同人誌: Thoughts on Doujinshi

You’ve probably heard the term at one point or another. It’s the word “doujinshi”, sometimes it can be shortened to doujin. What does this word exactly mean though? That’s where I come in to happily explain it to you. I had misconceptions about it myself, thinking that it was just a way for people to illustrate pornographic material of their favorite anime characters. With this post, I’m hoping to help clear some misconceptions and maybe get some people interested in it since I was someone who initially didn’t find any value in it until I gave it a try!

 

Origin

Wikitionary defines doujinshi as “A fan-produced work, especially a manga, anime, or video game”. While this is true, I find this definition to be simple and I think I can go deeper so let’s start with that first. The word 同人 (doujin): literally translates to “same person” (the 同 kanji is for “same” and the 人 kanji is for “person”), and refers to a group of people with shared interests. The 誌 (shi) kanji that follows is short for 雑誌 (zasshi), which translates to “magazine”. When you put them all together, we get 同人誌.

Meiroku Zasshi” is often refered to as the pioneer of doujinshi. This means the earliest display of doujinshi was during the Meiji Era of Japan. The first magazine to publish doujinshi was Garakunta Bunko in 1885. The popularity of doujinshi really started to pick up in the beginning of the Shōwa Period between World War I and World War II. During this time, doujinshi was being published and shared amongst people. However, it was hard to get them as they could only be made by hand. Their popularity declined during the postwar years, but rose again in the 1970s because of photocopy machines. Hooray for technological advancements! Then in the 1980s, there was a shift from doujinshi being mostly original stories to mostly parodies and using characters from current, popular shows to recreate setups and portray different romantic pairings. In the early 90s, doujinshi started being sold at comic book stores and there’s even a doujinshi fair held twice a year (I need to make sure when I go to Japan I go around the time Comiket/コミケット is held).

 

Doujin vs. Doujinshi

Some people may think doujin and doujinshi are synonymous, but they aren’t. A doujin/同人 is one person or a group of people who share the same hobby, this can refer to all people that have a certain hobby. Most of the time, doujin refers to people with an interest in anime and manga, or the “anime fandom”, but it isn’t exclusive to that. So what do these “same people” do together? Stuff. Stuff like drawing manga, writing stories, making music, etc. Now doujinshi/同人誌 is publication made by a doujin.

 

Doujinshi today

In this century, doujinshi is still prominent. As previously stated, Comiket is a doujinshi fair where doujinshi is sold and websites like Melon Books sell them too. Doujinshi was and still is popular in Japan, but this is not the case in western countries. Despite this, reading doujinshi is an enjoyable hobby for many people around the world. Are you like me and want to see what a romantic development between Nozomi and Nico would be like? There’s a doujinshi (actually an entire series) for that. Or maybe an exhilarating adventure featuring Goku, Ichigo and Luffy piques your interest? I don’t know if there is a doujinshi for that since I never looked into it, but considering how big this world is, there’s got to be at least one.

In the west, doujinshi is often used to refer only to pornographic doujinshi. So some people might think that all doujinshi is hentai or that all doujinshi is pornographic, but this isn’t true. In fact, a doujinshi that has pornographic material is called usui hon/薄い本, which translates to “thin book”. They are called that because they tend to have few pages so they are “thin”. On another note, a doujinshi doesn’t have to be a manga. There are doujinshi that are simply illustration books, or visual novels, or music CDs or other creative outlets.

Unlike manga, doujinshi are not serialized and never get reprinted, they’re self-made. This means once they’re sold out, it’s not likely you’ll be able to buy them so you better get ’em while they’re hot! Thanks to technological advancements (hooray again!) there are doujinshi that can be found on the internet. However, most doujinshi are still pretty much gone once the last one gets sold, so if you didn’t buy one when it was for sale, you’ll likely never get to read it.

Before I move on to the next part, I should note doujinshi can be categorized in two ways: Original (オリジナル) and Parody (パロディ)Original doujinshi are works which are not based off any existing manga, anime, video game, or someone else’s brainchild. They are completely original amateur works. A fella makes something and tries to get people interested, either for fun or profit. Cool beans. Parody doujinshi are publications which utilize pre-existing characters and/or settings. A different fella takes someone else’s characters, puts them in different situations and sells it. Also cool beans.

