Original Release Date: 2012-10-26
Recently I went through a few of Navel’s 月に寄りそう乙女の作法 games, and had a pretty good time doing so. I’d like to take this opportunity to put down some candid, very loosely edited thoughts and hopefully drum up some interest in a series that I think is definitely “known” but somewhat underrepresented in recent years.
The basic premise of Tsuriotsu involves the male main character crossdressing and taking on the role of a maid to gain entry into a girls’ only fashion school run by his idol. This is possible based on him exploiting a loophole that allows the high class girls attending the school to bring their maids as a +1 to study along with them and, of course, take care of their daily needs. On the face of it, this probably sounds like the premise to a billion similar nukige and while the setup is somewhat played out in Current Year, rest assured this one is a somewhat new spin on the genre and it is not focused on sex. What ero is there is in fact quite sparse and the game eventually deals with some rather lofty ideas about self discovery and actualization that hit quite close to home for me when all was said and done.
This is a complicated series and there is simply no way around that; every entry is information dense, its got a fucked up timeline, confusing canon and also a bit of required jumping around between games that you have to do to really get the intended experience of things. I even made a chart to help people navigate things considering being intimidated and not having a roadmap was was one of the reasons I put the games off for so long. Nevertheless, once I bit the bullet I found myself enthralled with the series’ bizarre humor, multifaceted characters and its trademark “slow burn” style of storytelling that utilizes its staggering length to build up various plotlines over time and lead the reader to some truly satisfying climaxes.
To begin, let’s look at some of the stuff going on behind the creation of the game.
The main author for the series goes by the name of Higashinosuke. He employs a somewhat eccentric writing style that is much “heavier” than what you would expect to see in most other visual novels that fall into the vaguely defined charage category – there is a great deal of immersive narration, adept wordplay and some bombastic dialogue that feels like something out of a theatrical experience at times. This deviation from the norm is perhaps only natural given that he is a protege of Ou Jackson, one of the big names from the eroge scene of yesteryear. He is most well known for his magnum opus 俺たちに翼はない and the earlier それは舞い散る桜のように.
For those unfamiliar with his work, I am of the opinion that Jackson is likely the single most talented writer to ever have worked in the eroge medium and most everyone who encounters his text will probably be able to recognize the appeal of his impossibly vivid prose and larger than life characters. He is a true master of his craft and I would encourage anyone interested in the art of writing to give OreTsuba in particular a shot at some point.
Anyways, it’s obvious that Jackson has been a huge influence on Higashinosuke’s writing style as well as a kind of mentor behind the scenes throughout the series, even going so far as to write the prologue for the first game in the series, which brings me to my next point.
I mention all of this not only because I think it’s worth being aware of the underpinnings of the series and what makes up its foundation, but also to help explain my own history with the games as well. I first attempted to read Tsuriotsu 1 all the way back in 2014 and I was blown the fuck away by the prologue. It is really good shit, if you’ll forgive my unwillingness to choose a better turn of phrase.
The game opens in a musty wine cellar echoing with gunshots and screams. A dark place clouded in a thick atmosphere of despair that’s bolstered by narration from our protagonist Ookura Yuusei, who has finally had enough of life and is in the midst of writing his suicide note before leaping out into the gunfire coming from above. We are immediately given a front row seat to Yuusei’s inner workings as the story proceeds to meticulously and deftly construct an oppressive world rife with childhood trauma, exorbitant wealth, high culture, powerful people and complex familial hierarchical power struggles framed by a number of exceptionally well written flashbacks interspersed into one of the most entertaining conversations I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Going as quickly as it came, it ends; dazzling the reader and leaving us desperate to see the continuation….. and then Jackson goes away and the game takes an unceremonious sharp left turn.
While it retains the “heavy” writing style that attracted me to the series in the first place, the text past the prologue is simply not on Jackson’s level no matter how you want to slice it. Combine that with the game’s focus shifting from gunplay and eloquent silver-tongued Frenchmen to being primarily about Yuusei’s silly crossdressing adventures in Luna’s mansion or the fashion school, I was left with the distinct feeling that my drink had been watered down when I wasn’t looking. I would go on to drop the game a few hours into the common route and would not revisit it until 4 years later.
