This is a list of especially fascinating, provocative, humorous, invigorating, edifying, or otherwise compelling media that I, Moogy, the one and only, the almighty arbiter of taste and apex of the JOP hierarchy, consumed over the course of year 21 of our lord Tanaka Romeo. There’s a lot to cover, and my motivation can only hold out for so long, so let’s jump right into it.
I knew this game would be good―after all, it marked Setoguchi Renya’s return to eroge after more than a decade―but I wasn’t prepared for just how good it was. Musicus doesn’t just depict a band’s rise to stardom (and some of the other paths its members might have taken along the way), it captures more facets of the human experience than perhaps any other eroge in the process. We follow the protagonist, Tsushima Kei, through a period of transition and upheaval in his life, watching as he and his bandmates slowly climb their way to the top. The story begins with Kei in his last year of high school and ends up covering quite a few years of his life, with frequent shifts in location and cast; I’ve played hundreds of visual novels, but out of all of them, Musicus is the best at depicting the passage of time. Characters come and go as would friends and acquaintances in real life, and there is a real sense that the central cast is in a state of flux as they struggle to carve out a place in the world with their music. By the end, both Kei and the reader find themselves somewhere very different from where they began, and with a breadth of experiences to show for it. At times, the plot may leap forward in time by several months or more, but Setoguchi never leans on “time skips” and the reader is not expected to fill in the gaps on their own. This is a story about people who have dedicated their life to music, and we see the whole of what that entails, every last failure and every last triumph.
Early in the game, Hanai Korekiyo, Kei’s mentor in the world of music and brother of the main heroine Mika, dies from suicide. This traumatic event casts a shadow over everything we see over the course of the game, informing Kei and Mika’s attitudes on life and music as they grow older. They struggle at length to come to terms with the lasting impact of Hanai’s death and music, finding an answer only after many years have passed, because time was what was necessary. Time to live their own lives and time to develop their own relationships with music as a method of expression and communication. Setoguchi is so assiduous in his depiction of Kei and Mika’s journey because he knows that it takes time for humans to process trauma and adapt; because he knows that he knows that a person is the sum of their experiences big and small, not the product of any single event. Musicus is a story about playing in a rock band, yes, but more than that, it is a story about why someone would play in a rock band, and it never stops asking that simple question―why?
I’ve primarily discussed what I found striking about Mika’s route, but my praise for Musicus does not end here. Every branch explores a different path Kei could have taken in life, and there is no part of the game which does not contribute to the central metaphor of music as life. While I expect people involved in creative fields to get more out of the game than others, I strongly believe that it has something to offer anyone who has ever felt “lost” in life. It shows us how we may find solace in a weak god; if there is any story meant to be told as an eroge, it is this one.
WataMote is a fairly well-known series, so I won’t waste your time trying to summarize it. I initially picked up the series just because I heard it turned into a yuri harem later (lol), but suffice to say that I found it very satisfying to watch Tomoko slowly open up to the world around her and finally begin to realize that she is not as alone as she thinks. The series also approaches the whole teenage rom(?)com thing from a different angle than most, opting to eschew radical conflict in favor of simply letting character relationships grow slowly over long periods of time. This approach isn’t without its shortcomings, but when things click in WataMote, they really click. Plus it’s consistently just damn funny. If you’re not scared off by reading 185 chapters of an ongoing manga, WataMote is well worth taking the plunge. Even if you already know where it starts and where it ends up, I think you’ll be surprised by the path it takes along the way.
YuriMoko is OTP.
Do I really need to talk about FF7R at length? Half or more of the people reading this post have probably played it already.
Personally, I loved it from beginning to end. Like yeah, the very end is a bit silly, but since when has FF not been a bit silly? It does a fantastic job recapturing the adventurous spirit of 90s JRPGs while updating and refining the core game; not only it is a must-play for any JRPG fan, it has the potential to introduce newcomers to the appeal of the genre. It doesn’t hurt that it has the best battle system of any FF game to date, as well as some of the most fine-tuned balance I’ve come across in a commercial JRPG. Really, there’s not a lot to dislike about FF7R, and I’m sadly not hipster enough to try nitpicking it.
