Review: Kara no Shoujo

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As you may know, these several days I've been fascinated by this visual novel titled Kara no Shoujo. Kara no Shoujo is a really great visual novel that can be considered as the best eroge I've ever played thus I feel like writing a full-length review to this wonderful piece of eroge. Also, SPOILER WARNING!! A few things will surely get spoilered here. I can't avoid that, so if you planning to play this game soon read this review at your own risk.

Kara no Shoujo is created by Innocent Grey, an eroge company which has an unusual taste when it comes to their games theme. Their works usually involved with murder, gore, and violence which are totally different from mainstream eroge that generally only focused in romance genre. They already have several products that contain murder mystery theme, some of them are Cartagra (Which shares some characters with Kara no Shoujo), Caucasus and of course Kara no Shoujo.

Kara no Shoujo is maybe the most famous of all Innocent Grey works. It originally released in Japan only in 2008. Sometimes later, a fan translation came up with a translation (duh) of Kara no Shoujo but apparently the translation patch was taken later due to complain from Innocent Grey. Fortunately MangaGamer, a famous visual novel publisher in US which is famous for their Kira Kira and Higurashi English release; collaborated with the fan translation and promised to bring Kara no Shoujo to English speaking audience. It was finally released in full English in 6/29.

As I mentioned earlier, Kara no Shoujo has darker elements compared to your everyday eroge. it contains gore and violence, coupled with several H-scenes thus making this visual novel targeted to 18+ audience and of course, they must have a strong stomach. When I said gore and violence I don't mean a weak guro stuff. Here is an example of the gore aspect in Kara no Shoujo: in a murder that happened earlier in the game, a girl was killed brutally by cutting her arm, twisting her neck backward, then the killer proceed to removing her uterus and placing a crushed black egg shell in her abdomen. You're still here? Good. That is only one of many horrifying scenes in this game. You should probably be prepared if you want to play this game badly.

One thing that makes me interested in playing Kara no Shoujo is the whole detective story premise. I am a sucker for detective stories. I really love deducting and speculating in a mystery genre. The fact that Kara no Shoujo main character is a private detective made me eagerly waiting to play this game. As for the gore aspect, I'm actually not really into guro. I probably don't have any balls to play this game if I were to play this game, like two years ago. But recently I've read some guro manga by Shintaro Kago and Uziga Waita, so now my body is more than ready. The violence in this visual novel is a walk in the park compared by those manga but let's leave this matter for another time.

Story
The story takes place in Tokyo, Japan several years after WWII. More accurately March 1956, ten years after Japan's defeat in the war. You played as Tokisaka Reiji an ex-cop who is now working as a private detective. One day, he meets a mysterious girl in a park who asked him "Mr. Detective, I have a job request for you. I want you to find my true self." Confused by the sudden strange request, he had no choice but to accept it. Then later his old police friend Uozumi comes up and asks him if he interested in solving a murder case that happened recently. In this murder case, the victim is killed in a gruesomely way and the body parts are dismembered. This case reminds Reiji of an almost similar unsolved case six years ago which he had lost his fiancee in that incident. So he accepts the challenge and they works together to solve the case.

Another job request comes up, now from a vice principal of Ouba Girls Academy. This is the prestigious all girls school where Reiji's little sister attends to and the vice principal is concerned about two students that mysteriously vanished. He wants Reiji to investigate the disappearance of those two and asks him to be a temporary teacher so he can investigate the case easier. There in Ouba Girls Academy he meets the girl once again. Kuchiki Toko, his first client who asked him to find her true self.

But the body count continues to rise. And now he must acts quickly before another murder happens.

There you have the synoptic. Barely even tell anything about the game. One sure thing is the story is told in a mature way. The fact that the protagonist is somewhere in his thirty doesn't help. It's refreshing to see the world in a rather adult way. I'm bored with the usual teen angst and emo bullshit in eroge. That being said even though this is obviously an eroge, the main objective is not to hook up with you favorite girl instead you must solve the case so there won't be another victim. Sure, there are some H-scenes for you fappers but that's not the main selling point of Kara no Shoujo.

Despite the story is set in 1956, there are some modern vibes here and there. I'm not sure why Japan doesn't look like a country that just lost in WWII. The Ouba Girls Academy uniform seems pretty western-ish. And there is also a western-style cafe which has maids and stuffs. If you told me the story happened in 90's I'd believe it. The only thing they lacked are, you know, cell phone and TV.

The plot is surely deep and intricate as well as dark and disturbing. And that is even an understatement, because the complexity of the storyline will get much more as you proceed toward the ending. All the loose thread will eventually get clearer once you know the truth. The quality of the writing and translation is brilliant. This is one of the best story I've ever read and that says a lot. There are also some references to old literature work such as Dante's Divine Comedy. Also don't forget the suspense is always there. As the body count increased you'll realized that you must be the one who stop this madness once and for all.