 

How is any of this legal?

Is probably one of the first questions you’d ask. After all, in America, if someone was to make money by making a comic book using Spider-Man, the legal team of The Avengers would assemble and use their litigious superpowers on them. “Spider-Man is the property of Marvel Comics!” they would say to the nefarious villain. “We won’t let you make profit off of the web-slinger with your crappy writing. That’s what we have Dan Slott for!”. This type of stuff happens all the time in this country. Works using copyrighted/pre-existing characters that obtain profit are squashed like those spiders from the Spider Stompin arcade game. However, in Japan it’s a different story. The official stance is doujinshi does break the law in Japan. That’s right, creating a derivative work of a pre-existing series without prior permission from the copyrights holder is against the law in Japan. Even if you’re in the US, creating a doujinshi based off of a Japanese work would still be considered illegal. So then, why is it allowed? The bottom line is Japanese authors purposefully choose not to prosecute doujinshi authors and there are a number of reasons for this…

1. Doujinshi is where new talent is discovered.
2. There are serialized mangaka who make doujinshi themselves.
3. It’s possible that doujinshi can actually stimulate and strengthen interest in a series, and ergo generate more profit for the official works.
4. Cultural reasons.
5. Doujinshi is considered niche in an already niche form of entertainment.

 

Doujinshi artists also generally don’t make a lot of money so it doesn’t make much sense to sue them. There are a few like あずまきよひこ (creator of Azumanga Daioh which is a beautiful anime you should watch if you haven’t) who end up becoming professionals, but they’re not the norm. Actually, most of them tend to lose money.

“The vast majority of creators will never get close to earning back even their printing costs, and they know it. When asked about what they liked the most about Comiket, “I can show my work to other people” was the top answer (41,5%), followed by “there’s a festival atmosphere” (21,3%) and “I can meet friends and acquaintances that I normally can’t meet” (13,1). Only 4,2% of circles chose “I can sell a lot of doujinshi there” as Comiket’s primary attraction”.

So it’s obvious most of the doujinshi artists out there do it because it brings them joy and happiness.

 

I can’t read Japanese!

Unlike your favorite manga, it’s not likely for a doujinshi to get translated or scanlated. Yes, there are some that do, but it’s not on the same level as manga. They seldom receive any attention, and are almost impossible to find or purchase. Since doujinshi’s origin is from a certain East Asian country, naturally, the original language will be in Japanese. Speaking from personal experience, most of the doujinshi I’ve read don’t have furigana/振り仮名 like manga does. Just a quick note for anyone who doesn’t know: furigana is the hiragana above kanji or at the right side of kanji written in a smaller font in an auxiliary line of text. It shows how a particular kanji character is supposed to be read. Doujinshi is one of the reasons I decided to buckle up and learn the remaining kanji I need to know. I can read most of the content of the ones I own, but there are times when I have to look up a certain kanji character to make sure I read it right.

 

My personal thoughts

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Yes, that’s my のぞにこ/NozoNico doujinshi collection. かわいい でしょう? I like to read them whilst playing “My Love Is Hot” by The Cool Notes. I actually have more doujinshi that doesn’t revolve around my OTP, but those are por… anyway, I have a new found appreciation for doujinshi. It’s a recent interest of mine and currently, the only ones I invest my time in are my two yuri ships from Love Live (NozoNico and りこまき/RikoMaki). I will admit there are definitely fantastic writers and illustrations in the doujinshi scene! Even I’m not immune to partaking in it since one of the characters in my story is Seilah (from the anime/manga series Fairy Tail) and it was originally supposed to be a comic book (which I still plan on doing btw). I think doujinshi can be a very good creative outlet for many people. Through this unique and weird medium, people have not only been able to express themselves, but have been able to get indispensable experience and feedback on their drawings and storytelling.

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Back on MyAnimeList

Myanimelist graph
Damn, only 36% of anime is good according to my ratings, lol.

Note: Here’s my post on why I stopped using the website in the first place.

