Review: Le Fruit de la GrisaiaPosted 27 September 2011 by Moogy
Le Fruit de la Grisaia
(グリザイアの果実, Grisaia no Kajitsu)
Presented by Fujisaki Ryuuta et. al.
As I’ve recently spent a great deal of my free time working my way through this game, I decided it would be only proper to give it some sort of coverage here, if only to show that my skills as a blogger far exceed those of a certain rain charm who will not be named.
Grisaia no Kajitsu is quite a popular title, reigning as one of this year’s top sellers. It caught my interest shortly after release both due to it being showered with praise from all directions and research of my own happening to uncover some (in retrospect, superficial) similarities to Akatsuki no Goei, a series of which I am a great fan. I decided to pass it over, though, because though the response was generally positive, a common complaint was that it lacked a true route and a sense of closure – add this to the fact that it is nearly four megabytes of text and you have an investment of time that I was at the time unwilling to make. Imagine my surprise, however, when a few months ago, Frontwing made the announcement that it was merely the first part of a trilogy! I found my interest in the game piqued once more – baited, as it were, by the promise of what could be construed as a true route or conclusion to the story in general.
So, over the past few weeks or so, I finally gave the game a spin. I’ll say now that while I feel the experience as a whole was definitely worth it and I do plan to pick up the sequels, when looking at it as a single game I cannot help but feel that it is critically deficient in terms of cohesion. While the individual routes are both full-featured and on the whole well-crafted, the story heads in entirely different directions in each and every one of them, in the end having nothing to tie it together, nothing to resolve the numerous dangling plot threads and realize the full potential of the setting; the simplest way to put it, I suppose, would simply be that it does not feel “whole.” This is my greatest complaint with the game and I feel that it is not unreasonable to state that is indeed the game’s greatest objective flaw.
I will not dwell too much upon this point during the review itself, but if you are interested in playing the game yourself, please be aware that you’re committing to four megabytes of text (I would estimate that my own total reading time was around 70-80 hours, though I am a rather slow reader in both English and Japanese) simply to read the first game in a series of three. To put it another way, while I have high expectations for the second and third games, I cannot deny that I felt underwhelmed by the first game in the end.
This review will likely be a little less formal than usual because Grisaia is nothing terribly deep or thought-provoking, leaning, I feel, more toward the “entertainment” side of the fiction spectrum, as opposed to the “art” side. That is not to say that it is not a solid, enjoyable read, however – not all of the routes are fantastic, but I would say that overall the writers approached their work seriously and that the end results are more than commendable for what they are.
I suppose the first thing worth pointing out is that Grisaia is very much a game about its characters, especially the heroines. Though it is of course tempting to simply categorize it as a character game, but I think it’s a bit too full-bodied, as it were, for that label. Either way, though, it is a game dependent upon its characters to move the plot, either through their direct actions or simply through the unavoidable manifestation of the chains which bind them. As such, it’s important for the reader to feel a connection to the characters in question in order to better empathize with their plights. In that sense, I would say that Grisaia is a great success.
You see, I would say that I’m fairly hard to please in terms of characterization, with my tastes veering in strange directions and the vast majority of heroines failing to catch my interest to the level where I feel an actual attachment to them. With Grisaia, however, I took an easy liking to all of the heroines, save for Yumiko, early on and found myself growing to like them more and more the longer I spent in its world. Now, it’s worth noting here that I think that Grisaia’s length works for it in the end – I stated above that you need to be aware of what you’re getting into in terms of time investment, but at the same time I feel that the characterization would not have succeeded for me if the game were, say, half the length it is now. The way I see it, the length of a game does not necessarily need to reflect the amount of sheer content in its plot for it to be worthwhile; games like Oretsuba and Grisaia prove that simply allowing the audience to spend time with the characters and bask in the worldview can afford them a greater appreciation of the work as a whole. In this case, I also feel that the volume of text the writers were working with allowed them to properly flesh out each route and afford them each the amount of time and attention they deserved.
