SeitoCast

The student council anime podcast

Kara no Shoujo – A Visual Novel Review (NOT THE HENTAI !!!)

So, in light of my colleagues’ entries, I thought it was about time to make my own. I like to read visual novels quite often, a.k.a eroges, dating sims, h-games, however I like to consider them Visual Novels (at least the ones I read) because more than anything it is a story, the H scenes are just a bonus and the guaranteed romance is also a great thing. One thing I hate about most harem anime is that nothing will ever progress with any character romantically (usually) however with a Visual Novel, not only is it guaranteed that something will happen, you get to pick the girl you want it to happen with! It’s genius, I know! VN’s are absolutely one of my favorite mediums for story. Equally, if not more so, as anime. So, with that, I will be consistently reviewing Visual Novels as I read them.

Now, onward with the review! The game (I usually don’t refer to them as games, but this one is different. I will explain later) is called Kara no Shoujo. I read it in a span of 3 days, at a total reading time of about 25 hours (I don’t have much else to do.) So what is this game about you ask? Well, instead of copy/pasting the summary I will go ahead and paraphrase one to the best of my ability.

The story is set in the 50s and you play as a 30 year old private detective named Reiji something or other. First of all, I would like to point out that playing someone of that age is already strange in itself, seeing as most stories revolve around teenagers. Fortunately enough, our heroines are also almost entirely of the teenage nature so I guess it doesn’t exactly matter. Back to the story. The game starts off pretty normally as you are introduced to our main character, his personality and his life. He lives with his sister Yukari, who is a great sister by the way, and works out of an office in down town Tokyo I believe. He also frequents a diner named Moon World which you will see many, many times throughout the story. Eventually, Reiji’s former colleague (he used to be a cop) calls him up and tells him there’s been a pretty bizarre murder that is right up his alley (great compliment by the way). Given our protagonists personality, he cannot resist and you, as the player, are thrown into a serial murder case involving teenage girls and their horribly, horribly mutilated husks. Alongside that, you are confronted by the heroine of the story, Toko, who asks you to find her ‘true self’, as well as a missing girls case. The story will deal with how and why these seemingly random cases and characters are connected and how Reiji’s past is also connected. (Turns out my summary is longer than the official one, figures.)

Normally, I would go over the cast of characters however this game has so many freaking characters that are equally important (or maybe equally unimportant) that it wouldn’t make much sense to name them all. There are really only two important characters and that is you, Reiji, and the main heroine Toko. Again, normally, things like this would be easy to name the important characters however this game is formatted differently than most. It is not a dating sim. I will say this now. If you are looking for a happy-go-lucky, fun times with the girls and their ecchi antics, LOOK ELSEWHERE. This shit is depressing. ON WITH THE REVIEW!

          Gameplay: For a “game” that is the visual novel, I normally would not go over gameplay as it is generally the same; click – read – click – read – fap – click – read, etc. However, this is more like a game than any VN I have ever read/played. So I would like to take this section of the review to talk about how the game works and, something that I always like to try and find out before going into a VN, how the route system works. You play as a detective and the gameplay really focuses on that. You have a notebook that is constantly updating as you find out new things. It contains every character, all evidence found, every fact behind every murder scene and important event that has so far taken place and even a relationship web that contains every character and how they are related to eachother (which is a very large part of the end game, but I wil discuss that later). Not only that, but there are moments in the game called Inference Mode (pretty lame but just listen) where you actually need to flip through your notebook and piece certain evidence together. In my opinion, this is really f$@%ing cool. Not only does it actually make you think about what could be going on and force you to recall everything that has happened, it is actually possible for you to pick the wrong things and end up on your way to a “bad ending”. If you don’t use a walkthrough, this can be quite fun, but if you have already gotten the bad ending and want to proceed correctly I’m sure it could get irritating and require the use of a walkthrough (it is not exactly difficult to piece the evidence together, but there are places to go and things to choose that decide which ending to get that you might not otherwise figure out on your own).

The second part of the gameplay is the location selection. More often than not, you are shown the city and you are required to choose a place to go. Generally you can choose 2 places per day before you head home. This is very important to how the game proceeds. Each place will have different characters and events that directly indicate which ending you are heading toward. That is pretty self explanitory, so let us talk about the routes and endings (no spoilers, don’t worry). I mentioned earlier that this is not a typical dating sim. That is because it does not have a route system. There are lots of girls, but none of them have any routes per-say. All of the “routes” and endings deal with the case and how it resolves. There are a LOT of bad endings here. The game is mostly comprised of bad endings in fact. These are bad endings with story, where each of them have a pretty good read before you get them. There is more to say about the endings and route system but I will discuss that in the final section of this review. I will not give the gameplay a rating, because there aren’t many games to compare it to.