 

So what does this mean? Well, for starters, it means the site is automatically more positive and credible now that I’m an active member again. It’s been almost 3 weeks since I signed up so I thought it would be alright to write a post on some things. I made a big deal on why I left so I’ll do the same on why I’m back.

If you don’t feel like reading my previous post, then I can tell you why I stopped using the website here… I stopped using MyAnimeList because I was sick and tired of the community/the forums teeming with insecure and purposefully negative users. While there were always users like that, it became more noticeable as time went on for a variety of reasons (users I like stopped logging in is one). It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I met a number of wonderful people on MyAnimeList, but there were other users who had a negative view on themselves, people in general and the world. It’s easy to get the impression, these users are as Sandy Cheeks would say, “Cold and mean and none too bright”. And that’s spot on. They liked to foist their insecurities and unhappiness on unwilling people. In general, too, they felt unsuccessful. As a result, they tended to be disagreeable.

Like I said so many times before, how you treat others is a direct extension of how you feel about yourself and when you try to make someone else feel bad or hurt their feelings unprovoked, it’s deplorable. Nothing says “I’M AN INSECURE PISSANT” more than attempting to put people down unprovoked.

Being away from the website and becoming more involved in the anime community was a pretty eye-opening experience. I realized the anime community was actually a swell one. My only real complaint is the fact a number of anime aficionados for some reason stink. I’m sorry, but I don’t know any other way to put it. When I go to the meetings at my university or cons in my state, there’s this omnipresent musky stench in the air. This doesn’t make them evil people by any means, but it does mean they need to shower more often, use deodorant or both. Anime fans I’ve met offline tend to be quite friendly. I don’t know if this is because everyone knows talking crap without a keyboard is dangerous or that’s how they naturally are. I tend to be sociable myself and I don’t have a cynical view toward others (I hate cynicism) so either way, I appreciate it.

The simplest reason I can give to why I’m back is because I don’t care anymore. While I met more jerks on MyAnimeList than my day to day dealings at my university (and I virtually leave my dorm on a daily basis and I have yet to meet anyone who’s disrespectful), I’m at a point where I will no longer let anything shake me (for lack of a better word). I’m glad I’m part of the community not only in anime, but in my university. Being in a positive community is essential. I won’t let any community or the world change me or make me an angry person. I’m too happy, optimistic and friendly to partake in the same foolishness as a negative person!

 

Anyway, to end this post, if you want to know what my profile is here you go. If you have a profile, let me know so I can add you since I have friend requests closed. I watched over 1k anime so I probably watched your favorite and I love talking about waifus so we can argue over them if you want to! You all have a good day now.

“I Love Emilia”

Emilia

If I listen very carefully, I can hear the Rem stans with their torches and pitchforks. The waifu wars will never cease, I know this is a pretty controversial opinion especially considering how rancorous the Rem fan base can be towards Emilia’s character. However, that’s exactly why I’m writing this post. Before I start, I’d like to note I don’t dislike Rem, but I’m an Emilia guy. Please don’t send your waifu after me, I can only run a mile and a half without stopping and I’m not all that confident with my reflexes.

Emilia is a character who tends to be overshadowed by Rem even though she’s the main heroine and the one the main character wants to be with. While this post can be seen as a Emilia > Rem post, it’s honestly more of why I like Emilia as a character. With that being said, here’s why.

 

Character design

Emilia and Pack

When I started watching Re: Zero, I thought Emilia had one of the best character designs I’ve seen in an anime in recent memory. Good character designs for me are the ones where I’m thinking “Mayne, I wish I could’ve thought of that first”. Being an illustrator and making created superstars in WWF/E games, I know how character design can be a tricky thing to master. It’s one of those tasks that seem very simple when I look at them from afar and then turn out to be quite difficult when I try my hand out at them for the first time. For me, her design is instantly recognizable at first glance. Even Subaru was enthralled by her looks when he first saw her. I would say her most unique feature would be her eyes, even though they’re what anyone would expect from anime, her irises and pupils are different from all the other characters. I want to say this is because she’s a half-elf, but I can’t say with 100% certainty.

