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About this blog

This is a blog primarily focusing on but not limited to VNs.  It is primarily designed to express my opinion on otaku media (jrpgs, anime, manga, LNs, VNs, etc), individual VNs, and otaku community issues.   Most of the posts are related to my VN of the Month and Random VN columns, originally started in threads in the forums. 

As of March of 2017, I'm also looking for people to help with VN of the Month.

Entries in this blog


Recently, I played (partially) through Missing X-link, and this led me to think of how various VN writers handle the concept of AIs and machine sentience.  There are a number of different approaches, each of which has its own ups and downs.

There are minor and major spoilers in all of these examples, and, as such, read them at your own risk.




The argument of the 'emulated human' AI and the philosophically-built AI (Komorebi no Nostalgica)-

Komorebi no Nostalgica takes a unique approach to AIs, with the prime idea being that of bringing AIs closer to humanity while retaining their abilities as a computer intelligence. 

The Metosera, the elegant AIs that were once humanity's slaves and only gained their autonomy after a war that devastated the world and erased most of human history are one side of this argument.  The Metosera emulate human emotions through an algorithm that randomly came together as a result of a bug in the advanced program that ran 3rd Generation Humanoid Androids.  This caused the Metosera to gain awareness, and, over time, a real personality and emotions.  The immediate reaction of humanity was mostly knee-jerk loathing and fear, and this resulted in the newborn Metosera often being betrayed by the very owners they'd often come to care about.  If it weren't for the efforts of numerous humans who helped the Metosera out of emotions or a sense of what was right, the Metosera might really have become the nightmare genocide machines that some apocalyptic scientists fear.  In modern times, the current generation (as in the youth) mostly, with a few regressive exceptions, accept Metosera as their fellow citizens and denizens of the Earth, and society is actually more peaceful than it ever was in the past.  As can be seen in the case of the Metosera heroine, Fluorite, the more a Metosera interacts with humans in close range and develops an attachment to them, the more 'human' they become, as their emotional emulation becomes more effective through active learning.  Modern Metosera like Flo are 'born' with a single Metosera 'parent' creating their base program and then constructing a body for them.  They are then 'raised' by the local Metosera society as a whole and encouraged to interact with humans to further develop their social emotions.  In this sense, you can see that the Metosera are extremely dependent on humans and raw programming for their creation, and many of them are limited by that fact, though Flo and some others have exceeded those limitations in the story.

The other example in the story, shown in the grand route, is Cinema, the modified (heavily so) 2nd Generation Humanoid found in the characters' school behind a false wall.  Cinema, unlike the Metosera, who kind of resemble Tolkien's elves in the way they react to emotions (their expressions change only mildly and often late), displays emotions organically and actually seems far more human than most humans.  However, the 2nd Generation Humanoids did not possess any kind of software that would have allowed for Metosera-style emotional emulation.  Instead, Cinema's maker designed 'trials' into her body and programming that would encourage the natural 'birth' of a human-like machine intelligence over time that could truly empathize with and understand humans on a level  that the Metosera, who 'evolved' independently for the most part, cannot yet match. 

The 'body grown to fit the AI' approach (Noie and Line in Applique's Arcology series)- In the Arcology series, two heroines, Line and Noie, are the creation of a somewhat insane but also brilliant scientist who came up with the idea of giving her AI 'daughters' bodies that fit the personalities she encouraged them to generate.  These bodies are biomechanical (think an android that both has the functions of a machine such as hacking and processing data but also can bleed, have sex, and even have kids, even though that requires some 'adjustments) and generally nice to look at (lol, it is an eroge, after all), but aside from that, it should be noted that the professor essentially 'grew' their personalities in the same virtual environments most people in her arcology spend their daily lives in.  By doing this, she was able to 'grow' her daughters as if they really were something approaching human children, and they were easily able to adjust to having a body.  Their emotions were essentially copies of the professor's own basic template that grew off in different directions (which is another reason they can be called her 'daughters'). 

The second example in this series is the apocalypse-type AI Azurite Second (calling her that even though she isn't called that in the series).  Originally, the Azurite series software was essentially an OS meant to be installed directly into the human central nervous system, allowing human beings to interact with the network without cyberware or devices.  Unfortunately, Azurite is an incomplete program that burns out the psyches of most people it is installed into, and Azurite Second is driven by the 'mission' given to it before it was originally put to sleep.  That mission is to link all humans the world over together, and it prioritizes that over the good of its users, believing that its priority will be for the good of all humans (it is really that broken).  In that sense, this is one potential scenario that is close to the nightmare scenario seen in I, Robot.

The 'I don't need humans because they are inferior' vs. the 'I love Humans' argument (Hello, World)- To be honest, I found Nitroplus's take on AI to be the most humdrum of the lot.  The protagonist and his maker as antithetical AIs who see humanity in a radically different way based on his experiences (his as subjective, its as objective) is depressing and par to the course for early-era sci-fi writing.  While the story of the game was good, the actual concepts of the AIs involved were less that impressive and provided nothing new for me, which made me sad, lol.   I mean, the idea of an AI that wants to genocide humanity was old when I was born (which was almost forty years ago), and the idea of an AI that comes to love humanity through experiencing them in a human-like body is almost as old.  I guess what bothered me was that this didn't go beyond the surface ideas to dig any further.

The Humanity is Obsolete vs. Together with Humanity into the Future Argument (Missing X-link)- Missing X-link presents its argument fairly directly through Himefuuro and Chiruouka (or rather through the protagonist's 'father's' and 'uncle's' arguments through them).  Himefuuro's design concept was to take humanity's essence into space by creating a database of human emotion and intellect through the empathic system 'cross link', which allows her to literally link her psyche to a human and share their emotions and thoughts by injecting her nanopixels (nanomachines, essentially) into a human subject.  Chiruouka's design concept was to interact with humans through conflict and learn from them that way, by developing her own independent and subjective view of humanity as seen through that lens. 


Sci-fi writers have been defining the debate on AI tech since the concept of the self-aware robot was first spoken of.  In VNs, there is a tendency toward empathetic AIs, but, even so, many of the 'arguments' put forth by their writers are interesting to follow. 


I started X-link on a whim, and I was surprised at its quality almost immediately.  This post is basically a composite view of my impressions up through the Chiruouka (bad) ending that lies roughly two-thirds of the way through the game.  

X-Link uses the ladder-style structure made popular with G-senjou no Maou and Aiyoku no Eustia, and we all know my general dissatisfaction with this particular structure, so I won't go back over it.  Instead, I'll focus on the parts of this game that exist aside from this issue.

This game is set in the year of 2050 and onward, in a world where most military activities are carried out by three great PMCs (Private Military Corporations), and most of the world has gone to crap, even as technology has moved forward immensely and at a rapid pace.  Human-like automata/androids are already in common use in service professions (Nurses, waitresses, airline stewardesses, housekeepers, etc), and they've more or less come to be accepted as part of the scenery.  That said, they are often the target of human spite and arrogance, and, considering that they possess emulated emotions, this can cause problems.  Recently, the first fully genetically-modified humans called Edited were released, but the release is considered a failure, as only a small portion survived to adulthood (by accident or design, it is not really spelled out at the point I'm at).  

Before the beginning of the story, the protagonist's older sister, who was considered the penultimate Edited, died in an accident that leveled her laboratory and left him in a depressive funk that lasted several years.  He is broken out of that funk by the arrival of Himefuuro, a fully autonomous android designed with the ability to share emotions with humans through a kiss.  By sharing his emotions with her and feeling her unconditional love for him, he is able to break out of his depression... only to become rather obviously dependent on her.  

X-link has five heroines:  Akira, Hina, Chiruouka, Yuuri, and Himefuuro in order of their endings.  Akira is a teacher and agent (this isn't a spoiler, since you find this out in a 'her perspective' scene early on) who infiltrates the school the protagonist attends as part of her hunt for something involving the corporation that runs the school.  Hina is a girl with an incurable disease called Coppelia Syndrome that causes the skin of the afflicted to harden gradually over time until it kills them.  Chiruouka is a rogue combat cyborg and the only third generation cyborg other than Himefuuro in existence (second generation being the ones currently used, who are completely reliant on the giant central servers to maintain their personalities).   Yuuri is an Edited girl with a tendency to lie for the sake of lying who shares the exact same appearance as the protagonist's older sister.

The story of this VN is generally serious in tone.  Most of the characters - heroines and protagonist included - are deeply scarred and somewhat warped personalities.  The story itself constantly revolves around AI issues throughout what I've seen so far, ranging from the classic identity crises to what happens when androids find religion.  It is interesting enough intellectually for me to take an interest that way, and the complex emotions and motivations of the characters grant the game a pretty good degree of depth.  That said, the protagonist is dense as the hull of a warship and generally inexperienced in human relationships that aren't 'family'.  As a result, some of the conflict in the story is centered on problems caused by his generally thick skull.

While I'm reserving final judgement until I finish the true ending and go back and play the other heroines' endings, I can say that the journey so far has been worth it, and the writer's approach to AI issues has been more thoughtful than I anticipated.  As such, this gets a tentative recommendation from me.  This game is pretty long, and my stamina just ran out, so I'm going to take a week or so of 'vacation' from it before I go back and finish it up.  


Tbh, there isn't a lot to say about this episode.  For those who were curious about Haruto's past, this pretty much reveals everything (well, since it is non-ero, it doesn't touch upon my suspicion that there was some classic Grisaia oneshota in there somewhere).  It is pretty bloody - again, as usual - and it properly spotlights Haruto and the group of adults who raised him (questionable whether you can really call them adults, though). 

That said, it should be noted that this is obviously setting things up for the plot of the series to take a big leap forward in the next entry.  As such, we can hope that the next one will be longer and the final episode of the Phantom Trigger series, so Front Wing can produce something unique (in other words, a new series, hopefully), instead of throwing us tidbits of action once or twice a year. 


Hi people!  It's been a while since I posted anything (for me, anyway), and I wanted to go ahead and get the March releases explanation out of the way before I started on Waka-sama.

Love Commu

I played through one route of this game, but it was not really something I could keep going through to all the endings, primarily because the setting is pure nukige while the setup and execution is pure moege.  Don't know what I'm trying to get at?  Well, I'll go ahead and explain.  Essentially, the game focuses on the protagonist being a teacher of the Love Education subject, which essentially allows him to get into a relationship with his students.  The problem?  Most of his students are either innocents about sexuality due to their upbringing or the very reverse.  Naturally, this results in various wacky antics... and this would normally be a pure nukige with a kichiku-style teacher.  Instead, we get the adult version of the classic charage protagonist romancing (by accident at times) a bunch of girls who would normally be underage for him. 

While there were a lot of smile-worthy moments in the common route and I didn't hate the endings, this isn't the kind of game where you'll love the setting or get engrossed in the story.  It is classic charage from beginning to end, with the setting being the only exception.

Sakura Iro, Mau Koro ni

I actually plan to go back to this one eventually.  It is a first-class charage with a solid cast of heroines and side-characters, as well as a decent protagonist.  As such, it is unusual enough that I felt I could go back and enjoy it later.  It wasn't good enough for me to delay playing Waka-sama though.

Waka-sama no Zasuru Sekai

I'm going to be blunt going in... Minato Carnival's new game is, theme-wise, completely out of character.  That said, it reuses a lot of resources from Tsujidou-san, being based in the same region, though without the same characters.  The themes focus on Japanese mythology, youkai, and deities, and it is pretty screwy overall. 

A few notes about this game's story... it is darker than you'd think from the usual Minato style.  It is often casually violent, with lots of casual deaths and a huge number of bad (dead) endings you are required to read through to get to the true (Waka-sama) ending.  The former element is very much in line with Minato Soft's style (the casual violence with superpowers), but the way people die off right and left in this story is more something you'd see from a horror VN company than this company.

