Site Work Failed, But We Didn't Die
Ugh. Still more roadblocks. Need to get an as-yet unknown password from Nay in order to get this sucker changed. For now, please enjoy the mess of a forums we've got, and dream of the forums we will
probably never one day have.
< 3 - Tay
You can dismiss this alert by clicking on the "X" button
7 pointsHello there, all you good people still following my content-starved blog! There will be no regular review post this week (I’ll be catching up next week with one about Reine Work’s Our Lovely Escape, and hopefully a week after that with one of the long-overdue games sent to me for review), but I’ve wanted to take this opportunity to share the reasons behind the recent slowdown on the site and talk a bit my plans for the future. A warning: this will contain a lot of personal musings that most of you are probably not very interested in. However, I kind of need this opportunity to vent and reset. I’ll add a tl;dr version at the end of this post. Outside of my, not-extremely-successful attempt to jumpstart a new wave of activity on Fuwanovel, there have been a few other things happening behind the scenes. The major one was my academic project on visual novel fan translations, which led me to submitting a paper for an international fan studies conference in Cracow. Preparing the speech in English (this was the first time I wasn’t speaking in Polish on such an event), running a survey with people involved in fan translation projects… It all took a lot out of me and gave me little time and energy to actually enjoy VNs as such. It also coincided with a minor health issue, which despite its non-threatening nature made it impossible for me to sit straight for nearly two weeks – a truly infuriating thing when you should be working on your computer and are basically running out of time. This was probably a major factor which destroyed my motivation for working on the project, which in turn made it be the most painful and depressing one to date. I, however, still made my short presentation in the presence of prof. Matt Hills, one of the most influential researchers in my obscure field of study, and learned quite a lot from other speakers. Here’s some photographic proof, courtesy of my girlfriend who once more agreed to help me inflate my ego by documenting my speech. 😉 As you can see, I was asking the Heavens to help me and my listeners to get through those 20+ minutes of my horrible English accent. Not sure to what degree my prayers were heard, but at least there were no fatalities. Oh, and in the lower-left corner, it’s Matt Hills. That was both awesome and terrifying. And here’s a rare moment where my conference ID wasn’t hanging backwards! You can see the fear in my eyes – one would think after nearly 10 similar presentations I’d be a little bit calmer, but it’s apparently in my nature to stress out over everything. And here’s me taking one of two questions that were still possible to ask after I’ve used all the discussion time for my way-too-long PowerPoint slideshow. And yup, I will insert Flowers whenever that's even remotely appropriate. Suou x Rikka forever. You can't stop me! While, in general, my project was fruitful and I’m satisfied with my performance, I also ended up so physically and emotionally drained that I’ve ditched the other two days of the conference, just enjoying my time in Cracow. Even after coming back, I had a day of what could be described as a full-on breakdown before I kind of got my shit together. All this, of course, has some very real consequences for the blog: for quite a while, I didn’t have the time and energy to really read VNs. And, obviously, without any new material to cover, I didn’t write anything either. It’s the first time since establishing the Blogger site that I have no “emergency” posts to use or quick ideas to supplement more involved write-ups with, even despite switching to the biweekly schedule. And honestly, I don’t expect to write much in-advance anymore. The “one post every two weeks” frequency is here to stay and I’m going to be flexible about it, switching content and dates when necessary. The other thing is that I still want to make the blog a little bit more of my personal space. I’ve kept up the regular stream of content both to become a better writer and to prove a few things to myself. I think I’m satisfied with what I’ve achieved, and while I’m definitely not discarding the general profile of the blog and the responsibilities I’ve taken upon myself (like covering the games sent to me), I’m going to have fun with it too. Write silly stuff connected to the weeb culture and my peculiar experience with it. I’ve already hinted at this at the beginning of the summer, but I’m even more determined to make it happen now. No hobby I’ve picked up over the years was this intellectually stimulating and satisfying as this one and I want to do all I can to keep it this way– I can't let things go too stale. And while I’m doing all this weird stuff and overthinking things, I hope you guys will stay and still read my crappy writing. Exploring the creativity and passion of EVN devs is not something I’ll ever get tired of, and I hope we can enjoy their stuff together for years to come. Thank you all for following my work, and until next week! tl;dr I’ve been to a fan studies conference which, together with minor health issues, ate a month and a half of my life. I’ll get back to “serious” posting next week, returning to the bi-weekly schedule. I might sneak in some weird posts about Japanese popculture between “proper” EVN ones. EVNs are love, EVNs are life (still). See you next week for actual content!
