I imagine many of you have questions. “What is Mushi no Me?” you might be wondering. “Is it a game I’d like?” you may be pondering. “What exactly is fear and trembling?” you could be puzzling over. Alas, I am here to only answer two of those three inquiries. I must refer you back to Kastel’s post for extensive rereading if you are of the puzzled disposition. But for those who are wondering or pondering, look no further. I have decided to take time out of my busy schedule (of doing absolutely nothing) in order to inform the masses of this relatively unknown little doujin game, in the hope that I can get one or two more people to give it a shot. So for the curious sort who can read Japanese, or the curious sort who can’t and are either bored and killing time or just like knowing about random untranslated games, I hope you enjoy.
Alright, so let’s get it right out of the way: Mushi no Me is a doujin, super chuu2 battle royal that includes elements reminiscent of Murasaki-iro no Qualia, bug mythos related to the Three Corpses, and badass girls doing shit that is becoming of badass girls. If this doesn’t grab you right away, then you should probably steer clear of this one. Several characters have near-immortal status with their powers, others have meta-powers and
world manipulation, and some have the ability to become shadow Godzilla. Hell, there’s a literal conversation with god in the game, if that says anything. It’s wall-to-wall chuu2 madness at times, and unlike something like Dies irae, I don’t think I can really recommend this if you aren’t already very accepting of your inner twelve year old.
So now that that’s been established and the chuu2 shy have vacated the premises, I guess the best place to start would be to explain what exactly Mushi no Me is about. So, as a quick and dirty summary: Mushi no Me follows protagonist Nijoukubo (affectionately referred to as Nii by her best friend Sancha, which is what I’ll be calling her from here on, because fuck this game’s naming sense) as she gets thrown into a life or death tournament involving people with incredibly insane powers and abilities (while initially all she can do is move a third eye around) by the previously mentioned best friend Sancha, and deals with her attempt to reach a future where she can find happiness, even as fate itself seems to conspire against her. Doing so reveals a money-hungry, greedy side to the tournament, as several eyes are watching the tournament to see whose ability is worth more, and lots of other intrigue dealing with the previous iteration of the tournament.
It’s easy to sum up why I like this game: It’s just a lot of fun. Even while the game does occasionally weigh itself down via setting and power spurge, it does spend the majority of its running time actively moving toward something. Pacing-wise I would compare it to Baldr and Eustia. Part of the reason the pacing holds up is because of Nii’s role in the tournament itself. Her power, at least initially (we’ll get to that), is to control a “third eye” of sorts. The third eye can’t be interacted with, can transmit audio to Nii, and can easily slip through any barriers. Sounds useful, but this means she has no fighting ability to speak of, essentially. So she basically acts as an information gatherer, listening in on conversations or watching key events, with Sancha acting as the actual muscle. And since Nii can’t fight, it’s fair to say that her entire role is to find the answers to all the questions that emerge so that she can keep Sancha safe and survive the tournament. It doesn’t sound too impressive, but it works as a creative and cool way of exploring the mysteries of the plot. This also doubles as a way of giving fights a “third person” feeling to them, with Nii’s third eye observing all the encounters.
So yes, the game is an enjoyable romp, but there are a few unfortunate bumps on this wild ride, the previously mentioned power level and setting spurge being one of the bigger ones. To be blunt, the game can be downright obsessed with its battle royal elements. Seriously, you’d think that the exposition on the nature of the tournament would be confined to chapter 1, right? But even knee deep in chapter 2, while the game is explaining tons of important, unexplained elements of the first chapter, it’s still talking about all the bugs, their powers, the planning stages, etc. While the reader is never really overwhelmed with information, and these “infodumps” can be rather interesting at times, sometimes it just doesn’t feel like it ever stops. And most frustrating part about this is that the plot is interesting! Especially after you end chapter 1, where the game throws a massive curveball in your face, you really just want to know everything that is going on, and know it right away. Why are we still talking about giant shields and bug masses? I guess the infodumps do serve as a fine gateway into Totally Not Yuri No Really flirting between Sancha and Nii, which is a great addition to any battle planning.
