This Month in Stealth Marketing — June 2016

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our first episode of This Month in Stealth Marketing — a post from our writers and readers on the stuff they’ve been reading! Today, we have works ranging from books on SATAN to Fata Morgana to the cult classic River’s End (cover picture) to the last Romeo eroge. Comment on our post and tell us how good at STEMA we’re all at! If you are interested in writing for this blog, please contact us via our Twitter handles.

sacredgeo

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Back again with another Mareni game, I am currently reading Kagerou Touryuuki. Things have been terribly busy lately so I’m slacking on reading this, but I’m some ways into my second route now (Librarian/literal レイプ鬼) so I figured I may as well chime in with my thoughts so far.

Coming off Bengarachou Hakubutsushi I thought I knew what to expect with a Mareni title, but this has proven to be one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read, eroge or otherwise. In fact, that’s the word I would choose to describe it so far – simply weird. There is absolutely nothing concrete to grab onto and everything feels like a kind of fever dream, certainly a unique and challenging experience if nothing else.

We start off immediately divorced from reality with a surreal, ominous poem as an introduction directly followed by our protagonist, Tsukimiya, coming to in a half-dead state aboard an unknown ferry with a mysterious woman whom he mistakes for a demon on top of him attempting to warm his body. Once he fully regains consciousness he discovers he is suffering from amnesia and that this woman has “saved” him from drowning and taken him on the boat. She introduces herself as the operator of the ferry and offers to take him to a nice inn that she knows of where he will be able to rest. From here the game has more or less become Tsukimiya’s Adventures in Wonderland, detailing his stay in this colossal building full of oddities.

Despite there being several distinct atmospheres, the entire story thus far has taken place in one tremendous MC Escher-esque 旅籠, with all of the BG art custom tailored to conjure up optical illusions. This would normally give anyone claustrophobia, but Mareni has so much shit going on inside this one structure that it doesn’t even really feel like a man-made structure, but rather an entire world packed under one roof with many different elements functioning independently of each other. The sense of being locked inside a single place is still ever present in the background, but I think it’s a welcome addition and may even turn out to be relevant to the ideas the story is working with later on.

One thing I’ve found notable is that the only character who has been given an actual name is the protagonist. The heroines and every other character are only given titles – 琵琶法師, 令嬢, 渡し守, 司書, 手伝いさん, 酔漢, et cetera – almost as if they are more concepts than “complete” people, per se. The only route I’ve finished would indicate that this is a correct observation as well. I have no idea what the endgame is with this but it’s definitely something I’m keeping an eye on.

Writing style is いつもの希氏, and that should really tell you all you need to know. Long, endlessly descriptive sentences flooded with imagery and remnants of old Japanese. The vocabulary level here seems to be significantly higher than Bengarachou, or perhaps it just has more words I’m not familiar with; I’ve certainly had to look up more than a few things and been left scratching my head at a few of the more impenetrable passages regardless. Furthermore, the pacing is nothing short of glacial even for Mareni (which says a lot), and while I felt the setting was somewhat lacking a “central feeling” despite the immense volume of descriptive text in the common route, that’s been remedied now that I’m in the heroine routes. I suppose I just needed more time to really get a feel for it, if that makes sense.

While there are certainly bright moments throughout, I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that there is something very dark lurking in the shadows that I’ve yet to fully uncover, a jet black past that’s manifested itself as a foreboding sense of gloom surrounding the entire story. Kagerou is much darker and takes the situations that the heroines and protagonist are involved in to far more serious levels than either Bengarachou or Shinju no Yakata did. I’m kind of surprised that he’s gone as far as he has – Mareni has some real balls. The only route I’ve finished didn’t give any answers about the grand plot, so I have no idea where this is going or what lies ahead, but if I learned one thing from Bengarachou it’s that you can’t judge a Mareni game until the final credits roll. I’m certainly excited to see where he takes it, and I’m confident I won’t see it coming.

On a side note I would venture to say this is probably a pretty bad place to be introduced to this author for those interested in him, the pacing and overall density will probably bore/irritate most people who don’t have an idea of what he’s going for. Bengarachou Hakubutsushi or better yet Shinju no Yakata feel like much more logical starting points to me, for what it’s worth.

Oh, and the maids are the best girls. I’m done.

Kastel

Twitter | Personal Website

I’ve been in a Satanic, Soba (Kawaii), and Sciencey mood lately, so I’ve been reading stuff that are out of the norm in my standards. I think.

For example, 黒魔術の手帖 by the acclaimed occultist Shibusawa Tatsuhiko. I have always been interested in the writer ever since I learned of how popular he is in the occult world through an English website that focuses on so-called neglected books. And Watanabe Ryouichi, most well-known for Harukuru and Natsukuru, has said that he is the modern Shibusawa Tatsuhiko. Very fucking humble, just like me and Moogy.

But the real Shibusawa is a honest guy. For him, the occult is what makes religion pure: something pure needs an antagonist that is impure and indecent. He tracks the beliefs down, explaining the sociological reasoning that led many people to believe this. Shibusawa has also confirmed my suspicions that not many farmers would participate in these rituals as commonly thought; rather, especially with the practice of black masses, they are done by the aristocrats who want miracles to happen. Sometimes, religion and science can’t do a thing. If you can save someone’s life, you may consider selling your soul to the devil. The final three chapters track a real character who practices all the occult beliefs mentioned in the book and we can see both his rise and downfall.

