Demons have always had a knack for taking
advantage of the weakness within people’s hearts.
Haru had already lost all self-control.
She knew what she had to do.
No one would get through to her now.
She’ll chase him down, and kill him without a second
of hesitation. The only question was how…?
Haru had already completely forgotten the gun she so tightly gripped.
G-senjou no Maou
You play the role of Azai Kyosuke, the son of a legendary gangster infamous in the underworld. You spend your time listening to Bach, playing God at school and covertly working for your stepfather, a ruthless financial heavyweight. This idyllic existence is broken when two individuals appear in the city – a beautiful girl named Usami Haru, with hair you could get lost in for days, and a powerful international gangster known only as Maou. Almost without delay, the two begin a deadly cat-and-mouse game, bringing you and your friends into the crossfire. Plotting, political intrigue and layer upon layer of interlocking traps are the weapons in this epic battle of wits
The name for this 2008 Akabeisoft2 title, G-senjou no Maou, is one that immediately grabs people, albeit for all of the wrong reasons for when translated directly to English it means ‘The Devil on G-string’. Being an eroge, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were a few who blindly saw the title without even glancing at the synopsis and eagerly set about reading it, looking forward to some tripe about haunted lacy undergarments. Let me offer my apologies, fetishists. There are no such things to be found in this high-paced thriller, with the title actually referencing two classical pieces: Bach’s ‘Air on the G String’ and Schubert’s ‘Der Erlkönig’.
As was the case with 2005 title Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo, G-senjou has its own immersive world which is that extra bit more modern, taking place in an everyday city you could find anywhere. And like all modern cities, it has a seedy underbelly in which evil deeds are overlooked, carried out swiftly and with ease. Acts of terrorism happen on a weekly basis, loving family homes are repossessed by uncaring debt collectors, foreign goods manage to illegally be imported, and negotiating with hostages are all day-to-day occurrences. Protagonist Azai Kyousuke is a character who does his best at attempting to live in this world.
Kyousuke is our unvoiced snarker, with a rather cynical and calculated view of the world. At the start of our story he sees people as tools used for his own personal gain, and only really cares about getting his hands dirty to please the letahl yakuza Azai Gonzou, and earning enough money (he has a huge sum of debt to pay off). He has nobody that he can call a true friend, and hides his darker, uncaring side under a façade of charisma and extroversion. His life changes once Usami Haru makes her appearance, and with that, he becomes more sociable and opens up his once closed heart to others. He is the adopted son of the aforementioned Gonzou, the sort of person who can calmly sit down and savour the taste of sushi while being surrounded by blood that he freshly spilled, and tell Kyousuke to go after his actual daughter in order to set her straight. On the whole, almost certainly not ideal father material. It may seem like Kyousuke is but a dog of his who’ll ask ‘how high’ when Gonzou tells him to jump, but he has a valid reason for it – although it certainly is difficult explaining it to others…
Ever since I saw a promotional image for Usami Haru, I knew that I’d like her. Mainly because of her wild, untamed hair. Having heard nothing about the characters and only seeing that image of her on the front cover, I had a feeling that she’d become my favourite heroine. And she did for Haru proves to be a very likeable character in quite a number of ways. She’s an atypical heroine who’s not quite the cloud cuckoo lander she makes herself out to be, with her tendency to lapse into non sequiturs and make bizarrely random observations. She has a long-standing grudge when it comes to Maou, and is nothing but ruthless in her quest for his blood. Haru’s seiyuu was the instantly recognizable Kawashima Rino. It could have been due to me reading through Subarashiki Hibi before I started G-senjou, or it may have been the free-spirited and offbeat personalities that both Yuki and Haru shared, but I kept hearing Yuki in Haru. Not that that’s a bad thing, of course. Just thought that it was something worth noting.
Let me just say, that I can never bring myself to like characters such as Tsubaki Miwa. In fact, I openly detest them. You all know the sort – the sweet and selfless class president type, who’s far too good for this oh so cruel and sinful world. Her naïvety regarding people and the world around her bewildered me so. Tsubaki (along with her family) is the sort of character you’d expect to find on some feel good American show which teaches the importance of family values from perhaps thirty or forty years ago. On the whole she’s this very anachronistic character who doesn’t quite fit in the scene of a modern-day Tokyo with a backdrop of crime, and corruption. The simple pleasures in life are what holds her interest, caring little for things girls her own age are into such as fashion or electronics. Once she can be with her family (and write in her diary every so often), she’s happy. Having said that, she did arouse my interest during her chapter. She has an innocent, childlike crush on Kyousuke, and as soon as he begins to pay more attention to her, and as things begin to strain in her family, her attitude begins to warp, slowly. She loses track of the family she adores, and is even rude and surly to them. It was quite shocking to such a character change so drastically over a short, yet tense period of time. Whether she stays that way, is up to you to find out…
She is voiced by Kanzaki Chiro (under the pseudonym Murasakibana Sumire).