君が僕を Kimi ga Boku wo
I wrote a fairly thorough Twitter thread about this one already. Not sure I have much more to say about it here right now, so just read that. Definitely the best LN I’ve read in recent memory.
B.B.ライダー B.B. Rider
Disclaimer: This game was made by a teenager in the 00s and unfortunately contains a lot of offensive humor of the “gay panic” variety. While I think it’s worth playing in spite of this, feel free to skip it if this is a deal breaker.
B.B. Rider is a freeware RPG Maker game made by a teenager with repetitive, obnoxious combat and generally terrible game design. Now that I’ve convinced you to never play it, let me talk about why it’s actually pretty great.
Once you get past the madcap humor (which can be very hit and miss even when it’s not being outright offensive, simply due to the sheer volume of it―for what it’s worth, I found it funny more often than not, but I have a bad sense of humor), subpar character art, and quite frankly mindnumbing combat, B.B. Rider is a game that covers a surprising amount of ground and does so with a lot of heart. The basic premise is quite simple: the heroine summons a legendary hero to assist her in her fight against an evil organization, but ends up with a naked amnesiac (Nitos, the protagonist) instead. From there, you might assume from the title that it would go in a sort of monster of the week direction ala Kamen Rider, but the actual plot is so much more than that. Without revealing too much, at the core of B.B. Rider is a time loop in the truest sense; the plot is structured like an Uroboros, feeding into itself, and watching it take shape is really an experience like no other, punctuated with a slew of sensational action sequences and dozens of CGs.
B.B. Rider is really the sort of thing that only a very young creator, with no restraints or even really any regard for their audience, could have produced. It goes too far with the humor; it plays fast and loose with the setting to a fault; it takes more than a little “inspiration” from Fate; it overextends itself with torpid, perfunctory gameplay; and the list goes on. But you know what? It also has some real ambition and takes some big risks. In particular, I found the ending striking in a way media rarely is, dripping with pathos and wholly uncompromising. Even now I can’t get it out of my head. B.B. Rider is a deeply flawed work of art in many, many ways, but it’s also not one I see myself forgetting any time soon, and for that it earns a place on this list.
The creator of B.B. Rider is still active, his most recent game being an HRPG named 神の目のアイオーン which has been generally very well-received. Only the first half is out right now, but I want to give it a try when he gets around to releasing the latter half. Hopefully he grew up over the past 15 years and stopped making crappy mean-spirited jokes.
Kuso Game Girl Wateri
Here’s another RPG Maker game, this time more modern in both presentation and sensibilities. I wrote a Twitter thread about this one as well, so check that out. This is probably the most obscure and least accessible thing in this post, but I don’t care it’s good.
WataYuri (released in English as “Yuri is My Job”) has a very silly premise and a lot of rough storytelling, but forget about all that. Do you like stories about girls who have feelings for other girls? And I mean strong feelings. If so, WataYuri is for you.
WataYuri is wholly dedicated to its characters, treating their emotions with the utmost respect and never shying away from confrontation. A friend of mine actually said he found the cast too 面倒くさい for his tastes, but that’s exactly what makes it so good, if you ask me. There are no easy answers and the characters are allowed to express themselves passionately and at length. As a manga, it can be very rough at times, but WataYuri is raw and genuine in a way you would never guess from the goofy “yuri cafe” trappings. I hope it gets an anime soon, because it deserves more attention (not that it’s particularly unpopular right now or anything, I just like it a lot okay).
