Here we investigate the overlooked, the underappreciated, the Shameworthy titles of the world. Jump in to an existing mission thread and give your thoughts, or start your own to kick off a discussion.
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The Fruit of Grisaia

by Angry Jedi » Thu Sep 03, 2015 10:21 am

This is, apparently, the Number One Visual Novel of All Time, as voted by /r/visualnovels. It's a well-respected VN in its own right, and the first installment of a trilogy, the latter two episodes of which are currently being localised by the increasingly prolific Sekai Project.

Here's a synopsis; mild spoilers herein.

Spoiler: show
At its core, Grisaia is not much different than the other route-oriented visual novels on this list. However, its dialogue, writing, and execution are what make this visual novel much more popular than the rest.

The story starts with Yuuji Kazami, a stoic and serious enigma, who is joining a school called Mihama Academy that only has 5 other (female) students enrolled. A school with only 6 students may sounds weird but this school houses some very eccentric and strange students that wouldn't fit very well in a "normal" school. One character isn't very smart, another has an incredible lack of common sense. The third practices a fake personality, and the last two take turns roleplaying a big sister and threatening people with a box cutter.

Grisaia probably has the longest common route out of all the visual novels on this list. However, there is a lot of excellent comedy throughout the common route, where many of the girls' eccentric traits and Yuuji's sarcasm provide a lot of hilarious jokes. The common route also serves as a way of Yuuji fitting in with the main girls, finding more about everyone's personalities and the 6 main characters getting closer.

Once you get onto a heroine's route, the tone of the story gets a lot more serious. You start to see the deeper meaning in why the heroine's personality turned out the way they did. There are quite a number of plot twists in each route, and while there are very few choices throughout the VN, the ones you get are important in earning the best end.

Grisaia no Kajitsu has two sequel VNs ("Grisaia no Meikyuu" and "Grisaia no Rakuen") which are currently in the process of being translated. In addition, there is an anime that covers some content of the VN but it is generally recommended to read the Grisaia visual novel over watching the anime.

If seeing the comedic and serious sides to more unique heroines and having a sarcastic but very proactive protagonist is something you are interested in, then Grisaia no Kajitsu is likely to become one of your favorites.


Grab it on Steam (all-ages version)
Grab it from Denpasoft (18+ version)
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Re: The Fruit of Grisaia

by Angry Jedi » Thu Sep 03, 2015 9:49 pm

Going in pretty blind to this VN and as such don't really know where it's going yet. So far it appears to be very well-written, humorous and touching, with some great characters and an enjoyably self-aware tone about it.

Here's a few screenshots from the early hours to whet your appetite.

2015-09-03_00001.jpg


2015-09-03_00002.jpg


Rude!

Spoiler: show
2015-09-03_00004.jpg


So far Amane is the front-runner for Best Girl (and not just because she was the first to show her boobs) but I will reserve judgement until I know more about each of the heroines!
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Re: The Fruit of Grisaia

by Beige » Fri Sep 04, 2015 2:56 pm

Pete, I'm going to be starting up a broader thread for the whole "top 10 visual novels" mission initiative. Do you think we should shuffle discussion over there?
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Re: The Fruit of Grisaia

by Angry Jedi » Fri Sep 04, 2015 10:11 pm

Nah, let's keep this as its own separate thing. It's a recent release (well, the English version is; the original Japanese version is from 2011, I think), so still reasonably prominent; many of the other things on the VN list are older. People should check Grisaia out for sure.

Speaking of which, some impressions after a couple of days' reading off and on, reposted from my blog:

Spoiler: show
A while back, increasingly prolific visual novel localisation company Sekai Project — whose first commercially released title was the JAST USA-published School Days HQ, one of my favourite visual novels of all time — ran a Kickstarter campaign for the localisation of a series of Japanese visual novels collectively called Grisaia.

