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Kosakyun

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  1. Like
    Kosakyun reacted to Clephas for a blog entry, VN reading speed, some tips and my own thoughts   
    I decided to make this post after analyzing my own reading speed and the reasons why it is so fast... but I also wanted to give tips on how to increase your reading speed without hurting your enjoyment of VNs, manga, and books.  At the same time I was doing this, I gradually came to realize that one of the big reasons why my favorite genre is so niche (chuunige) is simply because most people bump into the walls of complex text and give up.
    Regardless of which language you are reading (Japanese, English, or any other language), the basics of reading are the ability to see and understand the writing, have the vocabulary necessary to understand the words, and an understanding of grammar advanced enough to comprehend how the words come together to create meaning.  I know it sounds condescending for me to go back and name these basics, but it is necessary to do so in order to make my points.
    When it comes to reading fiction, there is  an aspect that comes into play that many don't take account of... the gap between the language used when writing and that which is used in verbalization.  Most people won't use even a fifth of the terminology and styles that exist in the literary world to converse with others (at least, if their job doesn't require it).  For this reason, becoming a fast reader necessitates that a person have a gut-level understanding of a large amount of word and style choices that simply don't get used when they are conversing with others.  This is also the reason why classroom Japanese is inadequate for playing or translating visual novels, incidentally. 
    To be frank, the above reality is the main reason why reading for pleasure is an acquired taste for most, rather than a natural addiction.  To me, a well-written scene in a VN is a sensual, almost erotic experience... but that is because decades of reading have made me into that kind of person. 
    To be frank, there is a limit to reading speeds based on intelligence and short-term memory.  However, this limitation is far less of an issue than most think.  It is quite possible for someone who is of less than average intelligence to be able to enjoy reading something as ridiculously complex as Dies Irae at a speed you might be surprised at, and it is quite possible for a person who is otherwise of high intelligence to have a turtle-like reading speed. 
    Basic methods to increase reading speed include deliberate expansion of vocabulary (memorizing lists of words and how they are used) and deliberately exposing yourself on a regular basis to writers with unique or unusual styles that are difficult to follow.  Grammatical understanding needs to be gut-level or reading speed won't improve, as you'll be constantly stumbling over how the words come together. 
    Context is also important... essentially, to be a fast reader, one must be able to keep at least a decent grasp on what has gone before and be able to at least retain most of the details from the chapter you are currently reading.  A bad habit many translators, both professional and fan, fall into is translating line by line.  This is also a stumbling block when reading.  If you are merely reading line by line while not keeping at least some track of what has been going on, you will be unable to grasp what is coming.  This lack of understanding slows the reader, as they grow confused, then bored.  One reason why I almost never play multiple VNs at once without dropping the previous ones outright is because retaining a firm grasp on the flow of events at my stopping points for those games causes an intellectual and emotional disconnect that makes it hard to resurrect my interest if I try to go back to them.
    In the end, what was this post about?  Essentially, I was saying 'refine your basics, and your reading speed will improve'.  I'm not going to go into more advanced techniques such as being able to 'flash-read' paragraphs and lines, because I generally don't use those techniques when playing normal VNs (the slow death of the NVL format has ensured it only has limited usefulness  when reading VNs). 
    A note about the difference in enjoyment:  The pleasure gained from reading varies in nature as you get faster.  One reason I love VNs that are heavy on complex narration is that such VNs rarely leave me feeling that I wasted my time reading them, whereas ones with little narration and most if it simple tend to leave me feel like I wasted my time.  In my observations of others, including some friends I introduced to VNs who have significantly slower speeds than myself, I saw that they tended to be more able to enjoy both better than myself.   However, since large-scale VNs seemed like monumental tasks to them, they often don't even try them.  In this sense, reading speed determines what some people read in the first place, thus narrowing their options and experiences.  I hear stories about people taking months to finish a single VN, and I honestly can't comprehend that, given that even the longest VN only takes me about thirty to forty hours (incidentally, only a half dozen VNs have reached this threshold in my personal experience)... which is about the same amount of time full completion of an average-scale jrpg takes, lol.   I honestly don't have the experience to gauge how to enjoy a VN over the course  of a month or more of time... and I'd like some input on just how that experience feels, since I don't have any references in my experience that  might enable me to understand it.  Even my friends were book-addicts before I introduced them to English-language VNs, so they were still faster than the average...
    Edit: What caused me to decide to post this was the simple fact that I have, on a number of occasions, been asked for advice on how to improve reading speed.  In the process of trying to articulate how to improve reading speed based on my experiences, I decided to focus on visual novel reading speed, because the explanations for some of the techniques I've picked up over the years would require me to rediscover how-to books I read back in my teens when I was trying to reduce the amount of time I had to spend studying by finding ways to read faster.  I had to laugh when I realized that all I  could do was explain why the basics were important, because the most important element for reading VNs turned out to be accepting that the vocabulary you pick up reading the 'classics' in your years of public education is not nearly enough.  Vocab and an understanding of how it fit into grammar are so vital to reading quickly, because you don't have to stop to think about what a sentence means if there is no part of it you don't already understand. 
     
  2. Like
    Kosakyun got a reaction from Plk_Lesiak for a blog entry, Da Capo: Dreamer's Love Story   
    Alright! I recently got into reading visual novels again, and while I wait for the impending demise of this website, I thought about paying homage to it before it goes away for good by using it for what it was originally intended to be for --- visual novels! Because I'm too lazy to look up the appropriate threads to place my thoughts about specific games, this will be their resting place. What better way to start off a blog dedicated to memories with a game placing emphasis on them in the subconscious plane?
    I'll warn you before you continue: The blog is full of my ramblings, so I'm gonna stop paying heed to what's a spoiler and what's not. It's not a review, so don't read it if you don't want to get spoiled! If you're fine with that, be my guest.
    Start of Rambling
    Da Capo. To be honest, I thought the name was pretty funny because I could only visualize one thing from it.

    While I may have missed the mark, I at least got the type of thing the title is right. It's referring to a musical term where one repeats the piece from the beginning until the first symbol that functions as the sort of end of that repetition. While I was skeptical of how the term would come into play in the game due to how I perceive some titles to have been chosen just because they sound cool (I'm looking at you, Fate/Stay Night), I was pleased to have encountered the concept in almost every route the game had. To better remember whatever I read, my thoughts will be focusing on each route and the emerging themes in them, and how the concept of "Da Capo" seems to have applied to them overall. But first, I'll think about the common route.
    Common Route

    Time Taken: 2 - 3 hours
    Common route felt like a real dating sim. You have around 10 days to guess your way throughout the places to meet and trigger flags with the different heroines of the game, with the changing of the illustration of the 'calendar' as your guide to whether you're approaching the route you want or not. I tried to actually guess my way through the game blindly at first, but after one route and four failed attempts to get into any other one, I gave up. It's pretty hellish guessing where you can meet the people. After a few attempts though, you kinda get a feel of where they have the highest chance of being based on their personalities, so if you're a guy who hates walkthroughs, don't give up. Just a few more graduations with your best friend Suginami, and you'll be able to grab the girl of your dreams.
    Dialogue was full of quirky fun. My favorite characters by the end of the common route were probably Moe and Suginami with how absurd the kind of situations you find yourself with them are. Miharu comes close to them because of how downright stupid she is. Nothing too special with the dialogue though. Plenty of content here that reminds me of high school life, but that's the majority of Japanese media out there. If anything, it was at least entertaining enough to keep me awake in the wee hours of the night. 
    Now, since the common route was short and filled with SoL content, I'll be moving on from that to the meat of the rambling: the heroine routes. I'll discuss them according to the order in which I think they should be played, based on the kind of content they had.
    Yoshino Sakura