 

Nice and nonjudgmental

Emilia-tan

I’m going to be honest, the whole Rem falling in love with Subaru didn’t work for me. It made little sense how Subaru went from her most despised person to her most cherished one. She killed the guy twice because he was supposedly part of the Witch’s Cult (despite having no evidence of this). In the first episode, Subaru gets his butt kicked by some hoodlums when then, Emilia comes in to save the day. Even though she had more important things to do, she decided to stop and help a total stranger. That makes a pretty good impression and it left an impact on Subaru who had just been summoned into a different world. Now based on what I said about Rem, try to imagine her doing that before her character did a 180. Emilia’s character has been more consistent, she’s always been slow to anger and quick to forgive and considering how annoying and obnoxious Subaru can get, she’s definitely the patient type as well.

 

This hoodie thingy

Hoody

Trying to inject some levity in this post, I would own one of these hoodies if they were sold.

 

Her dream

Emilia

She’s got my vote. Emila has shown throughout the series she’s a congenial and magnanimous character through and through. She’s the idealistic type, as seen with her speech when asked why she should become the 42nd ruler of the Kingdom of Lugnica. Her idealistic way of thinking is based from her reality, her lineage, her experiences and what she observed in her life so far. She’s a visionary, you can accuse her of looking through rose-tinted glasses when, in fact, she simply “sees” the end goal and truly believes there is a way to get there. Of course, that isn’t enough, she needs to be willing to roll-up her sleeves and engage in the hard work the execution will entail. As a leader and based on her character, her thinking would start with the question: “How can things be better?”. I find it interesting to know what she would do to accomplish this aspiration. I will confess, I might love and laud her dream because I myself am optimistic and idealistic.

 

Hated but hopeful

Emilia1

Re: Zero touches on the topic of racism. Despite being a candidate for ruler of Lugunica, there are those who hate and are scared of her simply because she’s a half-elf and her resemblance with the witch Satella. Still, she’s not cynical, she’s not misanthropic and she doesn’t think the worst of people. Good, ’cause those kind of people in the real world are tiresome. Try being a half-elf who is always discriminated not by your actions, but by how you were born. She still does her best and she still helps anyone in spite of society rejecting her. This isn’t to say none of the stuff hasn’t affected her in a negative way, it definitely has. As a result of the way she’s been treated she has low self-confidence and constantly doubts herself. It’s amazing she is the way she is considering the abuse she’s received. It would be understandable if she resented everyone or used her powers to hurt others, but she doesn’t.

 

Stay Alive

Emilia’s 声優 /seiyuu sings this, which means Emilia sings this.

 

Her relationship with Subaru

Emilia2

Lastly and possibly one of the more defining facets in the anime is the relationship between Emilia and Subaru. Why is Subaru so in love with her and willing to go to the ends of the Earth for her sake?

I think their first meeting contributed a lot to it. You only get one shot at making a first impression and like I previously stated, she came to his rescue when he was getting stomped out by a bunch of robbers. Having stopped her pursuit of her robbed insignia to help him, she went above and beyond to heal him. She puts on an act stating she only stayed with him until he regained conscious to obtain information from him. In actuality, Emilia only said this to remove any feelings of debt to her for her selfless act. I think the reason she tries to make sure people don’t feel like they owe her anything is for two reasons: she genuinely doesn’t believe she deserves anything in return, and might be worried people associated with her will receive unjustified hatred the same way she does.

It takes a bit of insistence from Subaru before she agrees to let him help her find her insignia. They actually spend the whole day looking for that confounded thing. I think what sparked his fierce loyalty to Emilia was during his first death. In his last moments, he pledged to save the woman in front of him no matter what it takes. There are other moments where Subaru expresses his desire to protect her, but I think that’s the best one. I will agree with anyone who says Subaru is frustrating, annoying and corny, but I can respect the guy for being loyal and willing to do anything for the people he cares about.

 

And that’s all I have to say about Emilia. There’s actually more I would say, but it goes into light novel spoiler territory. If you couldn’t tell from this post, I do like Emilia. Thanks for reading and have a nice day!

