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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

Clephas

I had a lot of reasons for avoiding playing this game... first, it had really crappy-looking gameplay. Second, it was tagged both in Japanese and English with the hetare protagonist tag. Third, the concept was pretty stupid, even by VN standards...

On all these counts, I was correct in my assessment as to whether this would be playable.

That's not to say this VN doesn't have a lot of positive points. The heroines are generally well-developed, and they do have their own paths (though all of them other than Ryuana, Senshia, Yuki, and Kudelka are all short and less well-developed). However, that positive point is absolutely overwhelmed by the fact that EVERY FEMALE IN THIS GAME IS A HEROINE except the protagonist's mother... and that is just way too much.

Making it worse is that the protagonist is the perverted sandbag hetare type that generally ends up as the 'idiot best friend' in most love-comedy VNs these days... I'm sorry, but I don't enjoy vicariously experiencing being beaten on by the heroines in just about every scene. Unless you are completely do-M, you'll come to hate this protagonist well before you get out of the common route.

The writing quality is spotty, probably because it was handled by so many separate writers (five that I know of), and as a result, the gap between the really well-written scenes (usually in the dungeons or during special scenes in the heroine routes) and the 'normal' scenes is so obvious that I was a bit exasperated.

Ryuana is probably the most favored of all the heroines, because hers is the only route where you really see the protagonist grow out of his hetare-dom, if only just a bit. Frankly, he is pretty much a weak-willed, cowardly, perverted idiot until the end of most of the paths, and I wanted to impale him for most of the VN.

The gameplay is pretty pointless, since you basically walk through the dungeon (your level is automatically matched to it and you can't change anything about your characters) to the goal every time, and there is no real sense of accomplishment to it, since it doesn't gain you any advantages to out of your way. Thankfully, it generally only pops up three times in the common route and zero to three times in various heroine routes. That said, it was annoying just for its very existence, since it is basically a waste of your time.

Overall, I can't recommend this VN... at all. The art is good and there are some attractive heroines and some good moments, but that doesn't change the fact that most of the elements that went into this VN sucked donkey hair.

Clephas

Yuusha vs Eiyuu

First, as a fantasy anime/VN fan, one thing you'll inevitably run into are these two words... 'yuusha' (勇者) and 'eiyuu' (英雄).  The problem with these two words is that they inevitably end up translated as the same thing... 'hero'.  However, the nuance of each word is dramatically different, at least for those of us who actually care about nuance.

Now, 'yuusha' is a word you hear mostly in certain types of fantasy VN or anime... these include 'sent to another world' and 'classic swords and sorcery fantasy', but can include things similar to Power Rangers and games like Venus Blood.  The usage of yuusha generally refers to a 'chosen' individual who is stuck with the duty/obligation to confront a force that is beyond the capacity of normal people.  Demon Lords, kaijin, insane gods... you name it, it probably has a swirly target sign that only a yuusha-type hero can see on it.  There are 'evil' yuusha (mostly in dark VNs), but for the  most part, they are pictured as being on the side of 'good' pictured as a near-absolute concept.

'Eiyuu' is a bit different.  The concept of 'yuusha' can't really be applied to a real person, because the real world is almost never unambiguous enough to allow for the term to be usable, but the concept of an 'eiyuu' can be applied to real people.  War heroes, great military leaders, rulers that lead their people to victory against an impossible foe, men who turn the tide of a war, etc. fall under this term's aegis.  As an example, Valzeride from Silverio Vendetta falls under the aegis of this word, as does the insane loli in Youjo Senki.  It is much easier for an eiyuu to be evil, because all an eiyuu needs to be is glorious to a group of people.  They don't need to be moral or upright...  or even seem so. 

Really, this is just a commentary on how confusing Japanese words that translate the same can be...  and it might give you all a hint as to why some of us say that 'Japanese translation is an oxymoron.'

Clephas

Yuki Koi Melt

This VN is by the makers of Pure Girl, Innocent Girl, and the Grisaia series... Front Wing. As such, I couldn't ignore it, since it turned out not to be a nukige... though it feels like one toward the end of the heroine paths.

To be honest, I didn't have any hopes for this game, so it was nice that it had such good humor in it - think Pure or Innocent if they weren't nukige. I'm keeping this short because playing this game got really stressful in the heroine paths, and it is a bit hard for me to be spiteful here.

To be blunt, the structure of this VN is classic 'normal' charage. The common route is about two thirds of the game, and it is used for introducing the characters and building the overall dynamic and character relationships... and the heroine routes are straight 'fall in love>ichaichaichaicha (insert infinity sign here)'. The sad part is that the common route is really high quality... but the heroine routes are so unbalanced toward the newborn couple making out that I wanted to puke sand.

While this isn't VN of the Month quality, it is more than enough for your average charage/moege lover.

Clephas

First, I should note that, despite how it begins, this VN turned out to not be a nukige.  However, it is definitely not a 'pure love' story from beginning to end.  A literal translation of the Japanese name would be 'The warped lie and love letter' with 'letter' being interchangeable with the word for a stereotyped reputation.

Second, I should warn anyone who plays this to either do Saeko's path last or read only her path.  It is just too hard to pick another heroine after picking Saeko.  I did it, but I can honestly say that I felt like I was abandoning Saeko the whole time.

This game's setting is like this:  The protagonist as a child was a little... mature for his age.  He and his girlfriend at the time (Saeko) even went so far as to have sex (without really understanding how society would see their actions), and eventually a rumor went around that he had raped her, even as she moved away.  This left him bitter and feeling betrayed, the rumors destroying his family life and isolating him.  The young man at the beginning of this story has basically accepted his false reptutation and chosen to act it out, forming relationships with multiple young women (who are the heroines of this story).  Then, Saeko returns, stating a desire for him to 'dirty' her again.

A lot of this game is about the protagonist slowly overcoming his past and forming a more honest relationship with the girls despite the rather warped way it begins (thus the name of the game).  Saeko's path can be considered the 'main' path, because it deals most directly with the protagonist's past.  However, regardless of the path, the protagonist manages to get past his trauma and rise above it, if you pick the good ending, lol.

Anyway, this game surprised me with its quality of storytelling.  I honestly enjoyed the interplay, and the protagonist's change of heart is portrayed with surprising subtlety for a Japanese writer (most Japanese VN writers tend to like the 'sudden overwhelming flood of emotion' way of doing things).  While there is plenty of h content in the game, it is not overwhelming, though it is definitely more than the average charage. 

Overall, this game is not suited to someone looking for straightforward relationships and love with relatively pure beginnings.  The characters in this VN are all scarred or damaged in some way, which becomes obvious as you play.  Nonetheless, I found it an immensely enjoyable experience.

Edit: Oh, and if you dislike sado-masochistic relationships, you should probably avoid this VN.  While it doesn't go to the real extremes like mutilation or electric shock, it does touch on more 'normal' SM activities. 

Clephas

This game is the second project made by Samoyed Smile, a subsidiary of the same corporation that owns Softhouse-seal.  This is, incidentally, why the game has the really crappy lip-sync and sex animations so familiar from that company's works.  That said, this company is not a nukige company, despite the lateral relationship.

The game starts with a young teacher, Haruki, teaching a class of dropouts at a night school.  Haruki, having had horrible experiences at his first teaching job, has a poor attitude at first, primarily because he was lured by his estranged father with the promise of the equivalent of $4M in inheritance if he succeeded in graduating the last three students at the night school.

Haruki is unusual amongst VN protagonists for being an adult with at least some experience in life, and as a character, he is extremely well-written, his humanity laid bare for the reader to see.  The situation is also unusual, since VNs with the kind of atmosphere you start with in this game tend to end up as rape/despair spirals in most cases.  The heroines are all a bit loopy and the protagonist isn't much better, when it comes down to it (situation-wise). 

Common Route

However, the game's common route is actually fairly uplifting, once you get past the initial bumps in the road involved in the characters getting used to one another.  Haruki and the heroines slowly get to know one another and even form the beginnings of something like a bond of trust, which comes to a nice high point before the heroine routes split off.  I honestly felt that it was nicely orchestrated, though I did feel that they included an unnecessary number of choices, considering that the events in the common route don't change as a result.