4 pointsThis scene is the opening of Silverio Vendetta, and the two monologues (one from Zephyr, one from a spoiler character who isn't named in the scene) define the nature of the game's theme. “勝利”とは、何だ？ What is victory? “栄光”とは、何だ？ What is glory? それを得れば、何も失わずに済むのだろうか I choose that path, will I be able to live without losing anything? 救えるのか。守れるのか。本当に、幸せになれるのだろうか Can I save what is mine? Can I protect it? Can I really find happiness? 問いは切実。なぜなら、勝利というものはとても恐ろしいものだから。それが輝きの内に秘めている毒牙を、俺は誰より痛感している。 I ask this earnestly. For victory is by nature frightening to me. I know the poisoned fangs hidden within its glorious light better than anyone. 身の丈を超えた栄誉、使い切れないほどの大金、人目に付かざるを得ない大成功……そういったものはどうしても過剰摂取してしまった途端、逆に所有者を苦しめにかかる。 Honors that leave capability in the dust, more money than one can spend, success that can't help but be noticed... Those things can't help but cause the holder suffering the moment they overdose upon them. つまりは反作用。 In other words, it is a reaction. 分かりやすいところでは敗者からの妬みつらみに有名税、人物像の一人歩きに、あらぬ期待や噂話。過激なものでは殺害予告、崇拝脅迫などなどと…… Amongst the more obvious would be jealousy from the defeated, the price of fame, the public's view differing from reality, and unfounded rumors and expectations. The more extreme end can even go to death threats, worship, blackmail, etc... 悪意か、あるいは逆に暴走した善意ゆえか。どちらにしても恐ろしいことには変わりなく。 Whether it is malice or berserk good will, they are both terrifying. それは時として単純な敗北を上回る激痛と化し、更なる破滅の呼び水となる。 At times, that even becomes a suffering far more terrible than simple defeat, and it can even become the cause of utter ruin. 大きな事業が成功した代償に、愛する家族に累が及べば本末転倒。それと同じだ。 It is the same as losing your family as the cost for succeeding in business. It's counterproductive. 時としてここは負けておくだとか、少し遠慮をしてみせるとか、そういった配慮が必要な瞬間は間違いなく存在している。勝てば官軍とは早々いかない It is an absolute truth that there are times when it is best to consider allowing defeat or showing humility. 無論、だからといって勝利するなと言っているわけでもないのだ。そんなことを真剣に語るやつは心底馬鹿だし、目が曇っていると言う他ない。 Of course, I'm not saying 'don't win'. Anyone who says that is a total idiot and is blind to reality. 人ならば誰しも、いいやどんな生物であろうと例外なく勝利という結果を目指す。それが自然で、当たり前の行動原理だ。そもそも負けてばかりでは生きることさえ難しく、無制限に敗者を許してくれるほど世の中は甘い形に出来てはいない。 Humans... no all living things regardless of origin seek a victorious result. That way of being is perfectly natural and a matter of course. It is truly rare that victory is unadulterated. In the first place, if you are always on the losing side, it is hard to even live, and the world isn't so kind as to infinitely forgive the defeated. だからそいつの器に見合った勝利と、妥協できる程度の敗北。その一線を見極めて行動するのが充実した人生を送るコツではなかろうかと、思わざるを得ないのだ。 That's why the ideal is to seek victories one is capable of handling and defeats one is capable of accepting. I can't help but believe that the key to living a full life is acting while keeping an eye on that thin line. 大きな夢を目指すことで惨めに敗れるくらいなら、最初から挑戦せずにそこそこの勝負で済ませておくのが最も賢く、傷も浅い……と。 'Rather than suffering a terrible defeat as the result of pursuing a great dream, it is much smarter and less painful to avoid challenging your limits and be satisfied with minor victories and losses...' 反吐の出そうな弱者の論理展開だがこれを口にしているやつは存外多く、かくいう俺もその一人。 That's the nauseating thought process of the weak, but there are a lot of people out there who talk this way... and I am one of them. 卑小？ 凡人？ そうだな、指摘されてもその通り。自分自身でよく分かっているよ。予め負けた時のために予防線を張っているだけだろうと誹られても、まったく、ぐうの音も出ない Pathetic? Mediocre? Yes, what you are saying is correct. I know that very well. Even if you say I'm just making excuses for the time I lose in advance, I can't refute you. そうだとも、俺は小物だ。 That's right, I'm a pathetic man. 人としても男としても、小さな器しか持っていない。 Whether as a person or a man, I am only capable of so much. 大した理想や信念もなくその日暮らしの金銭さえ手に入れられれば満足という、翻弄される風見鶏。 I live without any real ideals or convictions, an opportunist who is quite satisfied as long as he can make enough money to live day by day. 受動的、かつ厭世的。ただ一言、情けない。 I'm passive as well as pessimistic. To sum me up in a single word... pathetic. けれど── However... それでもただ一つ、言い訳をさせてもらうなら悟ったまでの人生について具申したい。 Still, if you'll let me make one excuse, I would like to report on the life I lived until I came to this realization. 俺は何も負け続けたからこうなったわけではなく、求めてもいない勝利のせいでこうなってしまったのだから。 I didn't end up this way because I kept losing but rather because of an unwanted set of victories. そう──勝てば碌なことにはならない。 That's right... nothing good comes of winning. 