I haven’t read the most recent chapter yet, need to get around to buying the current issue of YuriHime…
ゆるキャン△ Yuru Camp
I think I watched this on a whim while waiting for Hajimari no Kiseki to download or something. But we don’t speak of that game.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this but Yuru Camp is a masterpiece. I was utterly enraptured and ended up watching the entire thing in one sitting, despite the fact that it’s not exactly a fast-paced action thriller or anything. Yuru Camp successfully conveys the cold, forlorn atmosphere of winter, and yet simultaneously makes it feel inviting. This is surely an odd facet of the show to fixate on, but I’m not sure I’ve ever come across another piece of media that depicts something as nebulous as a season with such verisimilitude. Perhaps this is simply a testament to the deft usage of BGM and evocative storyboards.
And of course, no discussion of Yuru Camp can be complete without touching on NadeRin. Pairing a genki girl with a loner isn’t exactly an original concept, but rarely is it handled so carefully. A deep bond forms between Nadeshiko and Rin over the course of the series, and it is the respect which Nadeshiko (and by extension the work as a whole) maintains for Rin’s boundaries which forms such a solid foundation for the character-driven narrative despite the occasional Kirara trappings.
Yuru Camp pretty much singlehandedly renewed my interest in anime, and it’s the reason why I’ve been watching five different shows airing this season. I do intend to read the manga―I have a subscription to Kirara, after all―but that won’t be until after s2 airs.
I never noticed that Engrish in the logo before lol. I’ll just copy/paste a post I wrote about Crystar elsewhere here so it’s available somewhere a bit more permanent (tanoshimi.xyz doesn’t cost a lot to keep renewed).
Crystar isn’t very fun to play at all, but everything else about it is above average to excellent. The art direction and character designs are evocative, affording the game a distinct visual presence, and it never “breaks character” in terms of aesthetics or tone. It also excels on the audio side of things, with a solid soundtrack courtesy of Sakuzyo and excellent performances from all of the voice actors.
The plot and writing are also approached with much more care than the average mass market title; Crystar successfully maintains a serious atmosphere throughout and handles heavy topics with the appropriate gravitas. One noteworthy aspect of the narrative is that there is essentially no optional story content whatsoever. Many modern JRPGs lean on social link systems (or similar) to flesh out the characters and provide a sense of breadth, but Crystar eschews that line of thinking. As a result, I can see people finding the story progression being too linear/rigid (the repetitive gameplay doesn’t help matters), but I see it as a boon; since there are no side events, every character must be used in the main story and interact with each other throughout, which results in the cast having a genuine depth and sense of camaraderie that the social link format can’t really accomplish. The plot itself also doesn’t pull any punches, pulling off consistently surprising developments and meaningful twists and revelations. I also appreciate that, while the setting itself has some pretty interesting background elements that you can discover for yourself by reading through the memories you pick up from enemies throughout the game, the ultimate conflict is a personal one and the characters are only really interested in proving themselves and overcoming their own traumas, not changing the world or killing god or anything (though they do accomplish something pretty major in the process). The final sequence of events might have felt eye-rollingly cheesy in some other games, but Crystar actually managed to pull it off. I should also reiterate here that the voice acting is absolutely fantastic throughout; the performances really sell the characters, especially Nanana and Rei. Every single line of the game is voiced, too, which is somewhat of a rarity even in JRPGs now.
My only real complaint with the narrative elements is that it feels like some parts of it could have been pushed even further; in particular, I feel like the ending was maybe just a bit too straightforward. (Rot13) V guvax vg jbhyq unir orra vagrerfgvat gb frr Zvenv npghnyyl erghea gb gur jbeyq bs gur yvivat jvgu Erv, jvgu gur gjb bs gurz univat gb errinyhngr gurve eryngvbafuvc pbzcyrgryl, naq Erv yvivat jvgu gur xabjyrqtr gung ure fvfgre vf rffragvnyyl n znff zheqrere jub tbg njnl jvgu vg. Univat Zvenv qrpvqr gb tb guebhtu gur ervapneangvba cebprff vf gur “zbeny” jnl gb cynl guvatf, ohg V guvax vg jbhyq unir orra n ovg zber ernyvfgvp naq creuncf rira zber gehr gb gur gurzrf bs gur fgbel vs fur jrera’g jvyyvat gb tvir hc ba Erv, naq guhf yvsr, fb rnfvyl. V qhaab, znlor guvf jbhyq or gbb qnex nsgre gur erfg bs gur raqvatf? (End Rot13) In general I think JRPGs should spend more time on the ending sequences and epilogues, and Crystar did feel like it ended a little too abruptly for my tastes. At the same time, the characters have all been through a lot, so maybe it’s best to give them a bit of a respite at the very end, lol.
