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Ren'ai, Karichaimashita

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Clephas

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To be honest, I wasn't intending to read this game... then I happened to catch a Japanese review and immediately purchased a copy (that arrived two days ago).  This game has surprised me by being the first comedy SOL VN to make me laugh this year (comedy VNs being small in number in the first place making this worse), so just starting this game up was enough to satisfy me that I hadn't wasted my money.  ASa Project is a company that has long produced standard charage of various levels of quality, but their last few games have been only just barely reaching levels I consider acceptable. 

Like their last game, Karigurashi Ren'ai, this game picks a somewhat eccentric approach to SOL comedy.  In this case, the protagonist essentially takes on a part-time job that is on the border between legitimate work and enjoukousai, where he gets hired to play a role (boyfriend, boytoy, big brother, friend, etc) for his clients.  This causes a lot of weird antics that are generally amusing (at least to me), and it is helped along by a cast of sub-heroines that are several levels above the two main ones in quality (yes, i'm bashing Emi and Hasumi) or general amusement factor.  Tsubaki, the teacher heroine, is easily my favorite of them all, with an adorable gap between her gamer self, her teacher self, and her lonely homebody self that was very pleasing on many levels.  The twins, Chinatsu and Konatsu (both total perverts, if with slightly differences in degree and vector) had a path that was full of shimoneta and didn't really have anything but humor and H (which was fine, since I never thought to see anything deep out of that relationship). 

After the split-off point for Tsubaki and the KonoChina twins' paths, a second arc begins, following the love triangle that forms between Hasumi, the protagonist, and Emi.  It also has two short (think fifteen minutes of reading) paths for their friends, Momoko and Saki. 

Saki's path... is not so much a path as a bad/normal ending (with two fairly hot h-scenes).  It's worth laughing about, but there is none of the intimacy of Tsubaki's path or the absolute perverted hilarity of the twins' path.   Momoko's path is almost the opposite... it is more of a 'comfort sex' ending, which is good in and of itself, because it steps outside of what is normal for the SOL genre.  Too bad that Momoko wasn't a main heroine, since she would be an interesting main heroine.

Now I get to Hasumi... I don't care if she is one of the two main heroines.  I disliked her from the beginning.  I hated everything about her characterization, save for the hints of loneliness they drop here and there throughout the common path.  The unnatural-feeling characterization for her just made me want to break something... and while she could be amusing at times, her interjections into the  early sub-heroine paths often fell flat, at least in my estimation.  Her personality comes out more after the break between the first and second arcs of the common route (first arc includes the split for the twins and Tsubaki's routes), and she makes a bit more sense... but her characterization still grates on my nerves.  What really gets to me is that if it weren't for the aesthetics of her characterization, I probably would have liked her character background... that laugh just drove me nuts.  I did like her half-yandere qualities, but the fact that I have to plow through that weird laugh and annoying mannerisms to get through it kind of ruins things...  Her path itself is as amusing as the rest of the VN... except that her annoying mannerisms become a constant rather than an occasional annoyance.

Emi makes a much better best friend than a lover.  To be honest, I just found it hard to take her seriously as a heroine (fake lovers to real lovers always does this to me).  The way the relationship (the business/acquaintance level relationship, not lovers) with the protagonist begins (fake boyfriend bought with money) is an amusing variation on one of my most hated VN tropes, and her personality makes for great comedy relief.  However, her as a lover... sorry, I couldn't see it.  It was much more amusing when she was getting verbally abused by the protagonist for her bad habits.  As the butt of a joke, she is a great character, but as a heroine?  Not so much, in my estimation.  That said, she does a much better job as a heroine than Hasumi, at least to my mind... though the nature of the relationship between the three (the love triangle doesn't break up regardless of which one he chooses, which means the antics continue right up to the end) meant that I had to deal with Hasumi's personality even throughout this path.

Conclusion

One of ASa Project's better games, though it suffers from a poor choice of main heroines.  Tsubaki is by far my favorite heroine in this VN, and I would have liked to see a more detailed version of her path (meeting her family, general antics, lol).  This VN's standout element is its comedy, as it uses slapstick, sit-com, and manzai as needed to amuse the reader.  As far as romance goes... the comedy element is far stronger than the romance element, so it is hard/impossible to take seriously, but that was this VN's salvation when it came down to it.

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