I finished Shingakkou – Noli me tangere – yesterday, and before writing a review I thought that I needed to dump my thoughts in another post. Or maybe I just wanted to post my favourite CGs. Note that this is not a review, and more like a final collection of my thoughts. Spoilers, spoilers everywhere.
This game, man. THIS GAME. It had everything I could have wanted from it and more. My favourite characters were Michael, and August. But I also liked Jack, Ben (HIS FUCKING STUTTER, I SWEAR TO GOD), Joshua, Robert (football all day every day), Father Brozarus, and Neil. Leonid and Cecil weren’t bad characters or anything and I liked them enough while going through their respective routes, but they didn’t have enough zing to make me truly like them. They were… pleasant? I liked their route mindscrews and bad ends more than I liked the characters themselves, welp.
It bugged me that August didn’t get any overtly ‘good’ ending, although I do think that given the scenario and type of game that NMT is that it would have been out of place and would have cheapened his character had August gotten something along the lines of Cecil, Neil, and Leonid’s good endings. What happened to him in his good ending was ultimately the best thing that the writers could give him, although its coldness made me tear up slightly (I in fact bawww’d a lot, deal with it (ﾉಥ益ಥ)ﾉ ). It fulfilled the promise he made with Michael when he was younger – that he would grow up, become a pastor, and get rid of the demon within. Michael’s words of forgiveness were just what August needed and so desperately wanted, so that that he was finally able to die peacefully. Despite having asked Michael to die with him, August clearly knew that he hadn’t given him as lethal a dose as the one he took.
Even with August being horribly messed up mentally, I still believe that he loved Michael. He just quite obviously didn’t know how to express it in a normal way given how warped he was, and so had to destroy him in any way he can. When Michael got pushed into the lake by Abel (under August’s instructions), I knew that he didn’t just ‘fall’. I assumed that August pushed him in, and then made it seem like he was his saviour. That one scene in the boat house (which popped up in the game like fifty times more afterwards) was coldly calculative, and August knew exactly what would happen from there on. He didn’t have to ignore Michael to such an extent, though. Despite loving him he had a really shitty way of going about it and no wonder Michael didn’t believe him. There’s an interesting contrast there, between August and Gabi’s route. Up until the boat house happens in each, depending on the route it’s either August or Michael who is doing the ignoring. In August’s route he ignores him to such a degree that Michael practically begs him for attention, and in Gabby’s Michael ignores him and August pitifully asks when he’ll forgive him: a masochism tango in full swing.
His moral event horizon was that dreadfully depressing scene where he raped Michael while mimicking everyone’s voice close to him including his father, mother, and even sister‘s voice. Good lord. After that, I knew there was no turning back for him. There were lines which were very nearly crossed (there were just too many in his route), but that one. Holy shit. I honestly thought that his happy ending would just end at that church with him and Michael committing suicide without any hope of redemption. Unlike most BL series/games with that abhorrent rape = love trope, Michael is different because he actually started falling out of love due to it. As it should be! Of course, what August was doing with Abel was the main reason but it’s no wonder that Michael’s feelings cooled due to what he did in that room.
So, August commits suicide in what seems like every ending outside of the true one since he can’t get Michael to remember their promise. He’s sent to a mental institution, which is the best place for him. In his own end he becomes a vegetable unable to even speak (what a cheerful good end just like Cecil, Neil, and Leonid’s amirite), so in the true end there’s a chance that he can get better. Since Michael regains his faith and sees how beautiful the world is I believe that he became a pastor like he intended to, and many years on forgives August for what he’s done. Sort of like August’s ‘good’ end, except without him being a vegetable.
From the trial alone (!!!), I had guessed that Gabriel didn’t actually exist. Nobody outside of Michael spoke to or even acknowledged his presence. Cecil referred to him, but was the extent of it. That continued all the way through the game, until August’s route in which he said ‘hello, you two’ once, and said ‘Levi brothers’ another time. Now we know that Gabi doesn’t exist, but August could have read Michael’s heart and knew that he was coming along with his ‘brother’. I found it very fishy at the time, but oddly enough Michael didn’t seem to. The poor guy – he must have been that deluded. His breakdown wasn’t that brickshitting as it could have been. Freaks out after looking in the mirror, checks the roll call for Gabi’s name, his friends think he’s after going nuts and then Cecil calmly explains things until Michael thinks, ‘ah… I remember’. But in a sense I preferred NMT’s somewhat subdued take on it because it felt all that more realistic.