I must also emphasize that the game is not at all fun to play. The ARPG combat doesn’t feel awful to play or anything, but there’s no depth to the system at all and only a few enemy types. The map design is also extremely haphazard, with chunks of terrain pasted together in unnatural ways and no design elements of note other than a few chests here and there; it almost feels like it’s procedurally generated, even if it isn’t. You end up just sort of mindlessly button mashing your way through a bunch of very similar maps, some of which you need to play more than once. I suggest putting the game on easy mode (the difficulties don’t seem to affect anything but enemy HP and damage output) and engaging with the gameplay as little as possible.
My final criticism would be that a lot of the music, despite being very good on its own, simply isn’t used very well. The map themes are way too quiet (I ended up having to turn the game volume itself way up and then reduce the volume for the sound effects and voices separately), and many tracks just don’t play for very long at all, with several only being used once or twice near the end of the game. Given how many tracks there actually are, and how much work Sakuzyo put into them, this was pretty disappointing.
Overall, Crystar is a game that is very flawed as, well, a game, but succeeds to varying degrees in every other way and delivers a satisfying narrative with well-realized characters. While it’s not on the same level as DoD3 or Berseria, if you want a commercial JRPG with 1) a female protagonist and 2) a serious, relatively mature story, Crystar should definitely scratch that itch. As long as you can put up with the monotonous experience that is actually playing the game, anyway.
[While I wouldn’t really classify Crystar as a yuri game, all of the principal cast members are female and develop meaningful relationships with one another, in addition to simply possessing agency in their own right. Mirai’s obsession with Rei is also pretty… satisfying? Writing this now, I realized you can kind of see the game as Hisaya’s version of Madoka, so people who liked that will probably like Crystar too…]
Don’t ask me to romanize that title. This is another one I wrote about on Twitter already. Not sure if it came through in that thread, but this is one of my favorite ongoing yuri manga and I can’t recommend it enough. Too bad not even a single chapter of it is translated. Someone should license it (and pay me to translate it).
Fire Punch is singularly dedicated to its core theme of acting (in both a figurative and literal sense), and almost every page of the manga is working to build on this one central idea. While I can easily see this storytelling approach coming across as pompous or simply oppressive for some, I appreciated it. Fire Punch jumps from story beat to story beat at a breakneck pace, and I found that having a consistent thematic focus helped keep it at least somewhat grounded and coherent despite how absurd it could get at times. I did feel like the ending went a little too far even for my tastes, but I always appreciate it when a work depicts a single protagonist over a long period of time or throughout different periods in their life (Shin Sekai Yori is a great example of this, and to a lesser extent Jintai and Muramasa, though those rely on flashbacks), so I found the overall structure of the manga generally compelling.
Kastel actually wrote a review of Fire Punch a while ago, back when they still wrote blog posts… Not that I have any room to criticize others in that regard.
Korone Plays Tokimemo 2 With Marine
This counts as a distinct piece of media, fuck you.
Not only is this quite simply one of the most entertaining things I’ve watched in my 20+ years of using the internet, it’s the stream that convinced me that Vtubers were really something special.
