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Bokuten - Why it's more than just a "dark/depressing utsuge" (A Non-spoilery Shill)


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I've seen some comments and reviews posted that introduce the specific setting, characters, and story elements of this VN. This topic is going to be a more general/analytical writeup on the themes and overall presentation.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to downplay the dark/depressing elements. In fact, a handful of events may not be for the faint of heart, and the endings aren't always the happiest. However, mostly referring to these elements really downplays the true experience of BokuTen and may stop people interested from checking it out.

Bokuten actually has a good mix of legit emotional, heartfelt, heartwarming, and most of all, bittersweet moments. This might be an overused word to some people, but Bokuten is essentially a "Deconstruction" on the meaning of love and happiness. Moeges, charages, and even some storyge with romance tend to build towards some mostly happy ending where everything turns out alright. 

Bokuten tends to ponder both the positives and negatives of a romantic relationship and what it's built on. Is truly getting together no matter what the best possible outcome for everyone? Who and what gets affected when you confess and/or get together? Can you really handle and love the other person unconditionally, flaws and all? All of these questions, and more, are potential themes to think about when you're reading through the story.

Similarly, it also raises the question of what the true meaning of happiness is and how to obtain it. This is a big theme for various characters.

In addition to these two important themes, Bokuten still has a lot of what it's in typical visual novels. It has comedy and lighthearted moments with some unique humor and some you see often (thank god there's no tsundere hitting humor). It has an MC that's oblivious to some romance, but obvious to everyone else. But the MC has a legit reason for feeling that way, and has much more personality (in a sarcastic/blunt sense) than others. If you've watched the Oregairu/SNAFU anime, think of him like Hachiman, but a darker take. Alternatively, think of him like Yuuji from Grisaia but instead of saying things to specifically troll and get on people's nerves, he is just that serious and to the point about what he thinks. 

It also has a common route, but it's one of the most unique and interesting common routes I can think of in visual novels. While there are still slice of life comedy scenes as stated above, they aren't too long and each chapter gets to the meat of its drama pretty quickly. The common route is kind of a mix between Sharin/G-sen's chapter system and ef. The decisions you have to make can be difficult and the themes build heavily into what to expect in the actual heroine routes.

Speaking of choices, a big theme is the general grey area of what's the 'right' choice. Compared to most visual novel choices that are simply ways to get involved with heroines faster, every single Bokuten choice is a heavy hitting one that at least makes you think and there may not even be a clear right answer. Sometimes the characters struggle with these choices themselves without input from the player. Similar to real life, not every choice is just a simple way to get something. There may be sacrifice needed in order to achieve what you want.

In conclusion, while it is fair to call Bokuten a dark/depressing utsuge given how some endings play out, there's a lot more to it as stated above. If you're interested in finding a character oriented visual novel with more story than usual, but the utsuge comments deterred you, hopefully this post can help you reconsider. If you like utsuges and just wanted more motivation to read this, even better!

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My viewpoint on Bokuten only varies slightly from yours... in my mind, an utsuge just serves a different purpose and provides for a different set of needs than a charage, a chuunige, or a nakige.  Whether this need is present in the individual who reads it is what is important when it comes to enjoying it.  As an example, I don't want romance or marriage in my life, so I don't enjoy charage as much as many others do.  However, I like to dream of the impossible and I enjoy over the top concepts, so I enjoy chuunige.  I need to have artificial catharsis to lance the boils of stress that build up inside me over time, so I enjoy utsuge and nakige.

Kirinokojima, the protagonist of Bokuten, is the ideal perspective to tell this kind of a story.  His self-hatred (not self-pity) and distrust for romance and love make perfect sense within the context of the story.  He also happens not to be incorrect about the nature of romance, though his view is only one aspect of it. 

Yes, this story has a strong theme and is a serious internal discussion of the nature of romantic love and love in general.  However, that doesn't change the fact that this is an utsuge.

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I'll start by saying that I never played the game, but because of what I heard, I don't plan to, and there is a point I would like to discuss:

23 hours ago, NowItsAngeTime said:

The decisions you have to make can be difficult and the themes build heavily into what to expect in the actual heroine routes.

No, from what I heard, you can't expect a single good end in this game, no matter the choice. I agree that sereral possibilties may happen, but I also know all of them end in despair... Good or bad answers aside I am not even sure what you can expect and what you can not. And that is the problem.

My quote at the bottom comes from P3, but i think it is a good lesson of what real life is and should be. Life doesn't have to be easy, despair exists, death exists, but the life is a struggle to find hope, then happiness, that's what I believe. Regarding Bokuten, I can't bring myself to struggle and feel despair for hours and understand that no matter how hard you try, there is nothing but despair at the end of the road.

Edited by Kirashi
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There's not a single ending in Bokuten that I'd put the label "despair" on, to be honest. Well, there's one that I consider more sad than the rest, but as for the others, the word "bittersweet" is much more suitable. The endings really just show that things don't always conveniently fall into place to make that rose-tinted, "happily ever after" scenario.

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6 hours ago, Seraphim88 said:

There's not a single ending in Bokuten that I'd put the label "despair" on, to be honest. Well, there's one that I consider more sad than the rest, but as for the others, the word "bittersweet" is much more suitable. The endings really just show that things don't always conveniently fall into place to make that rose-tinted, "happily ever after" scenario.

I'd say one of Yuri's routes falls into the realms of despair...  Though, Bokuten is what is called a 'soft' utsuge, because it isn't an all-out despair fest like Houkago no Futekikakusha.

7 hours ago, Kirashi said:

I'll start by saying that I never played the game, but because of what I heard, I don't plan to, and there is a point I would like to discuss:

No, from what I heard, you can't expect a single good end in this game, no matter the choice. I agree that sereral possibilties may happen, but I also know all of them end in despair... Good or bad answers aside I am not even sure what you can expect and what you can not. And that is the problem.

My quote at the bottom comes from P3, but i think it is a good lesson of what real life is and should be. Life doesn't have to be easy, despair exists, death exists, but the life is a struggle to find hope, then happiness, that's what I believe. Regarding Bokuten, I can't bring myself to struggle and feel despair for hours and understand that no matter how hard you try, there is nothing but despair at the end of the road.

The only ending that can really be considered 'good' is the true one... and it is still heavy with bittersweetness.  Tomoe gains a sense of salvation out of it, but Aine isn't very happy.  This is a soft utsuge so it isn't heavy on the despair, but there is a distinct lack of soft landings.  Indeed, even the happiest ending still comes at a heavy cost that taints it with bittersweetness. 

Tbh, I don't think this game would have gotten a translation if it weren't an IP from one of Mangagamer's founding partners.  It is bound to divide those who play it into haters and lovers.  Not to mention that utsuge are much more niche works than nakige, lol.

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