JP title: フェノメノ 美鶴木夜石は怖がらない
A very short horror/mystery story by Nitro+ about spooky ghosts and denpa girls and delicious illustrations by Namaniku ATK of Muramasa fame. Oh and Yoshitoshi ABe as well. It’s also been fan translated to English, so holy shit I’m finally writing about a game that more than 10 people might have read! Anyway, I don’t expect this review to be very long since the VN itself is extremely short (around 2 hours). I’m sure you’re all still traumatized by the tl;dr Sigma Harmonics review so I’ll (try to) keep it short!
Phenomeno is a visual novel released back in 2012 in order to kind of sort of promote a series of youth horror stories. Or (light) novels. Or whatever we’re calling these. The thing is, a *part* of the whole Phenomeno saga has been adapted to the VN medium with great visuals and sounds, which is what this is. The writing is actually surprisingly novel-like, as in, it’s not shit. However, there are no voices, not for the protagonist, nor for any of the other characters, which is understandable but at the same time a massive shame. In the meantime I’ll just pretend Yoishi is voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki and continue to swoon over her.
The plot concerns one [family name I forgot] Nagito who moves to Tokyo from his rural hometown to conquer the big city and thus become a successful and classy person. He begins by buying a massive mansion in the middle of the woods — probably a bit too big for one guy to be living alone in, but it gives him bragging rights compared to his fellow university classmates, and the house itself was apparently cheap as dirt. It’s also rumored to be a “house that grants wishes”, so what’s not to like, right?
Rule #1 — when you’re in a Japanese horror story and someone is selling a mansion at a suspiciously low price, run the fuck away. Just do it. And for the love of God don’t go in the house. HAVE YOU NOT SEEN JU-ON THE GRUDGE
So anyway he does buy the house, and guess what starts happening one night!
Weird shit, that’s what!
He starts hearing creepy, scratching noises at a fixed time in the middle of the night, and soon after finds the kanji of the number seven carved/scratched into the wood. He freaks out. The noises continue on subsequent nights, and more carvings appear: six, five. If you’ve seen The Ring you can probably tell where this is going. So he freaks the fuck out even more, leaves the house and tries asking for help from his nerdy occult friends — long story short, he begins investigating the reasons behind the mysterious countdown along with #1 occult maniac denpa girl Mitsurugi Yoishi. Probably unrelated to another Mitsurugi I know, but both of them are doing investigations, I guess. Sort of?
Not much else can be discussed of the plot without really spoiling it, but Phenomeno, on the whole, was a decent enough read. It didn’t rock my world or anything, but if they made more VNs out of this, I’d probably read them. The atmosphere is quite good and I was very pleasantly surprised by the soundtrack as well. The whole thing even got somewhat creepy here and there, especially as I was reading it late at night. The countdown, aka the curse that just keeps on going and you can’t escape from it, is hardly a new concept, but I enjoyed it, plus it makes the entire story one big countdown in itself, with the reader sort of expecting shit to hit the fan when we finally reach 1. So it definitely builds anticipation and sets the tone for the novel.
Yoishi’s character sort of takes the spotlight, as you might expect, and while we don’t exactly learn too much about her during the VN, we learn just enough that sort of makes you want to crave for more. She has a fascinating duality about her, on one hand she’s almost like an otherworldy being, an enigma of sorts; one the other she’s just a complete weirdo, basically a regular girl who’s totally nerdy about the occult. In a weirdly cute way.
Also, hime cut. My #1 fetish.
In any case, the entirety of Phenomeno feels a bit like a massive prologue — a “tutorial section” for future supernatural cases. So you’ll probably want to read the novels after this — they’re also fan translated as far as I know, so no worries. The story itself is somewhat predictable, but it throws an interesting, “dun dun dunnn” curveball at you in the very last second that really reinforces the “tune in next week for more” feeling of the VN — except there’s no next episode, at least not in a visual novel format. Still, it was definitely a solid finale, and one that kinda creeped me out a little bit (yes, I’m talking of that final CG).
So overall, as I’ve already stated, Phenomeno is a decent read. I wouldn’t say it’s amazing or even a must-read, but it’s short enough that even if you’re not overly impressed with it, in the end it only wasted one or two hours of your life. Give it a shot, I say.