STEMA 3: THE ENDGINNING

Hey everybody, got another hot post from the VN mines for you all today. We have four writers this time: Zodi, beef2929, myself, and Jack. We all put in a good bit of work for some cool stuff we wanted to talk about. It is also quite the smattering of genres here – we got BL, we got furries, we got EVNs, and we got all ages games. There’s truly something for everyone. As always, this is open to anybody who likes novel games/eroge in general and would like to write about them. If you’d like to participate in one of these posts feel free to DM me on Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by, enjoy the posts!

Do a Barrel Roll to Your Local Eroge Store and Pick up the New Series From Liar Soft, Don’t Let This Peppy Debut Work Slippy Out of Your Dengar Hands

Zodi
Twitter | VNDB | Blog

Hi friendly neighbourhood eroge connoisseur Zodi here to tell you why you should calmly consider getting hyped about Liarsoft’s most recent series of games!
I assume anyone reading this is familiar with Liarsoft but just in case they’re a niche within a niche and as a studio seem to function independently of sales. This has allowed them to publish some very interesting and different works including personal favourites of mine like Sekien no Inganock and Fairytale Requiem.

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More recently (March 2019) they released the game Alpha Nighthawk by Nanahoshi Dentou. If that name sounds familiar you’re either familiar with the game or you know obscure credits for Butterly Seeker for some reason since Alpha Nighthawk is Nanahoshi’s first work under the pseudonym. Liarsoft being the insane studio they are let her plan, write, and do the character designs and art for Alpha Nighthawk. It’s as close to a passion project you can get with commercial eroge and it really shows.

So disclaimer: I read Alpha Nighthawk on release and haven’t reread it so my impressions aren’t fresh but I want to at least attempt to build up some hype for Beta 612 which is coming out August 2020.

Alpha Nighthawk follows some classic liarsoft traditions, since Nanahoshi is a self proclaimed fan of the studio. The blend of fairy tale motifs and a science fiction will be familiar to any liarsoft fan (steam punk counts as science fiction don’t @ me). The game is also not strictly for the male eroge audience and features plenty of boyservice for the hunk of a hero Yodaka Ichizou (link to the character page for reference). Those of you who lurk on vndb might ask why I call him a hero when he’s listed as protagonist and it’s because I was scared if I moved him to main character someone would revert my edit. The game is mostly from Hakone Miriya’s perspective but it does shift to the rest of the cast so you’re not locked in her skull for the whole game.

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Alpha Nighthawk is very cleverly done first project. The setting is very ambitious but the story is small and personal. It’s a self contained very charming little story taking place in a big detailed setting that colours and influences both characters and events. It manages to dream big without biting off more of the dream than it can chew. Due to the core story being small and personal it also manages to easily set up for a sequel without feeling unfinished, it gets you curious about the world and wanting to explore more of it. The game is a peek into a world as well as it is a cute little love story.

The game is also very strong at set up and delivery, in fact Beta 612 isn’t even out yet but I’d say the series as a whole is good at this just from the teaser page. Taking note of details has a lot of payoff, if you pay just a bit of attention you find a lot of cute details delivering on stuff you didn’t think would necessarily get a payoff. If you’re familiar with fairy tales this rings even truer and if you’re not it’s a good excuse to check some out and get some nice smirks and giggles from seeing what the games borrow.

Okay I’m 550 words in and I have not mentioned the furries yet. Now I don’t want to get anyone’s hope up by going 🙌🎉commercial furry eroge 🎉🙌 since the fur content is quite mild and it looks like Beta 612 might sadly tone it down further but hey the games do have furries and the in-game explanation for them is both cool science fiction stuff but also very very funny. Anyone looking for furry porn is going to be disappointed and anyone completely averse to furries because they’re way too online probably won’t be too happy either but hey liarsoft doesn’t do games for wide appeal so if you like a healthy bit of fur they’ve got you covered. Thanks to not needing to appeal to the stereotypical eroge fan Alpha Nighthawk also gets a bit promiscuous with the sex scenes. Again following the Liarsoft brand image it’s not just the protagonist who gets to fuck but unlike earlier Liarsoft works the sex scenes are quite juicy and get very horny at times. While I wouldn’t call them distasteful since they’re mostly quite charming and funny they definitely don’t fit the Tasteful™ Sex™ Scene™ image Sakurai worked to establish for Liarsoft.

