[Review] ‘Down the Voltage Rabbit Hole’ (fanfic) by @emilyplaysotome (Tumblr)

Voltage is such a popular romance mobage developer that it has its own fandom, which gobbles up its games faithfully with every release. Needless to say, the same fandom can’t help but regurgitate the characters and their stories as fanfiction, especially since the games have the player be the main character (MC) who is romanced by others in the reverse harem. As with other fandoms, most of the Voltage fanfic out there are not much more than a written expression of their writers’ fantasies. Still, there are many notable exceptions, created by writers who actually want to TELL A GOOD STORY about ‘every(wo)man’ (or in this case, ‘everyplayer’), and not just a self-gratifying one starring OC versions of themselves.

One stellar example of this that I read recently was ‘Down the Voltage Rabbit Hole’ by @emilyplaysotome on Tumblr. As the title suggests, we have a protagonist (Naomi) who mysteriously ends up in an otoge ‘Wonderland’ of sorts, and the story is all about her (mis)adventures in an ‘otomeville’ world that she has to outwit, outplay, and outlast (in a manner of speaking) so that she can get back to the ‘real’ world.

Just like RL players, Naomi (or rather, her 2D incarnation, ‘Ami Mizuno’) has her choice of ‘perfect’ otoge ikemen in her ‘bizarro’ Japan, except she’s with them ‘in pixelated flesh’. She spends 50 chapters vacillating between her sensible desire to go back to her world and the heady temptation of staying to find real love — and WHO — among a roster of lovers that she eventually narrows down to three. As if trying to find out how to return to 3D wasn’t crazy difficult (read: impossible) to begin with, there is a powerful persona who further complicates things for her.

Spoiled for choice ©Voltage, Inc.

In the beginning, it was difficult for me to sympathize with Naomi. To me, she at first seemed full of herself — and not at all grateful for the fantastical chance that exists only in otoge players’ dreams (yes, the outrage). For the first time, I found myself reading a fanfic whose protagonist was someone I couldn’t really root for.

Yet this is exactly what’s remarkable about this Voltage fanfic. @emilyplaysotome turns the ‘genre’ on its head, using Naomi to challenge game developers’ (Voltage’s, in particular) concept of the otoge MC, ikemen, and romance stories. Her protagonist is a ballsy and successful career woman who doesn’t shirk from playing ball (or tangling horns) with men whose only perfection is their physique. (And while similar to Liar!‘s MC, she is not ditzy or shallow.)

Yes, just like real life and real people, none of the characters (least of all, ‘Ami’) are perfect (some have funky bodily odor, others suck at making love); neither can the choices they make be judged in black and white. Even the ending can be just like RL — happy, but not quite ever after.

@emilyplaysotome masterfully kept so many readers like myself glued to their smartphone/computer screens week after week, totally unaware (or uncaring) that 20 chapters had become 30… 40… and then 50, waiting for the next Voltage ikemen to appear or the next twist in the story. By the last few chapters, I was startled to recognize how much Naomi had grown up psychologically and emotionally… and that she was finally READY to give and receive the right kind of love.

DTVRH was a funny, sad, dramatic, fantastical, emotional rollercoaster ride full of our favorite Voltage ikemen, as well as surprising twists and turns. It takes a critical view of these games, reminding players (especially the younger ones) to be realistic and wholesome when it comes to RL relationships, and giving developers something to think about for future games.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable and unorthodox read with a most satisfying end, and I encourage all of you to check it out on Emily’s Musings. if you haven’t already.

Advertisements

I’m back!

It’s been a whiiiiiiile since I last posted anything here. I got busy with other stuff, but now, I’m back and looking forward to sharing my love for otoge, anime, Asian drama, and good reads with you all once again.

I’m so excited that I even decided to change my profile pic to reflect my freshly-inspired self!

Also, my first return post is a review of a fanfic I just finished reading. It was so good that I was prompted to write MY FIRST FANFIC REVIEW — EVER. So, I hope you guys stay tuned for that. (It’s up! ūüėä Click the link.ūüĎÜ)

„Āĺ„Āü„Ā≠ ‚Ě£

[News] “NTT Solmare Releases a NEW Title from the ‘Shall we date?’ Series! …” (Video from Business Wire)

Solmare‚Äč appears to have pulled out all the stops in its latest English-language release, Sengoku Darling. The paid app boasts of tons of new features (tap-to-move characters, movies for all endings, and read-per-chapter, among others) to rival those already offered by Voltage. And while the latter has offered these for a while now, SD does include some of the more popular characters in Voltage’s Sengoku titles (Sakura Amidst Chaos and its so-called free version, Samurai Love Ballad: PARTY) AND some of the non-playable ones, too! This would be welcome news for Voltage players who have been pining for these characters (especially since Voltage’s SLBP ‘Moon Chapter’ isn’t expected to be released in English till next year).