And it is also more of a chance to see various Sancha hairstyles and outfits, too, which isn’t a bad thing. Seriously, there’s a lot of them. Part of me wishes that all that effort went to the music, because the ten second loops nearly drove me into Gretagard. For the record, if you do read this game, organize your own soundtrack and only turn the game’s back on for the ending of each chapter. Most of the tracks in this game are only 10-15 seconds long and don’t loop very well at all, so you might be driven slightly insane by the end if you don’t. The climax tracks aren’t so bad, though, and the ending of chapter 4 especially uses character themes in a cool way, so I’d keep the game music on for that at least. I personally used Bansenjin’s battle tracks when my sanity bar was getting too low, which worked well enough.
But despite all that, and a few plot oddities, like the business side of the setting never feeling like it got a proper explanation, and the rather abrupt introduction to the main antagonist, there’s some genuinely great stuff to be found in Mushi no Me. One of my favorite things in particular is the character growth of our protagonist Nii, and her evolution to a prime player in the tournament. Remember earlier, when I said Nii mostly just moves another eye around to find answers? Well, that all remains true throughout the game, but what the eye actually does, and the amount she can manipulate at once do change. Without spoiling too much, Nii starts getting extremely meta and really becomes the ultimate information gatherer as she starts abusing time and possibility to further her goals. It’s cool just how… badass she feels, I guess, in her role by the end. And her actual character arc, where she goes from a deer-in-headlights to having some real confidence in what she’s trying to do and what she’s fighting against, is pretty subtle and really well done.
Of course, we can’t mention Nii without mentioning her best friend Sancha. As I said before, Sancha acts as the active problem solver, in contrast with the Nii’s role as support from the sidelines. She’s an incredibly smart bookworm who seems to consume reading material like water, and is also arguably the strongest of the nine combatants. She’s a huge ball of charm and I find it hard to imagine anyone disliking her. The sense of playfulness inherent in her every action is just so endearing. And her relationship with Nii comes across as… heartfelt, honestly! I initially expected simple yuri undertones at first, with Sancha being very forward with her flirting with Nii and Nii’s passive acceptance of it, but there’s a lot more to their relationship. And why it’s so deep and why it means so much to Sancha and Nii is probably the most well explained thing in the game, in my humble opinion. I won’t deny that I was rooting for the two of them to find their happy future by the end. Especially after the emotional torment that is the beginning of chapter four.
Though on the topic of characters, I find that only Nii really “grows” as a character in the traditional sense. A lot of characters are very old, sometimes in their sixties and one even in her hundreds. They have largely gone through the major turning points their lives, so their personalities and goals feel as if they’re already set in stone. Though some characters do have some unsolved issues (Rokusaidou, for example, has a very long standing grudge against one of the organizations behind the tournament) that get resolved within the span of the game, there is little in terms of direct characterization. Despite that, most of the characters are pretty solid anyways, with honors going to Yagi for being my favorite centipede-harboring little girl. She’s a good example of a character that has already made her choices before the game started, expressed in her willing acceptance of the destructive centipede in order to help with the tournament. A shame that you don’t get to see her at all in the trial, because of reasons.
As I said before, I can’t recommend Mushi no Me to everybody. It’s a title that’s very aware of exactly what it is and what sort of audience it’s aiming for. And for those who fit under that category, and are willing to look past the surface “doujin-ness” of the whole thing, there’s a pretty enjoyable story in it for you. And it’s a story, for better or worse, written with a ton of energy and enthusiasm. And as much as I talk about the chuu2 aspects of the game, at the core of this story is something far more human. Before all the conversations with god, all the immortal characters and greedy businesses that want to monopolize them, this is a game about a girl who simply wants a happy future with someone who means the world to her. A game about the search for happiness. Slightly corny, sure, and maybe not exceptionally original, but it’s something I think anyone can empathize with.
So if any of this review made you curious, I highly recommend giving the trial a shot, over here. It includes all of the first chapter, about 400kb in length. If you enjoy it, great, you can buy it from the same site! If you don’t, you can come back here and yell obscenities at me.
Please don’t actually do that. I’m a sensitive snowflake.
As a sendoff, here’s the OP, because ending with a beginning seems to be a trend, and why not join in?