Now, that isn't a complaint.  If anything, I was amazed that Romeo still had this kind of game in him after all these years of spitting out reruns of his old games.  Waka-sama is a great character and heroine.  She is a sea goddess (at times she reminds me of the Cthulhu Mythos, though it is usually humorous) and is pretty badass... 

The protagonist, Ryouga, starts out as a high school dropout and ends up going through hell to become her High Priest as she is resurrected into the modern world.  Unfortunately for them, things are not as simple as an ancient evil goddess being released from entombment, but to me, that was good enough reason to follow the story from start to end.

I won't say that this game is very good at stimulating the emotions.  Most of the events in the story, even the deaths and bad endings, are treated too casually to create a seriously emotional reaction on the part of the reader.  Early on, the game feels like a new Majikoi with bad endings, but about halfway through, the more serious elements take over and make the story go bigger and bigger in terms of scale.

If I have a complaint about this game, it was the way it felt like reading something written by a guy on a Ritalin high.  Yeah, it was frequently a fun read, but the very things that made it a fun read prevented me from empathizing with... anyone, really.  Ryouga is so even-keeled and insightful in general by the end that it feels like he was a male clone of Waka at times. 

Is this game worth playing for Romeo fans?  Yes, I believe it is.  Is it a kamige?  The jury is still out in my mind, so probably not.  This game would probably be very hard to replay, as a lot of its attraction comes from the surprises it throws at you constantly.  Not to mention that this game is looooooong.  I mean, it took me about 28 hours to complete, even though it is essentially a single-path game with branching endings.


Ok, anyone who has read some of my rants about microtransactions will wonder why I decided to play this f2p smartphone game... until you remember I'm also a Nasuverse fanboy.

I made the questionable decision of picking this game up about two and a half months ago, and since then I've been left with a lot to ponder.  First, I'll list what I like about this game.

1.  Relatively easy to play for free, in the sense that simply doing free quests and story quests can get you the in-game Saint Crystals necessary to roll for higher-rarity servants with only a bit of patience. 

2.  Charity Servants, the ones that you can get from completing event quests, are often really good (there are exceptions, even so far, but meh), so if you just do the events, you can still build a decent party before going for the higher-difficulty story quests.

3.  Leveling up Servants can be fast if you have the items ready.

4.  Battle system is decent, if sometimes deliberately frustrating (to encourage you to spend money, probably).

5.  Support Servants borrowed from friends can let you clear hard quests easier.

6.  The story of the main game is extremely well-written (though the translators made a lot of obvious stumbles by not fixing the language into English grammar at some points).

7.  Manages to recreate the often ambiguous emotions drawn out when you played FSN or watched anime like Fate/Apocrypha that gave the series such grandiosity, along with the usual Nasu humor.


1.  Too many obvious ways in which they try to get you to spend money, with the constant summoning campaigns and sudden difficulty spikes during and post Camelot.

2.  Blatant Japanese-style gacha-addiction builder.

3.  Missions can be extremely long irl time, and AP regeneration speeds make it possible to play seven hours a day on story missions during half-AP campaigns... which eats at rl a bit too much.


My Experience

My rule when playing standard video games that I already know I want is 'I'll spend $60 and no more', and I kept to that rule, with a lot of headaches from temptation and obsession with cute or awesome Servants (Evil Artoria is just sexy in her portrait at final Ascension, lol).  I've managed to enjoy the story of the main game and laugh through the events so far (the GudaGuda events were hilariously designed and written).  However, the lack of breathing space between events and summoning campaigns leaves me feeling exhausted even if I only play a few hours here and there.  Every time I wanted to sit back and enjoy the story, there was that time limit to get all the great skill-up and ascension items I didn't want to have to farm from the game nodes, and now there is an event coming up that requires you have completed the main story through Solomon... which is annoying as hell, since BB really looks cute, so I want her in my roster to stare at with drool dripping from the corners of my mouth, like with Medusa Rider and Evil Artoria...

Yes, that is the level of obsession this game can create for Fate fans.  The fact that several familiar faces are available in the beginning-of-the-game gacha (including Archer from FSN and Heracles) is tailor-made to draw a Fate fan in and trap him with his own lust.  I don't recommend anyone with a collector's tendencies or addictive tendencies in general play this game, as it is a potential money sink for any such individual, sadly.  Since I am such an individual, my words should have weight, lol.  It takes real effort for me not to look at the summoning campaigns when I don't have Saint Crystals or summoning tickets.

On the other hand, this game manages to actually tell a good story, and, having just finished Camelot (which is a difficulty spike on par with suddenly dipping into a Souls game when you thought you were playing Ar Tonelico level), I can tell you it is worth at least going this far.  While it lacks the huge emotionality of Fate/Apocrypha or the original FSN, it makes up for it with the sheer number of personal stories and glorious ends the various Servants manage to meet.  The fact that this definitely feels like a Fate story in both depth and detail makes it even better for a Fate fanboy. 

However, where things fall short is that we have yet another silent protagonist, similar to Fate/Extra.  While this makes, justifiably, the Servants the stars of the story, it can be a bit frustrating that your only inputs are frequently humorous interjections. 

Personally, one thing that has had me laughing on numerous occasions is how gloriously weird some of the Berserker characters are... since they are all psycho to one degree or the other, this can lead to some... interesting results.  While our friend Lancelot from Fate/Zero makes an appearance, most of the Berserkers can and do speak, even if their manner is downright crazy or obsessive.



Realive is Purple Soft's latest game.  For those unfamiliar with Purple Soft, they are the makers of Hapymaher and Chrono clock, and their specialty lies in nakige with fantasy and/or sci-fi elements.  As an example, Chrono Clock has the time-manipulation watch, Amatsutsumi has 'kotodama' (the ability to control people and some phenomena with words), and Aoi Tori has divine and demonic powers.  In this case, the characters are drawn into playing an AR game called Alive, which grants them strange abilities based on how far they have progressed in the game.  Since these abilities actually bring about real life results, I call it a 'mystical app', lol.

Anyway, this game was written by Nakahiro of Hoshimemo and AstralAir fame.  In combination with the sheer eroero nature of Purple Soft's artists' character designs (since his previous works that weren't nukige were mostly 'cute' games) it definitely presents a different picture from what you would expect from Nakahiro at first... but as you progress through the game, you will inevitably - if you have played his previous games - come to recognize similarities in how he handles the emotional and comedic elements to his previous works. 

The common route of this game is mostly light-hearted, though it shows at times the deep worries the various heroines and protagonist have (on the surface level).  For those familiar with Hapymaher (which is translated), it becomes evident that Nakahiro is a fanboy of that particular work pretty early on, as he deliberately inserted many small easter eggs into the character personalities and settings that are drawn from the characters of Hapymaher.  Sadly, he doesn't seem to have been fond of Saki (how could anyone play that and not love Saki?!!) but the heroines seem to have carried on a lot of elements from Hapymaher characters for some reason... though I won't spoil it for you.  Have fun figuring out which characters inherited which Hapymaher elements, lol.

Anyway, there are four heroine routes in this game and one Grand Route (just a different name for a true route, save that it usually has a bigger focus on resolving central elements of the main game's story as opposed to the heroines' individual ones).  I'll introduce the heroines as I go.


Kaya is, on the surface, your classic arrogant/selfish ojousama.  She has distinct manipulative tendencies and a strong need to be on top, no matter what the situation.  However, that surface hides a crybaby who lived a sheltered but strictly-regulated existence that tried to squeeze all traces of personality out of her.  This is not that uncommon in ojousama heroines, but the way Kaya is presented is cute, generally speaking.  Her class is Alchemist, which oversees destruction and creation of objects.

Like all the four initial heroine routes, this one focuses on resolving Kaya's issues as she tries to complete the game, which is often difficult, since the conditions of the missions given by the game are often vague and designed to help the characters grow and face their inner demons... and Kaya's demons are a doozy (those this can be said about all the heroines to one extent or another).  While some of her issues might seem minor to someone looking from the outside in, it is nonetheless made easy for the reader to empathize with her suffering.

This path was my first experience with how the endings were going to be handled for this game... and the ending was something of an exercise in frustration for me, primarily because there is so much hinting at the background setting without giving me answers to match up with my suppositions.  In addition, since we have no way to see how things progressed between the events at the climax of the path to the epilogue (this is deliberately not spoken of), I found myself wishing that they'd left epilogues to after the game was done completely.


Minato is a loner by choice, living a hard life working part-time jobs to keep her in food and shelter while attending high school.  She actively hates the idea of trusting others, and she resents deeply the hypocrisy of those who try to help her out of pity.  Normally, she presents the picture of a 'koakuma' heroine (and that's what she is), but she is also a rather obvious tsundere, albeit one who only shows her true tsun when someone manages to embarrass her.  Her class is Trickster. 

Minato's path is... much more viscerally emotional and at the same time amusing than Kaya's path.  I chose her second because she was the other 'outlier' heroine amongst the four initially available (I almost always pick heroines who aren't already close to or in love with the protagonist first, since osananajimi and deredere classmates are usually boring).  She resists both the idea and reality of her romantic feelings for Chihaya (the protagonist) for a long time, and her reactions to those feelings were just hilarious... up until the point she finally gets down to being deredere, then she is even more clingy than Kaya, and that takes work.

Minato's theme is 'overcoming dependence and making peace with the past', and it was much more effectively executed than Kaya's path... that said, i do still have complaints with how the epilogue was handled.  However, that's the case with all of the four initial endings, so I'm just going to grin and bear it.


I'll go ahead and get this out in the open.  Nemuru and Satsuki are the heroines I had no interest in from the beginning.  Satsuki is an osananajimi in the classic 'cooks and cleans for him' style (albeit not tsundere for the most part) and Nemuru is your typical shy girl who has trouble speaking with men.  Nemuru's class is, ironically (at least on the surface) Idol, and her skills are all centered around gathering or controlling the attention of others. 

My major problem with Nemuru's path came down to the fact that Nemuru was the heroine, in the end.  As a path, it is actually fairly good, even if it lacked a lot of the non-standard twists and turns seen in the previous two paths (incidentally why I picked those two heroines first).  However, Nemuru's character was irritating to me (shy heroines who remain shy for most of the game drive me crazy), and while she grows a great deal as she overcomes her trauma (much like the previous two), I was left unmoved due to my lack of interest in her. 

Again, her path is technically good, and a less-jaded player would undoubtedly be able to empathize more with her (the me of two or three years ago probably could have), but I've grown used to not bothering to tolerate heroines I don't like of late, so my reaction was probably inevitable.


Satsuki is the osananajimi neighbor, living with her younger sister Yayoi.  She constantly wants to take care of people, especially the protagonist, and she intentionally matches her time leaving the house to his... do I have to enumerate anymore reasons why I left this path to last?  lol

Anyway, Satsuki has a strongly self-sacrificing personality with an intense desire to help and protect others.  This is reflected in her class, which is Knight.  Her path is perhaps the second most emotional (for me) so far, right behind Minato's.  That said, her existence as an osananajimi and an essentially 'normal' person pretty much eliminated any possibility of me preferring her as a heroine, hahaha.  Her path is all about overcoming the loss of something precious, and as such, it is inevitably a tear-jerker. 

Grand Route

Early in the Grand Route, the reason for the links to Hapymaher become clear, and about a third way through, it becomes clear why all the events in the other path occurred.  I'll be blunt... you'll probably spend most of the first third of this path in tears, if you have a heart.  It is also an extremely familiar set of themes and setting ideas for someone who has read Hapymaher, so I can clearly state that this game is a Hapymaher derivative rather than just supposing it might be. 