I didn’t know anything about these save for the fact that they were particularly well-regarded for one reason or another so, wanting to support Sekai Project’s efforts — their localisations are generally really solid efforts — as well as wanting to continue supporting the localisation of visual novels in general, I put my money where my mouth was and backed the Grisaia campaign to the tune of $120 — my largest pledge to a Kickstarter to date. Said contribution would net me a boxed set of all three Grisaia visual novels as they were released, and I later supplemented my original pledge with an additional $40 to support the digital release of the 18+ versions via Denpasoft, since Sekai Project’s original plan was only to port the Vita versions of the trilogy, which had all erotic content excised in order to comply with Sony’s platform requirements.

The Fruit of Grisaia, the first installment in the trilogy, came out a little while back, but I held off checking it out because I was waiting for the 18+ version for a more “authentic” and true to the original experience. (Also, boobs.) A short while ago, I received an email notification that the 18+ version was now available, so I decided that now would be a good time to finally check it out, particularly as I’d just finished up Hyperdevotion Noire and had a bit of a hankering for a pure visual novel, the last one of which I’d played was the PC version of Steins;Gate, and that was some time ago now.

Image

I’m a few hours into The Fruit of Grisaia so far, still in the “common” route (at least, I assume so; I haven’t made any choices as yet) but I am already enjoying it a great deal. It’s a delightfully well-written (and well-localised) tale so far, with just enough intrigue about it to keep you reading in order to try and find out what happens next. I’m particularly excited to get into the branching routes in the latter half of the game, since I understand each of these are really interesting and go in some surprising and exciting directions.

In the opening of The Fruit of Grisaia, we’re introduced to the protagonist Yuuji. Yuuji is a young adult of indeterminate age — we can assume he’s around 18 or so, since he’s still of school age — who, when we first meet him, has walked about 150km to start his new life at his new school. Unfortunately, things don’t quite go according to plan, since his bedraggled figure seemingly wandering around aimlessly attracts the attention of the police, who take him in for interrogation even despite him skilfully taking down a purse-snatcher during his disagreement with the officer in question.

This minor inconvenience eventually dealt with — seemingly through someone pulling strings behind the scenes — Yuuji starts his new school life at what turns out to be a very strange educational establishment indeed. Yuuji is one of just six students at the academy, none of whom appear to be quite “normal”, for want of a better description. Yuuji, meanwhile, is the first to admit that he isn’t exactly normal, either, having suffered the loss of his entire family at an early age, lived on the streets and worked under the tutelage of an apparently Amazonian woman he refers to only as his “former Master” until she, too, died, leaving him as an employee of a mysterious organisation whose details have not yet been revealed to me so far as I’ve read.

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Yuuji’s five classmates — all of whom are female, as these things tend to go — are a peculiar bunch. Amane is the most seemingly “normal” of the bunch, with a warm, friendly — if somewhat sexually aggressive — “older sister”-type personality that means you can’t help but like her; Yuuji feels a connection — or perhaps a morbid fascination — with her immediately as her rather tall stature can’t help but remind him of his mysterious “Master”.

Makina is the resident loli of the group, with what initially appears to be a distinctly childish attitude, as well as a habit of blurting things out in English instead of Japanese, a personality quirk that is attributed to her having spent lots of time in non-Japanese countries during her formative years. Makina claims not to be particularly bright, but it’s not long before she starts revealing that she’s oddly quick-witted and has a pretty acidic tongue at times.

Michiru, meanwhile, is a self-conscious tsundere, or at least she wants to be. Yuuji’s first encounter with her comes as she is rehearsing stereotypical tsundere lines, and she even congratulates herself on the successful delivery of a cliched zinger like “i-it’s not like I’m doing this for you or anything!” or its ilk. Yuuji takes great pains to point out to the reader that he’s not someone who likes to judge people on first impressions, but he finds the conclusion that Michiru is, in fact, a complete idiot inescapable after just a few days — though she does gradually start to reveal other sides to herself as time passes, particularly a caring, considerate side.