ファンサービス: Thoughts on Fanservice

Mai_Kawakami_water

Mai_Kawakami_fire

Hm, interesting. When I touch my private parts the only thing that happens… Anyway, if you watch anime I don’t think this topic needs any introduction, but maybe you need a refresher. The good people at Wikitionary have defined fanservice as such “The inclusion in a work of fiction of material, especially of a racy or sexual nature, which has no relevance to the storyline and is designed merely to excite the viewer”. Simple enough, but you may or may not have known this, but fanservice is a controversial, ubiquitous and hot topic in the anime community, especially in the West. Some people love it, some people don’t care and some people hate everything about it.

 

Origin

The term ファンサービス/fanservice did originate in Japan among the anime and manga fandom and is based on English words “fan” and “service”. サービス  in Japanese comes from the English “service”, which is a service done as an extra for a customer/お客さん. Since service is done for someone “fanservice” is extra service done for fans. There is another word related to fanservice and it’s サービスカット/service cut, a term born in the film industry in order to market a movie. According to Anime.Mikomi.org, “The term ‘fan service’ goes back to the late 80’s at minimum. However, Dirty Pair was done in 1985 and clearly had fan service in mind even if they didn’t expressly use the term then”. I’d like to note Dirty Pair is a great and underrated anime. Now that you know fanservice is a loan word and a little more about its meaning, I think now would be a good time to give some examples:

  • Boob shots
  • Panty/ass shots
  • Wardrobe malfunctions
  • Suggestive poses
  • Nude scenes (bath and shower primarily)
  • Characters caught changing clothes

 

What’s the point?

Long story short, it keeps the anime studios around and pay the bills, which simply isn’t possible by only making complex, high-quality storylines.

“What!? They’re only motivated by money?” you indignantly ask? What you need to know is that anime studios don’t do it to make a crapload of money, but because they need to stay in business. Here’s a picture of Kyoto Animation’s head office. For the anime studio that brought gems like Full Metal Panic, Haruhi, Lucky Star, K-On!, Hyouka and Clannad to television screens, the employees aren’t working in an opulent building, quite chilling if you ask me. I’m sure everyone would love to create an anime with a strong story and aesthetically pleasing animation. And I’m sure everyone wants to watch the next Fullmetal Alchemist or Cowboy Bebop and just for my brother, I’ll mention Samurai Champloo. However, not everyone watching is going to pay and even fewer will be willing to.

In order to not go bankrupt, anime studios will produce stuff that sells. What’s something that sells? Sex. Maybe the studio doesn’t have a flagship title or developed characters or a popular franchise that will make bank.

 

Fanservice today

Maou's Plot

Maou is beautiful and so is her plot. Anyway, fanservice is still used by fans with its original meaning intact. It’s about giving the fans “exactly what they want” and this doesn’t have to refer to the erotic nowadays. It all comes down to the show’s main audience. A scene involving mechas fighting and blowing up can possibly be considered fanservice. I like to think of the walking Pokémon feature in HeartGold and SoulSilver as “fanservice” because it is what I and so many other fans wanted (and the fact they took it out in subsequent games is repulsive and disgusting). As I’m sure others will agree, in recent years the amount of fan service in anime has greatly increased, with numerous titles released each season with an appeal that is centered around fanservice. With this growth in fanservice-centered anime, some fans have labeled it as an actual genre rather than an attribute, calling harem, ecchi and similar anime “fanservice anime”.

 

My personal thoughts 

Out of the countless fanservice scenes I’ve seen, my feelings usually range from indifference to lascivious thoughts swirling in my brain. It’s rare for me to lust over a 2D woman, but it happens. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a fella having an interest in women or breasts and asses. Sometimes I do wonder if my upbringing has anything to do with why I’m not averse to fanservice whatsoever. I grew up in Germany and it’s a country that has a relaxed attitude toward nudity and sexuality (especially the east side). Baring it all at saunas, beaches, parks, and swimming pools is pretty normal. Even on television and whenever I went to downtown Wiesbaden, I remember seeing nude advertisements. It’s one of the many things I miss about Germany and also one of the reasons I can’t wait to go back. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be prudish since I readily embrace my (a)sexuality and love seeing myself naked. Like Tommy Pickles said “Nakey is good! Nakey is free! Nakey is… nakey!”. In case you didn’t already guess, I’m a nudist and asexual. Anyway, enough about German culture, my sexual orientation and cultural and political stance!

