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Resurrecting Posts: Arcadia no Tomoshibi



I lost five posts with the reset, and I probably won't bother trying to resurrect Natsuiro Recipe, except to say that it was the first addition I'd made to the Chicken Soup for the Soul list in over a year... and I generally don't update that list unless I really believe a VN is worth it.

Arcadia no Tomoshibi is a two-in-one VN downloadable only from DMM, sold for around a ten dollars. It is by Nostalgic Chord, the makers of Houkago no Futekikakusha, which was easily the best utsuge made in the last few years. The two VNs inside it are Rakuen no Shugosha and Merrybell wa Shinda to Papa ni Tsutaete. Though there are no voices in these VNs (this was obviously done on a bootstrap budget) it matters a lot less than you would think, because the way they use the art style and music in order to draw you in in these two VNs makes a mockery of the average VN in terms of overall quality.


Rakuen no Shugosha

Rakuen no Shugosha is a VN about a future where a small percentage of the population - both animal and human - have gained supernatural abilities that make them so dangerous that they rendered most modern weapons obsolete. When the story begins, you are thrown into action with a small unit of United Nations soldiers who are sneaking through the ruins of a dead city for the purpose of killing the 'most powerful human in existence'.

The story is told by switching between the present (the hunt) and flashbacks of the past, that tell the story of the superman they are chasing and just why it ended up that way. This VN and its partner are both written by the same man who wrote Gunjou no Sora, and it shows in the sheer quality of the narrative and the near-perfect balance between the development of the characters and the progression of the story... leading to a very emotional conclusion.

The art-style is far closer to that of an American comic artist than that of the anime/manga style that is dominant in VNs, and this adds to the general overall maturity of the characters. There are none of the usual sacrifices to the God of Moe, and the average age of the characters is forty-something.

And this traditional comic-book art-style is used masterfully - along with the music - to reinforce the superhero image of Julius, the man they are chasing. In the flashbacks, he is an emotional, generous soldier with a love of children (and no, not in the sense our rotten souls would normally have it be) who will do absolutely anything to protect the innocent. In every concievable way, he represents the ideal of a superhero soldier, who acts without hesitation for the sake of others. The protagonist, with whom he shares a mutually antagonistic relationship at first, is his opposite, a clear-headed tactician who is good at seeing the big picture. In a lot of ways, their relationship is like if Lex Luthor and Superman had become the best of friends and the ultimate partners... or at least that is how it looks in retrospect.

This VN lasts about five hours (for me) and can be very intense... and overwhelmingly emotional at times. By the end, you can't help but weep for the tragedy of what is going on in the present, and the ending leaves you with a bittersweet feeling that though the worst was prevented, there was no justice done. For artistic presentation (and I don't mean visuals but in the overall sense of using all elements to create a bigger whole), this is one of the better VNs I've played in recent years.


Marrybell wa Shinda to Papa ni Tsutaete

This VN is perhaps the most unusual portrayal of the 'protagonist gets pulled into a fantasy world' trope I've ever run across. The writer actively mocks the usual usage of the trope, instead creating a perfectly mundane - if saddening and terrifying for the characters - struggle to live through culture shock, dramatic personal change, and the formation of new bonds.

The story is told from the points of view of the six 'family members', who are all people who were dropped into this new world when their section of Tokyo 'fell'. They are also the only survivors... and they find themselves indebted deeply to the indigenous city that manage to reach and the merchant guild that sells them their house. A great deal of the story is about a combination of simple financial struggles to make ends meet and pay off more of their debt... and of how the various characters adapt - or don't.

This isn't a story that is prettied up in any way. The characters have mixed emotions toward one another, varying anywhere between trust to outright hatred. Midori, who is one of the two parent figures (the two college students) basically works in a hostess bar (though given the medieval tech, it is grungier), and Yuuya works as a hunter of monsters, barely managing to bring in enough money to pay the bills and pay back some of their debt.

The choice to use an anime/manga style art style (unlike Rakuen no Shugosha's) in this case just emphasizes how different this is from your standard VN. There is no bow to the traditional tropes. There is only endless mockery toward those particular bronze idols. Like Rakuen no Shugosha, this VN is as much a work of art as entertainment and it shows.


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