Demonbane is a VN that sounds amazing on paper (giant robots + H.P. Lovecraft) but sadly ends up being a largely mediocre and occasionally outright sleep-inducing experience. Which is a crying shame because not only am I a fan of Lovecraft’s horror stories but I do also enjoy me a hot-blooded, buttfuck-stupid-but-still-awesome testosterone carnival from time to time, so this sounded like something right up my alley. The problem, however, is that Demonbane’s Lovecraftian influences are surface-level at best, its plot is riddled with stale clichés and predictable elements, and its supposedly Boiling Hot Chuuni Action is colder than a penguin’s butthole. But at least it has a few nice characters, some serviceable comedy, and a total of one satisfying ending. Now, whether or not that’s enough to justify the massive time investment required to finish all three routes… is something I’ll come back to at the end of this review.
Spoilers: the answer will probably not surprise you.
Soukou Akki Muramasa, also known as Full Metal Daemon Muramasa, has a bit of a reputation in the eroge scene. Written by Narahara Ittetsu (Hanachirasu) and developed/published by Nitroplus, Muramasa is considered by many to be one of the greatest greats of its genre, a work that stands as a shining example of complex, meaningful storytelling through the medium of visual novels. It’s a game that tackles powerful themes and proceeds to explore them in breathtaking detail with the help of a large cast of multifaceted characters; Narahara’s tale is one of politics and warfare, justice and vengeance, sin and penitence – and it’s the kind of eye-opener everyone needs to experience at least once.
This is a work that excites me and ignites my passion in ways few other things can, and if I’m able to convey at least a tiny fraction of that excitement through this post, I will have succeeded in what I set out to do.
Remember how Makimoto wasn’t actually given her own route in the main VN despite the fact you could almost see the words “potential heroine candidate” painted on her forehead? Well, these two light novels fix that, and do so in a… decent enough way. Which is what Jingai has always been, I suppose: decent enough.
JP title: 塵骸魔京
I think it’s safe to say that Jingai Makyou is one of Nitroplus’ lesser known, or at least less often talked about, visual novels. I mean, there’s the fact that it doesn’t have an English translation, but even putting that aside, it’s not really the first game you’ll think about when you hear the word Nitroplus. And probably not the second or third, either. Most people will mention their Muramasas and their Sayas and maybe even their Demonbanes, but this one rarely ever seems to get much recognition other than a quick “oh yeah, that VN is a thing that exists I guess, now let’s get back to discussing why Saya taking it up the ass is central to the plot”. Anyway, Jingai’s apparent lack of presence in the general VN consciousness was actually one of the main reasons that pushed me to finally read it. That, and the artwork. And the soundtrack. And Ignis. Yeah.
JP title: 刃鳴散らす
To be perfectly honest, as someone whose favorite VN is Narahara Ittetsu’s Soukou Akki Muramasa, I really should’ve read this game sooner, considering it’s by the same author. Maybe a part of me dismissed it as potentially inferior, expecting it to even be disappointing on a certain level. Luckily, disappointing it was not — painfully short though it may be, Hanachirasu is Narahara’s work through and through; the same heart beating beneath a slightly different shell.
JP title: 凍京NECRO
Well, stopping Gekkou no Carnevale to play this instead was a fairly solid life decision in retrospect, let me tell you. Primarily because this VN didn’t make me want to kill myself. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily call Tokyo Necro a total masterpiece, mind you, but it was good-ish. Above average, at the very least. If you were expecting the next Nitro+ kamige after Muramasa, it’s not quite that, but it’s a game I can look back upon and say “well, y’know, that was fun, you guys. I don’t regret reading that. Not at all.”
JP title: 装甲悪鬼村正 贖罪編
Note: Shokuzai-hen is basically kind of a sequel to Muramasa that takes place after the true ending. In other words, if you haven’t played the original VN, don’t read this review unless you want to be spoiled on a bunch of things.
Well, this certainly came as a surprise, in more ways than one. Partly because holy shit, Muramasa is back, and also because this particular spinoff story on offer is actually… pretty good! I’d say I enjoyed it more than most of the other Muramasa-related works, including Janen-hen. The story itself (before you get *too* excited) wasn’t written by Narahara Ittetsu, Muramasa’s original author. No, it was actually penned by a fan for a contest held by Nitroplus a couple years back. And it won the grand prize (so that should tell you something about its quality, at least), which was that Nitro would actually turn it into a VN. Well, they sure took their sweet time with it, but hey, whatever. It’s here. It’s good. It’s free. All is forgiven.
JP title: 月光のカルネヴァーレ
You may have noticed that this post is not labeled in the way I usually label reviews, and there’s a reason for that. That’s because I haven’t finished all of the game (let me explain), and as such, I don’t really consider this a “proper” review in that sense. Sure, you may consequently dismiss this entire post with a wave of the hand, followed by a “but he didn’t finish the whole thing”. Yes, absolutely. I understand. However, after fully completing two of the game’s four heroine routes and dipping my toe in the third, I have decided that I simply cannot take this anymore.
JP title: 装甲悪鬼村正 妖甲秘聞 鋼
So as you may or may not have heard, there was a Muramasa spinoff-novel (I mean an actual novel, not a VN) written by Haganeya Jin and released all the way back in 2011 called Youkou Hibun Hagane. Well, four years later, they actually did a re-release of it, with the main difference being that the illustrations (by Namaniku ATK) are now in full-color. The novel’s story takes place during the infamous Nanbokuchou period (hundreds of years before the visual novel’s events) which was actually lightly touched upon in the VN, too: a lengthy and tremendously violent conflict that earned the Muramasa clan its infamy as a bloodline of Tsurugi that brought about calamity, bloodshed and insanity to the lands of Yamato. So now we get to read about how that actually happened! Fun times! (spoilers: lots of people die)
After having read through the other two Muramasa manga adaptations (that is, Eiyuu-hen and Minagoroshi), I couldn’t help but feel a strong urge to check out the third adaptation as well — Makai-hen, being the biggest and most ambitious of the bunch, spanning over five whole volumes, was particularly exciting to me as a Muramasa fan, seeing how its storyline takes place *after* the VN’s true end.
Speaking of which, there are some things I have to mention in advance. First, there will be spoilers for the VN, naturally. This manga is a sequel, so I fully expect you to be familiar with the VN’s storyline, as well as that of Re:Blade Arts (in the Janen-hen fandisc), considering Makai-hen is basically a story showing the events that eventually lead up to Re:Blade Arts. But more on that later. The other thing is that this post will include some major spoilers when I come to discussing certain elements of the manga’s plot — I’ll give a clear warning before the paragraphs in question.