必ず、より強大な姿となって次の苦難が訪れる。 Without fail, the next, much larger tribulation follows it up. それは冗談みたいな言葉だが俺にとっては紛うことなく真実だった。 That might seem like some kind of joke... but it was an absolute truth for me. 本当に、ああ本当に、いつもいつも、いつもいつもいつもいつも…… Really, oh really... every time, always, always always... 敵に、任務に、難問に、勝負に、勝ったところで状況が一向に改善されない。それどころか、難易度がアップした状態で似たような事態が連続するという始末。まったく訳が分からない。 Whether an enemy, a mission, a difficult question, or a competition, achieving victory fails to improve the situation. Moreover, I found myself facing similar situations at escalating levels of difficulty. Seriously, what's with that? 身をすり減らして勝った途端、より恐るべき難題が必ず目の前にふりかかる。 The moment I won by running myself ragged, an even worse problem would always, without exception, pop up before me. 血反吐をはいて生き抜いた途端、どこからか容易に超えざる大敵が次は俺の番だと出現してくる。 The moment I came out victorious, puking blood, another great enemy would appear before me. まるで運命という宝箱をぶちまけでもしたかのように。際限なく湧き出てくる次の問題、次の敵、次の次の次の次の──勝者が負わねばならぬ義務。 It was almost as if the contents of fate's treasure box were scattered before me. Problems, enemies, and every tribulation you could possibly imagine welling forth endlessly... the duty a victor must bear. おまえは見事に勝ったのだから、栄光を手にしたのだから、次のステージに進むのは当然でより相応しい争いに身を投じなければならないとでも？ Is the world saying that, since I won, since I achieved glory that proceeding to the next stage is a matter of course, and I have to throw myself into a more fitting conflict? それが勝者の宿命だから？ ふざけろよ、こんな馬鹿げた話があるか Because that is the duty of a victor? Screw that! Can there be anything more idiotic than this?! 誰しもみな現状をより良くしたいから勝利や栄光を願うのに、なぜか俺に限ってはそれが自らの首を絞めていくのだから、不条理という他ないだろう。 Everyone seeks victory and glory to make their present better, but for some reason, in my case, that just strangles me. You can't call that anything other than absurdity. そして当然、凡人なのだから負けもする。いいやむしろ、何も出来ずに地を這う方が多いくらいだ。 And of course, since I'm just a normal person, I lose as well. No, it was actually more common for me to be crawling the earth, helpless. それが嫌だから研鑽を積み、慣れない努力に手を伸ばしたこともある。 There was a time when, because I didn't like that, I took the unfamiliar path of working hard. けれど勝てば、決まって訪れる次の困難。永遠に脱出不能の蟻地獄。頭がどうにかなりそうだった。 However, if I won, I was doomed to face the next tribulation. It was a hellish existence I was incapable of escaping. I felt like I was going to go mad. そんな状態に置かれて尚不屈の意志を保てるほど、人の心は強くない。 Placed into that kind of situation, the human heart isn't so strong as to be able to maintain an indomitable will. だから、俺はもう十分だと疲れ果てて。 And so, I decided I had enough, exhausted. このまま、ただ流されて生きることを選択し。 I chose to live going with the flow. 自分が塵だということを、嫌になるほど受け入れたのに。 Though I hated it, I even accepted the fact that I was worthless trash. けれど── However... それでも、守らなければならない子が出来たから。 Yest still, I found a girl I had to protect. 彼女を救うために、このちっぽけな命を懸けると誓った。ゆえに後もう一度だけと奮い立たせて、再起する。 I vowed to use this pathetic life to save her. For that reason, I forced myself to stand and go forth once again. 一世一代、最後の博打。そして俺は何の因果か勝ってしまい…… It was a once in a lifetime, final gamble... and for some reason I won... どうしようもなく“勝利”を手にしてしまったのだ。 And I achieved yet another terrible victory. それがすなわち、地獄への片道切符に変貌するということをついぞ甘くみたままに…… I foolishly failed to realize that that was doomed to transform into a one-way trip to hell... (at this point, it changes narrators from Zephyr to another) 死神が呼び寄せられる。手に負えない艱難辛苦が訪れる。 The grim reaper is called forth. Trials and tribulations beyond my ability to handle arrive. 守り抜くなど絶対不可能。勝者へは永遠に至れない。 Protecting her to the end is absolutely impossible. He will never become a true victor. 訪れる次の大敵──次の不幸。次の苦難。次の破滅。 What comes is another enemy, another misfortune, another tribulation, another ruin. 掴み取ったはずの未来は暗黒に蝕まれたまま続行していく。 The future he thought he'd reached continues to move forward, eaten away by darkness. むしろ手にした奇跡を呼び水に、よりおぞましい新たな試練を組み込んで運命を駆動させるのだ。 Rather, the miracle he managed to create becomes fuel for another challenge, turning the wheels of fate. それが“逆襲”と呼ばれるものの本質。 That is the nature of a 'counterattack'. 弱者が強者を滅ぼすからこそ成立する概念は、ゆえ逆説的に、勝利の栄華を手にしてしまえば執行資格を失ってしまう。 As it is a concept that exists through the weak destroying the strong, if the glory of victory is achieved, the right to use it is lost. ……彼は永遠の負け犬、呪われた銀の人狼。 ... He is an eternal loser, the cursed silver werewolf. 常に敗亡の淵で嘆きながらあらゆる敵を巨大な咢門で噛み砕く、痩せさらばえた負の害獣。 The gaunt evil beast who crushes all enemies in its great jaws while howling its despair from the depths of defeat. 次にやって来る狩人が更に凶悪な存在になると分かっていても、自分自身の宿命から逃れられずに足掻いている。 He continues to struggle, even though he knows that the next hunter will be even more terrible than the last, unable to escape his destiny. “勝利”からは逃げられない。 It is impossible to escape from victory. “勝利”からは逃げられない。 It is impossible to escape from victory. “勝利”からは逃げられない。 It is impossible to escape from victory. 「ならば────」 "Then..." ──さあ、どうするか？ ... now, what will you do?