Check it out on Google Play NOW!

[News] ‘Love, Lies, and a Heist’ (Cybird)

Cybird’s paid romance VN Love, Lies, and a Heist (in English) is finally out! Teasers for the VN and the main characters have appeared in social media over the past week.

Love, Lies, and a Heist top page (Cybird)

LLAAH is available via Cybird’s new Otome Romance Novels app, which initially came out with the paid version of their hit free-to-play title, Destined to Love, at the end of January.

First Impressions

Otome Romance Novels

I’m so glad Cybird came out with a paid app so I can opt to buy complete stories; not so happy that they cost more than Voltage’s. Also, it seems that the plan is to have ONE app to house their collection of paid VNs (as opposed to individual apps for each title). I’m worried that this could mean a byte-heavy and/or buggy app. It already takes a good while to update and load the ‘mother app’ with only two titles so far, and I’ve had to uninstall/reinstall the app just for my paid story to load as purchased.

LLAAH

The story is set in Laurelia, another kingdom in the MidCin (Midnight Cinderella) universe. The setting is more clearly defined than in MidCin as being the 1920s, and since I love this time period, I’m really looking forward to seeing how they depict this in the VN.

Personally, I like MidCin’s artwork more than LLAAH’s (which is closer to DtL’s), but maybe it’ll grow on me.

Download Cybird’s Otome Romance Novels app on Google Play NOW!

[Review] My Anime Carousel Hell, Part 2 – ‘Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru’ (Doga Kobo)

My review on¬†Dangerous Seduction‘s Asuka Hino is TWO WEEKS late, but¬†it’s not my fault!!!¬†I was blindsided! Derailed! Waylaid! Tossed mercilessly into anime hell! And the way down was both excruciating and delicious.¬†*SHIVER*

It’s been a LOOOONG while since I last watched any anime. The last ones I remember watching (sporadically, at that) were¬†Golden Time,¬†Strike the Blood,¬†Guilty Crown, and¬†My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU¬†(aka¬†Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru¬†and¬†My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected). And then J/Kdrama and otoge took over my life, so it was a refreshing experience to discover new AND old anime and be reminded just how great anime are, and how they are NOT ‘just cartoons’. (I just wish I didn’t ‘have to’ watch them one after another in a mad frenzy. It really was like I had been starved of something I really needed and just didn’t know it.)

These are what I had been ‘busy with’ day and night as I procrastinated over darling Hino’s review (and the rest of my life TBH):

Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru

Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru (Dogakobo)

This 12-episode series is the anime incarnation of the popular browser game by DMM and Nitro+ that started airing in October 2016.

As in the game, the anime revolves around (an ever-increasing number of) historical Japanese swords-turned-ikemen* warriors brought to life by a mysterious Saniwa/sage and sent back in time to stop the Historical Revisionists and their History Retrograde Army of demons from, well, changing history. *(hot/good-looking guy)

Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru

MY Top Moment in TRH: When THIS…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The story primarily¬†follows¬†Yasusada Yamatonokami, one of the uchigatana¬†(samurai sword) used by the Shinsengumi’s Okita Souji (the other being Kiyomitsu Kashuu), as he struggles to make peace with the infamous Ikedaya Affair and his new life¬†as a¬†touken danshi/sword warrior of the Hanamaru Citadel. In the meantime, there is no shortage of all manner and shape of danshi to please every kind of viewer, and their trials and shenanigans¬†will touch and entertain you with each episode.

Even without playing the game, I fell in love with the quirky characters and the animation that made them come to life. It was difficult to tell the story of each toudan¬†(abbre. of touken danshi), especially since¬†there were ALMOST FIFTY¬†that¬†‘popped out’ out of the Saniwa’s work room over the course of the show, but enough was told about enough characters to make you laugh with them, cry with them, root for them… and all without making you forget about the main story arc involving¬†Yasusada.

Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru (Yasusada & Kiyomitsu)

Hanamaru biyori!

And, man, I couldn’t get that¬†OP¬†(opening song/video) out of my head for DAYS!¬†Yasusada and¬†Kiyomitsu were just a-dooooo-rable dancing to that really catchy theme song!

Showing on Aniplus Asia; also available on Crunchyroll. Season 2 (more like spin-off or alternate series) titled Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu from Ufotable slated to begin airing July 2017.

