Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru Michiru – Best girl gets the best game

Michiru21You may have heard of, or even played, Le Fruit de la Grisaia, the first game of a trilogy of visual novels recently kickstarted by Sekai Project for a release in English. While we are still waiting for the release of the next two games, there’s actually another game to check out right now, as the first stretch goal of the Kickstarter also allowed for the localization of the series’ comedic spin-off game, Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru Michiru. Where the main games are run-of-the-mill “dating sims” where a male protagonist get to meet a number of extra-ordinary girls and pursue their individual story and romance one by one, this spin-off takes one of these heroines, Michiru, and makes her the protagonist of a linear, comedic story taking place in a alternate universe where she sings as an idol and fights evil as a magical girl.

I’m pretty sure this game was originally announced in Japan as an April’s Fool… or maybe presenting it as an April’s Fool was the April’s Fool? In any case, the game was actually developed and released in two parts, but considering its origin and its ridiculous premise, it would be easy to take this game as a joke itself. I hesitated buying it myself, even though I’m a Michiru fan, and even when it was at half the price on Steam. Little did I know that it would become one of my favorite visual novel ever! Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru Michiru is surprisingly one of the most solid Japanese visual novel I’ve played, mostly because it possess qualities I’ve stopped expecting from games of this scene: a great accessibility, along with a unified story direction and a sincere love for its main characters.

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Samurai Flamenco – Justice in dishonesty and obsession

SamFlam6I’ve only talked about things I like so far, so let’s talk about an anime I dislike for a change. While I consider “over-rated” to be an abomination of a term, I have a fairly hard time understanding why seemingly so many people like Samurai Flamenco, despite what it is and what it does. My only guess is that people really have a sweet spot for its classic superhero atmosphere and its Power Rangers’ aesthetic. Maybe people also appreciated its wacky messiness. For me, Samurai Flamenco was facing a challenge before it even aired, because it was coming right after the both very fun and intelligent Gatchaman Crowds, and most of all, asked the exact same question: “What is a hero?”

Now, at no point did I expect a second Crowds, despite the fact that Flamenco challenges it as its own game. I was ready to accept this show for what it would be with fairly low expectations. Yet, it still managed to disappoint me, and not because of what it isn’t, but because of what it tries to accomplish of its own volition, purposefully or not, because of how it backs away from its own good ideas and turns to the easiness of some terrible messages it ends up sending to the audience, including some profoundly misogynistic implications.

Before we start: this review is based on my knowledge and memories of the first half of the series, as I dropped it afterwards and have no motivation to rewatch and catch-up on the whole thing just for this post. The following is my sentiment for the show as it was airing at the time. There are a few spoilers ahead. Also, a warning for mentions of torture and public humiliation.

(Edit: I plan to revise this article at some point by actually (re-)watching the whole series now that that the comments have given me the motivation to do so, though I cannot promise that this will happen in the near future, as I have a few other big things that I want to do first.)

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The Menagerie – The problem is not in your pants

menagerie1v3I don’t play as many western visual novels as I should. I buy the ones that look interesting to me, download them, and then let them take the virtual dust. But when I came across the release of the Menagerie demo, I immediately had to play it. I don’t exactly remember why but I’m not gonna lie, it probably had to do with it being a hentai game, partially at least. And because I always explain any jargon, hentai is porn, and visual novels are games centered on reading a textual story, usually accompanied with pictures and sound.

I remember being pretty impressed with the demo’s gorgeous art style, the dynamism of the story, and the welcome clarity of its choices. It made me very interested in the studio behind it, Lupiesoft, and I played all their games available at the time. Though to be exact, most were still demos at the time, plus their very first game that they had made during a jam: a rough early version of what would become the prologue chapter of Toko. By the way, their website linked above hasn’t been updated in a while and doesn’t even list Menagerie’s full release. I think they were really busy with said full release (and probably Toko’s too) and kind of forgot about the website.

The Menagerie takes place in a fantasy world shared with Dizzy Hearts (which isn’t a porn game), one of Lupiesoft two big projects in development along with Toko, where one half of the land is in perpetual night while it’s always day time in the other half. The eponymous Menagerie is a sort of brothel hidden under a palace called the Sail in the sunny side of the world, where elven nobles enjoy the sexual company of races from all over the world. For some, it’s a prison, for others, it’s a paradise. Our Drachene heroine, Rao-ji, is not sure. She was born here and has never seen the sunlight. But it’s time for her to decide what she wants, and with who she wants it.

