Note: Review Code provided by Fruitbat Factory.
On the outside this looks to be a fun Girls Club (Cute Girls Doing Cute Things) story but as veterans of this Slice of Life subgenre will tell you, the best Girls Club stories are ones where there is more to it than watching cute girls doing whatever they feel like doing. The question is whether the hidden layers are enough to warrant everyone’s attention. Let us find out as we take a look at Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time developed by Studio Beast and published by Fruitbat Factory.
WARNING! Game contains some ecchi CGs/moments, dirty language and subject matter not suitable for people under the age of 13 (or maybe 17). If this were an anime it would be categorized as a PG-13 series. Viewer discretion is advised.
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Kinetic Novel, Science-Fiction.
Themes: Economy, Philosophy, References, Yuri
Length: 10-15 hours, give or take
Under the P3 law enacted under the Global People’s Federation, citizens are ranked according to the Authorization Seals issued by the world government.
As spring arrives, the manga lover Marisugawa Arue, set back by a long-lasting illness, finds herself having to live her life as a “chuusotsu” – a person with no education beyond middle school.
The chuusotsu are not in possession of any Seals, and are considered to be failures at life. As such, their Authorized Power level is only 5 – young Arue’s future is already looking mighty bleak.
“How will I be able to accomplish my goals now…”
In order to break free of her grim situation, and reach her true goal in life, Arue applies for a government relief program where she will…
Share a room with other chuusotsu!?
Her two roommates are overwhelmingly unique: a taciturn girl in a souvenir jacket and a crazy otaku girl.
And then the three girls are given group challenges to clear.
“What makes a wonderful life?”
Synchronize your minds and philosophize on this proposition.
“There’s no way incompetents like us can do philosophy…”
Their time is limited, and failure means that they will immediately get kicked out of the apartment!
Will Arue manage to successfully complete the philosophical challenges and achieve a happy, steady-going life…!?
This is a philosophical story of how the three girls considered lame ducks by the society spend their unusual youth in a world where Authorization Seals decide the lives of all people.
This being a kinetic novel there is little gameplay mechanics other than “click to proceed”. The extra addition is the terminology or TIPS as it is referred to in this story where “plreaders” (play-read)
The best way I can describe Chuusotsu! to start things off is a hilarious yet complex comedy. On the surface it looks like a lighthearted comedy with cute (and some sexy) moments and scenes that will have the “plreader” (play-read) laughing (or at least chuckling). On the other hand it is also a deep study on the economy, society, social ethics and of course inter-intrapersonal relationships.
Let us go over both aspects of the story. First of all the humor which should be the easiest to explain. It is a combination of moe humor and media references (mostly anime like Attack on Titan or Tyranny in this game’s case, including its poster girl Mikasa). The other humor is tied to the characters’ personalities which we will get to later on. The third is personally the most interesting of the three, the swearing. There are times the girls will throw swear words…and not in Japanese. Expect some F bombs alongside other naughty phrases. Unlike Kizuna Ai who is not fully aware of the significance of the dirty words the cast in Chuusotsu! know full well how and when to use them.
Next up is the economic portion of the story. See, the setting is a somewhat futuristic world where people’s lives are mostly dictated by the results of written exams. However, this being the government there are of course other factors besides intelligence that determine a person’s life role. This law and the rules accompanying were passed in order to lower the crime rate. Put simply whatever role/occupation the person gets is the role they are set to live by for the rest of their lives. For example, the person could be as smart as a rocket scientist but life got in the way of being assigned an occupation worthy of the person’s talents. Basically a #ForTheGreaterGood or #DealWithIt philosophy/system. As the plot summary indicates society plays a large role in one of our heroines’ personal struggles.
Speaking of personal struggles that brings us to the third aspect of the story, our heroines’ daily lives trying to balance fun and seriousness. See, as the plot summary indicated our lead trio are “Chuusotsu!” which are considered lower than the lower class. For some Chuusotsu! there are ways to survive despite the unfair circumstances but for others it might as well be poverty despite the government granting Chuusotsu! a small bit of compensation despite it possibly being less than pension funds. The girls, specifically Arue, struggle between balancing the assignment of answering the philosophical question of “What makes a wonderful life?” and wanting to have fun because apparently that is something of a curse for Chuusotsu! During their time at the apartments our ragtag trio run into several characters both of “invisible” (people who are there but have no character image) and side-character variety. These invisible characters’ sole purpose is to affect our heroines’ lives during their interactions whereas the side-characters have more to do. We will get to them in a bit.
