Futagoza no Paradox

“Smiiiillle~!”

Futagoza no Paradox

His head spins, as does the world around him.

Upon waking up in his school’s abandoned tennis court at night, Moroboshi Souji can’t quite place what’s going on let alone how he got there. Trying to collect himself, he goes through the events leading up to that moment and recalls how he stayed after school taking extra classes, while others were attending various clubs. He comes across his childhood friend, Kasuga Natsuki, in the midst of changing after tennis practice. Despite accusations of him being ~kyah!~ a pervert, Souji has no time for romcom hijinks as he quickly drags her out. Her protests are soon silenced as the pair look up towards the sky-

A flash of lightning.

What blankets their world is no longer the usual sight of the night sky, but a multicoloured void. As they make their way towards the school gates, they quickly come to the realization that it’s not just the sky that’s gone strange, but their entire school has… There’s no way it’s floating in space or something, right?

Feeling alarmed, even though Natsuki has been secured Souji can’t help but worry if his two other important people are safe. Bizarrely though, his phone won’t turn on despite it having been charged that morning. Not knowing what to do, the pair are in quite the helpless situation. As viewpoints shift, taking place at the same time we encounter Souichi and his childhood friend, Kasuga Haruki. An unsettling feeling which can’t be put into words overtaking them, the pair make their way towards the school. On reaching it, they can’t believe what they’re seeing. How could they possibly? Their entire school has been uprooted, with a crater lying where it once was. Stranger still is a girl standing in the middle of it. It’s a girl that the pair are all too familiar with, for it happens to be their classmate Tesla.

Suspicions mount. Souichi’s phone doesn’t work, and neither do the phones of anyone who has been left behind. The internet won’t connect either but perhaps strangest of all is how the incident hasn’t made the news anywhere. You would think it, for the school they attend isn’t any regular old one for it holds a department especially for the most skilled of students with regards to mental prowess of the supernatural sort. The twins in particular were invited to attend due to a researching of the concept of twin synchronicity; with their unique bond, in case a catastrophe were to occur how would they be able to reach each other? With Souji and Souichi being forcibly dragged apart like this, the time to put their synchronicity to the test may have finally arrived…

Initially, I was reluctant to even touch this what looked like a sort-of-sequel. Given my cool reception to Owaru Sekai to Birthday (to be referred to as Owasekai from here on)last summer I wasn’t exactly boarding the Cotton Soft hype train when Futagoza no Paradox (Futapara – do your best not to read it as Futanari Paradise etc.) first popped up on my radar. I thought the premise looked uninspired and so casually dismissed it. Twins, experiencing life-shaking events at different locations? Going off the premise I snottily assumed to have everything figured out and so felt it wasn’t worth a second look or thought. While many praised Owasekai and still do, I found it all a bit too convenient with suspect writing for the sake of it. I didn’t want to experience that again.

To this day it’s a title I feel ambivalent towards, and my opinion varies depending on my mood or when you ask me. Ultimately though, it was a title that made me want to not completely rule the company out and at least try another one of their titles. Recently, I was told that Futapara surpassed Owasekai which surprised me. Maybe it would prove to be the title worth that second look. What it actually turned out to be was the title which made me wash my hands of the company.

Characters

The first of our heroes is the younger of the twins, Souji. Despite being identical appearance-wise, when it comes to personality they couldn’t be more different. In comparison to his brother Souji is the livelier one, taking things at his own chill pace. He’s the kind of person who brings joy wherever he goes, so it’s not surprising he has his fair share of admirers. Constantly playing the fool, Souji will dive right into messing around with people and generally enjoys having a good time, although he can be pretty lewd.

Serving the role of Souji’s loyal childhood friend is the fiery Natsuki. Their connection goes way back, with Souji having saved her from being swallowed by a wave when they were younger. Shortly after this incident the twins moved, but a year previously in-game the sisters enrolled in Eiman, in turn rekindling their friendship. You may look at the twin tails paired with a flustered expression and assume that she’s a dyed-in-the-wool tsundere, but Natsuki was unexpectedly a likable and down-to-earth character. When faced with injustice she’ll stand up for it without hesitation, taking everyone’s welfare into account but her own. Even when scolding characters you can tell her heart’s only sort of in it as she does her best to put up a tough guy front.

