We all have our reasons for the way we feel about Japan, if we feel anything. If you'd asked me fifteen years ago, I would have unhesitatingly chosen option 1, but the more I studied, the more I realized just how many problems the country just fails utterly to deal with. That said, if you asked me the top three countries - other than my homeland - that I'd be interested in living in, Japan would still be number one. Why? I got addicted to hot springs after a visit to one in Arizona, and studying history is one of my major hobbies. Pretty hedonistic of me, eh?
Blog Entries posted by Clephas
This is a question I wonder if many people here have asked themselves... do you honestly like Japan, as a country (whether you've visited or just look in from the outside)? My own feelings are... mixed. Japan has a pretty fascinating culture that is essentially a scrapbook of various elements drawn from cultures that contacted it that were then evolved based on what the people of a given era wanted/needed. However... the country itself is pretty problematic looking at it from the outside. Political corruption, resurgent nationalism, toleration of organized crime, and the tendency to ignore all 'domestic issues' by those outside the household in question (including the police) are all reasons to be ambivalent about Japan. However, the closeness of police to people's lives (the kouban system), otaku culture, and the traditional aesthetic values of Japan are pretty interesting.
We all have our reasons for the way we feel about Japan, if we feel anything. If you'd asked me fifteen years ago, I would have unhesitatingly chosen option 1, but the more I studied, the more I realized just how many problems the country just fails utterly to deal with. That said, if you asked me the top three countries - other than my homeland - that I'd be interested in living in, Japan would still be number one. Why? I got addicted to hot springs after a visit to one in Arizona, and studying history is one of my major hobbies. Pretty hedonistic of me, eh?
How many of you started reading VNs, manga, or watching anime solely because the girls were so adorable? I wasn't one of those (I began with Record of Lodoss War, lol), but Ai Yori Aoshi and Love Hina introduced me to the concept of the 'moe-heroine'. Whether it was their way of speaking, their looks, or their attitude, moe heroines became an integral part of the otaku experience at some point (well, the male-oriented one anyway), and I actually don't have any problems with that. I have lots of fond memories of moe-heroines (since almost all VN heroines and anime heroines nowadays are done like this, to one degree or another).
However, as I've dug deeper and deeper into the VN universe (I realized this with anime long ago) I came to realize... all the heroines were beginning to melt together into one big moe blob inside my back-brain. This is because very few heroines stand out enough to remain distinct in my mind from all the other, similar heroines inside my brain.
Understand, I never really experienced the 'blob of moe heroines' phenomenon until the last five years or so... first with anime, then (two years ago) with VNs. As a result, it is harder and harder to find 'standard' heroines interesting in and of themselves... their situation and setting have to be interesting enough to keep me from abandoning them emotionally.
Do you want to know how many heroines remain distinct in my brain from the last three years of playing VNs? Just thirty-three... and that is from well over seven hundred heroines whose routes I've completed in that time. Frankly, even if I find an archetypical heroine interesting for a single playthrough, it is a rare heroine who makes an impression strong enough to retain her individuality in the collective VN memory of my under-psyche.
I once mentioned this to a newbie VN-player (naturally a moe-gamer) and he essentially blasted me about how I was a blasphemer against the pure love of 2D...
My response was, quite naturally, explosive laughter which I didn't bother to put into text.
How many people do you actually remember in real life as a distinct human being without meeting them every day (or at least with some frequency)? Even if you see 2D as a real world, do you seriously think someone who has gone so far down the road of the VN otaku as I and some others in the community have to remember every single heroine they've encountered?
I'm fortunate. I have a natural gift for storing episode memory, so if I start replaying a VN, I generally remember the heroines and their paths almost immediately. However, expecting me to remember yet another tsundere osananajimi amongst hundreds of others off the top of my head after a year is fundamentally ridiculous, in my opinion (real example... also one of the two most common archetypes, along with the deredere osananajimi).
This doesn't necessarily mean the VN in question is bad... it just means the heroine is one I've seen dozens of times before, placed in different situations with a different appearance. Some of the heroines I forget until I'm reminded about are from truly wonderful VNs... but that has absolutely no effect on whether I can remember them without some serious effort, lol.
For my fellow vets... are you any different?
Hello, my name is Clephas, and I am/was a weaboo. *snickers at the AA reference* I'm mostly posting on this matter to give those otakus who aren't necessarily weaboos an idea of what it is like to be a weaboo (ignoring social problems, for the moment, haha) and just why we exist in the first place.
First, to correct a common misconception... not all weaboos are solely obsessed with Japanese culture/history/etc. In fact, most Western ones are or eventually become interested in all Asian cultures. There are a number of reasons for it usually starting with an obsession with Japan, and I'll try to cover them all for you.
The most obvious reason is that Japan's culture is so obviously different from anything in the average Westerner's personal experience (extracting those that come from first-generation Asian immigrant families). To be blunt, the average American can at least guess at European sensibilities and the average European can do the same, with some mental effort. We share a basic religious background, our social contracts are based on the same basic philosophy (with differences in preferences), and we tend to have similar cultural ancestors if we look back into history. Heck, even most of Latin American can say the same. So, for the average white-on-white Westerner (or Hispanic as the case may be), there might be numerous personal differences, but the actual cultural differences are in the details rather than the base elements.
On the other hand, there is literally no common base between us and most Asian cultures, save that which we forcibly transplanted during the colonial days of the past two centuries. Whereas we experienced various types of paganism and polytheism followed by Christianity, they experienced Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto... the list goes on. Not only that, the way we developed our cultures was essentially different. Confucianism in China (and the symbol of the Emperor in Japan) provided a sense of structure and continuity for centuries that altered greatly the way Chinese see the world even today, though most of its precepts have been altered almost beyond recognition in the millennia since their development. This sense of continuity (in aspects other than philosophical) over such a vast period of time is perhaps one of the biggest causes of differences between Chinese culture in particular and Asian culture in general. To be blunt, when the Chinese were already an Empire, our ancestors were mostly banging on drums in small settlements across the face of Europe, begging the elements not to starve our children or flood us out. The 'weight' of culture is so much greater in Japan in China that Westerners in general and Americans in particular can't help but be impressed (or offended/frightened as the case may be) on first encounter with it.
That said, whether that first impression turns to fascination or apathy is entirely based on the individual. People that are more curious are more likely to get sucked into it, whereas those who prefer what they already have are more likely to simply set aside that first impression and move on.
Another reason is that Japan is really really good at 'advertising' its culture... without really trying. How many of you watched Pokemon, DBZ, or even Voltron or Robotech as kids without even knowing what it was? I think you'd be surprised at how many otakus received an early baptism of Japanese ideas that planted the seeds for an eventual otaku and/or weaboo transformation. For that matter, how many of you saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (new or old) or one of the more modern Batman movies? Perhaps because of the intimate role we played in rebuilding post-war Japan, as well as the stream of Japanese who immigrated after the war, Japanese influence touches lightly on a great deal of our urban society (less so on the rural, though).
The 'second baptism' that most Americans experience is negative... it is history class when you hit WWII. The ferocity and apparent insanity (in the average Westerner's eyes) of the Japanese during the war causes an almost involuntary fascination in those who read about it, that frequently leads to a search for answers as to just why they acted the way they did during the war. This inevitably leads to the samurai culture (both popular and historical), thus frequently creating new weaboos in droves, despite the fact that the WWII history is pretty horrifying the way it is presented (and even worse in reality).
No one is more mouthy and annoying than a new convert of any sort... and those weaboos that most annoy people are generally this type... the ones who haven't yet realized that their obsession can annoy others and thus can't stop themselves from chattering endlessly about some new aspect they discovered along the way, as if they were the first to find that particular fact out.
