Hiroyuki Kanno last edited by Bowl-of-Lentils on 05/13/20 10:03AM View full history


Hiroyuki Kanno (菅野 ひろゆき) was an influential Japanese game designer and scenario writer from Tokyo. He was famous for his work on erotic adventure games, with some of his most famous creations being released in the 1990s, and was the founder of Abel Inc. His work was influential for the adventure genre in Japan especially in regrades to stories dealing with multiple perspectives and timelines.


When Kanno was young he enjoyed reading mystery fiction and sci-fi stories including the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen and Isaac Asimov. These authors, along with his love for playing early PC role-playing and adventure games, would greatly influence his future works.

Shortly after graduating from Hosei University, Kanno was employed by Himeya Soft where he developed adult adventure games for the company's C's Ware subsidiary under the pen-name "Yukihiro Kenno" [3][5]. His first job was serving as a programmer for 1993's Fatal Relations and the following year Kanno would write his first game scenario for Love Potion.

1994 was a busy year for Kanno because within months of Love Potion's release in February he would debut as a director with the release of Desire in July and direct his second title, called Xenon: Mugen no Shitai, in December. Desire would be Kanno's first breakout hit and would introduce his signature "multi-sight system" where the player would see the story unfold through the perspective of several people, with each of the game's chapters focusing on a different protagonist.

After Xenon's release, Kanno would go on to work on Amy's Fantasies in a uncredited captivity and then quietly left C's Ware shortly after its release in March 1995 [12]. However, even though he had just left the company, Kanno would still end up creating his next title with C's Ware as a freelancer [12]. That title would be EVE burst error which would further develop the multi-sight concept introduced in Desire. EVE allowed the player to switch between two protagonists at any time with the choices made by each character influencing the story of the other. The game was a huge success for its time, eventually selling more than 300,000 copies in Japan across different platforms, and has influenced many other game designers including Kotaro Uchikoshi who took inspiration from the title when creating A.I. The Somnium Files [7][8]. The game would also spawn an entire franchise of sequels and remakes although Hiroyuki Kanno would not be involved in any of these titles because after EVE's release Kanno would go on to be hired by Elf Corporation.

At Elf Corporation Kanno would created one of his most famous titles in 1996, a multi-dimensional time-traveling adventure game called YU-NO. The game introduced an innovative system called ADMS that allowed the player to travel to parallel timelines within the story. While playing the game, nodes can be placed on a map showing the player's location in a flow chart of the game's different timelines. Later on the player can transport back in time to the moment they placed the node while still retaining the character's items they obtained from the future, which can open up new paths in the story. Along with the title's critical acclaim it received upon release, YU-NO was also a commercial success with the game selling 100,000 copies within the first year of its release on the PC-98 and later becoming the 63rd best selling title on the Sega Saturn [10][13]. The way Kanno incorporated the flow chart of a branching narrative, a concept that was popularized by Chunsoft's sound novels, into the game's story and gameplay mechanics was unique for its time. Some claim that YU-NO has influenced many video game designers and writers and that the title had an impact on otaku culture in general, with several early visual novels seemingly borrowing its concepts.

Once again, after his short stay with the company, Kanno would leave Elf after YU-NO's release on the Sega Saturn. He would go on to form his own independent company named Abel in late 1997 in order to have more control over the titles he created [6]. The company's first game was Exodus Guilty in 1998 which was a title that followed the stories of three separate protagonists across three different time periods. Over the next 13 years Kanno would create several games at Abel including The Gentleman Detective series, Card of Destiny and many others. However on December 19, 2011, only a few months after the death of his close friend and colleague Ryu Umemoto, Kanno passed away at the age of 43 due to a hemorrhagic stroke [11].


  1. RIP Hiroyuki Kanno (1974-2011) by Audun Sorlie (HG101, 2012).
  2. Hiroyuki Kanno at MobyGames.
  3. Hiroyuki Kanno at Japanese Wikipedia.
  4. Hiroyuki Kanno Interview featured in Vol. 87 of Da Vinci (July 2001) Source.
  5. Otaku: Japan's Database Animals by Hiroki Azuma (Pages: 106-107).
  6. Interview with Hiroyuki Kanno (ZDNet, 12/6/1998).
  7. EVE burst error Official English Product Page (2000).
  8. Interview with Mr. Kotaro Uchikoshi and Mr. Akira Okada by Gabby Snyder (Medium, 2019).
  9. Famitsu Interview (2007).
  10. Issue 165 of "Comptiq" (March 1997).
  11. Abel's Official Announcement of Hiroyuki Kanno's Passing.
  12. Interview with Ryuu Takami by Koji Fukuyama (Automaton, 01/24/2017).
  13. Famitsu's Japanese Sega Saturn Sales Data (10/22/1994 - 04/04/1999).

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