Back to the original topic of the above monster of a paragraph, though – put simply, the cast of Grisaia as a whole is quite likeable and thanks to a lengthy common route and some strong development in the individual routes, their personalities and quirks really shine through over the course of the game.
It’s also worth noting that the character interactions are also excellent – the common route is wall-to-wall hilarity with snappy conversations left and right, and even in the more serious parts, the writers always do a decent job of keeping everyone in the picture to some degree (though some routes are better with this than others – Sachi’s route, especially, is excellent in this regard). So to sum up what I’m trying to say here, if you’re looking for a lively group of characters who are guaranteed to draw your interest, Grisaia excels in that area.
Though I really must agree with the other girls’ assessment of Yumiko; she’s a rather plain coodere character who I was never able to work up much interest for. I suppose they can’t all be winners. And in case you were wondering, my favorite character is Makina. She’s just so cute and hilarious that she’s impossible not to love. Runner-up would be Sachi, though that’s half due to Shimizu Ai’s great voicework with her. Though if we’re going in that direction, I would say that Mizuhashi’s performance as Michiru is the best one in the game, she puts so much energy into sounding dumb that I was rolling on the floor almost every time she got a line.
While I’m going on about aesthetics, might as well mention that I was a little disappointed with the music. The game as a whole obviously has a staggering budget, what with its scores of tachie for subcharacters who never appear outside of flashbacks and Faylan OP and all, so I really wish that they would have paid Elements Garden a little more so players wouldn’t be stuck listening to the same 30 tracks the entire game. 30 tracks is all well and good when you’re a normal-length game, but when things get this long, I think you need to go the extra mile and bump it up to around 50 or so.
Otherwise, no real complaints on the aesthetic end, though I think it might have been better to stick with one artist in the end for reasons of consistency. Poyoyon Rock is obviously the better artist, but Fumio did more work overall, so it’s kind of a tossup as to which I would have preferred they stick with. And this is of course just personal preference, but 1024×576 is my favorite resolution for eroge, so that hit my sweet spot as well.
Now that this is heading in a more casual direction, I think I’ll go ahead and just break the rest of it down into some short thoughts on the routes themselves and then wrap it up. I’ll sort them by writer, since I think that’s really the biggest distinguishing factor we’re dealing with here.
These three are all written by Fujisaki Ryuuta, so I’m going to consider him the main writer for the game and the series as a whole. This is again getting into personal preference, but I’m going to have to say that more than the characterization as a whole or any individual plot, the writing in these three routes was the definite highlight of the game for me. Not only are the conversations a blast and the jokes absolutely hilarious, but the narrative itself is just really, really solid. Every line is packed with information, which is something I appreciate, and the frank, cynical, even sarcastic vibe that the style itself has to it also really appeals to me. In the end, I’d go so far as to say that the common route is the part of the game I enjoyed the most overall – the text kept me reading and the format (Yuuji’s anecdotes + skit, repeat) managed to keep me entertained the entire way. As for the actual routes he did, I’m not a huge fan of Amane’s – the flashback has fine writing and nice sense of buildup, but I don’t think it really adds much to the game overall, save for acting as an introduction to Kazuki. I wasn’t really feeling the developments afterward, either. Makina’s, on the other hand, is most certainly the best part of the game overall. It deals the most with the setting and Yuuji’s past in addition to some nice action and a heavy atmosphere that I liked. Gotta say I’m not a big fan of the ending, though – felt a little too convenient, wasn’t really buying some of the logic there. The bad end on the other hand is pretty damn good, that last line will keep you up at night for sure.
Anyway you should probably save either Amane or Makina’s route for last, these routes have the best writing and feel the most like the common route, so if they’re the first two you read, the rest of the game might feel a little off in terms of atmosphere.
The text in this route is also very good; the writer is definitely a weird guy, but weird in an entertaining way. And indeed, the first half is absolutely hilarious, with completely off-the-wall narration and some grade-A Michiru harassment… but the problem is that everything that happens in the second half is just too ridiculous to take seriously at all, down to the very premise of the route’s plot. I really think that someone else on staff should have reined this guy in – clearly he can write decent text and has some nice ideas here and there, but this route’s train runs so far off the tracks that it’s honestly impressive. That said, it manages to remain interesting if only because of how absurd it is, so it’s not like it’s a pain to read or anything, just… wacky.