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Beta 612 is probably my most anticipated release of 2020 which probably doesn’t sound like it means much because of the corona induced draught we’re experiencing but I think it’d retain that title even in a less cursed timeline. It might sound a bit odd to be so excited for a sequel to a fairly humble yet ambitious first project that’s more charming than mind blowing or life changing but the STX series (whoops I forgot to call it by the official name until now) is fresh in almost every aspect. I feel like in eroge (both communities, industry, and the games themselves) there’s a lot of looking back, hell the prominence of high school settings is just pure nostalgia appeal. As a master of fine taste always chasing tge lastest flavour I love finding new things and digging for potential even in the deep caverns of DLsite. Seeing a passion project like the STX series made by an ambitious fresh face with a love for eroge is like a breath of fresh air. I find it impossible to be cynical seeing someone fulfil their niche dream and share it with the (mostly Japanese) world. Beta 612 is still not out and does not have a trial yet as I’m writing this post so who knows maybe it’ll fail to deliver and end up disappointing me. Maybe Alpha Nighthawk was lightning in a bottle and only seemed like there was more to it than there really was? I think cynicism is an easy way to escape to the no-strong-feelings safety bubble. I’m really excited to follow Nanahoshi’s eroge making dream journey and if I end up disappointed then so be it, it’s not the end of the world (speaking about getting disappointed not about current events). Alpha Nighthawk may be a cute little game but it felt fresh and full of potential and love.

And I know for a fact that I’m not the most excited person in the world about Beta 612, since that person would be Nanahoshi Dentou.

That would have been a nice place to end it but I don’t edit my post so I’m sneaking in a post script here ruining that nice ending completely. Just a real brief comment on visual design that I couldn’t fit in nicely anywhere in the body of the text (the art in the games is really nice but I think that’s evident from looking at it and I’m not an artist so I don’t know enough to offer a super detailed break down). The art style itself is basically the same in both games but there’s a really neat shift in colouring between Alpha and Beta. Alpha is mostly pretty dark colours, especially dark blues, and sharp reds and the colouring has a mix of rough almost dirty textures and these harsh sketch-like lines. Beta on the other hand has an almost pastel colour palette and is very bright and uses gradient shadows and a comic book dot texture (for the recurring characters as well ofc). It gives the games these distinct looks and tones to them that’s really nice and the only other series in eroge that has done something similar that I can think of are the clock up games Nemurenu Hitsuji to Kodoku na Ookami and Dead Days but I won’t go into too much detail on that here.
End of post script.
I’m sorry I couldn’t think of a good way to end it.

XOXO Zodi

学園ハンサム: Oops! All Nonsense

美井腐弐久荷玖
Twitter | VNDB

Hello! I’m here to share and promote my latest obsession, the iconic doujin novel game Gakuen Handsome. Originally released by チーム欲求腐満 in 2010, Gakuen Handsome is a parody BL game with quite the legacy. Reacting to the game is a time-honoured tradition, and even in recent years, the game has been featured by mainstream let’s players and vtubers alike. It even received its own anime adaption in 2016! It’s tough to discuss comedy in any depth without just listing and explaining jokes so this might be a bit of a superficial post, but if I can bring this game to anyone’s attention it’ll be more than worthwhile. Without further ago, let’s… HANDSOME!

Gakuen Handsome is a doujin game, and was produced by a group of passionate film school students. There’s no attempt at professionalism present here, the game wears its amateurism on its sleeves with pride and is all the better off for it. The game’s “flaws”, such as its infamous low budget and wildly inconsistent art (a total of six artists worked on the game and made no attempt to synchronise their styles), double as its greatest assets and are consistently flaunted as punchlines that would have been impossible for a commercial title to execute.

For clarity’s sake, I don’t think Gakuen Handsome is “so bad it’s good” or “ironically good” — it’s a good game. It’s the funniest eroge I’ve read.

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Of course all art is very subjective and comedy preferences especially vary heavily from person to person, so I should touch on just why Gakuen Handsome was so どストライク for me. I tend to find myself drawn towards comedy about characters who inexplicably talk and behave like children or even just aliens (its the same energy really) trying unsuccessfully to pass themselves off as normal adults. Characters like this populate a lot of my favourite games and shows and Gakuen Handsome is full of nothing but characters like this. The other big thing I seek out in comedy is comedy that blurs the line between reality and fiction. Improvisation is a simple and common form of this, and Gakuen Handsome happens to also be the only eroge I’ve read with any amount of actual improvisation involved (more on that later). To put it simply, Gakuen Handsome is basically the closest thing you can find to Hollywood Handbook in visual novel form.