Tips for tempering your obsession
If you are a weaboo, it is almost inevitable you will say too much to someone who isn't interested at some point. In that way, it is a lot like standard otakuism. However, if you want to at least limit your annoyance factors, here are a few tips.
1- Don't beautify every single aspect of Japanese culture you find. Samurai culture led to the insane nationalism and mass suicides of WWII. Geisha were glorified prostitutes (albeit artistically beautiful ones). Ninja were spies descended from thieves and common murderers. (etc. etc.)
2- Be aware that Japanese culture can take some seriously ugly turns in the modern era (the fact that police don't get involved in domestic affairs, the weak rape laws and enforcement of those laws, bullying in schools and at work, hikikomori, karoushi).
3- Be aware that the excessive pride of some Japanese has led to a resurrection of the same nationalism that caused their involvement in WWII (modern historical revisionism focused on WWII and the events immediately preceding it is a prime example of this).
4- The Japanese really did do most of the horrible things their neighbors said they did... not to mention the POW camps where they held the Philippines US troops during the war.
5- Japanese gun control only works because they have no history of regular people possessing personal arms.
Well, that ends my lecture for the day.
Just a bit of warning for those who are using really old versions of Translation Aggregator... to be blunt, they don't work with the current version of Windows 7 or 8. To be more specific, the way the old versions use the dictionaries causes a bug where the application no longer pastes the clipboard contents. I hadn't updated mine since the 2012 update, so I was really surprised when, after I updated my Windows (on both my work and personal computers) that TA stopped working. I figured out what was wrong and went ahead and got the newest version, which was made earlier this month, but it was still a bit of a shock when the reliable tool I'd been wielding for speed-reading VNs suddenly stopped working, lol.
I've decided to start a new column called Reader's Choice of the Month. The concept is simple. I will post a poll of end of the month releases I don't intend to play, and the readers of my blog will have a chance to pick which one I will play and review. This column will take the place of VN of the Month in the sense that I will still be playing something for the sake of the readers, but this time I won't be going out of my way to play every obscure charage/moege I find.
This is about picking out the VN in the poll you most want to know about before playing yourself, so keep that in mind while voting.
July Release choices:
Shukusei no Girlfriend
Minikui Mojika no Ko
Games I will play:
Shin Koihime Musou Kakumei
Haru to Yuki
Generally speaking, if you are a weaboo and/or otaku and you reveal your hobby, you generally tend to end up on the receiving end of all sorts of unbelievably irritating questions. This is my list of the most annoying questions I've heard as an otaku/weaboo.
1. "Is that a cartoon?" Almost every anime fan gets asked this at some point, though generally speaking, this is an event that was a lot more common when I first started watching anime. To be blunt, American cartoons tend to be one of two types... the kid-oriented or the adult-oriented comedy (Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park). However, anime's sheer variance leads a lot of fans - including me - to want to clearly delineate a difference between the two, despite the fact that the actual Japanese anime definition includes Western cartoons.
2. "Why do you hate your country?" This is perhaps the dumbest question I've ever heard, but I've been on the receiving end of it countless times during my weaboo life. The fact is, I don't hate my country. My country does a lot of stupid things, but it raised me, it helped form my personality, and it has kept me fed. I simply prefer to study Japanese culture and language over American. Unfortunately, trying to explain that this is essentially a matter of aesthetic tastes is pretty pointless in the case of those who ask this question (since they've already made their own conclusions).
3. "Why are you dressing up like that?" When you cosplay, this is perhaps the most unbelievably obvious question you can ever get. Back when I still cosplayed, it drove me insane to be asked why I was dressing up that way when it was bloody obvious I was doing it for fun because I liked the anime/books/etc it was based off of.
4. "Why is there a poster of a cartoon character on your wall?" This gets old, fast. When I still bothered buying swag, it was as annoying as hell to have the occasional visitor to my room ask this and similar questions about the swag in my room.
5. "Why do you like the Japanese when they are the ones who started WWII?" This is mostly a question asked by someone who has only read US history books or high school level world history textbooks... WWII was the results of both sides' arrogance and over a half-century of bitter economic competition, preceded by an even more arrogant series of attempts to turn Japan into a Western satellite country (ie. late nineteenth and early twentieth century China). That said, the question has absolutely nothing to do with why I like Japan. I like Japan because its unique cultural development has so many interesting aspects to study, and I am fully aware of the insanity of war-era Japan and the cultural quirks that led to it, unlike the people who ask this question.
6. "Japanese games are all the same... why do you play them?" This is a more recent question and one of the few that has a legitimate point, though it is made from ignorance (usually some newbie listening to a long-time vet complain). The fact is, otaku media, in particular their games, are slow to change... The shifts in the market are slow, and so gluts of certain types of games are endemic to the industry. The same applies to all otaku media, really. Japanese business-people hate change and are slow to adapt to it. The eccentric exceptions are just that... exceptions. The answer to the question I usually give is that I honestly just enjoy Japanese style more than Western when it comes to telling a story, and more than half of my reason for living is experiencing good stories.
7. "That Japanese sword look like it would break with a single whack of this hammer... why don't you just buy a broadsword?" lol... this question I got when I was showing off my 日本刀 （a katana actually made in Japan in the old manner) to another guy who does broadsword fencing. The simple answer to this question that I gave him is that my sword is prettier, because I didn't want to get into the arguments about the difference in purpose. The more complex answer is that katanas make more sense in an era without metal armor than a broadsword (katanas are designed to slice, as opposed to the way western blades are designed to smash and crush as much as cut). Again, there is also the aesthetic, lol.
8. "Do you support what the Japanese did in China during WWII?" Now this question... I've never got how people can ask this question. Do people really think that even a weaboo would lack that much common sense and clarity of thought? Seriously?! Of course I don't in any way support Japan's actions during WWII. Only someone who hasn't read history could have. In regards to America, there were mitigating circumstances and legitimate reasons, but China was another matter entirely. China, for all intents and purposes, was basically a helpless, defenseless region (I don't call it a country because it wasn't and hadn't been since Britain won the wars in the nineteenth century), and there was absolutely no need for any of the excesses Japan undertook during the invasions and occupation there. The same goes for Korea. I almost punched the last person who asked me this question.
September's VN of the Month is probably going to be a contest between Baldr Heart, Inochi no Spare, and Gin'iro, Haruka. Why? Everything else I dropped shortly after exiting the prologue, wanting to puke from the kusoge-smell. It might not be fair to them, but Ichibun, Yuuwaku, and Triangle Love just aren't VNs that have any chance, with Gin'iro defining the field for slice-of-life and romance. I can't bring myself to play anymore Gin'iro, but that isn't because it sucks... it is because I'm going to have to wait a few weeks to a few months so my memories of Yuzuki and Bethly fade enough for me to be able to bring myself to continue (just doing Yuzuki's path was kind of pushing it).
Now, it is almost time for my ritual yearly poll on whether to continue VN of the Month or not... and one thing I've noticed is that people are missing the point when I ask people whether I should continue or not. I'm asking people if they value me writing down my opinions on various VNs every month, not if they think it would be worth it from my point of view (which seems to be the assumption). Lots of comments telling me to take a rest... but none telling me what they actually think about the blog. This time around, I don't intend to do the poll, simply because it feels like a waste of time. However, I do want to ask the people who actually read this blog... do you get anything of value to you from reading the hundreds of posts on individual VNs I've put up here...?
I have to say I apologize to those who voted for Minikui Mojika no Ko... my original instinct not to play this game at all was correct. This game feels too much like a dark rape nukige to allow me to play it anymore, so I had to drop it. Not to mention that I hate all the characters and think they should all be tossed into the nearest garbage dump.