It is surprisingly addictive to read. I think I know why: Shibusawa’s writing doesn’t give you time to ponder what you just read until you realize you just read a whole chapter on the Greek kabbalah and agreeing with his observations and conclusions. 黒魔術の手帖 reminds me of The Golden Bough and it is probably much more readable than that! You are guided by the hand like a child through all these Satanic rituals and while it isn’t the most scholarly thing possible, it is definitely perfect for the general reader interested in the subject. I love Satan’s dick. I’m looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

On the other hand, ざるそば(かわいい) is very kawaii. It’s a mishmash of parodies and the writing is unbelievably ridiculous and great. The protagonist is just some dude who likes zaru soba. He orders them and finds Zarusoba, a mahou shoujo who can make zaru soba, asking to be zaru soba’d. But she loses her magical powers and if she stays in this form, she will incite Sobageddon. The protagonist and Zarusoba must find a sponsor before the 麺 in Black come get her.

If such a zany plot doesn’t interest you, you probably won’t care about what I’ll say next. But I think the writing is legitimately great. It isn’t the type of work that will pull heartstrings (maybe noodlestrings???), but it will make you genuinely laugh. I guess it’s what you call smart ecchi writing(?) because the work doesn’t tire itself from the sex jokes or even zaru soba stuff. There are other jokes like how the osananajimi’s family is broken up and the dad decides to open up a soba store before getting hunted by loan sharks. And then, the protagonist calls that bullshit.

It truly is a masterpiece of the sobakei world. As a fan of zaru soba (the food) myself, I think this is a story worth telling. I do think it’s kawaii. I remember reading about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and getting disappointed that it is not a religion about pasta. Goddamn British memes. Why is there no fucking religion on at least linguini pasta? You would expect the Renaissance artists to goddamn paint strings of pasta in everything because it is like more beautiful than the golden rectangle or the perspective in Mona Lisa. Shit, man, this world fucking sucks. But at least I have found a compatriot. In pasta. Zaru soba fetishism is going to be bigger than twintails. The book is getting a drama CD just like Pasta Jesus intended; it calls itself a 問題作 and I wouldn’t go that far — I would call it a 麺約聖書. The writer’s next work is KUSOGE ONLINE, which should be pretty fucking amazing. I hope they eat zaru soba online.

永遠の森 博物館惑星 is a less serious work, focusing on art and art criticism as mysteries. The protagonist uses his JSTOR-like database to solve the underlying question that asks this very simple but tough question, “Why is it beautiful?”.

What a simple question, isn’t it? You may even wonder what’s so tough about that. The beauty is there. 自然でしょ? What’s so tough about that? Well, why do you think the Mona Lisa is beautiful? People know it’s famous and all and it expresses “something”, but I’m sure no one can explain what it is. Is that something “beautiful” or are we just swayed by the criticism and analysis that have pervaded in our history textbooks?

For the protagonist, the question can be answered by reviewing the artists’ and critics’ thoughts. Every mystery, no matter the subject, the motif, or even the artistic medium, can be solved by brute Googling. This is how he solves the mysteries most of the time. I think this is how most people go through art too: we read other people’s reviews and papers to understand what we’ve read. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But then, the protagonist realizes how much of a dick he is. Throughout the mysteries, he mentions how he never has the time to meet his newly married wife. He even finds it annoying to Skype her. Then, she NTRs him. She is the personification of beauty and yet she betrays her “master” because she is tired of being left out.

This invites a social dimension to how we view beauty and art, which most people don’t talk about. I don’t think 永遠の森 is arguing that we have gone too far on how we view art through technology, but we forget humans are important too. Analytical thinking is great, but sometimes it’s just best to let yourself feel the emotions. The last mystery is music and I think it is apt for such a theme. As Schopenhauer would say, “The effect of music is so very much more powerful and penetrating than is that of the other arts, for these others speak only of the shadow, but music of the essence.”

And the essence is that the wife wants to be with the protagonist again. To feel beauty once more not just through the eyes of technology, society, or critic but by being a husband — what a refreshing insight to this whole art business! It makes art tangible, more personalized, more understandable. I’m not too fond of the book’s content because it drags on — but it has an interesting take on aesthetics that I think people should check out. There is something すてき〜 about this book that makes it quite unforgettable to me.

Lastly, I’m a huge fan of 蘊蓄 but I always felt my knowledge on physics and cosmology very lacking. So I decided to read 重力とは何か アインシュタインから超弦理論へ、宇宙の謎に迫る, a general science book on those subjects. As the title suggests, it goes from … Newton (lol) to Einstein and finally to the Superstring Theory.

And there is a logical progression to this. The writer wants to explain why certain Newtonian mechanics aren’t working in Einstein’s theory and so on. He also uses some unique examples like “my desk is messy and this level is how it looks like in a microscopic level; if my wife cleans it up, then the system is broken”, Fahrenheit 451 for black hole information loss paradox, and more. He does use the famous train example from Einstein’s layman book on the theory of relativity, but he twists it in such a way that it’s more readable IMO.

I had a lot of fun reading about the cosmology there and I was going to write a whole more about this, but I’m going to save my 蘊蓄 for Discord and IRC. I think it’s a very cool book and people who are interested in a general overview should check it out!

Spideyday

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I’m not too far into ISLAND so I don’t have a good basis for a grand ~Judgment~ yet but it’s not quite captivating me as much as I as I thought it would. Development feels deliberately delayed for the sake of a grand scenario. Whenever there’s some point of emotional tension that presents itself as foreshadowing, it gets dismissed as a joke a few lines later.

But hey, it’s pretty fun getting a refresher on relativity from a cutie. Don’t think anyone would really complain about that one. So here I am, kind of trudging through this, and it’s not really that I don’t like Island or am not curious as to what’s going on or whatever, it just hasn’t really been a page turner and it kind of feels hard to push through since the most meaningful or developmental scenes between the characters so far were in the common route.

Perhaps I’m being a bit spoiled since I just can’t help but compare the 日常 here to Himawari, but the characters are just less interesting, minus Setsuna. He feels much more human, I guess is the word I’ll use? Anyways the first route feels like a shoutout to Himawari thematically speaking regarding 夢 and 幸せ but done in a much less interesting way because that’s not really what this game is about probably. I’m sort of all over the place about this but I’m excited to see where this ends up going and how it comes together.

