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Kitto Sumiwataru Asairo Yori Mo Review

Supposedly this is Shumon Yuu's masterpiece. We begin with a typical donkan protag reuniting with his osananajimis at an elite high school for budding artists sequestered away in some picturesque mountains with nice background music.

And for chapter 1 that's all we ever get. The slice of life is consistently dull and cliche, the comedy falls flat most of the time, and all the things that seem potentially interesting at first (eg, actual plot threads) stubbornly refuse to go anywhere. Pretty much everyone seems to agree this chapter is a total dud.

Then there's chapter 2―the lion's share of the VN. Sadly, a huge chunk of it is just the same mediocre slice of life and comedy from chapter 1 all over again. Fortunately, there's also a series of flashbacks that tell various backstories which are actually quite engaging and detailed, sometimes even moving. Then there's the main story, which had an irritating habit of using a very arbitrary/forced plot twist or utterly nonsensical character decision every time I was on the verge of liking it. Overall the chapter feels like a big waste of potential.

The good news is chapters 3 and 4 lack almost all of those problems. They have a coherent, focused narrative with legitimate momentum that builds to a surprisingly satisfying finale, especially considering the mess they had to work with. Since this is the shortest part of the VN by a big margin (chapter 4 is basically an epilogue), it's hard to say it really "makes up" for chapters 1 and 2, but at least it partially redeems them.

Score: 7/10

Polarization: Mild (-1.5)

Your tolerance for mediocre slice-of-life/comedy/school life/etc is going to be a big factor, as well as your ability to soldier through the early boring parts of a VN to get to the good stuff later on.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear, and I think I got all the bad ends.

P.S.: For the record, having the other heroines constantly mock protag for being the most donkan character in the history of anything does not make his idiocy any less infuriating.

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  1. I’m going to try to offer a balanced counter opinion here since I know there are several “prominent” VN players besides me who really, really love this game.

    Let me start with saying that the second chapter of Asairo is the most emotionally impacting portion I’ve ever read in any eroge, beating out even Jabberwocky II in SubaHibi and the ending of Cross+Channel. In general, I feel that the second chapter is the meat of the game – something Shumon himself somewhat admits to with his statement that the rest of the story from then on is 蛇足 (though this is itself a major reference to Meguri, Hitohira in which he says the same thing about its final chapter).

    I also highly disagree about there being any boring parts; Shumon’s writing is beautifully vivid and though he can err on the side of purple prose it is anything but uninteresting to read. On top of that, his overly long, purposely unfunny jokes (including some outright shaggy dog stories) are really unique humor for eroge and the level of knowledge about the Japanese language and other various esoteric topics (especially those pertaining to Japanese history and mythology) he demonstrates never fails to keep his writing engaging, across all of his works. His dialogue in general honestly tends to be pretty funny, too, with the various quirks and overreactions his characters always manage to showcase. Not to mention all of the intricate characterization in pretty much every scene; the entire cast is constantly evolving.

    Moreover, I personally find the intricacy with which he works the sheer beauty of the Japanese language and its components into his stories themselves to be breathtaking. And this is one of the places where I can see opinions differing – maybe someone not quite as enthused with the language itself wouldn’t find his usage of the character 優 in Asairo quite so artistically stunning, but I could not help but be affected by it.

    I can’t really say anything but that I guess Shumon as a writer just didn’t click with Ixrec, just as he doesn’t really click with a lot of Japanese fans either. He has a very particular storytelling style, with characterization relying heavily on notions of devotion and selflessness that may simply be too romantic for a lot of people to accept. If I had to give a reason why I personally rate Asairo 99 instead of 100, it’d be that the central concept of a grand tapestry of “kindness” that it focuses on is simply too beautiful to be relevant to the real world, and that’s why I can’t really put it on par with the three games I’ve given perfect scores to. On a more general level, his storytelling revolves around “concepts” and their application – be they Norse mythology, historical vignettes, the radical composition of kanji, or Japanese architecture as it pertains to shrines – and if you’re unable to get into his groove in this regard you’re probably not going to get a lot out of his writing, even if he does tend to have intricate plots and settings as well.

    Anyway, Asairo, and Shumon’s works in general, are really not going to work for people who can’t operate on the same wavelength as him in regards to the cultural, historical, and linguistic elements he weaves into his plots (Anemoi, his light novel, for instance, has a section that is nothing but pages of discussion about the relationship between Shintou gods and humans – Meguri, Hitohira is similar). On top of that, his characterization is at its best when it is centered around characters who are deeply, deeply devoted to one another, and if you’re looking for a more “realistic” sort of romance/relationship you probably won’t find it in his works. If you’re one of the lucky ones (is that pretentious enough?) who “gets” Shumon, though, you’ll probably instantly fall in love with him. It’s fine to have reviews like this as long as we make it clear that he’s simply not for everyone and his writing itself is far from bad.

  2. I couldn’t care less about your opinion of Asairo but the polarization rating just piss me off.
    Isn’t that simple ignoring the many people who loved it? And yes people did like it believe it or not

  3. No. It is unthinkable that anybody could rate it above an 8.5

  4. Fuck off Moogy. If you want to write a review write it on your own blog.

  5. There’s something I’ve noticed in a lot of Ixrec’s reviews. To put it blunt, they don’t discuss much of anything. Here we get little more than a cursory overview of the flow of the game, filled to the brim with unexplored judgments.
    In particular, he seems to always turn a blind eye to, excuse me for my words, the beauty in a story. I feel that most works worth mention are written because the writer has this feeling or idea that they want to pursue. A proper review should, if not touch upon this feeling or idea, at least be aware. Of course I’ve never really written a visual novel review myself, so you’re free to take my words with a grain of salt.
    Asairo is a game you absolutely cannot talk about without at least taking a glance in that direction. Its allure cannot be explained through a single-minded study of the word “plot,” and it really demands that the reader have some investment in what it’s trying to do with the characters.
    For example, let’s take Sasamaru, our protagonist who possesses the one trait the internet loves to make fun of most: he’s donkan. But if you play the game you get to see that not being too keen on praise directed to him is a huge part of his character, and that he’s not just like that because they wanted to do silly antics. Sasamaru is to this day one of my favorite protagonists because of how much he grows throughout the course of the game (and admittedly because I sympathize strongly with his views on kindness).
    And what in the world is “Pretty much everyone seems to agree this chapter is a total dud” supposed to even mean? Asairo is a really polarizing game and this is pretty apparent upon taking a look at what people who actually talk about how they feel about games have to say. Moreover the game has a pretty high success rate with the English-speaking players I know, and the visual novel community is a pretty small place. A reviewer should really take the effort to not make objectively incorrect statements.
    To sum up my point, I’m pretty confused as to why Ixrec keeps spitting out these reviews that, regardless of if they say something good or bad about the game, regardless of whether or not I agree with what he said about the game, don’t really explore anything. I’m all for hearing what people have to say about games I’ve played; this is a pretty damn obscure hobby, and it’s honestly amazing that there are even people to talk to about these games in English, but what I see here is not someone’s thoughts on a story, or even any sort of thought. I just see the result of someone going through a checklist almost out of obligation.

  6. Hopefully, Takehaya’s writing will be more to your taste.

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