Gakuen Handsome is impressively dense with ネタ. I barely ever made it even a few lines without a chuckle at some ridiculous new gag or insane line of dialogue or entirely unique art asset created solely for a one-off punchline. When I mentioned the game’s low budget, I didn’t mean to downplay the effort that went into its creation. The original game is fully voiced, contains (just) over 100 event CGs and several different unique tachie for every character. This constant slew of visual gags compliments the lightning fast ノリ of the text perfectly and makes reading the game that much more fun.

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The game’s seiyuu deserve their own paragraph of praise, they bring so much to the game. I couldn’t find much elucidating information online, but I’m fairly certain the original voice cast consists of amateurs accrued from the creators’ university classmates. Audio quality varies wildly from scene to scene. Some lines (including, hilariously, the sounds of Takuya whispering in bed and peacefully snoring) are completely drowned out by the noise of loud muffled music, making me think they were recorded next to an in-use music room at school. Sometimes the seiyuu are switched without warning in the middle of important scenes.

Takuya’s seiyuu 崖乃上野歩ニヨ (Gake no Ue no Ponyo) is constantly flubbing his lines, misreading basic sentences and annunciating words so poorly they’re difficult to even make out. I think he might actually be my favourite seiyuu of all time. The energy he brings to every line read is transcendent. I’ll never forget this one long line that he inexplicably manages to read without stumbling and how audibly proud of himself he is as he hits the です. Incredibly charming. Kagami’s seiyuu 伊集院吉田 (Ijūin Yoshida) had this wonderful bit of voicing entire scenes with the pitch and inflection of someone who hadn’t watched Mickey Mouse in half a decade trying to do a Mickey Mouse voice, it got me every time. Shiga’s seiyuu 葉売乃動区シロ (Hauru no Ugoku Shiro yes there’s a theme here) had the most creative name fills oh my god i havent even explained the name fills yet ok so you know how in games with nameable protagonists the seiyuu will just read キミ or あなた in place of your name? Well in Gakuen Handsome the seiyuu were just instructed to fill with improvised wordless vocalisation, and they have a lot of fun with it. This turns every time the protagonist’s name is read out loud into its own punchline. It’s perfect.

While Takuya was my favourite boy, picking a favourite route is more difficult. Sakuya’s route is easily the most iconic, with its bloodbath of a finale… but Kagami’s route has my favourite ending in the game (ED5, his bad ending)… and Teruhiko’s route has my favourite twists and lore… and JIROW’s route was definitely the most handsome… I think I have to call it a seven-way tie.

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I actually read 学園ハンサムSpecial, a renewed edition of the game released in 2015. I found out while writing this post that this version is actually slightly censored, but the censorship just makes the game funnier so don’t worry about that. The font is also changed to be much more readable which is nice. Most importantly, it also contains four short spinoff games originally released for mobile and an original fifth extra scenario. As of yet I’ve only finished two of these (Revolution and Restaurant) and while they can’t quite compare to the scale or presentation of the original game, they’re wonderful and have had some of my favourite moments and lines in the series. Several of the seiyuu have unfortunately been replaced. Ironically the two side characters get such fitting, natural replacements that I’m honestly not entirely convinced they didn’t just switch pseudonyms, while the two main cast members who are replaced (Sakuya and Teruhiko) sound completely different and are immediately noticeable. These new seiyuu also fall victim to the writer’s newest trick – writing shit seemingly just to fuck with them. Revolution has Sakuya and Yuu reciting unprompted, rambling, pointless monologues (the best of which lasts two uninterrupted minutes), while Restaurant has Yuu and JIROW recording the same sets of identical stock lines five different times across all the routes. It’s so wonderful.

Okay I think I’ve hit all the key points now so I’ll wrap things up before this post derails into bit-listing even more than it already has. Gakuen Handsome really has accounted for some of the most fun I’ve ever had reading eroge, and if anything I’ve mentioned in this post has sounded funny or appealing to you I urge you to give it a shot, I don’t think you’ll be bored.

To end on one last meaningful observation that I definitely didn’t just steal from Zodi: Gakuen Handsome is a full parody BL game without a single gay joke.

What a good game.


Dunamis 15: Yes, I Still Want a Private Island and No Amount of Stories That Make It Seem Ripe For Corruption and Pain Will Change That

sacredgeo
Twitter | VNDB

Hello friends! I wasn’t sure if I was going to have anything of value to add to this post but luckily I managed to finish something in time, so I live to contribute to society once again. Hope you enjoy!