Wahfuu

Twitter

Come with me, and I shall show you a tale of magnificent things. It will be of betrayal, of love lost, and of oh so much tragedy, but it will be a tale worth telling. You will see many things, and you will uncover many things more. And at the end of this tale, you will finally feel as though you had reached the end, only for you to be pulled back into despair at another tragic past. And then after that, you will experience the horrifying truth of someone else’s tragic past. And then relive your own tragic past. And then, after finally experiencing all that tragedy, you will be IN someone’s tragic past entirely, where you will experience everyone there’s tragic past, and then it goes on a bit longer, and then a reveal, and then after you beg for the sweet release of death it still won’t fucking end and you’ll be wondering why the fuck you ever bothered to do this in the beginning god damnit why will YOU NOT JUST END HOLY SHIT.

Needless to say, I leave my time spent in the mansion of Fata Morgana a bit saltier than when I first came in. The game started off strong, to be sure; The miniature stories weren’t exactly enthralling by themselves, but they were well told enough, and the overarching mystery to everything coupled with the great atmosphere (thanks to the fantastic art and music) gave me enough of a positive impression to keep going. I was a bit confused as to why peers of mine didn’t like it all that much. But oh, how naive I was. Little did I know tha traveling into peoples past to witness tragedy was literally all you did in Fata Morgana, and any sense of plot movement or forward momentum would disappear in a sea of terrible pacing and a last 30% that seemed it would only end when ultimate universe entropy arrived.

I really wanted to like Fata Morgana, truly. And honestly, I still do. If anything, I would call the meat of the story quite good, sometimes even great. It deals with pretty serious stuff maturely, and as I said, I loved the atmosphere at the game. But I just… can’t. Once you figure out the plot, nothing else about the game will suck you in. And you will figure out the plot, absolutely. Some of the misdirections may fool you, but nothing involving the games main story will. Assume something, and you will probably be right, or at least close. Nothing will betray your expectations for the characters or the story direction. No extra plot devices at play, nothing more to the characters beyond what you assume initially, nothing. It’s a straight line, from beginning to end. While of course, it’s commendable in that its a game that doesn’t any real loose ends or any complications, but it’s a game that basically never truly goes beyond what the storytelling demands it be; A slow jog from the starting line to the finish line.


Now, let me say one thing: I don’t mind predictability. Sometimes, the logical conclusion to the story is the best one, and should be taken as such no matter how ~original~ one wants to be. I’ve always been a firm believer that execution matters so much more. But Fata Morgana really seeks to challenge that belief. It’s predictable to such an extent that by the end of the game I just wanted the entire thing to be over. I knew what was coming, the only thing left was just seeing it ravel. And I know I have a weird habbit of being able to guess plot developments from slight clues, but I really don’t think it’s just me here. The game is it’s own spoiler.

And I don’t want to just hate on flashbacks either. Some of the best things i’ve read have been flashbacks! But there has to be a limit of some kind before you just destroy any idea of the story ‘moving forward’. You barely feel like you are making any progress at all in the story of Fata Morgana, as instead it chooses to explore it’s characters deepest, darkest, sometimes near hilariously over the top (here’s looking at you Michel) tragedies. That’s fine, but the fact that theres no real motion or events to really get you to care about them beyond just the misery they’ve ALREADY experienced, plus the slog pacing that these flashbacks cause, it all starts to grind on you. I don’t mind flashbacks, but I need something else. Anything at all. Just not more fucking flashbacks, god damnit.

Anyways, I end up in a weird spot with Fata Morgana. It’s a game I want to like, and think it has all the right ingrediants, but just isn’t something I care about. I just find the game to be a fairly decent popcorn exeprience at the end, when it could have been more. I don’t think it was a waste of money or anything, and it wasn’t a waste of time, but I certainly won’t think about it much after finishing it.

It’s kind of ironic that a game so original and creative in it’s ideas, manages to overall be a lot less engaging and more of a chore to a read than a simple charage about looking at the stars.

Chai

Twitter

Hi, I’m Chai and I like many things japanese, such as books, eroge and RPGs.

I’ve been playing Utawarerumono 2 for a few days, and, as someone who just played its predecessor, so far I’m very satisfied. The characteristic emphasis on the characters and their personalities is still present, the system has been greatly improved, the interface is a lot more polished and the narration has a lot more personality (partly because of the MC’s traits). I haven’t had much progress with it for a number of reasons so consider this as impressions closer to someone who finished reading a trial of a VN.

For starters, Utaware 2 purposefully copies details of Utaware 1, such as the protagonist suffering from amnesia being saved by a beautiful, kind girl, and him happening to hold an extensive technical knowledge in a topic, as opposite to the people around him. One would suspect that it’s a sort of cheap or lazy way for a sequel to be like that, but the good part is that an enormous amount of details is changed. Haku, the protagonist, has, at times, a comedic tone to his voice, and moments of humor are quite prominent because of that. Kuon, the girl who saved him, gives a much more proactive and “rough”, casual way of speaking. Both examples given contrast directly with Utaware 1: Hakuoro, the MC of 1, is a lot calm and serious, and Eruru, the girl who saved him, has a more polite and reserved posture. This simultaneous contradiction works wonders to feel like you’re reading an Utaware title, but not Utaware 1.

There’s more to many of the characters in the game but I’m happy they put effort into making the characters feel alive just as much as they did in the first title. In short, what I appreciate of Utaware 2 so far is that it doesn’t hide the fact it tries to make the reader nostalgic to the previous game that was such a major success (even a few BGMs are taken straight from it, with slight remixes), but it’s different enough in its plot, characters, system and details to make the reader feel like it’s a radically different game, with a vibrant story and charismatic characters.

Pretty much, it’s everything that Utaware 1 did well, minus the things it did bad, and I’m considerably sure it will only get better as I progress.