Koshimizu Hayate

Hayate is a spiky tsundere who never fails to fulfill the best - as opposed to the worst - standards of the archetype.  She actually has justification for her attitude, for one thing... she came across her flaws honestly.  She is also, despite appearances, probably the most 'normal' of the heroines under the surface.  Hayate is a Japanese male name, which should give you at least some idea of why she hates having her name spoken or written. 

Hayate's problem, like the problems of many runaways, is with her parents.  I won't spoil it for you, but it is a pretty deep problem... it reminds me of Fumika from Semiramis no Tenbin, except Hayate is a lot more aggressive and less gentle, lol.  Her path is deeply touching, especially as she and the protagonist manage to get over or around their traumas and make peace with who they are.  The student-teacher relationship thing doesn't take its usual turns (probably because the night school itself is too intimate for that kind of social drama to occur), so you shouldn't expect the 'oh they got found out, so he  might lose his job!' crap you see with similar protagonist-heroine relationships in other VNs.

Kadokura Riko and Kadokura Ayako

I'm going to be clear about something... I hate real lolicon content in every way, shape, and form.  If this path had discarded the H content, I honestly would have loved it, but the h-scenes in this path ruin it.  This is one of the few cases where I honestly think that sexual content is an active barrier to enjoyment rather than a mere annoyance.  That said, this path is well written... 

Riko and Ayako are mother and daughter.  Ayako is a weak-mannered, weak-willed young woman who had Riko as a young teenager and is now serving as a single mother to her.  Riko, for her part, is a 'good girl' (think Sachi from Grisaia, though not quite that extreme).  However, there are lots of problems with those two... and the two biggest ones are Riko's 'illness' and Ayako's inability to see anything in a positive light.

This path is all about the nature of human weakness and it deals more with the protagonist's issues with his mother, as opposed to the ones with his father (which were dealt with in the previous path).  That said, he is far more pathetic in his 'down time' than he was in Hayate's path, so that was another reason why I honestly left this path with a bad taste in my mouth.  The main ending (Riko only) is happy, but the other one is obviously a bad ending, albeit one that is probably pleasant in the sensual sense of things.

Niijima Kina

Kina is a sweet-natured airhead.  I don't mean this as an insult... it is an accurate description.  She has a definite learning disability, and she is a natural airhead on top of that.  That said, she is also determined to learn and the first of the heroines to take a shine to the protagonist, partially because he actually takes the time to create a personalized curriculum for her and partially because he doesn't look down on her after a few initial bumps in their student-teacher relationsip (say what you like about him, but he has to force himself to act like an asshole in most of the cases where he does). 

Kina's path is about even with Hayate's for quality, overall... but when you find out the full reason why she's attending night school, I guarantee you will either wince or cry.  They go into specifics, and it is pretty nasty at times. 

Kina's path also shows off her best qualities as a character... such as her capacity for love and her empathy.  However, it also shows off some of her negative points... such as being consumed by hatred and being just a tad psychopathic at times, lol.  Unfortunately, despite rumors to the contrary, she isn't a yandere (I thought she would be, but meh), but she comes close to it sometimes.  Probably, if they had a bad ending for this path, she would have gone down that path, since she definitely has potential.

Overall

Overall, this game was a bumpy ride.  Is it good?  Yes.  Is it perfect?  About as far from it as possible while still being a good game.  Reading this game is a high-stress experience, and I actually found myself growing wistful for charage by the end.  Nonetheless, this game is of a type that is rarely seen these days, lining up with Yume Miru Kusuri for the heart-wounded heroines and screwy psychological twists.

Clephas

Yorite Konoha wa Kurenai ni is the newest release from Lump of Sugar, the company responsible for Tayutama.  Lump of Sugar is a huge hit and miss company.  Though it was more consistent ten years ago, of its last seven releases, only two have been at VN of the Month level (eligible if nothing better is there), which is a huge downward move from the era of the original Tayutama.  Lump of Sugar's art-style is 'classic moe', updated with current tech but mostly left alone at the most basic level. 

This game has a similar setting to that of Tayutama in some ways, but they do not - despite rumors to the contrary - share a setting.  The story in this game is based in modern times, but about a thousand years ago, a mimikko (later to be called the Mahoroi) with strange powers began coexisting with the people of a certain village.  The utopia created by that mimikko's efforts attracted other mimikko with powers interested in coexistence, and over time, the humans and mimikko interbred.  By the time the protagonist is born, there are no pureblood mimikko left, and those that remain no longer possess any strange powers, though those of quarter or half-blood often have greater strength and agility than any human. 

The protagonist, Seiji, comes to the town where it all started (at this point, there are mixed-breeds everywhere across the world), returning after ten years to live with his little sister and one of the last half-breeds, Konoha.  Immediately upon arrival, he meets the confident (without basis) Japanese-style maid Kazuha and a dog-like Mahoroi who insists she is his pet, named Momiji. 

Now, Seiji has a tendency to spoil those he likes/loves and be incapable of rejecting others, so - while realizing that having a Mahoroi calling herself his pet sounds wrong on so many levels - he accepts Momiji, while trying (unsuccessfully) to keep her at arms-length.  His little sister, Suzuna, whom he already spoils to a ridiculous degree (he changes her clothes, feeds her by hand, and wakes  her up every morning), becomes jealous and begins trying to attract his attention.  Kazuha, who is actually incapable of doing any kind of chores (despite being a maid), ends up having Konoha and Seiji go behind her back to fix things all the time... and Konoha, despite being two hundred years old, can't decide if she is a mother or a cute little girl.

All in all, my main impression of this game is 'cute and funny, in a good way'.  While the ichaicha in all the paths is a bit... long, it is mostly amusing (especially Momiji's and Konoha's paths), and the actual stories for the paths are excellent.  Though some of the relationship starts are seriously awkward due to Seiji's denseness and/or the heroines' own issues (and whoo boy, do these girls have issues), it is overall an amusing process to watch.

A few comments on some of the individual paths... I didn't like how the immortality issue isn't even touched on in Momiji's path (considering how dependent Momiji is, it should have come up), but I did like how they handled the difference in lifespans in Konoha's path.  All of the heroines are ridiculously erotic (this is par for the course with Lump of Sugar, since they like to reward you perverts for enduring the ichaicha), and the general atmosphere of the game is 'warm'.

I do think that this setting could have used some elaboration, but that might be asking too much, lol.

Edit:

I can't really justify playing this: https://vndb.org/v22026

The reason is fairly simple... I just can't do that kind of 'true lolicon' stuff.  It looks like a serious VN that takes the subject matter seriously.  However, it is also not something I want to read. 

Clephas

Yomegami

Yomegami.png

 

I'm going to say this straight out... Awesome job, Alcot!!! 

There is a peculiar balance needed to make the perfect fantasy story-focused charage... and it has literally been years since the last time a VN has managed it.  I should know, since I play everything fantasy that isn't a nukige and some that are. 

Alcot's formula of comedy (in particular sexual comedy and situational comedy) is pretty straightforward and easy to enjoy, going across cultural lines fairly easily.  As such, it doesn't require much effort to enjoy.  That provides one element of this VN that 'completes' it. 

Another element is the setting.  Is there a solid setting?  Is that setting vital to the story and utilized well to enhance it and give it life?  That is definitely the case with this VN.  The fantasy elements are vital to every aspect of this VN and touch upon every element of the story.  I am happy to say that this VN is one of those rare fantasy VNs (non-chuuni, non-rpg) where the setting is so integral to the story as to make it inseparable.

Third is the heroine paths.  Are the heroine paths consistent with the setting and the story of the common route?  Are none of the heroines overly favored?  Is there a good balance between ichaicha, drama, and plot?  I can say yes to all these questions with this VN.  The heroine paths are universally solid, with none of them exceptionally favored over the others.  I was seriously impressed at the creativity of the writer when dealing with the endings, since they pretty much universally deviated from the 'golden road' of charage in peculiar ways while keeping to the spirit of the genre (happy endings for beloved characters).

Fourth is the characters in general.  Do they fit into the story?  Do the relationships between the characters feel 'alive', even if they aren't necessarily always believable from an excessively realistic point of view?  For that matter, does the protagonist 'fit' into his role as the center of the story (and the heroines' affections)?  Again, the answer is yes to all.  While the protagonist isn't necessarily exceptional in most ways, he has many qualities that both make him attractive enough to make the romance portions feel real, as well as the roundness to justify such a protagonist-centric story.

