This kinetic visual novel from Studio Beast and Fruitbat Factory features a trio of unemployed teenage girls Arue Marisugawa, Koiro Hachisuka and Arara Fujisaki with Arue as the protagonist in this episode.
Arue, Koiro and Arara were ineligible to wear any authorization seal which renders them unable to hold any permanent stable employment and hence became Chuusotsu. Arue plans to take a re-evaluation exam and become a government official after missing a crucial exam during middle school from being hospitalized. To be able to survive in a foreign city on a stipend without having to work, Arue has to participate in an experimental study where she has to stay in Tabula Rasa apartments with Koiro and Arara, achieve sufficient synchronicity among themselves, and give an answer to the philosophy of life.
They would get to know Kokoro, a small girl as their next door neighbour in the same apartment unit, their advisor Holo who is a hologram that lives inside a machine in their living room, and also pass by two students Froit and Yung from a prestigious school Tohoto High several times as additional supporting characters.
After spending around 10 hours to read and listen through this kinetic visual novel, and obtain the extra side story to get all achievements, I decided to give this game a score of 9/10 based on the following factors:
Plot and character backgrounds
The plot is written as a dramedy with supernatural elements in a futuristic dystopian Japanese setting. There is plenty of humour in this visual novel beginning with Arue's lack of confidence in herself and preference to run away than to face her problems head-on. The humour continues with her coming to terms with the reality of her situation, her activities with Koiro, Arara, as well as the people around them as they get used to each other as well as multiple spoofs on various famous brands.
By featuring supernatural elements in the story, it helps to keep the visual novel interesting throughout, despite being a kinetic visual novel where as the story progresses, Arue, Koiro and Arara will discover some things are not quite the same. Their friendship with each other will be tested and Arue will gradually begin to question her goals in life.
This episode mainly focuses on Arue, her personality and background with less emphasis on Koiro and Arara which may be planned to be revealed more in subsequent episodes in future. There is sufficient variety among the three main characters. Arue starts off as a very shy and insecure girl who has difficulty in understanding and learning many things in written form, as well as in getting along with other people yet she will reveal herself to be very passionate in drawing manga. Koiro is a stoic and reserved girl who does her best to help Arue and Arara throughout and mediate things between them while going on neighbourhood watch patrols at night with her strong martial prowess. Arara appears as a nutcase by insisting on the world being controlled by the World Dominator who is able to control the populace through a Poison Pulse.
Artwork, backgrounds and CGs
The background art, character sprites, CGs, opening and ending themes, game and soundtrack album cover, Steam emoticons, badges and profile backgrounds are cute, attractive, bright and colourful. There are a decent number of CGs showing small movements and facial expressions. The background scenes have sufficient variety where some places will show the place during the morning, afternoon and night. There are also cute chibi sprites of the main characters at the beginning of each proposition (chapter) in the game, at the game CG gallery and in the soundtrack album lyric book. Both the opening theme and ending theme will show a moving slideshow of the CGs featured in the game, with the opening theme introducing the cast of characters.
Opening theme on YouTube by Fruitbat Factory
The ending theme deserves a special mention for being able to list the usual acknowledgements in the end credits as well as a scripted visual novel segment that is voiced and played out at a fixed speed and cannot be skipped or fast-forwarded to serve as a plot hook and sneak preview for the next episode of the series. This combination enables the ending theme to play and end right at the exact timing of the full duration of the theme song Philosophic Escape! over 4 minutes.
It would be good if the game would also consider adding more outfit variety among the character sprites, especially when the characters are wearing the antenna and satellite dish headgear which could possibly enhance the humour further.
Voice acting and background music
The voice acting in this game is very good by bringing out the character and humour in the story. Some of the voiced dialogue may sound cheesy or exaggerated as a comedy drama with parody and plenty of humour, yet this actually also helps to make the visual novel appealing for those looking for a great comedy.
The background music and theme song is the main highlight of this game with many happy sounding tunes (The Blue Sky and Me, In the Light of the Sunset City and That Thing and Idea at Ease) and comical tunes (Strong Sunshine, The Psycho is Coming, Meow Meow Paradise and It's Time to Think) as a light-hearted comedy visual novel with a few more serious tunes among the remaining ones. The theme song with vocals Philosophic Escape!, the piano and music box version Time After Time and instrumental version Adolescence! Tabula Rasa which are played in the opening and ending themes, near the end of the visual novel and at the title screen respectively all deserve a special mention for making this kinetic visual novel special and memorable such that I look forward to the next episode and would not mind if subsequent episodes would feature an encore or remixed versions of the theme song.
Initial gameplay video on YouTube by SirrFuchs
The Blue Sky and Me at 7:10, 32:32 and 1:02:27
Strong Sunshine at 17:46 and 1:07:08
The Psycho is Coming at 37:14
In the Light of the Sunset City and that Thing at 46:37
Meow Meow Paradise at 1:01:13
Initial gameplay video with author narration and commentary on YouTube by KevGuueyAnime
Adolescence! Tabula Rasa at beginning of video
Overall, this game is recommended with Sound Correction DLC when at discount or bundle offer for fans of Fruitbat Factory who might be interested in collecting their titles as an excellent dramedy with supernatural, cute and great artwork, voice acting, soundtracks and easy achievements.