A musical adaptation of the game also opened in 2015.

PREVIOUS: Part 1 of My Anime Carousel Hell – ‘Sousei no Onmyouji’
NEXT: Part 3 of My Anime Carousel Hell – ‘Sengoku Basara’

[Review] My Anime Carousel Hell, Part 1 – ‘Sousei no Onmyouji’ (Pierrot)

My review on¬†Dangerous Seduction‘s Asuka Hino is TWO WEEKS late, but it’s not my fault!!!¬†I was blindsided! Derailed! Waylaid! Tossed mercilessly into anime hell! And the way down was both excruciating and delicious. *SHIVER*

It’s been a LOOOONG while since I last watched any anime. The last ones I remember watching (sporadically, at that) were Golden Time, Strike the Blood, Guilty Crown, and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (aka¬†Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru and My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected). And then J/Kdrama and otoge took over my life, so it was a refreshing experience to discover new AND old anime and be reminded just how great anime are, and how they are NOT ‘just cartoons’. (I just wish I didn’t ‘have to’ watch them one after another in a mad frenzy. It really was like I had been starved of something I really needed and just didn’t know it.)

These are what I had been ‘busy with’ day and night as I procrastinated over darling Hino’s review (and the rest of my life TBH):

Sousei no Onmyouji

The series is the animated version of the popular manga by Yoshiaki Sukeno¬†that started airing in April 2016. It’s 44 episodes into 50, and I managed to get myself all caught up all the way from the beginning over the course of a week! It was that addictive!

The story is about two 14 (then 16)-year-old exorcists, Enmadou Rokuro and Adashino Benio, who discover that they are destined to marry and give birth to the Miko — who is supposed to bring an end to the evil overtaking the world. Not only are they way too young to even be thinking of a seriously committed relationship with ANYONE, but their differences also seem to spell the end for them even before they’ve begun.

Rokuro is a prodigy with mysterious origins who has turned his back on being an exorcist because of a tragic event in his past, while overachiever Benio wants to be the strongest exorcist so that she can avenge her parents — who were killed by kegare (‘impurities’ that manifest as demon/ghoul-like creatures).

With help from the Twelve Guardians (aka Heavenly Commanders) of the Exorcist Union, they learn to grow their powers as exorcists and as the prophesied Twin Stars, face dangerous and powerful kegare¬†and basara¬†(stronger, evolved form of ‘impurity’) and all while navigating the equally perilous journey through adolescence and their ‘engagement’.

I fell in love with SNO because of…

The story! SNO was all of dramatic, action-packed, suspenseful, hilarious, cute, sweet, and silly.

The characters! Each character was just adorable and relatable; they drew you into their fantastical world effortlessly. The pacing was excellent! … such that each character’s personality and back story (as necessary) were revealed seamlessly and without much ado.

The animation! Self-explanatory!

The cool exorcist outfits! I would’ve wanted Benio (and Mayura… Heck, most of the female characters!) in stuff other than really mini skirts, but it is shounen, after all! ūüėā But, yeah, the guys! Super cool! The clothes hanging low on their hips… Plus, I have a thing for the kind of silhouette created by gaiters, spats, and the like; it just feels so ROMANTIC! Maybe because they harken back to the Victorian/Edwardian eras (hello, steampunk!), or maybe because it’s such a manly piece of clothing commonly associated with military wear.

Gaiter styles from military to anime: (L-R, T-B) Rokuro, Shimon, shinobi, samurai, military, steampunk

And the OST! I have mentioned how hopelessly behind-the-times I am, and the only Jmusic artist on my player (ever, actually) prior to this crazy anime phase was Utada Hikaru. It was such a RUSH to discover other artists because of SNO — like Wagakki Band (whom I’ve been wanting to listen to for a while after watching an NHK special on them), Itowokashi, Girlfriend, and LOL!

Those who have been reading the manga say it’s much better than the anime, but I honestly think the anime can hold up its own. I’ve started reading the manga myself and while (for very obvious reasons) a lot of details get lost in the translation to the small screen, I still think that the anime is a damn solid piece of work that’s as entertaining and moving as any.

Currently airing on Animax, Wednesdays @ 10 PM, same day as Japan.

NEXT: Part 2 of My Anime Carousel Hell – ‘Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru’

[Review] Your ‚ÄėDangerous Seduction‚Äô by Yasumi Arimura (Main Story)

The MC sees Arimura as ‘the most mysterious and scary’ of her criminal housemates, but also the least likely to make mistakes, so she thinks that he’s the best choice for her bodyguard. Surprisingly, he agrees to ‘babysit’ her, but on the condition that he be allowed to do things his way.

