Decided to write my first VN reaction, and it’ll be about one of my favorite visual novels yet – Grisaia no Kajitsu. I want to point out that this VN got an anime adaptation that is NOT worth checking out, considering it butchers all the routes in a way or another. So let’s get to it:
Grisaia no Kajitsu was released in 2011 by Front Wing, and has two extra games: a fandisk “Grisaia no Meikyuu” and a sequel “Grisaia no Rakuen”, both of which are, at the time of this review, unreleased in english. The entire trilogy got licensed recently, and will be having a Steam release in the future.
Yuuji, our protagonist, wants to have a normal school life. He went through alot of stuff in his past, so he just wants to see how it is like to have a normal life for once. He asks one of his contacts, Tachibana Chizuru, to put him in a school for students with “special circunstances”, and when he arrives, he notices there are only 5 other students in that school, and all of them are girls. Some feel a bit apprehensive about him at first, others want to hang out with him – it’s the normal life he desired. However, he will soon realize that all of these girls carry a trauma that’s similar to his, so when he gets involved with them, he will also get involved with their past. Even so, Yuuji wil cherish his school days with the girls, and will finally know how it’s like to have fun.
“Even so, I don’t think I’ll forget this moment. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that there was a time in my life when everything was peaceful and warm. And as long as I have that memory, I think I’ll be able to go on living.”
– Kazami Yuuji, Grisaia no Kajitsu
The first thing I want to talk about is the common route. This CR is really, really long, and besides showing a bit of the characters’ problems, it’s mostly about the comedy and the daily lives of the six students there. However, one thing I noted is that, if you replay the common route after you’re done with all five routes, you’ll gain a new prespective on alot of stuff. One example is Michiru’s behaviour, which is used for comedy during the CR, however it gains a new meaning if you know WHY she behaves that way. And what happens to Michiru here happens to all heroines, to a certain extent. The best way to go about it is to enjoy the CR for what it is – personally I liked every second of it – and get to know and like the characters as much as possible here.
The production values of the visual novel are astonishing: the CG artwork is amazing and in very high quality, the sprites are varied and the backgrounds look gorgeous overall. The soundtracks are good too, and what’s even better is that they’re used in a very smart way, though sometimes they get a bit repetitive unfortunately, because of the low quantity of soundtracks in a 50+hours long game. Getting hooked to a long VN is important when playing it, and Grisaia’s great visuals definitely help getting through the first slow stages of the common route.
After you’re done with the common route, depending on the choices you make after it, you’ll get into one of five possible routes. This VN is very straightforward with this too, allowing you to get into a route with a single choice. Now, I won’t be talking about all the routes in detail, that would be a waste of time, plus I think they’re best experienced than reviewed, but I’ll try my best to focus on the best parts of each.
Amane’s Route: It was the first route I played, and it’s my favorite route of the bunch. With Grisaia, you’re better off going with the heroine you liked the most in the common route first, which was what I did, and it really payed off. In this route, we get answers as to why Amane fell in love with Yuuji and is not afraid to show it in the common route, we get to see her past first-hand and, most importantly, the most acclaimed part of the visual novel: Angelic Howl. I can safely say this was also my favorite moment, not only because of Amane, but because of the execution of the whole thing. It was slow, like it was intended to be, and the writing was sometimes really creepy, plus a certain scene can really disgust you. This is the way the writers wanted you to feel in Angelic Howl, and boy did they accomplish that… this route doesn’t really show any of the other heroines, instead focusing on Amane all the time, plus Yuuji. My biggest problem with this route was the amount of sex scenes, which DOES have a reason to exist, and while I can 100% accept that reason as part of Amane’s character, it doesn’t make up for the fact that they spent like 3 hours showing H-scenes in all kinds of sexual positions… but I digress. “Regret” and “Guilt” are the two main themes this route wants to portray, and while the execution of the route isn’t perfect, and the structure of the route overall feels a bit forced and flawed, this route deserves the praise it gets 100%.