Makkusu

Twitter

For the past week or so, I’ve been reading River’s End from Tsumugu Hashimoto, most probably known for being Hantsuki’s author, work which was adapted to several media back when it came out.

River’s End is another of those works that belongs to Dengeki’s golden age, and that received a fair amount of acclaim back in the day. It’s a story that includes sci-fi elements, but at its core, it’s a story about something human; something not always visible to the human eye despite being within reach.

It could appeal to a certain audience in a very strong way due how the story is presented, talking about human emotions on such a microscopical level.

I will proceed to explain what the story consists of:

Hiroki Segawa is a fourteen-year-old kid leading a life like any other person his age. He goes to school, returns home, does homework, goes to bed. Repeat. The only motivation he has to wake up from bed is to feed three little cats he’s keeping at school: Kuro, Shiro and Kutsushita.

Those three creatures bring some tenderness and warmth to his cold and meaningless life in this world. Even if the day’s hue is blue and sun is up, he sees nothing but gray.

A gray life. A gray household with his parents on the brink of divorce. A gray existence, and at this rate, the only thing that awaits him is a gray death. Seeing how time passes by as he grows older and his soul becomes only more hollow.

That is, until he receives a mail with the words “Is there sea in your city?” from a girl called Yui.
Everything changed since the day he received that mail. Something snapped inside Hiroki, but this time, it was for good.

In a world where everything is uncertain and transient, only their words are real.

Hiroki and Yui start exchanging mails after that day on a regular basis, and they grow closer to each other spiritually, even if they’re not together. They don’t talk about anything meaningful, but the warmth within each other’s words was more than enough to get ‘em through the day.

Kind words for the afflicted soul. A cuddle for the the lonely heart. Cheering sentences that assure you it’s still worth it to keep breathing. At some point in our lives, we need one of those.

That’s what Hiroki and Yui mean to each other. To their surprise, something happened. Yui told Hiroki she would move, no less, to the city where he lives. But that’s not all. She will also start attending the same school as him.

A few weeks later, he encounters with her at school, and while they seem timid at first, slowly, but steadily begin to strengthen their already existing bond. Yui gets to know Kuro, Shiro, and Kutsushita, and form a routine of their own with Hiroki.

They couldn’t be happier. However, there was something that just didn’t add up. Hiroki knew this was too good to be true, and as much as he liked Yui, there were still many things he didn’t know about her.

Little did he know that they were about face a cruel destiny, and soon after, both humanity’s and the world’s future would be in their hands.

Hashimoto has a knack for writing in a very microscopical way about feelings, for lack of a better word.

While at first some sentences in the story could seem vague, they usually revolve around this profound melancholy he’s feeling toward the characters and how they perceive the world around them.

Hiroki and Yui are always seeking for warmth, not one coming from a cuddle, but rather one expressed through words, and at times, one that not even words can convey. It’s a sad story because we’re seeing a boy and girl suffering acute self-esteem and existential problems, and they’re not even 20.

However, fear not, there’s more than that through River’s End. It’s a tragic story about hope, love and existentialism, and once you dig up enough into the story, you’ll stumble upon a compelling sci-fi story about time travel and space, even if it pales compared to other sci-fi stories.

Few weeks later after they encounter, both Hiroki and Yui survive a nuclear attack on their city perpetrated by an organization called SIFMA, to prevent a greater destruction led by Yui, since she bears a power (not explained clearly) that will either save or destroy humanity.

After the nuclear detonation, they somehow manage to follow a river which is connected to the sea, while Yui is on a moribund state due to a hemorrhage she suffered. She falls “asleep” on Hiroki’s shoulder while contemplating the sea, and enters a coma.

Shortly after they’re picked up by SIFMA and taken into a faux school in the middle of nowhere where other six kids are being held, too. They’re samples planned to use in experiments. Each student has a background of their own, and it’s a vital piece to SIFMA in their alleged plan to save humanity.

Haruka, one of the six kids being held at school.

Hiroki starts to recover his will to live while at the same time becomes able to lead a peaceful live with the other kids, even in that false environment. However, SIFMA has other plans for them in store.

He is allowed to visit Yui once a week at the hospital. She remains in her sleeping state, freezed by time. Her life on the brink.

Hiroki is perplexed and despairs every time he sees her in that state, for he is close, yet so far from her, even if their bonds still lingers. He longs for the day she opens her eyes, and looks at him the way she used to in that short, but vivid period before the attack.

Over the course of a year he awaits for her to awake, while at the same time forms a lifestyle with the other kids as they endure SIFMA’s experiments.

All kids are released after a year and each return to their city, back to their old life, even if it won’t be the same after what they experienced, but they don’t regret it either.

On the other hand, Yui finally awakes, but she doesn’t hold any memory related to Hiroki, besides losing entirely the ability to speak, write, or take care of her needs. Finale follows Hiroki’s life as he returns to his city, which is being rebuilt. He starts living with Yui while taking care of her, as well teaching her how to write and speak.

For him, that was enough. As long as he could see that innocent smile of hers and have her at his side, feeling her warmth, nothing else mattered.

A story that explores the most remote sides of that place called soul and shows how frail it can be. What happens when you’re stripped away of it. How much it weights. Where it lies.

Where it starts and where it ends.

P.S. Shiro, Kuro and Kutsushita! (He’s called that way because his body’s black except for his white paws)

Tsukai

Twitter

I’ve been a fan of Mareni’s work since reading 霞外籠逗留記 in the beginning of last year and since then worked my way through his other raiL-soft titles, eventually completing 紅殻町博物誌 and 信天翁航海録. These were his big, and relatively speaking, known works. So I recently finished one of his lesser known works that was released after Albatross: 花散峪山人考.

