Pardon my bit of an introduction as I am making this post in response to Day 12 of Writing 101, “Critique a piece of work.” If you wish to skip to the critique/first impression, just click on the “Read More” link, or scroll down to the second header. Thank you 🙂 !
Engaging in critique is not something I am often apt to do. I feel that the only time I truly give critique is when I am solicited to do so, and in an academic setting. I tried my hand at giving reviews, but I am never quite content with what I write. I always feel as if I’m lacking, and that I not an authority in terms of literature, cinema – but I do know what I want to see, and I do know what I enjoy.
Thus, I have my First Impressions.
I have decided to stick with that tag, as I usually judge a piece of work with the feelings it leaves me with. I remember not being able to let go of The Hunger Games for a month or two because of ALL THE FEELS. I also spent a great number of hours perusing the Nico Di Angelo tag in Tumblr because of ALL THE FEELS after reading The Heroes of Olympus.
Now, if my WordPress stats are to go by, it seems that my “otoge” and “voltage inc” tag draws in visitors, even those from outside of WordPress. However, I have not made any Otoge First Impressions since July 20, 2014 for four main reasons:
- My phone was becoming outdated (and thus making updates and installation difficult);
- lack of willingness to spend on the chapters because of…
- copy-paste storylines; and
- jerk love interests.
The last point is what put the nail on the coffin, and I think that now is a good time to dish out some critique on the series that became a deal-breaker for me…
First Impressions: Enchanted in the Moonlight
At this point, I have already played, Our Two-Bedroom Story (O2BRS), Kissed by the Baddest Bidder (KBB), and sampled a bunch more enough to make one or two “browsing reviews” (come to think of it, I think I should finish those posts just to give myself some closure). Those who have already played the two would probably know where I am coming from as I go through this post: dealing with jerks are truly better left to fantasy.
Unlike my other posts, I will withhold from doing First Impressions on each of the story routes I have played (Miyabi, Chikage, Shinra, and Kyoga), but I will give a more general feedback on what liked most and what made me feel I would rather throw my phone at the wall then read another frame. The main reason being is that it has been more than year since I last played the game, and it would not be fair of me to criticize the individual storylines without it being fresh in my memory.
From this point forward, Enchanted in the Moonlight will be abbreviated to EitM.
You are a young single lady working as a librarian. Being surrounded by books, however, has not prevented you from being surprised by every little thing. Then again, I guess I am being a little too harsh as being a librarian does not mean being able to read all of the books you want, but you deal more with cataloging, data entry, tracking and organizing books, and making sure that everyone has a quiet and peaceful time in the place.
But as a certain day would go, everything seems to go against you: it starts off with a ruckus raised in the library by guys who do not make an effort to be subtle! Shelves toppling over! Books scattered all over the place oh how are you EVER going to explain this to the Head Librarian (if they even exist)?? And those ruffians (and handsome ruffians, they are) are quite arrogant about it, too, I mean, they are saving your ungrateful and ignorant little socks CAN YOU NOT SEE IT??
No. But your friend Ikumi Sato does, apparently. She has ESP. But that doesn’t matter. At least not now.
Trouble doesn’t end at the library though! Things fall from the sky, cars skid from the road, random obstacles are put your way making Wile E. Coyote’s chase of Road Runner look flimsy in comparison. You would “meep meep!” your way home but you find that you are actually being rescued by one cute guy after another – and each of them point out how ignorant your socks are at each turn.
Like, sorry for being human, creep! It’s like, you’re not part of this world at all!! I mean, with your obviously inhuman beauty and all, it’s totally not fair.
Once you get home, a cute (inhumanly so – but more subtle) guy welcomes you home: your trusted house help, Samon. He is just so nice, and what can totally go wrong? I mean a temple’s a nicely zen place where you can be left at peace, right? It’s not like it can be frequented by spirits of different sorts, right?