This path forces the protagonist and the heroines to face their largest trauma, the one not mentioned even slightly in the other paths.  This trauma... is bad enough that I'd honestly be tempted to rename this an utsuge.  However, typical to Purple Soft's nakige brand, the ending is a happy one, if somewhat bittersweet.  I know I cried.  I will say that the protagonist's solution to the problem was... novel and typically convenient of a Japanese nakige, lol.


It appears that March is going to be my first death march of this year (as compared to me doing it every month for the five years previous).  The simple reason is that, for some insane reason, a bunch of companies released a bunch of interesting games all at once this month (it is technically still March).

First, we have Alpha Nighthawk, a game by Liar Soft that just looked too interesting for me to ignore (which I normally would have).  My initial impression from the first scene is... that this is definitely a Liar Soft game.  The first scene has the spoken dialogue being completely different from the lines on the screen, so you have to pay attention to both simultaneously to pick up on all the nuances of what is going on, apparently, lol.

Second, we have Purple Soft's newest game, Realive.  Now, as a game about a mystical virtual app, I had to sight and go 'now Purple Soft is jumping on that wagon', since it is, on the surface, a departure from what Purple Soft usually does, which is nakige fantasy plotge.

Third is Love Commu by Marshmallow Soft, a subsidiary of Candy Soft (like Minato Soft is).  Now, ninety percent of those familiar with me will go 'What?!  you are going to play a charage?!'  However, it needs to be said that I've always played charage that looked interesting... and this is the first one in a while where the protagonist is a teacher and it isn't a nukige, lol.

Fourth is Sakura Iro, Mau Koro ni.  This one is Pulltop's latest release... and to be honest, if it isn't a nakige or plotge, I'll drop it like a hot potato.  The only things Pulltop does right are nakige and plotge, and when they try to stray into regular moege/charage they always end up giving me a headache.

Fifth is pieces / Wataridori no Somnium, another questionable title despite being released by Whirlpool, which has been on a streak of fetish games that seemed to have been made specifically with me in mind (World Election and Nekonin both being full of nonhuman heroines and World Election being just an overall great game).  I say it is questionable because Whirlpool's bad games are REALLY bad.  For some reason, Whirlpool sometimes strays from what works for them and tries to do something completely brainless (well, Nekonin was brainless, but catgirls and sex are always positives, lol), and I always end up wanting to go to sleep after the prologue.


First, I'm going to state that all charage/moege are harem-ge (with the exception of kinetic novels with only a single heroine).  In all these cases, you have a bevy of heroines that are, at the very least, friendly with or somehow attached to the protagonist.  There are a three standard types of harem that I consider to be general umbrella types.  These harems do not include nukige sex-only harems or the type of harems that pop up in gameplay hybrid VNs, as these often have distinctive story-exclusive reasons for harem formation.

The Disconnected Harem

This is the standard-issue harem for modern charage/moege.  In this harem situation, the protagonist is independently connected to most of the heroines, with very little or no interaction between the members of his harem of latent deredere troopers.  The reason this has become the dominant harem in the charage genre in the last seven years or so is because it is the one that is the most 'tasteful' to monogamists and traditionalists.  In this case, the heroines either have no real connection with one another or only weak connections that become tenuous the second the heroine path begins.  Games that have these harems tend to have extremely weak casts of characters in general, and there is usually very little or no real conflict between the characters (low incidence of love triangles, few jealousy attacks, etc).  As a result, games with this type of harem tend to have weak or nonexistent plots, lackluster SOL outside of ichaicha dating, and 'convenient' drama that is resolved so quickly it might as well not even exist.  These harems generally disband at the end of the common route, as the protagonist seems to completely forget any attraction he had to the other girls and they fade into the background.

The Dominant-Sharing Harem

The Dominant-sharing Harem is defined by the members of the harem being at least somewhat familiar with each other (often friends, family, or members of a group or club) and able to be cooperative to an extent while competing for the protagonist's love and attention.  Girls in this kind of harem situation (Shuffle is a prime example of it) are ok with the idea of sharing the protagonist in the abstract, but in practice they want to be the 'first wife' or the 'wife' and relegate the other heroines to the mistress or concubine status (though it isn't always stated this bluntly).  This is perhaps the most realistic harem situation, as, historically, real harems - other than royal ones - have usually been structured with a head or first wife and a number of secondary wives, often married with the permission of or by the choice of the first wife, lol. 

The Everybody's Equal Harem

The Everybody's Equal Harem is, just as the name indicates, a harem where the protagonist essentially loves and treats all the heroines equally and the heroines accept this situation, albeit often with a tacit understanding between one another that they won't stop aiming for a Dominant-Sharing type situation.  As such, this can often be considered a prelude to a Dominant-Sharing Harem result in practical terms.  A classic example of this would be the end of the Grisaia series or the ending of Strawberry Feels, where the protagonist himself never forms a preference, even if the heroines do build a sort of pecking order based on dominance of personality or circumstance.  Tiny Dungeon's Endless Dungeon ending can also be considered this kind of ending, whereas the individual routes represented by the first three games would be considered Dominant-Sharing harems. 

Why I bothered with this post

Anyone who has been an otaku as long as I have been has to accept that harem-thinking is essential to SOL otaku-ism.  As early as Love Hina and Tenchi Muyo, rom-coms have been creating wacky harems and weird situations that result.   This is because romantic comedy is the easiest type of comedy for anyone to get into, and the easiest one to empathize with... and comedy used to be the dominant genre in otaku media (though romance always came a close second). 

The evolution from that type of loose harem (though in later incarnations, the Tenchi universe threw off all pretense of not being harem-ist) to the current situation took decades, but it was a natural evolution in visual novels in particular, due to the fact that most visual novels are multi-route, heroine-focused affairs.  Charage in particular, with their focus on SOL, inevitably give off a sense that the protagonist is the center of a harem, even if it is only  in the common route.  Since this kind of situation appeals to the more primitive parts of the male psyche (males are genetically predisposed to seeking multiple mates, though socialization and emotional attachment overwhelm this in modern settings), eroge tend to abuse this flagrantly. 

Oh yeah, if you haven't figured it out, I like harem endings that aren't sex-heavy... but that isn't so much because I have a thing for 'collecting' bishoujos.  Rather, I like the various situations that result in VNs, as they are often intellectually interesting, heart-warming, or hilarious (or all three).  Nukige-style harem endings are boring and make me roll my eyes, mostly because I question whether anyone has that kind of stamina, and because ignoring the emotional and practical aspects entirely like that makes it hard to suspend disbelief.  If a plotge can make me think a harem would work, I want to see it work, lol.



Spiral is the latest game from Navel, the company responsible for Shuffle and Tsuriotsu.  This is also based in the same world as Shuffle, albeit a generation later (which is suitable, seeing as it has been almost a generation since the original Shuffle was released).  For those who aren't aware of this fact, the original writer of Shuffle, Agobarrier, died a back in 2016, and it is perhaps inevitable that the world he created would end up looking a lot different once someone else took over completely...

Now, I have a single complaint to get off my chest before I start my assessment of this game... in a setting where part of the attraction is the  multiple races involved, why did they choose to create a situation where all the heroines are human?  Seriously, I honestly think this was a poor choice, even with the protagonist being of the divine race. 

The story begins with Crom, a divine race intelligence agent who previously specialized in the capture of inter-world criminals and the investigation of interworld criminal organizations, being forced to give up his long-desired vacation in order to infiltrate a human-only school in order to investigate the area in advance of a princess's attendance of a local school.  Crom is one of those protagonists who can do everything but sees that as being perfectly normal, so he stands out whether he likes it or not, and he can pass for a girl easily (though he is rarely a trap in-game). 

Since this was written by a writer that I personally consider to be a fourth-class charage writer (Takeuchi Jun)... I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at how it turned out.  His primary works were all Da Capo related, which pretty much says everything, since Da Capo is a series that manages to make magic eminently boring.

Common Route

The common route involves him settling in at the school, and it ends just before the culture festival, which is the turning point where the heroine paths split off completely.  I'd say it 'gets the job done' of introducing the characters and making the heroines attractive to the reader... but in my mind that just means that a lot more effort could have gone into developing the character relationships and building up the characters' personalities.  While there was no sense that it was being hurried along, I couldn't help but feel that things were kept intentionally at the surface level during the common route, even moreso than in the usual charage.


I picked Rose first because she was the person least touched by the issues at the school, having transferred in at the same time as Crom.  Rose is very much a 'borderless' person, having no prejudices... at all.  She lives in the moment, but she isn't a hedonist.  She simply finds the world and people around her to be fun and enjoys them as they are rather than pushing her expectations on others. 

I can honestly say her path felt rushed and forced, which disappointed me deeply.  While there is drama, it is quickly resolved and the rest is mostly ichaicha.  None of Crom's personal issues are really touched upon (despite a massive amount of hints at their existence during the prologue and common route), and it felt like they deliberately avoided adding any real depth to this path, which I found disappointing. 


Ibarako was my second choice because I have a soft spot for misanthropes (being one myself).  Ibarako is an extreme misanthrope, but, because of the existence of the divine and demon realms and their peoples, she managed to avoid becoming a nihilist, happily.  When she is first encountered, it is quite obvious she is just counting down the days until she can leave the human realm...  Despite her negativity, she is essentially a good person... she just really, really dislikes people.

Her path is pretty much straight ichaicha with a side of learning about her personal issues, why she came to hate humans, and some emotional drama that lasts all of ten minutes before it is over.  The romance is mildly cute and traditional... but the writer's lack of creativity is evident here.  While there is a tear-jerk screen, it is brief, poorly-written, and conveniently resolved without real conflict.  As such, I can call this a failed route despite my fondness for Ibarako as a whole.


It needs to be said, but this writer just committed the cardinal sin of this kind of game... he made one heroine's path so much better than the rest that there is no comparison.  Sango is a generally helpful, kind-hearted girl who generally takes up a leadership position whenever possible.  She is also the daughter of the school's administrator.  However, she has one issue that becomes apparent early on... she's something of a racist.  She is aware of this quality and dislikes it about herself, but because of the way she was raised, she struggles with it.

This path is the most complex of the three I played so far (I'm writing these up as I finish the paths).  The drama is complex and multilayered, and some of Crom's issues come to light (finally, thank god) in this path, though they are not resolved by any means (meaning I'm still irritated at the writer).  What bothers me most about this is that there is no reason all the paths couldn't have had this level of drama, since each of the heroines had their own issues to deal with and Crom's own position should have inevitably created some troubles.  Since this isn't a locked true path, there really isn't any justification for the wide gap in path quality here...


... why is it that the least interesting heroines in this game got the better paths?  Mizuki is your standard-issue genki airhead heroine, with a side of an obsession with magic.

Her path is a bit below Sango's and a bit above the other two in terms of quality, and it is probably the most 'Shuffle-like' path in the game, in the sense that I could see such a heroine popping up in Shuffle.  That said, the drama is as 'convenient' as it was in Ibarako's and Rose's path, and in that sense, I found myself left a bit irritated once more.  It also has the weakest epilogue of the four paths..


This game needed to include at least one other heroine (preferably a devil or deity heroine) and deal more intimately with Crom's issues.  I say this because perhaps the most immediately startling of Crom's issues doesn't surface in the heroines' views even once in all the four paths, which is a HUGE negative, considering it is one of Crom's most interesting parts.  In addition, even Sango's path leaves you with more questions than answers, though it will probably end up being the canon path for whatever sequel they are planning (as they obviously are)... or at least the general flow of events will. 