    Time Taken: 2 - 3 hours
    Sakura's your obnoxiously annoying imouto-type character, more so than your actual little sister in this game. Combined with her childish aesthetic and speech pattern that makes you go nuts in the head, she's the perfect example of why you sometimes want to just close your machine and get out of the house to get fresh air. While I thought that her mannerisms were pretty damn annoying (as is with a lot of characters that try to be over-the-top cute), I ended up liking how she was made because of its significance to who she is as a character in the game.
    While she's innocent and downright mischievous in the majority of the game, you get glimpses of what lies under her facade every now and then. This is particularly obvious whenever the fantastical aspects of the game, such as the dreams and the never-fading cherry blossoms, are of particular importance to the route. In her own route, you directly experience the consequences of the magical cherry blossom tree, as well as the significance of the encounters in Jun'ichi's childhood. Sakura stops being just your annoying little sister, starting to show her fangs as one of your love interests.
    The gap between the innocent Sakura and the Sakura that harbors malicious feelings gives me satisfaction because of the realization of how they played me like a fool all throughout the common route. While it's obvious that she has magical roots in her bloodline (as well as Jun'ichi's), you don't really get to see the significance of those roots until you're faced with the dangers that accompany the magic they possess. Through the image of cherry blossoms, the magical underpinnings of the game finally come out, and you're faced with a situation where the heroine is actually the source of the different misfortunes that happen throughout the route, especially poignant in Nemu's case.
    What I find most interesting in the route, besides the information dump, is the conflict within Sakura's character. The gap is there, yes, but it didn't come from a desire to create that gap, in which case it would have been placed to hide something. The gap is there because of the responsibility that Sakura bears, and with it, the suffering it entails for her and for the people around her. What needs to be done in order to stop it is to end the source, that is, to end the miracle of dreams --- to free Sakura from the burden of helping people reach their own dreams. It serves as a wake up call for the people of the island, and a form of liberation from the suffering Sakura.
    To be honest, the concept of magic here is pretty shaky. But I get that not knowing the entirety of how the magic works is exactly what makes it so magical in the first place. This encounter with the magical is exactly what I believe to be the best start to the experience with the game, because the death of the cherry blossom tree proves to be significant in the different routes that follow.
    Asakura Nemu

    Time Taken: 2 - 3 hours
    Nemu is the trademark capable imouto character who puts up a reliable facade when with other people, only revealing her weaknesses to her beloved big brother. She also has the added bonus of being a stepsister, so hurrah to those who are into that. If there's any one of the heroines who's the most believable love interest for the protagonist, it has to be Nemu. Along with Sakura, she's one of the heroines with the longest association with Jun'ichi, so it makes sense to have her as a love interest with the time given to them to nurture their budding feelings for one another.
    I thought Sakura's route was hard to understand because of how it talks about things in such a subtle way, but Nemu's was somehow able to make everything even harder to understand. Her sickness was kind of explained in the prior route, but goddamn, they suddenly make it into an internal struggle for Nemu when I already have the culprit in my mind as Sakura. It makes Sakura look worse than ever, even going as far as getting rid of Nemu's memories just to try and lessen the effects that the magic has on her.
    To be honest, the whole struggle with Nemu had a lot of emotions going on for her route, and it really enriches the experience. You finally find true love with your stepsister, then she encounters a potentially terminal illness that you have no idea what to do with. Sakura enters, tries to ruin your relationship with Nemu, but love is stronger than everything. I thought it was pretty nice, to the point that I found myself in tears during her last scenario before the epilogue. The feeling of dreaming about the goodbye, and it finally happening in real life to the two of them, was so overwhelming that the sadness you feel for their situation just pours out.
    ...Then they decide to step on your feelings by ending it in the way they did. Nemu's alright. I mean, it should be obvious for the readers that the death of the cherry blossom tree means the survival of Nemu, but after being faced with stakes as high as that prior to the epilogue, I can't help but feel that they discarded what they've built up for the past 9 pages of scenario in favor of a happy end with Nemu. If the aftereffects or any explanation was at least shown to justify the end, it would have been okay. But they just thrust it at you, as if they wanted to say 'sike' as you were reading it. It really took me out of her route, and it really downplays the whole experience. Frankly, it was pretty disappointing.
    Shirakawa Kotori

    Time Taken: 1.5 - 2 hours
    Kotori's the typical 'most famous girl in the school that falls in love with you for some reason'. She's the type of heroine that swoons because someone finally treated her like she was a normal person, because every other man out there is a beast that seeks romance with her. Her route is probably the most romantic out of all of them, but also the least believable in my opinion. In a laughable span of 10 days, Kotori and Jun'ichi develop feelings for one another, which finally comes into fruition after another week. A relationship that only took 17 days to start. Pretty damn amazing, with the lack of high stakes and all.
    Why is her route romantic? Well, it's full of scenes where they tease and flirt with each other! Compared to the others, Jun'ichi actually sees Kotori as a proper love interest from the start, which is probably why it felt so romantic compared to the rest. It actually made me embarrassed with myself while reading through it, pushing me to a point where I almost developed type 2 diabetes. I'd like to continue on with how embarrassingly sweet it was, but it's a topic not worth rambling about.
    Main conflict in her route was how she's unable to understand other people, and in return, unable to let other people understand her. By now, it's obvious that the game loves overturning the stereotypes it lays out for its heroines by associating the stereotypes with a sort of facade to deal with their inner struggles. For Kotori's case, I was not able to see it coming from a mile away. It comes in and suddenly slaps me in the face because of how casually Kotori mentions it after the end of the matter. With how dissociated I was with her struggle prior to the death of the cherry tree, I ended up feeling that her conflict was kind of shallow and lacking substance, being justified with the use of a special power that I would never have guessed she had. Would have loved to been more exposed to the inner workings of her conflict, especially outside that of dreams.
    Mizukoshi Moe

    Time Taken: 1.5 - 2 hours
    Your standard dojikko. I found her very cute in the common route, and she did not disappoint in her route as well. The gap in her character this time was not exactly a gap, but an underlying reason behind her being a dojikko --- a deep-seated trauma from her past. Moe tries to hide this behind a general face of clumsiness and airheadedness, literally sleeping her problems away.
    I felt like her route had the most potential. You have the ingenious idea of making dojikko not just a stupid trait, but a sort of coping mechanism to deal with the loss of a beloved one in the past. Then you go and end it in like one scene. The deep-seated trauma is warded off with the words "Live happily for him" or something like that. Amazing. If it was that easy to deal with depression and trauma, then therapists would probably be raking in money with the least effort. Or we wouldn't even need them in the first place.
    While I understand that it's the early 2000s and the awareness that comes with these kinds of conflicts is not as fleshed out as it is in our current time, it's still disappointing to see one of those with the most impact being easily solved through mere words. If it was that easy, Moe wouldn't have needed sleeping pills. It honestly makes everyone around her goddamn useless, especially considering she's part of a family that manages a damn hospital.
    Mizukoshi Mako

    Time Taken: 1 hour
    I don't get it. It's so out of place in the game.
    Amakase Miharu

    Time Taken: 1 - 1.5 hours
    Probably my best girl. I love Miharu so damn much. And I loved her damn route. It's everything I wanted from Nemu's route. The ending is exactly what I was looking for in Nemu's --- one that did not disregard the main conflict of the route. The build up ultimately leads to an end that is full of emotion; a satisfying conclusion to their short love story. I cried myself to sleep reading this route. It's so damn good. And the epilogue? My god! I cannot begin to imagine the pangs of pain the heart of Jun'ichi might feel seeing a stark reminder of the love story that ended as quickly as it began. Incredible.
    There's only one picture that can encompass the entirety of this route's glory.
    However, as much as I loved the route and its conclusion, I still had qualms with it. First qualm focuses on the event that triggers the route --- Miharu's accident. I can't believe Jun'ichi doesn't even mention feelings of remorse for the way things transpired. She fell from a tree, and you were in a perfect position to prevent it, had you not left her to her own devices. While not directly culpable for it, it's kinda hard to imagine thoughts about 'what could have been' not surfacing every now and then. Second would probably be about the memory of their past, which led to the unearthing of the time capsule. While it is an emotionally-packed scene, I can't help but to wonder where that places the real Miharu. The feelings between the two might be real, but the promise that the real one and Jun'ichi made as kids seem to have been trampled on, and that just doesn't seem right with me. In a setting where you're trying to act as a substitute for the real one while they're out of commission, directly interfering with one of their most intimate memories kinda feels like a strike to me, because of the implications it has on the prior relationship the real Miharu and Jun'ichi had.
    Sagisawa Yoriko

    Time Taken: 1.5 - 2 hours
    It was weird, but nonetheless enjoyable. Not much to say here, because it's mostly a feel-good route. You have a catgirl, and you know she was originally a cat but you still fall in love with her. Nice. The most notable thing about her route is probably the loneliness that surrounds it near the end of the scenarios, before the epilogue. Honestly, felt a lot similar to what Miharu's route was, with how abrupt the love story ends. The difference between the epilogue of this route and Nemu's is that the epilogue is properly substantiated, grounded with enough reason (even though it's magical) to be at least a bit believable. It doesn't discard the build up of the conflict prior to it, rather, adds to its significance with the kind of character Misaki is.
    That sex scene was hella unnecessary though.
    Da Capo