You’re technically a Shrine Maiden, so you should know. But, NO. You are an ordinary modern girl in the trappings of the modern world; there are no such things are spirits and demons like PSHAW! Those are just found in the realm of manga, anime, and otoge…
And what could go wrong in adopting a random cute puppy with odd markings, right? I dunno what books you have been reading but it is something if you wouldn’t know a kitsune if it stared at you in the face…
And it’s so cute that you dismiss all possibilities of it being rabid, or having an owner and take it with you in the bath – a bath painstakingly run and (probably manually) heated by Samon; and you will just soil it with dog dirt, and who knows where it’s been?
Misfortunes don’t end there, though.
The dog’s actually a dude – like the dude you saw in the library earlier that day. His name is Miyabi. He doesn’t delay in laying on the exposition though: you’re special, you have special blood, and therefore all kinds of akuma and akatsuki from the youkai are out to get you – either to feed on you, or to kill you then feed from you. And Miyabi and his equally handsome compatriots are having none of that.
You will soon realize that your dialogue mainly consists of the three options:
… and it becomes quite understandable from this point on. Because the next thing he says is something that would have me call the police: they can protect you, but they can protect you better if you lend them the strength of your blood. Oh but no worries, you don’t need to run a blood drive, but you have to (ta-da!) choose one of them. He will be your special knight, and you will be his special ~favor~.
Oh, and you need to make a decision now, because those akuma creeps are really going to tear you guys apart –- after they listen to the exposition. Sheesh, they’re not that rude, excuse you.
For the next portion, I have to raise a little caveat that it has been a long time since I played the game, and I am now only relying on my notes, little bits of memory, and whatever summary I can dig up online to help patch what’s missing.
Second caveat is that I did not play all of the routes in this game, and I will elaborate on that in my final verdict. I have only played the main storylines of Miyabi, Chikage, Shinra, and Kyoga.
That said, on y va!
This is the route I liked the least, and that is saying it mildly. Miyabi is the product of the Crappy Childhood trope, and that is his excuse for acting like a jerk. His clansmen and some other akatsuki do not like him because of (gasp!) his mixed parentage (akatsuki + human) — which is pervasive behavior of older generations of Japanese people in real life. Gotta say, these akatsuki should get on with the times!
Miyabi’s route follows the Jerk with the heart of gold trop to the letter. His transformation from being this bitter-but-privileged man-child to someone who insults you a little less is typical and nothing unique. Nothing he said or did won me over to his cause or made me sympathize with him.
I had to think hard about what I liked about this route, but I managed to find one: the idea that Miyabi turns into a puppy kitsune if you pull at his tail :3a. I’m not going to get your hopes up though: no, you’re not going to see that happen in-game >8(
This being the first route I played, I was also introduced to Hikobei first here — and he did not help matters. He is the epitome of being judgmental — the kind of person you do not want to have in your circle of friends, or to encounter first thing in the morning. Though recalling that he hates cucumbers made me think of the cats vs cucumbers meme, so I’d like to think he has that same reaction to the vegetable :D.
Chikage’s route could’ve tied with my impression of Miyabi’s if not for Koten.
Oh gosh, Koten and your epic sneezes. Koten and his devotion to Chikage. I MEAN LOOK AT HIM ;w; !!He made Chikage’s route bearable for me, as Chikage turns out to have the same levels of jerkitude as Miyabi, except that he’s ~colder~ — and you’re supposed to find that hot or endearing 8|
There is one scene in the story that offered a bit of reprieve for me: when Chikage carries you so you can fly together. It was admittedly sweet. But Koten is everything in this route..
There is no use for me to be all “tsun” about this chapter, because I enjoyed this one. I really would not call Shinra a jerk, but he has a very rough form of speech. This is a trope that I can actually live with: the Loser Anime Protagonist (see: Naruto, Rock Lee). Shinra is belittled and bullied by his peers due to his age, calling him “Little Oni” — and all he wants is to be recognized as worthy to lead his clan.
I had a laugh over how Voltage played on the “Red Oni vs Blue Oni” trope, but it was done to humorous effect! I loved how Shinra stood out from the jerks as he is your hot-blooded shounen hero stuck in an otoge. His is by far my favorite — and truly the only one that I can say I truly liked.