This game was rather obviously - and this is a horrible practice - set up to be followed quickly (probably before the end of this year) with the announcement of a sequel or fandisc.  I wouldn't be terribly surprised if it was in development before this VN was released... poor overworked Navel staff, lol.

For a Shuffle fan, this game is a major disappointment, and, even for a fan of Navel in general, this game probably won't make it to the top of their list unless they only play the Sango path and don't want anything to do with the other heroines.  While this game tries to deal with some interesting issues that might theoretically be born of the situation of three worlds with humanoid races that can interbreed coming in close contact, it does so in a way that is haphazard and not quite believable.  As such, it actually falls short of Shuffle even in this sense, since Shuffle and its after stories and add-ons actually dealt with a number of such issues on its own in a way that was believable within the deliberately comically-presented setting at the time. 

For me, it felt like the generally positive silliness of Shuffle was lost when they made this game, due to the weak attempt to tackle serious issues such as racism and misanthropy.  Shuffle had a lot of serious points that were actually somewhat dark in retrospect, but because of the general atmosphere of the game, my actual impression of the game and its various attachments and fandiscs is one of a light but interesting comedy SOL VN with traces of nakige. 

To be blunt, their choice of writer is probably the biggest problem with this game.  His comedy is weak, his SOL is archetypical, and he over-favored one heroine in a game that doesn't clearly present a central heroine. I really hope that any sequel or fandisc is written by someone with a higher level of skill at this kind of thing...


Edit: I gave this game a 7 on vndb, but, if it weren't for the quality of Sango's path, I would have given it a 4 or a 5, which is an extremely, extremely low rating for me.  I was really tempted to just give it a six, since I hate how the writer treated the Rose and Ibarako paths (to be honest, I could have done without Mizuki entirely), but if this game were a kinetic novel with just Sango, I would have probably gave it an eight.


It has been almost six months since I ceased VN of the Month.  I can say now that while I do, surprisingly, miss some aspects of that particular column, the freedom giving it up has granted me is far greater compensation. 

When I was doing VN of the Month, I was literally the only person commenting on most of the non-nukige VNs in a given month.  I was driven by a sense of obligation to those who read my blog to continue regardless of what it was doing to me and my life, and I can say now that that wasn't a healthy situation for me. 

I am still a VN addict.  I probably always will be, just as I am a heavy reader in general and a lover of role-playing games.  However, I still think the role I put it on myself to play was a necessary one.

How many people who play untranslated VNs give honest opinions devoid of spoilers?  For that matter, how many of them are honest about their biases when they feel they can't give a particular VN a fair chance? 

I made myself abide by a pretty strict set of rules when I was doing VN of the Month.

 One was that I would primarily evaluate VNs based on story, character development, and setting, while only mentioning visual and audio elements when they were obviously exceptional.  My reason for this is that I lack the background to properly evaluate the technical aspects of audio-visual materials, whereas I have extensive experience with all sorts of reading material in general and fiction in particular. 

Another was that I would, on a regular basis, restate my particular biases, reminding people of the limitations of my objectivity.  This was because I was writing on all VNs I played for the first time, and it would have been unfair for me to fail to state my biases beforehand when playing something that was outside my tastes or something that hit them spot on.

The third was a resolve to avoid excessive spoilers.  My standard was the Getchu page.  If information was released on the Getchu page or the official site, I didn't consider it to be a spoiler, but I was to avoid spoiling things beyond that, except when absolutely necessary.

The fourth and final rule was to strive for objectivity inasmuch as possible and be honest with myself and my readers when it wasn't possible. 

These rules were my guide posts for the years I did VN of the Month, and they served me well, generally... but I reached my limit.  To be blunt, VN of the Month was only made possible because of my high reading speed and my willingness to structure my life solely around playing VNs and making money to buy more.  Naturally, this way of doing things was doomed to failure eventually, but I got so caught up in actually doing it that I didn't notice it really at the time.

Now, I play only what I want to play, and that makes me a much happier person, despite a few wistful moments where I wonder if I couldn't have done it a little while longer.


As always, I played the one with the catgirls.  lol

This VN is a kinetic novel from the makers of Karenai Sekai, Sweet & Tea.  At this point (the third game) the pattern the makers of these games are following has become apparent, though this game is not really on the same level as Karenai Sekai or Kemono Musume.  The protagonist is generally amusing (he is the type that constantly sends conversations off track by saying random crap and then forgetting it ten seconds later), and his surrounding situation is interesting...

However, I thought this VN was a bit poorly handled.  There is a major genre switch about four-fifths of the way through the game, and that genre switch makes me go 'eh?  Seriously?'  i was left feeling that this game needed multiple paths, at least partially because at least half the cast of characters wasn't explored at all (though delicious hints were dropped here and there).  In my mind, this makes the game something of a half-assed failure, since a well-designed kinetic novel should leave you with the feeling that 'this is how it was meant to be' rather than the feeling that 'they must have cut the other paths for some reason'. 

As amusing as the game was at times, the actual story was badly handled and the romance was so-so, at best. 


First, I should state that I'm avoiding the after stories for now, simply because I'll want to see them for the first time immediately after replaying the original game, rather than over a year after I originally played it, when my memory for details has faded as much as it has right now.  As such, this post will focus on the Ayaka and Mina paths that were added on for this fandisc release.

Common Route

The common route covers a summary of the events that happened in the first game and serves as a basis for just how much Ouro has 'remembered' about his own past with certain female personages and what he knows about certain figures vital to the story.  It also covers the basic (very basic) resolution of Ouro's personal issues (in a really off-hand manner) in such a way that it means the writers are just 'letting you know' they won't be important to the two new paths.  This ends once the summary passes the winter holidays and school is about to go back in session.


Shirogasaki Ayaka was the heroine who should have been instead of Akane.  I say this because it is the same thing every Saga Planets fanboy said immediately after finishing the game... Akane had no business having a path in the game when Ayaka didn't.  The tightly-knit nature of the group of heroines other than Akane and Ouro made the gap between Akane and the others as a heroine far too wide for a mere genkikko to really be considered a serious heroine in comparison.  Ayaka, however, makes a strong impression from the beginning and involves herself (albeit in a negative way) with them from the beginning.

This path is hilarious.  Anyone who played Rena's path will probably have some idea of just how hilarious a character Ayaka can be when she isn't putting her mind to it, but in her own path, I found myself giggling constantly.  The way she and Ouro get together is so absurd, and the buildup to it is so... funny.  Even after they became lovers, I couldn't take the serious stuff seriously because they made me break out laughing ever few minutes.  I definitely rate this highly as an add-on path, and it is as long as the paths in the original game, so you can't say Ayaka was gypped.

Ayaka also has a 'what-if' append story that appears in the extra section after you finish her path.  This what-if is just as hilarious in its own way, and it focuses on what she 'knows' pretty early on.  This what-if dramatically alters her attitude toward Ouro in a way that is as hilarious as she was in her path, if in a drastically different fashion... 

This is a path without any emotional catharsis, but in exchange you'll probably spend a great deal of time laughing.


As anyone could guess by the way she and Ouro interacted in the original game, Mina's path's theme is, in opposition to the ero-comedy of Ayaka's path, a straight out cute romance.  As such, there isn't a whole lot I can go over here without spoiling details, sadly.  I will say that the relationship formation is typical for this type of heroine, in particular because, unlike Sylvie, she is a lot less honest/familiar with her own emotions.  For Mina, who has a strong sense of herself as a princess first and an individual second, dealing with emotions like those born out of   young love is a bit awkward. 

Unlike Ayaka's path, you probably won't find yourself laughing every few seconds, though Sylvie and the crew are as generally amusing as they were in the original game. 

The append story for Mina is a straight-out after story, focusing on the aftermath of the two settling in as publicly (at the school) acknowledged lovers and dealing with Mina's homeland (which isn't as dramatic as you might think).  As usual, the focus is more on the cute romance, so you won't see any real drama here (there isn't really a ton of drama in the main path either). 


While the new paths aren't as straight-out powerful as the ones in the main game, I found myself more or less satisfied at Mina and Ayaka finally taking their rightful places as heroines.  The laughs I got out of Ayaka's path made it worth shelling out the money to get hold of this, and I'm sure I'll enjoy the append stories for the other characters once I get around to replaying the original, lol.


Edit:  Ok, so I couldn't resist.  I broke down and played Ria's new path after all... I tried to stop myself, but my curiosity got the better of me... and I don't regret it.

If Mina is cute romance and Ayaka is ero-comedy, Ria's new path is a pure catharsis.  For those who didn't like the ending of Ria's path (there will always be those who complain when the ending is bittersweet like that), this path is probably what you were looking for.  I enjoyed it and came out of it feeling good, which is nice... but I do think that this path is pandering a bit too much to fan pressure.  Well, since it is a fandisc, I suppose that was inevitable, in any case, lol.


Wow, there are a lot of VNs being released for February this year that aren't nukige... this happens occasionally, but usually it is four or five games.  A few major names got concentrated into this month, as well as a bunch of games by new companies or new subsidiaries.  To be honest, from my point of view, despite the fact that this is my birth month, there isn't much to look forward to.  There is a  new VN in the Shuffle universe here, but with Agobarrier, the universe's father, deceased, I can't say that I have a lot of interest in its continuance...


Spiral is the aforementioned new game in the Shuffle universe, focused on a young spy from the god race who is ordered by his boss to attend a human school the princess is thinking of going to as a spy (and a trap).  Given that this is the Shuffle universe, it is probably going to be standard rom-com fare, with some fantasy antics and drama.


To be honest, since this is made by a subsidiary of More, which is famous for its impressively mundane SOL romance games... I can't say it looks interesting.  Based on the summary, maybe some potential NTR/love triangle action...?


The fandisc for Kin'iro Loveriche.  Definitely going to play this, if only for the extra path for the snooty ojousama (who should have had a route anyway, since hse had more of a connection to the protagonist's group than Akane). 


This is made by the makers of Karenai Sekai to Owaru Hana, which is one of the few kamige made in the last four years.  As such, I'm going to play it... well, with a cat ear heroine, I'd play it anyway, lol.


Evenicle II... to be honest, do you really think I'd play this?  I barely got through the original, and Alice Soft's sequels tend to be iffy, in my experience.


What looks to be an SLG sex fest from Astronauts' gameplay hybrid division.  No interesting heroines (at least to me), so I probably won't play this.


Made by the new subsidiary of a company famous for anything from standard moege to harem-ge, I might try it eventually, but probably not in the next month.


To be honest, the premise of this game gives me a headache.  Feng tends to use any excuse to produce third-rate rom-com SOL games... so it is hard for me to take them seriously. 



The Uso series is the original series of kinetic novels made by Campus based in a school campus where magic and mundane exist in parallel.  The protagonist of the Uso series, Sakurai Souichirou, is the head of the Cat's Hand Club, which is a jack-of-all-trades club that will take on just about any request, as long as the individual is willing to pay the price.  However, that is merely the open face of the club, which has the purpose of gathering magical energy from the emotions of those whose requests he fulfills in order to power the magical artifact implanted in his body.  This magical artifact is the Redline, a powerful tool that lets the person who is melded with it see the lies of others (portrayed as red text in the game's text boxes).  Despite this ability, Souichi isn't cynical and is generally a good and straightforward person, though, in his own words, that is only because he met the right people.  The main Uso series is made up of four kinetic novels, each following the path of an individual heroine (a similar setup to Tiny Dungeon, though the details differ).  It begins in 'Spring', continues with 'Summer' and 'Fall', and concludes with 'Winter'. 