    So what made me like the game so much, despite all my qualms about the routes? Well, I think it's how they were able to tie in the title with the main themes of the game, such that they become more meaningful when put against one another. Da Capo, like I mentioned earlier, is essentially a repeat of the beginning, until a point where the end comes. After the end, a new segment of the music begins. This beginning at the end is the main paralleling idea behind the routes of the game (yes, even the disaster that is Mako's). Each route focuses on a particular dream, and these dreams, by the end of the route, mostly end with the death of the cherry blossom tree around May. With its end, the dream the characters live end, and a new reality begins. This idea was especially poignant in Miharu's and Yoriko's routes, where the dream with them literally ends because of how fantastical their existence is in the first place. The others also followed this pattern, with Sakura and the tree, Nemu and her illness, Kotori and her ability to read people's minds, Moe and her repeating dream, and lastly, Mako and the fake relationship (lol).
    With a game following its structure so faithfully, the experience of playing it becomes ever more meaningful because of what you can draw out from the content that it gives you. The little things you encounter in the SoL scenes become ever more meaningful with the theme of dreams and their end lingering behind your mind as your read them. Even the common route itself follows the same pattern, with the focus on graduation and the things that end with it. But as the characters say, with the end, new things begin, and it's exactly that kind of association it has with the majority of its elements that made it such a fun read. The subtleties and symbols that it shows become ever more beautiful, similar to how the cherry blossoms bloom in such an elegant manner, culminating in a shower of fleeting emotions that are rich in their passing.
    Final Thoughts
    Da Capo is far from being perfect, but it's an enjoyable experience. Fresh from the outside, Da Capo is a great VN to start with given its quirky cast, its reputation, and the way it plays with its overarching thematic elements. While full of fantastical stuff, it also doesn't fail to deliver in the romance aspect, although there are some that are quite questionable in their initiation. I'd recommend people starting out to pick it up, such that they may be better acquainted with the type of games that would follow should they decide to read more.
  3. Like
    Kosakyun got a reaction from Mr Poltroon for a blog entry, Da Capo: Dreamer's Love Story   
    Alright! I recently got into reading visual novels again, and while I wait for the impending demise of this website, I thought about paying homage to it before it goes away for good by using it for what it was originally intended to be for --- visual novels! Because I'm too lazy to look up the appropriate threads to place my thoughts about specific games, this will be their resting place. What better way to start off a blog dedicated to memories with a game placing emphasis on them in the subconscious plane?
    I'll warn you before you continue: The blog is full of my ramblings, so I'm gonna stop paying heed to what's a spoiler and what's not. It's not a review, so don't read it if you don't want to get spoiled! If you're fine with that, be my guest.
    Start of Rambling
    Da Capo. To be honest, I thought the name was pretty funny because I could only visualize one thing from it.

    While I may have missed the mark, I at least got the type of thing the title is right. It's referring to a musical term where one repeats the piece from the beginning until the first symbol that functions as the sort of end of that repetition. While I was skeptical of how the term would come into play in the game due to how I perceive some titles to have been chosen just because they sound cool (I'm looking at you, Fate/Stay Night), I was pleased to have encountered the concept in almost every route the game had. To better remember whatever I read, my thoughts will be focusing on each route and the emerging themes in them, and how the concept of "Da Capo" seems to have applied to them overall. But first, I'll think about the common route.
    Common Route

    Time Taken: 2 - 3 hours
    Common route felt like a real dating sim. You have around 10 days to guess your way throughout the places to meet and trigger flags with the different heroines of the game, with the changing of the illustration of the 'calendar' as your guide to whether you're approaching the route you want or not. I tried to actually guess my way through the game blindly at first, but after one route and four failed attempts to get into any other one, I gave up. It's pretty hellish guessing where you can meet the people. After a few attempts though, you kinda get a feel of where they have the highest chance of being based on their personalities, so if you're a guy who hates walkthroughs, don't give up. Just a few more graduations with your best friend Suginami, and you'll be able to grab the girl of your dreams.
    Dialogue was full of quirky fun. My favorite characters by the end of the common route were probably Moe and Suginami with how absurd the kind of situations you find yourself with them are. Miharu comes close to them because of how downright stupid she is. Nothing too special with the dialogue though. Plenty of content here that reminds me of high school life, but that's the majority of Japanese media out there. If anything, it was at least entertaining enough to keep me awake in the wee hours of the night. 
    Now, since the common route was short and filled with SoL content, I'll be moving on from that to the meat of the rambling: the heroine routes. I'll discuss them according to the order in which I think they should be played, based on the kind of content they had.
    Yoshino Sakura

    Time Taken: 2 - 3 hours
    Sakura's your obnoxiously annoying imouto-type character, more so than your actual little sister in this game. Combined with her childish aesthetic and speech pattern that makes you go nuts in the head, she's the perfect example of why you sometimes want to just close your machine and get out of the house to get fresh air. While I thought that her mannerisms were pretty damn annoying (as is with a lot of characters that try to be over-the-top cute), I ended up liking how she was made because of its significance to who she is as a character in the game.
    While she's innocent and downright mischievous in the majority of the game, you get glimpses of what lies under her facade every now and then. This is particularly obvious whenever the fantastical aspects of the game, such as the dreams and the never-fading cherry blossoms, are of particular importance to the route. In her own route, you directly experience the consequences of the magical cherry blossom tree, as well as the significance of the encounters in Jun'ichi's childhood. Sakura stops being just your annoying little sister, starting to show her fangs as one of your love interests.
    The gap between the innocent Sakura and the Sakura that harbors malicious feelings gives me satisfaction because of the realization of how they played me like a fool all throughout the common route. While it's obvious that she has magical roots in her bloodline (as well as Jun'ichi's), you don't really get to see the significance of those roots until you're faced with the dangers that accompany the magic they possess. Through the image of cherry blossoms, the magical underpinnings of the game finally come out, and you're faced with a situation where the heroine is actually the source of the different misfortunes that happen throughout the route, especially poignant in Nemu's case.
    What I find most interesting in the route, besides the information dump, is the conflict within Sakura's character. The gap is there, yes, but it didn't come from a desire to create that gap, in which case it would have been placed to hide something. The gap is there because of the responsibility that Sakura bears, and with it, the suffering it entails for her and for the people around her. What needs to be done in order to stop it is to end the source, that is, to end the miracle of dreams --- to free Sakura from the burden of helping people reach their own dreams. It serves as a wake up call for the people of the island, and a form of liberation from the suffering Sakura.
    To be honest, the concept of magic here is pretty shaky. But I get that not knowing the entirety of how the magic works is exactly what makes it so magical in the first place. This encounter with the magical is exactly what I believe to be the best start to the experience with the game, because the death of the cherry blossom tree proves to be significant in the different routes that follow.
    Asakura Nemu

    Time Taken: 2 - 3 hours
    Nemu is the trademark capable imouto character who puts up a reliable facade when with other people, only revealing her weaknesses to her beloved big brother. She also has the added bonus of being a stepsister, so hurrah to those who are into that. If there's any one of the heroines who's the most believable love interest for the protagonist, it has to be Nemu. Along with Sakura, she's one of the heroines with the longest association with Jun'ichi, so it makes sense to have her as a love interest with the time given to them to nurture their budding feelings for one another.
    I thought Sakura's route was hard to understand because of how it talks about things in such a subtle way, but Nemu's was somehow able to make everything even harder to understand. Her sickness was kind of explained in the prior route, but goddamn, they suddenly make it into an internal struggle for Nemu when I already have the culprit in my mind as Sakura. It makes Sakura look worse than ever, even going as far as getting rid of Nemu's memories just to try and lessen the effects that the magic has on her.
    To be honest, the whole struggle with Nemu had a lot of emotions going on for her route, and it really enriches the experience. You finally find true love with your stepsister, then she encounters a potentially terminal illness that you have no idea what to do with. Sakura enters, tries to ruin your relationship with Nemu, but love is stronger than everything. I thought it was pretty nice, to the point that I found myself in tears during her last scenario before the epilogue. The feeling of dreaming about the goodbye, and it finally happening in real life to the two of them, was so overwhelming that the sadness you feel for their situation just pours out.
    ...Then they decide to step on your feelings by ending it in the way they did. Nemu's alright. I mean, it should be obvious for the readers that the death of the cherry blossom tree means the survival of Nemu, but after being faced with stakes as high as that prior to the epilogue, I can't help but feel that they discarded what they've built up for the past 9 pages of scenario in favor of a happy end with Nemu. If the aftereffects or any explanation was at least shown to justify the end, it would have been okay. But they just thrust it at you, as if they wanted to say 'sike' as you were reading it. It really took me out of her route, and it really downplays the whole experience. Frankly, it was pretty disappointing.
    Shirakawa Kotori

