JP title: 美少女万華鏡 ―忘れな草と永遠の少女―
I guess this is what would happen if M. Night Shyamalan made a nukige. Totally.
Note: There will be some spoilers in this, but I give a major warning before the paragraph in question (trust me, it’ll be hard to miss), so you can just scroll past that bit if you want.
So after my failed attempt at trying to enjoy the first installment in this series, I nonetheless gave the second one a shot. And for a nukige, I was pleasantly surprised. For a VN that spends 90% of its time focusing on porn (porn with absolutely fantastic art, mind you, but still porn), it ended up closing it all off with a solid finale that also managed to sufficiently tug on the heartstrings. I might end up writing a bit more in this review than what a nukige deserves, but I feel I also need to explain why, for me personally, this VN succeeded where the first one failed.
So here’s the basic setup: the story begins with a childhood arc featuring the male lead Akihito and his childhood friend, Shizuku (the blue-haired girl / main heroine). If you recall, my problem with the first BiMan was that it failed to establish its main guy and why he’s so head over heels for his beloved. I mean, let’s be realistic, there’s no lengthy and deep character development here either, but I was pleased to find out that the second game still pulls this off a lot better, primarily in the form of the aforementioned childhood arc.
Akihito and Shizuku are established to be very close: they do almost everything together, and obviously he has a massive crush on her. One day, they decide to go to the mountains to bury the seeds of a forget-me-not she got earlier – they get lost in the woods mostly due to Shizuku’s carelessness; they are tired and exhausted, Shizuku starts crying, telling Akihito that this is all her fault. He tells her it’s gonna be okay, offers to give her a piggyback ride and later even gives her a hairpin as a gift which she receives with great joy. Using the flower as their symbol, they promise never to forget how important they are to each other. Long story short, what I’m trying to say is that there’s at least *some* level of prior interaction between the two leads, and compared to the first game, this time it’s a bit easier to accept the fact that this girl is everything to the MC.
With that prologue out of the way, we jump to the present and learn that Shizuku moved to another city 2 years prior and is completely ignoring Akihito, whose letters are always returned with no reply. Needless to say, he is depressed as all hell, skipping school and feeling generally miserable, when one day, upon revisiting the special hangout from their childhood (an abandoned building of sorts) to reminisce and lick his wounds, he finds Shizuku there. For a nukige I found the beginning fairly solid, which consisted of Akihiko being torn about Shizuku – on one hand, he’s happy that she’s back, but also resents her for completely abandoning and ignoring him for two whole years. Although some readers might be put off by how coldly he treats her at the beginning of the VN, I felt his initial inner battle was a breath of fresh air after the first game’s protagonist.
As such, their eventual reconciliation and consequently the first H scene also happened somewhat more naturally. I never felt as disconnected from Akihito as I did from the first game’s MC – even when he was being cold, you could tell that deep down he’s just a conflicted teenager who couldn’t quite figure out how to handle the situation. This whole business is actually finished quite finished and the relatively long-ish middle portion of the game consists mostly of the two being all lovey-dovey and having copious amounts of sex. As you would expect.
Needless to say, this gets old fast, which is why I feel this story could’ve worked better in a non-nukige format – I was constantly far more interested in the mystery at hand (because yes, there is an ongoing mystery), and every time a H scene came on, which is like every 5 minutes, I went “sigh, here we go again, can’t we just move on with the plot?”. The art is great, though, in fact this artist is one of my favorites, but I’m just not the kinda guy that has fun reading H scenes, so I skimmed/skipped through most of them (save for the very first one, which I read in its entirety due to it being the turning point in their relationship). However, if H scenes *are* your thing, I suppose it doesn’t quite get any better than this.
So, about that spoiler warning. Now’s the time to scroll past the next two paragraphs if you don’t want spoilers – just continue reading after the second image.
One thing I found interesting is how the middle portion of the story appears almost like a parody of the overly-happy, overly-convenient situations that certain anime/nukige/manga and so on place their protagonists in – girlfriend out of nowhere; a convenient “parents are never around” situation; the whole affair with the teacher magically never realizing that the MC is being given a handjob mid-class, and so on. Of course, this is all made possible because the entire game is set in an imaginary dreamworld with only the protagonist and his close friends living in it. You could almost say it’s kinda poking fun at its own tropes, all the while indulging in them. Maybe I’m giving the VN too much credit, but still, even the game admits that it was all just a syrupy sweet daydream (or coma-dream, if we want to be specific) that should be discarded in favor of reality.
The other thing is the fact that there’s also rape in this game, and once again the protag is doing it. But the difference between this and the first one is day and night, imo. For one, it happens at a critical point in the game’s story; in fact, it’s Akihito’s unbearable feelings of guilt and self-hatred over this act that triggers everything. In the end it’s still a horrible thing, but it’s *supposed* to disgust the player and consequently tie into the VN’s major themes, namely redemption and forgiveness. While the scene, naturally, made me uncomfortable, it was doing exactly what it was supposed to do.
Another gripe I have is that the foreshadowing is done quite poorly, and I could pretty much see the big twist coming a mile away. Fortunately, that’s not all there is to the plot, and a few more layers are added on top of what you can already guess by yourself, making the last hour of the game pretty intense and emotional. So basically, you can kinda guess where the story is going, but just when you think you have everything figured out, the VN throws an extra curveball at you, just for good measure. Too bad it only picks up during the finale, while the middle part is quite boring in comparison. To sum it up, the plot is fairly enjoyable for a nukige, touching on a number of heavier topics such as forgiveness and personal redemption – all in all, I honestly don’t regret reading it. You just have to stick with it for it to really pick up its pace.
Character-wise, there’s not too much going on. The beginning is solid – I’ve already explained this in great detail above – while the main heroine is really up to personal preference. I personally liked her: she’s a bit simple, but in a lovable way, and in general tends to be super adorable. But this really depends on the reader, if you’re not into heroines like this, you may feel indifferent to most of her antics. She’s obviously not *too* deeply developed (no one is), since the majority of her screen time is spent on porn, but since I wasn’t expecting much to begin with, I thought she was okay.
So all in all this was a pretty decent VN despite being a nukige, and it turned out better than I expected story-wise, poor foreshadowing aside. It’s not a must-play or anything, but if you have nothing else on your to-read list or just want a quick VN with good art, I’d say it’s worth giving a shot, especially considering how short it is.