Seishun Fragile is the latest of Purple Software's VNs. Purple Software is famous these days primarily for powerful nakige/borderline utsuge like Aoi Tori, Amatsutsumi, and Hapymaher. However, they also are responsible for Chrono Clock and Mirai Nostalgia which, while having an actual plot, are closer to charage than their more plot-centric brethren. This game is much closer to Mirai Nostalgia in style (based on a few comments inside the story, it is probably based some years after the latest point of Mirai Nostalgia, while utilizing the same world setting) than it is to the Hapymaher style, so the emotional impact is greatly reduced in comparison. However, it does have its high points.
This game focuses on Yugahara, a hot springs resort town where a young man named Shiki Yuuto lives in a mansion that used to be a bed and breakfast. Other than the fact that he is a magic-user, there is nothing really remarkable about him. He has a lot of standard-issue charage harem protagonist qualities, like being insanely dense about his osananajimi's deredere attitude and accepting his fake imouto maid's service with a blase attitude, but he is surrounded by a few stranger characters, such as his self-proclaimed magic teacher Liz and his stalker (yes, she is stalking him for real) Setsuna.
To be blunt, Setsuna is the main heroine of this game. The constant hints about a past (serious one) between Setsuna and Shiki, her very real stalking habits, and any number of cues will tip you off if you have been playing VNs as long as I have. She also has the type of heroine profile that has become typical of true/main heroines in recent Purple Soft games (though I can't reveal what it is without spoiling it for you).
Despite that, I went ahead and played another path first, though.
Of course I played the foreigner girl path first. Yes, a ditzy blonde with no sense of self-control is weirdly attractive to me, even after so long. The fact that she can use magic is just icing on the cake.
Liz's path was... uninspiring. To be honest, while it had some high moments (mostly comedic), I found the drama to be excessively derivative and disappointing for a Purple Soft game. Liz, despite her issues, has a rather straightforward personality, and the drama feels kind of forced because it requires a level of complexity that anyone who was reading the common route would have had difficulty reconciling with her characterization. While I liked the ending, it still felt like this path wasted my time, at least a little, despite my fondness for some of the more comedic moments.
Setsuna's path stands in direct contrast to Liz's. I will state this openly... Setsuna is yandere. Oh, she puts up a good face, but there is a ton of darkness hidden behind her joking manner and 'playful-seeming' stalking habits. To put it bluntly, Setsuna is more than a little dependent on Yuuto for her mental and emotional stability, and the reasons for it make absolute perfect sense after you get halfway through her path.
To be honest, the degree to which this path differs in quality to Liz's pretty much finalized my viewpoint on who the main heroine was, if I hadn't already got it from the common route's cues. This path has much better emotional buildup than Liz's, and the drama toward the end is actually pretty enjoyable to read, though it made me feel even more like a voyeur of people's pain more than any of the recent works I've encountered.
Toune is Yuuto's fake imouto/maid. She is originally from a family that served his since their arrival from Britain a century and a half previously, and she has seemingly devoted her life to feeding her 'dame-oniichan' and cleaning up after him.
Generally speaking, if you aren't in her path, Toune takes a supporting role, usually taking Yuuto down a few pegs when he looks to be getting full of himself. She has a cheerfully optimistic personality and a very strong sense of what she wants out of life, and she is a bit obsessed with resurrecting the B&B that the Shiki family used to run (out of their mansion).
Most of her path is a normal 'I always loved you but it was more important for me to be with you than be your lover' transition. To be honest, this isn't one of my favorite tropes, but it works out all right in this case. Toune's path gets pretty emotional toward the end, but it lacks the darkness that was so evident in Setsuna's path, giving it less impact over all (more evidence to my Setsuna is the main heroine hypothesis).
Hio is Yuuto's osananajimi, the younger sister of Hibiki, who runs the Sakuranomiya ryoukan (Japanese inn). From early childhood, the two families have had close relations, while being sort-of rivals (obviously, that ended when the B&B went under, lol). Hio is a rather obvious tsundere with a tendency to retaliate against Yuuto's ever-present density (think nuclear reactor shielding thick) with pro-wrestling moves. To everyone but Yuuto himself, her feelings are ridiculously obvious, and she is horrible at hiding them even in the best of times (even for a tsundere).
Ah... but about the path. 'Predictable' is the word I'd use for the romance portions. To be honest, if you have seen a tsundere osananajimi heroine get together with a dense protagonist often enough, you've probably seen a variation on this path. There is some serious drama, but the drama is even weaker than Liz's path. Hio is pretty adorable as a girlfriend, but again, that is fairly typical of tsundere heroines once they lose most of the tsun. Probably the best part of this path was the protagonist's firm belief that sexually harassing Hio doesn't count as sexual harassment (no basis in fact). Use of that particular running joke was spaced out just enough that it didn't get boring.
Anyone who reads the common route probably likes Yura. Yura is an occult-obsessed yurufuwa girl who can generally be trusted to make the situation funnier. Honestly, other than Setsuna, she was my favorite female character in this game, so I had hopes that this would be an actual path...
... unfortunately, it was just a brief set of scenes with Yura and Hibiki, followed by an H-scene with each. To be honest, I was saddened, since I liked both characters. Maybe we'll see an actual path in a future fandisc? Especially considering that this game doesn't have an official true ending.
By charage standards, this would be a top-level game. By nakige standards, it is undeniably sub-par. To be honest, if this game had only had Setsuna's path or if there was more complexity to the other paths (maybe removing Hio's path, since it was the weakest), this game might be worthy of replaying in the future. However, as it is, this one is unlikely to drift to the top of my list anytime soon. Setsuna's emotional darkness and traumas made her path interesting, but the other paths feel like half-assed attempts at nakige paths (Toune's path was reasonably good at drawing at the emotions, but Liz and Hio's path didn't manage it).