Now... I know you've heard me bash charage/moege before. That isn't the purpose here, though. I've played plenty of VNs of the type over the years, and a decent number of them have actually managed to make it pretty high on my list of recommendations, despite the genres' flaws. I've also mentioned before that VN quality has fallen drastically in the past two years... and I still think that, despite a few seriously stand-out works this year in general and this month in particular.
The reason why I'm focusing on charage/moege right now is because I just played one great one, one average-quality one, and now I'm playing a mediocre (but pretty-looking) one. Having seen, just in the last few weeks, the variance in the genre in detail... I've had it thrust in my face that my conclusions, which were previously just instinctive (thus I thought it was at least in part because I was tired of the genre/s in general) and thus had the possibility of not being entirely justified, were not entirely off the mark.
To be specific, I'm somewhat bemused at the degree to which people have been pushing/hyping the one I'm playing right now, considering how pathetic this writer is at using the tools available to him.
It isn't the first time where I've encountered a mediocre VN with great visuals that gets pushed by the Western community (mostly by people who haven't played it but voted on it anyway... or ones who just extracted the CGs or used a save file to read the h-scenes) like crazy. However, it is the most egregious example of this particular social pattern I've seen recently.
Now, leaving aside my outrage at completely unjustified hype and recommendations... I have to ask, why is this VN, which probably never would have made it to production three years ago, is still somewhat better than the baseline of what I've experienced in the last two years?
Thinking about it, the answer came to me startlingly quickly... it is because it satisfies people's nether-regions and their desire for idealized slice-of-life with a few quirks without actually having a personality. The very reason I hate it is the reason it has caught the interest of some in our community, and I find myself smiling wryly as I realize that most of the people who play it are only interested in fapping to archetypical moe-heroines.
Understand, I actually don't have any objections to non-extreme fap material or moe fap material. I don't have problems with others' sexuality in general (as long as they don't inflict it on me or create victims along the way). However, I do have to wonder why these same people don't hit up one of the dozens of moe-nukige that get released every year instead, lol.
Obliterating all twists and scent of personality from a VN story is reemerging as a habit in VN makers, after a very very brief hiatus, and it is coming back even worse than before. On the bright side, it makes the gems stand out more... but it also means that I have to listen to people fawning over mindless drivel that isn't even good by genre standards.
I actually should have seen the signs long ago... considering Sougeki no Jaeger (Propeller's last VN) and the sudden reappearance of the previously endangered beast known as the 'pure moege' in the last two years (though only a few of them, thank god). The problem now, as it was thirteen years ago, is that the market is saturated with VNs in general and charage/moege in particular. Because of this - the Japanese being the most conservative businessmen on the planet - the various VN companies have started to 'go back to basics', trying again the sort of tactics that succeeded before. The fact that the average otaku ero-gamer in Japan is perfectly willing to shell out $120 for a crappy game that happens to have a cute (and preferably half-nude) dakimakura attached actually makes this trend worse, as it is creating an artificial (and very temporary) inflation of a stagnant market (and not for the first, second, or even third time). It is almost like the real estate market here in 2007... everybody knew the bottom was going to fall out eventually, but people kept putting their bets on making a few more bucks before it did.
Worse, even if the market does collapse, it is unlikely to result in better VNs, lol.
I've been playing video games more or less constantly for over twenty-five years.
That's a very simple statement that holds a surprising amount of meaning, considering how much video games have changed since I first began playing them.
It began with the NES, for me... with Mario, Luigi, and the ducks. I shot ducks out of the air, I jumped Mario across gaps and on top of turtles, without ever really understanding what was going on. As a kid, this was fun, seriously. Understand, this is the biggest point I am going to try to get across here... the difference between addiction and fun with video games.
I played rpgs, primarily jrpgs, throughout most of my first ten years as a gamer, starting with Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest), eventually reaching levels of true love with Final Fantasy II and III (IV and VI), Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and Ogre Battle. When the era of cd-gaming came, I played D&D dungeon-crawlers on a shitty dos computer setup, and I played every jrpg I could get my hands on, with a lot of shooters, strategy games, and sports games mixed in.
Throughout all of that, I was still having fun. Fun was my reason for continuing (I've always been a story-centric player, so I tended to stick with jrpgs, but I did play a lot of other stuff) and my reason for playing in the first place.
It was in the PS2 era that I first came to recognize the difference between taking pleasure in playing something and merely being addicted to it. I picked up FFXI and started playing it on the PS2 (yes, it was possible to play it on the PS2), and for the first time, I knew addiction... for the first time, I poured hour after hour, day after day, into a game that I wasn't having any fun at.
I was constantly irritated, constantly driven to continue, whether for social reasons (friends I'd made in-game) or simply because I felt like I was 'almost there'.
Then, one day, I suddenly looked up and realized... I was immensely depressed and not enjoying anything about the game. The sense of having wasted my time... sent me into a funk that lasted the better part of a year. I still played games, but the color seemed to leech out of the screen even as I played them. I realized that I was seeing bits of FFXI in other games, and that was enough of a reason for me to actively hate them.
No game hit me this way more than FFXII... because FFXII's battle system is essentially that of FFXI with some tweaks. Visually, it was a nightmare, and the weak story and characters only made it worse for me.
Ironically, it was the realization that I honestly didn't trust Squeenix to provide pleasurable games anymore that led me to start playing a lot of the weirder stuff out there... such as Eternal Darkness for the gamecube and the SMT series. Ultimately, because I'd become very much aware of the difference between pleasure and addiction, I lost interest in games that I would once have jumped onto simply because they were jrpgs or done in a style I found interesting. I started abusing Gamestop's used game 'seven-day return policy' to demo games, and I slowly but surely came to realize that I honestly and truly hate multiplayer games that aren't played in the same room.
I am now an unabashed solo gamer, even outside of VNs. I won't play most multiplayer games at all, and I hate games where the social element is as or more important than the actual gameplay or story. Of course, if a game has an interesting concept, I'll try it... but if I feel that sensation I used to get from FFXI, I drop it immediately, cancelling all subscriptions and discarding all related materials without a second thought, even if I paid a good deal of money for them.
To be blunt, life is too short to waste on playing something that is merely addictive (this coming from a VN junkie, I know). That sensation of false social interaction you get from online gaming and the high you get from winning in competitive games is highly addictive... but are you having fun, really? I wonder, how many younger gamers actually know what it is like to enjoy a video game, rather than simply being addicted to one? This is a question that seriously bothers me, as I saw my young cousin playing Call of Duty (whatever the latest one is) online, unsmiling, for two days straight while we were staying at their place a few months back. He really, really wasn't enjoying himself. He was angry, depressed, and frustrated, but I never saw even a hint of a smile when he won, only this vague expression of relief he probably thought was a smile. Was that relief that his team-mates weren't treating him like a worthless noob or an incompetent, or was it simply because the match was over and he could relax? I don't know, because I didn't ask. I know from experience that the difference between addiction and fun is fine enough that most people don't even recognize it is there until they are forced to.
What are your experiences, gamers of Fuwa?
For those of you familiar with my tendency to bitch and moan about this kind of story-structure, I don't really need to explain... but I'll do so anyway. The 'ladder-style' story structure is the style used in games such as G-senjou, Aiyoku no Eustia, and Sen no Hatou. While it does make it easy to fit in a 'true' path (the true path being main street) and breaking things down into 'arcs' makes for a more expansive story, that is at the cost of increasing irritation in a way that would never have come up in a kinetic novel (which all VNs using ladder-style should be).
What is that irritation? Meaningless heroine routes.