What this all comes down to is that this VN is fairly close to a perfect example of the best of the sub-genre, as well as being an example of why I still play charage, even though most of them are crap hiding the gems.  For people who like a strong element of fantasy in their charage, as well as a strong plot for both the characters and the game in general, this is an excellent choice.  For those who prefer to avoid seriousness and stress at all costs, it might be a too much though.  Also... SPOILERS BELOW

 

There is a TON of weird incest in this VN.  I'm not going to tell you what I mean, though...

Clephas

Mmm... first, I should probably mention my first encounter with the company that made this VN, Hulotte, Imouto no Okage de Motesugite Yabai!  Moteyaba was a pretty straightforward take on the 'popular protagonist that forms a harem he eventually chooses a girlfriend from' trope, and as a result, while it was decent, I didn't find anything to be particularly interesting about it. 

In a way the same can be said about Yomeyaba, in that it uses the same (common to about ninety percent of charage) tropes and is true to the ideas behind them... but in the same breath, I can say that it did manage to distinguish itself in some ways that were different from the genre norms (well, really they just hit another cliche of a less common variant, but meh).  Basically, the protagonist in this VN is the descendant of a kami (I distinguish 'kami' from our Western concept of God because it is distinct) and as a result, he possesses superpowers... in his case, the ability to enhance his body... and dream about his potential future wives. 

Generally speaking, this VN moves pretty fast, the common route lasting just long enough to get you to like the characters without becoming the centerpiece of the story (as is common in many charage common routes).  Instead, the centerpiece of this VN is the way the protagonist and the heroines adapt to some of the weird ways his powers and heritage effect their relationships.  As a focus, this is pretty much the ideal for a fantasy charage, as an introduced setting almost has to be utilized properly in order to make it complete (and to prevent jaded VN-gamers from bashing it up one side and down the other), lol. 

I was particularly impressed with the heroine epilogues, as they tended to be pretty good in length and extended farther along than is the norm for a charage (normally, it ends before they graduate from school).  This allows you to have a good idea of what the characters' lives are like after marriage (which is one of the major focuses of the VN) and gives you a sense of closure many charage are deliberately designed not to give you (so they have an excuse to wring more money out of fanboys with fandiscs). 

There is a harem route in this VN... and oddly, it is one of the few harem routes I've encountered that were foreshadowed or made sense in the greater context of the story, in my experience (some story-focused VNs also have harem endings that are the results of really unusual situations, and this is close to those, albeit with more sex).  It explains some of the divine relations between Yoshihara Ookami (the kami from which the protagonist and his family are descended) and his wives, giving you a general idea of how it relates to Daiki and his wives in the harem route. 

Overall, this VN was interesting... and people who like charage with ichaicha and decent drama will find this to be well within their allowable limits... but the fantasy element probably won't satisfy someone who likes superpowered combat and the like, as there is none of that.  The protagonist rarely uses his powers, though the heroines with powers do so a lot more profligately, lol. 

Clephas

Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary is a VN made by Azarashi Soft, a company that I’ve ignored up until now due to its obsession with the Amakano series (a series which is aesthetically uninteresting to me). It is written by Kizuki (of Tasogare no Sinsemilla, Gurenka, and Hanono) and Onsen Daisuke (of Kon Kon and Koisuru Natsu no Last Resort). Kizuki was responsible for the writing of the common route and the central heroine route (Alice’s), as well as the character settings. Apparently, Onsen Daisuke was responsible for the non-Alice heroine paths.

The game begins with Himegami Alice and Izumo Souji coming to a mysterious island to attend the school where Alice’s older sister apparently vanished years in the past. Souji is there as Alice’s bodyguard, to protect and aid her as she seeks out the truth of her sibling’s disappearance.

The common route of this game caught me from the very beginning. Souji and Alice’s relationship, Alice’s reactions to the island, Souji’s odd personality and history… it is all pure gold for a chuunige fan.

There are three fight scenes in the common path… all of which are a bit crazy. Souji is unbelievably strong… and I think I should make an explanation of him as a character before I go any further.

Souji was raised as the successor to a fighting style that has existed for at least a thousand years (recorded), known as the Izumo Style, designed solely for the purpose of killing nonhuman threats. Used against humans, it is effective enough that he can overcome the shock absorbency of carbon nanotube armor, toss adult men around like toys, and launch an attack from just about any kind of footing.

His personality is… a bit strange. First, his interactions with friends and the heroines tend to be that of the average, somewhat naive, martial artist protagonist (dense at first, awkward after, bed yakuza and obsessively protective last). However, his first reaction to any threat is ‘kill’. Not ‘fight’, not ‘defend’, not ‘rescue’… it is to kill. If he sees a monster threatening a human, he kills it. If he sees a human threatening a friend, he doesn’t hesitate… and yet there is nothing cold or hot blooded about it. He might consider consequences afterward, but his reactions to threats are pretty close to mechanical in some ways, hardwired into his psyche by his grandfather’s training.  As normal to him as breathing is killing monster threats.

I wrote Yulie’s and Claudette’s paths’ commentaries before the common route’s while putting this together because I wanted to see the difference between what was written by Kizuki vs Onsen Daisuke. Kizuki, the writer of Tasogare no Sinsemilla as well as several other kamige, is far better at drawing you into the action and the story as a whole. Sadly, Onsen Daisuke’s heroine paths, while interesting, also seem to be reliant on the dominos Kizuki set up during the common route, at least to an extent. Considering Onsen Daisuke’s previous works (of which I’ve played three), he is a bit less consistent and has a tendency to fall back on common patterns in the industry when he runs out of ideas. This was borne out to an extent when I read Julie’s and Claudette’s paths, as the setup for Yulie’s, at least, was a bit sloppy at times.

Yurie

Yulie’s path is done in a style that is quite familiar to me, having read Tasogare no Sinsemilla (this game’s scenario design was done by the writer of that esteemed game), though the writing style differs (this path, Claudette’s, and Yuuri’s paths are done by a different writer). This game’s setting makes for some interesting twists and turns, and Yulie’s path is no exception. While it is subtly obvious that she takes a backseat to Alice in the VN as a whole, Yulie’s path can in no wise be considered a second rate one.

There is some slice-of-life and ichaicha in this path, but it is kept mostly to a minimum, focusing on Yulie’s personal issues, as well as those of the non-humans in the setting. You also get to find out what she is hiding, which was something that bothered Alice and Souji in the common route. Her path’s story is solid and interesting… but I have to say, I wish they’d done at least one of the after-stories outside of the island.

Claudette

Claudette is Alice’s long-standing rival (self-proclaimed) and a generally capable young woman (like all the heroines). Like Yulie and Alice, she is also a natural schemer, and, having experienced life at the top of high society, she traps people with words as easily as she breathes.

That said, she is actually quite likable… you just shouldn’t say anything careless in her presence.

Her path… is interesting. Compared to Yulie’s path, which is focused primarily on Yulie’s personal issues, this one touches on the issues of the island itself. There are some interesting battle scenes in this path (though I still love the common route’s battle scenes the most), and I was actually mildly surprised a few times, which is unusual for me.

I liked her ending a lot more than Yulie’s, mostly because Claudette’s path’s epilogue actually shows what she and Souji are doing several years after graduation. Not to mention that what they are doing is interesting, to say the least. I’d really like to see a VN with one of their kids as a protagonist, lol.

Yuuri

Yuuri is Alice’s childhood friend, who came to the island as a rare childhood transfer (most transfer around middle school or high school age). She is a gentle, shy girl who is a perfect foil for the more active heroines. She is also an extremely skilled practitioner of kyuudou (the competitive archery sport from Japan which incorporates ritual and meditative elements into the sport as a whole).

Yuuri’s path… is frequently frustrating. I say frustrating because the romance between her and Souji is a classic ‘too shy on both sides’ situation. An inordinate amount of time is spent building up to the formation of the actual relationship, in comparison to the other paths (though the others had their own troubles during that stage).

The climax of her path is actually quite excellent… but I felt that the ending/epilogue and after stories were unsatisfying. In this way, it left me feeling similarly to Yurie’s path, sadly. That said, if I were to compare it to the average VN heroine path, it would win by several hundred miles.

Alice

Alice’s path, like most true heroine paths, is dramatically different, both in scale and content than the others. However, to an extent this is because the writer has such a different approach to the characters and the writing itself than the writer of the other paths.