I have a bad habit of approaching media that’s outside of my wheelhouse in bad faith; if I’m not already a fan of a genre or technique, it can be quite hard to convince me that it’s worthwhile. Dating sims are an example of a game genre I don’t care for―I find them shallow compared to “actual” VNs, with nonsensical progression based on guesswork. I played a good deal of Amagami, but absolutely hated the experience. But then along comes Korone―someone who absolutely radiates good faith and sincerity―playing a dating sim. I started watching it just because I like Marine and Korone and figured it would be entertaining for a bit, but something magical ended up happening. You see, Korone was completely and totally engaged with the game. While she certainly made her fair share of sardonic interjections throughout, she approached it without prejudice, the same way she would anything else, and ended up quite emotionally invested. And while watching the stream, I found it impossible not to get invested alongside her and find at least some of the same joy she found in the game.
I still don’t like dating sims very much, but ever since watching this stream I’ve tried to be just a bit less dismissive, a bit less cynical. I’m greatly inspired by the sincerity and genuineness with which Vtubers approach things, and it pleases me to see that the community that’s grown up around them exudes the same sort of sincerity. And of course, I appreciate Korone in particular for her delightful perspective on games and media in general.
The Tokimemo 2 VOD was taken down due to copyright bullshit, but you can find a copy preserved on archive.org. Reminder that copyright is a broken system that needs to be fixed before culture as a whole pays the price.
No matter what anyone says, this is the GOTY. While Spelunky 2 is not an accessible game by any means, being rather demanding in terms of execution and lacking any sort of meta progression, it is a deeply, deeply rewarding experience once you’ve put in the work necessary to comprehend and overcome its many challenges. If you want a modern take on the “arcade experience,” look no further; I think shmup fans in particular should appreciate the focus on gradual mastery and the multiple tiers of clears. While it does require a tolerance for a certain degree of bullshit, I’ve put roughly 70 hours into the game and don’t regret a single one. In fact, it’s the only game I’ve ever actually bothered to get all of the achievements in!
While they are very different games, Spelunky 2 is probably the most I’ve enjoyed the core gameplay and level/obstacle design of a game since DT3.
グレートウォール行進曲 Great Wall March
and イビルガールズパーティー Evil Girls Party
GWM and EGP are HRPGs where people care about the combat, not the porn. Part of a series called Filled With Online, which spans both tabletop RPGs and computer RPGs, they’re designed by a developer known as Marsh, whose stance on CRPGs is that they should focus on delivering engaging combat scenarios above all else. Both games live up to this ideal, presenting the player with not only a slew of well-balanced bosses and threatening encounters, but with a wealth of meaningful exploration. You don’t gain stats other than HP and MP from leveling up in Marsh’s games, so it’s imperative that you scour every last nook and cranny of their worlds to find the resources and equipment necessary to empower your characters. It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but it feels so much more satisfying to know that you beat a hard boss via proper planning instead of just grinding past it.
As one might expect, both games are rather difficult to simply clear (EGP moreso since you have a weaker party in it), to say nothing of the fiendish postgame content. They do offer an easy mode for those who just want to see the story and/or porn, but I’m going to say that this kind of defeats the point. While EGP does feature some prime yuri content, both games are pretty light on story and characterization, preferring to let the gameplay itself do the talking. The setting they take place in is actually very cool, and worth the price of admission, so to speak, but I don’t think you’ll get too much out of playing them unless you enjoy JRPG gameplay for its own sake.
For the grognards out there who actually understand this comparison, I would say that GWM and EGP are designed similarly to Gears of Dragoon 1’s Chaos route, at least at the higher end. You need to work with what you have, and the designer knew exactly what not to give the player and how to force them to play strategically.
I’ve finished the main game of GWM, but I’m still working on EGP and the GWM postgame at the moment. They’re pretty demanding to play, but I’m confident I can handle all of the content in them except maybe the final superbosses. Speaking of which, you should play the all-ages version of GWM (グレートウォール行進曲FA, note the FA―it’s on the 18+ side of DLsite along with the others), since it adds two new party members and a new postgame dungeon + boss.
This is the most I’ve enjoyed watching an anime since learning Japanese, and it’s because of how much I absolutely love both of the titular characters. I identify very strongly with Shimamura’s disposition and perspective, and I want nothing more than to see Adachi achieve happiness…
I haven’t really liked other stuff I’ve tried by Iruma Hitoma, but after Adashima I’m wondering if it’s just because I see too much of myself in his writing and characterization. In Japanese we call this 同族嫌悪.