Hanachirutani takes place in post-World War 1 Japan and tells the story of Inami Touya’s revenge after his fiancee, Chigusa Hatsumi, gets murdered. Inami doesn’t know who specifically murdered his fiancee, only that it was done by a 山人, who live deep in the mountains of Japan and while resembling humans are very different life-forms. Not being sure of who to unleash his wrath upon Inami sets out to completely eradicate the entire 山人 race.

On his quest to avenge his fiancee Inami meets a half-山人 half-human girl with only one working eye, Ichi, who is the main heroine of Hanachirutani. Ichi has lived her life alone on the mountains, away from both the population of 山人 and the human society, only occasionally coming down to the town to trade for food, clothes and various necessities. When meeting Inami, Ichi is trying to find a way to scare the 山人 of the mountain away from her mother’s grave so that she can visit it. Learning that Inami possesses a firearm she tries to steal it, but gets caught by Inami and is made his slave and a tool. Taking advantage of Ichi’s keen nose to find 山人 Inami proceeds to seek out and destroy 山人 populations.


Unlike Mareni’s previous works that include a very vast variety of all kinds of disparate elements, Hanachirutani is very focused on just telling the story of Inami. The game manages to very nicely depict Inami’s character via his relationship with Ichi and how he treats other characters in the game. A series of flashbacks to his younger days when his fiancee was still alive also give a very sharp contrast between the current day Inami and the Inami of the past. Hanachirutani being extremely focused on Inami and Ichi comes with a price; other characters in Hanachirutani are very under-developed, and a lot of time feel like convenient chess pieces to further the story.

Since this is a story very focused on Inami, let’s talk about him for a while. After the murder of his fiancee Inami has become extremely hostile and is only fueled by his anger and thirst for revenge. Almost every conversation moves at Inami’s pace; he doesn’t have any respect at all for anyone. After he gets what he wants he’s done. If people won’t give him what he wants he takes it by force. He vents his anger on people that haven’t really done anything wrong by berating, beating and raping them. Inami as a character can be considered both a strength and a weakness of the game. I imagine that a lot of people would quit this game because Inami is just too horrible a person, too big an asshole to put up with. At the same time he’s, at least to my experience, a rather unique protagonist. Reading a story about him was a breath of fresh air at the very least.

Hanachirutani, being a Mareni game, is written in his unique and captivating pseudo-old style. However unlike his previous works his words do not paint beautiful events and sceneries this time; instead they construct a tar-black world of a madman and the blood he sheds. It can get pretty heavy at times, but it’s still pleasant to read for those who like his style.

As a fan of Mareni I found Hanachirutani an enjoyable journey, but it was certainly a step down from his previous works. So if you’re someone who has read Mareni’s stuff and enjoyed it, give it a go at some point! If you’re someone who’s intersted in Mareni’s stuff but haven’t read any of his works I’d suggest starting from some of his previous works, such as 霞外籠逗留記, 信天翁航海録 or 紅殻町博物誌, of which sacredge0 wrote an excellent review here.

Next I guess it’s time for the series of Astelight games that will be the last currently (there will be more… right?) released raiL-soft titles for me.

flamingspinach

Twitter

I’ve been reading 転生したらスライムだった件, a serialized story from the website 小説家になろう, where amateur writers can upload stuff they’ve written (much like deviantart or fanfiction.net or what-have-you). One nice thing about なろう is that it’s free to read and is just a website so you can easily read it on your phone without having to do anything special.

As なろう stuff is unedited, serialized writing by amateurs, the average quality of works found on なろう is about as low as you’d expect, but the most popular stories on the site often get turned into light novels or adapted into other media. Googling for examples of なろう stories that eventually ended up as anime, I find re:zero, danmachi, konosuba, mahouka, log horizon… damn, there’s a shitload of these…

Anyway, it’s a story about a random Japanese guy who dies and gets reborn into a generic fantasy world as a slime (i.e. a stereotypical low-level 魔物), except by chance it turns out he has been blessed extremely strong innate abilities, stupendous amounts of mana, etc. etc. The story is about how he goes about meeting people, building his influence, and gathering a following while dominating his enemies using his abnormal power levels and modern-day Earthling / Japanese guy knowhow. That is to say, it’s 異世界もの and 俺TUEEE, basically. This particular work has been adapted into a series of light novels and more recently a manga.

I didn’t really know what to expect, since I don’t usually consume this kind of material, but I’ve found it to be a nice light read and fairly engaging. There’s not often much to stop and think about carefully while reading, so I’ve already been able get through more than 150 chapters pretty quickly, at least by my standards. Surprisingly I’ve learned a fair amount of phrases and vocabulary as well.

The story is very, shall we say, self-indulgent ― the protagonist and his allies rarely if ever suffer any permanent loss, and conflicts are generally resolved in a way that makes everyone more or less happy, even the antagonists. Strangely this doesn’t really make the story boring, contrary to what I sort of would have expected.

The actual text is not as good as I’d expect from a published work, but also not as bad as I feared it would be, having seen the kind of things people write in English on なろう-like websites. Maybe I should have read the light novel version instead, which I imagine is more cleaned up and has had some editing applied (though who knows).

Anyway, since I’m lacking any real reference points in this genre or this medium, I don’t have much more to say than that. You may enjoy 転生したらスライムだった件 if you’re looking for a generally mindless light read, don’t mind overpowered protagonists, and don’t mind lots of dumb furigana.

Metarail

Twitter

So this place aparently needed some more writers and everyone was being all too 真面目 about it, so I decided to offer to write some sentences here. They also imposed some horrible condition on me like don’t edit my text. So that was warning this blurb of mine will probably rot your brains and lower IQ. Also for those who don’t know me, I have quite bot of peculiar taste on things and like them ero, so yes this blurb will be more about erotic things (maybe), so if you don’t like ero you probably won’t find much value in this text other than laugh at me.