To be straight with you, the combat and battles of wits in this path are incomparable with the others (the battle of wits thing is not a major thing, but it does pop up with a certain antagonist). Souji shows off his general awesomeness repeatedly in this path, making it immensely fun to read.

There are three endings to this path… an early ‘normal’ ending (in the Tsukihime sense of the word), one ‘good’ ending, and the true ending.

The normal ending, again in the Tsukihime tradition, is actually quite good and interesting. I can’t actually say anything about it without spoiling it, but I will say it is at least worth playing for the after-story, though those who like Alice will be hurt somewhat by how things turn out.

The good and true endings split off at a later point and involve the deepest (surprisingly non-dark) secrets of the island. You find out why the characters, regardless of who they were, were invited to the island in the first place, and, regardless of the ending, it is a more or less satisfying resolution. Lastly, the true ending is easily the most emotionally satisfying of those three endings, which is fitting (obviously). However, I could have done with a more extensive after-story… perhaps an encounter with the protagonist’s grandfather (since, regardless of the path, you never get to meet the frequently mentioned grandparent).

Noa

Noa’s path isn’t a path, as such. It is just an h-scene followed by a quick ending… with Souji condemned to the path of the lolicon and kicked off the island, his new and adoring loli fiance in tow.

Overall

Overall, this VN startled me with its quality, and I feel that this is one of those rare VNs that is both story-focused and has a pretty wide appeal. The characters have depth, the setting is interesting, and the protagonist is generally capable. Moreover, despite my complaints about the after-story/epilogues, I really did enjoy this VN as a whole.

Clephas

I'll say this first off... this game actually needed locked paths or a true ending.  Like most Windmill games, the character interactions are pretty heavily reliant on easygoing manzai humor and running character personality and behavior jokes (in fact, most VN humor is based on that).   This game has a cast of four writers (one amateur, one h-scene specialist, and two established names), including Imashina Rio (Gin'iro Haruka and Hoshi Ori Yume Mirai) and Kagami Yuu (ef, Eden*, and Mirai Nostalgia).  Unfortunately, the styles of the two main writers are extremely different, and it is rather blatant when things shift... sometimes in the middle of scenes (this can be jarring and disturbs the flow at times).

Understand, I started out liking this game... I like non-city settings (for some reason, city locales always end up being multi-date ichaicha fests even for heroines who wouldn't be interested in that kind of thing), and the interactions with the heroines and side-characters were amusing.  I even still liked how things were going early in my first heroine path (Serina), but after I headed into a second path, it became apparent they were abusing the 'osananajimi is scared of friend group falling apart' trope.  Oh, the way they abused it is different in each path, but the abuse is so rampant that I had to wince.

Worse, the characters have these pretty much useless powers that only work on each other.  All the paths have the powers as part of the central conflict, but, considering how little the characters seemed to care about their powers in the common route (one way or the other) it felt unnatural how they became central in the actual heroine routes.

Understand, I'm a fantasy freak, so characters having powers is (of course) fine with me... what bothered me was the artificial-feeling limitations and the way the characters so blithely accepted a revelation midway through the path that would have turned most games a bit gloomy.  Again, what's worse is that this was seemingly only utilized conveniently to explain why the other girls (all of whom are latently in love with the protagonist) stop pursuing him once you get on a particular heroine path.  I will say the way they did it was mildly funny (the pseudo-yuri in Himari's path was lol-worthy for instance), but it felt very, very forced to me.

Another issue is that Rinka is rather blatantly the main heroine (the scene I mentioned above makes that very clear).  As a result, all the other paths proceed without resolving the issue of just why that certain event and the issues it brought to the surface came into being.  Of course, as a result, Rinka's path is a very obvious 'true path' and blows away all the others in terms of quality (and length), drawing on elements from the other paths that hinted around the edges about what is revealed in Rinka's path. 

Anyone who plays this game should either only play Rinka's path or play the other paths first (like I did).  While the paths other than Rinka's have some serious issues (the biggest one being choppy pacing and poor use of the setting elements and plot devices), Rinka's path and the common route are definitely worth playing.  Sadly, I can't recommend this one for VN of the Month, but if you want a mildly funny plot-centric charage (yes, they coexist at times), this is a decent choice. 

 

 

Clephas

... something to look forward to.  Amatsutsumi is nothing like what I thought it would be, in a good way (at least from my point of view).  Purple Soft really has been going off in weird directions with their last three non-FD titles... Hapymaher was a kamige, Chrono Clock was good... this one could go either way, but the beginning is pretty fascinating (in the way watching a car crash is fascinating from the outside). 

Clephas

World Election

Here it comes, a possible VN of the Month!!!  Seriously, I hadn't expected that Whirlpool's ten year anniversary game would be this good.  It is written by the same person who wrote Koisuru Doll to Omoi no Kiseki, and it feels in many ways like a return to the better of Whirlpool's two distinct styles.  Whirlpool's two styles are:

1- A straight moege/charage that makes a vague attempt at seriousness on occasion and inevitably falls into the habit of producing endlessly repeated 'ongoing jokes'.

2- A VN that seems like a pure charage at first but develops a more serious and involved story with great drama as the game goes on.  Most of these have a 'true ending', and the characters in general are better designed than in the first type's case.

This one is based in a world where five different parallel Earths merged into one.  One was the human world, a second was the Goumakai (demon world), the third was the world of the divine (angels and gods), the fourth was the world of the beastpeople, and the fifth and last was the world of machines.  Twenty years before the story began, this event caused a lot of conflict and chaos, and it was only resolved to an extent right before the protagonist's birth.  At the same time, humans with special powers started to be born, and the protagonist was one of them. 

The protagonist of this story, Kei, likes to believe he is a 'normal' guy and will say he is to anybody and everybody if they ask... but no one seriously believes it.  He is one of those 'metsuki warui' protagonists who appear frightening naturally, and his power makes him even more frightening, especially since he had the bad taste to get into a battle with Sofia, the most powerful being in the world (and bring her to a draw) on her first day at school.  As such, he is somewhat isolated.  He is also unbelievably dense (standard VN protagonist quality) and kind-hearted, lol.

Anyway, in order to avoid being dragged back to the human part of the world, where he would normally have spent his entire life being watched and studied (he is the most powerful human 'Neos', and as such, he grew up basically being researched and watched), he decides to run for Student Council President.  The common route of this VN is entirely taken up by the election and his efforts to convince the student body he is worthy of the presidency.  The common route is pretty well-paced, and it gives you an opportunity to get to know each of the five main heroines (there are also eight sub-heroines with mini-routes).

The main heroines are Kururu (the true heroine), Sofia (the daughter of the former Demon King and the most powerful being on the planet), Faura (the wolf-girl and leader of the school's beastpeople), Papheel (a loli angel), and Iori (the protagonist's tsundere little sister).  Except for Kururu's routes, most of them have a standard fall in love>brief ichaicha>conflict>resolution>ichaicha>ending resolution that has a nice pace, not wasting your time with endless dating or giving you pathetic 'we are still in school' endings.  In fact, I was quite satisfied with the four main heroine routes other than Kururu's, and I didn't feel that the writer did the heroines a disservice with the balance of attention between them. 

Kururu's route... is technically the true route, and it reveals her secrets as well as the full measure of the protagonist's ability.   It has two endings - a 'normal' ending that you are required to see first, then the true path that digs into Kururu's true nature and past, as well as certain events during the common route that are left unexplained in the other routes.  Overall, it is decent, though it lacks the impact of some other true routes I've encountered (if the other main heroine routes were a 1, it was a 1.2 or 1.3). 

Overall, this is a pretty high quality, well-written VN that is worth reading if you want something that isn't quite your average charage but don't really want to become an adventurer and go play something like a horror, mystery, or chuunige. 

Clephas

Wizards Complex

Hmm... I could say a lot about this VN... NOT.

To be honest, this VN is a perfect example of how a VN can have a decent concept, a decent staff, good art, good music, and an interesting (if derivative, at this point) setting... and fall flat on the details.

Wizard's Complex is a fantasy VN, based in a future where magic and magic technology have become an accepted part of life (this is a setting type first done effectively in Suzunone Seven by Clochette).  In this world, all magic users are women... except the protagonist (basically an excuse to send him to an all-girls school where there will be no rivals, lol). 