Fanservice can be exciting, hot, fun, or all of the above. I enjoy collecting bunny ver. anime figures from FREEing and I’m sure that would be considered fanservice. So it’d be HIPPOcritical of me to say all fanservice is bad. I do have a hard time answering the question “What makes fanservice ‘good’ or ‘bad’?”. Since entertainment is subjective, it goes without saying fanservice is too. What makes one weeb’s pupils dilate might make another’s eyes roll.

It varies from person to person, especially for me. Allow me to explain. The only “bad” fanservice for me is during extremely sad/important/dramatic moments, it’s not going to contribute anything meaningful and is therefore silly and unnecessary. The only “good” fanservice for me is anything involving any of the female anime characters I’m highly attracted to. Fanservice scenes revolving around Medaka Kurokami, Eleonora Viltaria, Dimaria Yesta or Senjougahara Hitagi for example make me and my woody womb pecker happy. Anything else, I don’t care nor do I care how much there is or isn’t. I say it varies because I’m sure you’ve heard the proverb “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” so not everyone’s going to think the fanservice I like is hot and vice versa.

One common argument I’ve heard against fanservice is something around the lines of “If I wanted to be turned on and wank I’d watch porn and/or hentai”. Okay, first off, porn and hentai are both crap and if you watch either, I’m judging you. Naw, I’m just kidding about the judging part. Before you ask, no, I’m not one of those people who think porn or hentai should be banned or any nonsense like that. I just don’t see the appeal of either, but you know what the Japanese people say “十人十色/Ten people ten colors”.

Another one is how fanservice ruins anime’s appeal and only was made with the lowest common denominator in mind. I can somewhat understand this argument since my favorite anime tend to have little or no fanservice and instead focus on the story and characters. Fanservice can often be the product of sloppy writing: give the fans what they think they want in order to compensate for any glaring issues. Not all fanservice is bad. But the fan service that works for one anime isn’t going to serve the fans in another. When I watch Dragon Ball Super I expect to see fighting and at least one Kamehameha, not Goku’s crotch. Likewise, when I watch High School DxD I want to see Rias’ titties, not hear her give a passionate speech about why bad things happen to good people. Giving fans what they want is awesome, but sometimes the problem is the creators don’t even know what they want, let alone the fans.

Not every anime show is going to appeal to everyone, and I’m perfectly fine with this. At the end of the day, I’d rather see shows do what they can and make their intended audiences happy than try to be something they are not in an attempt to gain a wider one, especially by using fan service aimed specifically at just a portion of viewers who may or may not be in the audience. I feel there’s a time and place for everything, and fanservice is no exception. If viewers want their T&A, let them have their T&A. If viewers want a life-affirming, empowering story, let them have their life-affirming empowering story. There’s enough room in the anime world for there to be both, maybe not in the same show, but there’s room nonetheless.

 

And by the way, if you thought I wrote this post as an excuse to post images of hot/fine anime women, then you’re right. I’ll end this post with two gifs of the sexy Yukihime.

Yukihime

Noice

Visual Novel Spotlight: Muv-Luv

Muv-Luv

Honestly, I don’t think there is anything I can say that hasn’t already been said at this point about Muv-Luv. But I will try and do my best anyway because I enjoyed Muv-Luv and was able to have time to reread it.

 

Synopsis 

I think it’s best to give a little background, Muv Luv is a trilogy of games released by âge, the first (Extra) and second (Unlimited) were jointly released in 2003. Unlimited is unlocked after you get the endings of the two main heroines (Sumika and Meiya) in Extra. From Visual Novel Database it reads…

“Shirogane Takeru is a typical high school student with a lazy attitude and a love for the virtual reality mecha battle game Valgern-on. Even though he didn’t really wanted it, he is popular in school mainly due to his daily fights with his osananajimi (Sumika) attracting too much attention. His life takes an unexpected turn when he finds a girl (Meiya) he doesn’t remember ever meeting in his bed one morning. Whom later revealed to be the heiress of one of the biggest zaibatsu. She immediately moves to his house and starts changing his life for the good with her one-track-mind and unlimited resources…”

Once I started to read the visual novel myself, the gist of it consists of a love triangle between Takeru, his childhood friend (and neighbor) and the heiress to one of Japan’s most successful and influential families. In other words, there’s a girl who he spent his whole life with and a girl who would and could buy him the whole world so she could spend the rest of it together. Denser than metal, Takeru is completely ignorant to how they feel about him and simply continues to live his life like he has before.