2 pointsThe monotony of school is an oppressive force on a kid's life. Psychologically omnipresent, you don't even need to be within its walls to feel its chains shackling you. Home is just made an extension of its presence with homework. And more then just the boredom of rote memorization and a lobotomizing curriculum, there is a social arena where you must interact with the other prisoners. Regardless of how you feel about them, its important to at least maintain a sociable facade. Unlike College where education is on your own dime, and therefore your own time. The grade school schedule from kindergarten through high school is rigidly compact, and generally you have little say in what you get to study. Regardless of talent, interest, or relevancy, you are stuck in a classroom where most other students are just as unenthused to be there as you. 8th Grade, 13 years old and my last year in junior high. I didn't need to put more than a minimal effort into my studies to attain the reputation as an honor student. Although on a superficial front I got along with everyone, I lacked any true connections that extended beyond the solidarity of being prisoners of the educational system I've just described. Life was dull, but everyone told me the path I was walking down had success and stability at the end of its road. That assumed I would continue playing the honor student role I fell into though. Despite the agency of free-will, I was complacent. Despite my ennui, I had little initiative or courage to stir things up. The irony of attending a Catholic school and passively turning a blind eye to the bullying occurring. The frustration of my sexuality awakening but being too emotionally impotent to do anything about it. This is the context in which I discovered Yume Miru Kusuri: A Drug That Make You Dream. Past midnight, and I had just finished downloading a copy of the VN. I had promised myself to install it then go to bed. Opening the application up as a test, I was greeted with a soothing yet hypnotic track. Three girls with blank expressions were looking up at me amid an infinite expanse of vaguely drawn school desks. For minutes I just listened, utterly mesmerized. It was as though I was experiencing a drug that was making me dream. Winter break started the next day, and I had previously installed another visual novel that I was intending to start first. But as my consciousness was drifting in the dazed state before sleep, the title theme track kept ringing in my head. The next day I decided to start my vacation playing this VN instead, and that has made all the difference. The opening scene, an image of a generic blue sky with soft clouds. The narrator himself falls asleep and soon finds himself in an odd dream. Upon violently waking up, soothing music akin to the title screen track plays, and without even realizing it my own thoughts are absorbed by Kouhei's inner monologues. His thinking was so natural, and familiar. And that's when I noticed, I was Kouhei Kagami. The issues of bullying, interpersonal relationships, and the desire to escape the dullness of reality (albeit not through drugs, for me anime was my escape) were all subject matters I understood, and more importantly related to. The way things play out in the various routes always remain grounded in a firm realism. Which easily allowed me to project myself into the situations. But unlike a generic self-insert protagonist, what made Kouhei so relatable was his distinct voice. He was hesitant to tread towards anything that could shake him off his honor-student trajectory, and yet he was equally tempted and fascinated by such things. Smoking, sex, drugs, standing up to social forces; all things that even the most straight laced of teenagers will probably be tempted by. If not