Now, perhaps one of the biggest down points of this VN is the protagonist.  It isn't his personality, its his role.  To be perfectly honest, his personality isn't interesting either, but his role in the VN is so often passive or reactive that it completely ruins the entire setup.  While cipher protagonists are common to charage in general, this was one of those cases where it probably wasn't a good idea, as the heroines in this VN are all a bit... meh. 

First, Honoka... she is the classic 'kind-hearted airhead prodigy' archetype that some VNs have thrown up in the past.  She's the type that will honestly and wholeheartedly endorse wishes for world peace and still believes in the idea of a knight in shining armor as the ideal love interest.  I'm going to be blunt, for first and later impressions, she was the most irritating heroine in the VN.  While she will occasionally break character by acting in a manner that seems out of sync with her archetype, that is only to reinforce that the core of her personality, as presented, is exactly what I just defined it as.

Iris... I picked her first.  Why? I always pick foreigner heroines first.  I always pick heroines who are out of place above all other things, and in most cases, it is the foreigner heroine who is most obviously out of place.  Iris is... frail, fragile, and weak-willed... until she isn't.  Her base personality is exactly how I just described her, but in her path, she does manage to break the mold a few times...  unfortunately, the pacing in her path is godawful (this applies to all the paths to one extent or another), and I was honestly left behind as the romance and events progressed in her path. 

Kazuha... I'll be honest.  I liked Kazuha at first, but she falls into the classic pitfall of giving the 'martial artist heroine' too many weaknesses... not to mention that she is one of those classic ones who is constantly talking about how her hobbies don't fit her outward persona.  This drove me crazy both in and outside her path, and it wasn't helped by the fact that the protagonist is so... passive.

Mei... a gamer heroine is a rare type, even now.  Moreover, one that is aiming to become a pro gamer is a first in a VN I've played.  I'm sorry, but I hate one-sided rival heroines (the ones who feel a rivalry for another character who doesn't even recognize their existence).  This is made even worse because Melissa, one of the sub-heroines, has an almost identical role in her 'rivalry' toward Kazuha.  As a result, her half-idiot personality looks even more uninteresting than it would otherwise.  This is a presentation issue, more than anything else.

Last of all, I need to talk about the common route.  This thing is too short.  I hate to say it, but charage with short common routes just don't work, if they don't have an above-average set of heroine routes in terms of length and non-ichaicha detail.  I'm pretty sure the writer thought s/he was making you like the characters, but the branch-off point basically serves to truncate the protagonist's own evolution, weakening an already weak and undefined main character.

Overall, this is one of those utterly mediocre VNs that occasionally get produced by great companies... I'm tempted to cynically lump this VN in with all the other VNs that amputated their own potential over the last few years, and I probably should... but beginners to VNs who have a taste for moe will probably get at least some enjoyment out of this.  For me, this was a VN with at least some potential that deliberately shot itself in the leg, but - like many mediocre VNs - it will probably get eaten up like ice cream at a birthday party by the moe-addicts, though not with the kind of relish you'd see in the case of one of Favorite's games.

Edit: Understand, I did like some parts and others made me smile... but having played much better VNs that used a similar setting (with better characters) made it virtually impossible to enjoy this VN without serious reservations.  I honestly like some of the conflicts, but the way it was presented made it impossible to get emotionally invested. 

Edit2: This protagonist is a cipher in the truest sense, as he literally doesn't have any interest or goals outside of the heroines.  Generally speaking, this is not a good idea in any protagonist, as it leaves them with nothing to draw the heroines except their 'personality', which is pathetically underdeveloped, in most cases.

Clephas

Why the Nostalgia?

If some of you failed to notice, I've been going back over my list of ancient favorites amongst the moege/charage/slice-of-life genres.  Why am I doing this?  I actually have some good reasons, other than whims.

First, I keep recommending these things to people, but when you start talking about a VN you last played five years ago, people tend to let it in one ear and out the other.  I mean, my long-term memory for games and books is pretty good, but my brain is fairly compartmentalized, so I don't remember them actively unless I go through the effort to refresh that memory.  Can I continue to say that I honestly recommend something without playing it in the recent enough past that I can compare it to other, more recent VN experiences, through more jaded eyes?

Second, I want to know just how much nostalgia is coloring my viewpoint.  To be blunt, the longer you are away from your favorite games or VNs, the more the memory gets beautified by distance in time.  When I recently did a speed replay of G-senjou, I reaffirmed why I disliked the story structure while at the same time realizing that I didn't always do it justice due to my biases (no, I didn't blog on it, but I was mostly doing it for my own edification, anyway). 

Third, I like to think that I try to be as objective as possible, so I wanted to reexplore my VN roots when it came to my attitude toward charage/moege.  One thing I've noticed as I replayed certain charage from the past is that the best of the older generation wasted the least time on 'everyday' slice-of-life, ironically.  The gradual shift to put an excessive emphasis on the everyday life aspects of charage and moege is a relatively recent phenomenon, from what I've re-experienced.  A part of this is that, as the audience in Japan has aged, so has their nostalgia for an 'ideal youth' become much stronger.  The fact is, a lot of the 'devoted' moe-gamers in Japan aren't young people (at least not the ones who are also erogamers).  They are older people who want to experience an idealized version of youth through a non-person protagonist's viewpoint.  Ironically, this seems to be the reason why the market is shrinking, since younger generations don't find that kind of stuff as accessible as the older generation does, so you can tell to some extent what generation a company is appealing to by how weak the protagonist is and/or archetypical the characters are, lol.

 

Clephas

Mitsukai.Dokuro.full.898823.jpg
I've played a number of releases from September's releases, and I'm currently playing Renai Phase (which I'd promised not to, as Giga is incapable of making anything truly great outside of Baldr). However, this month really doesn't have anything I'd really consider VN of the Month material... Seikishi had its fingertips on the vague possibility, and it is undeniably the best thing I played from September. Unfortunately, 'the best from September' is not good enough.

 

The reason I'm already putting a 'batsu' mark on Renai Phase, even though I'm only halfway through it... is because the 'koukan do' system intrudes into the VN in a manner that breaks the storytelling completely. Whereas in most VNs, you have to guess which choices do what with how the heroines feel about you, this VN commits the sin of making a noise and showing a little visual effect every time... and it is really intrusive. I know this might sound like nitpicking, but the sheer number of choices in this VN means that this is hair-pulling level annoying. Not only that, but the protagonist in this VN is fully nameable, without the brilliant system Hoshi ori used that allowed it to have redeeming value. Last of all, the greatest sin of this VN is that, from the very beginning, the protagonist is setting out to get a girlfriend on a whim. To be honest, VNs that steal from dating sims piss me off in general, but this one is particularly offensive, in my eyes. Unless the heroine paths are superlative, in my opinion, this VN has already axed any hope of being VN of the Month material.

Clephas

Yes, I'm serious about dropping this VN.  There are a number of reasons... but the main one is a pet peeve that has recently become my primary one when it comes to VNs... and that is flowcharts.  I HATE flowcharts.  Making it worse is that Kadenz Fermata's flowchart is combined with an unbelievably annoying 'gameplay' system that requires you to take a really half-assed 'active' part in the battles to bring them to the best possible conclusion... even though that conclusion is often identical to the one that would have occurred if you hadn't intervened. 

I'm not kidding.  Every single battle scene - and there are a lot of them - requires you to 'intervene'

Spoiler

 

breaking fourth wall setup) and change the flow of the battle by picking a course of action to take... and without a walkthrough, it is pretty close to impossible to figure out.  Moreover, if you don't manage to get the best result, you get the bad ending... again.  I say again because the game takes you through one of the two protagonists' viewpoints to the end, where everything is irredeemably fucked over, and then forces you to start over from the beginning (adding a whole bunch of extra side-character events to the story, but essentially following the same path with a lot of extra battles and a newborn ability to 'intervene'). 

I never thought I'd run into a chuunige where I hated the battle scenes, but this game actually makes it possible.  Nachsten tended to play up the old-style chuunige 'endless powerups' to the extreme, and for that reason I named it 'the first true generic chuunige'.  In other words... Nachsten is to chuunige what Shuffle is to charage/moege... the 'average' of the whole mess.  Making an already stale formula tedious?  Did they really think that was a good idea? 