If Tesla serves as a testament to the mystery of man’s latent abilities, then Ao’s mystery lies within her curvaceous physique – in Souji’s opinion, anyway. An aloof character bathed in mystery with little friends, she darts around the school with an agenda of her own knowing far more than she lets on. But even when accusations pile high, Ao manages to stay focused, coolly telling her accusers they can believe whatever they like. She easily rises above petty squabbles, quickly putting an end to those that involve Souji and co. by showing up in a whirlwind of cutlery. While spoons and forks wouldn’t usually be one’s weapon of choice, in Ao’s hands they can be especially harmful. She is quite the glutton, with food being forever on her mind. As shown by her dispelling of arguments not involving her, Ao isn’t as cold as one may initially think. In fact, she can be quite warm when the situation allows. However, there is the minor snag of her being Souichi’s ex-girlfriend…

The older of the twins is Souichi. He plays the straight man to Souji’s buffoonery, being much more reserved in his actions and manner. He’s the one with the common sense, given that he’s prone to ruminating more so than his brother. He can be blunt at times, but he has a kind and caring heart as shown when he’s with his brother and childhood friends – in particular, when he’s with Haruki.

Much like her older sister Natsuki’s relationship with Souji, Haruki takes the role of being the childhood friend Souichi is closest to. Having been poorly since she was younger, Souichi spent a lot of time with her and kept company which is something she greatly appreciates to this day. In fact, Haruki preferred when it was raining as it meant her friends would spend time with her instead of playing outside. A rather shy and gentle soul, her first appearance (and most of her earlier ones, honestly) doesn’t instill the reader with the most positive of impressions, with her large breasts frequently being at the center of attention. Every line with her fumbling and whining paired with Natsuki’s scowling about sexual harassment did her no favours. But like many characters in Futapara – perhaps even more so – she has an indispensable ability.


As if her soul had come loose, the reader’s first encounter with the mysterious Tesla is a striking one; found in the crater where the characters’ school once lay, staring blankly into space she speaks of aliens. Despite being the same age as the rest of the Scooby gang, she will refuse to respond when called during attendance, preferring to hum along while she draws. She will scribble all over someone’s face before school even starts, and will latch onto someone’s breasts. While her idiosyncratic tendencies make up much of her character, it’s not like there’s menace lying behind these impulsive actions. Rather, she does these things as she’s unable to fully comprehend what exactly is so bad about them. Given that Eiman is a school that hosts those with special abilities, Tesla would be one of the more remarkable personalities for she is a savant. Despite having severe issues with communication and learning, she has a fascinatingly rare ability to draw things exactly as they would appear in reality.

Impressions

Imagine dear reader, that you are reading a VN. Not too difficult to imagine I assume. Imagine then, that you are after reaching a point where a cute girl in a school uniform bounds onto the scene wielding an axe. A strange image to be sure, but the image is yet to be complete. As she proceeds to all-knowingly ask the protagonist if they are familiar with the concept of Schrödinger’s cat, the chosen heroine has a dazed look on her face. Looking at the girl with horror, only one word escapes her trembling lips – ‘father..?’.

One hour, two hours into Futapara I couldn’t help but have the goofiest of grins plastered on my face. I reveled in its absurdity: it was stupid, sure, but wonderfully and deliberately so that you couldn’t help but be taken in by its knowingly gaudy staging. It was pure entertainment of the trashiest kind, definitely being a case of so-bad-it’s-actually-brilliant. With the erratically shifting POVs between the twins there was always something new to be surprised at, another cheap reveal to hook your interest. Within those first few hours that playful b-movie sense permeates Futapara, and it is genuinely enjoyable. But after a while, something begins to stir. What I took for being cheap and disposable starts taking itself a little more seriously. As the cheesy strings play and characters start howling pantomime tears, the smile fades from your face as you realize you’re the only one who ever saw it as a joke.

