Love Plus ラブプラス is a virally popular dating game from Konami for the Nintendo DS. It was released earlier this month, and sold 48,000 copies in the first six days. By that time, there were over 40,000 posts about it on 2channel.
The game involves three girls. The player chooses a girl, becomes friends with her, and if he makes the right choices from the scripts he is presented with, she eventually confesses to him and they become boyfriend and girlfriend.
Then they spend time together -- even in real time -- talking, going on dates, etc. She can even use his name, if it is one of hundreds of common Japanese names. The game is like an interactive gal-game Tamagochi.
Hayami Saori plays Takabe Manaka, a soft-spoken member of the high-school tennis team. The other seiyuus -- Tange Sakura (Sakura in Cardcaptor Sakura) and Minaguchi Yuuko (Sailor Saturn) -- are top veteran seiyuus, and were chosen first. Then there was an audition of several dozen younger seiyuus, from among whom Hayamin was selected.
The producer says that her voice and skill just stood out from the start, that she gave him exactly the voice and acting that he asked for.
In any case, scenes of game-play are now appearing on YouTube. Here we have a ten-minute scene in which Manaka confesses to the game player and becomes his girlfriend. They end up making a date for the following Sunday:
In my opinion, Hayamin is now the seiyuu with the most beautiful voice in anime. She's a decent actress, too, but it is the sweet timbre of her voice that sets her apart.
It was no accident that in her first role, that of Momoka in Touka Gettan (2007), Hayamin did her best work in the episode that was written by Mamiko Noto -- who is now the second most beautiful voice in anime. Noto Kawaii wrote lines that she herself could say well, and they flowed off Hayamin's tongue, too.
The game is so addictive that people are missing school, work and sleep to play it, spending less time with their living friends, and keeping up with their "girlfriend" even in class. One poster on 2channel talked about kissing the screen.
Commentators have suggested that some otaku are finally experiencing things that they never came close to in real life. I don't look down on that. Life is not easy, and we all get through it however we can. If an artificial girlfriend helps, that's great. Android girlfriends may not be that far in the future.
The confession scene takes place at the tennis courts, which is also where Manaka and the game player first met. Here is that first scene:
This is not an ero-game, but a dating simulation game. The player can touch his girl in various ways, but the game has been described as for "vegetarians" rather than "carnivores."
The one complaint I have read, in both Japanese and English, is that there is not enough material and you run out of new things to say and do in a couple of weeks. There are over 4000 possible events, and many more lines of script, but if you are spending all day every day with someone, that can be insufficient.
But the game's popularity is still high. The main thread on 2channel is at over 117,000 posts. There is another thread (over 4000 posts) called "Love Plus refugees."
current 2channel thread
2channel gal-game board
Konami Love Plus site
interview with producer and director
early article on reaction to the game