Before we get to the character descriptions let us go briefly go over the presentation. As the above CG shows it is a colorful game with the characters looking bright and crisp and the backgrounds being nice. The most interesting of which being the…let us call it “adult district”. There are some references and it even being similar to an actual Japanese “adult district”. The soundtrack, while limited, has some nice tunes. The OP is neat. Personal favorite tunes are the “trouble” track and “Arara’s theme”.
Next up are the characters. Let us go over them from the character who gets the least time for development to the most:
First of all is funny enough my favorite character in the game, Arara. She is a pink haired Gothic lolita and veteran Girls Club and idol anime fans will know exactly what that means. She is a Chuuni (Chuunibyou). What does this mean? It refers to characters who act all dark and edgy, addressing themselves as beings with superpowers and/or having contact with the underworld/Netherworld. It also means she has a haughty personality seeing herself as superior to most people and more knowledgeable. However, as fans of Chuuni characters know despite people who meet them thinking they are delusional psychopaths at first glance Chuuni are not like that at all. Arara is no different.Arara gets the least direct character development screen time in the sense that there are bits and pieces of her past but it is not fully explored. By the end of the story “plreaders” are left asking more questions about who Arara is. The character development she does get is tied to Arue…which frequent visitors of this blog can guess what that means…
Other examples of Chuuni characters include Rikka (Chuunibyou anime), Ranko (Idolm@ster) and Yohane (Aqours).
The next girl is Koiro. Her first defining trait is her sexy body. The others being her pure heart and naivete. She is also an airhead and fully aware of it. She also holds a small secret that is quickly revealed upon her introduction. Without spoiling anything there is a reason she wears a tough girl jacket. Koiro gets more time to reveal tidbits about her past than Arara giving “plreaders” more of an idea who she used to be before becoming a Chuusotsu!. Minor spoiler. The one mystery that remains unsolved is the identity of a certain someone she greatly admires.
Then there is the girl who gets the most development of all, Arue. On the surface Arue is a hardworking girl who tries very hard to stay focused on the task at hand and is only brought down by the Chuusotsu! “curse” of being weak to fun activities. Expect Arue to scold Arara a lot. On the inside however, she has A LOT of problems stemming from her family and past. Without spoiling anything let me put it this way…The answers to the questions that tortured Arue for a very long time are quite simple to “plreaders”, or at the very least can get an idea of what will hopefully happen to Arue as the story progresses. Here is the thing…people will need to understand where Arue came from before applying for the apartments, the environment she grew up, her family’s social status, her self-esteem, what she is working so hard to try and overcome. Expect Arue to struggle…
…of struggling to build up her confidence.
I freely to having been annoyed by Arue at times. Not because of her character archetype or how she scolds her roommates at time, but because I understand all too well what she is going through. While my past was not as difficult as hers, I have been in a few similar situations to her back in my school years. Sometimes it was not pretty. Basically someone who can understand what Arue goes through in the story will have a less difficult…or perhaps very difficult time due to sympathy or seeing themselves in Arue, time cheering her on hoping she will succeed or get upset when she messes up.
Lastly we have what many here have been waiting for, the Yuri. First of all the above side-couple of Yug and Froit are the main source of Yuri goodness. They show up a couple of times entrancing our heroines and “plreaders” with their relationship. Believe me when I say “plreaders” of the Yuri Nation are recommended to pay SPECIAL ATTENTION whenever they appear…special attention. Another source of Yuri I already alluded to earlier in the review and the third is spread throughout the story. What I mean is that the topic of lesbianism is brought up during several conversations. Basically the Yuri is present in a varied capacity. Bringing up my Yuri Anime List to help further explain this, think of Chuusotsu!’s Yuri as a Grade 3, meaning it is not super important but is present and gets recognition to be worth highlighting whenever it is present.
Overall Chuusotsu! was a welcome surprise. It is as humorous as it complex delving into topics that seem simple on the outside but have great depth. The pacing of the story is similar to that of many rounded visual novels in that it starts simple but as it progresses and more of its layers are peeled away something perplexing is slowly unraveled. The game features some scenarios and topics not suitable for the general audience. It is a title that will make readers smile just as much as it will have some of them reflecting on what they had experienced. As far as being the first entry in a planned series I would say it is off to a really good start.
PS: Remember when I talked about side-characters? There is one whose story is one of the biggest mysteries in the game -desu yo? Truly someone whose life is a complicated puzzle -desu yo?
PPS: There is one MAJOR plot element I left out of the story on purpose. Let us just say this element changes the whole landscape of the story. Like our heroines there are many interesting secrets to be uncovered as the story progresses.