I did manage to finish it this go ’round, but even when I returned no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t stop comparing the rest of the game to Jackson’s prologue, it cursed me and as a result my perception of the first game is eternally fucked up. But don’t get me wrong! Given time to reflect, I think the game is in fact quite good in its own right – the character interactions are wonderful, the text is leagues above most other eroge I’ve read, and it culminates in a satisfying conclusion that DOES build from the ideas that were presented in the prologue and utilizes what the series is good at. I was just unable to really appreciate any of of that due to my clouded vision.
tl;dr do not get sucked in too hard by the prologue my friends, it will fuck your shit up
But I digress. In retrospect, I view Tsuriotsu 1 as almost entirely about the relationship between Yuusei and Luna. To its credit, the dynamics between them work incredibly well and I am of the opinion that theirs is one of the most endearing relationships I’ve ever come across in the medium. Things simply would not have had nearly the same impact were the game not focused on Luna as much as it was, but this is unfortunately a double edged sword. Giving that level of attention to her means that everything else is peripheral, and at least for me personally the game came off as feeling “tied down”. Despite these complaints, in the end it does become a strong story about finding the person who completes you and above all else reaching for your dreams even when up against what seem like impossible odds; these two things are what make up the core of the Tsuriotsu series. Regardless of anything else I’ve said, I think it’s an excellent and relatable message imparted in a refreshingly unconventional way.
To close this part out, the first game is simply that – the first game in a series. It does wonders for Yuusei’s characterization and sets the stage for many, many things that come later. It’s a shame that it doesn’t deal with many of the more interesting pieces of the puzzle that I thought it would, but I have softened on it a lot recently and I can see that it definitely has its own place in the grand scheme of things. It’s also worth noting that I was probably WAY more bothered by the contrast between the prologue and the rest of the game than most people will be, so don’t let my folly turn you off from it. I wrote that part in such detail to give people a heads up so that they might avoid having the same experience I did.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the series’ strong points is that it is a slow burn. This would become evident to me as the next entry in the series, 乙女理論とその周辺, brought home a lot of what Tsuriotsu 1 introduced in ways I was not prepared for. This entry continues from the bad end of the first game where Yuusei is kicked out of Luna’s mansion and ends up going to Paris with his little sister Resona as her maid to study fashion in a familiar formula (glazing over a lot here).
But despite that similar setup, OtoRiro goes on to correct a multitude of the problems from the first game and thankfully, it managed to turn me around on the series 100 percent. It focuses not only on Yuusei and Resona’s relationship heavily, but also deals with the family politics, brings in a number of frighteningly capable “antagonists”, and has an actual plot that all around better uses what the series has at its disposal. I also think that simply having an idea of what to expect from it and not being forced to compare everything to a full power Jackson prologue helped me enjoy this entry MUCH MORE.
It’s also worth noting that Higashinosuke further developed his technique and really came into his own style here and as such I enjoyed the writing a great deal more than I did in the previous game. For example, while I found Tsuriotsu 1 to be pointlessly long winded in many places I didn’t feel that at all here. This is largely thanks to there being far more relevant information to text ratio and the writer’s ability to better pace scenes. That “tied down” feeling that the first game had is also gone, Resona is every bit as much of an engaging character (my hikki queen 駄妹, I love you) as Luna was, but the game manages to balance their relationship with the aforementioned aspects much more effectively than what I was expecting. I was also impressed by how much it did for Aeon, he is seriously one of the most redeemed characters of all time lmao. In the first game I felt he was treated poorly, coming off like some evil villain with bizarre (at best) motivations. OtoRiro turns him into an actual character with complex ideals – he’s still completely off the fucking deep end but given context for his actions and thought processes I couldn’t help but see him in a new, much more favorable light.
As much as I would love to dive deep into the family hierarchy and talk about what constitutes the actual plot of the game at this point in the post, it is really fucking complicated. I admittedly didn’t realize how dense this stuff was until trying to write about it here, but I’ve redone what I originally had down for this section several times to try to condense it down to something reasonable but no matter what I do it ends up taking several hundred words. This post is already gonna be long as fuck and I doubt most people want to sit through me rambling on about abstract shit that they have no solid context for, so I’ve chosen to avoid going into it too heavily. I will just say that it makes for an interesting situation, and the game does a good job of holding your hand through all of it in spite of its complexity. It even has handy diagrams to help you understand 🙂
Suffice it to say, the stakes are much higher for our protagonists this time. As opposed to focusing on relatively minor conflicts, the heir to the massive Ookura fortune is due to be chosen and as a result the game quickly transforms into a high octane race against time and a battle of wits with some very powerful people. Impossibly charismatic characters like Suruga, Aeon and the rest of the Ookura family are out in full force, and their presence gives things a sense of real cutthroat danger that the first game lacked in all but a few moments. Much like the Tsuriotsu 1, the climax manages to use the series’ focus on fashion to produce a crystallization of its thematic material, and it is truly a spectacle here. I was SO proud of Resona, going along for the ride on her character arc and watching her become a real princess was a wonderful experience and I would recommend the games solely to see her stuff even if nothing else I’ve said strikes a note here.