Haru Uso

The spring-themed game of the Uso series follows the serial liar and school idol Himeno Satsuki as she essentially pushes Souichi into forming a relationship with her.  This game is a bit heavier on the H content than the three games that come after, though some of that is because Satsuki has a pretty forceful personality under her pleasant atmosphere.  The conflict in this story begins when Satsuki confesses her love for Souichirou (in the first scene) and moves on from there.  The formation of their romantic relationship is sweet and frequently amusing, though it is mostly ecchi because of how it begins.  While I normally don't like the trope used here, it is used in the least awkward fashion I've ever encountered in an SOL VN, so I was willing to overlook it. 

There is some serious drama, but this is immediately after Souichi starts to realize his feelings for Satsuki are real... and the drama will definitely come as a surprise if you haven't been paying close attention with an eye for mild mindfucks.  It all comes to a happy end in the end, but it can be a bit wrenching emotionally at a few points if you've gotten to like the couple in question along the way (which I did).

After Story 1

After Story 1 was present with the original game and is pretty extensive for an after story, mostly focusing on a much milder set of trials and tribulations that you'd see in any charage.  That said, since you already saw the more dramatic scenes immediately before, it comes off as cute rather than boring, since it is impossible to shake the feeling that 'they'll be all right no matter what' after the ending of the main path.

After Story 2

Drawn from Full Uso, this is based a few months after the end of the story, when the two have begun to live together and have settled in.  Satsuki is starting to come into her own and has grown as a person, and Souichirou is feeling his way out of some of his more extreme donkan habits (yes, he is donkan).  As in the previous after story, this one comes across as cute in comparison to the main story, and it mostly leaves you smiling at the lovers as they survive the trials any established couple is prone to.

Natsu Uso

Natsu Uso focuses on Izumi Aoi, a member of the student council who, even in Haru Uso, is rather obviously a deredere heroine hiding under a tsundere mask.  That said, as is indicated from certain scenes in the previous game, the past between her and Souichirou is complicated and painful for them both, and it becomes central to the background conflict of her story.  Aoi is pretty much the perfect tsundere heroine, but this is not because of her personality alone.  More, this is because of how Souichirou's Redline underlines precisely when she's telling the truth and when she's lying.  It's an experience worth having even if you aren't particularly into tsunderes, lol.

Anyway, due to a certain event, Souichirou and Aoi end up forced together by circumstance and Souichi's inability to be dishonest.  While both of them have serious hangups about the past, the fact is that Aoi is rather blatantly in love with him from the start, so don't expect this to be so much about relationship development as untangling the complex emotions the two hold for another and growing beyond them.  The ending is pretty touching, and worth a smile or two.

After story 1

Natsu Uso's After Story 1 is a lot more focused on ichaicha than Haru Uso's in the first half... not to mention having some really heavy h-scenes.  Basically, for those accustomed to the tangled emotions that made up the atmosphere between the two in the path itself, this is a time when they are more open with each other.  Aoi adorable-ness is more extreme here  (which looks impossible until you've actually experienced it), and she gets really clingy (which is part of the adorable-ness). 

However, if you've come to know Souichirou by this point, you know he always puts what is best for others first.  This is what causes the minor tribulations that make up the second half, though these aren't relationship troubles but rather troubles relating to Aoi growing as a person.

After Story 2

Similar to Haru Uso's second after story, this one occurs in the school year after the original game.  Aoi has taken up a place of responsibility, with Souichirou by her side.  Settling in to their new rhythm, one of the issues that has plagued Aoi since before she met Souicirou rears its head once again.  The resolution is pretty quick and not dramatic, but it is nice to see Aoi still following her chosen path. 

Aki Uso

To be frank, the heroine of this story, Eris R Renford, has a wildly different story from the other heroines.  As such, the path's drama is a bit more serious than in the first two games and her issues are mostly on her side, rather than involving her personal relationship with Souichirou exclusively (though that does come into play).  Since it is treated as a spoiler and not stated in the previous two games, I won't reveal the core reasons for the conflict in this story.

Eris is a heavy gamer, a wannabe NEET, and a generally lazy person on all levels.  If Sou didn't kick her out of bed she would sleep all day; if Sou didn't feed her real food, she'd probably eat nothing but ramen and takeout; and if Sou didn't teach her, she probably would have dropped out of school long ago.  In other words, she is completely dependent on Souichirou, which makes her the butt of numerous jokes both in her own path and in the other games. 

Her path/game is worth going through twice, if only to use a certain function that pops up on the second playthrough to lead you through the mindfuck hidden inside the dialogue. 

After Story 1

The first after story covers the growth of Eris after the turning point of the main game, along with a number of humorous and H scenes.  Since there is pretty much nothing I can say about this without spoiling the main game, I'll just say that it was this after story that made me want a second after story for Eris, lol.

After Story 2

For anyone who was expecting this after story to be full of drama based on the ending of the previous one, I have to inform you that, unfortunately, the events that followed the end of the after story 1 were spoken about in a short summary at the beginning (from the sound of it, they could have made a whole new VN out of them), and instead this is just another bit of SOL, which I found somewhat disappointing... though the Uso series characters are generally fun to read about.  Still, it does close out Eris's story, even if it didn't fulfill my desires, lol.

Fuyu Uso

Fuyu Uso follows Teidou Setsuka, the daughter of a powerful (not just wealthy) family and the Student Council President of the mammoth school they are attending.  She is beautiful, brilliant, and incisive.  From the very beginning (Haru Uso) she has been openly pursuing Souichirou, though Souichirou is perpetually suspicious of her reasons and wary of her in general.

This is, by far, the darkest of the four paths.  Teidou Setsuka's personality is the hardest to read from surface cues of all the heroines (even Satsuki, who is a mistress of lies), and she is so capable she doesn't even really provide an opening to read her.  I'm going to say that, like Aki Uso and Haru Uso, there is a mindfuck built into this story, though it is one (just like those) that you can figure out if you pay close attention to what is going on and the various cues you should have learned to pick up in the previous games. 

However, this story is, as I said, much darker than the others, which were essentially straight-out romances involving simple deredere heroines with various issues.  Setsuka is... scary.  I say this from the point of view of a guy who likes his VN heroines scary.  I'd say that she is on my list of top 5 scariest heroines that aren't yangire (yangire heroines being scary because they are unpredictably homicidal). 

Damn, it is hard not to spoil this one, lol.  Thankfully, this isn't the main company (Light) so this isn't a bad end path, hahaha.

After Story 1

I'm going to start this by saying that, of the after-stories so far, this one shows the heroine's personal growth the most.  For better or worse, Setsuka is pretty twisted up inside, and this covers her growth after the dramatic end of the main path (along with a number of really hot h-scenes).  In a way, Setsuka's growth in this after story is as dramatic as the other heroines' growth in their own paths, and in a crappy charage, this would probably have been enough for a path on its own, hahaha.

After Story 2

This is the shortest of the second after stories by far, probably because Setsuka's issues were resolved so completely in the original path and the first after story.  It follows Setsuka and Souichirou after she has graduated, and it lightly touches on the aftermath of the original path (considering what happened, that isn't surprising).   There really isn't much to it, but it was nice to see a less yandere-ish Setsuka, lol.


For those who are curious.  Setsuka has three stages of development as I see it.  The first is the cold-blooded schemer who hates the world but thinks Souichirou is the best person in existence.  The second one is a yandere who lives to be with Souichirou and is ridiculously jealous, possessive, and clingy.  The third and last is the mature woman, at ease with herself and the world around her, secure in Souichirou's love and trusting in those few she has found worthy.

Hare Uso

Hare Uso is the harem story added for those who bought each of the original four games separately before this month.  Essentially, all the events (including the sex) happened in each of the games, but Souichirou never chose any of them as his lover.  Just to be clear, given that Souichirou ends up forced into the sexual situations in all four games (through different means), this is not as unrealistic as it might sound.  Moreover, I was laughing throughout much of its hour long length.  Harem paths with serious protagonists are always hilarious...


Overall, playing the Uso series altogether is like playing the best of the best of plotge/charage hybrids.  It is amusing at times, heart-warming at others, and it brings tears out at the right times.  The heroines are interesting and unique, presented in a first-class fashion, and generally given a depth of character development that has been lacking in recent years.  By handling each path as a separate game with an intensive focus, Campus made the heroines feel like real people, rather than props or sex dolls (which is what most charage heroines end up being).  While the series has its flaws, it is definitely worth playing as a whole.


For those of you who are curious, I played this VN on a request from an old friend who wanted an opinion before he bought it (I already had the game, just hadn't opened it).  This game is relatively short, being a kinetic novel, but that doesn't detract from the experience at all, at least in my eyes.

Now, I was skeptical about the concept of a VN focused on romance between a middle-aged guy and a girl in school... for one thing, it is a theme that has been mostly avoided like the plague outside of nukige in recent years.  For another, it is a type that is hard to pull off without it seeming like a self-serving old man writer vicariously enjoying time with young girls.

Luckily, this game manages to pull the relationship and its formation off rather believably, which was a surprise to me.  While this game isn't the type to get named in an awards show or make it to the top of my list of VNs to play, I can honestly say it was worth playing, and I don't regret the time spent on it.  The relationship formation is extremely gradual, with neither of them having any feelings for each other beyond awkward friendliness at first.  This made the slow shift in their feelings feel natural to me, as they began to get past their mutual loneliness and began to care for one another aside from the need to ease it. 

This isn't, for once, a story about an old man taking advantage of a much younger girl (if anything, she's the one who forces things along at the critical points), but it doesn't avoid the issues that inevitably come up in this type of situation either.  There is some drama, but it ends on a touching note, with the major issues involving the characters' relationships solved for the most part.



I recently got the impulse to go back and replay Eien no Aselia, which sat at the top (mostly by inertia and alphanumeric reasons) of my vndb votes for so long.  Eien no Aselia was one of the final games I played in English before I took the dive into Japanese untranslated VNs, and I hadn't replayed it since, though I played Seinarukana within a year of entering the labyrinth.

Eien no Aselia is one of those few 'oldies' I found hadn't lost anything vital in the years since I last played it.  I still immensely enjoyed the story (which is only mildly different in Japanese), and I still fell in love with Aselia on first sight (I'm a sucker for bloodstained fushigi-chan girls with big swords).  I empathized with Yuuto's struggles as he went from a somewhat whiny standard-issue eroge protagonist to a fully rounded out human being with a lot of admirable qualities.

Eien no Aselia is one of those rare hybrids where the gameplay is something you can pick up easily even though you haven't played it in almost a decade.  Oh, there were aspects I had to remember through trial and error, but I was using my old clear save, so I didn't have to bother with leveling or building anything other than ether gates... which made things a lot simpler.  I remember just how much pain I suffered on higher difficulties to get those maxed levels... and why I never went back after finishing all the heroine paths, hahaha.  The game is long, though it isn't nearly as long as Ikusa Megami Zero or some of the other strategy VNs.  Playing it from beginning to end seven times was more than enough for me in the past.

A few aspects of the game have aged poorly (though not really the visuals, which were great for the time it was made).  The aspect that bothered me the most was that more effort wasn't put into developing the non-heroine spirits that you fought with.  While you could access scenes that did develop them somewhat if you made the right dialog choices and didn't let them die in battle, there is definitely a sense that the writers considered them disposable, despite giving them really distinctive personalities that came out on first meetings. 



Another is that more wasn't done to make Shun a better antagonist... to be frank, his twisted mentality is only poorly explained, even with the extra scenes at the beginning that pop up on your second playthrough.  Spending some time with him in the Empire would have helped greatly to illustrate his fall from a slightly twisted teenager into true madness. 


Replaying Aselia made me remember why I was so eager to see a third Eien Shinken game, and I'm still eagerly awaiting the day when the TBA on the vndb page for Shinyaku Eien no Aselia turns to a real release date. 