About halfway through my seventh battle scene in Kadenz, I realized I wasn't even enjoying the game anymore.  Do you have any idea how ridiculous that is for someone as addicted and biased toward chuunige as I am?  I adore chuunige battle scenes.  I love the over the top moves and CGs... but this is the first time I've ever encountered one where I grew completely apathetic about the battles.  A part of it is that I don't believe in breaking the fourth wall in VNs like this... I think it is a terrible idea, and the results are almost never good. 

Another issue is Freya... I never thought it was possible, but Lacryma managed to create a female protagonist who is basically a copy of the third-rate 2001-2005 'heroine who is a naive, unbelievably stupid and thoughtless tool'.  I never once wanted to root for her during the entire thing.  I hate fanatics/zealots who are incapable of facing reality, and she is pretty much the epitome of that.  It is barely tolerable in a heroine and enjoyable as 'side-character who dies horribly, suddenly, and meaninglessly just for kicks', but it is completely unforgivable in a protagonist, at least for me.

Last of all... I was never enthusiastic about them actually creating a direct sequel after they milked the original story so thoroughly before tacking that shitty/half-assed set of endings onto it.  Fortissimo isn't that great a story (though the setting is almost halfway decent), and I honestly thought it was a particularly bad example of a battle royale situation.  Continuing to use the same characters in Kadenz with an addition of yet more (bringing the cast over 20) just thinned my overall interest in them, and in the end I found myself not even the least bit interest in what happened to anyone. 

This VN also has some serious art issues... though I'll set aside characters who were obviously drawn (as in even to my less than discerning eye) by different artists.  However, the slipups with sprite proportions (one sprite suddenly being outright bigger than the rest for no real reason) drove me a bit wild at times... and the sudden shifting in some of the non-battle CGs to Irosekai's style kind of made me go 'eh, what?'  Of course, I also have to mention issues with sound... such as the fact that the voices are so low in this game as to be almost impossible to hear over the BGM even on the lowest settings at times... or the fact that sound effects will sometimes carry over to multiple scenes...

To put it straight to you, everything Nachsten did wrong, this also did wrong, while adding even more problems due to the designers getting 'clever' with their half-assed ideas 'to get the player involved'.

Edit: I really do think that this is a perfect example of an immense amount of money being poured into a 4th class game.  Where Nachsten is tolerable, this one strays into kusoge territory due to the tedium of completing it.

Clephas

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.

Why? 

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. 

Clephas

My name is Clephas, and I am a pervert.

lol, just kidding... or not.  Considering how long I've been playing eroge, I'm definitely a pervert.  However, that isn't really what this post is about.

When I look at the VNs for a month, the first thing I look for are chuunige, then fantasy/sci-fi, and then non-human heroines (though the last two are interchangeable depending on my mood).  The distant fourth is an interesting protagonist, the fifth is an interesting heroine (if I don't find any of the heroines interesting in setting or character description after eliminating the factors above, I generally have trouble picking the game up). 

Why do I love nonhumans...?  It is pretty much the only 'romantic' part left in my body. 

To be frank, I don't believe in or trust romance.  I firmly believe that romance is a lie we tell ourselves so we can ignore the fact that we are being driven by our body's desire for children and the resulting psychological hunger for a close partner.  That might seem like a cynical way to think of things, and I don't think about things like that while I'm playing.  However, when it is over or before I start?  Always.

I like the strange, the weird, the warped, the unusual... what is the point of telling a story if it is about the girl next door?  If I want to know about the girl next door, I'll walk over and say hello.  I love power trips, I like heroines with different instincts and outlooks, and I like heroines who simply don't share mine or the protagonist's culture. 

I love heroines who have lived hundreds of years.  I like heroines that used to be animals.  I am deeply fond of vampire heroines.  I could go on forever about this.

The fact is, we are shaped by our experiences, and a heroine that has had some seriously unusual experiences is generally far more interesting than a heroine who grew up next door and comes to visit every morning. 

This is actually the main reason why I find it difficult to comprehend racism on a gut level... though I can comprehend it on the anthropological and sociological studies level. 

This is also why I hate 'nerfed' nonhuman heroines.  Need to have a vampire heroine attend school?  Make her a unique 'daywalker' or have vampires not worry about the sun in the first place.  Need to have a succubus be safe around men?  Make it so she only needs regular food and the seduction thing is just an ability (these are both actual examples, incidentally).  You have an immortal heroine?  Make sure she gives up that immortality in her route so that the protagonist doesn't have to worry about being outlived by his wife (ugh, I mean, ugh.  Sometimes that works, but most of the time it is a let down).

Thanks for reading this random ramble, lol.

Clephas

This is a question I've asked myself on any number of occasions (and despite my own thoughts below, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this as well).  For some reason, most vampire literature with a vampire protagonist has that protagonist hating him/herself and his/her condition (switching to 'his' after this sentence, for the sake of brevity). 

Let's be honest with ourselves... if we could gain immortality, immense strength, and the ability to control people's minds in exchange for having to suck human blood and stay out of the sun, the greater majority of us would probably leap at the chance.  Humans are selfish creatures, and the advantages seem to far-outweigh the disadvantages on the face of it.

One common answer to this is morality.  To be honest, I think this is the second worst answer of them all.  Yes, in the case of a vampire setting where the vampire has to kill the subject or infects anyone he bites, it makes sense for there to be a moral issue.  However, if that is not the case, this one doesn't pan out.  Sure, drinking blood sounds evil in and of itself... but if you aren't human, it isn't cannibalism, now is it?  Hedonism?  Is there anyone in a first-world nation that isn't at least a little hedonistic?

Another one is a sense of isolation.  Now this one makes a bit more sense as a negative for vampirism... but not for sucking blood.  Sure, it might be hard to make friends with your food, but it wouldn't be the first time.  No, the issue here is lies.  By nature, vampires need to hide themselves, since they are well... scary.  I mean, if something essentially eats a part of you to survive and looks similar to you, how can that not be scary in a visceral sense?  So yes, the isolation is a good reason to be afraid of your own vampirism if you are a vampire.

A sense of normalcy.  This is the one you see the most in VNs, and I honestly think that it is an abomination.  It is the worst answer.  Almost every vampire protagonist in a VN wants to regain their 'normal life', and this often results in them taking their anger out on the people who saved them and/or love them.  Sure, you pay a price for your vampirism... if you can't go out in the sun (a rarity in VNs), then it is hard to go to school.  If you have to suck human blood, then you can't really be called normal.  However, that sense that normalcy trumps everything (no I don't mean the president) is ridiculous.  I honestly find this kind of attitude annoying as hell in a protagonist, and it is only the ones who don't linger on it constantly that I'm willing to forgive.

Violent instincts... now this one is laughable.  'Vampires have violent instincts!!!'  Umm... hello?  What race goes around killing people for stupid reasons like religious affiliation, what side of a line on a map they live, and who has a better cow in their barn?  *snorts contemptuously*

In the end, vampirism in fiction is a trade-off... and self-hating vampires who stay that way without a good reason always strike me as fake (Toshirou from Vermilion has good reason, but most don't).

Clephas

For those who are wondering, I am currently replaying Unionism Quartet before moving on to A3 Days.  It has been long enough that I didn't recall most of the details, so I needed a refresher.  At the same time, I'm playing Dishonored 2, so I'm dividing my time in half between VNs and gaming right now. 

I don't plan on doing a full post solely on Unionism Quartet, so I'm going to just relate a few impressions here before I finish Yulia's path (I already finished Silvia's, Jubei's, Yuno's and Mariel's... meaning I did all the secondary and sub-heroines before I hit on the game's true heroine, lol). 

First, as non-bloody combat VNs go, Unionism is actually fairly good.  It actually ranks up there with Walkure Romanze and a few others I could name... if nothing else, the protagonist is decent.  However, replaying it in light of the fact that a fandisc/sequel was just released, I'm a bit dissatisfied, as it has become rather apparently that they intended to sequel this thing to death from the beginning, based on the way they did the endings (all the endings are short and based only a short time after the end of the main story).

The game's story structure is of a type I'm sure veterans are familiar with... essentially, you pick a heroine and some scenes change and are added on, but the main story doesn't change to any significant degree, leading to a significant amount of repeated text, for those who dislike that kind of thing.

Clephas

Generally speaking, if you are a weaboo and/or otaku and you reveal your hobby, you generally tend to end up on the receiving end of all sorts of unbelievably irritating questions.  This is my list of the most annoying questions I've heard as an otaku/weaboo.