How much I truly came to like Azai Kanon surprised me. Her family consist of the tyrannical Gonzou, a decidedly non-motherly mother (whom Gonzou has long since separated from), and a brother in name only who she evidently harbours affection for. With a family like that, who needs enemies? Surrounded by more issues than Vogue it’s a wonder how Kanon turned out to be so high-spirited and (relatively) normal compared to everyone else. Needless to say, her part in the story mostly revolves around the said difficulties she has with her family, along with the abnormally tense pressure of her career for she is a professional figure skater. Despite initially coming off as a stereotypical genki girl (as well as filling in the devoted imouto slot), like Tsubaki, Kanon’s characterization made her so much more than that and further increased my liking for her. I’ve seen quite a number of people say that they dislike Kanon, but on the whole I found her to be one of the more likeable characters here. She possesses a steel will; a determination that’s almost frightening, and one could definitely see the resemblance to her father from the searing passion which drives her. Interestingly enough, Kanon is voiced by the lovely Koorogi Satomi, whose best known role is most likely Clannad‘s Ushio.
Shiratori Mizuha is an ojou-sama – although just like how Tsubaki wasn’t just the class president type, and just how Kanon wasn’t the typical genki girl, Mizuha also seeps outside of the box her character type already constrains her to. Mizuha’s father is the principle of the high tier school most of the characters attend, but he’s involved in plenty of shady dealings and doesn’t quite get away from everything unscathed. As a result of that, he has made a few enemies. Mizuha, having had a sheltered upbringing is not used to dealing with people, and has an idealistic view of the world in which she also has a very strong sense of justice. Lacking a degree of common sense, she willingly dives into risky things that someone with more sense would think twice about, for example. She is rather cold to Kyousuke for some reason, and goes to great lengths to ignore him. Kaibara Elena brings us the voice of this defrosting ice queen.
Although Yuki is introduced much later than the other heroines (technically she isn’t even a heroine herself) her presence in the tale is nonetheless vital. Many will agree with me when I say that she’s one of the more intriguing characters, carefully handling anything that comes her way with a clear head and a maturity unusual for her age. Whether that’s trying to tease a confession out of criminals, or dealing with a hostage situation. She is almost like a female version of Kyousuke- with her tactical thinking, along with the shade of darkness that lurks in her heart. Before the story even begins, she already has ties with the quirky Haru, and the socially awkward Mizuha. Hitomi, or Hokuto Minami put us at ease with her mature sounding voice for Tokita Yuki.
Major spoilers follow, along with some very slight spoilers for Sharin no Kuni. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Let us first tackle G-senjou‘s proverbial elephant in the room: the big ‘reveal’. I must confess that it disappointed me. Not because I saw it coming, mind (I didn’t), but because I was set on believing what evidence had already been presented, finding it odd how all that could be so easily disregarded. Having said that, if things did play out the way I expected them to, would I have been more annoyed? Perhaps so. And if that were the case, so would many others. But I can’t see why so much time would be spent on Kyousuke going through therapy, having blackouts, and being unavailable during Maou’s terrorism for it to merely throw the reader off course. It goes beyond the red herring realm and into outright foolishness for some things proved to be just a bit too coincidental for my liking. Certain things such as the sounds of a shower being in the background for Maou while Kanon was showering in Kyosuke’s apartment gave me the feeling that the Maou must have obsessively stalked Kyousuke. But, I mightn’t be giving the poor guy enough credit here. He obviously has accumulated an obscene amount of stress which he must push down, and not just that, but has to deal with practically abandoning his sick mother, as well as committing heinous crimes on a day-to-day basis.
Another aspect of G-senjou I disliked were the individual character routes (for Tsubaki, Kanon, and Mizuha) outside of the VN’s otherwise linear story. Kyousuke acts somewhat out of character in them, and there are some pretty inane endings and annoying coincidences there which got on my nerves. If Kyousuke wasn’t Maou, then why did his presence disappear altogether? It would have only made sense if Kyousuke were Maou along, and the individual routes left us assuming that it was some love conquers all drivel which eliminated his presence from Kyousuke’s body. And then there was Haru’s disappearance. Her leaving was a sure-fire sign that you were in another character’s route, and although Haru loved Kyousuke, above all her revenge for Maou came first. It was the cause for her living, the reason she pressed on. So why does she just give that up and leave as soon as another girl comes on the scene? It just doesn’t add up.