for the things themselves, then to grab control of your own life by actively doing something you shouldn't do. This is how Kouhei and I were kindred spirits. The way the story and Kouhei's perspective completely resonated with me led me to voraciously read something for the first time in my life. Before I always viewed reading as a chore, and I only ever reluctantly did so. Reading this VN however, led me into feeling as though everything was happening was to a slightly older, Japanese version of myself. It was that immersive quality that sucked me into the VN's world. That was my baptism into VNs. I'm 22 now, and rereading this VN I can't help but think back on myself and who I was when I first discovered it. Not only have I long since graduated high school, somewhere amidst my early adulthood I also learned to stop being such a passive participant in life. Yet while I can no longer identify with Kouhei Kagami like I did when I first read his story, I can still understand his thinking and actions so clearly. Almost like reading his perspective brings me back to my perspective when I was in my early teens. In that respect, Yume Miru Kusuri is kind of the Catcher in the Rye of VNs.
2 pointsUsually, I focus mostly on the perspective of a consumer when I write in this blog. I do this because I am and always have been primarily a consumer of material rather than a creator. However, that doesn't mean I've never created anything... just that I haven't published anything (well, under my own name... ghost writing doesn't count) since some early fiction on Deviantart over a decade ago. So, since I'm not writing as many reviews, I chose to start a small corner describing the techniques I use when I'm writing fiction (which I still do as a hobby, though I stopped posting it after the last site I posted massively on went under). Today's corner is about the techniques I use when creating a character (usually the protagonist and his immediate surrounding characters, as well as the antagonist) in the brainstorming process. There are two types I use... the flow of thought type and the 'important points' type. The flow of thoughts (similar to flow of consciousness style of writing) involves simply writing out all the qualities, the basic history, and abilities/talents/weaknesses of a character as they occur to you in prose form. This is very similar to the character summaries given on official websites, but in much more detail, with specific important points (to you) described in detail. Immediately after I complete this process, I ink out the setting (I usually create a setting in parallel to the characters) and then I start the 'sculpting' process. The sculpting process involves slowly shaving away or altering parts of the character that don't quite fit with the full setting, are excessive (it is easy to make fantasy protagonists over-powered, for instance), or just don't seem to be internally consistent in retrospect. The final step is to try to write an intro scene for that character that would make sense for that character in the universe you've created, giving you an impression that you can use to form their role in a story. The second method I use is more mechanical. In this case, I write out all the qualities in list form, based on what kind of character I'm interested in making. I usually use this for side-characters, as it is a much 'dryer' approach. Essentially, I create Personality, History, Relationships, and Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses categories. Relationships is generally the first category I focus on, connecting their strand of the web to that of the protagonist and/or other characters. The second is usually either History or Personality. The reason is that this defines the nature of the Relationships, giving it a more distinct form. Last is the Abilities/Talents/Quirks/Weaknesses category. To be blunt, while this is important to their role in the story, it is the aspect that is most likely to be subject to change based on what is necessary to keep the plot going. These are the basic techniques I use... to be honest, since I've never been formally educated in creative writing, I don't know how close my methodology is to that which is commonly used, but I find that this works best for me.