Sachi is a character Yuuji refers to as being “robotic” or “cyborg”-like, and this is because of her naturally demure nature and seeming inability to be particularly flustered by anything. She’s extremely loyal, but also has a tendency to take things very literally and follow the “orders” of others without question. I don’t quite know what her deal is yet, but I’m very interested to find out.

Image

Finally, Yumiko initially appears to be the stereotypical “class president” type — aloof and haughty — but quickly reveals herself to have somewhat more disturbing tendencies, most notably her habit of swinging around a box cutter willy-nilly when she feels threatened. Despite the risk of injury — she attacks Yuuji very aggressively and persistently at the outset of the story — everyone seems to just sort of accept this as “just part of who she is”, despite no-one seemingly knowing the circumstances behind what made her this way. I can see that there’s going to be some interesting revelations about her later.

What I’ve enjoyed the most about The Fruit of Grisaia so far is how much it sets things up and teases them, revealing little pieces of information over time. We know nothing about Yuuji at the outset of the story, but he drops in details to his narration and internal monologue piece by piece until we can start to figure out a few things for ourselves. This keeps things interesting and compelling, particularly when combined with the more intriguing aspects of the main heroines’ personalities. It’s clear that each of them have something if not outright traumatic in their pasts, then certainly something that affected them deeply; the reason for the school’s existence isn’t yet clear so far as I’ve read, but it seems that their shared bond of “something not being quite right” with each of them is going to be a key aspect of the overall story.

I’ve been very much enjoying The Fruit of Grisaia so far, then; I have no idea how far through the whole thing I am, but I’m looking forward to reading it from “cover to cover” as it were; each of the five heroines are intriguing in their own unique ways, and far from being a typical harem setup, each of the characters seems to go out of their way to subvert some of the more typical tropes found in this sort of story. In short, it’s already clear why this visual novel was voted the number one visual novel of all time by the folks over on Reddit’s /r/visualnovels subreddit a while back; I’m sure this deeply interesting creative work will continue to enthral me for quite some time yet.
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Re: The Fruit of Grisaia

by Angry Jedi » Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:00 am

Checking in after another few hours of reading this evening. Not a lot to add so far; I haven't made any choices as yet, but the story and characterisation has been utterly compelling. It dangles a whole bunch of mysteries in your face -- mostly surrounding the backgrounds of the protagonist and the heroines -- and gradually teases you with little tidbits of information as you go through, amid seemingly completely irrelevant episodes that serve no purpose other than to allow you to understand the various characters a little better.

One thing that visual novels in general do very well is depict interpersonal relationships -- not necessarily romantic or sexual, but friendships and adversarial relationships, too. Yuuji's friendship with Amane and Makina is really pleasantly comforting to bear witness to in these early chapters, for example, while his ribbing of Michiru, who is a complete idiot in an adorable way, is genuinely amusing.

The seemingly emotionless and literal Sachi and the cold, distant, possibly psychotic Yumiko remain the biggest mysteries so far, though the latter does soften towards Yuuji as time goes on, as their relationship develops to a point where they can at least have a conversation without Yumiko attacking him with a box-cutter.

Absolutely loving reading this so far. I can see why it's regarded as such a classic, and this is even before I get into the supposedly really interesting stuff in the branching routes.
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Re: The Fruit of Grisaia

by Angry Jedi » Thu Sep 10, 2015 11:35 am

Some more impressions after a few more hours of reading:

Spoiler: show
So far, I believe I’m still in the “common” route of Grisaia, since I’ve only made a single choice so far, and that didn’t come until after a considerable number of hours of reading. The lack of interaction hasn’t been a problem, though; the early hours of Grisaia are clearly intended as a means of helping you get to know the characters and the context in which they find themselves, and the distinctly leisurely pace at which the early hours of your typical visual novel such as Grisaia unfolds allows it to dangle some truly tantalising mysteries in front of you, mostly with regard to the backgrounds of the characters and what has actually brought them all together.