While the epilogue did catch me off guard, I found it difficult to be in any way shocked at Maou’s final test. Kyousuke’s time spent in confinement harked back to Sharin no Kuni‘s Morita Kenichi undergoing a similar trial, although anyone would agree that his was executed in a more believable (and effective) fashion. Kyousuke’s time there zoomed by a bit too quickly for me, and the open ending irked me somewhat. We were only given suggestions of the pain he was going through, as opposed to Kenichi’s literal and visceral suffering. Although I first attempted to write this review sans spoilers (which I’ve already failed at, sorry dear reader), and although the presence of would he meet up with one person was clearly solved, I was curious about everyone else. Did he steer clear of everyone. Did he meet up with them all again? What about his life together with the one person, how would that work out? Unlike Sharin‘s ending, I wasn’t left with a sense of fulfillment.
I managed to polish off the remaining two chapters within a day, and I almost regret having waited for the full translation patch instead of reading the rest on my own. Or, should I say, I regret reading the first three chapters several months back. When I dived back into the world of G-senjou, I found myself somewhat removed from it. Of course I remembered who the characters were, and could mentally map out what happened in each of the respective chapters up until that point, but it did detract slightly away from the overall experience. If you’re going to read G-senjou, I recommend not to read it over an extended period of time like several months, as when you head back in you’ll most likely regret it. Oddly enough, I abandoned Sharin for something like months before heading back to it (was drudging through a particularly painful part in Touka’s scenario and couldn’t manage to blaze through it), and it didn’t seem to matter at all. I suppose that G-senjou is the sort of VN which needs to command your full attention due to how tense it is.
Going by the title and classical music references peppered throughout, besides a few s’life tracks the soundtrack is comprised of re-imaginings of seminal classical pieces, which are befitting and a lovely addition to the story instead of the typical VN BGM fare. The music here is a vast improvement compared to Sharin‘s (which were lovely and all, but despite reading through it a little under a year ago none come to mind now), at any rate. There are dark and foreboding pieces; light-hearted and silly jingles. The plus of hearing the opening few seconds of a track you think you know is also a plus. Some stand-outs here include Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ set to Kanon’s bold and striking ice skating performance, Schubert’s ‘Der Erlkönig’ – synonymous with Maou devising a cunning plan, and the twisted fairytale sounding ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King (Peer Gynt)’ originally performed by Edvard Grieg, to name but a few. The music enriches the experience to the point where it’s especially worthy of praise. A full track listing as well as the original artists can be found here, and after completion a music library can be accessed from the main menu.
There is nothing to take issue with in the graphics department. Everything has that winter tinge from the character sprites to the backlog. G-senjou‘s world takes place in that awkward season where the hype over Christmas has just passed, yet the city is still covered with seasonal flurries every so often, and gloves and scarves need to be worn as characters await the warmer weather. Despite having such a Winter inspired world, G-senjou was oddly enough released in May. The ideal time to read through this would be the accompanying season – experiencing this in the midst of summer while wearing shorts would only detract from the experience. The art, unsurprisingly, is similar to Sharin and A-profile, for better or worse; they all share the same artist (Alpha). Similar faces are present, and during CGs characters can look rather awkward with all suspect proportions. Haru’s hair looks as distractingly and annoyingly long as it’s made out to be, flowing everywhere without a clip or band to hold it in place. Unlike Sharin‘s Kenichi, G-senjou‘s Kyousuke is depicted without eyes on all but two occasions – and in one of those two his eyes are closed. When he’s finally drawn with determined eyes, it’s after a scene where he has gained new determination to do what needs to be done.
Being one of the more intriguing VNs to come out in recent years, all the praise G-senjou no Maou has received is well deserved, the mentioned issues aside. Haru and Maou’s mental battles are the driving force here, and at times you’ll find yourself wondering if you’re rooting for the morally driven Haru who is blindly obsessed with revenge, or the smooth talking and oh so cunning Maou. Just when you believe that one character may have the upper hand, another ridiculously entertaining twist will occur giving you that adrenaline rush as you frantically plot out what could happen next.
As the demonic Maou orchestrates his hellish tune, you can’t help but become fully captivated and let it hold sway over you. As you sit down in the plush spectator’s box, place the opera glasses over your eyes and adjust your dress or tie, for you are now swept away in a whimsical blood-soaked world where even the devil won’t let you be released. I hope that you will enjoy the show as much as I have.
Release Date; May 29th, 2008
Genres; psychological thriller, suspense
Links; official – VNDB – wiki
Recommended if fond of; intensive mental battles/strategies, elements of corruption within society, Winter settings