… and his oni horns are cute :3c
Kyoga is also a redeeming route in the game. Like Shinra, I can’t bring myself to call him a jerk. He has a temper, but he isn’t cruel nor mean to the MC. He veers from being seemingly indifferent, or being brazen over his teasing. Otherwise, he’s probably the only who genuinely cares for the MC and actually shows it (which explains my utter disappointment over Yukinojo’s and Samon’s sample chapters — especially Samon — following this one.)
Another star for this chapter is Aoi — Kyoga’s rival who just declares his love for the MC on the get-go. He is fun, and his dialogues are hilarious!
Kudos to the “Cat vs Dog” trope played out here, as playing antagonists are the Tora (tiger) clan. It’s Kyoga’s job to help bring the peace and maintain, and what with his caring character, I find myself unsurprised — yet pleased — with the happy ending.
Will I play it again? NO.
Will I recommend it to other people? NO.
That is said with a lot of bias, because I really am peeved by the writing of ladies who are not allowed to put their foot down. MC here was just reduced to a walking-talking blood bank and sex object without any form of agency and independent thought. I am not asking for Mass Effect levels of programming; all I am asking is for an otoge written with an engaged player in mind.
I know that sounds a little contradictory, as anything “otome” does have the listener/ player in mind; but take a listen to Wasurenagusa, and you can actually figure out that the MC has a personality. I understand that there’s a need to make the MC to be as generic as possible, but these ones are so cookie-cutter – and the cutter isn’t even that impressive! I would actually appreciate an MC with a bit more personality – and it doesn’t even matter if her personality matches mine or not!
Take for instance, Kiss of Revenge (which, in my opinion, is really one of the better Voltage Inc. releases out there). We have a MC who is mourning and struggling with sorrow over the death of her mother – which was made out to be an accident to boot, and she doesn’t know who to blame. She therefore decides to take it out on the hospital, and heaven help anyone who gets in her way.
There’s also the classic, My Forged Wedding. Sure, the MC started off as “??” and “What??” as they come, but she grows into a distinct personality with each route. However, what doesn’t change is her go-getter, no-nonsense attitude, and a good heart that looks for the best in people – which makes MFW a much more fun play/read than the later releases.
And don’t even get me started on the guys. With KoR and MFW as examples, we have more fleshed out choices than that of the 2014/2015 releases. All the main guys of the later releases are just plain jerks. Which now brings me to EitM : ALL of the guys are jerks, or engage in some form of jerkitude. Even Samon is one! I was actually looking forward to him and Yukinojo because they seemed to be the nicest of the bunch, and heck, I think the MC deserved to have someone genuinely kind to look after her, and as a reader, I wanted to see some real kindness at play from the getgo – but NO. I get Yukinojo the sadist, and Samon the hidden sexual predator.
I wanted to love the game, I truly did! I waited for Samon’s trial chapter to come out even after Yukinojo’s disappointed me; but I when I read it, I just threw in the towel. I was through – most specially after dealing with all the cruel guys of KBB, and the not-too-stellar O2BRS. I understand that there is an appeal/fanbase for the “jerk” trope, but do four out of the six guys have to be so unpleasant? Can’t at least half of them be genuinely sweet and kind?
I doesn’t help that the following releases for Voltage Inc. were pretty much the same: same story, same cruel treatment of the MC, just with different clothes and titles. Heck, Voltage Inc. isn’t even trying anymore in terms of male character design. I can just imagine they have some sort of male doll generator by now, along with an Anime Tropes randomizer.
Yes, I get what I pay for (I mean, Hakuōki costs USD 25.00, and I would have to buy a PSP or a PSVita in addition to my mobile gadget) – but my point is that Voltage Inc. is capable of writing engaging and unique stories. I am just sad to see themes go to waste because of the tired and same cookie-cutter characters. I’ll bet that if the releases were less of the same old-same old, there will be a motivation to actually pay for the stories – like, if any of the reviews are to be relied on, there is a will to pay; they just have to make it worth it.
So, yes, Enchanted in the Moonlight is what got me to stop playing otoge (or at least Voltage Inc. otoge) – and until something exceptional, or at least something that offers distinct variety in the characters, I just can no longer justify paying between USD 15.00 and 20.00 (average for a collection of main stories) for each game.