Even the basic concept of Grisaia is still a slight mystery to me at this juncture. Although the early hours have been relatively typical high school slice-of-life so far, there’s clearly something more going on. From the protagonist’s frequent references to his mysterious “job” and use of military terminology and tactics to the unpredictable, trope-subverting nature of all the heroines, nothing seems quite “right” in Grisaia’s world, and that’s what makes it so intriguing. The fact that the school which they all attend has no-one but them in it — making for a student body of just six people — is perhaps the biggest mystery: why are they all there? What has pulled them out of “normal” life? What is the school for?

Image

Amane initially appears to be the most “normal” of the cast. She likes to play the role of the older sister, and does so with great enthusiasm, particularly when it comes to protagonist Yuuji. Yuuji is initially resistant to her advances but eventually allows her to indulge a little for the sake of having a marginally quieter life, because even when she’s getting what she wants, Amane is forthright, frank, open and honest about everything — arguably to a fault.

She’s also seemingly very much at ease with herself as a woman, happily stripping off and getting changed in front of other people (including Yuuji) and wearing clothes that emphasise her curves. She’s also rather sexually aggressive towards Yuuji even as they’re first getting to know one another, often grabbing him and pressing herself against him, and on one memorable occasion, sneaking into his room while she thinks he’s out and inhaling his scent from his clothes and his bed; Yuuji catches her just before she starts masturbating.

I’m not quite sure what to make of Amane yet. I certainly like her a great deal, but I have a feeling that her forthrightness may, in fact, be compensating for something. Exactly what, I couldn’t say just yet, but I’m pretty convinced that there is more to Amane than meets the eye.

Image

Makina is brilliant. Initially presented as the dimwitted loli of the group, it takes a little time for Makina to take to Yuuji, but they eventually bond, much to the surprise of Amane, from whom Makina is otherwise almost inseparable. It transpires that Makina is far less stupid than she likes to make out, and that she may well be putting on an act for her own mysterious reasons.

This doesn’t mean that she’s entirely “normal”, though. Her impressive ability to take mental photographs of books she’s reading and instantly recall information from them — albeit only in black and white — reminds Yuuji of his deceased sister, who had a similar ability. Perhaps not coincidentally, Makina quickly starts calling Yuuji “Onii-chan”, despite his resistance; much like he softens towards Amane somewhat, so too does he eventually just let Makina continue along in her own bizarre little world.

Perhaps the most amusing and intriguing thing about Makina is the way she talks. Far from being stereotypically cute and shy, Makina is foul-mouthed and frequently comes out with things you’d expect a dirty old man to say. Amane occasionally admonishes her for this, but since she occasionally slips into her own Kansai region colloquialisms, she doesn’t really have a leg to stand on in this instance.

Again, I wouldn’t like to conjecture what brought Makina to Mihama Academy in the first place, but it’s clear that something traumatic happened in her past; so far, however, the conversation has always been steered away from it any time it looks like getting into dangerous territory.

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In contrast to Makina’s front of stupidity, Michiru actually does appear to be pretty dimwitted. Obsessed with the tsundere character trope to a fault, Michiru deliberately tries to act as stereotypical as possible, but in the process frequently breaks character in order to seek the approval of others — and, to a certain degree, herself — on how well she’s doing at playing the spoiled princess.

In keeping with the other characters, though, there’s seemingly a lot more to Michiru than meets the eye. As time progresses, whenever she is alone with Yuuji, she seems to want to open up to him somewhat. In some instances, she drops the tsundere act completely and attempts to have a serious conversation, though her inability to articulate herself in anything more than the most simple terms sometimes means she finds it challenging to get across quite what she wants to say.

Michiru is clearly struggling with depression — perhaps as a result of a condition or illness she has. Her adoption of the tsundere personality is a coping mechanism designed to hide any outward signs of her pain and suffering; by being deliberately aggressive and contrary about everything, she puts up a formidable barrier around the truth that lies in her heart, though, of course, I’m sure by the end of her own narrative route we’ll get to the bottom of exactly what is bothering her so much. She is the butt of a considerable number of jokes throughout the common route, but I have the distinct feeling she’s going to end up being one of the most sympathetic characters.