1.  "Is that a cartoon?"  Almost every anime fan gets asked this at some point, though generally speaking, this is an event that was a lot more common when I first started watching anime.  To be blunt, American cartoons tend to be one of two types... the kid-oriented or the adult-oriented comedy (Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park).  However, anime's sheer variance leads a lot of fans - including me - to want to clearly delineate a difference between the two, despite the fact that the actual Japanese anime definition includes Western cartoons.

2.  "Why do you hate your country?" This is perhaps the dumbest question I've ever heard, but I've been on the receiving end of it countless times during my weaboo life.  The fact is, I don't hate my country.  My country does a lot of stupid things, but it raised me, it helped form my personality, and it has kept me fed.  I simply prefer to study Japanese culture and language over American.  Unfortunately, trying to explain that this is essentially a matter of aesthetic tastes is pretty pointless in the case of those who ask this question (since they've already made their own conclusions).

3.  "Why are you dressing up like that?"  When you cosplay, this is perhaps the most unbelievably obvious question you can ever get.  Back when I still cosplayed, it drove me insane to be asked why I was dressing up that way when it was bloody obvious I was doing it for fun because I liked the anime/books/etc it was based off of.

4.  "Why is there a poster of a cartoon character on your wall?"  This gets old, fast.  When I still bothered buying swag, it was as annoying as hell to have the occasional visitor to my room ask this and similar questions about the swag in my room. 

5.  "Why do you like the Japanese when they are the ones who started WWII?" This is mostly a question asked by someone who has only read US history books or high school level world history textbooks... WWII was the results of both sides' arrogance and over a half-century of bitter economic competition, preceded by an even more arrogant series of attempts to turn Japan into a Western satellite country (ie. late nineteenth and early twentieth century China).  That said, the question has absolutely nothing to do with why I like Japan.  I like Japan because its unique cultural development has so many interesting aspects to study, and I am fully aware of the insanity of war-era Japan and the cultural quirks that led to it, unlike the people who ask this question.

6.  "Japanese games are all the same... why do you play them?"  This is a more recent question and one of the few that has a legitimate point, though it is made from ignorance (usually some newbie listening to a long-time vet complain).  The fact is, otaku media, in particular their games, are slow to change... The shifts in the market are slow, and so gluts of certain types of games are endemic to the industry.  The same applies to all otaku media, really.  Japanese business-people hate change and are slow to adapt to it.  The eccentric exceptions are just that... exceptions.  The answer to the question I usually give is that I honestly just enjoy Japanese style more than Western when it comes to telling a story, and more than half of my reason for living is experiencing good stories.

7.  "That Japanese sword look like it would break with a single whack of this hammer... why don't you just buy a broadsword?"  lol... this question I got when I was showing off my 日本刀 (a katana actually made in Japan in the old manner) to another guy who does broadsword fencing.  The simple answer to this question that I gave him is that my sword is prettier, because I didn't want to get into the arguments about the difference in purpose.  The more complex answer is that katanas make more sense in an era without metal armor than a broadsword (katanas are designed to slice, as opposed to the way western blades are designed to smash and crush as much as cut).  Again, there is also the aesthetic, lol.

8.  "Do you support what the Japanese did in China during WWII?" Now this question... I've never got how people can ask this question.  Do people really think that even a weaboo would lack that much common sense and clarity of thought?  Seriously?!  Of course I don't in any way support Japan's actions during WWII.  Only someone who hasn't read history could have.  In regards to America, there were mitigating circumstances and legitimate reasons, but China was another matter entirely.  China, for all intents and purposes, was basically a helpless, defenseless region (I don't call it a country because it wasn't and hadn't been since Britain won the wars in the nineteenth century), and there was absolutely no need for any of the excesses Japan undertook during the invasions and occupation there.  The same goes for Korea.  I almost punched the last person who asked me this question.

 

Clephas

Hello, my name is Clephas, and I am/was a weaboo.  *snickers at the AA reference*  I'm mostly posting on this matter to give those otakus who aren't necessarily weaboos an idea of what it is like to be a weaboo (ignoring social problems, for the moment, haha) and just why we exist in the first place. 

First, to correct a common misconception... not all weaboos are solely obsessed with Japanese culture/history/etc.  In fact, most Western ones are or eventually become interested in all Asian cultures.  There are a number of reasons for it usually starting with an obsession with Japan, and I'll try to cover them all for you. 

The most obvious reason is that Japan's culture is so obviously different from anything in the average Westerner's personal experience (extracting those that come from first-generation Asian immigrant families).  To be blunt, the average American can at least guess at European sensibilities and the average European can do the same, with some mental effort.  We share a basic religious background, our social contracts are based on the same basic philosophy (with differences in preferences), and we tend to have similar cultural ancestors if we look back into history.  Heck, even most of Latin American can say the same.  So, for the average white-on-white Westerner (or Hispanic as the case may be), there might be numerous personal differences, but the actual cultural differences are in the details rather than the base elements. 

On the other hand, there is literally no common base between us and most Asian cultures, save that which we forcibly transplanted during the colonial days of the past two centuries.  Whereas we experienced various types of paganism and polytheism followed by Christianity, they experienced Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto... the list goes on.  Not only that, the way we developed our cultures was essentially different.  Confucianism in China (and the symbol of the Emperor in Japan) provided a sense of structure and continuity for centuries that altered greatly the way Chinese see the world even today, though most of its precepts have been altered almost beyond recognition in the millennia since their development.  This sense of continuity (in aspects other than philosophical) over such a vast period of time is perhaps one of the biggest causes of differences between Chinese culture in particular and Asian culture in general.  To be blunt, when the Chinese were already an Empire, our ancestors were mostly banging on drums in small settlements across the face of Europe, begging the elements not to starve our children or flood us out.  The 'weight' of culture is so much greater in Japan in China that Westerners in general and Americans in particular can't help but be impressed (or offended/frightened as the case may be) on first encounter with it. 

That said, whether that first impression turns to fascination or apathy is entirely based on the individual.  People that are more curious are more likely to get sucked into it, whereas those who prefer what they already have are more likely to simply set aside that first impression and move on. 

Another reason is that Japan is really really good at 'advertising' its culture... without really trying.  How many of you watched Pokemon, DBZ, or even Voltron or Robotech as kids without even knowing what it was?  I think you'd be surprised at how many otakus received an early baptism of Japanese ideas that planted the seeds for an eventual otaku and/or weaboo transformation.   For that matter, how many of you saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (new or old) or one of the more modern Batman movies?  Perhaps because of the intimate role we played in rebuilding post-war Japan, as well as the stream of Japanese who immigrated after the war, Japanese influence touches lightly on a great deal of our urban society (less so on the rural, though). 

The 'second baptism' that most Americans experience is negative... it is history class when you hit WWII.  The ferocity and apparent insanity (in the average Westerner's eyes) of the Japanese during the war causes an almost involuntary fascination in those who read about it, that frequently leads to a search for answers as to just why they acted the way they did during the war.  This inevitably leads to the samurai culture (both popular and historical), thus frequently creating new weaboos in droves, despite the fact that the WWII history is pretty horrifying the way it is presented (and even worse in reality).

No one is more mouthy and annoying than a new convert of any sort... and those weaboos that most annoy people are generally this type... the ones who haven't yet realized that their obsession can annoy others and thus can't stop themselves from chattering endlessly about some new aspect they discovered along the way, as if they were the first to find that particular fact out. 

Tips for tempering your obsession

If you are a weaboo, it is almost inevitable you will say too much to someone who isn't interested at some point.  In that way, it is a lot like standard otakuism.  However, if you want to at least limit your annoyance factors, here are a few tips.

1- Don't beautify every single aspect of Japanese culture you find.  Samurai culture led to the insane nationalism and mass suicides of WWII.  Geisha were glorified prostitutes (albeit artistically beautiful ones).  Ninja were spies descended from thieves and common murderers.  (etc. etc.)

2- Be aware that Japanese culture can take some seriously ugly turns in the modern era (the fact that police don't get involved in domestic affairs, the weak rape laws and enforcement of those laws, bullying in schools and at work, hikikomori, karoushi). 

3- Be aware that the excessive pride of some Japanese has led to a resurrection of the same nationalism that caused their involvement in WWII (modern historical revisionism focused on WWII and the events immediately preceding it is a prime example of this).

4- The Japanese really did do most of the horrible things their neighbors said they did... not to mention the POW camps where they held the Philippines US troops during the war.