Huddle In, Gang

One good thing about Muv-Luv is that it isn’t hard to find group photos of the cast. The main attraction would be the main heroines, Sumika and Meiya, but there are 3 other females you could romance if you want to. Allow me to introduce you to the characters starting from bottom center, right to left:

Chizuru Sakaki is the class representative of Takeru’s class and classic tsundere who tries her best to maintain order in the class but is usually fighting a lost battle given who her classmates are. She tends to take herself and everything she does seriously so she’s also quick to anger. She’s a friend and rival of Suzumiya Akane, a main character from some of âge’s other works. Probably the least popular character, but after completing her route I gained new respect for her and understood why she can be defensive and refuses accepting help from others.

Sumika Kagami is the goofy childhood best friend of Takeru who is too kind for even the anime world (if you read Alternative you know why I’m saying this). That is, unless of course she’s knocking Takeru’s lights out. Like Iroha from Oregairu, she exemplifies what 萌え/moe is to me. Meaning, I feel like I’m going to get a cavity whenever she’s onscreen. Her biggest characterization is her desire to be with Takeru and for him to not see her as a childhood friend, but as a woman.

Meiya Mitsurugi the mutlibillionaire heiress who is anything but normal. Due to her sheltered upbringing, Meiya initially is a bit naive about the world, and solves most problems with money, but she’s way nicer than Seto Kaiba. A firm believer in the Bushido code of honor, she is highly righteous and noble. She has a personal maid named Mana Tsukuyomi who is also not normal. Actually, everyone in the Mitsurugi household are a bunch of oddballs.

Ayamine Kei is basically what I would be if I was reincarnated into a Japanese high school girl. Anyway, she’s someone who doesn’t attend class often and would rather spend her time in school chilling on the roof. She seems to find a way to the cafeteria on days when yakisoba bread, her all-time favorite food, is being sold. She likes to mess with people and usually gets into verbal fights with Chizuru. Her route sees Takeru accidentally stumble across aspects of her past that show why she has a disregard for authority figures (like Chizuru) and why she maintains such distance between herself and others.

Tamase Miki a.k.a. Tama is the tiny class mascot who possesses a cheerful, energetic attitude toward life (yay!) and dislikes serious conflict and tries to be the peacekeeper between her classmates, especially between Kei and Chizuru (with Kei actually listening to her). Tama is a member of the archery club and very talented with a bow and arrow. She is actually the successor to a renowned archery dojo, but despite her skills, Tama gets nervous when somebody, especially someone she knows, is watching her shoot, causing her to freak out and often completely miss her shot.

While there are five romanceable heroines in Extra, Meiya and Sumika are like I said, obviously the main ones and act as the foundation for the plot. Their routes are mostly the same except for the last few scenes, whereas the three other heroines each have their own separate endings that are mostly unrelated. And if you’re wondering why I didn’t introduce Haruko Kashiwagi, it’s because she doesn’t have her own route. She’s one of the coolest characters âge ever made though, take my word for it.

 

Once Sumika and Meiya’s respective routes are finished Unlimited is unlocked.

Muv-Luv Unlimited
Hm, something’s amiss here.

If you thought Muv-Luv was composed entirely of romance and comedy, you would be dead wrong. In this second installment Takeru wakes up one morning in a world almost completely different from his own. The whole city he lives in is in ruins and there’s a destroyed mech next to his house. Takeru being Takeru, comes to the conclusion that he must be in a dream, resolving to go and enjoy it for however long it lasts. Upon reaching his school, he finds it is now a military facility and his meeting with the entrance guards does not go so well. As fate has it, Takeru is placed in a training squad along with this world’s versions of his classmates. The Tactical Surface Fighters (basically mechas), that have been developed to fight Earth’s extraterrestrial enemies resemble the video game robots of his home world, but Takeru’s video game skills aren’t going to be enough if he wants to have any chance of surviving the BETA, the biggest threat to humanity’s survival.

