While reading the trial of Nitro+’s newest offering Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi (Totono, for short), I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly happened during its production process for it to turn out like this. When character designs of the girls first surfaced (then known as heroine A and B, respectively) they looked different compared to their final designs. Now a little change is to be expected, but it’s worth noting when the final designs hint at a personality alteration and a possible shift in tone. The original designs were typical Tsuji Santa fare, all bright colours which weren’t properly defined yet – Miyuki with a tsundere scowl and Aoi all coquettish with bright eyes and short curly hair. While Miyuki has stayed more or less the same, it’s Aoi who changed the most. She transformed from a heroine befitting of a pure love game to a character with a permanent thousand-yard stare on her vacant little face. It makes me wonder if Shimokura simply got bored of writing the pure love game he promised to deliver and wanted to play around with the tropes a little more… Almost like a god. It’s up to them to do what they so wish with the worlds they create and their inhabitants.
Nitro+ have been busy with bit projects and tie-ins ever since the release of their last offering, 2010’s Axanael (although some sulky folks in the back might prefer to turn a blind eyes to its existence and name Narahara’s Muramasa instead). While I didn’t think it was the kusoge that people make it out to be, exactly, it was still pretty bad and if I didn’t like Noco/Nitori so much I wouldn’t be nearly as mellow towards it. No one ever has anything especially bad to say about it other than lazily calling it shit, but Totono. Oh boy, now this is a title that people won’t be able to leave off with a few lazy buzzwords. With the trial alone I’ve seen more people slating than praising it, with it undoubtedly proving to be controversial for possibly all the wrong reasons.
From my reading of it, seeing reactions online, and what industry insiders think (such as Tanaka Romeo), it’s clear not a lot of people are going to think highly of it. Earlier, I even saw Shimokura (undoubtedly with a grin plastered on his face) retweeting people who were anxious about what would happen. While Totono deviates from industry trends, it does so in such an obnoxious way that I too am finding it difficult to say anything positive about it. When Totono‘s first PV was announced, there was an ethereal beauty to it which really appealed to me with its dreamy piano track and Hourou Musuko inspired backgrounds. The music cutting off with the bat dropping rose questions, but I welcomed them.
But Nitro+ couldn’t leave it alone, could they. Instead of relying on hints and possibilities, they chose to advertise all of its potential twists in magazines, showing Miyuki as a yandere with her trusty bat all bloodied and Aoi possibly engaging in NTR. No one was particularly surprised at the possibility of some ole ultra violence, but what managed to send people’s eyebrows flying right up to their hairline was the NTR aspect. Another much more obvious and less memorable PV was released, and cut outs of Miyuki and her by then infamous bloody bat were displayed in windows across Akihabara. Totono was beginning to look more like a trainwreck with every passing week, yet I was still somewhat excited for it. No such thing as bad publicity, right? Get people talking about the product you want to sell, no matter how unsubtle you’re being about it.
It’s unsettling to a degree, but not how you’d expect it to be. When Aoi was first introduced I warmed up to her character immediately, her monotone jibes about childhood friends and flags along with her casual teasing towards a flustered Miyuki had me hook, line, and sinker. Aoi calling Miyuki out on her ‘w-we’re lovers!’ bullshit was a great moment to be sure. Her spiel is entertaining, and continues to be for most of the trial. That is, until it eventually reaches dangerously unhealthy levels. She’s genre savvy to the point of being obviously not right in the head, poles apart from the lovable continuous referencing style of Community‘s Abed. She’s a heroine, but she’s not the main one – the ‘childhood friend with the long black hair’ is. But, since she’s a heroine too (albeit not the main one), it’s perfectly fine for the protagonist to do lewd things to her, as she graphically details adding apt sound effects in her unchanging voice. If this were any other VN that scene would have certainly been played for laughs – teehee, so meta~! it’s because they are eroge characters, teehee! – but here it comes across as bizarre.
With Aoi constantly calling the world the characters inhabit a game, you start to wonder yourself. Early on before she and Miyuki become friends, Miyuki asks for proof. Aoi starts pulling down her underwear much to the intense shock of the other two present. Her reasoning? If she does, a mosaic will appear. Heads are shaken, eyes rolling all round, but we can’t help but pity our little denpa darling with her tendency to retreat into her own world. She has problems at home, so practically lives at a manga cafe where she can eat as many sweets as she pleases, refusing to accept reality. As the trial progresses, though, the possibility arises that Aoi may be more in tune with their world than the rest of the characters put together. If anything goes wrong, it’s cool. There’s always the earlier saves. Better make use of them because as she so kindly warns Shinichi, he’s heading straight towards a bad end if he and the main heroine are unable to connect.
Oh yes, Totono knows exactly what it’s doing. And you do too, for you, dear reader, are the observer. Aoi is forever trying to get in touch with ‘god’ on the roof, willing something to happen. It’s not immediately apparent, but I’ve a feeling that the reader is that very same god she’s trying to reach. Shinichi doesn’t make the choices in their lives – not really. Since Totono is all about tropes it’s the most likely scenario. A modern Blick Winkel, if you will, except the hand is shown much earlier this time around. The reader knows what’s in store for them, but I bet no one expected Totono‘s very premise to seemingly revolve around that. I know I certainly didn’t. What I expected was a virtual reality twist of sorts given the site previews after 11 pm (make sure to check out the one neat marketing gimmick if you haven’t already).
Well, no matter what happens with this disaster in the making (for today is its release date), we can still admit that Aoi is adorable, right?
Of course we can. ヽ(*´ｖ｀*)ﾉ