There are two types of heroine in a ladder-style VN. There is the true heroine and the 'fake' heroine. I'm not kidding... all heroines other than the true one are fakes, as are their paths, in most cases. Amatsutsumi was an exception, but it was a rare one, lol.
Now, in order to explain this, I'll outline how most of the games using this style tend to play out. There is a main story going on, both in the foreground and the background. In most cases, the background elements of the story that don't come out until you are in the true heroine's path preclude all possibility of the sub-heroines' paths actually existing in the context of the greater setting.
Another quality of these games is that the true heroine is almost always one of the least-interesting/attractive heroines in the group, both personality-wise and setting-wise. Airheads, ditzes, weak-willed victims, naive princesses, and overconfident self-proclaimed geniuses with an impenetrable belief in their own correctness (if you haven't figured it out Eutia>Hatou>G-senjou)... the list goes on, but you get the picture (again, Amatsutsumi is the exception rather than the rule). I honestly have no idea of why all these companies that choose to use this style do it this way...
Now, frequently the true path itself has excellent storytelling with round antagonists and protagonists whose value as a character far outweighs the weakness of the true heroine... but this brings up another issue. This issue is: the other heroines. The elements of the setting, the personality and objectives of the antagonists, and even the personality of the protagonist sometimes render all other heroine paths as literally impossible in most cases. If you don't mind SPOILERS for Eustia and Sen no Hatou, I'll give you some examples below.
Now, as to why that's a problem... I know it is nitpicking... but when I empathize with a heroine, fall in love with her by proxy, and see her off to a happy ending, there is nothing that can possibly drive me more insane with rage than the 'true' ending of the heroine path completely invalidating the possibility of that small happiness even occurring. Eustia's best heroines are all 'fake' heroines, the same goes for G-senjou and Sen no Hatou as well. The Leyline trilogy also suffers from this particular issue.
So do you understand now why I hate this type of VN structure? I have good reason to despise it. I still respect the makers of Namima no Kuni no Faust for choosing to make the game kinetic and just add the other heroines 'endings' as 'what if' scenarios in the extras far more than I will ever respect the makers of the games I mentioned above.
This isn't even mentioning that, by having heroine paths split off earlier, you lose a great deal of the story meant to develop the characters in the first place.
Why did I bring this up again...? Because, for the fourth time this year, I've come across a VN that I was interested in that uses this never-to-be-sufficiently-damned story structure, Sora no Tsukurikata. Damn all non-charage makers who follow fads like this particular one to hell, I say.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen is perhaps one of the most complex series I've ever read... and that is saying a lot. It is high fantasy in the sense that it is based in a fantasy world that is unbelievably complex (it makes Game of Thrones look simple at times) and it has the combined moral ambiguity and dark humor of Glen Cook's Black Company series as well.
However, where Steven Erikson shines the most is in his world-building... and in his character-creation. This is perfectly natural, as he is an anthropologist, and it tends to show in the way he portrays societies, nations, cultures, and people. There is no 'good' or 'evil' in this series, in the classic black and white sense that most high fantasy writers seem to prefer. While many characters are cruel, brutal, or tyrannical, he quite simply doesn't make flat characters that only exist to fulfill a specific role in the series.
As an example... Cotillion, the God who is the Patron of Assassins (also known as the Rope), is perhaps one of the most ambiguous characters in the series. Many of the gods in this universe are petty, obsessive, cruel, or otherwise 'trashy' individuals despite their worshipers views of them, but Cotillion, despite being the patron of one of the most socially 'evil' professions in existence, is an individual who is as capable of compassion and giving unexpected gifts as any of the supposedly 'good' gods. Considering that he starts the series as an antagonist, this development of his character is perhaps one of the more obvious elements of deep character development I observed in the series.
Erikson, throughout the series, uses various techniques to develop various characters. My single favorite character in the series, Anomander Rake, never has any first-person time. This is despite the fact that he is perhaps one of the most influential beings in the entire universe in which they are based. The opinions of others and reading about his interactions with the various characters are your sole points of reference on him... but he is subtly built up to be one of the most amazing representations of virtue - hidden behind a darker mien - that you see in the entire series.
This is a man who has spent over three hundred thousand years doing his level best to keep his followers from committing collective suicide as a result of their racial despair at the abandonment of Mother Dark, the goddess that was once their patron. He leads them by example, rather than by command. He never asks more of them than they are willing to give, and when one of them finds joy, he is always the first to give them his blessings, even if it costs him their services in the most vital of times. In many ways, he is the very representative of divine compassion in the series (as he is technically an Ascendant and is worshiped by many of the race he was born from), as opposed to the odd representation of human compassion and folly that is the Paran family. In many ways, his departure from the stage is the defining moment for us, the readers... but his most defining moment came long before that, when he made the decisions that led up to that point.
Another oddly ambiguous but admirable character is the God of Death, Hood. Hood is... perhaps the most ironic character in the series, by far. Originally, he was the King of the Jaghut, a race that abandoned society and racial unity because of how pointless they came to see it. Being the King of such a race would have been an ironic oxymoron in and of itself, but the fact that he became the God of Death by first declaring war on the concept, leading an army against it, only to die and drag an impossible victory from the ashes of defeat, creating the afterlife as it is known during the series. He is frequently indifferent, cruel, and/or petty in his treatment of others... but some of this is because he himself has been dead for hundreds of thousands of years and is more or less stuck carrying out a role that is almost anathema to his original reason for 'living'.
In the series, there are degrees of racial and societal foolishness that dwarf what we have experienced... for example, the T'lan Imass. Once a race of human forerunners (intelligent tool and weapon users), when they discovered the nature of the Jaghut Tyrants that had enslaved them at times, they made themselves undead as a race for the sole purpose of committing genocide upon the Jaghut, most of whom just wanted to be left alone... thus ending the Imass as a race and condemning themselves to an endless existence as what amounts to dust-aspected revenants with weapons of stone.
Another example are the Tiste Liosan, who took their racial father's sense of justice and twisted into a dogmatic religious belief in the fundamental justice of themselves as a people, regardless of their actual actions.
Erikson's world is full of dichtonomy, corruption of ideals, hidden compassion, hidden glory, and dirt-covered heroism. At times, men and women of the worst sort will willingly give of themselves and at others, seeming pillars of virtue will commit horrifying sims or fall completely out of grace.
In other words, the Malazan Book of the Fallen is a series that rejects absolutes. That is perhaps what makes it so much fun to read, as it is for the most part told through the eyes of various soldiers, many of whom are neither admirable nor good. The Bridgeburners, who are a presence in just about every book in the series, define the series' human heart, in many ways balancing out the more... changeable beings that float around them. At times, I even felt tempted to interpret them as the voice of 'modern man' in a world of ancients, though that is probably not entirely correct.
In any case, this is a series that is generally fun to read and provides a lot of food for thought.
Due to work and school, I haven't been able to progress as much as I would have liked with this VN, but I have gotten moderately far, so I'll give you a bit of an update on my experiences.
First, the gameplay... this is a straight strategy rpg in format, but it does have a few twists. First, the characters known as 'mech-people' and 'sword-people' can become what their name is... literally becoming a mech or a sword, through their pact with a particular character. In the case of the mech-people, this not only creates a more powerful unit to stand on the field, it also extends their attack range, making them more effective on the battlefield, both offensively and defensively (though at the cost of skills the mech can use being lower level and fewer in number than the characters in question). In opposition, the sword-people directly enhance the stats of their partner, giving them wider movement range, more powerful attacks, stronger defenses, etc. When joined with someone, both sides gain a precise fraction of the experience they would have otherwise gained (in the case of the Kai/Alfaria/Beldadia combo It gets split three ways, for instance). This has some advantages and more disadvantages. The advantage is both characters can get experience from killing enemies... but this advantage is weakened significantly by the fact that characters that join in a group combo generally get more experience than the two joined characters, making it a trade-off for grinding.