While I viewed Owasekai in a semi-serious light, from the very beginning I took Futapara in its ridiculous stride. It was 10/10 entertainment in how shamelessly shit it was, but once the tears flow in-game things only escalate. It becomes more ludicrous, and your frustration mounts but you’re in too deep to give it up just yet. Pushing yourself, you hope that maybe the next route will be a little better before making a last ditch attempt betting it all on the ending. There is no satisfaction or prize to be found; it’s a slog to the finish line, a race you’re reluctant to even finish. It’s that sense of dissatisfaction which ties this patchwork quilt of nonsense together.

If I were to pinpoint a single moment where the last remaining thread of enjoyment was yanked, I doubt I’d be able to. It might have been the immersion breaking powerlevels culminating in chuuni-style battles, complete with the protagonist facing off against someone in an eyepatch. It might have been the eldritch abomination preparing to swoop down on the unsuspecting heroine taking a bath outdoors. It might have been wedging a completely gratuitous pissing scene in the midst of a tense situation. It might have even been the situation I first proposed with the girl and the axe. Or maybe it all happened at once.

For very much like Owasekai, Futapara attempts to burn an entertaining tale throwing a plethora of half-assed tropes into the mix. At the very least Owasekai‘s writers were somewhat limited in what they could exploit with each case being relatively isolated and following a specific theme. Here however, the writers in charge of the scenario were given free reign resulting in them stuffing literally whatever the hell they wanted into the narrative even when there was clearly no room for it. They didn’t just look at the set recipe but yanked as many as they possibly could. Cohesion and logic are all but abandoned as we drift through all matter of cheesy SF phenomena from espers to zombies. I am fully convinced that Cotton Soft’s meetings would begin each time with someone putting forward a proposal like “like, guys, check this wikipedia page: wouldn’t it be like, crazy shit if this got thrown in?”, to which the others would enthusiastically assent to.

That devil-may-care attitude results in an appallingly constructed work, to the point where I could theoretically make a bad science-fiction bingo pulling tropes and situations from it alone. I could make a drinking game with the sole rule being you take a shot every time you marvel at how fucking stupid it all is, but that would prove to be a hazard as it would have participants floored within half an hour, the end result being them rushed to hospital for alcohol poisoning. If this were an anime, it would instantly reach legendary terribad status with bloggers watching it for the sake of posterity, being absolutely convinced they’re watching terribad history in the making.

You definitely get the impression that the company was trying their clumsy hand at a quick and dirty cash-in of popular sci-fi epics. Stuffed to the brim with pseudoscience the writers haven’t even bothered to make sound convincing, you can’t help but wonder if the writers pulled all their drivel from wikipedia or the first page on google. It’s all vague references to this and that with lazy, gimmicky cop-out explanations like Schrödinger’s Cat and the Butterfly effect to sound like they know what they’re talking about, and you wonder if they have a deep let alone superficial understanding of what baloney they’re throwing down on the script. It doesn’t feel remotely convincing and once you learn Futapara’s already unstable foundation is built on an urban legend it’s too late for your opinion of the work has reached rock-bottom.

Going from what I’ve said so far, you may very well think this is a parody. By god, I wish it was but it takes itself amazingly seriously even during the more cartoonish moments. One heroine’s route features a trapped environment where faceless characters quickly grow hysterical over breadcrumbs and just as quickly come to half-assed conclusions. As tensions mount between the normal students and the chosen few special ones, you really don’t give two shits and pray for some end of the world scenario out of Owasekai to occur. It’s all so poorly written, with jabs against Tesla having been specifically engineered for the reader not to forget that there’s a legit reason underlying her infantile behaviour and young looks. A character will go through a distressing event only to overcome it within a dozen lines, supported by a bounce of their breasts and a lighthearted BGM.