5- Japanese gun control only works because they have no history of regular people possessing personal arms.

Well, that ends my lecture for the day. 

Clephas

Wakaba-iro no Quartet is the latest mimikko VN from Lump of Sugar, a company that has a huge variance in quality from game to game (kamige one time, kusoge the next, lol).  Lump of Sugar has of late  mostly been doing mimikko games, with the Tayutama sequels/FDs and now two newer IPs having come out in the last four years.  Since I love mimikko (it was my first fetish) this is a happy thing for me.

In the setting of this game, the mimikko come from an isolated mountain nation and are basically considered a genetic variant of humanity that has the ability to transform into animals.  The protagonist of this story, Yuuto is a normal (think standard-issue VN protagonist) perverted young man who lives in an outwardly run-down dorm (inside it is modern and well upkept) with his osananajimi/childhood friend Miyako and his cat (who later turns out to be a mimikko) named Ai.  However, things change for him when a young princess from the mimikko nation named Sophia transfers into his school and a girl named Hiyori confesses her love for him and asks to become his maid at the same time (yes, that was a wtf moment, but it was funny).  Soon after, Sophia comes to live at the dorm (right after Hiyori does) and Ai is outed as a human being, resulting in all four heroines living under the same roof with the protagonist.

Now, I'm going to say this straight up... I never had any intention of playing the non-mimikko routes in this game.  I like Miyako and Hiyori, but my love of mimikko means that they could only disappoint in comparison, even if their routes were better, lol.

The common route of this game is the usual LoS mix of cute and mild hilarity (Ai is probably the single cutest thing in the entire VN), and it is also the part of the game I had the most fun with.  It isn't terribly long, but it doesn't really need to be.  In it, there are some issues that come up and are resolved, giving you a solid idea of the character and personality of the heroines before you are presented with a straightforward choice of which route you go to (no other  choices, yay!).

Ai

I went for Ai first, simply because Ai is so cat-like after nearly twenty years solely in her cat form that, as a cat person, I couldn't do anything else.  Since I just told you she is definitely cat-like, anyone who has ever lived with a cat has a basic grasp of her personality (lazy, imperious, etc). 

Ai's path is a pretty straightforward sibling-like relationship transforming into lovers path (think one of those paths where cousins live together and suddenly fall in love with one another one day), with a few twists due to Ai's past and a rather startling revelation about her origins.  Since this was a straight-out charage, there are no dark parts to this story, but the ending is cute and a years-later epilogue, so I was satisfied.

Sophia

Sophia is outwardly very princess/ojousama-like, but her basic personality is that of a future NEET (lazy, hedonistic, etc).  Or at least, that is how they portray her in the common route.  However, in her own route, her negative (not negative to me, negative in the context of the story) qualities don't come out that often... which surprised me, because her personality would have provided an endless potential for gags, even moreso than Ai's cat-like behavior.

Romance-wise, the path is very much standard vanilla fare.  Don't expect any surprises, because there aren't any, really.  There is some decent ichaicha, but nothing excessively cute, nor is there a huge amount of meaningless dating.  That said, for being vanilla fare, it is well-paced and doesn't become boring.

There is some drama to the path, but it is resolved relatively easily (though not quite as easily as in Ai's path).  I honestly felt that more detail could have gone into some aspects of the drama if they reworked things a bit (and I am half-sure an FD with an Aria path will pop up at some point), but, similar to Ai's path, I was happy with the ending and epilogue, which is rare in and of itself (though LoS is better about epilogues and endings than most charage/moege companies).

Conclusion

Despite being a fetish-ge for mimikko-lovers, this is a decent charage, though not one that reaches the highest tiers.  I don't think I would recommend it above all the other mimikko-focused games out there, but it is definitely worth a play if you've exhausted all the other mimikko fetish games.

Clephas

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.

Clephas

Wagamama High Spec

First, despite the way moege fans fawn over the first two VNs by Madosoft, they are perfect examples of absolute mediocrity in charage.  That isn't to say they didn't have good points... the visual aspects of this company's VNs are on the higher end of things in the charage part of the VN industry.  However, they were basically slogs through WWI-style trenches full of mud made from ichaicha... and one of my  pet peeves is writers who pump in endless ichaicha.  I personally see them as kusoge, due to the fact that I dropped Namaiki after one path (didn't vote on it) and Yakimochi was a nightmare of a substance-free ball of cotton candy.

I was kind of exasperated that this VN had an anime come out beforehand, and to be honest, I avoided that anime like the plague specifically so it wouldn't color my attitude on this one.  Considering how much the sexual aspect colors the relationships with the heroines in their paths, I am mildly curious as to how they handled the latter part of the series, though.

One thing all the paths in this VN have in common is that the protagonist falls apart completely at least once in all of them.  I'll be perfectly straight with you... if it weren't for the fact that he was so obviously fragile mentally in the first place, I probably would have been a lot more pissed off about this aspect.  That tendency toward tunnel vision when stressed is pretty common in charage protags, but it does get tiring at times.

The common route in this VN is fairly good...  especially since the protagonist actually has a personality and a role other than as the donkan harem protagonist.  I did think that it was insane to consider anyone other than Towa (the imouto) a heroine at all after a few hours (I love stories of twisted mutual dependence), but I went straight for Aashe first, simply because I'm too perverse to go for the heroine I most want from the beginning.  On the other side, Kaoruko and Mihiro are both heroine types I really and sincerely am bored of... the immensely capable school council president who acts like an airhead (I hate airheads) and the osananajimi (sort-of) heroine.  Understand, when I hear the words 'osananajimi heroine', I am almost instantly consumed by hatred and the heroine in question starts from a negative point.  

Aashe's path was a good experience.  While it did feel a bit obvious when it came to the drama (the foreshadowing was overly blatant), that wasn't so bad  a stumble that the path didn't manage to recover... at least somewhat.  This is a problem that was somewhat endemic to all the paths. I liked the ending, as well as the solution the protagonist settled on.  However, I felt that the end didn't move far enough ahead in time (this VN seriously needs a story fandisc to round out the endings), and that was somewhat of a downer.

The little sister's path was pretty good in this one.  In recent years, little sister paths have mostly been perfunctory, with none of the seriously twisted stuff you tend to see with the dependence that usually creates (consensual) incestuous relationships.  I do feel that they should have included the parental issues into the main VN, rather than making them a background setting.  However, the drama that comes up in the path is emotional enough to be satisfying.  Towa is a great dependent imouto character, and I had to laugh at how easily they transitioned (seriously, it is pretty hilarious).  The fact that they actually managed to take it from there to a really emotional piece of drama near the end was a demonstration of surprising skill.  Again, the big downside was the fact that they really, seriously didn't focus on the issues the protagonist and his sister had with their parents, except in a ridiculously indirect and matter-of-fact fashion.   This is a perfect example of 'failing to milk the setting', and it is a common flaw when it comes to charage-makers (most of them have a tendency to obsessively avoid introducing new or extra characters in heroine paths). 

Kaoruko is the obvious 'main heroine' of the story, and accordingly, it was given the most love by the writer.   The humor and ichaicha are both on a higher level than the other paths (which means it was given more love, given the specialty of charage writers is humor and ichaicha), to the point where I actually broke into real-life lol situations several times midway through.  Unfortunately, the drama in this path is surprisingly... dull compared to the others (this is actually common with charage writers, who seem to like giving their main heroines smooth rides).  I was made a bit sad by this... but the writer's love was shown fairly clearly again in the ending, which is based a pretty long time after the end of the main story and talks about a lot of the details about how they arrived there.

I'm going to be blunt.  I don't have the energy to play Mihiro's path now or any time soon.  She is a great friend character who is frequently amusing... but by that same tone, she is the type of character who makes a horrible transition to the 'heroine' role.  I honestly can't see any non-awkward way in which they would move her into the heroine position, and I honestly don't want her as a heroine, so I'll leave it to someone else to bother with her.

Overall, this is by far the best of Madosoft's three VNs released so far... but it is no kamige.  It does, however, manage to fulfill the requirements for a VN of the Month candidate, in that it both stimulates the emotions, the intellect, and my sense of humor... even if no two of them is strongly stimulated in any given path, lol.  Unfortunately, it just barely puts its fingernails on the edge of candidacy, so anything even reasonably good could blow it out of the water with little trouble, lol.

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