[Review] Soushuu Senshinkan Gakuen Bansenjin

https://vndb.org/v16131
JP title: 相州戦神館學園 万仙陣

That awkward moment when you keep calling the first game “Senshinkan” and then a sequel comes out and forces you to type out Hachimyoujin to differentiate between the two. I don’t like typing out Hachimyoujin. Anyway, so Bansenjin is the sequel/fandisc to the first Senshinkan game. It adds an entirely new storyline, some cool new characters, and – of course – a healthy dose of fanservice, ranging from pleasantly heartwarming to absolutely ridiculous (in a good way, of course).

Opening:

Anyway, so Bansenjin features the descendants of the great heroes who saved the day during the Amakasu Incident as its main protagonists. Who look exactly like the main cast from the first game, right down to their names being identical as well, so you probably won’t have trouble adjusting yourself to the new/old cast. Munefuyu is now Munechika and is a teacher at Senshinkan Academy, while Yurika is… fuck, I don’t even remember her title but I think she’s the main student representative or whatever. She’s also in her final year, if I remember correctly. Hell, even Seijuurou is around as the Oddly Lovable Asshole Dad.

So the old gang is here, and they go about leading normal lives. One day, an energetic little puppy of a girl called Ishigami Shizuno visits Kamakura and enters their lives, proclaiming herself to be the #1 superfan of the original Hiiragi Yoshiya and his comrades – well, Yoshiya and co. soon warm up to her, and hijinks ensue… until, in classic Senshinkan fashion, shit hits the fan and we have to save the world again.

Now, you’ll probably notice Bansenjin’s fandisc-y nature the very first time it throws you onto a big ol’ map screen and lets you choose exactly which area of the school to explore and which characters to converse with. Clicking on any given character will give you a relatively brief little slice of life scene centered around said character, after which the main story will move on… until the next map screen selection segment. That about sums up the basic narrative structure of the VN. The thing about these mini-events is that there’s a fuckton of them, and they’re sort of hit-and-miss. At least they were for me. Some of them are hilarious and/or interesting, while others could be a little boring, especially if they featured characters I personally didn’t really care about all that much. Considering how you have to view every single one in order unlock all the fanservice-y content the game has to offer, reading through them got a little tedious towards the end. Granted, the payoff is well worth it, so do totally soldier through them.

In terms of audiovisual content, the game really outdid itself – it’s jam-packed with amazing new CGs (lewd ones, too), and Keishi Yonao’s new tracks for Bansenjin won me over as well. My personal favorite is probably 霧露乾坤網, but there are some more upbeat, adrenaline pumping songs as well, such as 盧生、死すべし and a number of others. Other minor things I appreciated were the Akira H-scene (I’m probably biased due to my Akira Love but holy shit G Yuusuke is GOOD) and Rinko getting some nice, deredere romantic buildup in her own H scene. I also have to mention Yurika, whose Bansenjin incarnation is actually one of my favorite characters; her mischievous ojou-sama antics never ceased to amuse me, and the way she teases Atsushi is just pure gold.

Anyway, so moving on to another topic: a bigger problem I had with Bansenjin is that it seems all too eager to focus a good chunk of its attention on the aforementioned slice of life segments, to the point where other things/characters far more worthy of screen time (*coughKriemhildcough*) end up getting the short end of the stick. It felt almost like the game couldn’t quite decide if it wanted to be a full-on fanservice-laden fandisc or a proper sequel. Kriemhild was a character I was really looking forward to from the moment I spotted her on the cover art, then it turns out she’s barely even in the game. Eh. She’s actually a fairly prominent figure in the Senshinkan world, so it felt odd that the VN chose to devote way more time to slice of life hijinks than her. If there’s a third Senshinkan title, please make it focus on Kriemhild a bit more. Pretty please. Call it 「パツキンの軍人ねーちゃんの婿探し冒険」and I’d be sold.

The characters themselves are the same old Senshinkan gang, so you more or less know what to expect: Mizuki is still a goofball, Ms. Urusaiwane still makes funny faces (including some new ones!), best girl Akira is still precious and adorable, and so on. And Masada still seems to enjoy flipping eroge gender stereotypes on their head: back in Hachimyoujin, it was the girls who peeked on the guys during the bath scene, and here, it’s Yoshiya that freaks the fuck out when Shizuno does… well, Shizuno things. You’ll see.

Speaking of Shizuno, I’m not sure how others feel, but I absolutely adored her character. Her weird antics, her somewhat tomboyish voice and hilarious interactions with Yoshiya were honestly some of the comedic highlights of the VN, and the only way they could have made her cuter was to let her speak in Hiroshima-ben all the time, lol. She feels almost like a representation of the audience; a fan who loves Yoshiya and his friends with all her heart, and is absolutely jubilant about being around the descendants of her idols. Either way, she’s definitely my favorite newcomer in the game by far, which is good, because she’s pretty much the main heroine this time around, to the point where she ends up hogging the spotlight quite a bit. That’s not the say the old guard have no presence at all, but still. And seeing how Shizuno is cute af, I really didn’t mind her being at the center of the VN.

The other major character added to the roster is Higoromo Nanten, the girl that everyone in the fandom seems to love except for me, lol. Explaining her would require going into some early spoiler territory so I won’t do that here, but needless to say, she basically functions as one of the prominent villains in Bansenjin. Your enjoyment of her and various aspects of the main plot hinge quite heavily on how much you’re able to roll with the whole Nobuaki / Nanten romance, and I have to say, I wasn’t the biggest fan. As a result, I wasn’t quite as invested in the story as I was back in Hachimyoujin. And while Bansenjin also has its own twist of sorts, it didn’t quite hit as hard as the first game’s big reveal. My enjoyment of the VN came primarily from seeing Shizuno’s personal growth/development, as well as some of the interesting meta themes explored by the story, such as how we, as readers, treat and interact with works of fiction.

Another flaw I have to bring up is that Bansenjin takes a bit too long to get to the point. Certain parts felt like they were mostly retreading old ground and reiterating some of the stuff we’ve already seen in Hachimyoujin, and it takes a while for the actual plot of the VN (like, the legit new stuff) to finally come to the surface. The major villain and his backstory aren’t even revealed until the final stretch – said villain is also nowhere near as awesome as Amakasu was in the first game, so that’s a bit of a bummer. His main ideology, on the other hand, is pretty interesting, and ties into some of the cooler themes of the story.

So Bansenjin was fine, but I still ultimately prefer the first game, mostly due to the complaints I outlined above. Hachimyoujin just overall felt like a somewhat more solid experience to me. On the other hand, Bansenjin’s meta aspects were neat, Shizuno was an awesome main heroine, and I got to see Akira in a maid outfit, so maybe it all balances out? Anyway, if you enjoyed the first Senshinkan and want to spend some more time with its main cast while falling in love with the newcomers, Bansenjin is worth checking out. Hell, I’d say it’s worth checking out for Shizuno alone, but that’s just me. Oh, and don’t forget to unlock everything, there’s a bonus scene you really don’t want to miss.

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