Full disclosure: I’m a donator on Lupiesoft’s Patreon. I bought my own copy of the game at full price.

All the pictures in this post are relatively safe.

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Teppuu – Gay women punching each other (and loving it)

Teppu3bisLast time, I talked about my favorite anime series, so next I guess it only makes sense to talk for a bit about my favorite manga. I haven’t read a lot of martial arts manga but I’m fairly certain that Teppuu must not have a lot of equivalents out there. On a purely technical level, it’s already a visual treat, made of sharp drawings that give up on any elegance in order to embody the weight of the female characters’ muscular bodies, as well as the fluid transmission of that weight in each of their attack.

But what makes Teppuu so particular and so intense are the characters depicted by these sharp drawings. The manga follows the adventures of Natsuo, a tall high-school girl who’s good at everything she does and has grown deeply jealous of all the people who have to make efforts to get results and are able to make friends along the way. Natsuo wants it all, the feelings of sweat, of satisfaction after a job well done, of belonging. To that end, she finds a rival in Yuzuko, a short girl with thick eyebrows and always a smile on her face as she talks endlessly about her passion for Mixed Martial Arts. Natsuo hates her, she wants to beat her and get that smile off her face to punish her from having it all, and at the same time, Natsuo is attracted to her and wants to be her, because she has it all.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – Taking it slow for the crowds

gatcha134v3The first season of Gatchaman Crowds is my favorite anime ever. It’s a literally-colorful show that captures the optimism of the traditional superhero genre while acknowledging the cynical practicalities of modern social systems. But most of all, it’s a show that thematically interacts with its spectators, more than any other piece of media I can think of. It asks a lot of questions, but doesn’t provide many answers. Instead, it explores possibilities. It will show you how gamification encourages people to take initiative in one scene, but it will also present you a character who has removed all meaning from his actions and only now cares about the promised reward. Is gamification good or bad then? This show lets you think about it and make your own decision. For me, this has always been the real message of the show: “here are things to think about, so… what do you think?”

With this approach, Gatchaman Crowds escapes many narrative pitfalls that other pieces of media often indulges in without any afterthought (like, say, a black and white morality, or a narrative that puts thought-provoking questions in the mouth of a villain that get conveniently silenced), but because of that, I think it ended up being overwhelming for a good part of its audience. We’ve have come to expect stories to tell us their meaning in a plain and explicit way, to have a precise vision about its subject, a moral to force upon us without giving us any say in the matter. Most stories are one-way messages, and it seems to me that a number of watchers didn’t expect Gatchaman Crowds to be a dialogue. This show wants something in return, because it doesn’t consider itself to be the end. It doesn’t want the audience to follow its morals passively, but to participate in debating its subjects matters, and maybe even to take them further. The problem was, you obviously can’t force the audience to approach a piece of media in a certain way, especially if they aren’t used to it, so in reaction, the second season, named Insight, chose to adapt to its audience. (Spoilers ahead)

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Gatchaman Crowds – episode 1: The white bird is not lost

Gatcha118[Translated and adapted from the original French version]

The first season of Gatchaman Crowds aired two years ago and I wanted to write a detailed analysis of it since then. But this series has so much to say in just twelve episode that I have constantly failed to finish this task because I don’t know where to start and to end my commentary. So now I have decided to take it episode per episode and see if that works better.

The second season, Insight, is way less dense and much more focused on a single theme, so I can already announce that it will only get a single review from me once it’s over. I will also ignore it most of the time in my analysis of season 1. Not that I dislike Insight, but I want to look at the messages of the first season in their own context.

Gatchaman Crowds is a sort-of reboot of the Sentai series also known as Battle of the Planets. It is still about superheroes protecting Earth from aliens but yet it’s also much more than that. These analyses will be spoilers heavy, but hey, if you haven’t watched the series yet, it’s available on Crunchyroll. If you want to see a fun, yet intelligent, anime that subverts superheroes tropes without going grimdark or that offers the first relevant commentary on how internet influences our society since Lain, you will get what you bargained for.

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