Well first of all I have a confession, I fancy myself as fan of the VenusBlood series but I’m actually horrible fan as I haven’t actually played the two first games in the series due to beinz lazy fuck. So that in mind I wanted to fix myself and started palying the original VB. For those who don’t know the series its most well known from tentacles and extremely addicting gameplay but that’s only after Empire (4th game in series)-. So for me it was interesting to see where the series roots lie and how much of things have stayed the same trhough all the games of series.

wait what old ass eroge wtih protag with a face and tachie? VB was clearly ahead of its time already.

So one big thing that was on my mind when I started was that how “VB” was the original VB going to be with how I ha started to see the series along the later games. One big difference afterall was taht it was training-SLG instead of the war/army game that is started to be after Desire/Empire. IN the end the answer taht I got was that it was very VB even with the scale difference of things, all the things that I have come to regognize as VB were already in the orginal except the army management parts replazed with training. You have the usual plot of protag being on revenge trip for reason or another and the general flow of plot is similar, all the m delicious tentacles, a loli that is a miracle (actually lets just call this VB Euphie), the chaos/law split in barest form (character endings being all chaos ends is kinda bummer and the hidden end being the law end although its kinda different from the usual but feel is same [actually man the “law” end was pain in the ass get with figuring out few event flags}). There was even 2 suprisingly decent action scenes, atlhough the powerlevels don’t really grow up to some of the crazy stuff you see in the later games. Although its prety funny when you think that everyone “feared” this thing in here whe nyou ahve much crazier stuff in later games.

om nom nom delicious Euphie

But anyway although you can kinda play the alter games for plot or gameplay, wouldn’t really say its the case in the orginal really, as its very barebones plot of usual VB (doens’t make Euphie any less delicious thouhg) and gameplay well yeah different. Mostly would recommend it to people who want some delicious tentacle porn (and Euphie) or to see where the series started, the genral recommendation with the series that Start with Empire iof interested in the series defiantely stands. I guess if people want decent training-SLG it fits for the mtoo.

Well its been while since I played buit older nukige (well it’s only 9 years old thouhg) so was thinking some ero related stuff and some simple and efective comfort features that nukiges come to have. One thing that doesn’t really change from back then to now that its teh text/situation that makes the scenes hot, and there were lots of good scenes here with nice variety too. Really tentacles are so damn versatile when it comes to making good scenes Ofcourse there prety myuhc no vanilla here so better have some good fetishes. One thing I appreciate is having textbox oppacity change so in old games it kinda bugs me when I can’t make it more transparent. Art is also prety good ofr its time but then again I fucking love Gentass art and Euphies design so being clearly objective here. Thers also good number of base HCGs although it could have used some more variations of them, thing that improved overtime. There are things one could say about number of characters, with less charas you have more scenes, it’s especially nice if you end up lioking one of the charas, sub-heroiens still have prety low ammount of scenes tho.

Delicious soft loli footjob on a tentacle, never knew I needed this in my life before. easily among my favortie scenee in orginal VB. (NSFW)

I could add too that the Lenard was easily the most crawling in my skiin protag of the series. Dude had issues that the later protags didn’t really have.
Personally I did enjoy the original VB a lot, but it’s not something I’d really recommend to someone looking to get into the series, just start with Empire.

On other stuff I read after finishing VB months ago, I read ISLAND. well not much to say that others already haven’t. I thoroughly enjoyed Goos wildride and found him cool writer with how I hadn’t read any Goo before.

Also been tentacling the newest Inyouchuu, but still in middle of tentacling it, its a slow process indeed. Maybe will drop few sentences about it next time.

Also read the trial of nikuniku (死に逝く君、館に芽吹く憎悪 , btw I really fucking love this title). It was pretty “nice” and really liked it. Really looking forward to the full game in July, too bad its the same release date as Baldr Heart so yeah. What I most liked about the trial was the atmosphere it had, the kind of despair and cruel mood mixed with cute art with decent OST makes me really enjoy it. Mias VA also that darn good job sounding like she should in that situation. So I am actually really interested how it goes plotwise although it’s not revolutionary plot but Banya just manages spin it well to my tastes, and ofcourse I will super enjoy the H in it (Hey I’m not deviant man, it’s you guys that have the abnormal taste I swear). I can see nikuniku being the moege of the year all the years clearly.

Man Mia is such a ultra qt, I sure hope nothing bad happens to her :3

Also speaking of Banya, will start reading the new part of Extravaganza next (while squirming with Inyouchuu), the obvious needs not to be stated either. So maybe will drop sentences about Extravaganza:Mushikuruhen too next time, or Extravaganza as whole what of little I remember of it in my hazy memory. Really would like to reread it as it’s one of my all time favorites but just don’t have enough time around. wtb time.

Well yeah see ya next time I decide to open my typo filled mouth. (ps. Atelier Sophie is a good game and ppl who enjoy good games should play it)

PS. Man writing things is hard. And my brain hurst. And feel like I want to murder myself after rereding this thing. And I never again promise to post raw-metarail text anymore… maybe. I know how good I’m keeoping my proimises/plans sometimes
But because there are no other idiots like me around I might keep talking about crap here for sometimes if I come up with weird stuff to say. And there has to be the bottom somewhere to make the rest look better incomparison.

This tentacle squirming out.

Moogy

Twitter

Kubishime Romanticist, the second book of the Zaregoto series, is a cerebral masterpiece, regarded by some as the standout book amid the entirety of Nisioisin’s formidable repertoire. It is a grim treatise on murder―but less the act itself and more about the many ways its perpetrators attempt to justify it. Our narrator is a broken person, his actions only consistent in their lack of empathy, and his stone-cold attitude makes for a read that is at first compelling but ultimately chilling.