I’ve started reading the LNs, hopefully it shouldn’t take me too long to get caught up. Then I can properly organize my thoughts about this series.
While initially I was a little put off by the slower pacing and less… overbearing approach compared to Fire Punch, I ended up liking Chainsaw Man a lot more. The slower pacing facilitates some very effective character drama (see everything pertaining to Aki), and it turns out that the series doesn’t need to beat you over the head with its themes for them to get across. It’s tightly structured, working toward the conclusion from page 1, but always leaves some room to breathe. It develops a compelling world without getting lost in minutiae. Everything about CSM is so very competent, and that makes it all the more surprising that it is also consistently fresh. There are so many memorable moments, ranging from the surreal to the comedic to the heartwrenching; somehow Fujimoto never exhausts his bag of tricks. We’ve got the vomit kiss, ball kicking tournament, Power driving, darkness devil sequence, Halloween, gun devil sequence, DDR, and so on and so forth, all in the same manga. And somehow none of it feels out of place. God damn.
I’d also like to give a special mention to the artwork, which overall might simply be the best I’ve seen in a manga. The character designs are pretty plain, sure, but the paneling and composition are consistently effective on any number of levels―conveying emotion, depicting action, simply catching the eye. And it goes without saying that the action scenes are simply sublime, somehow a mixture of hyper detail and pure motion. If nothing else, CSM is never boring to simply look at.
While CSM ran in Weekly Shounen Jump, it has none of the baggage usually associated with shounen manga. I feel confident recommending it to pretty much anyone. A lot of characters die, and it has as much tragedy as it does gore, but the ending is ultimately a positive (even wholesome) one and succeeds in giving all of the madness preceding it a purpose. Oh, and don’t worry about this just being part 1―it’s definitely a satisfying story on its own.
Now to wait for part 2 and the anime. Though I don’t have much confidence in the latter.
Starting to run out of steam so this will be brief. Mikami Teren is an author who has recently dedicated herself to pioneering the ガールズラブコメディ genre, and at least from my perspective she’s succeeded at this. Her writing has a certain pizazz to it that you just won’t find elsewhere, and she’s a master of making eroticism work with the plot instead of against it.
My primary recommendations for her are the books pictured above, Arioto and Watanare. Arioto (女同士とかありえないでしょと言い張る女の子を、百日間で徹底的に落とす百合のお話) is
really hot a thoughtful exploration of sexuality and identity and also really hot, and Watanare (わたしが恋人になれるわけないじゃん、ムリムリ! (※ムリじゃなかった!?)) is a yuri take on the traditional romcom with great characters (Ajisai-san…) and uproarious humor. Really though, everything she writes is great, so you can’t really go wrong. I especially recommend her self-published Vtuber yuri LN. It’s even been endorsed by an actual yuri Vtuber!
Note that her work does tend to feature dubcon and age gaps, but we’re all otaku here right, we can handle it right. And by handle it I mean (message ends here)
I’ve never really been a fan of FPSes (I actually played Doom Eternal earlier this year and didn’t like it at all), but recently I started playing the original Doom and it’s pretty sweet,
since it was made back when games actually had level design. The modern Unity port on Steam works great and is super cheap, so give it a try if you want some raw fucking gameplay hell yeah.
A cute Touhou clone on Steam. It’s fun.
I haven’t finished playing Ryza 2 yet (I got distracted by Crash 4), but I can at least put its battle theme in this post!!!! Holy shit it kicks ass just listen to it.
There’s more stuff I could put in this post, but I’ve been writing it for like five hours now and feel like I’m going to die. I might update it with some more stuff and year-end releases like the Tsui no Sora remake and VIPRPG Kouhaku 2020 later.
This was the first post on Tanoshimi in close to three years, I hope you fucking enjoyed it dear god.