Come for the Jokes, Stay for the Drama
2018’s Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time had plenty of laughable and even lightly lewd moments, but it also offered a healthy dose of social commentary. In the visual novel’s imagined near-future, the government etches tattoo-like nanomachines onto the backs of a person’s hand. These Authorization Seals are only issued after the successful completion of a state exam, thereby putting people on prescribed vocational paths.
But a portion of the population doesn’t pass the exams due to a variety of factors, becoming ‘chuusotsu’. They face severe consequences, from being unable to continue their educational process to a persistent prejudice from the rest of society. While paranormal elements are woven into Time After Time, the novel’s analysis of the pressures faced by teens and the ramifications endured by those who don’t earn high marks is remarkably relevant.
Pleasingly, protagonist Marisugawa Arue and her roommates rarely felt defeated, even when discovering discussion boards where venom and violence are directed at Chuusotsu. Instead, there’s hope for a re-examination. Although less than one percent of applications earn a second chance at assimilating with the rest of society, a dogged sense of hope that radiates through Time After Time.
But before venturing into Chuusotsu! 1.5th Graduation: The Moving Castle, a read of Time after Time is a necessity. As the decimalized title indicates, this isn’t a true sequel, but a side story that focuses on Arue’s ambitions to become a mangaka. Without a need for context and character development it’s a significantly shorter work, but its narrative is built on the foundations of the previous title. Although returning readers will see an ample amount of asset recycling, they’re much more likely to appreciate the nuances found in the follow-up. Expectedly, Arue’s roommates Arara and Koiro return, alongside a new character named Monami, who’s also hoping to make a name for herself in the doushin world.
Much like the original novel, 1.5th Graduation offers more than just interpersonal affairs. Many will relish the title’s assessment of fan-service and possibly the assertation that hentai can be an artform. Sure, The Moving Castle stumbles when it recycles platitudes about being true to yourself. But far more often, the novel impeccably between comedy, social commentary, and heartfelt sentiment. Smartly, there’s a gratifying payoff to the three-hour read, as Arue makes her way to the game’s convention, held in the title’s eponymous floating castle.
Pleasingly, there’s a taut build-up to the event, with the convention serving as a gratifying climax. Here, The Moving Castle embellishes the tension of connecting with an audience with comical form. If she fails to sell a manga, she’ll face an embarrassing situation involving a creepy personality in the otaku world, which escalates the stakes. For many, seeing the perspective of artists trying to sell their wares also provides gratification.
The Moving Castle also reuses the same interface of its predecessor. As such, readers can review previous dialog, as well as save and load the game at any time. This is a kinetic novel without branching, so players don’t really have to worry about managing their progress across the storyline. Aesthetically, there’s the same endearing character art that expresses a range of character emotions. Although CGs are scarce, Arue and the girls are adorable enough to help make up for the deficiency. Another asset is the quality of the voice acting, which highlights the novels hilarity and underscores the more emotional moments.
Chuusotsu! 1.5th Graduation: The Moving Castle was
played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Developer: Studio Beast
Publisher: Fruitbat Factory
Release date: January 17th, 2020
Price: $9.99 via Steam