Even should Iichan offer her no reprieve in the end, and even acknowledging that her actions were unforgivable from either an absolute or relative standpoint, I cannot bring myself to deny the fragile humanity of Mikoko’s plea for help; perhaps, then, Kubishime can provide a measure of the reader’s own attachment to the world and people around them. I must say that upon finishing the book, I felt a queer sense of relief upon realizing that I was not quite as far gone as Iichan, at least.

Make no mistake, Kubishime is several levels above most material that receives an anime adaptation. Setting aside the rest of the series, I feel that there is immense value in presenting this work to a wider audience and it is my sincere hope that Shaft handles it with the care that it deserves.

Indeed, setting aside the rest of the series is something that seems common not just with Zaregoto, but with much of Nisioisin’s catalogue. Nisio is not content to let his works rest, constantly reinterpreting the characters and settings in each subsequent volume of his series – we can imagine him as a painter, returning a painting hanging on the wall to his canvas time and time again, stripping away old layers of paint and adding new ones until the final result only superficially resembles the original piece. It is because of this that the latter half of Zaregoto in particular (really, everything past Kubishime) is regarded with disdain from a vocal subset of readers; they feel that he should have left well enough alone, a sentiment that is shared by many readers and viewers of the Monogatari series as well.

Everyone seems to have a different idea of what they want from Nisioisin and what they expect from any given work of his, resulting in a uniquely chaotic discourse surrounding his works. As I have only just begun the fourth arc (of six) of Zaregoto, I will refrain from passing judgment on the series as a whole for now. But I will say this: It is the reinvention of Kubikiri Cycle that gave rise to the primal intensity and sublime depth of Kubishime. I’m someone who is willing to leave the reins in the hand of the author, so if Nisioisin can deliver an emotional blow comparable to the guttural impact that the last line of Kubishime hits the reader with even just once more within the confines of the base Zaregoto series, I will be more than pleased to accept his method of relentless reinterpretation.


I find discussions of “what might have been” in the context of cancelled games or otherwise unfinished works to be generally fruitless; it is too easy to project some unobtainable ideal upon the work in question and divorce it from the realities of the creative process. And thus I am left vexed by Otaku Masshigura, for it is just finished enough for us to draft a reasonable sketch of what it might have been.

Otaku Masshigura is the last eroge written entirely by Tanaka Romeo, produced by Gindokei, a sister brand of Clock Up. It follows Hongou Akira, a sort of otaku ubermensch, as he pursues the admirable(?) goal of mastering the path of otakudom. And where should it take place but Akihabara, depicted here as a sort of deadly wonderland, teeming with obscene levels of passion and fascinatingly unhinged characters. With seven heroine routes, each aiming to explore a different side of otaku culture, Otagura could easily have gone down in history as the ultimate subculture-themed work, or at the very least an evolution of the formula presented by works such as Comic Party.

Alas, it was not to be. What Gindokei eventually released was a buggy, unfinished mess of a game, nigh-unplayable for months until being patched into a semi-presentable state. Even in the final version of the game (1.02), however, it is apparent that something went very wrong during the production process; an entire route is more or less missing, voice acting is more of a suggestion than anything (generally only the heroine whose route any given scene belongs to is voiced, but there is a route where even the heroine has no voice), there are scenes in the game data that are not possible to actually reach, the same generic “room” background is reused dozens of times for distinct locations, and even the routes that are playable from start to finish don’t feel particularly complete. A fan-made port of the game to Kirikiri is available, and I suggest using this if you intend to play the game. It not only allows you to circumvent the poorly-designed SLG gameplay of the original, but it has a more robust system and provides access to some scenes and assets that are not available in the original. It still doesn’t come close to truly “fixing” the game, but it’s better than nothing.

As of this writing, I have finished three of seven (really six) routes, as well as a good deal of the other miscellaneous scenes throughout Akihabara that flesh out the SLG portion of the game. Forgive me for my bias, but I must say that even within the confines of such a broken product, Romeo’s genius shines through. His work here is nothing short of brilliant, even if the lackluster production values and clearly rushed writing process (the game is filled with typos, seemingly unedited text, jerky scene transitions, and almost Kinugasa-esque denouements) do their best to sap away at the reader’s enjoyment.

Every scene is simply a blast to read, offering up an endless procession of laugh-out-loud humor, memorable side characters, natural chemistry between Akira and the heroines, quotable lines, and even some genuinely poignant character moments from to time. Romeo succeeds in his depiction of Akihabara in a big way, presenting it as a playground that is every bit as dangerous as it is compelling, with the routes acting to expand the world by each heading in wildly different directions. Even though most of the routes end with more of a fizzle than a bang, it’s hard not to find the experience addicting, with each new scene worming its way into your subconscious whether you like it or not.

A compatriot of mine said that as a whole Otagura could have been something akin to Oretsuba had the game been allowed some more development time, and I don’t disagree with that comparison. It rings particularly true after finishing Asami’s route earlier today. Romeo handles her character so deftly that she almost seems to burst out of the screen; you’ll find the same sort of “hyper-reality” with her as you will with many characters in Oretsuba. Her conversations with Akira are too witty and fast-paced to ever happen in real life, but at the same time she is so believable in terms of personality and personal struggles that she feels like a real, breathing person nonetheless. Her route itself is about the dilemma of the cosplayer and proceeds with the mixture of snappy irreverence and unvarnished sincerity characteristic of Otagura (and Romeo’s works in general, to an extent), culminating in a marvelous Christmas Eve event that is comparable to the better moments in Kazoku Keikaku. It is too bad that Romeo seems to have been unable to figure out how to end the route, or simply not given enough time to properly resolve it, after that―the final arc of the route feels uninspired, resorting to a damsel-in-distress plot and being capped off by what feels more like a summary of events than an actual ending.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know what Romeo originally had planned―and therein lies the rub. Asami’s route is complete enough that we get a full picture of the story and the ideas behind it, and even get to experience a more or less satisfying character arc in the process, so we are obviously inclined to think as such: “If it’s this good already, a complete version would have been mindblowing!” We have just enough pieces of the puzzle to see how they fit together, and as such it is almost impossible not to yearn for an “Otagura Complete,” as it were. Much the same can be said about Reina’s route―we’re treated to a fast-paced plot dealing with the intricacies of the figure modeling and garage kit industry, as well as a satisfying relationship between Akira and Reina, but as soon as the route reaches a climax Romeo seems compelled to end it as quickly as possible, glossing over plot points that would have been very interesting to see explored further. Add in the fact that Yoshi (the osananajimi – her name is Yoshitsuki but even the narration just refers to her as Yoshi, like the dinosaur) has a route with significantly more script files and a greater overall level of polish than the others and it’s hard not to wonder just how gigantic, in every sense of the word, Otagura could have been. This is to say nothing of the production values―though it’s nice that every character, including Akira, has a face sprite, the lack of voices and proper tachie for almost everyone combined with the extremely small pool of backgrounds the scripters had to pull from make for a less-than-compelling audiovisual experience.