Speaking of grinding... this game's experience-gaining is a huge pain in the butt, not the least of which because the enemies do massive level jumps (think two to five levels per battle), which makes it a serious pain to keep up, since your levels don't gain fast enough to make leveling anything other than a grind (you can replay any battle at any time on the world map). Another huge downside of this game... Alfaria is pathetically weak when not transformed, but Kai is actually more powerful on foot, at least midway through the game. This makes using the mechform usually not worth it for these two, except for the enhanced hp, but it does make it necessary, because Alfaria dying is usually a game over.
Story and Characters
So far, I'm still on Kai's side of the story, so I think it is going to be a while before I switch over to Shizuma.
I'm going to be blunt... Alfaria feels a lot like a weaker, more naive version of Corona from Corona. She's basically a little kid in an adult's body, with a little kid's thought patterns. This is understandable in the context of the story, but it can be pretty annoying. Kai is pretty much your typical rpg protagonist... right down to the naivete and impulsiveness. To be honest, that irritated the hell out of me at first, though it has subsided somewhat as the story goes on (though he still has bursts of insanity where he does something unbelievably stupid). I chose Beldadia as my first playthrough heroine, and she is fairly interesting, not to mention she is a returning character from Yumina and Corona, a heroine for the first time in this one. I thought about spoiling her here, but lets just say that this VN puts her more in the spotlight this time around and let it go at that.
The story in this VN is actually pretty good, in typical VN fashion... why do I say typical? Because in many ways, this story reminds me of why I generally go to VN hybrids more than actual srpgs and rpgs nowadays. Why? It is pretty simple... no taboo subjects. The story is dark, it is violent, and the characters make mistakes that actually get people killed in large numbers. Today's jrpgs tend to avoid things like death, except in the abstract, and as a result, their stories tend to... suck. Yes, I said it. Modern jrpgs suck donkey tits. The rare exceptions just prove the rule, rather than proving it wrong.
That said, I don't know if I approve of them putting multiple protagonists in this story, especially considering the number of times the two protagonists end up clashing (it kind of feels like they are ruining the plot, to me). I'll have to see what it is like when I get to Shizuma's part before I decide if I can forgive them for committing the cardinal sin of a serious VN.
Well, that's it for now... cheers!
Right now, while the pain meds are wearing off and my mind is relatively clear (since I don't recall anything I did or posted today before an hour and a half ago) I figured I'd post this poll.
First, I'm more or less decided on setting aside any more reading for VNs from March, at least for the next week. I will resume playing at least one more on the nineteenth, so if you want, feel free to vote on the other poll, though I will probably ignore the results from it.
The first VN on the random poll is one I keep recommending, one of the two reasons I keep playing Ensemble games, despite three kusoge in a row. Ojousama wa Gokigen Naname is a perfect example of showing off the insanity that can come out of a powerful family's internal struggles, along with the love that can flower despite it.
Sengoku Himeka is an otomege that recently got put up on Steam. Since you can apparently play it in Japanese as well, I went ahead and purchased and downloaded it.
Dracu-riot I'm sure most of yall are familiar with (I'm not really serious about this one, since I already played it twice), but I figured I'd put it up here for the sake of argument.
Draculius is my favorite 'easy to read' vampire VN, my all-around favorite vampire VN being Vermilion. I have actually played it through several times, and if you want to see an ancient review I did for it, Google Draculius and Clephas Stomach, lol. It is the VN that a lot of Libra is taken from (though the protagonist is a lot better and Belche is more interesting than Iris).
Silverio Vendetta was my favorite chuunige from last year's releases and it is getting an indirect sequel (new characters, same setting) later this year, supposedly.
Houkago no Futekikakusha is an utsuge made back in 2014 that has a lot of mixed reactions, varying wildly from person to person. I get good reactions from some people and other people can't stand it... much like some of Nostalgic Chord's other games, Rakuen no Shugosha and Marrybell ga Shinda to Papa ni Tsutaete.
For those of you not interested in any of the above, go ahead and make a suggestion after voting for 'other'. I'll at least listen to you make your case, even if I outright ignore the request.
This is a partial remake/rewrite of Sengoku Koihime, which was released back in 2013. It is by Baseson, the makers of the Koihime Musou series, and the protagonist is the nephew of the protagonist from that series. It is based on the Moeshouden fandisc ending (where the Shin Koihime Musou heroines are all together). In addition to h-scenes, the text itself has been partially rewritten (it is more noticeable later in the game), and they added on the Houjou Chapters, a ten-hour after story.
The story begins at the battle of Dengaku Hazama (the point where about ninety percent of all Sengoku Jidai-based historical fiction begin), where Oda Nobunaga, the lord of Owari, ambushes and kills the Imagawa Yoshimoto, who was considered to be one of the greatest lords of Japan at the time. The protagonist is pulled from his own (modern) world and arrives there in a ball of light, where he is taken in by the female version of Nobunaga (Kuon).
Unlike the Koihime Musou series, there is no battle system involved here, which is great, considering that the story of this thing alone is about 1.5 times the size of Shin Koihime Musou, which was twice as long as the original Koihime Musou. In other words, this is probably the longest kinetic VN in existence, right now, easily surpassing ChuSinGura and leaving works like Grisaia in the dust as far as sheer size goes. This has its upsides and downsides... but it does manage to develop the heroines to a decent level, if at the cost of a certain degree of fatigue on my part.
In terms of structure, this VN is actually a bit closer to the original Koihime Musou, in that there is only one path and all the heroines from the various clans end up with the protagonist. There are five major arcs... first is the Owari and Mino chapters, where the protagonist earns the trust of the Oda clan and begins to build his own unit. The second is the Kyouto/Oumi/Echizen chapters, whose ending is the midgame turning point. The third one is the Echigo chapters, where the protagonist gets involved with Kagetora (Miku) and her clan. The fourth is the Takeda arc, where the protagonist gets involved with the equivalent of Takeda Shingen (Hikari), who was considered one of the best strategists of the era. The fifth and final arc of the main story is the violent conclusion to the battle with the oni. The Houjou arc, which is an after-story, I count separately since the main conflict of the original story is over before it starts.
In terms of raw narrative quality... this VN is top-level. Baseson has a lot of talent available, and this VN shows it off to best advantage. The writing is detailed and gripping, the dialog generally interesting and/or dramatic, and the VN as a whole is well-paces for something so long and drawn out.
If I have a complaint, it is that they didn't voice the protagonist... considering how completely central to the story he is, there really was no reason not to do so, considering the sheer amount of money they have to have spent on this thing in the first place, lol. In terms of raw numbers, there are also a massive number of h-scenes, but they don't dominate things, for the most part (main heroines generally get two or three, with sub-heroines getting one for the most part). This is inevitable, as there are something like thirty heroines in all, making for a rather massive cast, lol.
One huge difficulty at least some readers will experience is the sheer amount of historical background knowledge this VN demands of the reader. For someone born in Japan, it is all learned as a matter of course by the end of middle school, but for those of us on this side of the puddle, it takes research to really grasp a lot of what is going on. In particular, things like the Southern Court and the Onin War aren't generally given much attention in most anime or VNs based in the era, so even if you've played other games or read other stories based in the same era, you might not be able to grasp what is going on fully.