    Time Taken: 1.5 - 2 hours
    Kotori's the typical 'most famous girl in the school that falls in love with you for some reason'. She's the type of heroine that swoons because someone finally treated her like she was a normal person, because every other man out there is a beast that seeks romance with her. Her route is probably the most romantic out of all of them, but also the least believable in my opinion. In a laughable span of 10 days, Kotori and Jun'ichi develop feelings for one another, which finally comes into fruition after another week. A relationship that only took 17 days to start. Pretty damn amazing, with the lack of high stakes and all.
    Why is her route romantic? Well, it's full of scenes where they tease and flirt with each other! Compared to the others, Jun'ichi actually sees Kotori as a proper love interest from the start, which is probably why it felt so romantic compared to the rest. It actually made me embarrassed with myself while reading through it, pushing me to a point where I almost developed type 2 diabetes. I'd like to continue on with how embarrassingly sweet it was, but it's a topic not worth rambling about.
    Main conflict in her route was how she's unable to understand other people, and in return, unable to let other people understand her. By now, it's obvious that the game loves overturning the stereotypes it lays out for its heroines by associating the stereotypes with a sort of facade to deal with their inner struggles. For Kotori's case, I was not able to see it coming from a mile away. It comes in and suddenly slaps me in the face because of how casually Kotori mentions it after the end of the matter. With how dissociated I was with her struggle prior to the death of the cherry tree, I ended up feeling that her conflict was kind of shallow and lacking substance, being justified with the use of a special power that I would never have guessed she had. Would have loved to been more exposed to the inner workings of her conflict, especially outside that of dreams.
    Mizukoshi Moe

    Time Taken: 1.5 - 2 hours
    Your standard dojikko. I found her very cute in the common route, and she did not disappoint in her route as well. The gap in her character this time was not exactly a gap, but an underlying reason behind her being a dojikko --- a deep-seated trauma from her past. Moe tries to hide this behind a general face of clumsiness and airheadedness, literally sleeping her problems away.
    I felt like her route had the most potential. You have the ingenious idea of making dojikko not just a stupid trait, but a sort of coping mechanism to deal with the loss of a beloved one in the past. Then you go and end it in like one scene. The deep-seated trauma is warded off with the words "Live happily for him" or something like that. Amazing. If it was that easy to deal with depression and trauma, then therapists would probably be raking in money with the least effort. Or we wouldn't even need them in the first place.
    While I understand that it's the early 2000s and the awareness that comes with these kinds of conflicts is not as fleshed out as it is in our current time, it's still disappointing to see one of those with the most impact being easily solved through mere words. If it was that easy, Moe wouldn't have needed sleeping pills. It honestly makes everyone around her goddamn useless, especially considering she's part of a family that manages a damn hospital.
    Mizukoshi Mako

    Time Taken: 1 hour
    I don't get it. It's so out of place in the game.
    Amakase Miharu

    Time Taken: 1 - 1.5 hours
    Probably my best girl. I love Miharu so damn much. And I loved her damn route. It's everything I wanted from Nemu's route. The ending is exactly what I was looking for in Nemu's --- one that did not disregard the main conflict of the route. The build up ultimately leads to an end that is full of emotion; a satisfying conclusion to their short love story. I cried myself to sleep reading this route. It's so damn good. And the epilogue? My god! I cannot begin to imagine the pangs of pain the heart of Jun'ichi might feel seeing a stark reminder of the love story that ended as quickly as it began. Incredible.
    There's only one picture that can encompass the entirety of this route's glory.
    However, as much as I loved the route and its conclusion, I still had qualms with it. First qualm focuses on the event that triggers the route --- Miharu's accident. I can't believe Jun'ichi doesn't even mention feelings of remorse for the way things transpired. She fell from a tree, and you were in a perfect position to prevent it, had you not left her to her own devices. While not directly culpable for it, it's kinda hard to imagine thoughts about 'what could have been' not surfacing every now and then. Second would probably be about the memory of their past, which led to the unearthing of the time capsule. While it is an emotionally-packed scene, I can't help but to wonder where that places the real Miharu. The feelings between the two might be real, but the promise that the real one and Jun'ichi made as kids seem to have been trampled on, and that just doesn't seem right with me. In a setting where you're trying to act as a substitute for the real one while they're out of commission, directly interfering with one of their most intimate memories kinda feels like a strike to me, because of the implications it has on the prior relationship the real Miharu and Jun'ichi had.
    Sagisawa Yoriko

    Time Taken: 1.5 - 2 hours
    It was weird, but nonetheless enjoyable. Not much to say here, because it's mostly a feel-good route. You have a catgirl, and you know she was originally a cat but you still fall in love with her. Nice. The most notable thing about her route is probably the loneliness that surrounds it near the end of the scenarios, before the epilogue. Honestly, felt a lot similar to what Miharu's route was, with how abrupt the love story ends. The difference between the epilogue of this route and Nemu's is that the epilogue is properly substantiated, grounded with enough reason (even though it's magical) to be at least a bit believable. It doesn't discard the build up of the conflict prior to it, rather, adds to its significance with the kind of character Misaki is.
    That sex scene was hella unnecessary though.
    Da Capo

    So what made me like the game so much, despite all my qualms about the routes? Well, I think it's how they were able to tie in the title with the main themes of the game, such that they become more meaningful when put against one another. Da Capo, like I mentioned earlier, is essentially a repeat of the beginning, until a point where the end comes. After the end, a new segment of the music begins. This beginning at the end is the main paralleling idea behind the routes of the game (yes, even the disaster that is Mako's). Each route focuses on a particular dream, and these dreams, by the end of the route, mostly end with the death of the cherry blossom tree around May. With its end, the dream the characters live end, and a new reality begins. This idea was especially poignant in Miharu's and Yoriko's routes, where the dream with them literally ends because of how fantastical their existence is in the first place. The others also followed this pattern, with Sakura and the tree, Nemu and her illness, Kotori and her ability to read people's minds, Moe and her repeating dream, and lastly, Mako and the fake relationship (lol).
    With a game following its structure so faithfully, the experience of playing it becomes ever more meaningful because of what you can draw out from the content that it gives you. The little things you encounter in the SoL scenes become ever more meaningful with the theme of dreams and their end lingering behind your mind as your read them. Even the common route itself follows the same pattern, with the focus on graduation and the things that end with it. But as the characters say, with the end, new things begin, and it's exactly that kind of association it has with the majority of its elements that made it such a fun read. The subtleties and symbols that it shows become ever more beautiful, similar to how the cherry blossoms bloom in such an elegant manner, culminating in a shower of fleeting emotions that are rich in their passing.
    Final Thoughts
    Da Capo is far from being perfect, but it's an enjoyable experience. Fresh from the outside, Da Capo is a great VN to start with given its quirky cast, its reputation, and the way it plays with its overarching thematic elements. While full of fantastical stuff, it also doesn't fail to deliver in the romance aspect, although there are some that are quite questionable in their initiation. I'd recommend people starting out to pick it up, such that they may be better acquainted with the type of games that would follow should they decide to read more.
  4. Like
    Kosakyun reacted to Darbury for a blog entry, Preparation H (Getting Ready to Edit VN Sex Scenes)   
    There’s no getting around it. If you’re looking to edit visual novels, at some point you’re going to have roll up your sleeves, put on the rubber gloves, and get elbow-deep in some H. The good news is that if you come prepared, practice your technique, and set some clear boundaries, it can be a pleasurable experience for both you and the reader.

    First, a disclaimer: I don’t like pineapple on my pizza, and I don’t like H-scenes in my VNs. It’s not a prudish thing; it’s a narrative thing. They’re rarely well crafted — you can feel all the hallmarks of the B-team being brought in to write them — and they almost never add plot/characterization that couldn’t have been handled better some other way. (I’ll pause here so you can mention Amane’s route from Grisaia, an exception that helps prove the rule.) Let’s be honest: they’re shoehorned in to help sell product. It’s built into the economics of the eroge genre. And honestly, that’s fine. I try to be sanguine about it and think of H-scenes as banner ads or TV commercials. They’re profit centers that help support the content I’m actually interested in. (I suspect more than a few developers feel the same way.)