Today I’m going to write about a game called Dunamis 15 that seems to have gotten buried completely over the years. Produced by 5pb. and Chiyomaru (of Sci;ADV fame), this one was released in 2011 as a console only VN. It was written and conceived of by Seki Ryouko, a woman who I had never heard of before – perhaps naturally so considering she has exclusively worked in otome games with the exception of this title. As far as I can tell, this was her debut in the visual novel sphere and it is quite the impressive offering for a first run. I am curious if she used a pen name or something prior to this or if she just dove in headfirst and had the vision and writing chops to turn something like this into a reality. Either way, she did a fantastic job and I think its a shame that more people haven’t checked this one out.

Maybe I can change that today.

Dunamis 15’s basic setup is something that I would wager most everyone who has any degree of familiarity with novel games has come across before. This is a slow burn psychological sci-fi thriller, a loop game set on an isolated idyllic island paradise where something just isn’t quite right. Figuring out what exactly isn’t quite right requires us to embark on a journey that unravels the entire narrative set up by the game and what these characters believe to be their daily lives; a veritable rollercoaster ride that takes us through scenes of outright horror, creeping madness, hopeless despair, gratuitous violence, unexpected betrayal, inevitable ethical dilemmas and Nietzschean philosophical tangents before it finally arrives at the end and wraps everything up into a neat little package of self-actualization and true freedom. It’s a wonderful (if rough around the edges) ride that really took me by surprise.

So what makes me want to write about this game as opposed to any of the others in this genre? It’s simple, really – I think this game stands out to me because it feels different. It was a unique experience for me in that it does a lot of shit you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere in the medium. I’ll be discussing a few of those ways here, but a great deal will have to remain unsaid since writing about this game publicly is hard as fuck. I NEED to get this out of the way first. This post is going to be much more vague and abstract than most of my others. Everything is a spoiler in this game and dancing around those while trying to write this has been a challenge to say the least!

With that out of the way, the way the game is presented to the reader is probably the first thing I should talk about. There are 5 different protagonists here. Five. Each gets their own (quite long) loop and they all have their own distinct personalities, flaws, motivations, goals and secrets. I wasn’t really sure how this was going to work considering that’s a lot of fucking viewpoints for one story, and to be honest it does somewhat drag here and there, but when it’s all said and done the game definitely has the scale and vision to back this level of detail up. It also helps that one of the main ideas the game is playing with has to do with perception and how we view the world; specifically the limits of only being able to see things from our own point of view and perhaps more importantly how much of that worldview is real and what is a phantom cast over us by the formless puppetmasters that are socialization and social conditioning.

To that end, having the first perspective the reader sees the game through be Takatsuki Tougou’s is a stroke of genius. His perspective is the ideal starter for a game like this. He’s an interesting guy, kind of a wannabe bad boy who is rebellious in all of the ways that don’t actually amount to anything that would materially change the status quo. He goes through the motions of life because really, there’s nothing better to do and that’s what he’s been told to do. It is the path of least resistance. For all intents and purposes, he is a caged bird in a very beautiful prison. There really isn’t any inherent meaning for him being alive when we meet him and he knows this all too well. He can’t even write a plan for his future because there’s just… nothing there. No ambition, no hopes and dreams, all he has is the mindless everyday and stories of a far away Japan he’s never seen for himself and knows very little about other than he is supposed to serve it in some undetermined time after graduation. His loop is littered with internal monologues on how his own knowledge, or the lack thereof shapes and limits what he considers his world. And if that’s the case then at what point does his perception of things end and the real world begin (sca-ji has entered the chat)? All of this makes for engaging character building and it gives a lot of the daily life segments more meat to them than the usual fare, but having him be so very tied up in all of this has the added effect of keeping the reader focused on this as well and not on the infinite amount of things about the setting that are bizarrely out of place. It keeps both Takatsuki and the reader from recognizing those myriad signs of danger for what they are until it’s too late and by the time it’s been shoved into your face, the rollercoaster has already begun its descent into the pits of hell and there’s simply no getting off the ride at that point. We’re strapped in until the bitter end.

Better luck next time! Ha.

The second perspective being Ichika’s perfectly compliments Tougou’s and elevates the game to the next level. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely a huge fan of the first loop but Ichika’s is where it really started to impress me. I said earlier that this writer now exclusively writes otome games, and while that career may not have blossomed at the time this game was released, it is certainly evident that she would be skilled in the field considering how well she writes the female perspective – especially the inner workings of a girl like Ichika. I really did not expect a great deal of what transpired in this loop nor did I expect it to transform the situations I had watched play out before in the first perspective to the degree that it did. It’s as if this loop is a direct response to Takatsuki, telling him that he was absolutely right to feel unsatisfied with his understanding of the world he’s living in, that his musings on how limited his perception actually is are extremely valid complaints. Not only is this true in the grand scheme of gears turning and machinating in the background, it is true right down to how he perceives the motives of the people closest to him and his understanding of the interpersonal relationships between his friends.

