Oh boy, where to start…
If you’ve been an aeon browser for a while you may remember my blog on the anime for Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi some time last year. I went into detail about how eroge to anime adaptations work, and reviewed it in the process. Hoshizora was created by Feng, a game Studio which also pumped out Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka, the first eroge I ever played. I never played the original Hoshizora eroge, but they recently released Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi AA, a continuation of sorts. Featuring more girls and completly new content, it’s basically an entirely different game.
I didn’t really want this to become a personal blog, but that’s pretty much what it’s going to end up as. I played the game through raw, and there is no English patch, so reviewing it would kind of be rude, as it’d only really interest Japanese speakers. Instead I’m going to talk about my experiences with the game.
I don’t have the most astounding track record with Eroge. I’ve played a few in my time, but very on and off. I’ll admit it, I’m afraid of Eroge. The level of intimacy and influence in a good eroge is just on an entirely different scale to any anime or manga, and I’ve fallen victim to this a few unforgettable times. I’ve fallen in love, had my heart broken and had my priorities in life warped, all because of eroge. It’d been a year since I’d touched an eroge, after getting seriously hurt by the last one I played. Like the Idiot I am, I thought I’d get back on the horse with Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi AA.
So I boot up the game to a familiar but lonely sight, a brighly coloured window, with soft music wafting in the background. There on the title screen are the Three heroines, Seira, Senka and Yocchan. I churn through the first few chapters, enjoying the atmosphere, skimming through my Kanji handbook for the odd unknown word and saving at all the obvious event points. The game is very new age with it’s story telling, no bad endings. Older eroge have dozens of important choices to make, this has one.
Yocchan, who’s abrasive and inquisitive personality I’ve already grown to dislike finally asks me the big question: Who do you like? She’d been pestering me for 4 bloody chapters, but she finally asked. It wasn’t her, It wasn’t the polite Tsundere Seira, it was Senka. Senka Yorozu, my landlady, my guardian and my slightly senior woman of choice.
I could talk for days about why I chose Senka. I have a tendency to go for older girls in Harems, (If you wanna go all Freud with that and figure out my reason of preference, be my guest). Senka spoke to me, in a game full of crazy colored-hair school girls, she stood out. Where they were naive she was smart and experienced. Where they were weak she was mature and strong. Where they backwardly begged for my attention with their school-girl shenanigans, she commanded it with a mature and loving Demeanor. I loved her look, her voice, her personality, I was swept away.
She was curious about me, asked if I was gay or abstinent, why I was still single when I was surrounded by gorgeous available girls. She asked me who I like.
While every fibre in my body was screaming “It’s you!”
So the plot goes on, the dopey protagonist I’m chained too finally realizes himself and confesses. She thinks I’m joking and Ignores me. Heart Break #1. I hang tough, keep at it, and finally break through to her. She accepts, and as all eroge demand, we immediately make love. It’s beautiful, intimate, solace. Just what I wanted.
The fun and flirty period begins. This is where you go on dates, get to know each other, have the majority of the sex scenes, etc. Anyone who knows the formula of eroge knows the cue. Trial period, Choose girl, Confession, Flirty time, disastrous event that threatens to split you apart, make up and happy ending. I knew the storm was coming… But I still got hurt.
She stops me as we’re walking home. She looks at me sadly. “Let’s end our relationship here, today.” Heart Break #2. She tells me it’s been fun, it’s been nice, but she’s an adult, and I’m a child. I’m in high school, shes in her 20′s. We have nothing in common, and she feels nothing for me. I try to dispute this, remind her of what we’d shared. “A true woman knows how to act” she whispers. “How to appear in love, happy, satisfied…” Heart Break #3, she’s not just lying to me, she’s lying to herself.
Cue the depression phase. All of the twatty side characters I couldn’t care less about try to cheer me up, ask me what’s wrong, and ultimately find out I’ve been broken hearted by an older lover. I try to make up with her numerous times, but she pushes me away. “Why not go out with Ui? Tsumugi is free too.” She tried to get me to move onto other girls, heart break #4. I go back to the city to think about my future, my High School graduation is coming up, and I need to decide what to do.
Meanwhile the rainbow hair brigade confront Senka. They care about her, about me, and ask why we can’t be together. “Aren’t you just hiding behind your adult ideals, running away from reality?” Koyori asks. Unable to deal with the stress, Senka flees to her secret spot, the one I only know. I meet her there, and approach the crying woman. I relentlessly assault her with emotions, the truth, the fact that I love her. She tries to talk me out of it. “If you go to University you can have a better life!” I want to be with her, no matter what. “Are you really fine….with me?”. Hell. Fucking. Yes.
She admits she loves me too, fireworks, credits role, and after that an extra scene, our marriage, a perfect, romantically satisfying conclusion, (accompanied by a kinky H scene that proves our sex life continues to be… adventurous.)
As I was just finished with the game, I talk to a friend of mine. I preach to him about my experiences with eroge, how the past was painful but somehow, I think I’ll be OK this time. I turn off my computer and go to sleep.
I wake up the next morning with a pain in my chest. I have a broken heart. Just as I’d feared, the story had finished but it’s influence on me hadn’t. Even with the positive conclusion, all I can think of is Senka, about the things she said, the struggles that had happened. There’s a hole in my heart, and she’s not here to fill it. Shes not real.
2D syndrome (aka Ramona syndrome) is something I’d felt before, but never like this. For the next three days I wander this hazy state of mind, wondering where my sweet Senka is. I don’t play through any of the other girls arcs in the game, I’d feel guilty if I did. I look at myself in the mirror, “Senka wouldn’t like me to have stubble”. I shave. I eat lunch “I shouldn’t eat something as childish as chicken nuggets, what would Senka think?”. I don’t play video games, I have to be mature to match my older lover. I don’t feel like watching anime, Senka wouldn’t want me watching cartoons. I look around my room, I’m embarrassed for having so many posters up, I take some down. I take my dog for a walk, I walk into a tree, because I’m so busy thinking about Senka.
Senka. Senka. Senka.
The days’ve gone by and I’ve managed to tighten my grip around reality again. I still think about Senka, but not as hard as I was a few days ago. It’s really only been a few days, but I’ve been through all that, had my very priorities in life changed, by a fictional female. I was trying to act mature to please my non-existent lover, and was in such anguish that she wasn’t there beside me. Of course I know she’s not real, I never forgot that for a second. But god, I wanted her to be.
It’s a sad and strange thing to fall in love with a fake character, a cartoon. I felt like everything had really happened to me, our relationship was exclusive to us. But the truth is, she’s just a character. A figure in a story, a product, marketed and sold, available for purchase. There are a thousand other guys out there, who must have the same feelings for Senka. If it was just a platonic affection it wouldn’t have been so bad, but it wasn’t. It was intimate, sexual.
Look, I know I’m an extremist, that much I’m aware of. I’m a lonely guy, who’s really just far too sensitive for his own good. Eroge aren’t intended to be heart-breaking, soul crushing, internalizing torture devices. But I’ve come to fear them as just that. Eroge have the potential to engage you, to take you to these beautiful, convinient realities, where everything just seems to be perfect, and that can be a lot to take in.
I’m grateful for this experience, this melancholy I’ve endured. I’d like to believe I’ve grown as a person, but I really don’t think I have. I pride myself on being a knowledgable and experienced fan of anime culture, and yet, I broke the very first rule, yet again.
Don’t Fall in love with what isn’t real.