Michiru’s Route: After finishing Amane’s route, I didn’t think I’d enjoy the rest nearly as much. While Amane’s remains my favorite, Michiru’s route was also very enjoyable to play through. Like stated above, this route gives us not only a little insight on Michiru’s reasons for acting like a brat, but it also shows how the other heroines care for Michiru alot. It doesn’t have any AMAZING moments, but manages to be good because of how consistent it is, plus it’s paced in a way that it never gets too boring. The first parts of the route are like the CR, but more focused on Michiru, and then the drama strikes. Like Amane, you get to see Michiru’s past narrated by her. Now, my main problem with this route was the supernatural nature of it. While I do like supernatural elements alot, I also like when they are hinted at before they show them, especially in a VN that didn’t show any before this particular route. It doesn’t damage the route too much, but it’s a bit weird, especially at first. The route also deals with themes like “Suicide” and “Self-acceptance”. So, while the structure of the route is an improvement from Amane’s, the route doesn’t feel as rewarding. However, my opinion on Michiru got a 180º change after playing it, and she never lost the “core” of her character, which was really nice. Overall, a good route.
Sachi’s Route: Before playing Grisaia, I asked around for people’s favorite routes in this VN, and most said “Sachi” or “Amane”. Going into it without particularily liking Sachi, I thought it’d be decent. The route is a bit longer than Michiru’s, and it also starts off in a similar way. This route, unlike the two that came before it, is much more focused on Yuuji’s relationship with the main heroine. This route did have some pacing issues, because some parts felt really slow, and it didn’t have the consistency I was hoping for, but it made up for that with the amazing scenes it managed to pull off, especially by the end. It also has the most atrociously-placed H-scene I have ever seen in a VN so far. The route deals with “Loss” and “Regret” for the most part, and it shows more of Yuuji’s past, something I didn’t expect. It was also the most emotional route, with certain scenes being really well executed, with great music directing and CG artwork. A very good route overall, it impressed me how good it actually was, and it felt fresh with the romance being one of the main things they decided to focus on.
Yumiko’s Route: I liked Yumiko during the common route. She didn’t leave the BEST first impressions, but she grew on me throughout the VN. Her route was very unexpected though – while the common route does hint at alot of problems Yumiko has, including the issues with her father, never did I expect to see how far those problems go. Yuuji was a bad-ass in this route too. The first part is a bit slow, and it feels repetitive though – I’m sure they could have made it in a different way, because I started to lose interest after 2 hours or so. What follows, however, are the best parts of the route, and those make up most of the route fortunately. Yumiko’s insecurities with herself and with her past are shown in a really realistic manner, and the romance between her and Yuuji feels really sweet and rewarding. The final parts of her route are great, and show how we sometimes just need to forgive and let go of the past, even if it’s not that easy. I felt like the main theme of the route was “Family”, though Yumiko’s development goes alot beyond that. This route became my second favorite after I finished it, and after I finished the VN overall, I felt like Yumiko has the most satisfying ending of the five, and I wish I had left her route for the end…
Makina’s Route: This is my least favorite route. Indeed: while the route wasn’t terrible at all, it left a bit to be desired. The first problem is that it basically does what Yumiko’s route did, with the “Family” theme being very important, but in a much more uninteresting way. The pacing is atrocious at times: it feels like somes scenes dragged as much as they could, and the fact that I didn’t like Makina in the common route also affected my thoughts on her character development. Finally, I didn’t find the ending to be satisfying at all: in fact, it’s probably my least favorite ending of the five. However, during the latter parts of the route, I admit I enjoyed myself quite alot, and Yuuji was amazing during the route. Plus, alot of his past with his Master is also shown, which was something needed to understand Yuuji better (though I’m hoping his route in Meikyuu goes a bit deeper). However, Makina having a reason to act childish is more than you can say about most other loli characters, so she has that going for her. Plus after a while, she really grew on me. There’s nothing more to say to be honest: while I didn’t like her route as much as the others, I still thought it was very decent.
So, after finishing all the routes, my recommend order, if you want one, would be: Sachi – Michiru – Makina – Amane – Yumiko, as I feel Sachi’s can hook you much faster, and finishing with Yumiko is what I wish I did back when I played it. Amane’s route was my favorite, with Makina’s being my least favorite. I felt like Yumiko was the most well developed character of them all, but I liked Amane more due to her personality and exposure during her route.
Overall, Grisaia does a great job at showing how 6 students can come together and live relatively “isolated”. They have fun during school times, they help each other in times of need, and they’re all really enjoyable. I recommend this VN if you’re looking for a bad-ass protagonist placed in an “all-girls” environment, as this VN has no other male main character other than him, and if you’re looking for a story that you can take seriously and feel for the characters. The drama isn’t the best I’ve experienced, but it’s definitely good in its own right, and the slice-of-life moments will make you cherish the characters alot.
Thanks for reading!