Another issue is that the traditional roles of the Imperial Court and the Bakufu (whichever Bakufu that is) are things non-Japanese will have trouble grasping. The role of the Imperial Court after the Heian era ended is very much symbolic, cultural, and religious rather than political, though it is used as a political tool by each incarnation of the Bakufu (Shogunate). The duality of the reverence held for the Imperial line and the disregard (though it isn't presented as such) for them in political matters is a bit hard for Westerners to grasp... it took me a while, too.
The second huge difficulty is... the sheer amount of archaic language involved. A lot of terms that went out of use in common Japanese decades ago are common throughout this VN, and I can guarantee that even people who are able to follow Dies Irae might have trouble with this VN at times due to this. In particular, the political terms of the era can be difficult to grasp and actually require some research to fully understand, as their translation doesn't really get across their actual nature without a lot of context.
My conclusion? If you liked Shin Koihime Musou, you'll probably love this VN, though it is quite a bit darker and more visceral at times. The sheer length of this VN means you'll probably suffer from fatigue long before you finish it, so I recommend taking it in smaller doses (finish one of the major arcs, then take a day off, for example), as it takes a while to process all the information involved at times. The addition of the Houjou arc, which is about equal in length to the Echigo arc, is a huge plus for the VN, but finishing this thing has left me pretty exhausted, hahaha.
... I'm going to be blunt. It has been a while (think 2014) since any company has produced a nakige that compares to this one. The characters, their backgrounds, their personalities, and the setting all come together to form a story of deep affection, pain, and tears that had me crying more than a dozen times throughout the VN.
In terms of heroines, this VN's imoutos are the best. Shinobu is the twisted, obsessive half-yandere, super-capable imouto who adores her niisan (with good reason). Tsubasa is the honest, affectionate, straightforward imouto who is incapable of hiding anything. While the other two heroines kind of pale compared to those two, their routes are another story entirely.
I'm going to be straight... there are no bad or under-developed paths in this VN. The characters' emotional and real-life (to them) struggles are intense, engrossing, and emotional. Neneko's and Yuuka's paths are cases of the 'paths surpassing the heroines', a phenomenon that has become sadly rare in recent years, as writing quality has fallen drastically in the charage 'genre'.
Technically, Tsubasa's is the true route, but none of the routes were neglected in favor of hers, though I could have wished for an epilogue based a few years later for Shinobu's path (a matter of personal taste). This is a mark of the skill of the writer and the person who designed the scenario, as the fact is that in most cases where there is a true or central heroine, the other heroines tend to be neglected, at least in my experience.
The protagonist in this story will probably get mixed reactions out of people, if only because he is a bit angsty, especially when issues of parents come up. He has good reason, as he is a victim of child abuse (he doesn't hide this, and it is revealed within the first half-hour of reading). At heart, he is a good person, but he is very exclusive in the people he cares about and insanely protective of those chosen few. His obsession with his role as a big brother causes some big problems in Shinobu's route, but that is mostly because he is very hard-headed and straight-laced... the type of guy who makes a vow to himself and never breaks it, even in the particulars.
Story-wise... this is classic non-Key nakige fare. The protagonist deals with his own issues (to varying degrees) while doing his best for the heroines, the troubles and drama along the way designed to drag the tears out of you, though it all ends happily eventually. I was particularly touched by the healing that occurs in the protagonist in Tsubasa and Neneko's endings (through different methods), and I, for once, wasn't frustrated with the protagonist and heroine's struggles in Shinobu's path.
None of the characters' struggles felt forced or unnatural, the way many charage make them seem, which was impressive in and of itself.
Overall, this is a first-class addition to anyone's nakige collection, and it is definitely going to be stiff competition for my VN of the Month for May. I wept, I laughed, and I suffered along with the characters and out of sympathy for them. I come out of this VN glad that I played it, a rare experience for a person who is as jaded as I am when it comes to VNs.
*weeps hopelessly, his face a mess with tears and other fluids*
Inochi no Spare is an utsuge, produced by Akabeisoft3, the conglomerate company made from all of Akabeisoft2's subsidiaries except Akatsuki Works. I'll be blunt, I didn't know what to think going into this. It was blatantly an utsuge, right from the beginning... and one that is merciless in its descriptions of the characters' suffering.
The disease in question is called Oumon Disease (fictional), which manifests initially as cherry flower petal-shaped marks spreading outward across the patient's skin from over the heart and later as horrible pain attacks that are so terrible that they cause the patients to harm themselves in order to distract from the greater pain. No element of this disease is spared from the reader's point of view, and it can get pretty graphic, both in narration and in appearance. For those who can't stand watching others' suffering, this VN is probably going to be too much for you.
The protagonist and heroine's suffering, joy, love, fear, loneliness, and despair are all portrayed in an intimate fashion that gradually grasps your heart, building up from the initial point, where you don't know precisely what is going on. For better or worse, I have to advise that you avoid reading spoilers on this VN, as the pace of revelation is as important as the content itself.
The writing of this game is excellent... and ruthlessly true to the characters and scenario. The characters aren't perfect. They are as deeply flawed as any human being can be. Meguri isn't a saint, nor is Ria a pure-hearted martyr.
The protagonist of the story, Shizumine Ryuuji, is a young man whose expression rarely shifts, living for all practical purposes alone in a home that once held his parents and an elder brother. One thing that struck me as I read this story was that, for all his weaknesses, Ryuuji is a frighteningly strong-willed person, when given reason to be. His role in this VN is as important... or even moreso than the sisters' roles.
This is a 'soft' utsuge, meaning that the ending is extremely bittersweet but not devoid of salvation, and there is joy along the way, not lost entirely in the despair and suffering. For those who like 'soft' utsuge, this will be pure crack... and it reminds me of some of the best moments of Konakana, which is still the best utsuge I've ever read.
Overall, this is a kamige... and it is rare for an utsuge to manage to reach that level. Most utsuge slip up somewhere along the way, but this one is presented perfectly for fulfilling its purpose. I cried out loud for the ending, vicariously experiencing the loss without needing to think myself into it, which was amazing in and of itself. That's not to say it is entirely without flaws. It is a bit slow to get going, at least in part because you aren't given all the pieces of the puzzle initially, but I can still honestly call it a kamige, because even those elements that felt like flaws at first added to the experience later on.
October is turning out to be a frustrating month, with the VN I was most interested in delayed until December (for some reason, December seems to be getting all the most interesting ones...). I honestly had hopes that October would break the 'dry spell' I've been experiencing since I completed July's releases. There is still a possibility of that happening, but I'm not getting my hopes up.
Right now, I'm busy with work, trying to open up a nice quiet period so that I can get all of October's releases out of the way in as short a time as possible. This is because I have a ridiculous amount of conventional games coming out next month on my list to play, and I don't want my VN habit getting in the way like it has the last few times a new game came out (yes, I'm that much of a VN junkie).
Anyway this is the list of releases for October I plan to at least try to play:
Nanairo＊Clip (I haven't played anything by this company, so I have no idea of what to expect, but it looks like a standard charage)
Unionism Quartet A-3 Days (the fandisc to the original game, mostly playing in case they give solid after-stories to the neglected heroines from the original)
Sora no Tsukurikata (Lovesick Puppies maker Cosmic Cute's newest game... definitely my initial pick for the month)
Reminiscence Collection (Random VNs rather than VN of the Month, but I can't resist)
Re: Lief (seriously, the Japanese finally crossed the line with this one, but I can't resist)
Signalist Stars (new company, looks like an oppai-girl charage)
Furerute Love Connect (charage, obviously... might or might not bother, considering how I dropped Nephrite's first game after only two hours of play because it was so boring)
Gusha no Kyouben (Akabeisoft3 is pretty hit and miss, and now they are doing comedy... I'm curious as to what this will turn out to be)
It's been a while since a single VN burned me out completely, but Silverio Trinity managed it. That VN had many of the best elements of its predecessor, while being more balanced, having added unique soundtracks, and overall creating a mostly new experience that, while it didn't completely transcend the original, still managed to stand on the same plane.