So yes, Otagura is for better or worse, a game that will leave you wondering what might have been. It’s really in no condition to be played by anyone who isn’t a hardcore Romeo fanatic, but at the same time I feel like it’s worthwhile read if you are. It has contributed to my understanding of Romeo as a writer thanks to its inclusion of elements present in his other works and it contains a level of energy and passion that was nowhere to be found in Kouya, a game which by all means should have been its successor. But that’s a whole other can of worms, I suppose.

I will say this. I’ve lost any desire to play another game by Clock Up after this. Not only do I find it hard to forgive them for releasing Otagura in the state it was in, but I am confident that nothing they’ve made in the decade since can live up to it. Maggot Baits, for example, might have fancy production values and the level of polish one would expect from a commercial product, but its writing is nothing more than ostentatious posturing; try as he might, Kurashiki Tatsuya will never be able to write so much as a single conversation with the genuine personality and wit of any given scene in Otagura, and if he is the best writer that Clock Up can hire, then I am completely uninterested in what they have to offer.

The way I see it, that is the true curse of Romeo, the true meaning of the term “brand crusher”―the fact that all future works by any company that hired Romeo will never be able to live up to his artistry, even if the game in question was a broken mess of a product. The same goes for Xuse, the same goes for Key, and the same goes for D.O. (they do have Crescendo, but it came out before Kazoku Keikaku). Only FlyingShine managed to overcome this curse, it seems, as they managed to produce both CARNIVAL and SWAN SONG after CROSSCHANNEL (and of course, Setoguchi himself would later “crush” Overdrive in this sense by writing KIRAKIRA). Just goes to show one of the inherent problems in making a visual novel―just as a bigger budget and more advanced technology cannot make up for poor design in video games, they cannot make up for lackluster writing in a VN. Which really throws the whole idea of a “visual” “novel” into question, but that’s a discussion for another time!

To conclude this before it goes completely off the rails: Ultimately, I understand that the only real course of action is to enjoy Otagura for what it is and not some vision of what it could have been, but… damn, it doesn’t make it easy!


The above was written before I had really sunk my teeth into the most succulent bits of Otagura, as it would turn out.

I would go on to discover that perhaps my contemplation on “what might have been” was as meaningless as I had feared―for you see, as hard as this might be to swallow, Otagura hides an absurdist SF setting behind the scenes and I’m not entirely sure how interested Romeo was in depicting anything that didn’t contribute to it in a direct way. The easiest way to describe it is as such: It’s as if the Oppai Ending were intended as the canon ending of Rewrite all along and the entire game had been building up to it. Obviously it’s not exactly the same, but that should give you an idea of just how nutty this game gets.

Yet despite the nuttiness, knowing the full setting does help to inform my understanding of the game as a whole. The closest thing to a “true” route that Otagura has is Ei’s, which delves heavily into the background setting and reveals most of what’s going on, albeit in a roundabout fashion. When actually reading through it, Ei’s route can feel baffling in places and is honestly a bit hard to take seriously―but thinking back on it in context of the whole, it begins to shine; I won’t say that every route comes across this way, but parts of Otagura, in particular Ei’s route, are very much reminiscent of the sort of humanistic SF found in more “serious” Romeo works such as Saihate no Ima. While the premise may be absurd, and while the ultimate ending sequence of the game (hidden in an omake scenario that would require probably dozens of playthrough to reach legitimately via the SLG system) is more or less a joke, the actual scenario is approached with just enough gravitas and sense of purpose that the game ends up being a good deal more cohesive than I was initially prepared to give it credit for.

At the same time, Otagura is still obviously an unfinished product and ultimately we cannot know for sure how Romeo approached the writing process and how far he intended to take any given element of it (knowing the full setting doesn’t quite wash away my earlier complaints with some of the routes, either, just for the record). In the first place, I’m certain that many people will find it impossible to take the setting seriously either way, and I cannot shake the idea that I’m over-analyzing a game where a heroine’s parents are blatant parodies of Mulder and Scully. But hey, my stance on such matters is that if there’s room to analyze or form your own interpretations of a work, there can never really be a wrong answer. Otagura is nothing if not stupefyingly unique and I’m still of the opinion that it occupies a meaningful position in Romeo’s work history. It’s perhaps only appropriate that a work like this ended up being his final eroge, really. I know that I will certainly never forget the experience, in any case!

If there is one lesson to take away from Otagura, it is this: Never doubt Romeo.

(Also, I think Ei ended up as my favorite heroine, simply because I have a weak spot for the way that Romeo writes young girls… but let’s not get into that here.)

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This Month in Stealth Marketing — June 2016

2 thoughts on “This Month in Stealth Marketing — June 2016

    1. Hence why I said last eroge fully written by Romeo. He only did one route of Chanter and it’s not really “his” game in the way that Otagura is.

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