    Long story short, H-scenes ain’t going anywhere. So how do we deal with them? Go in with a game plan.

    [Warning, there will be some NSFW language from this point forward. Sorry! It’s all part of seeing how the sausage is made.]

    1. Do your research
    In raw translation, sex scenes from a Japanese visual novel tend to be far from erotic. More often than not, they read like an obsessively detailed transcript of a gynecological exam. That’s not because the Japanese writing team suddenly forgot they were supposed to be penning a passionate sex scene. It’s just that what’s erotic in one culture isn’t always as erotic in another. It’s your job (along with the translator) to help bridge that cultural divide and come up with something that feels faithful to the original, yet still sexy in English.

    Your first stop? Research. Read some English-language erotica so you can get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t. Sites like literotica.com even have stories broken out into fairly specific categories, so if you know you’ll be editing BDSM, threesome, and footjob scripts, you’ll have no problem finding what you need. (If you have all three in a single scene, you still might be in luck.) There’s also a category called “First Time,” which is more broadly useful, given how fixated many VNs are on virgins.

    Read, read, and read some more. Pay attention to the verbs, the nouns, the pacing. Try to quickly form a model of what makes a sex scene successful, then look to carry those techniques over to your VN script.

    2. Pack a box lunch
    If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: bring a big bag of dicks; you’ll need them. Better pack a few pussies while you’re at it.

    By the time you’ve edited your third or fourth H-script, you’ll find you’ve run dry of good synonyms for the male and female genitalia. In KoiRizo, the raw script mostly used the word "thing" for the protag’s package, which ended up sounding childish and/or ambiguous in English. (I only kept it in a few instances where such a reaction might be appropriate — for example, when the route partner catches her very first glimpse of Lil’ Protag: “Is that your ... thing?”). The remainder of the original script was a mix of the clinical ("my mucous membrane”) and the hilarious (“my soiled meat stick”). As for ladyparts, the original script relied heavy on metaphor and indirect reference — lots of openings, entrances, gates, doors, depths, special places, overflowing pots of nectar, etc.

    So what’s missing from the above? The common English erotica standbys: “dick” and “cock” for men, “pussy” for women. There’s a reason for that. KoiRizo complicated things by using the Japanese equivalents of these very sparingly, reserving them mainly for shock effect in dialogue — “e.g., OMG, she just said ‘cock!’ Things must be getting real.” Moreover, when these words were finally hauled out, the devs bleeped the VO and censored the text string (e.g., “p*ssy”). That meant it was very obvious when those words were being used and when they weren’t.

    All of which presented quite a challenge to the team: if we were to preserve those “shocking” character moments, we couldn’t use the most common English terms 99% of the time. And so, I fell back on a shortlist of alternate references: pole, rod, erection, hard-on, manhood, etc. By the time I was done editing, however, this list felt far too limited; those words were overused pencils worn down to their nubs.

    This is one of those areas where, in hindsight, I feel like I could have done a better job with KoiRizo. The takeaway: If I ever tackle a VN this H-heavy again — doubtful — I’ll come packing a much longer list of euphemisms.



    3. Bring a raincoat
    Compared to its English counterpart, Japanese erotica seems downright obsessed with fluids: saliva, vaginal secretions, semen, urine — you name it. The look, the sound, the feel, the taste, the smell, the volume. You’ll be describing a lot of liquids in a lot of ways, so get ready to break out the thesaurus. And an umbrella.

    4. Embrace the improbable
    Let’s admit it: VN sex is over-the-top ridiculous. In a matter of seconds, sheepish virgins turn into seasoned pornstars, cramming 20 orgasms and 40 positions into a quickie broom closet hookup. (Oh so much cramming.) This is the nature of the genre, so don’t fight it; embrace it. Trying to force realism onto a typical H-scene would be like trying to force realism onto a Dragon Ball Z fight: everyone still looks constipated, but no one’s having any fun. If you’re that desperate to edit sadly mundane sex scenes, wait for the VN version of Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs to come out. Till then, work with what you have.

    I remember a tiny dustup a while back when another TL team supposedly wrote lubricant into an H-scene because they felt the acts described would be difficult or painful without it. It’s a minor thing, but if the original writer left the lube out, I’m inclined to do so too. These portions of the script are wish fulfillment at their best/worst, so just leave them be.

    Except ...

    5. Reject the impossible
    ... Except when the improbable becomes the impossible. More often than not, this is either the result of a mistranslation or an error by the original writers. (As an example of the latter, KoiRizo was haunted by an entity we dubbed “phantom Riho.” A couple of times, the devs would forget they were writing another girl’s scene and use Riho’s name for a line or two instead. We fixed this in our version, but still ...)

    Anyway, as editor, it’s your job to keep an eye out for the impossible. Is the protag’s penis simultaneously in someone’s vagina, anus, mouth, and ear? Did the heroine’s hymen suddenly regenerate? (Starfish Girl is mah waifu!) Did a corded vibrator suddenly become a battery-operated one? Ask to have the TL double-checked and, if that still doesn’t resolve the issue, use your best judgement to fix the error while causing minimal disruption to the surrounding lines.

    6. Set your limits
    This is important. Know what you’re comfortable with going into a project and make those boundaries abundantly clear. Some VNs can venture into very unpleasant territory — rape, abuse, gore, catgirls, etc. — and it’s best to ask yourself up front if you could, in good conscience, commit to editing that sort of content. Set your limits early on, then make sure your team’s fully aware of them.

    7. Have a sense of humor
    At the end of the day, VNs are entertainment. Unless you’re editing Saya no Uta 2: Vom Harder, it’s probably okay to approach your H-scripts with a subtle sense of play. A decent chunk of your audience will either be fast-forwarding through these scenes outright, or paying far more attention to the visuals than the script.

    So think of these times as exhibition games in your script editing schedule. They’re opportunities to spread your wings a little bit, try a few stylistic experiments — maybe even slip in a sly joke or two. And even if everything doesn’t quite work, we’ll still respect you in the morning.
  5. Like
    Kosakyun reacted to Arcadeotic for a blog entry, Bishoujo Mangekyou TL Update 17   
    Hooray for huge progress.
    This week has been a blast to translate. I was somewhat saddened nd disappointed that I didn't get to my goal last week and get the script file completed. Well, that's the past, more so because I got two script files finished.
    That's right. 6th and 7th script file are now fully translated, which means I went through about 100 kB of text, maybe a bit more, this week. I feel so good now. 
    Anyways, this means that this is the biggest update yet, surpassing the second update on this site, that was almost 10%.
    Now one final wall stands in the way of this game being fully translated. I aim it to be done in a month  or so. Look forward to it.
    Translation: 7/8 script files finished (~83%)
    Editing: 9,2%
    QC: 0%
    Proofreading: 0%
     
    See you again next week.
  6. Like
    Kosakyun reacted to Arcadeotic for a blog entry, Bishoujo Mangekyou TL Update 8   
    I was going to post this yesterday but lol IPB
    Anyways
    This went exactly like the last week's update, life sucks, I know
    Sigh
    Nothing much else, here's hoping that next week will go a bit better, but who knows? I certainly don't.
    Progress:
    'Till next week, unless the whole world explodes now
    -  Arcadeotic
  7. Like
    Kosakyun reacted to Palas for a blog entry, The Ultimate Analysis of Katawa Shoujo   
    Ladies and gentlemen whose first experience with a visual novel was Katawa Shoujo, please raise your right hands. Very good. Very good, ladies and gentlemen. Now, those of you who have never played it, please raise your left hand. No, m'Lady, watching a Let's Play can't possibly count as a playthrough. I beg your pardon? Why, yes, it's completely different.  But this is for another time, is it not? Well, then. To those who failed to raise either hand when prompted, be it because you were already a seasoned visual novel player when it was released or you just happened to come across it when you were just starting out, I apologize. I'm afraid this won't be a very interesting read to you. It wouldn't be for me.
     
