ch yuri Saga fan who once upon a time decided to go on a spiel about how SaGa Frontier has good yuri while recommending SeaBed. That random fan is honestly the true MVP of this whole enterprise.
But even with all that said, the real dedication should be to the international SeaBed community. You’ve made my tiny fan dream of a SeaBed translation into a reality and more. I’m looking forward to see what’s in store for SeaBed and Paleontology in the future.