The writing in this route is not nearly as good as the above ones – to put it simply, the text is too plain – but the story itself is fine and I think it does the best job dealing with its heroine’s trauma and growth out of all of them. Overall I’d just have to say it’s satisfying to watch the events as they unfold; I was kind of rooting for Sachi the entire way, I guess you could say. And I mentioned this already, but I really appreciate how much effort this writer made to keep every character in the story even though it was mainly dealing with Yuuji and Sachi. I think the way that everyone kind of pitches in and supports what’s going on helps with conveying a sort of unity among everyone at Mihama Gakuen. In terms of the game overall, I think that was something that was important to get across to the reader. They even manage to work in a little bit of foreshadowing with the setting, so it’s all good. If this route were by Fujisaki, it would definitely be my favorite overall, but there’s just too much of a different in writing quality between this route and the rest (other than Yumiko’s) for it to come out on top in the end.
Honestly I didn’t really like this route much at all. The climactic portions are fine, but the writing overall is pretty sloppy (worse than the writing in Sachi’s, there are basic problems like errors with consistency and grammatical mistakes) and the middle part drags endlessly. It doesn’t help that I could never bring myself to care about Yumiko, so it was kind of dead in the water for me from the get-go. I guess overall it’s not terrible or anything, but I just didn’t care for it much.
A few other complaints/observations/comments/whatever:
- I really enjoyed what the game did with flashbacks. I think they add a lot to the characterization and help you get inside the heroines’ heads and understand what’s going on with them more. Makina’s route needed more of this, I would say – she has kind of a low level of presence during the latter half of it in general, I wanted some more focus on her instead of just what Yuuji was doing and the whole deal with the Irisu empire and Yuuji’s “employer” going on kind of in the background.
- I can’t believe they seriously paid for a vocal theme song for Maguroman (a sentai parody that Sachi and Makina like to watch). How much money did they spend on this game!?
- Just so my overall score below makes more sense, I really can’t overstate that the game feels more like an extremely lengthy introductory chapter more than anything. None of the routes really have satisfying endings in context of the full setting and I didn’t really feel much of a sense of “accomplishment” when I finished the entire thing – it was more like “well damn, now I have to wait to read the rest.” In the end it’s kind of hard for me to score something that leaves me with that sort of feeling too highly, if you get what I’m saying. There’s also the fact that none of the routes really wowed me or anything – which ties back into the fact that there needs to be a true route with a lot of impact, something that this game doesn’t have.
- I didn’t really get the logic behind a certain plot point introduced on Makina’s route relating to Yuuji’s past and Asako. I hope the sequels address that in a more straightforward manner.
- Aoyama as Kazuki is the worst casting decision ever, and you can’t even turn her off because she’s just classified under other. Kazuki would be an awesome character otherwise, too.
- And finally, I’m hoping for Chizuru, JB, and Kazuki routes in the sequels, along with the true route and whatever further character shenanigans they have in store. Honestly, though, as long as there’s a true route/conclusion at some point, I’ll be satisfied with just random fluff like the common route, since the humor for me is like Ou Jackson/Kinugasa Shougo level, no joke.
Well, there you have it, I guess. To quickly sum things up, I really enjoyed Grisaia no Kajitsu overall because of some great writing, humor, and characters, but at the same time nothing really bowled me over and the lack of anything approaching a conclusion to the story as a whole left me pretty disappointed, especially given the overwhelming amounts of praise that the game has received, which means I was expecting something a little more. Treating Kajitsu as an individual game, I’m going to say that a score in the 75-80 range is appropriate, with the sequels easily having the potential to do something in the 85-90 range. I’ll say my own score is an 80 because Makina is just so cute that I’d feel bad rating it in the 70 range. Impeccable logic, I know.
In any case, I’m eagerly anticipating Grisaia no Meikyuu, and I think that Kajitsu is a success in the end simply because you’ll end up wanting to play the rest of the series one way or another.