               I say so as I belong to the last group I mentioned. I'll keep both my hands in my pocket, thanks. To be honest, I don't really share the nostalgia of those who spent hours reading an Emotional Narrative Clickable Slideshow (this is what "visual novel" means in Japanese) for the first time with Katawa Shoujo, nor do I share the perplex skepticism of those who have watched the hurricane of hype from a safe distance. Unfortunately for you who are reading right now, no distance is safe enough.
     
                I hope that, by the end of this humble piece, you are all able to mutter "so this is what Katawa Shoujo is all about!", yes, even you who raised the right hand. Especially you. Because you see, it has been four years since the most popular non-Japanese visual novel was launched. Your views on it may have changed now, but can you reflect on what about the game roped you in? It could have been both your first and your last visual novel, but it wasn't. What, then, can you tell to your fellow readers who have yet to play Katawa Shoujo?
     
                Let's start with where most of the stories take place. We have probably all been to Yamaku High. It's Oblivious Garden's homonymous setting. it's Everlasting Summer's Sovyonok, as well as Ever17's LeMU. These aren't worlds or cities - rather, these are smaller places you end up knowing all too well, places you could get tired of. What is special in such settings is that they are a monument to the character - it represents a fundamental flaw or condition of the protagonist, one he cannot fight against and, because of that, will always mirror the way he deals with said flaw or condition. After all, he's there because of that condition, in one way or another. So it's one giant mirror for a character's development, a characteristic that enhances storytelling by keeping one element intact but changing everything else. Yamaku tells a story not through flow, but through contrast. Now, there is a very particular institution in real life that has this effect on us, that has us looking directly at the changes in us when we look at the changes in the place or how we deal with the surroundings.
     
                Home.
     
                Home is a place you know all too well. It's a place you could get tired of and that always embodies a certain aspect in you - childhood, a particular struggle, a series of fortunate events. Thus, this type of setting is capable of emulating both stability - inexorability even - and change and this is why it's so powerful. It's both a hurricane and a mountain and, as such, it's capable of condensing a multitude of feelings that the story can extract and use for its own benefit.
     
                Consider here that Yamaku encompasses its student body, too. Sorry, sir? Oh, how could I forget? I'm not usually this careless... probably. I'm verry sorry. I'll explain what Yamaku is. It's a school for students with special needs, ranging from the hearing-impaired to amputees to those with a chronic and dangerous diseases, the latter being Hisao's case.
     
                You could expect transferring into a new school to be difficult, but transferring into a school like this is even more difficult - and not comfortable, as not any disability you may have keeps you from connecting with the fictional world - and so doesn't Hisao's. But more on that later. Case in point, you are an outsider and have no idea how to deal with your new current life. Now this is, of course, a pretty relatable and common situation. However, Katawa Shoujo very cleverly turns that which is internal to external, plain to see difficulties. It is hard to communicate with and reach common grounds with a figure of authority you barely know. Shizune, as president of the student council, is no different. However, because she's deaf, even those who normally have no difficulty in dealing with this kind of thing are forced to concede and are caught wondering whether it's right to look at her while she's talking or to look at the interpreter, Misha.
     
                Likewise, it's hard enough to approach a shy person and make friends with them. But even if you think you're good at this, at "getting people out of their shell" (could you be any sillier?), Hanako is a challenge. Her shyness is made visible and physical by her burn scars. I don't mean to say the girls' disabilities are metaphors. They are what they are, but they have a very practical effect of forcefully reducing most players to Hisao, beating their feet to fit in his shoes. It's very hard for someone to think ahead of Hisao in his situation, because he struggles as much as the player to behave normally in front of all the people he wants to talk to, but doesn't know how.
     
                Therefore, a certain magic occurs: daily life becomes a challenge. A simple shared meal is a novelty and a puzzle; ordering in the cafeteria is as complicated at first as choosing from a French menu (given you aren't French, I suppose); the most trivial smalltalk can become a sequence of faux pas. However, it's unavoidable - it's daily life, after all. The sun will rise every day (or as Super Mega Comics so brilliantly put, there is one day every day), you want it or not. As we wanted to demonstrate, a hurricane and a mountain, all at once. And since we're at it, I'd like to think we all took school life pretty seriously when we were there. The person we admired but who didn't think much of us was a big deal; being too ashamed to talk to a classmate for the first time even if it's been three years since you started studying in the same class was a thing; wanting to bury your head in the sand for the slightest mistake was normal.
     
                Katawa Shoujo emulates the seriousness of daily life artificially, by giving you small, but quite difficult problems, one at a time. In this scenario, slice of life narrative gains value, gains stakes. Thus, in the player's head, few moments are useless - they all become a part of learning how to live as Hisao.
     
                This is how the game drags you in its universe, which is mostly self-sufficient, since it's you who makes of it what you will. Hisao's disability, a heart condition that nearly killed him and had him imprisoned in a hospital for four months, was carefully chosen - it doesn't impede Hisao from doing mostly anything, but it's perfectly possible to relate, because it entails feeling like you don't know what's going on within yourself - a feeling we all know, have felt at some point and which scared the hell away of us even if it wasn't life-threatening at all.
     
                But it isn't easy to make a fictional setting feel like home, even if it works in the narrative. The allure is not in the mechanism itself but in how you experience it. Therefore, the feeling of familiarity with the setting, and by corollary with the visual novel as a whole, is built through small repetitions here and there in different contexts. By doing this, each and every aspect of life in Yamaku becomes unique, but paramount. You could say these are the smaller reflections that make up the "hurricane, but mountain" approach.
     
                Now, Katawa Shoujo's soundtrack gained a lot of praise and I will be the first to declare myself a fan of NicolArmarfi and Blue123's work, but I'd like to argue that much of its effectiveness in conveying feelings comes from the music direction. For instance - and I know this technique is common in visual novels, but humour me nevertheless - not all late afternoon scenes are accompanied by the song Afternoon, but this song will only play in late afternoon scenes. This being the case, the reference for "afternoon time" becomes special in Yamaku. Everyone has to go through afternoons every day, but afternoons in Yamaku feel like something special due to the music that slowly collects your memories and throws them back at you every time it plays. That's the role of a leitmotif and there are plenty of them. The same happens to the heroines' themes - and it is very clear, due to clear presentation of each girl from the start, whose theme is each song.
     
                A series of nods and shared themes help weaving a complex net of fond memories in the game, each scene being important at least in the atmosphere if not exactly in the narrative. Wiosna - the title theme -, Hokabi and Stride, for example, play in completely different scenes and have specific moods, but the shared theme connects them and makes Katawa Shoujo feel more focused, as if walking towards something. The absolute commitment to the color beige and a few symbols like the heart patched with bandages somewhat helps countering the full jarring effect the conflicting art styles would otherwise have, too.
     
                So Yamaku is presented at first as the complete impossibility of dealing with our shortcomings. It's how it feels for Hisao, it's how it feels for us. Having forced to play his role, we are kept mulling over the smallest issues - would pushing ourselves a little further do us any good? How do we want to cope? You can fight against it and keep in shape or simply give up on everything that having a weak heart makes a little harder. This is our common route. It has a theme and all choices are supposed to reflect how much you want to distance yourself or dive in this new world and your newfound circumstances. And all of the heroines are better than you - they deal with their own selves much better than you do and know their way around whatever difficulty their disabilities might impose. Of course they have their troubles, but you are not there to help them out. Isn't there someone you should be taking care of before starting to think you can take care of other people? That is, of course, yourself? There is a certain virtue they show that you must learn to access their route. And there's a virtue you already have that they could use.
     
                This creates five different Hisao guys and you slowly shape yourself to be one of these. In each case, there is a virtue you as a person (or as a player following a walkthrough) possess and something you could work on.  Take Lilly. The choices that lead to her route - and the second to the last one, especially - are all about how honest you are with others regarding your limitations and specialties. All that surrounds Lilly, thus, is a big question of "can you respect yourself enough to rely on others?". Being aware of your weak heart doesn't mean you accept it as an integral part of yourself. Lilly, however, with all flaws she may have, for she is a human being after all, is who she is not in spite of her blindness, but because of it.
     
                This is the conclusion Hisao reaches in, if I'm not mistaken, every route: if it wasn't for the heart attack, his life wouldn't have changed. If it wasn't for the heart attack, he wouldn't have had the opportunity to like the people he comes to like across the routes and to do the things he does, with all the trouble his heart causes. If it wasn't for the heart attack, he wouldn't be able to thank the heart attack for everything it catalysed. But he reaches this conclusion through five different means and having faced five different challenges regarding how to deal with people, how to love himself and others. And it's only like this that he can finally deposit his feelings again in the endless stream of day-by-day.
     