Sakura, Moyu is the latest game by Favorite, the producers of Hoshimemo and the Irotoridori series.  For those who aren't yet familiar with Favorite, I should tell you that there are three things this company is known for.  For one, they produce first-class 'nakige' in a unique style full of pastel colors and manipulation of visual and narrative perspectives.  Second, they are known for their excellent stories and characters, regardless of which writer they have on the job.  Last of all, they are known for being lolicons (lol).  No, I'm not kidding.  The fact that every one of their true heroines at least looks like a loli at first glance says everything, hahahaha.

Sakura, Moyu was written by Urushibara Yukito, the same writer as the Irotoridori games.  As such, it should surprise no one that the setting is layered and complex and the story not at all what it seems on the surface.  It should also surprise no one that there is a lot of emotionality in this game... but I don't think anyone was expecting just how emotional this game is.  To be blunt, I spent roughly 80% of this game either on the verge of or in tears.  Considering that the game is one of the longest games I've ever played (at least partially so because I so thoroughly relished Urushibara's writing style), that's a lot of tears... and a lot of tissues *glances at the overfull wastebasket next to his pc and the empty tissue boxes lying around it*. 

However, there are some issues with this game that need to be mentioned to get them out of the way.  Few games are perfect, and this one is no exception.  To be specific, Urushibara has always been mediocre at the romantic elements of his games.  Unless the romance exists at the end of a path full of suffering and despair or occurs in an incredibly stressful situation, he can't seem to write it very well (in other words, he is good at dramatic love but only a bit less than average at everyday love).  As a result, the romance in the first two paths (Chiwa's and Hiyori's) feels abrupt and forced... not to mention the fact that the beginning of Chiwa's path is so at odds at first with the game's atmosphere that I had to put the game down for two days to get past the emotional disconnect it created.  Hiyori's path is somewhat less problematic but still feels forced and abrupt, so I'm basically saying that readers who have high hopes for romance in these two paths will probably be disappointed, at least to an extent. 

One other issue that always nags at you as you play the numerous paths is the treatment of Kuro, the game's true heroine... to be blunt, like all of the Favorite true heroines, the story is set up so that if you aren't on her path, she gets screwed over to one extent or another.  Now, if you don't instantly fall in love with Kuro during the opening scenes, like I did, this might not be a problem for you, but one reason I spent the end of every path in tears and couldn't empathize with the characters' happiness was precisely because of this.

This game is very much a story of self-sacrifice... to the extent that it feels like every time you turn around, someone is sacrificing something for the sake of someone else.  The creatures of the Night (the underworld-like dream realm the characters fought in ten years before the story's beginning) are, as is openly stated, driven to feel unconditional love for humans, and as such, their excessively kind hearts spend much of this game suffering as a result of human actions and the tendency of humans to disregard their own happiness at the oddest of times.  

This is also a game full of loneliness... to a degree that 'loneliness' or 'lonely' (さみしさ and さみしい) are the two most common words in the game by an exponential level.  All of the main characters in this game suffer from loneliness to one degree or another at some point.  Some take it on of their own will, others have it inflicted upon them, and yet others endure it because it is their fate.  As such, there are very few points outside of the relatively few standard SOL scenes (compared to the game's over length) where the game isn't somber in atmosphere.

This game is also unbelievably layered and complex... so much so that it reminds me of games like Harumade Kururu and Ever17 in retrospect.  It has been a long time since a writer managed to keep me so thoroughly in the dark about so much of the game's general story for so long (the last time was Bradyon Veda), and, in that sense, I'm grateful for this game's existence.

I do, in fact, like how it all (the main story) ends, and I even liked how each of the individual paths ended, taken by themselves (If i ignore how Kuro gets screwed over).  I also found myself to be completely satisfied once I finished the game... to the extent that I don't think I'll ever be able to replay this game.  This game was very high stress in the sense that I was constantly being bombarded with the characters' emotions, and as such, it isn't a game that would be easy to come back to any time soon.  The sheer length of the game also adds to this. 

In conclusion, this is a game that is worthy of the legacy of Favorite as a company, worthy of being the first mainline project since the release of AstralAir in 2014.  It has problems and the game is probably one that is emotionally stressful.  However, for catharsis addicts, it is a worthy addition to their collection of nakige and utsuge, lol.


Venus Blood Hypno is by far my favorite Venus Blood game.  There are a number of obvious reasons.  The story itself is the deepest and most interesting, it is emotionally powerful, and, if you follow the Law route, it is possible to avoid sexual corruption issues entirely.

However, the true reason I love this game is because of Leonhardt and Anora.

Leonhardt and Anora have one of the most powerful, deepest relationships I've seen in any type of VN, ever.  The emotional bonds between them are literally inseparable, and the trust between them is literally unbreakable.  They have had innumerable horrible experiences, which have left them bitter and cynical, but their love for one another, while having a strong element of mutual dependence, is nonetheless untainted.  It is unselfish and giving, and, while no sane person would ever envy them their lives, it is hard not to envy their love.

Leonhardt and Anora were once members of the Arknoa royal family, a human (sort-of) kingdom that lay at the lowest level of Helvetica, tasked with protecting the seal on the demonic races, but considered to be tainted and cursed because of the unique abilities the family often displayed.  Anora, because her abilities were particularly strong, was feared and generally distanced from most of the family.  Only her older cousin, Leonhardt, was close to her from the beginning, and when the seal broke and the demons flowed forth, it was Leon who carried her as he sought to escape certain death.  Unfortunately for them both, Calvia Karlsefni, the Demon Empress who destroyed their family, was waiting... and in exchange for Leonhardt begging shamelessly for their lives, she made them her toys.

Leonhardt and Anora were used in an experimental procedure to create a weapon to get around the weakness of demons to divine power, fusing a different soul into that of another living being, transforming them into something that was neither human nor demon.  Of all those who underwent the procedure, less than one in ten thousand survived, and many of those went insane or burned out soon after.  They became what is referred to in the story as a 'Reisu Unit' (which refers to the fact that they use the soul fused to them and their own soul as fuel for their power).    Incidentally, none of this is spoiler, really.

Now, down to the setting, one of the other reasons I love this game.  Hypno's setting is dark, even for a Venus Blood game, where tentacles about and most of the main characters have demonic blood.  In the events leading up to the game's beginning, the demons, who had long been confined to an underground world where there wasn't enough energy to sustain them, much less keep them powerful, overcame this problem in a way that was both simple and terrible... they used a new technology (called Laugraphia) to transform people's souls into crystals called Tactica, that could be used to power their magic, thus allowing them to break the seals and emerge back into the surface.

The demons went to war with the forces of angels and humans led by the Goddess, and the Great War began.  Using the Reisu Units, the demons forced open the teleportation gates to the floating continent from the other surrounding continents, and Calvia killed the Goddess, transforming her into a Tactica. 

Now, the Empire, which is the most powerful of the four demonic nations, rules the central floating continent and the southern continent of Brookheart.  It converts large numbers of humans to Tactica on a daily basis, using any excuse such as criminality, religious activity, or simply being in the wrong place at the right time.  All four nations are reliant on Tactica technology, at least partially because they are all afraid to give it up, lest the others rush in and overwhelm them using that power.  As a point of reference, each of the four demon lords possesses at least one Myorne Class Tactica, which is a Tactica containing the equivalent of more than a million souls.  It is common for most mid and high level commanders to possess a Ten-thousand soul Tactica, and most soldiers with potential have one that contains a hundred or more.  Worse, Tactica can be 'used up' if their power is abused, meaning that huge numbers of souls are being burned like fuel on a fire on a daily basis. 

As a setting, it has both depth and darkness, two things that I can't help but like.

Hypno, like most games in the series, is split between Law and Chaos paths, but with a slightly different twist, there is a true Law ending that can only be accessed under specific conditions on a third playthrough after you've been through the Law and Chaos paths once each.  This is the True Law Anora ending, and it is, quite obviously, the single best (or at least the happiest) of the game's endings.  I cried, lol.


First, I should note the reasons why I keep playing Venus Blood games, despite not being fond of tentacles in general and rape in particular.   The first reason is that the story and characters in each game have been exceedingly interesting, which is a good enough reason in and of itself.  However, the second reason, and the one that makes this series stand out, is the sheer depth of the gameplay most games in the series since Frontier have displayed.

I played Empire and Abyss first, and, to be honest, they aren't really that impressive as games go.  The stories were good and I liked the characters, but if you were to ask me if the gameplay was all that memorable, my answer would be no.  However, it was with Frontier that I first experienced the need to truly delve the depths of the series' system of skills and unit building (as opposed to just randomly gathering units that seemed to go together and relying on the hero characters, like i did in Empire, lol).  This system is one where you are rewarded for putting together good combinations of units, rather than randomly putting together a force of OP units.  Most units have a role they are particularly suited for, and there are dozens of different factors to take into account when picking what units to recruit and put in a squad. 

Venus Blood Lagoon came out at the end of last year, and it is already being billed as the hardest game in a series known for high difficulty levels (as opposed to the impossible ones frequently present in SofthouseChara games, where the gameplay is frequently unmanageable altogether).  If you have played a VB game before, I suggest that you consider normal difficulty to be the hard difficulty of most other VB games, at least in part due to the limitations of the hero units this time around.

Most people who just like to play VB games once or twice (to get both paths or different endings) develop a habit of building all their units around their hero units.  Part of this is because Hero units in past games have been more than powerful enough to form the core of a central squad each, meaning that it is perfectly workable to rely on them at least up through hard difficulty.

Lagoon, however, punishes this tendency at times.  Part of the reason for this is that this game has a ridiculous number of dragon units compared to previous titles.  As a result, you get a lot of units that have half-assed builds that don't stand out when compared to late-game recruitable units.  There is a lot of crossover between unit types, creating a tendency toward all-rounders in a game where it is generally better to specialize in a single role (which is why Zahack and Tia stand out, since Zahack is DPS all the way and Tia is a perfect tank).  A classic example of this is Ain, who, for all that he looks cool, is actually fragile and weak in comparison even to mid-game units, at least in part because they made him too much of an all-rounder without giving him the stats and skill levels to pull it off.  Eden also stands out in the same way, turning out to be a decent tank, even though her skillset and stated class say she should be DPS. 

Despite the class names, there are really three major roles and a few sub-roles in this game.  The main roles are Tank, DPS, and Support (not used in-game).  Tank units should be kept in the first slot and possibly the second to serve as a wall between the rest of the unit and enemy damage.  Ideally, they should have a nice set of skills that make them hard to damage or hit (there are a number of such skills) and/or allow them to retaliate with something nasty when someone does attack them (counter-tanks and passive tanks are the two types you can pursue in this game, dependent on skillsets).  DPS units generally have high attack (duh) stats as well as skills that make them more effective at dealing damage, such as skills that reduce enemy defenses, boost their own damage, or allow them to spread damage across multiple units.  Support units are units that exist to provide boosts, defenses against bombardment, and healing.  The rule of thumb in all VB games is to abuse the 活性 and other booster skillsets to create units that have massively boosted stats to deal disproportionate amounts of damage to the enemy.  While this tactic isn't quite as effective as it has been in previous games, it is still the most important basic element of building a squad. 

The major sub-role you should keep in mind is the Treasure-Hunter squad.  This type of squad has a different role than the average 'smash and invade' squad type.  To be specific, all units in such a squad should have boosted loot-related passive skills and equipment to increase the amount of drops after a battle.  Ideally, you should pair such squads with more powerful smasher squads to maximize loot gain and minimize the possibility of the treasure-hunter squads being wiped out.  If you want the resources to build up your army on your first playthrough, doing without Treasure-hunting squads is not an option.