Look. I could write like 45 paragraphs on this part alone, but I am VERY REGRETTABLY going to have to cut it here, because I honestly think it’s best to experience the finer details of this one for yourself. I’ll just say it’s honestly one of my favorite perspectives in eroge and it felt hauntingly realistic in all of its ugliness. Without giving away too much, is largely focused on watching someone have their entire worldview systematically dismantled, having a full understanding that almost everything they’ve ever believed in is a lie, being unable to let go of the routines and social constructs that have kept them going for so long, and the disaster that clinging onto those broken ideals brings. It is both heartbreaking and frustrating to read at times but also a necessary deep dive into a well developed consciousness.

shit is SO kino esp the alice in wonderland motif big fan of how that was used tbh, wish i could elaborate

Unfortunately, much like in Tougou’s loop Ichika fails to take any meaningful action until it is simply too late. While she has a more… direct understanding of things, the pieces of the puzzle haven’t been entirely assembled and she isn’t exactly in the right mental state to do anything about the situation. The cutoff point happens far too fast, and the full brunt of the situation is far too cruel for her to bear alone. Better luck next time.

It may seem like I am exaggerating here when I say that things kept tumbling down before I realized what was happening, but I’m really not. It all feels so… natural. This is one of those things that’s very difficult to convey in a vacuum but it’s also one of the game’s greatest strengths so I can’t like not talk about it.

Many scenario games have gotten me hooked and kept me moving along a predetermined plot, all of this happening while I was aware that it was setting me up for something. I don’t like to sing my own praises, but I’ve read what I would consider a good bit of eroge at this point. There a lot of things I look for in games that act as Landmarks, and I am usually able to get a handle on things before they are thrown in my face. This was a different beast entirely. It used very few, if any of those Landmarks and opted to go for things that I have come to consider as concrete parts of stories that won’t be undergoing much change. I would say that it felt more like a sleight of hand magic trick than it did anything else as a result. There’s a TED Talk by James Randi, a famous debunker of the “supernatural”, that I think is of relevance here. In the first two minutes of the talk he plays a little trick on the audience and says something to the effect of, “The purpose of this trick is to show you that you WILL make assumptions. Not that you can, but that you WILL when they are presented to you properly”, and this is the best approximation I can make of what it felt like to read this game. So many things that I take for granted when I read stories are weaponized and turned around and dissected here that it made me feel like I was losing my mind. I can’t trust the chair I’m sitting in right now, for fuck’s sake. I have no doubt that how well this aspect works will vary WILDLY from person to person, but it definitely made me re-examine the staggering amount of assumptions I make when reading fiction and by extension in my own life. I think that’s VERY impressive.

That’s another thing. A lot of this game is very, very relatable to the real world and how we tend to experience that world despite the sci-fi machinations in the background. This is made especially ironic by the fact that [500 WORDS REDACTED FOR SPOILERS]. It’s kind of crazy how it all works out and I find myself laughing at it now as I look back.

Something I feel I should mention is this game is pretty fucked up! It doesn’t shy away from shoving both the characters and the reader into deep chasms of despair and hopelessness. There were at least three occasions where I was like, “There’s NO WAY they’re gonna actually go through with that, right? This has to be a bad end”, and yet it never was. It’s nice to get that feeling from things through the layers of desensitization I’ve built up over the years. Just uh… know what you’re signing up for, I guess.

But I digress. I’m not going to bother going through every single perspective since this is already WAY too long and we don’t have all day. I was kind of hoping it would go a little farther on that thread of perception and leave it up to the reader to piece together the truth hiding in the seams of the cast’s flawed perceptions but that’s probably a bit too high level to pull off in a commercial game of this magnitude. I’ve talked a lot about the setup for the game and how it presents itself, but I genuinely think it’s super cool and one of the main selling points – in fact it would be advisable to take that as my main mode of recommendation for this game. It kind of veers off of this method of presentation and focuses more on kicking the main plot into gear after Ichika’s loop. Things are less subtle and the events begin to diverge heavily from what happened in the first two loops.