With that being said, the game does still stumble on a few aspects but personally I wasn’t too terribly turned off by these things since A) none of this is the main focus and B) none of the more egregious stuff ever actually goes anywhere.
For a couple of examples of the “more egregious stuff”, I’m the last person to be bashing eroge for being politically incorrect, but the side character Dietlinde probably should have been cut from the game entirely. Her “xD nationalism haha hitler lol” bullshit is not only stupendously tone deaf even for the time when the game was released, but she commits the even bigger sin of being painfully unfunny before we even get into the other problems. The climax of the bullying stuff is similarly dumb as hell and this actually did lower my opinion of the game significantly. This could have been deleted outright or handled in any number of different ways without losing anything and the game would have been much better off for it. Lastly, Yuusei repeatedly going on weird tangents about how Bluette having a crush on another girl is ~so wrong omg~ while doing what he was doing is patently ridiculous and left me more confused than anything. I’m of the opinion that these are all topics that Higashinosuke is either incapable of or unwilling to having a nuanced discussion on, so why even bother including them? Whatever. These were minor complaints for me, though I do feel it’s worth mentioning them here since I am confident others will be more annoyed by them than I was.
Leaving those odd problems aside, I found OtoRiro to be a great read and in retrospect it was one of the best things I went through in 2018. So naturally I was interested to see what it’s fandisc, 乙女理論とその後の周辺 -Belle Époque-, had to offer. This entry consists of afterstories for the heroines of OtoRiro, and a rewritten version of Bluette’s original route as well. I thought Resona’s afterstory was quite pleasant, it expanded more on the framework laid out in her route of OtoRiro and I loved watching her come out of her shell even more. Bluette’s new content gave the Suruga/Anthony side of things some welcome fleshing out, but overall a lot of this one just came off as 蛇足 for me. I think this is actually a recurring problem throughout the series in that all of the games have an obvious main heroine and Higashinosuke kind of goes all out in her route, leaving the rest feeling like afterthoughts or at the very least not crucial. I obviously don’t think that having a true route of sorts is fundamentally a bad thing, but in this particular case it does leave the “balance” of the games quite off. I’m told this stops being an issue from Tsuriotsu 2 onwards, but I haven’t made it far enough into that one to vouch for it or not.
People may be wondering why I decided to write this before finishing the series, and that’s a valid question. The answer is simple – given the change in cast I kind of see the earlier entries in the series and Tsuriotsu 2 onwards as two separate things. I’ve found myself unable to get into the sequel, and that has a lot to do with the fact that OtoRiro and Luna’s afterstory in the first game close out nearly all of the plotlines from the original cast. Considering how incredibly attached I had gotten to all of them and how satisfying I found those conclusions, regardless of how good 2 is or how much I like the characters (and trust me I DO like the new cast), I’m still comparing them to what came before them and missing them every step of the way. After my experience with Tsuriotsu 1, I know that having clouded vision will just lead to misery. It’s also not a fair mindset to approach a story with and I don’t want to go through it thinking like that. Seems like I’m going to need more time before I take the next step in this journey.
I do plan on doing another post like this when I clear rest of the series and I’ll try to get into the thematic material a bit more there since it seems to be doing some pretty fun stuff with Saika and how he opposes Yuusei’s worldview, so look forward to that some time in 2050 I guess.
In closing, I said all that to say that Tsuriotsu is an incredibly unique series that does a lot of very cool shit. Is it flawed in some ways? Yep. Is it more interesting than a lot of other things? You bet it is, and I’d recommend it to anybody who is even remotely interested in the subject matter and can handle the writing.
Resona is mine though don’t touch.
ps i’m now completely out of half finished drafts now so idk when ill write something new lol its been fun tho