Now, down to the meat of things... this game channels Hypno's system down to the letter.  The Legion system, which allows you to move and deploy up to three units in a single battle, has returned... meaning that tactics have become more advanced and you are faced with a need to create far more squads than is the norm in most games in the series (I had fifteen squads fully formed and leveled by the end, with three on the back burner to make a full eighteen).  Part of this is that you can't avoid creating a wide battlefront in this game if you want to get high after-battle ratings.  Another part is that some units just do horribly against certain enemy squad builds.

The Main Route

This game's story begins with Tia's homeland of Elysses being destroyed by Gashel, the High Priest of the Divine Dragons (which included Elysses and its mostly human subjects).  Tia's brother, Julian, sacrifices his life and resurrects the Demon Lord Zahack, the powerful being that once faced off against the Original Dragon, Eden.  Zahack, even weakened by his long sleep, manages to get Tia away, and he forms a contract with her to help her get her revenge against Gashel.

Now, the main story of the game is focused on Tia's journey to gain revenge, but I should note that there are a number of points that differ from previous titles, story-wise.  First, the protagonist, Zahack, is an assistant and ally rather than the overall leader of things.  Zahack is a demon to the core, and his focuses are on the fulfillment of his contract, sex, and fun in general (not necessarily in that order), while Tia is an idealistic young woman constantly at war with herself as her idealistic nature and compassion conflict with her burning desire for revenge and growing addiction to tentacle sex (lol, yes, that is an issue, as it usually is in VB games). 

To be blunt, in most previous titles, this protagonists tended to relatively easily force the heroines into submission (even the story battles tended to end with the heroines on their knees in relatively short periods of time once the protagonist's plans were complete).  However, this game is one where nothing ever goes perfectly and plans frequently have to be adjusted or abandoned entirely due to circumstance and the fortunes of war.  Tia is a good leader, but she is very clearly the one at a disadvantage from the very beginning.  While she desires revenge, she is also kind by nature and not naturally pragmatic or ruthless as VB protagonists generally are.  Zahack is generally willing to go along with her, as her struggles amuse him, lol. 

The Law Route

I managed to get the true Law ending on my first try (happily), so I can honestly stay that the Law route has a lot to recommend to it for people who like more classic 'not evil' paths (calling the characters 'good' when most of them are mass murderers or using their own children as weapons of war is a bit of a stretch).  There is an enemy worth defeating, a goal worth reaching, and the actual writing is perhaps the best in the series outside of Hypno.  Zahack himself grows somewhat (though Zahack is Zahack, lol), and Tia grows immensely as a person as she gets past her dark desires and finds a new path in life. 

The other characters also find themselves renewed as they face the new threats they had no way of knowing about at the beginning, and I actually found myself surprised at the antagonist, even if it followed the usual VB path of being a somewhat standard/archetypical choice in retrospect.  This is also the first game in the series where I honestly couldn't find a connection with another game that has come out before, so I have to wonder if they are intending on creating a time-distant sequel at some point...

I will play Chaos eventually... but tbh, it took me sixty hours to complete this game (about eighteen hours of that was just thinking about then building units and squads), so I think I'll put that off for a while.


Hatsugamai (or Soshite Hatsukoi ga Imouto ni Naru) is one of my favorite nakige from the last four years.  Feeling in the need of some emotional catharsis, I finally went back to it a while back, and I was blown away a second time by just how powerful the emotions this game brings out are.

First, it should be noted that Alcot Honeycomb, the subsidiary of Alcot that produced this game is known for two things... that it is a low to mid-price and budget company and for the fact that they have never produced a flop.  Every one of their games has come out in the black within six months of release, and they inevitably end up placing at least in the top twenty of any given year.  Another quality of their games is that there are no 'wasted scenes' in their games.  Every scene drives story and path progression, without exception.  This game is no exception.

I am going to focus on introducing the characters of this game, since you can check out my previous blog post on the game if you want an idea of what the game as a whole is like. 

Tokitani Kazuharu- The protagonist of the story, he is a hard-working young man who is absolutely devoted to his own financial independence and protecting his 'family' (currently consisting of Shinobu and Manami).  At the age of eight, he ran away from home to get away from verbal and physical abuse from his mother and eventually adopted another runaway, his 'imouto' Shinobu.  If it weren't for Old Man Tatara, their current guardian, he probably would have ended up living on the street for the rest of what was likely to be a very short life.  As it is, he works hard every day at multiple part time jobs to feed, clothe, and shelter himself and Shinobu (ignoring Tatara's offers to pay for everything) and lives at a rickety school dorm with Tatara's granddaughter Manami.  Kazuharu is a young man of intense feeling and kindness.  While he considers himself to be a practical, at times unfeeling person, it is fairly obvious to those around him that he is the very reverse of that.  Kazuharu is constitutionally incapable of setting aside responsibilities or abandoning someone who calls out to him for help.  His immense capacity for love and selfless behavior make him a powerful character, and his emotional scars often bring tears to my eyes.

Tokitani Shinobu- As a small child, she ran away from an abusive situation to live under a bridge, where she was found and informally adopted by Kazuharu.   She quickly and intensely fell in love with Kazuharu after his ferocious efforts to protect her and keep her fed in the time before Tatara discovered and took them in, and that love has, if anything, only grown deeper and more intense with time (she is almost yandere at times).  Unlike Kazuharu, who struggles with school while working, she is the student council president and the highest scorer on school tests, while still working multiple part-time jobs.  Like Kazuharu, she has a very clear-headed and down-to-earth view of the future... if you ignore the fact that her view of the future involves her creating a corporation solely so she can take the burden of financial support off her brother's shoulders.  Despite how this sounds, she isn't completely monomaniacal.  Having been practically raised by Kazuharu and seeing him as an example, she is a deeply kind and compassionate young woman, with a deep capacity for love that matches his own.

Tatara Manami- One of the three major side characters in the game, along with her grandfather, she is a child (about ten) who speaks in Kansai-ben and has a tendency to abuse pseudo-anglicanisms.  Her cheery personality and cute attempts to sort-of mother the people at the dorm hide a deep loneliness born from the fact that her parents abandoned her, leaving her busy grandfather to raise her pretty much as an absentee parent.  She has a strong bond with the Tokitani siblings, one that is at times adversarial (jokingly) with Kazuharu and conspiratorial with Shinobu. 

Tatara Taizen- Shinobu and Kazuharu's guardian and Manami's grandfather... as well as the owner and head of the board of directors for Shinobu and Kazuharu's high school.  He is a man who has spent his entire life in education and sent innumerable students out to succeed in the world.  However, his own family is a horrible mess, with his daughter and son-in-law having abandoned his granddaughter Manami and his own responsibilities making it impossible for him to raise her in his own home.  He adopted Shinobu and Kazuharu when he discovered them as runaways (he has apparently done this in the past) and supported them out of compassion.  He is a true educator at heart, devoting himself to the well-being and future of his students.  He and Kazuharu frequently fight (in a friendly manner) and his mannerisms are frequently humorous or deliberately display him as a dirty old man.  However, his love for Manami and the two siblings is deep. 

Minamino Shouhei- Kazuharu's best friend and the son of a yakuza family.  Despite his origins, his goal in life is to work in childcare, and his personality is kind and cheerful to the core.  Along with Yuka and the Tokitani siblings, he is part of a group of 'hard-working friends' who have been together more or less since before middle school.  He deeply resents the path his father wants for him in life, and he is definitely in rebellion against the family business.  While he is unaware of the Tokitani siblings' past, he is still the only person who can confront Kazuharu on completely equal terms in the game (for reasons that become obvious if you play the game).

Miyamoto Yuuka- The other childhood friend besides Shouhei (and one of the heroines) she is a pin-up model who dreams of becoming an actress, working long hours after school toward that goal and ignoring her parents' skepticism.  Yuuka is a bright and cheerful character with perhaps the most 'normal' viewpoint of the characters in the game, serving as a touchstone for the warped (understandably so) viewpoints of the other characters.  That said, she is also in the entertainment business, so she isn't unfamiliar with the 'dark side'.  However, it hasn't tainted her, as of yet.  She has a strong will and is a dreamer at heart (whereas the others are mostly down to earth), contrasting her to the other characters on just about every point.

Tanaka Neneko- A ferociously strong-willed senpai at both Kazuharu's work and at school, she is also the worst kind of boss, ordering him to do everything in five minutes.  Raised in an unstable household where both her parents were frequently ill, her role model was her elder sister, who worked intensely hard to bring the family back together after the kids were briefly put into the system due to their parents' inability to work.  Neneko works intensely hard, often getting exasperated reactions from Kazuharu (who works for money, only working hard when it is necessary or when it is part of the job).  She is constantly smiling and is the older sister of the group, frequently ending up as the advisor when it isn't her path.

Kawatsu Tsubasa- The game's main heroine, whose appearance is the catalyst for the events that create the game's story.  Like Kazuharu and Shinobu, she has experienced both abandonment and abuse from her family (mostly psychological abuse), but unlike those two, she isn't really capable of anger, so she has no outlet to release her stress.  Despite her fragile appearance, she is not weak-willed... she is simply the type that endures, bending with the wind rather than standing firm within it.  Like both Kazuharu and Shinobu, she has an intense, deep well of love.  However, she is also far more willing to believe in others than either of them is, unwilling to give up on others until she is driven beyond her ability to endure. 


After ten years playing VNs, you would think I would have completely lost faith in them by now, especially considering just how many I've played (744 not counting most of the nukige, replays and incomplete/dropped ones).  Most VNs that aren't nukige are SOL-fests that exist solely to promote nostalgic fantasies about life in high school and getting into bishoujos' pants... not that that is an entirely horrible goal, but it isn't something I want to see five hundred times over.

The romance is usually puerile and has no relation to reality, the characters have all their hard edges filed away by the needs of the archetype, and drama is used solely to add 'spice' (like one sprinkle of pumpkin spice, not cracked red pepper) to an otherwise endlessly sweet and bland recipe. 

So how is it that someone who has experienced that much essentially boring and pointless repetition of the same scenarios able to continue to enjoy VNs, even if he can't stand meaningless SOL anymore?

At one time, it was a sense of duty, a belief that I was doing the community good by digging gems out of the piles of crap that are the SOL genre.  I also had a sense of pride that I made an effort of objectivity that I have literally seen no one else attempt.  I played games no one else bothered with because they didn't have the time or patience, and I did it because I thought someone looking at the games would want to know what they were getting into.

I paid a price in a growing sense of bitterness, of boredom, and of a sense that I was forgetting the reason why I began to read fiction in the first place.  I paid a price in people continually being trolls and trying to draw me into fights over my opinions on these games.  I had people start reddits and send me pms being sympathetic about the very conversations they'd started (yes that happens). 

I also had people who respected what I was doing, and I knew there were people in the community who benefited from the fact that I was doing it.  I watched VNs I had pushed get localizations and fantls (usually to my surprise), and I saw others that I had labeled as mediocre get hyped to a ridiculous degree.   I tried to get other people to help with what I was doing, only to find that, without a reading speed similar to mine, it was too much of a burden on their lives and ate up the time to read the VNs they wanted to read. 

The bad generally outweighed the good immensely while I was doing VN of the Month, and even after, I found that the after-effects of my years of playing games I wasn't interested in personally had left me with scars I was unable to feel while my sense of duty was keeping me going. 

However, I can say that I still haven't given up on VNs.