Death in this visual novel is inevitable. Just deal with it. There was a time when you feel like you could save a certain person if you pick a right choice. Sure, in some parts. But in general, the death of the characters is pretty much written in stone thus you can't save them no matter what path you've taken. It makes me went to full zetsubou mode the first time I discovered one of my favorite heroine died in a horrible way. I punched my room wall in fury, cursing whoever wrote this tragic story that makes me raging pretty hard. Until I realized that I will move on with it, hoping there will be a happy ending waiting for me at the end of the game. And boy am I wrong. Really wrong.

There are several endings, particularly four normal endings. And of course, there are also bunch of bad endings, which are very easy to get if you don't pay attention to the case. There is one true ending, but I can't say that this is a happy ending though. I won't spoil it further but it's safe to describe the true ending as bittersweet ending. However don't let that fact makes you avoid playing Kara no Shoujo. The endings, even the bad ones are very well-written. Some particular bad ends could make your mouth hanging in shock, but as well leave you some food for thought. The normal and true endings, needless to say is very beautiful. It just 'that' beautiful it makes me glad I'm alive to read a memorable story like this one. There is one particular ending (the 3rd one) that literally moved me to tears. Not only because it's sad but also because it made me emotionally involved with the ending.

Okay I think it's enough for story. Now move to the gameplay.

Gameplay
The general gameplay is obviously similar to the usual visual novel. You read walls of text and at certain point you have given several choices and you must choose one to proceed.

Gameplay aspects that disguises Kara no Shoujo from the usual eroge are 'investigation' and 'inference'. Investigation is where you are in a location (usually crime scene) and you have to search for clues so you can solve the case. The investigation part reminds me of Ace Attorney series. But you must be noted that sometimes there are hidden clues and if you can't find it you'll mostly ended up in bad ending route. Be careful.

Inference is the part when Reiji collects all the facts that you've gathered and then he starts asking some questions and you must choose the right answer based on the facts. Sometimes you have to choose from person lists or evidence list too. In the beginning it seems easy enough, because you can randomly choose the answer until you find the right choice (try and error, like Ace Attorney series). But in later part, once you choose a wrong answer Reiji will believe that is the right answer thus moving on with the next question. That is really dangerous because you don't even know that you are falling into bad end pit. So yeah, it is wise to always have a walkthrough in your hand at least for replaying or reaching certain CGs.

Oh yeah I forgot to tell that Reiji has a notebook that you can access by clicking the icon. The notebook is you reliable source of data. It consists of collections of character, evidence, facts, calender, map, and character relation chart. The notebook is very useful so you have to carefully check it from time to time. If Reiji find a new clue or person the notebook will be updated automatically. Be sure to always read your notebook because it's th only thing that help you solve the cases.

You have a freedom to choose what to do in a day. You'll be given two chances to visit places that scattered around the map. In some place you can find a new fact, but in other place you also can know better about a person so you have to choose wisely what to do with your limited steps.

Now we move to the characters.

Characters
Kara no Shoujo has a wide array cast of characters. There are roughly about 30 characters in it. Surprisingly, almost all of them has a connection with the case. The characterization is varying, from genki type, yamato nadeshiko type to psychotic and mischievous type. Thank God there is no bloody tsundere in here.

Despite the game has a dark storyline sometime there are lighter scene in which the interaction between characters are fleshed out. I like the slice of life tone when interacting with Yukari and Tojiko, for example. I also love the calm tone when interacting with Kyoko and Hatsune in Moon World Cafe.

The characters are all unique and everyone has attractive charm. My favorite character maybe different from yours. Every player maybe has a different favorite heroine. It also can't be helped that the fate of a character make us sympathize with him or her.

These are some of the characters and my impression of them.

Tokisaka Reiji
The main protagonist. Somehow Reiji has a cool aura emited from him. I can't help but feel like I should cheer him up because he had a very tragic past in which his lover Yukiko killed in the murder case 6 years ago known as Rokushiki Case. Fortunately he is not a weak protagonist. He is matured and can be reliable at times. He also has a nice sense of humor which is always welcomed by me.

Kuchiki Toko
The mysterious girl who asked Reiji to find her true self. She is the main heroine in this game.She talks in boyish tone. She is the most fascinating character in this game. I love her 'a bit naughty' attitude. She also had some mysterious (and maybe tragic as well) past. Despite her lively personality she actually has health problems. She loves art and Reiji often find her painting in the school or park. Well I can rant as much as I like because Toko is my favorite girl in this visual novel but maybe that's more than enough.

Tokisaka Yukari
Reiji's little sister. She's calm and has a very lovable personality. She takes care of the housework of Tokisaka family (their parent are dead). She's so perfect. Definitely waifu tier girl. She loves her brother as much as she loves... insects. Yeah insects. As in snails and grasshoppers. She even named one of her snails 'Fernando'. Awesome imouto.