And his way included putting a ‘loss prevention collar’ on her.

[…] Mr. Arimura must be unimaginably brilliant […] but why does he act like that?

~ The MC

Arimura operates solely on the basis of pros and cons, with the ends justifying the means. This is why the MC, who helps others even if it won’t benefit her (and even to the point of peril), baffles him. (Not that this exempts him from being the object of her more colorful vocabulary.)

If I wasn’t being paid to do this, you’d be nothing but dirt to me.

~ Arimura (to the MC)

Everyone acknowledges his brilliance, but his cold personality does not help him get along with the other fugitives either. An argument with Ryuzaki over the latter’s choice of clothing at the time (towel only 😂) results in knives, forks, and SCALPELS flying and embedding themselves mere centimeters from the MC. It is also no small secret that Hino considers him an intellectual rival. 

I just hate getting to know people.

~ Arimura (to the MC)

Surprisingly (not), the two find themselves drawn to each other as they spend practically every waking moment together — in spite of Arimura’s best-laid, loss-prevention-collar plans. An accidental date helps the MC see other sides of Arimura that she finds intriguing — the gentleman who knows his manners, the cutie who loves his carrots a bit too much, and the digital vigilante who cares less about money than he lets on. And it doesn’t hurt that he actually looks really good up close…

(All he’s doing is eating, but he’s like a work of art…)

~ The MC

Meanwhile, Arimura can’t help but be attracted to her openly caring and trusting nature which, seemingly contrary to (his) logic, brings her good fortune in the end and prompts him to share more of himself than he ever intended.

What I think…

The reason I did NOT want to play this guy’s route initially can be summed up in ‘dumbass’ and ‘loss prevention collar’, and the MC expresses my feelings really well:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

BUT!.. But. But. But! His route was definitely way better written than Ryuzaki’s! (That poor guy deserves so much more than got written for him 😭. And the MC ogles him both in his route and here! Hello again, gorgeous pecs!)

There were only a VERY FEW, TINY bothersome bits here and there, like Arimura’s laptop just being EVERYWHERE (a tablet at least would’ve been more believable since he spent more time outside of their secret base than inside) and missing transitions that left some (miniscule!) gaps in the storytelling. There was also a bit of cheesiness with the ‘rainbow after the rain’ theme (and the cactus), but Arimura is so sexy drenched that you can easily forgive this (especially when he smacks you on your behind 😂). The plot twist — while not totally unexpected — was also executed well enough to create the right amount of conflict and suspense. And then there was this:

screenshot_2017-01-18-23-11-42-307.jpeg

Like Ryuzaki in HIS route, Arimura gets to wear a ridiculous non-disguise. (I mean, come on, Hiro from LLFTX could turn into a GIRL from head to toe when needed!) Dangerous Seduction ¬©Voltage, Inc.

What I loved most about this main story, though, was the characters and their development. Again, I will say that I REALLY HATED Arimura after reading his free Chapter 1 preview. (Yes, look at all those levels of formatting emphasis! ‘Dumbass!’ Grrrr.) So, kudos to the Voltage writers responsible for this, because they managed to turn both my and the MC’s hearts around without our even realizing it.

There’s so much more to Arimura than meets the eye, and his back story unfolded so smoothly to explain why he was so distrustful and preferred to work alone. (Ryuzaki’s was so clunky compared to this, I get a headache thinking about it. My poor action hero!) Having brains and being able to use it has never been so sexy as with this particular geek, and at the end of the day, he really is just one heck of a GOOD GUY.

His relationship with the MC also developed so naturally. I loved that they were ‘frenemies’ first and already had a solid enough relationship by the time they realized they wanted to be more than that, which was already at the very end of the route. Man, they were so in sync!

The MC here DEFINITELY had a mouth on her that she wasn’t afraid to use, and she wasn’t TOO goody-goody to ask Arimura to use his hacking skills to get them a taxi, but she was still your good ol’ MC in some ways…

Use your head before you act.

I’m not guarding you to protect you from your own meddling.

~ Arimura (to the MC)

 

You brighten up this house full of thugs.

~ Kentaro Inui (to the MC)

I do have to mention that there are some fairly graphic (for Voltage) scenes in this route, and while I welcome this more realistic feel to their latest apps, such scenes MAY prove a trigger for some. All in all, though, I’ve never been happier to be wrong about a route (playing Itsuki’s in Butler Until Midnight is a close second)!

Start playing Dangerous Seduction now!

Already playing? Did you like Arimura or not?