Actually, I did think that Gabby existed as the story went on. Just not as a tangible existence. Given Gabby’s random and sudden appearances at the ending of some routes (appearing in a flash of white light and yelling out, “No! You can’t judge him!”, for example) and that prophecy that Daniel made, for a while I thought that he was an angel. And, he probably was. Despite disappearing when Michael came to the realization that he wasn’t real. When Father Lazarus said that he was something like a guardian angel, I think he was spot on. Gabby didn’t approve of Michael associating with August from the get go, for example. And we all know what happened there…
What I truly wasn’t prepared for was what happened in Gabby’s good end. Who’d have known that there actually was a twin brother with that name! I’m sure my jaw very nearly dropped at that moment because I didn’t anticipate it. That scene where the two met just about broke my heart. It was Michael’s thoughts which did it – him thinking how different his mannerisms were to his Gabby. No wonder the guy broke down in tears. For a second I thought that it was his Gabby who had somehow speedily reincarnated (I know, I know, he didn’t even ‘exist’ – it still didn’t stop me from thinking it!), but when he started speaking I knew he wasn’t. I’m glad that P/S didn’t go with what I imagined because it would have been a complete cop out and would have made me rage.
Some of the bad ends were brilliant – one of my favourites was when Michael sold his soul to August to get out of being violated by the principal forever, and then wakes up in a cinema. He sees an eerie shaky movie when Leonid at the center (since it was a bad ending of his route) then wakes up and Leonid is there with an arm casually slung around him. Michael makes such a derpy looking post and face that I legitimately thought for a second that it was the real Michael and that he turned into a vegetable, while August took his soul or something (which is supported by the film – what’s happening outside of his locked-in state – with students remarking that he’s the dude who went crazy). He then says something about having a dream, and Leonid is all ‘lol don’t worry’. Then the screen goes distorted and on Leonid’s fucking shoulders there’s the head of a goat. Which basically implied that the pair would be sitting in that cinema forever. In Michael’s mind that is, as it’s really an escape from the reality with the principal. Holy shit.
My least favourite bad end was one which made me literally feel nauseous. It was a general bad end, where slanderous stuff appeared about Michael and his posse on the newspaper, and he basically decided that he had nothing left to live for and went to commit suicide. He was after slitting a wrist open, and then August (under the guise of Lucifer) came along and made everything so much worse by crucifying him. But it didn’t stop there. He fucked him up mentally and made him think that he was being taken by all these filthy demons and creatures. It was sort of sickening to read through, made even worse by how that particular set of CGs had 23 different ones. Yes. Puking_Madotsuki.jpg has never been more relevant.
The good ends (outside of August and Gabby’s) were lovely, fluffy affairs. Leonid and Cecil’s in particular. Neil’s was a bit difficult, but then got better once Michael became an adult.
I would totally be like FUCKING MASTERPIECE A+ 10/10 WOULD PLAY AGAIN but it had some infuriating flaws so I won’t allow myself to gush about it as much as I’d like to. I’d give it a 9/10 but I don’t think it deserves the same ranking as other titles I have at that score (Cross Channel, to name one), but at the same time it doesn’t look right being an 8/10 either. I’d put it somewhere in the middle of those two scores, or just below a 9. Yeah, I think I’ll go with that. 8/10.
TL;DR – this is fantastic, for a BL game. Way better than what I imagined it would be (despite lol linearity, the same events happening in every single goddamned route nearly, OH HEY YOU CAN GUESS I’M NOT REAL FROM THE FIRST HOUR ALONE and OH LOOK I’M THE LEADER OF THIS CLUB BUT JUST BECAUSE I’VE THE SAME SKIN TONE AS YOUR FAVOURITE TEACHER DOESN’T MEAN WE’RE THE SAME BECAUSE LOL I CAN CHANGE VOICES), and is my favourite BL game I’ve played so far. I’d even rank it in my top ten. That’s how much I love this. So if you’re a fan of this kind of stuff, go read it.