Story: Like I said earlier, this is not a dating sim. This is a story and it is quite a good one. It is difficult to explain what kind of story this is because it differs so much from the conventional visual novel story. From my reading experiences with VN’s, a lot of them like to have shock value. Moments that make your jaw drop and your eyes pop. Moments that have made me literally yell swear words and a lot of different variations of the phrase ‘OMFG’, effectively waking up the entire house. However, this is not a story that contains such shock value and that is not a fault. It is a very realistic story. It is very logical and makes a lot of actual sense by the end. You won’t be thrown any insane twists (well maybe a couple) that will make your head spin and wonder what the hell is actually going on (like I did with such works as Fate/Stay Night). It is an artistically orchestrated story. What do I mean by that? Well, the first half of the game is entirely the events taking place. All of the evidence your character acquires is done so in a very logical way. I can’t stress that enough that this story just makes sense. Never will you be overly confused, yet you will never know exactly what is going on until the last act. The murders are very bizarre and when they happen, you get a view from the murderers perspective, which can be very disturbing, but what makes these scenes really effective I will talk about later. Throughout the game, you are learnng about a large cast of characters, their pasts, their desires and how they are connected to other characters. As the events take place, you start to figure out more and more until the logical (and again, very realistic) reveal. However, after the reveal in my opinion, is where the game really comes into its own. The last act is where you piece everything together and it is absolutely insane how well done this is. The story is paced very well and it doesn’t ever melt your face in a way that other stories do but its very realistic mood and interesting cast makes it a good story overall. However, like I said, it is the last act that really makes it intriguing. I will discuss that in the last section of this review. 9/10

Visuals: What is a visual novel without the visuals?! (Just a novel actually). The art is actually very well done. There are a few CG’s scattered throughout that look equally as good. It is actually really hard to describe art in a game other than ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is not amazing but it is not terrible either. It is perfectly bearable and even nice to look at at times, and isn’t that all you really want? The girls are well designed and, unlike most, actually about accurately proportioned. Their boobs are not incredibly huge, neither are their eyes. All hair is colored realistically, so almost entirely black as the Japanese population tends to be. The H scenes keep up with the art and look pretty nice. It’s not something that as soon as you see you just want to whip out your Jr. and start fapping like a monkey (which is not a con by the way, that isn’t my standard for good art so don’t misunderstand!) but it serves its purpose well. The backgrounds are pleasant enough. As long as you don’t notice them in a negative way than there isn’t really much to be said. I particularly like the faces of the girls in this art style. The features such as the mouths and eyes are very subtle yet nicely detailed. I might just be biased here (because I love long black hair and blue eyes), but I do believe that Toko is extremely beautiful, so what the artist tried to convey was a success. The art is a pleasure to look at and differs quite greatly from the typical anime style art. 8/10

Audio: The opening is really interesting. It does not tell you much about the story, which I think is a good thing, and instead gives you an interesting abstract art style video including sillhouettes of characters and themes of the story. The best thing about the opening, and what we want to be concerned about for this section, is the song, Ruri no Tori. I was severely addicted to this pleasant melody for many days. It does well to capture the mood of the story in a way that I cannot properly explain, so I won’t try. The BGM (or background music) does what is sets out to do. It sets the mood for whatever it is that is happening at that current stage. I don’t particularly pay much attention to the music as I am mainly focusing on the reading and listening to their voices. However, after I finished, I did go back and listen to the entire OST and I must say, it is actually quite good. Listening to each track took me back to certain moments of the game and served as a nice nostalgia catalyst (even though I had just finished the game hours before listening to these). Each track is distinctly unique and offers a great ambiance to whatever it is that is happening in the story. Whether it be sitting at home with Yukari with a pleasnt OST, or watching a 18 year old girl get hacked up to a disturbing OST, it succeeds in setting the mood. Next would be the voice acting. Since it is in Japanese, I find it difficult to spot good or bad voice acting. All I can say is that it sounded good and was believable. Nobody has an annoying voice, if anything everyone had a pleasant voice, particularly Hatsune and Toko. Toko’s voice was absolutely adorable yet mature at the same time. Her seiyuu, whoever that may be, did an amazing job with her. It made me love her all the more. 8/10

The following section will be referred to as the ‘Spoiler Section’ which I will probably incorporate into all of my reviews. I like to put into words exactly how I felt about certain events in a story and that cannot be done without spoilers! So if you just simply don’t care about spoilers or if you have read it already then go ahead and read the next section, if you wish to skip, I will mark off where it begins and where it ends with a #####.