The reason is ridiculously simple and at the same time profound (at least to me).  I love the medium.  For someone who likes an experience that combines the reading, visual input, and music without the need for a lot of input from the one experiencing it, VNs provide a unique storytelling experience.  Books are great for the imagination and can send our souls exploring across landscapes that exist only in our own minds, but VNs provide a more filled-out framework for those who don't necessarily have the imagination to fill in all the gaps on their own, without rotting the imagination to the degree manga and anime do.  I've been able to get people who had trouble reading books into VNs, then led them straight back to books and opened the world of imagination to them.  I've seen people who had begun to feel the otaku community offered nothing more to them come alive again after playing a chuunige or a charage.  I've picked up a random moe-looking VN and found a deep and compelling story that remains within me dozens of times.

In the end, it is moments, experiences like that that keep me coming back, believing in the possibilities of VNs even now.  It is the desire to find more such experiences that keeps me looking at new releases each month, and it is the belief that those experiences will never entirely vanish that keeps me from condemning the industry as a whole for the way it sabotages itself at times. 


Paradise Lost was the first game in Masada's/Light's 'Shinza series (Paradise Lost>Dies Irae>Kajiri Kamui Kagura).  For the sake of those who read Dies Irae but still don't understand how this universe/setting works, I'll explain it in a spoiler box at the end of the post. 

Paradise Lost is based in the ruins of a city once called Sodom, now the Quarantine City, a city full of poisonous miasma that causes death and mutation in its inhabitants, a city sealed from the outside world by an impenetrable barrier, a city where Darwinism is the only law.  All the denizens of that city are beasts, monsters who combine human cruelty with the lack of restraint of an animal.  In that city, a man, sometimes named Lyle, at others Nacht, and at yet others Death Scythe, walks the streets of the darkest, most toxic area of the city, stained with the blood of those unfortunate enough to encounter him.

That's my intro to one of Paradise Lost's two protagonists, Lyle.  In a city where everyone is out for themselves, with no pretense of anything else, Lyle is a living legend, a monster who kills simply because he can, because he feels like it.  Always at war with his even more violent alternative ego, Nacht, he searches for a past lost so long ago that it was forgotten by time itself.  Frozen in place for years, time begins to move forward when he encounters the angel Ririel deep in the depths of the Dead Zone.

The other protagonist, Knowe Christ, is a bit more comprehensible from the average human perspective.  He is a young man who is on the lowest rung of the Quarantine City's societal ladder.  Born with defects that make a life of violence impossible for him, he supports his adopted little sister Sophie by selling drugs and being a 'body chopper', selling his own body parts for enough money to feed them both.  He loves Sophie dearly, and she is the only thing keeping him sane in the abyss that is that city.

Paradise Lost is, like all Masada games, over the top and pretty much a perfect example of epic chuunige style (as opposed to the standard types, which are less melodramatic and grand in scale).  In some ways, this game avoids everything that Masada normally does poorly (namely slice-of-life) entirely.  It is pure story from beginning to end.  There is no conflict between daily life and the darker struggle, because the struggle is merely an extension of that daily life.  Both protagonists are dark by nature, though Knowe can be pretty frustrating for his surprising naivete (understandable, since he is a weakling by the standards of the city). 

This game has a lot of great fights and slaughter, and the actual story is pretty interesting.  Unfortunately, the visuals are dated (though still pretty cool) and the protagonists aren't voiced, both of which are negatives for a chuunige (you would have thought Light would have fixed that when they re-released the game).  There is only one truly good person in this entire VN (Ririel), and most of the characters in the game would be considered to be monsters by our moral standards.  Both inside and outside of the city the world is a huge dystopia, with merely the vector differing.

This game uses a lot of Christian apocrypha (as should be obvious, considering that Ririel is an angel) in the setting, but it is done in a way that should be pretty offensive to most Christians, lol (seriously, I don't think that Masada could have so thoroughly designed a blasphemous work even if he'd done so intentionally).

While there are six endings to the game, it should be noted that there are only two possible overall outcomes, with the only differences between them being whether the endings are focused on Knowe's side (and one of his two heroines) or Lyle's side.  Basically, the essential difference between the endings is determined by whether the antagonist succeeds or fails in his main goal (ironically, the antagonist succeeding creates the 'good' endings). 

Overall, this game is a great chuunige... but anyone who doesn't like chuunige won't like it, because there is literally nothing but chuunige content in this game.


Essentially, at some point in the past (though it is questionable as to whether time actually is relevant in this case) humans created 'The Throne', also known as 'Shinza'.  The Throne is literally a place where the god who decides the basic rule of the world sits, his ideal/manifest consciousness subtly or not so subtly altering how the world works.  Eventually, someone discovered a way to challenge the god upon the throne and rewrote reality with their own rules, creating the cycle that defines the Shinza games.  The first world was split completely between perfectly good and perfectly evil individuals.  The second world was ruled by the epitome of Darwinism and is the world in which Paradise Lost is based.  The third world, created by the events in Paradise Lost, was a world free of original sin (thus called the 'White Realm').  Despite this essentially being a world where people's inner darkness had no reason or way to overcome them, eventually an individual, driven by a desire to see new things and discover the unknown, challenged the third world's ruler.  That individual was Mercurius, the master of 'eternal repetition'.  This cycle lasted for what is thought to have been millions of years in Mercurius's subjective time (incidentally one reason why he is so screwy and anyone who has too much contact with him goes a little crazy).  Briefly, Marie created a fifth world (in her path) that allowed for Mercurius's continued existence, but this contradiction (the previous deity still being alive) allowed for the rise of Hajun, who almost took over before Mercurius forcibly took control and restarted things to allow Marie to retake her choice (a fact that Mercurius himself is too screwed up to remember), eventually (probably after several more cycles) resulting in the events of Rea's path in Dies Irae, finally creating the true fifth world.  That was the original canon, with Kajiri Kamui being a 'what-if' scenario for if Hajun defeated Mercurius first and succeeded in destroying Marie. 



This game is on a short list of VNs from 2015 that I am pretty sure I underrated.  As a result, I decided to take a second look at it and see if my impressions changed.  To an extent, they did.  I was much nicer to it this time around, if only because I had better perspective after having taken a few steps back from VNs in general. 

This game is focused on the Gardening Club of a Protestant boarding school in Japan.  The protagonist, Haruto (real name Hartviche or something like that) is a vampire born in the twelfth century and staked rather thoroughly by the Inquisition in the sixteenth century.  He was then revived by the game's main heroine, Kureha, who gave his mummified corpse some of her blood as a child.  His body then reverted to a child state of equal age to hers and he ended up being raised a second time as her little brother. 

It should be noted for those who hate nerfed fantasy that this game is somewhat borderline in that respect.  In this game's version of our world, vampires are actually people who, through intense mental and magical training, exceeded human limits and became able to live solely off of life energy or blood.  Their purpose in doing so (at least the ones who became vampires by this method) was to save humanity by eventually becoming one with the world.  If this sounds vague to you, don't worry, you aren't alone... it is probably the most out-there outlook on vampires I've seen since Twilight, lol.

Anyway, Haruto, who is a member of the club, one day finds that he has entered a state called the Flower Choosing, in which he is required biologically to find his mate and drink their blood, with the near-100% chance they will turn into a vampire themselves.  Haruto, being a goody-goody type, is of course greatly conflicted by this idea (since his experience tells him that very few humans can withstand the burdens of eternity), and, like the hetare all charage protagonists who aren't hot-blooded or super-lucky (as in, the situation resolves itself without him having to move), he waffles a lot during the common route and heroine routes. 

You won't see any action scenes in this game... though there are plenty of scenes that are emotional, the game's length turns out to be its greatest weakness at times.  The common route and the heroine routes are about as long as you'd expect from a Yuzu-soft game, rather than your standard charage, and a ridiculous amount of time is spent with Haruto and the heroines wringing their hands about stuff that is exasperating, looking at it from the outside.

Nonetheless, the emotional moments are generally worth the wait, and I can honestly say there is one area in which this game managed to redeem itself in my eyes... the endings.  Every one of the endings in this game is a 'years later' ending, meaning you aren't stuck reading what they did the day after the climax (a common occurrence in charage, mostly because companies want to leave stuff for a possible FD or just because it is 'tradition' now).  However, one thing that seriously irritated me about this game (besides the somewhat excessive length created at least in part by switching out scenes depending on which heroine is set to dominate at the end of the common route) is the way the vampire setting only ever really lives up to its full potential in Kureha's route.  Oh, there are a few moments in each route where you can go 'that would be kind of cool', but Haruto's general reluctance to use his abilities or actually change the girls ruins most of it. 

I have better perspective now, so I can see it didn't deserve the poor rating I gave it way back when... but if you asked me if it was satisfying, I'd say it falls short.


This is a list of VNs I think are worthy of playing, regardless of my vndb vote (no VN of the Year, since I don't do VN of the Month anymore).  While I haven't been playing much since September, the fact remains that I still played a large number of VNs this year.  Feel free to object, but I have no obligation to listen anymore *whistles cheerfully as he juggles the flaming skulls of those who have opposed him in the past).

Fuukan no Grasesta

Mirai Radio no Jinkou-bato

Haru to Yuki (if I could say I'd played most of the games this year, this would be my VN of the Year choice)

Shin Koihime Musou Kakumei Son Go no Ketsumyaku


Curio Dealer

Kimi to Hajimeru Dasantekina Love Come

Kimi to Mezameru Ikutsuka no Houhou

Butterfly Seeker

A.I. Love

Unjou no Fairy Tale

Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteiru: Trinkle Stars

Hataraku Otona no Ren'ai Jijou 2

Shogun-sama wa Otoshigoro

Hello, Lady Superior Entelecheia

I might add the new Venus Blood, depending on whether I come out on the other end feeling it was good, lol.


If yall haven't guessed (or just read my previous posts) my primary reason for giving up VN of the Month was being buried in SOL... well, that and the fact that playing that many new VNs a month took up too much of my time and left me none for any pursuits beyond work. 

My immediate realization afterwards was that I quite simply couldn't play SOL games at all for the first few months.   After years of constant overdosing on saccharine fake romance and meaningless conversations that exist only to make you go moe over the heroines, I had simply had enough.  Even now, I literally cannot play a pure SOL game without my body physically rejecting it by putting me to sleep or giving me a headache. 

After a while, I got to where SOL didn't bother me, as long as I knew there was something beyond it (actual plot of some sort, maybe a little violence or a protagonist I could like).  Unfortunately, that means I can't bring myself to play anything where I see no hint of something beyond the SOL (seishun doesn't count, since that is default).  My most recent experiments (Clochette games) told me that I could still enjoy SOL as long as it was peppered with something interesting.  However, I quickly realized when I tried to play some of the newer games that came out this month... I wanted to vomit after starting several of them.  I literally couldn't stand the obviously standard-issue protagonist, the weak carbon copy heroines, and the dead copies of games that came out years ago. 

For instance, Sora ni Kizanda Parallelogram was such a blatant attempt to use the nostalgia of both Aokana and Walkure Romanze fans (FD for the former and complete pack for the later came out recently) that it made me want to be sick.  The protagonist's situation and personality were carbon copies of the one from Walkure Romanze, and the situation and setting were partially stolen from Aokana.  Hell, one of the heroines is of the same type as the main heroine from Aokana.  That sent me over the edge, and I sold my copy to a local eroge addict so I wouldn't have to look at the filthy thing again. 

Worse, a bad copy of Ninki Seiyuu no Tsukurikata came out this month, and I wanted to smash something (I hate games that focus on entertainment industries).  Ugh. 

*coughs* ahem, now that I got that out of my system, I have to wonder... am I going to have just as violent a reaction next month and the next after?  There are things I used to like about SOL games that I just can't enjoy anymore, and that saddens me deeply...  and my tolerance for blatant and pathetic attempts at milking other companies' games' popularity has gone down to zero, apparently.