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Sachi (right) is something of an enigma. Sweet, innocent and largely emotionless to a fault, something in Sachi’s past has caused her to become someone who takes everything she hears absolutely literally. This means that a joke about how she should wear a maid costume all the time because of all the hard work she does for others means that she now wears a maid costume whenever she’s not in her school uniform; it means that someone requesting “the freshest milk possible” sees her catching a train out to the countryside to go and milk a cow.

Sachi’s initial impression is that she’s a thoroughly nice and considerate person, but there’s something else at work. Occasionally — particularly when she’s dealing with Michiru — some uncharacteristically hurtful, acidic comments will come out of her mouth. There’s evidently some bitterness festering beneath the surface, though for the most part, she simply refuses to talk about it and quickly puts her façade of being the perfect maid back up.

The other thing about Sachi is that her tendency to take things literally means that she has absolutely no sense of shame or proprietary whatsoever. When Yuuji jokes with her about the power a glimpse of lingerie has over men, she turns up to school the next day in nothing but lacy undies, stockings and suspenders. When she and Yuuji are cleaning the dormitory bathroom together, she falls over and gets her maid costume wet, then subsequently decides that the appropriate thing to do — after another joke from Yuuji — is to take it off, attach it to her mop (“to cover more ground”) and continue the rest of the cleaning job in her underwear. I anticipate that this aspect of her character in particular will cause more than a few awkward situations by the conclusion.

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Finally, Yumiko is the most obviously fucked up of the main cast. Initially refusing to even speak to Yuuji, instead preferring to first of all slap him when he approaches her, and subsequently attack him with a box cutter at every opportunity. The barriers around Yumiko’s heart are nigh-impenetrable, it seems, but Yuuji’s ability to shrug most awkward situations off — perhaps due to his own background, which he hints at regularly throughout the common route without explicitly explaining it — means that he takes her violence and anger in his stride, eventually managing to get through to her enough to be able to speak to her and subsequently have an honest conversation with her, even spending some time with her alone without her trying to attack him.

Yumiko’s basic character trope is that of the perpetually grumpy “student council president” type, but rather than being a blushing, awkward individual beneath the façade, it’s clear that her outward grumpiness is a sign of outright rage and bitterness bubbling beneath the surface. She is, so far as I’ve read at least, the biggest mystery among the main cast — both to me and to the rest of the cast, too. She keeps herself to herself, and no-one seems to know anything about her history. No-one even seems to know where she’s going or what she’s doing at the weekends when she sneaks out of the dormitory in the early hours of the morning carrying a tote bag full of “wooden objects”. I’m looking forward to finding out more about her.

That’s what I know so far, then. They’re an interesting bunch of characters, to be sure, and I’m really looking forward to each of their routes to discover exactly what makes them tick and what has brought them to the strange circumstances in which they find themselves. I sense it’s going to be a long road to find out, but up until this point, it’s been a compelling and intriguing ride with a ton of tantalisingly unanswered questions.

Number one visual novel of all time? I couldn’t say with confidence as yet. But it’s certainly one of the most immediately compelling, well-written — and well-localised — ones I’ve read for quite some time, and if you have the slightest interest in the medium, I’d encourage you to support it.
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Re: The Fruit of Grisaia

by Calin Kim » Thu Sep 10, 2015 5:56 pm

Is there any way you could spoiler pictures of topless women for those of us who browse the forum at work?
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Re: The Fruit of Grisaia

by Angry Jedi » Thu Sep 10, 2015 7:30 pm

Tut tut, wasting company time like that... :)

(Done.)
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Re: The Fruit of Grisaia

by Calin Kim » Thu Sep 10, 2015 10:52 pm

I like to think that they're wasting my time... :)
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Re: The Fruit of Grisaia

by Angry Jedi » Tue Sep 15, 2015 7:56 pm

Finally reached the end of the common route in this. It's one of the longest common routes I've seen in a visual novel, but thankfully the game has plenty of conveniences in place that mean you don't need to re-read all of it if you want to see the other routes after clearing it once. And with five routes in total, that's a godsend. (Aside: all visual novels from now on need to add Grisaia's "Skip to previous/next decision point" functionality, or at the very least allow you to save while a decision point is on screen!)