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Spoiler Section: I mentioned above that I would “mention it later”, well here is where I will do that. This game had a very interesting hold on my emotions. At one moment it will allow you to get to know a girl and come to like her, the next it will show her getting brutally murdered. In fact, pretty much every girl other than your sister (who I totally thought would get abducted) is murdered. What makes the murder scenes so effective is that it is being done to someone you have gotten to know, and maybe even liked. Particularly, Toko is the one that gets me. As the story progresses, you honestly and sincerely care about Toko. The only thing I wanted for her in the end, especially after going through many endings with her demise, was her happiness. I just wanted Toko to live a happy life. However, that never happens. Every ending involves her getting in an accident and having her limbs removed. Only one ending does she survive, and she has no limbs. She is nothing but a husk!!! It is so heartbreaking, but that is also what makes it such a good story. There is one particular instance that really got me. Toko was going through a lot of stress and issues and we find her down by the lake lying on the grass. I don’t know if this was just the voice of the seiyuu or not but she said “sabashii yo, sensei” or “I’m lonely, sensei”. This absolutely crushed me. The way she said it was like she was holding back tears. It broke my heart and made me wish for only her happiness. The true ending is basically just a small scene tacked on after we find out the doctor is the one who murdered Reiji’s wife 6 years ago, and after abducting Toko’s limbless torso, gave it to the killer (who I will go ahead and remain nameless, though it might be kind of pointless). You end up looking at Toko’s art and it is simply a blue bird flying from a cage. It sums up so much of what Toko desired. It is very difficult to explain the meaning I got from her painting and the story as a whole, so I will let you determine that for yourself.  This game is seriously sad. The lack of Toko’s happiness drove me crazy. That’s how you know the writer did an amazing job, when they emotionally attach you to the characters. The next thing I’d like to talk about is what I meant by a well orchestrated final act. Once you figure out who the killer is, you really start to do some insane detective work. Just about every single character in the story is related somehow. Their pasts are deeply rooted into the story and it is riduculous the things you uncover. It is so well written I was in awe. I put this in the spoiler section because I think it is better for players to read this without knowing that there is more than meets the eye. To genuinely uncover how deeply related everyone is and how far back all this actually goes.

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Conclusion: This game is actually very good. It differs quite greatly from the norm of a visual novel or eroge or h game or what have you. The story is very well orchestrated and is done so in an extremely realistic and logical sense. The last act of the story is immensely well written to the point where you are simply blown away. The sheer detail is unreal. The gameplay mechanics make for a very engaging experience that actually requires you to think rather than click and read. I didn’t talk about the H scene so I will do so now. They were good. That is all. As for the art, it is nice to look at and I really enjoyed it. It did its job in setting the atmosphere, putting you in the right mood and mindset. Albeit very sad, I loved this game. 8.5/10

If you actually went ahead and read this entire review, I thank you deeply and would love some feedback. Expect more to come!

P.S I’d also like to mention that a sequel is coming out, not sure what it will be about though. More info here! http://vndb.org/v5922

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5 responses to “Kara no Shoujo – A Visual Novel Review (NOT THE HENTAI !!!)

  1. Aaron (Rhastaroth) July 24, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Cool review. I didn’t read the spoiler part because there is a chance I may check this one out.

    How does Kara no Shoujo rank compared to other VNs you’ve played/read? (say compared to MuvLuv, Fate/stay night, Saya no Uta)

    Would you recommend this show to ME? I think you have a decent idea of what kind of stuff I like.

  2. Alex (Otherwise-Six) July 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Well it took me about an hour due to my affliction, but I read it all! Woo! Except for the spoiler part. And I gotta say, Good Job! I guess since I have a good understanding of the game’s story, how it works, and what I can expect I can call it a job well done on your part. I approve of these VN reviews!

    And if you like VN’s with actual game play then there are a few out there that I’d recommend with some varying genres:

    JRPG VN = Brave Soul
    Puzzle Game VN = 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
    Rhythm Game VN = Symphonic Rain
    Turn-Based Strategy VN = Utawarerumono

  3. minoru August 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Yes, this is a quite sad visual novel I must say. The final act of the story is brilliant and well-done. Too bad it doesn’t have a true “happy” ending ;_;

  4. L January 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Where can I read it? I’ve heard so much about it.

  5. Balmunk Fezarion March 7, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    **sabishii yo

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