                 The emotion carried out doesn't derive from them. It derives from you. Through the heroines, the story changes Yamaku. Through Yamaku, the story changes Hisao. Through Hisao, the story changes you. It's a spell that only works because all five routes follow the same principle and work under a single logic, which is to include the extraordinary in the ordinary and vice-versa, changing your perceptions of both of them. By blurring the line, it allows you to draw your own line again, almost from scratch, and making you feel like you've learned something.
     
                This is why, ladies and gentlemen who raised the left hand, the game is still very much adored. It is something, a well-crafted gear with a specific intent and effect. Its production values are not high, especially not compared with Japanese commercial visual novels. However, Katawa Shoujo squeezes the assets they have until the very last drop and blend them in the most specific way in order to create a remarkable experience above all things. I hope I have clarified to you who raised your right hand, or even you who kept your hands in your pockets like I did, what remarkable experience is this. It is not on a technical level, but it's built through very much technical means. Few visual novels are so focused - but also so broad in its themes.
     
                And like this, I would like to end this piece in a positive tone, a message that the game itself conveys. Please let these words guide your actions, if not in times of pressure, in the small troubles you come across everyday and that brought you here just as much as your merits. At the very least, it's a tip to be successful when playing Katawa Shoujo for the first time: you are not alone, and you are not strange. You are you, and everyone has damage. Be the better person.
     
                Have a safe trip home, wherever that may be.
     
  8. Like
    Kosakyun reacted to Zalor for a blog entry, Sayonara wo Oshiete: A VN That Mastered The Use of Atmopshere   
    I told a couple people I would post my thoughts about Sayonara wo Oshiete when I finished it, and just a few days ago I finished a bad end and Mutsuki's good end. So here are my impressions, thoughts, and analysis of that experience. Also, this post does not contain any significant spoilers to the VN. So its safe for all those that are curious. (Also from here on forward I will refer to Sayonara wo Oshiete as 'Sayooshi')
    Before I start talking about Sayooshi, I want to briefly describe the circumstances in which I discovered it. During this past summer, after having studied Japanese (with a grammatical focus) for a while,  I wanted to get a few easy moege under my belt before attempting something I actually wanted to read. I was honestly having a miserable time, as I hate moege. I was reading them for no other reason than to practice and learn Japanese, as they were appropriate for my level. I wasn't having fun, and it honestly felt like work more than anything else. Just as I was about to give up on Untld Vns for the time being, I read a post by Vokoca talking about Sayooshi, and he linked to this video. The unsettling music and ominous imagery instantly piqued my curiosity and I set out to get this VN. For a while I was saving it, still thinking "My Japanese isn't good enough yet", but then at some point in the fall I decided "Fuck it, with the help of dictionaries and text hooking software, I can make this journey", and began reading it whenever I had time. And boy was this a journey worth taking, even if I did proceed through it a bit slowly. 
    I love the first person narrative because getting inside the heads of interesting characters is truly experiencing the world through a different person's eyes. And VNs in my view are the best medium for first person narration, as they allow you to to see and hear what the MC experiences. Furthermore, back ground music enriches the story by immersing the reader in the moods of various settings and situations. Sayooshi takes all these strengths of VNs and the first person narrative, and uses it to put you inside the head of a madman. A man whose sense of reality is slipping further and further away by the day. The unreliable narrator is a literary trope that I really enjoy, but this is an area where I think VNs by default have higher potential than books. It is one thing to solely read the mind of a madman/untrustworthy narrator, it is another thing all together to see and hear that man's world, on top of reading his narrative.   
    Too often I see wasted potential in the artistic side of VNs. Visual art is important for not only conveying ideas (i.e. a picture of a hallway should look like a hallway, a picture of a girl should look like a girl, etc.), but art can also convey moods. VNs of the same era usually have extremely similar character designs, and there is usually a lack of creativity in artistic style in VNs. While the character designs aren't anything revolutionary (it is admittedly nice that this VN came out before moe blobs became popular though), what is special about the art, is the eternal twilight. Hitomi's world is a world drenched in the orange and reddish hue of twilight, as the VN takes place exclusively during the evening. And coupled with all the things Hitomi experiences, the color of twilight really makes things even more ominous. It instills a feeling of loneliness, or at the very least detachment.

    Supporting the artwork in creating an unsettling atmosphere, is the music. The main theme that plays when Hitomi is wandering the school alone (this theme), only reinforces the feelings of detachment that the visual art and writing create. Character themes as well are quite well suited for each of the characters and the moods they represent, further successfully reinforcing the tone of the writing.
    Now onto the writing itself. Things are confusing, and they only get more confusing. Any sense of orientation is screwed around with, and this only gets worse as the story continues. You are left thinking "Did what I see actually happen?", until it gets to the point where you just altogether give up on distinguishing reality. In this way, you yourself submit to the insanity and fall further into Hitomi's world. Not knowing what to make of his situation. The only difference between you and him, is that you know he is crazy, but nonetheless identify with him because you experience the same sense of the world as he does. And perhaps weird to say, but the H-scenes in this VN serve to further sympathize with his madness.
    When I was telling a (non-VN reading) friend of mine about Sayooshi. He admitted that it sounded interesting, and even could appreciate the use of the H-scenes from an intellectual perspective. But he then told me that what he thought was truly disturbing, was not the use of H-scenes, but that "inevitably there will be people out there that will find it arousing". For him, (and his understanding of what I told him about Sayooshi), the sex scenes, which are exclusively rape scenes, serve to reinforce Hitomi's insanity, and therefore their portrayal is justified. But finding the scenes arousing yourself, is horrific as it is identifying with a monster; like the monster that plagues Hitomi's dreams. But it is here, where I disagree. The VN does everything in its power to have you identify with Hitomi's insanity, and the sex scenes are no exception.
    The sex scenes are arousing, despite knowing that they shouldn't be. It isn't just rape, but the Heroines are (supposedly) middle school girls for Christ's sake. Perhaps eroge players (particularly nukige fans) maybe a bit desensitized, but this is certainly fucked up. But just like when Hitomi experiences the dream that plagues him for the first half of the story, he knows he is the monster raping the angel, and there is pleasure still drawn from this. A pleasure that Hitomi knows is horrible and monstrous. But just as Hitomi submits to the role as the monster as he views his nightmare; we are in an identical role, viewing (and partly identifying) with his sexual misdemeanors as he commits them. It coerces you into submitting yourself to the madness of these H-scenes. By doing so an enjoyment is found in them, but for you and Hitomi alike there is a darkness implied in that pleasure. Furthermore, Hitomi seems to understand that he is defiling them. There is a guilt and sense of disgust felt, but also a feeling of extreme excitement, just as we as readers feel. This is shown through the multiple references he makes to 'contaminating the purity of the angel/Mutsuki', to paraphrase what he says. The H-scenes, and our feelings towards them, mirror Hitomi's perspective; furthering our identification with his insanity.
    Yet, just like the reoccurring nightmare, the H-scenes almost always end abruptly, and are divorced from continuity. It is not uncommon for an H scene to abruptly happen, end all of a sudden, and the next thing you know you are placed into a completely different context. And not only do the H-scenes lack continuity immediately before and after, but the characters never make reference to it afterwards, and act just as they did before. Further questioning whether they ever really happened. And this confusion surrounding the reality of the h-scenes, makes it easier to identify with Hitomi during them, since the normal consequences and damage caused by rape, do not apply.  

    (Perhaps this would be a considered spoiler if I could guarantee that it actually happened )
    And for all these reasons, I feel that the thesis of this VN is the fragility of the human mind. Often we draw huge differences between the mentally deranged, and functional normal human beings; but what Sayooshi points out is that the difference is actually rather subtle. In seeing the world Hitomi experiences, and sympathizing with him, it gets us to realize that we ourselves are not that different. That given his circumstances and what he experiences (and seeing it through his eyes), his reactions are actually understandable. The atmosphere of his world, and reading the thoughts of his mind, gets us to question his sanity, and in doing so, eventually gets us to question our own sanity as well.     
    Sayooshi in an incredibly strong atmospheric experience. And it is for this reason that I feel Sayooshi is a great representative of the strengths VNs offer as a medium. This VN took advantage of all the tools it had as a VN (music, sound effects, visuals, and narrative) to provide a full experience of what the wanders of a madman look like. I really felt like I understood to a degree what it was like to be insane reading this work, and I don't think I would have been able to identify as well if it were told in any other medium in any other way.  
     