There’s not a single decent or likable character out of the lot, save for perhaps Natsuki. And even then you don’t care. You literally don’t care. If it’s possible the supporting cast is even worse, with characters on each side being ridiculously imbalanced. Souichi’s features one of the more overbearing comic relief characters I have yet to come across, obnoxiously braying about ninjas and tsundere characters in fragmented Japangrish. How wacky. How absolutely side-splitting. Souji’s side features one of the only faintly likable characters in Futapara‘s entire presentation in form of the single-mindedly devoted vice-president Reika, whose total line count probably doesn’t surpass four digits. A character who’s not even a character in a sense, but more of an archetype. Says a lot, doesn’t it?

In terms of affection it all turns a bit too quickly. In particular one character’s love is portrayed as being endearing with the player obviously meant to root for them, wholeheartedly offering their support, but it comes across as jarring and borderline predatory. You don’t think they’ll actually go there, but of course they bloody do. References are dated and bizarre (I counted two Who Wants to be a Millionaire ones). The protagonist saying ‘woah she’s like one of those whatchamacallits, a yandere’ is not being genre savvy, nor is it a wink towards the reader. It is stating the obvious. As are phrases like ‘woah, this is like something straight out of a film!’. Really, Cotton Soft?

Not to mention how disappointingly predictable it all is. I doubt it even boils down to a case of being genre-savvy because its presentation is just that lazy. You get the feeling a certain character will pull a heel-face-turn the very scene they’re introduced. Once an ‘irrelevant’ side character bites the bullet you dully feel like they’ll eventually pop up later, possibly orchestrating the entire shebang. Guess what happens?

Sound

The BGMs are inconsequential and despite writing this review a day after Futapara’s completion, I could hardly remember any of them. Whenever something weird happened (which was a fucking lot) the untzish ‘包囲空間’ played. ‘また逢う日まで’ was sort of nice, but it feels like I’ve heard its melody before, if not that exact BGM. It’s rather tragic when one of the only memorable BGMs in a soundtrack is a slapstick tune with various noises patched together like ‘pretty sheep’. The OP and ED aren’t that much of an improvement. Its OP ‘gemini’ is downright dreadful, coming off as an unholy hybrid of Mirai Nikki and Watamote’s OPs. A gentle orgel version of it features in the soundtrack which sounds weirder still. The OP’s visuals feature equally bizarre ‘animation’ of the girls dancing with over exaggerated proportions veering dangerously into uncanny valley territory. Its ED ‘寄る辺なきこの世界で’ is a nondescript affair, completely inoffensive and not something you’d listen to outside of Futapara.

Despite it being a fully voiced work (only the twins have partial voice acting) the seiyuu are a mixed bag. Tamiyasu Tomoe (Little Busters!‘s Natsume Rin; Grisaia‘s Makina) breathing life into our little savant made her vastly more likable, unsparingly offering the best performance out of the lot although it doesn’t measure up to her more iconic roles. I have no doubt that the fault doesn’t lie in Tamiyasu for Tesla wasn’t written to be a dynamic character. I rather shamefully didn’t even realize that the ever superb Kawashima Rino (Subarashiki Hibi’s Minakami Yuki; Kusarihime’s Kurame) voiced Reika until I looked her up. She came across as lightly threatening able to instill the reader (along with the characters) with a sense of unease. Despite not having a route she seems to be a firm favourite of fans and staff alike, so the Kawashima effect must have worked its magic.

Ono Ryouko’s (Yosuga no Sora‘s Migiwa Kazuha; Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai’s Tamaizumi Hiyoko) Natsuki as a main heroine was nice enough, but once Rikimaru Noriko’s (Tayutama: Kiss on my Deity’s Mito Mashiro; To Heart’s Kouno Takaaki) Ao turned saccharine sweet, voice positively dripping with unconvincing ardor I resisted the urge to turn the voices off.