As I mentioned earlier, everything about this game is a spoiler, but that is especially true of its story. 100% of it. From top to bottom, wall to wall. As such, there is simply NO WAY I’m going to be able to talk about the main plot here but I will say that this game has some incredibly entertaining TWISTS and TURNS. Every time I thought I had things figured out, some new piece of information would slither out of the woodwork to kick me in the head and send me back to square one on some new tangled plot thread. It had been a while since I’d read something like this and I have to say it felt SO nice being on the hook like this again. Suffice it to say that the main plot has some juicy bits to chew on in terms of those ethical issues I brought up earlier and how it affects each of the characters personal journeys. I also think the vast majority of plot threads are utilized quite well and it managed to satisfy me in spite of the setting having ballooned to something almost unmanageably large.

As far as issues go, I do have a few with this one. There is one BIG aspect of the mystery that I felt like the writers didn’t plan out too well. It gives you feels… in a way… but it also comes off as almost cheap considering how much care was put into the rest of the story. Seems like they wanted to go in one direction with it and then it was changed midway through or forgot to deal with it and it ended up just being poorly executed in the end. It’s not that big of a deal since it’s more or less an extra considering what else the game is doing, but it is something I have to mention. I also feel like the game is probably a little too long for it’s own good, and some aspects of the writers’ moral compass (especially towards the end) clashes HARD with my own worldview but that’s just me personally. Lastly, some of what the game wanted to say got pretty muddy by the end of it but it isn’t anything major if you’re willing to do some legwork in trying to pick up what it’s putting down.

Overall, who gives a fuck tho? This game was a truly ambitious project and I’m so glad I picked it up on a whim. The narrative itself is entertaining to read and finally seeing through all the lies is satisfying, but I actually don’t think those matter so much in the grand scheme of things. I think the core of Dunamis 15 is about learning to stop relying on an unseen, uncaring external factor to fix things and the necessity of forging your own path in life by any means necessary. It’s about working towards the salvation of self actualization and keeping that small flame of personal happiness burning in the face of the ice cold cruelty of the world. It’s about not giving up hope and succumbing the formless abyss of nihilism life sometimes pushes you towards. Going through so very many of these perspectives in such GREAT detail and getting to intimately know how the characters of this story tick, and then watching them slay their own demons and grasp a real reason to live on their own terms in the end is definitely one of the more satisfying things I’ve been through in recent memory.

Go check it out!

also the production values are insane full voice for everyone and tons of vocal songs and cgs and shit are console vns where all the good shit is wtf

Tomorrow Will Be Dying

Jack
Twitter

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For people invested enough in visual novels as a medium to learn Japanese, those originally written in English often carry a stigma of being too derivative of their Japanese counterparts or too cemented in a different culture to be worthwhile. It’s not an opinion without grounding—visual novels in Japan have a history stretching back decades whereas those in English are a relatively recent phenomenon—but I don’t think it’s wise to write them off entirely and the newly released extended trial for Tomorrow Will Be Dying is an excellent example why.

I came across this title by chance, an errant glance at the recent releases tab on vndb, and was struck by the title. I remembered the phrase as a line in a poem I read in my schoolboy days:

Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to day,
To morrow will be dying.

– From “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick

At the outset of the story the protagonist, B, is having difficulty living these lines. After a brief reminiscence of her high school days and the people she met in them, she returns to the present, a university student whittling down the days. She hasn’t shown up to class in a month, fallen out of contact with her friends, and is haunted by specters from her past, but her life is set in motion when one of her old friends shows up on her doorstep as a runaway.

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The presentation is the star of the show here. The artist and one-half of the writing team, Nonagon, has a background in comics and it shows. There’s an immense amount of unique CGs, and both they and the character sprites have these lovely little simple animations that go miles in making these characters feel alive. Tomorrow Will Be Dying feels more akin to an interactive comic than a traditional visual novel, and the writing reflects this. Dialogue encompasses the majority of the text and it does a good job of being charming while still feeling grounded. There’s a good deal of tact, subtlety, and meaning in the unspoken that comes together to make a visual novel that feels consistently compelling without giving off the impression that it’s trying too hard.

The aches of young adulthood are brackish waters to tread. Make no mistake, while there is levity to the character interactions and the situations they find themselves in, this is a work seeping with ennui and old wounds. We’re only offered a glimpse into the causes in this trial, but what is on display is realistic and well-executed. If you’re looking for a coming-of-age story with unique presentation, appealing art, and writing that feels honest, or are curious to see what’s going on in the English-language scene, I’d recommend keeping Tomorrow Will Be Dying on your radar.

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