     
  9. Like
    Kosakyun reacted to Nosebleed for a blog entry, Issho ni Sleeping: Sleeping with Hinako Is The Best Thing Ever Made   
    So I just spent 50 minutes of my day watching this. Trying to process what I just watched is hard, there's just so much information to take in. I watched it alongside OriginalRen, SuikaShoujo and The Major, yet despite our best efforts, our brains simply were no match for the depth and intricacy this anime provides.

    I'll try to give you a feel, a small sample of what it feels like to watch "Issho ni Sleeping: Sleeping with Hinako", but I truly believe that the only real way to appreciate this show is to just watch it yourself.

    So first off we have our heroine Hinako. Hinako really likes to sleep. Her main trait as a character is not being able to fix the strap on her shirt.



    As you can see from this cleverly crafted angle, this entire anime is told in first person perspective. But we're just scratching the surface of how thick the plot really gets.

    After Hinako changes clothes, covering your face so you don't see her changing, even though she just ends up sleeping in her underwear anyway, she goes to sleep.

    And thus, our sleep adventure begins!





    That is the face of pure bliss.



    Here we have some amazing shots that truly depict the wonders of a 2D girl sleeping.





    A real good close up of the heroine, it's almost like she's breathing on you





    In this shot here, you can see Hinako's breasts changing sizes, giving us a clear reason why Hinako just can not get the left strap of her shirt to stay in place, her left breast simply doesn't have as much mass.






    This shot here is a classic. The subtle twitch Hinako's leg makes each time really provides livelyness to her sleep, making you feel like you're sleeping right next to her.







    10 minutes in and the anime really ramps it up by having Hinako turn to the other side. In my opinion this was one of their best moves yet.







    Here we get a first glimpse of Hinako's windowsill which displays a clock and a vase with a plant. This is a very intringuing as the clock displays no numbers, a fact that will become really important later on so make sure you keep it in mind.







    Another very rare shot of Hinako's armpit, one of my personal favorites if I daresay so myself. The disproportionally sized breasts really help elevate that armpit.







    18 minutes in and the biggest game changer yet, Hinako makes use of one of her pillows! We can neither confirm nor deny if there's any significance behind this pose and the pillow's peculiar shape.







    And just 30 seconds later we are shown Hinako's sleep eating abilities.







    This is one of the rarest shots in the whole story, at the 22:22 minute mark, Hinako dangles her arm from the bed. What a delightful display of character.







    And this 24 minute mark is the crucial turning point where we have a clear view of Hinako's room and lo and behold, nobody is sleeping next side her, even though we're supposed to be there, what could this possibly mean!?







    At the 26 minute mark, Hinako has a dream about the moment we confessed to her and she gladly accepted our feelings. While the dream itself lasted a mere 10 seconds, I could really feel a deep emotional connection with Hinako's character just from watching her sleep for the past 26 minutes.







    And in the next minute, Hinako wakes up. I'm sure we were thinking the same thing, and that is how much we love each other. Hinako, being the amazing girlfriend she is, sings us a lullaby with really inspiring lyrics such as "Go to sleep, go to sleep on Hinako's chest" which have the result of making her fall asleep.







    At the 30 minute mark, Hinako has yet another dream, this time about when she was training hard to lose weight, she even gives us advice on how to be BIG like Hinako.







    And now, the biggest game changer yet, Hinako falls off her bed! My heart could barely take it, seeing Hinako fall on the floor after 30 minutes of sleeping really came out of nowhere, this anime sure knows how to tug on your heart strings.







    And now starts the most romantic scene in an anime I have ever seen.








    What a straightforward approach. Hinako tops all those tsunderes in generic romcoms, you don't get this level of romance too often.








    Of course we have a really deep connection with Hinako, and she reassures us of that by returning our feelings (even though we didn't really say anything, I'm sure our feelings got acress).



    I had to hold back my emotions over how realistic everything got, the intense urge to kiss my screen really started to come out.








    *doki doki*





    Hinako wastes no time though, she knows what her main goal is, this woman has her priorities set straights, that's why right after this she once again heads to bed and instantly falls asleep. Pro sleepers really are something else.







    But the thrilling ride isn't over yet, can you believe they still have more in store? This time, Hinako invites us to sleep on the same bed as her. My heart almost jumped out of my chest. The anime really makes this a realistic experience by tilting the camera 90 degrees. It truly felt like I was right next to Hinako.







    [immersion intensifies]








    35 minutes in, Hinako does yet another unpredictable thing, she decides to get a night snack. Gosh, this anime really doesn't hold back on the plot twists.







    Brushing your teeth is important too. Even if you didn't eat anything. Deep.







    Once again, after falling asleep, Hinako falls on the floor. This time facing the other way, I liked that change of pace, this anime really knows when to spice it up.







    She doesn't forget her girlfriend duties though and reminds us we are also an entity, a sentient being, and thus we need sleep as well. Notice how her strap keeps sagging lower and lower, symbolizing we're reaching the end of our journey.







    After she falls asleep, Hinako has one last dream. In this one though, she ended up getting fat due to eating so many snacks. I'm sure she'll resume her training the next day!







    And now, after a whole 40 minutes of Hinako sleeping, morning comes, and this is where the plot really thickens!




    You see, after this, Hinako sleeps with us again, twice, do you not see what this means!?




    This whole time, we've actually been trapped in a dream world, but not just that, we were trapped in a dream world, inside a dream world, inside a dream world, inside a dream world, and we weren't a human being either, we were a ghost that posessed random objects around Hinako's room in order to try to wake her from the dream by looking at her body from several different angles. Remember the clock I mentioned at the beginning? What was missing? Pointers! That's because in this dream world, there's no time flow! We've been stuck sleeping with Hinako over and over, that's why she always wears the same outfit when she sleeps.







    I could barely see this coming, it came by so fast my brain just had no time to process it.




    This anime is a deconstruction of the human psyche, one that if you're not paying attention to, you will miss its profound message, the 50 minute length time really manages to portray to intricacies of the brain by having the same still shots over and over again across the timeline, you really feel like you're diving into Hinaki's profound sleepiness and tracing its patterns.




    The emotional bonds you manage to form with Hinako as you watch her sleep from every possible angle really make this a standout from the crowd. You can not get this deep level of characterization anywhere else.



    It brought me to tears as my eyes were strained while I wtched 50 minutes of a girl sleeping on a bed, making me empathize with her.




    The story sucks you in, almost making you fall asleep just like Hinako.



    This 16 year old girl who can't put on a shirt strap properly is the apogee of all female characters. If you haven't used the term "waifu" now, I'm sure this anime will change your mind.




    Issho ni Sleeping: Sleeping with Hinako is, without a doubt, the best anime ever made.





  10. Like
    Kosakyun reacted to Albedo for a blog entry, Alternative Projects - Recruiting!   
    Who are you?
    We're Alternative Projects, translating Muv-Luv related VNs. We have released translations for Muv-Luv Alternative Chronicles 01 and The Day After 02 in the past two years. We are opening recruitment to get more help as we have a larger line-up of projects we are looking to work on next.

    What are you looking for?
    TLCs: Able to understand Japanese fluently, and check the original meaning against the translated lines for any lost content. If you are able to suggest edits and line corrections to make it read better that'll be a bonus.
    Editors: Able to work sentences into a coherent story, correct grammar and tenses, and check the flow of the story from line to line. Some knowledge of the Muv-Luv Unlimited/Alternative universe is necessary, so that you know what you are getting into. Knowledge of military workings and science-fiction is preferable.
    Hackers/Programmers: Able to help convert text files with Japanese and English text to excel and back, keeping the text format the same. Will need to be compatible with Afhook tool, so if you have some knowledge of the tool that would be preferable.

    If you want to help us, please write us an e-mail, alternative4projects@gmail.com

    Something that we really care about is consistency. We are looking for people who are willing to commit to the project in the long run without pulling out halfway through. That said, we do understand that this is a hobby and that IRL issues will always come first. We appreciate open communication on issues and concerns in the team.

    Current projects:
    Adoration (ML Chronicles 02's sidestory, currently in progress)
    Our planned project line-up: ML Chronicles 03 and 04, Haruko Maniax, Ayu Mayu Alternative, Total Eclipse, Schwarzemarken (VN and LN).
    Note: Projects will be confirmed once we have the personnel.
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