Unfortunately, it was a highly emotional experience, with a lot of excitement along the way... so I know I won't rate any VNs I play at this moment fairly, regardless of genre. As a result, I'm taking a week's break from my VN of the Month to recover my sanity, lol.
Due to work in recent weeks, I wasn't able to play any VNs for about a week straight... and when I tried to pick up Ouka Sabaki to finish Feb's releases, I found I had no urge whatsoever to play a VN... any VN.
Understand, I've been playing VNs constantly since 2009. I literally have not gone more than a day without playing at least a little bit of a VN (even if it was only a half hour or so) since then. So, to my shock, I've found I don't have the energy to pick one up for the first time in almost eight years.
I'm an addict, it's true... but apparently, somewhere in the last few months, something broke me out of my fixation and I found myself uninterested in playing VNs outside of my personal obsessions. I still plowed my way through despite that in January and February, but I felt like a kid going back to his homework after a few hours playing video games when I tried to play another after that delay.
This might seriously be the effective end of VN of the Month, if I can't recapture my desire to continue...
This is the latest release by Saga Planets, the makers of Hatsuyuki Sakura and Natsuyume Nagisa. This, like many of the games by this company, is an emotional game that sort of edges around being a straight-out charage, though it can't really be called a story-focused or a true nakige. This kind of genre ambiguity is common to this company's better works, so in that sense, it probably wasn't a bad choice, overall.
First, I should say I skipped Akane's path. I played the first three heroine paths and enjoyed them, but Akane's path was so... cliched that I had to skip it after the midpoint. I was also impatient to get to Ria's path, lol.
Anyway, this game begins with Ichimatsu Ouro, the protagonist, encountering the princess of a fictional north-European superpower, and her dragging him to a school for elites as a result. I'll be straight with you about this... disregard the getchu page info entirely. Even the best of the info there is misleading, probably deliberately.
Anyway, Ouro, who was looking to get away from his life anyway, takes advantage of entering the new school, getting along with Sylvia, Elle (Sylvia's bodyguard), Rena (a friendly fashionista who is also Sylvia's friend), and Ria (a smoker and delinquent girl he meets on the rooftop) while managing to gradually make his own niche at a school mostly full of rich people.
Now, it needs to be said... there should have been an Ayaka path in this game. Ayaka is a snarky little ass at the beginning, but she would have made a great heroine. Moreover, it was rather obvious that the writer wanted her to be one (there are lots of elements that could turn her deredere at a moment's notice), so I'm expecting an FD with an Ayaka route, later, lol.
Getting back to the rest of the game (I'm writing this at nine in the morning, after not sleeping to finish it), Sylvia's path is easily the strongest of the three heroines that are available from the beginning. Part of this is because of her generally affectionate nature, part of it is because of her position in life (Princess with insanely loyal followers), and part of it is because she is just that great of a character in general. Her path actually has two different endings, depending on whether you've seen Ria's ending or not. The second ending is basically an additional epilogue based several years after the end of the story, and it is obvious to see why you needed to see it only after seeing Ria's ending.
Elle... is the classic straight-laced heroine that goes insanely deredere once she falls in love. I honestly enjoyed her path immensely, even as I felt they were stretching credulity a bit with some of the twists and turns (based on Elle's personality, I honestly couldn't see her making some of the choices she did, even with Sylvia's encouragement). Nonetheless, if you want to see a seemingly hard-edged woman go all soft and mushy, this is a great path.
Rena... is the classic 'close friends suddenly become lovers' path. The beginning of their romantic relationship is hilarious and the lead up into the ending is excellent, with a perfect epilogue, given the path they chose in life. I will say that this is the only path where the protagonist stands up to his recent past in its entirety, so in that sense, it is perhaps the most complete of the paths up to this point.
Ria's path... is the game's main path. Ria herself is not much of a delinquent... for all that she is foul-mouthed and a smoker, she is at the same time kind-hearted and very much at ease with the protagonist after a few initial bumps. However, for her path... this is the path that threatens to define this game as a nakige... with good reason. If you paid attention to the extensive foreshadowing in the other heroine paths, you will probably be able to figure out what the core crisis of this path is, but this is also the path where Ouro shows himself at his best, right to the very end.
Now, I need to go into Ouro, which I normally would have done first. Ouro is mostly your average guy... save for the fact that he is insanely thoughtful and good in a crisis. However, what is stronger about him is that he generally knows when he is at his limit and finds someone to lean on at the right times, without going all dependent and whiny. That said, I really, really, really wish they hadn't made him of average-level intelligence and lazy when it comes to studying. That particular trope is one I wish they'd chop up then wash down the drain in pieces, forever.
Overall, this is an enjoyable game... the foreshadowing for Ria's path is a bit excessive, Akane's path was unnecessary, and this game needed an Ayaka path... However, this was still a fun game to play. I left this game behind with a feeling of satisfaction, and, if I still keep going back to wanting an Ayaka path (yes, I do), I'm sure Saga Planets will eventually oblige, lol.
Edit: I should also mention that the reason Akane's path is not enjoyable is primarily because it doesn't 'fit'. It doesn't fulfill a need the others don't, and Akane herself pales compared to the other heroines. Worse, she is the only girl with a sprite who doesn't fit into that close 'circle' they have going, so there is almost no development of her character outside her own path.
In addition to Ayaka, this game could have also used a Mina path, if only because Mina (Sylvia's little sister) is so obviously on the edge of falling for the protagonist anyway in several of the paths... in the sense that a woman who loves 'reforming' men falls in love with one of her projects, lol.
Well, as of thirty-nine minutes ago, it is officially my birthday (as of the time I checked at the beginning of making this post). I have a lot of things to reflect on this year.
I am now thirty-six, settling into the beginnings of middle-age, knowing my lifestyle will probably kill me before I hit fifty.
I'm a sugar addict, I love fatty foods, I make my own alcoholic drinks (this year, a mixed fruit wine that actually turned out well and was much easier than the rum and hard root beer I did last year).
I sit on my ass eighty percent of the time, I am hugely fat...
... and I'm surprisingly happy. I won't say I don't have my down moments. Looking back, I regret not going for more athletic pursuits while my knees and back could still stand them. I regret not trying for a more regular and less... frustrating line of work. However, I can honestly say that, for all its frustrations, I actually seem to like being a fat, balding otaku who has pretensions at being some kind of VN guru (lol).
I do wish that I could fit into a plane seat, lol. If I ever go to Japan, it is going to have to be a sea trip, since buying two plane tickets for one person is both embarrassing and more than a little expensive.
I hate my work, but I'm good at it and, in good times, it pays well, so I keep doing it.
So what would I change?
Honestly, it is hard to say. I won't pretend I'm all love and joy when it comes to life. I have too much toxic waste going through my brain for that (I just happened to have gained just enough maturity not to feed the trolls constantly *smiles dryly*). I'm fundamentally a passive person once I set foot outside my hobbies, preferring not to do anything I don't absolutely have to do. I'm also negative and misanthropic... but is that stuff I actually want to change?
I've never been any other way, so it is impossible to say. However, every year I hit this day and wonder what could have been, which probably says everything that needs to be said about my experiences with life, for all my proclamations of relative happiness.
I love Eushully's unique fantasy world, Dir Lifyna. Most of Eushully's games, save for a few oddball ones by the subsidiary Anastasia and Fortune Arterial, are based in this world, which began with the original Ikusa Megami (if this gets translated, somebody please smash the skull of anyone who translates the title, because they'll probably pick the worst permutation of it). The first thing that anyone going into this setting should know, if only for giggles, is that this was never intended to be an expansive setting containing ten or more games. Ikusa Megami was intended as a one-off game and was competing with Venus Blood, of all things.