Talk about heavy, especially since in this world only 1 billion humans are still around in 2001. An unimaginable reality has been common knowledge for generations. A sudden change in tone and setting was very much a surprise to me since I was expecting more dating sim shenanigans. While everyone in the squad has their route too, Unlimited is more linear with an overarching story and no fundamental differences in the routes.

Oh, one last thing I’d like to mention regarding Unlimited is the fortified suits the girls wear. They happen to feature partially transparent material for some reason, leading to something of an almost nude-like appearance. I’m not sure if the outfits have any justification really, because Takeru’s suit isn’t like theirs at all.

Fortified Suits

 

 

Why I like this visual novel

Two words, one character: Ayamine Kei. She isn’t the only reason, of course, but she’s a big one. It’s funny the two fictional characters I relate to the most are a female Japanese high school student and a two-tailed fox. Ayamine might seem like an Ayanami Rei expy, but don’t let her similar name fool you. I have a lot in common with Kei. She initially comes off as a stoic, taciturn, weird and quiet character who keeps to herself most of the time and does whatever she wants. She likes to troll/mess with people for her own amusement and has a strong penchant for yakisoba bread. My yakisoba bread would definitely be eggnog, get me eggnog if you’ve ever done something wrong and I’ll instantly forgive you. Despite being a little selfish and usually keeping others at an arm’s length, she does have a heart of gold for the people she cares about. There’s a reason she comports herself the way she does, and you find out in her route (which I would argue is the one with the most depth). I loved Ayamine Kei so much there was a time people thought she was my waifu.

Kei

I know people kvetch a lot about the slice-of-life romantic comedy of Extra, but I actually enjoyed it. Yes, I know it’s cliché since the story follows the common trope of the protagonist who has potential to be greater than he is, but lacks motivation to apply himself. He seems to be happy with how things are, never putting much thought into anything else except a robot battle simulation game (and I can’t emphasize that enough. This fella has a firm grip on the idiot ball and wants to do a 93 yard touchdown run with it). You also meet the main cast who are the embodiment of tropes themselves. I can’t imagine anyone saying Extra is groundbreaking ’cause it’s not. The character designs are certainly memorable though.

The eroge content, well, it’s… there. I don’t read these things for the sex scenes because of how brainless they are. Kei’s scenes were the most tolerable (Yuuko’s was alright too, but that’s ’cause she’s hot) and I’m not just saying this because she’s my favorite character. The less talk going on in H-scenes the better. Also, once hers (the one in Extra) was over she continued to troll and even called Takeru a ケダモノ (lit. beast) which made me laugh.

Unlimited was the superior of the two and amalgamates anime, sci-fi, aliens and technology which are all things I like. I guess even people at the staff thought Unlimited was a better story since it had its own animated opening as opposed to the OP of Extra which uses game CG scenes. This part of the visual novel manages to present characters you have already gotten to know in an entirely new way, with their personalities being a mixture of what you have already gotten to know and how a difference being involved in growing up facing extinction makes.

 

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This scene cranked the waterworks, okay?

 

Despite being over a decade old now, Muv-Luv’s art has actually aged quite well. The character sprites and poses have personality to them and the backgrounds aren’t bad either. Characters will move around the screen, becoming smaller when they are farther away and vice-versa, the camera will always show where Takeru is looking at. These features are used to greater effect in Unlimited, but they’re still good in Extra.

So these are the first two installments of what is a trilogy. Individually, each is entertaining, though nothing special. Extra is a dating sim school romance, Unlimited is a sci-fi mecha romance. Taken together, they become something a little more, transferring the characters you’ve come to know and love from one into the other is an interesting twist, and one which would lead me to recommend Muv-Luv to anyone who is a fan of visual novels. This isn’t the end of the story. Deserving and requiring its own post, Alternative elevates this franchise from just “good” to epic.