Full disclosure, in this article I’m going to be talking about something that is, in strictly technical definitions, pornography. The article is not about the sexual aspects, nor does it feature any sexual images. You’ve been warned in advance.
You know what I love? Taking something old and tired and making it new and interesting again. I love, for example, that Cabin in the Woods was able to take the played-out formula for an 80’s-style slasher movie and turn the whole thing on its head until it made that style fresh again. I think that sort of thing is brilliant.
Specifically in this case I want to talk about a visual novel called Grisaia no Kajitsu (“The Fruit of Grisaia”). First, to get it out of the way, yes, I read a lot of visual novels, and no, this doesn’t have anything to do with my weird obsession with terrible erotica. This is entirely about enjoying a good story.
Grisaia no Kajitsu stars Yuji Kazami, a high school-aged boy who’s spent the better part of his life either training to be or actually being a child soldier/special operative. Like all proper anime protagonists he’s got a dark and troubled past – his sister, a God-level genius, disappeared years ago and is presumed dead. Because he lived in the shadow of his older sister, he was neglected by his parents and became an introverted, emotionally stunted child. One thing leads to another and he ends up becoming this amazing secret agent.
Anyway, when Yuji gets to his mid-teens, he decides that, for a change, he wants to get his fair shot at a normal life. His superiors are okay with this so long as he remains on standby in case a major crisis breaks out. Problem is, as someone who hasn’t experienced a normal social upbringing, his superiors are worried about sending him to a normal school for fear of, say, PTSD symptoms and difficulties adjusting. Instead, they send him to a school for, effectively, socially broken people, of which there are already five, all of whom are girls. Throughout the game you make choices and based on those choices you end up dating one of these women. Wacky hijinks ensue.
The five women at the school are Amane, a sexually aggressive “older sister”-type character who’s weirdly protective of Yuji; Makina, a hyper-intelligent lolita girl who’s very clingy and childish; Sachi, an actual maid who interprets all orders she’s given super literally; Yumiko, a cold and distant girl who’s liable to lash out with a box cutter if you get too close to her; and Michiru, your classic “tsundere”-type character. You might notice that each of these girls sounds like an absolutely gear-grinding anime cliche.
This is where Grisaia gets super interesting. To explain why, let me go into the entire backstory for one of the girls.
So, should you choose to pursue Amane, she quite abruptly amps up all of her cliche tropes. Despite being a virgin, she throws herself at you, sexually speaking, and suddenly she’s caring for your every whim. She claims that she just enjoys being able to be affectionate with her partner, but as the game progresses it becomes increasingly clear that making you happy is becoming an unhealthy obsession for her. You discover that she’s keeping a diary where she frequently writes down new and interesting ways that she can think of to giver herself over to Yuji more fully. She wonders if she can find ways to offer up her ears and nose as sexual orifices, she’s obsessively figuring out how to cook every single thing, it’s nuts.
So finally you corner her and ask her what the hell is going on and you get the whole story. So, remember when I said Yuji had a sister? Before Amane came to this school she was in the same class as Yuji’s sister. On the way back from a camping trip, their school bus took a turn too hard and tumbled off a cliff into a forest. A bunch of kids and teachers survived, including Amane and Yuji’s sister Kazuki. At the bottom of a canyon surrounded by trees there was no cell service, and the road they were taking was remote, so the odds of someone coming across the wreckage soon were slim. Nobody knows how wide the forest is or even if there’s anything on the other side.
They try everything to get help but they’re unsuccessful. Amane, hysterical and terrified, clings to Yuji’s genius sister, who calmly tries to guide her through the situation. They’re stuck for two weeks with limited food and water until people start succumbing to their injuries and dying of sepsis. Everyone who’s thankfully not injured starts to waste away and starve. However, there’s a couple people who strangely seem to be doing pretty okay. Amane wanders through the woods one night until she discovers a group of them eating one of the sepsis-ridden bodies of their classmates. They, mad from brain diseases (they ate sepsis) and not wanting to get caught, try to kill Amane. Amane runs to get Kazuki, and Kazuki starts leading her through the woods, but the cannibals are better fed and start gaining on them. Kazuki tells Amane to keep going, she’s going to distract them, then turns around and is never seen again. Amane keeps going, ends up in a field of cabbages, where she sobs uncontrollably and eats until she throws up. Later, she’s rescued.
Right before Kazuki turns around to leave, she says, “Oh hey, by the way, since we live so close to each other, if you ever happen upon my brother, would you mind taking care of him for me? He’s kind of fragile. Well, see ya later!”
Wracked with guilt, Amane decides that the only way she can repay Kazuki for saving her life is by throwing herself, body and soul, at Yuji. This manifests itself as the doting and sexually promiscuous “older sister” anime stereotype. You see, all of these women are anime cliches, but they also live at a school for the extremely mentally disturbed.
It’s great! It’s fucking unbelievable. They’re all like that, and all of the explanations are extremely creative and heartbreaking. It also makes replaying the game extra difficult, because you start reading innocuous comments with new context and every single thing they say just knifes you right in the feelings. You learn why the maid takes everything literally, you learn why the tsundere has such a loud personality, and all the reasoning has so much depth to it. Sure, some of the explanations are a little silly out of context (I’m not a huge fan of the tsundere’s storyline) but in the moment when you’re emotionally invested in these characters it’s a thing of absolute beauty that I encourage everyone to check out. It’s on Steam. It’s like 60 hours long. The soundtrack is fucking gorgeous. Do yourself a favor.
So yeah! Take the old, make it new. And check out Grisaia no Kajitsu so that I have someone to feel feelings with.