However, to the people who played the game, the setting was incredibly attractive, and they sold well enough to justify a sequel, which was even more well-received (if only because the dungeon-crawler elements were toned down to normal jrpg levels).
The basic setting of the world is that, far in the past, a technologically-advanced human world created a gate/tunnel linking a world full of magic and demihumans, for reasons that pretty much boil down to boredom and stagnation as a species due to excessive technological development. Unfortunately, this accidentally caused the two worlds to begin to merge, causing a conflict between their denizens and their gods.
An important common element to note between the two worlds is that gods existed in both worlds, but the gods of the human world had mostly ceased intervening in mortal affairs openly long before, causing the near death of faith. Since faith/belief is the source of all deities' power, the humans found themselves at a surprising disadvantage in the war, because their belief in their deities was almost nonexistent. Worse, magic was quite capable of countering most of the advantages of human tech based on pure physics.
A faction of humanity chose to pursue the amalgamation of magic and tech, creating wonders and horrors (including artificial demons and gods), but over time (the war apparently lasted for generations), more and more humans switched sides, devoting themselves to gods on the other side, even as humanity's old gods were destroyed, sealed, or enslaved one by one. By the end of the war, humanity was just another race, perhaps more numerous than the others, in the service of the 'Living Gods', and the 'Old Gods' were relegated to dusty legend and actively considered evil by most, if they weren't in the service of a Living God. Human technology was, for the most part, wiped from the face of the new, merged world, and the only remnants can be found in ruins filled with monsters and/or automatic guardians.
The dominant deity of the new world is Marsterria, a minor war god who enslaved and killed more Old Gods than any other. Most of his worshipers are humans, their prolific breeding and generations of faith having given him immense power. His followers are often at odds with the protagonist of the Ikusa Megami series and nonhuman races, because of their excessive zealotry and broad determination of what species are considered 'dark races'.
Conflict between dark gods and their servants and the gods of light and theirs is a normal part of the world of Dir Lifyna, with neutral regions and nations often becoming the battlegrounds for said followers as a result. This is a world with a massive number of intelligent species, and that, in the end, is what makes it so much fun to look forward to each game, even if the flop ratio is over 50%, lol.
Damn, it was hard to do that without spoiling anything.
Edit: It should be noted that demons, angels, nagas, and a few other races were actually coexisting with humanity but hidden due to their more direct service to deities in the original human world. The nagas still maintain faith with old gods for the most part, and as a result, they are marginalized to an immense degree. Most angels 'fell' or serve one of the Living Gods now (or both), and demons are a plague, with more summoned on occasion since demon summoning was one of the few magics that remained to humanity when the worlds met.
Normally, I don't finish the VN of the Month games so early (I'd expected to be forced to take more time out for Neyuki, and so I've been left at loose ends). So, I normally just pull a few random VNs out of my massive backlog (mostly stuff I got at really low prices through my friend in Japan), play them, then mini-review them. However, I've chosen to be a bit more ambitious this time around, since I have the time. I'm actually going to make a schedule!
1. Kikouyoku Senki Gin no Toki no Corona (currently playing this)
2. Baldr Force EXE
3. Baldr Bullet
4. You choose, something that isn't on my vndb list. If I don't already have it, I can probably find it. I'm going to be straight about this, the only rules are: no nukige, no rapegames, nothing that is obviously moe-bait (moe aspects is fine, but I am not interested in playing something like Feng's games or To Heart, lol), no translated
Feel free to make suggestions to me in the comments, based on VNs you either played yourself or ones you want to play but can't because of your own lack of Japanese knowledge. Make sure you check my vndb list before you make a suggestion, as I don't plan to replay anything at the moment. Be aware that there is very little of interest that I haven't played between 2011-2015's releases, so I ask that requests be limited to VNs to 2011 or before.
Even if I only manage to finish through Baldr Bullet by the end of the month, the requests made here will be taken into account in my decisions as to what to play next month and the month after.
VN jargon can be one of the most confusing things on the planet for newbies, when they first start playing VNs. I say this as a straight-out statement because jargon-related questions are some of the most common ones I get from newbies, and jargon-related misunderstandings are pretty common. However, I'm not making this post to explain each piece of VN jargon's definition and the like, but rather to poke a few holes in the illusion of the 'stability' of the VN lingua franca that people like me tend to let people believe in for the sake of convenience.
First, the idea of the VN term that everybody assumes is used widely in Japan but really isn't. In VN otakudom, this is pretty common. First, I'll give you the examples I'm aware of off-hand.
1. Visual Novel- yes, this is a term that was coined by the Japanese, but it only ever took off here (there are occasions where it is used in Japan, but not in quite the same way we do). However, it has become the umbrella term for an entire medium over here, an umbrella term the Japanese don't use that way primarily because they lump all 'games' in together as the same medium. I see visual novels as a storytelling medium, but the Japanese see them as games, despite the lack of any real gameplay. This is not a matter of absolute definitions but rather a mindset, so I'm not going to insist my personal interpretation of the word is absolute here. The closest thing Japan comes to umbrella terms for VNs is 'bishoujo geimu', 'otomege', and 'gyaruge' (the first referring to male-oriented VNs with beautiful females, the second referring to female-oriented VNs of a certain type, and the third being a term that tends to change wildly depending on who is using it).
2. Charage- yes, you've heard me use this word a few times in the past... and indeed it did get used sometimes by Japanese makers or players to describe VNs of the type I use it to describe. However, if you want me to be straight about it... a few others and myself basically took the term, used it like crazy, and made it a piece of the jargon for the sake of our own convenience. It caught on here but it never caught on in Japan. Occasionally I still see someone use it in a Japanese board, but it is primarily a term used and defined by western players.
3. Chuunige- Actually, I'm pretty sure this was invented by the Fuwanovel community, lol. I use it because it is so convenient to describe the genre, but before it came around there was no jargon for the type of VN this has come to define. I actually laughed hysterically the first time I saw the term 'chuunige' pop up in a Japanese forum used casually to describe Dies Irae, and when I saw the easter egg in Semiramis no Tenbin where the writer said he'd been asked to try making a 'chuunige' I rofled hard. However, I'm about 90% sure we, the Western vn-players coined the term, even if it went over there at some point.
Terms that mean pretty much the same thing on both sides of the water do exist.
1. Nakige- for better or worse, this is probably one of the most well-defined VN genres. That is probably because Key did such a good job of forming the foundations for it, and the term caught on really well over there.
2. Utsuge- similar to above, this is a term that is used on both sides of the water, more or less in the same manner.
Now that I've ranted on all that... I should probably give a few examples outside of VNs where this has happened... or at least one. Manga and anime are terms we use to describe Japanese comics and animation. However, in the eyes of the Japanese, both are umbrella terms for all comics and animation. Of course, there are terms that have gone over there that have also gone through mutations of their own (they are known as pseudo-anglicanisms), so don't be surprised if you come across katakana words whose meaning doesn't even resemble what they sound like (the katakana word for an apartment, for instance). While there are a lot of common points of understanding on both sides of the water, there are also a lot of points in our jargon that have warped and changed to fit our understanding or have been adopted here even though they got tossed to the side over there. Anyway, for those whose experience with the community has been confusing, Western VN jargon is, for better or worse, only just escaping its formative stages, so be patient with us lazy (and somewhat senile) old-timers. Jargon exists for everyone's convenience but defining jargon is a pain in the butt, as meanings change over time little by little.