1 pointForeword: This is a formal shameless review just to present a video and give score / personal impression. There is an abundance of reviews of this game in untranslated review sources (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8), and I did not even include reviews in the translated review sources. VNDB: https://vndb.org/v646 Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkfbKBF3PZE&list=PLs4Gp5VU4Fv8HOd7D19oHjX9NAj_dJRkF Synopsis: In face of human technological advancement during the Meiji Restoration, the youkai of Japan were forced to make a hard decision: 1) To remain as youkai and watch over the land 2) To return to the netherworld 3) To give up their power and status as youkai and live amongst humans. While there were some that chose otherwise, the majority of the youkai decided it was best to become human. It was tough, but as time passed these youkai were able to blend in with the human world and live peacefully amongst them. However, blood is thicker than water. The offspring of these youkai displayed the powerful abilities of their ancestors in times of great anxiety, often manifesting in horrible and dangerous ways, and were labeled by society as monsters. Officially their condition was named "Acquired Systemic Special Heredity variety Syndrome", or "ASSHS" for short and treated as a non-contagious illness, but the common people began to refer to them as Jinyous (half-youkai) nevertheless. Of these Jinyous, most were sent to Kamizawa City: an isolated urban area walled off from the rest of Japan to keep all the Jinyous together and away from the human population. However, the ones that were deemed especially dangerous were sent to a medical facility on an uncharted island near the shores of Japan where they would be under constant surveillance. Takabe Ryouichi was one of those who were sent to said island at the age of five. This is a story about him along with the girl called Suzu, his only friend on the island, escaping to Kamizawa city to live a normal life. What they didn’t expect was that Suzu carried a secret that attracted much unwanted attention… Game type: Action chunige with fantasy elements Character Design rating: 9/10 Protagonist rating: 8/10 Story rating: 6/10 Game quality: 10/10 Overall rating: 8/10 I won't be original here. Game is a firm masterpiece with great action, funny SOL scenes and just perfect quality overall. But different people find different parts faulty. Some people blame protagonist Soushichi, but I actually like him a lot. He is really funny and human-like in conversations. Heroines are the main flavor of the game. They all are really well developed, and pretty much every one of them has fighting capabilities. Each route has a distinctive individuality. Other people did not like story resolution, but - again - everything felt natural, don't see much of a problem here. My complaint is much more profound. I do not see an interesting story here at all. On a grand scale absolutely nothing happens. There is no intrigue. Basically we get to know from synopsis that Takabe Ryouichi escapes from a clinic for youkai and is searched by the organization controlling this clinic. So what happens during the course of the game? Organization goons finally find Takabe after a few years which is followed by confrontation. That's it. Where the hell is multiple route mystery featured among vndb tags? There is absolutely no need to play different routes to get the whole mystery picture, because there is no mystery. Yes, we have different girls as allies in different routes, and different sources of power are discovered to fight back. But that's not a mystery. There are even no big twists. Ayakashibito is a great game, but its strength is not in depth and mystery. It's in width and details. The story is developed by constantly adding new characters and presenting their backgrounds and sometimes even small stories in great detail. I absolutely like writing, pacing and all. It's an enjoyable reading, but whenever I try to rationalize - why I keep reading - I can't find the answer, and overall evaluation degrades because of that. Ayakashibito remains a game about girls and their magnificent routes. Personally, I hoped for more mystery and twists.
