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Introducing Her Grace, the Duchess

Gentlemen, please take a bow. You stand in the presence of The Most Noble Lady Katja Böhm, Ojousama of St. Dymphna, Best Girl, Model of Perfect Propriety, Peerless Among All Her Peers, Delectable Diva, Singer Superior, Sumptuous Siren, Statuesque Seductress, Impeccable Inamorata, and Honorary Hussar of the Guard (long story, that last one).

It's okay, take your time. Breathe in. Tidy your clothes up and clear out your throat. You may feel a bit overwhelmed. Truth be told, though, there's hardly a need. She's actually quite nice in person. 

Here, you may see for yourselves: 
Making eye contact is permissible - even encouraged!

Sorry, sirs – it simply seemed suitable to start so. Let's set status aside for a sec.

As you may've already gathered (and I do apologize for wasting your time with the bombastic-yet-in-my-biased-opinion-nigh-wholly-deserved introduction), our art team's amazing AE has finally finished spritework for my route character, Katja.

Been a while, hasn't it? Remember when we first saw her, around when the Black Tezcatlipoca became the sun and Atum pulled the rock of Benben from the soundless depths of Nu?

"Sorry, sir - I just couldn't hear what you said over the sound of me looking so good"

Looking back, it's almost hard to imagine the extent of the changes we've made, artistically and storywise. Bit of a story behind that: it goes without saying, I hope, that a fictional character's looks (nevermind in such a visual medium) matters more than for what fetishes her H-scenes will cater to. It's inexorably tied to their being, and speaks volumes about who they are, what about, and why. Even devoid of intended "hints", a picture is loaded with meaning. Every nuance of it can say something about its subject, from the obvious ("She doesn't seem to be from Liberia…"), to the interpretatively inferred ("Her posture suggests both ladylike refinement and a contained, mischievous side"). 

Now, I joined this project at an interesting point. It was early enough down the line – Odin's just finished spreading Ymir's brains all about to create the clouds – that little enough has been written, giving me a great deal of freedom to change things and make Katja my own.  At the same time, her appearance was already set, giving me only so much to do without "betraying" the fans (on principle, I'm loath to make retcons). Art then was limited to concepts, and as I worked on revising, rewriting, and at points redesigning the character completely, I did so besides the same artists who were tasked with giving her form. 

Normally, it goes that a character's written, and then illustrated to fit. In my case, though, I've found that the tumultuous process of Katja's shifting art design has inspired my vision of her near as much as I'd commanded it go. 

To the best of my memory, these were the earliest "true" Katja sprites, by former team member Naso4:

I think it was about the time when Cronus devoured his children.

Frustratingly, there's really so much I can expound on how this affected my writing – save, obviously, to say that it did – but as an exercise, look at that girl. Ask yourself: what do you see? What does her posture tell you? What does her expression? That soft curvature of her cheeks? 

Now compare that to those early sketches, by additional artist, Chisana:

Introducing the latest Injustice 2 DLC character...

I'll admit: this was not my intent. At least, it was not so at first. Chisana, God bless her too-busy soul, came up with it following a long and enlightening discussion about Katja's character, past and plotlines. She felt it represented her best. It was a far cry from previous ones, but to me, it highlighted entirely new facets of her personality. I wouldn't say I went and, right then, went and rewrote her entire route, but it did influence my decisions in presenting her from then on. It gave birth to new details about her, and changed her interactions with others. It painted a whole different picture – which is all sorts of appropriate, when you think about it. 

Now you know whence came the pecs.

Heaven knows that ojousamas come a dime a dozen in nowadays' VN scene. It's gotten to that miserable point in a cliché's lifespan when subverting its core tropes itself is as tired as doing them straight. I daresay – with the hopes that I've managed – it's hard to put a spin on them that hasn't been done a bajillion times before, and visualization (as we've already established) has an enormous impact on that. You don't normally think of a lady with biceps like steel and abs like your penis will be when she takes off that jacket – and while it may not be a whole new direction, it certainly refreshed this one. Obviously, some of these features became less pronounced as the character's design evolved, but they did find their way to her "plot" – at least in the sense they're acknowledged. 

I told myself I'll keep that post short, and am already failing at that, so I'll try to be briefer from now: the thing I find so interesting about this whole dance is that despite her general appearance and most striking visual gimmicks having been preserved since the project's inception (taking advantage of the then cooling universe' abundance of Bose-Einstein condensate), each of her iterations has had a vastly different look thus far achieved simply by changing their posture, expression, and airs. I think it's a fascinating study: if you go by the "police profile" description, so to speak, Katja of now's the same Katja she was back then - blonde, wavy hair, perfect skin, body like a model, eyepatch – except that Katja of then was...

And Katja of now's more like… 
"I'd take the eyepatch off, but my sex appeal will blind you."

It's hard to elaborate on without giving away too much of the character. And it being such a fun character (and me being so very unbiased on the matter), that'd be a shame to do. Suffice to say that Katja was originally rather much more of a "troubled moeblob" kind of character, which I felt like this story had more than enough with. (overly) long story (slightly) short(er), this brought us  to AE's amazing, Amazonian Countess of Class, whose look alone so finely screams "I could buy out the ground from beneath your feet as easily as break your spine in half, but that'd be so terribly crass I'd much rather we have tee und kuchen instead. Read any thought-provoking books as of late?"

I kid, of course (or am I?). Katja's a nice one. I think you're going to like her. A lot of thought went into making her something truly unique, and I'd be an ass to say I've succeeded – but within my rights to say that I hope so. There's so much to this heroine that I’m dying to tell, but alas, it'd be more fun to show. Expect a demo just in time to play as Airyaman and Atar wash away Ahriman's brood in a river of molten silver. 

(She's totally really that classy, though. Not even shitting, that girl drinks tea and pisses out fragrant rose water. Katja doesn't turn water into wine, her mere presence causes it to spontaneously transmute into 1945 Chateau Mouton. It's also occasionally been known to turn sandwiches into staffed quails, chips into caviar, bicycles into Rolls Royce vintage and boys into upstanding boners. Or was it girls? It could've been that it was girls, too). 

In other news (since, if you've made it so far you've clearly got something we want going for you), Somnova is once again high on the lookout for new artists and musicians. There've been recent changes in team composition and the game seems closer than it even was during the Paleolithic, so if you are, know, or think you could turn into an artist or musician within the lifetime of the current universe, we'd very much like to hear it.

Until next time, 

- Gloom