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Madoi Shiroki no Kamikakushi


Clephas

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This is the latest kemomomi VN from Lump of Sugar, whose best VNs all have kemomimi girls, lol.  In this one, the protagonist Takuto and his little sister Shiina are transported to the world of the gods, where human perceptions of the world, mythology and legends come to life.  As a game, this story feels a lot like a 'gentle and slow nakige'.  

To be blunt, the first thing I think most people will note upon getting past the prologue of this game is... that Roka is the most moe-moe heroine they've seen in a VN in years.  Roka, the kitsune, is probably the most perfectly moe character I've seen in an anime or VN since before 2010.  The desire to pat her on the head and spoil her rotten was the first emotion I felt in this VN.  

That said, I could do without her being a heroine.  Does that sound odd to you?  Well, I've never been fond of lolis as heroines, and lolis like Roka really seem like they shouldn't be heroines to me.  Her mother, Kuzuha is much more to my tastes... to the point where I'm a bit irritated there isn't an extra H-scene for her, hahaha.

I got a bit off track with my kitsune moe obsession there...

Anyway, this VN has four heroines:  Mikoto, the combined avatar of the Rabbit of Inaba and Tsukuyomi, who is a natural mischief-maker; Roka, the avatar of the concept of the nine-tailed fox, who is basically an adorable child being mothered by he predecessor; Chiyo, the embodiment of the concept of the Tsukumogami (objects that gained sentience from Japanese myth); and Shiina, the protagonist's stoic but mischievous little sister.

This VN is heavily winter-themed, based in an old-style Japanese town.  The backgrounds are all beautiful and well-done, and it leads to a very 'cozy' feeling that enhances the slow and quiet feel of the game's atmosphere.  

The common route of this VN is focused on the protagonist living a quiet life in the gods' realm while he waits for the chance to go back to the human realm, and it is pretty much a lot of cute and/or comedic sol with a surprising amount of traditional 'lucky sukebe'.  While there isn't a lot to remark on here, I will say that the common route does a great job of filling out the heroines' personalities and background, thus fulfilling the role of helping you decide who to pursue first.

Roka

As I said above, I could have done without H content for Roka.  However, seeing Roka's adorableness increase in her path made it worth playing.  If you paid attention to the world-building in the common route, you can probably guess what the drama in the path is about.  However, I will say that the ichaicha here is very reminiscent of the odd relationships between Makina and Yuuji in Grisaia and Tonoko and Tsukasa in Kamishino (hint-hint) at least in general outline.  I found this path enjoyable and emotional, even if I didn't want any H for it.

Mikoto

Once you've played the common route, you'll probably be able to guess what the conflict of Mikoto's path is (they foreshadow both paths during the world-building).  So, I'll focus on her personality.  Mikoto is a 'stereotypical bunny girl' in some ways, and not so in others.  Like the stereotypical bunnygirl, she gets lonely easily and has a somewhat dependent personality that she covers up with her smile.  Unlike the stereotypical bunnygirl, its causes are a bit more esoteric and deeper than simply 'she is a bunny'.  Overall, her path is even more emotional than Roka's, though there is a lot less cuteness (you all know from above about how I feel about Roka, lol).  It also has a very, very extensive epilogue that made me smile through the catharsis of the main part of the path.

Chiyo

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a tsukumogami is generally an object that has been treated well and used constantly for over a century, causing it to become self-aware (this is why tsukumogami are usually things that would normally be well-preserved, like antique bowls, cups, chairs, swords, etc).  Chiyo is the embodiment of the 'concept' of the tsukumogami rather than an actual tsukumogami, which means she doesn't have an object that serves as her real body.  

Chiyo's path was the first one that wasn't foreshadowed in the world-building.  It was also the strangest romance so far... not the least of which because Chiyo's desires are a bit different from human desires in some ways (well, I imagine there are people who have similar hangups, lol).  It was actually a pretty decent path, but the drama felt more forced than either of the previous two paths, perhaps because Chiyo's character had no obvious issues that would cause drama on their own.

Shiina

If there was one word that would describe Shiina, it would be 'eccentric'.  At first glance, Shiina seems like a stoic, unemotional heroine, but she frequently teases and makes jokes with a straight face.  Her reactions are often off-center/odd compared to normal people.  

I'm honestly glad I left this path to last, because my intuition screamed at me to do so from the beginning.  I recommend that anyone who plays this game do this path after Mikoto's, at the very least, as playing this path will spoil the experience somewhat.  Shiina's path is the most dramatic path in the game (and not for the usual incest reasons).  It also has a large infodump about the general setting toward the end.  For those who like incest paths, Shiina is a great imouto character, as well.

Conclusion

Lump of Sugar games tend to vary widely in quality, from total kusoge to kamige.  While this one falls short of kamige level, it is nonetheless a first-class VN with a good story, excellent characters, and great characterization.  I wouldn't object to future games being based in this setting, either, lol.

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Oh, thanks you still writing about Japanese VNs. I really think that less and less people discussing them here. And on other sources too. That's so sad. No one interested in them or what?

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