1 pointAnyone who has read one of my reviews knows I'm something of a cynic and a pessimist. I try to think the best about every VN I go into, but my first impulse is to see what is wrong, rather than what is right. Whether it is optimism and rose-colored glasses or pessimism and cynicism, and excess of either is often a negative influence on the quality of a review. Generally speaking, I usually make an effort to find something I like about a VN's concept before going in, then I start the VN trying to enjoy it as an outgrowth of that. By the end, this usually results in me having experienced both the negative and positive aspects of the VN... the problem is, when reviewing, it is all too easy to forget what is good about the VN. As a result, when I'm writing up a review, the first thing I do is write up a list of the good points I found, ignoring the mitigating negative factors. I then build the review around these and include the negative points in with the rest... but you can probably tell that being positive just doesn't come naturally to me, since I tend to be pretty harsh. However, by using this system, I've found dozens of VN gems over the years that I probably would have discarded for perceived negative qualities if I didn't use this process. Indeed, early on in my reading of untranslated VNs, I dropped numerous ones simply because they had a negative aspect that I got obsessed with. I would later go back and replay them, only to find that the negative aspect wasn't as big a deal as I thought at the time, since I made the effort to go back with a differing perspective. A poor quality in a reviewer is the tendency to ignore the negatives about something you like. Another one is to rate things entirely based on aspects you only have a vague grasp or focus on (in my case, due to my eye problems, I'm not the best judge of artwork, and my musical sense is entirely based on how it enhances the atmosphere, rather than raw quality comprehension). I'm a story reviewer. I review almost exclusively based on the story, characters, and presentation. As such, art and sound rarely have a place in my reviews, since I don't think I'm qualified to evaluate them except in the most general of terms. I can tell when a VA did an exceptional job, because it stands out enough for me to notice. I will even mention this in the review, since it takes a lot for a performance to stand out to me. However, I never pretend to know the ins and outs of specific aspects of VA or musical quality. I simply don't have the right kind of ear for that kind of thing, not being musically inclined. One thing I've noticed in some reviewers who prefer niche genres (such as myself) is to display a tendency I refer to as PGRD (or Popular Game Reactionary Disorder). It is a fictional mental disease that many of us who have a distinct preference for a niche genre display that causes us to have a knee-jerk negative reaction to popular works, simply because they are mainstream. This is a problem that is particularly common in Western otakus of around my age, who became fanboys during a time when watching anime, playing Japanese video games, and reading manga had a rather strong stigma that left us feeling isolated and defensive. However, it is also present in people who prefer niche genres (I get the double whammy, being both). That sense of isolation leads to a tendency to over-praise our favorite materials and bash anything that we see as being too popular. In reverse, there are those who automatically dismiss anything that isn't mainstream. Both types are reactionary in nature and have little to do with the quality of the materials in question. Being a long-time sci-fi addict, I can't understand why anyone would enjoy Avatar (the movie). However, if I make the mistake of saying that in front of a fanboy of the movie, I will inevitably get a vociferous lecture on how misunderstood the movie is by science fiction fans... There are many such examples of such behavior I have experienced over the years, both in myself and in others. As such, a reviewer has to be willing to examine his own motives for liking or hating something. Are you being cynical for the sake of being cynical? Are you over-praising something to the point of overlooking the obvious problems with it? Are you making excuses while thinking you are making a reasoned argument? On the other side, are you ignoring the voice of reason to give you an excuse to dislike something? In the end, bias is unavoidable... but it is a reviewer's duty to do their best to cast aside as much of it as possible, because people use our reviews as reference points when they pick what they want to play/read/watch.
1 pointBelow is the original mini-review I wrote of Nanairo Reincarnation in 2014, which I mostly pulled out because it is much harder to access than this blog because of how buried that thread is. Also, I was feeling too lazy to completely rehash everything I said back then. Nanairo Reincarnation Kamige kita!!! lol I've been waiting all this year for a kamige to appear, and thankfully, I wasn't disappointed. Every once in a while I come across a game that gets every last aspect of what it included right. These games are rare... usually just one or two in a given year. Last year had two, for example... and so far, this year has one. The Game: Most of this VN is the common route, with a few scene changes on the way based on which of the two (inhuman or human) sides of things you chose to go by. Kotori (the main heroine) and Iyo (the zashiki warashi) are on the inhuman side of things, whereas the human side is Azusa (the policewoman) and Yumi (the protagonist's ex). There are a lot of common text and scenes to all the routes, which is why I say the common route is about ninety percent of the VN... this is because the basic flow of events in the main story doesn't change. What changes is who the protagonist ends up with and how they deal with certain issues (such as the protagonist's three oni servants), as well as the ending. By 'ending', I really mean about an hour and a half of story followed by a relatively short prologue that is nonetheless quite satisfying. The story itself is initially focused on the antics of the protagonist, his oni, Iyo, and Kotori as the protagonist accustoms himself to his duty of seeing the restless dead off. However, about one third of the way through, things