2015-09-14_00005.jpg


I'm not sure before typing this up whether or not I'm going to get into spoiler territory, so I'll put it in spoiler tags just in case.

Spoiler: show
The common route of The Fruit of Grisaia is pretty much exclusively "slice of life" in that there's no real "action", save for one scene where protagonist Yuuji gets accosted by three thugs who have been hired to do him harm. Being some sort of as-yet unexplained badass (possibly military, paramilitary or Secret Service-equivalent), Yuuji fends them off without incident, but it's still a tense moment. For the remainder of the time, though, Grisaia's common route is concerned exclusively with Yuuji's adjustment to his life in the rather peculiar school that is Mihama Academy.

In many ways, Grisaia's common route feels more like a collection of short stories than a coherent narrative, though subsequent episodes do often refer to past incidents, and there's definite character development and growth for all of the main cast as you proceed through the chapters. Within each of the chapters, though -- which, side note, are clearly demarcated with a splash screen showing the time, date and location in which they unfold, a distinction from many other VNs with a Pratchett-style continuous narrative -- there's a definite arc and formula: Yuuji usually introduces the situation through some philosophical narration before the scene starts, then the scene itself plays out, then Yuuji wraps it all up neatly with some narration. It's a tidy structure that keeps things flowing nicely; none of the chapters so far have dragged on, and they've each had a clear theme that they explore, whether that's something serious like Sakaki's unwillingness to see her father, or something light-hearted like Makina and Sachi pulling Yuuji into a game of "Xtreme Typo".

2015-09-10_00001.jpg


What's been most interesting to me so far is how atypical the characters are. Yuuji, as the protagonist, is a strongly defined character -- which is quite rare for many VNs, which tend to take the "protagonist as self-insert" approach, hence usually leaving them unvoiced -- and each of the other cast members mostly subvert the tropes you're clearly supposed to think of when you first meet them.

Of the heroines, Amane initially appears to be an "older sister" type and desperately wants to fit into that role for Yuuji, but her Kansai coarseness and impatience regularly comes to the fore and prevents her from being truly demure; Makina, meanwhile, having grown up without strong family connections -- her father died and her mother, she claims, "hates her" -- tends to absorb mannerisms from the people she spends most time with, hence her adoption of many of Amane's less ladylike traits, only emphasised to such a degree that the dirty old man words that spew forth from Makina's frail loli figure make for a hilarious juxtaposition. Sachi is the demure, "perfect maid", but judging by the acerbic remarks she occasionally makes, appears to be harbouring some degree of bitterness beneath the surface. Michiru subverts the tsundere trope by being fully aware of what she's doing and even commenting on it.

2015-09-10_00017.jpg


The most "stereotypical" personality-wise appears to be Sakaki, who fulfils the kuudere trope mostly to the letter, though so far she has only displayed the "dere" side of this when she thinks she's completely in private; Yuuji, however, catches her in the act while he's delivering a package to her. The chapter in which this occurs also specifically lampshades the kuudere trope as the other cast members decide to try and deliberately draw out her "dere" side, which none of them have ever seen and thus are starting to doubt actually exists.

Towards the end of the common route, there's a series of choices in relatively quick (for a VN) succession that lead off onto the individual girls' routes. Each of these scenes offers a brief teaser of what the route may end up exploring, and each and every one of them is very much intriguing. I'm going through the first few in reverse chronological order as to when you encounter the appropriate decision point -- Yumiko, then Michiru, then Sachi -- then I'm going for Makina, which I understand is one of the most interesting routes, and finally ending with Amane, which likewise is apparently very important to the overall plot of the series. Also Amane is best girl, so of course I'm saving her for last.
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