Yosomiya Tsuzuriko (Tojiko)
Yukari's best friend. She's a genki type girl. She is a newbie writer and apparently one of her novel will be published soon. She has a bright cheerful personality which makes her one of the most beloved character. Reiji often teases her by calling her name Tojiko instead of Tsuzuriko because it's hard to pronounced. Even though she seems to be a blockhead type she is actually an intelectual character. She helped Reiji in one case, but still she is a high school girl.

Tsukishima Orihime
The student council president. As you see, she is oujosama type and she is a bit arrogant. She is very strict to school rules. She acts cold toward Reiji because she believes that student and male teacher interaction is forbidden.

Hazuki Kyoko
The owner of Moon World cafe which Reiji frequently visit. She is also Reiji's osananajimi. Her coffee is Reiji's favorite drink. Her husband died in accident years ago (not related to the murder case). Even though she is usually calm and level-headed she can be acts childlish at times when Reiji is around.

Amemiya Hatsune
The new employee at Moon World cafe. Cute girl that is a bit klutz. She is one important character during Cartagra, another game by Innocent Grey.

Uozumi
Reiji's buddy from old days at the police station. He's still in the police after Reiji ragequit. He often works with Reiji even though Reiji is not a police anymore. They often throw insult each other but apparently he is Reiji's best friend that can be trusted. Looks like he's in love with Kyoko, but she doesn't notice.

There are other characters but I'm too tired (or rather lazy) to include them here. So let's move on to another segment: presentation.

Artwork and Music
The artwork... oh my gosh. This has to be one of the best eroge artwork out there. I can play this game only for the art. Sugina Miki's art is really something. Consider me a fan of him/her now. To be honest the very first reason I'm interested in Kara no Shoujo was when I saw its amazing character artworks at MangaGamer site. I am a bishoujo fan you know, so it should be goes without saying.

Let's see, the character design is realistic. Their hairs have realistic colors. So there is no 'that girl with pink/blue/purple hair' or 'the man whose hair is so sharp that can be used to cut a fruit'. The girls design, no all the characters design is very beautiful. I can stare at those CGs with passion for hours. And the background is very detailed too. One of my favorite is Moon World cafe which has a very highly detail background. I don't think I should mention the H-scenes as well, do I?

The soundtrack of this one can be considered as a top notch. The music that played in the main screen is rather calm, has a nostalgic feel. I find myself humming the title screen theme as I do something else. The soundtrack does a good job in setting the appropriate mood for each scenes. It made me feel emotionally involved with the scenes. Honestly during one of the ending (that I mention earlier) while the soundtrack "Azure Bird" played in the background I almost cried. And I couldn't help but felt anxiety as the scary tone played because I knew someone will die horribly. It just that good. The ED song is great as well, it was sung by Haruka Shimotsuki so you already know its quality.

Conclusion
Conclusion: PLAY THIS EROGE ASAP. This is definitely the best eroge I've ever played and no, this isn't babby's first eroge. I've played bunch of visual novels before and none of them has story that can glued me to the screen for hours like this one (well G Senjou no Maou and Yume Miru Kusuri come close). Kara no Shoujo is one of those few visual novels that can make me feel sad, fear, rage and joy. In one scene I can't help but smile at Tojiko's ridiculousness and in another scene I was left in state of shock because the killer's mad attitude. Absoulutely wonderful. I probably won't forget the experience of playing this eroge for a long time. I'm looking forward to more Innocent Grey works in the future.

More Screenshots
 
 
Afterwords
There, the review of Kara no Shoujo. Over 9000 hours in Notepad (yeah, I used Notepad to write a blog post). Wow I can't believe I typed nearly 3000 words in a few hours (I really need to take a break).Forgive me for any grammar mistake I made in this review. And last, there's an interesting news for you (and me) Kara no Shoujo fans. Apparently Innocent Grey is working on a new eroge that many believe it as Kara no Shoujo 2. So here I am hoping it will continue to bring the brilliant story of its prequel. Okay, that's all folks! Thank you very much for reading this long-ass review till the end! Now I'm afraid I have to bid you farewell, until next time/post!

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9 comments :

  1. WUT, I miss this Innocent Gray. Playtime nya berapa lama?

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  2. http://www.gungnir.co.jp/innocentgrey/images/top_shell2.jpg
    lol

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  3. @fallendevil
    err saya ga ngitung2 playtimenya.. kalo menurut vndb sih kira2 10-30 hours (medium)

    @gecd
    layak ditunggu itu rilisnya

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  4. You've now made me interested.

    ReplyDelete
  5. But of course. That is my intention to made people interested in whatever I was playing/watching/reading.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Woooh ternyata yang buat review orang Indo toh xD
    Nice review btw :D

    Kara no Shoujo sbnrnya VN interaktif yang bagus banget, tapi sayang aku nggak terlalu suka ada H-scene nya -_-

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks :D

    Yah, sayang ga ada pilihan untuk disable H-scene. Mungkin beberapa orang agak terganggu kalo ada H-scene.

    ReplyDelete