take on a much more serious tone, for reasons I won't give now, and the central mystery of the story comes into play. To be honest, I want to avoid any hints here, because this is a game that definitely goes over best if you play it from the beginning. This VN is a combination of a lot of genres... it verges on an utsuge at times, a nakige at others, and at yet others it feels like a comedy or an occult mystery. The Heroines: First, let me state that you should not play the inhuman side first. To be frank, there is this one scene that is just downright cool near the end of the inhuman side of the common route that just makes certain events pale in human side of things. Play Yumi>Azusa>Iyo>Kotori (do Kotori's two endings in the order suggested by the walkthrough) to get the best experience. Yumi is a sweet, devoted young woman who parted from the protagonist sort of by default as they grew apart during college. Unlike the other heroines, she can't 'see' ghosts or oni, which causes problems. Azusa is a policewoman assigned by Unit 13 of the local police to be the liaison with the protagonist, who takes on requests to 'deal with' ghosts from them. She is light-hearted, serious about her job, somewhat easily frightened (the first scene with her is total rofl), and gets drunk easily. She is really hot-blooded about her work as a policewoman, which causes problems because she thinks she was dumped on Unit 13 as some kind of punishment. Iyo is the zashiki warashi that has protected and guided the protagonist's family for eight generations, teaching each new one how to manage the oni... while at the same time doing her level best to bankrupt them with her spending habits. She is foul-mouthed, mischievous, and gluttonous... and also surprisingly wise, though she has trouble being serious for more than a few moments at a time. Kotori is a young woman the protagonist meets who is looking for her dog. She becomes attached to him as a result of the incident's conclusion and begins hanging around his house, working as his 'assistant'. She can see ghosts and the oni, and she gets along with the protagonist's oni famously. She's somewhat shy with strangers but otherwise cheerful and easygoing. The Oni: The four oni seen in the story are Kikyou, Aoi, Fuyou, and Iris. Kikyou has the appearance of a beautiful and mature woman and she was inherited from his grandfather for the purpose of teaching the protagonist about oni. She is soft in manner, though she 'changes' when she gets angry. Aoi is the first of the oni born at the protagonist's command. She has the form of a cat-girl and she acts just like it. Her personality is very similar to Iyo's, though her personal devotion to her master is different from Iyo's role as protector and mentor. She wants what she wants at any given moment, and she won't hesitate to go after it. Her special ability is psychometry, the ability to read objects and people for memories. Fuyou is the second oni born at the protagonist's order. She is very similar to Kikyou in appearance and manner, and her special ability is that she can be seen by normal people (something none of the other oni can do), though in exchange she doesn't possess a more mystical ability. Iris is the third of the oni made at the protagonist's orders. She is, to be frank, a cute goth-loli who prefers to talk using her puppet or through her telepathic abilities (she can read minds, communicate mentally, and link other people's minds like a wi-fi hotspot, lol). She is the quietest of the three, though she is just as devoted to the protagonist as his other servant oni. She is a little shy and a bit of a crybaby... though it is understandable considering what her first duty upon creation ends up being. Overall: This VN is a first-rate story-focused, suited for people who want a good cry, a good mystery, and a few laughs along the way. If you can't stand some mild guro and some really tragic scenes... you should still play this, because it is an excellent VN, lol. Now that you've read what I thought then, here are some new thoughts I've had since, having put two years and Akeiro Kaikitan behind me. Nanairo Reincarnation is one of those rare VNs that does not pale even a little bit on a second playthrough. I thought being spoiled to the mysteries and the small-scale mindfuck would ruin this for me, but it didn't, in the end. In fact, I found myself enjoying certain aspects of the small-scale mindfuck that exists in this VN with real appreciation for the skill and subtlety of the writer... I don't think I've ever seen a writer so perfectly walk the line between spoiling the surprise and concealing it too deeply. There are hints... but not really strong ones. In fact, most of them only feel like hints in retrospect, which is really how it should be in this kind of story. Another issue, which I didn't mention above, is the effects of the music and artwork. To be blunt, Silky's artist, Sumeragi Kohaku, is a straight-out muchi-type nukige artist. This lends a somewhat stronger emphasis on erotic atmosphere to the oni that really fits well with the setting, and she is also surprisingly good at non-H CGs... Most nukige artists are horrible at clothing details, non-H positioning, and other such issues that fall outside of their preferred emphasis, but this artist does an excellent job of using her nukige-influenced art style to help define the characters. Music-wise... while there are some BGMs that feel generic, the more intense ones are both unique and well-used to emphasize the atmosphere of the story. While the impression of this VN is primarily formed from the subtle narrative and the artwork, the music more than does its job at enhancing the work of the other two legs of the tripod. I cried in this VN... a lot. I wept for each ghost in their own time (well, except for one in particular who was just a joke), and I honestly felt for the characters throughout this VN, to an extent which is rare even for someone like me, who tends to like getting emotionally wrapped up in his stories. A lot of this comes from the situation... but as much comes from the fact that Makoto is one of those rare protagonists who is honestly empathetic without any of the density or merely surface-level kindness that you see in love-comedy types. For those who like to live behind the eyes of a VN's protagonist, this VN really is a treat.