Art

If there’s one thing I’ll give to this travesty, it’s how the art has improved considerably from Owasekai. One of the major improvements lies in the character designs. While I believe Owasekai’s soft bug-eyed faces stemmed from the one character designer, Futapara had two. Shiyuuki, the more competent of the designers, worked on most of the men along with Natsuki and Ao. Miyoruno drew Tesla and Haruki. The ones on Souichi’s side look far younger than they are – Tesla, in particular. This is lampshaded several times by Haruka and others expressing surprise at how her appearance doesn’t add up to her age. Design quirks in general are down to two or three instead of four.

It’s the CGs where most of the problems occur, for Futapara’s cover and tachi-e are misleadingly pretty. There’s an obvious quality dip as the VN progresses with hair and colour appearing completely different. Strands and fringes will appear soft in one CG, spiky and firm in another. Even in relatively somber CGs panty shots are prevalent, being serious mood-ruiners. The reason for this lies in how awkwardly short the girls’ skirts with abnormal side-shots taking advantage of them for all they’re worth. Weird proportions also crop up, but it’s to a much lesser scale this time around. Most of the backgrounds are handsomely rendered, but one or two were quick jobs with brush strokes being distractingly apparent. Ao and Haruki’s breasts will also jiggle. Constantly. For no reason, even during serious scenes.

System

Futapara is a short enough work spanning sixteen hours or so. The scenarios are divided between both Souji (represented by red) and Souichi (by blue). This is a linear work, so you must read one part before progressing to another. Early on it constantly switches between both, but as the common route progresses you might read three or four blocks from Souji’s view before switching over to Souichi. Every so often you’ll encounter a lock in which you must go back to the other’s and read their portions before you continue. The route progression starts with Souji’s side (Natsuki, then Ao) before moving onto Souichi’s.

As Futapara is set in the same universe as Owasekai, don’t be fooled into thinking you can read this and go back to the earlier title at a later date. Several major twists are casually referenced, including spoofing Owasekai‘s very nature soon after Souji and Natsuki find themselves whisked away.

Overall…

Futagoza no Paradox is possibly one of the worst relatively serious VNs I have yet to read, which is quite impressive in itself. While on the whole I disliked Owaru Sekai to Birthday, at the very least it had a semi-satisfying emotional ending to somewhat negate the problems I had with it. With this, there is nothing. Your face is as blank as the final credits roll as it was two, three hours earlier. It is such an absolute clusterfuck that even during the inevitable title drop you find it difficult to care. Your enjoyment starts at the top before crashing right to the bottom. Full of unskilled character development, lethally humourless slice-of-life portions and bad writing in general, it is quite frankly an embarrassing work which doesn’t deserve to be read. In Tomiichi Uni’s portion in the staff room, speaking about bouncing breasts and his desire to give every heroine a pissing scene speaks volumes about the work.

Those elements could easily be ignored if this were any other work. Fetishes are fetishes, right? It’s too bad that these elements overcloud the work, to the point where you feel the team cared more about those things and keraaazzy sci-fi elements rather than weaving a coherent story together. Now, don’t get me wrong. Some of my favourite titles are propped up on pseudosciencey waffle. But the difference between those and this is that they are done skillfully. Convincingly, even. Here it is done amateurishly, painfully obvious that it was the first time those writing the scenario had touched the genre.

Overall score: 43%

Misc. Information

Company: Cotton Soft (Amber Quartz, Owaru Sekai to Birthday)
Scenario: Tomiichi Umi (Owaru Sekai to Birthday, Sanarara), Kano Itarou (Happy Princess, Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi AA), Goshirube Haruka (Soshite Kirameku Otome to Himitsu^5, Imouto Chu☆ #01 Sunao Imouto no Shou)
Artists: Tsukasa Yuuki (Gratin, Natsumegu), Miyorunoyumegi (Dareka no Tame ni Dekirukoto ~Innocent Identity~)
Genres: ‘science-fiction’, ‘drama’, ‘romance’
Release date: June 28th, 2013
Links: officialgetchuvndbEGS
Recommended if fond of: terribad sci-fi ventures
EGS rating: 75%
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