Tag Archives: otome

1931: Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum (Visual Novel)

By Black Chicken Studios

My rating: 4 of 5

1930, New York City: Prohibition is in effect, and the Great Depression is making itself known across the country, but for wealthy heiress Scheherazade Keating (Sadie to her friends), other things are much more immediately important. Having just graduated valedictorian of her high school class, Sadie is ready to make her mark, embarking on a whirlwind college degree in archaeology that includes on-site work at a variety of digs around the world. Incidentally, she’s following in the footsteps of her parents, a pair of famous (now missing) archaeologists . . . . She’s also following a trail of clues that may (she hopes) lead to more information about what’s happened to her parents. And she’s not afraid to break a few rules of society if that’s what it takes.

How to describe Scheherazade . . . it’s honestly a pretty unique experience, although there are similarities to a lot of other stories and games in certain aspects. It definitely plays like a visual novel–nice backgrounds, music, character pics, text describing what’s happening, and choices for the player to make that influence how the story progresses. You could, I suppose, even compare it to an otome visual novel in some senses; there are certainly several romance paths that can be pursued, if desired. But it’s entirely possible to play with purely platonic relationships as well. I actually loved how much good friendships were a part of the story. Mechanically, the game is also almost a princess-maker sort of game in that you have to choose how to spend your time, different choices build different skills, and your skills influence how certain challenges resolve. There’s actually a good bit of challenge to the game mechanics if you really want to play to meet certain goals; however, there’s also an easy mode that basically lets you focus on the story. And Sadie’s story is pretty interesting in a pulp novel sort of way. She’s a very strong character, and an amusing one to read–even if her ridiculous wealth tends to make you forget how bad life is in the world at large for a lot of people. But then, she’s more ridiculous than even her wealth, getting caught up in chases, digging in the dirt, getting into arguments, and suchlike. And there are actually a lot of interactions with people of a variety of stations in life–lots of interesting relationships to build. On the whole, I really enjoyed playing Scheherazade and found it to be an interesting slice of an era as well as an exciting romp around the world and a fun exposition of a fascinating character.

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Meru Puri

Mangaka: Matsuri Hino

All Airi Hoshina has ever dreamed of is a simple, everyday happiness with a normal husband and a quiet life. That all blows up in her face (naturally) when Aram–a magical prince from another world–shows up on her doorstep with no place to go . . . and a rather troublesome curse on him. Even though Aram is really just a kid (several years younger than Airi in any case), he becomes (in body, not mind) older when he is exposed to darkness, probably about 17 or 18. In this older body, he also becomes unable to use his magic with any accuracy. And of course, the only thing that can change him back to his true form is a kiss from his chosen maiden–who else but Airi?! Initially, it seems he’s just being childish and picking her arbitrarily, but as events unfold, it becomes clear that Aram truly loves Airi beyond what seems possibly for his years–to the point of staking his life on their relationship. What unfolds is not quite the quiet life of Airi’s dreams, but it certainly is a fairy-tale romance.

From the well-loved creator of Vampire Knight comes a softer, sweeter tale of pure-hearted love and frilly fantasy. Meru Puri is a manga that I absolutely love and come back to frequently. The characters are great: Airi, the natural sort of idiot with her long, curly hair, ditziness, but with a stubborn solidness to her also; Aram, the oh-so-princely, pushy, demanding, sulky, yet also kind and protective (have I mentioned perverted? Some of the scenes in this manga are pretty erotic, and it’s mostly Aram’s fault. Well, that and Hino-sensei’s editor’s fault.). I like the plot a lot also–it’s short (only 4 volumes) and tightly written, but full of twists and surprises. Definitely never boring. It could have been nasty and shota if it were written just a bit differently, but because of Aram’s character, it’s just kind of weird and ecchi at parts. But cute, definitely cute, and very romantic. I especially loved: 1) the fact that marriage in Aram’s world is such a big commitment that breaking that vow is literally risking your life, and 2) that Aram and Airi waited until Aram reached his majority to formalize and culminate their marriage–so much more romantic and pure-hearted that way! Of course, Hino-sensei’s art is some of the most beautiful in the industry, so this manga is also gorgeous. For fans of sweet romance manga who don’t mind a bit of eroticism, Meru Puri is one I would highly recommend.

Note: This is purely trivia, but the evolution of this manga’s name cracks me up. In the original Japanese editions, it was titled Märchen Prince (like, in German and English). So why, in the English edition, is it called Meru Puri–the short form of the kana pronunciation of the original title?!

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Alice in the Country of Hearts

alice in the country of heartsStory: QuinRose

Art: Soumei Hoshino

My rating: 4 of 5

One afternoon, while waiting for her oh-so-elegant and admired older sister to bring back a game for them to play together, Alice drifts into the world of dreams . . . or so she thinks anyway. She opens her eyes, and is promptly dragged down a huge hole and forced to drink a vial full of potion, all by a strange, pushy guy with rabbit ears. Then, Alice is informed that the only way she can go home is by refilling that vial by interacting with the people of the wonder world in which she has landed. Believing she is still dreaming, Alice does just that, developing friendships with the various inhabitants of this world and finding a place in the clock-work hearts of many of them.

Alice in the Country of Hearts is a fun retake on the classic Alice in Wonderland. It’s actually based on an otome visual novel, which artist Soumei Hoshino has adapted into manga format. The art is quite nice–pretty and expressive without being overdone. The real appeal of the story is definitely the characters. During her stay in the wonder world, Alice encounters most of the characters from the Carroll version, only in this story they are mostly attractive guys. The personalities do seem to carry over fairly well from the original, while being imbued with a life of their own in addition. A true plus for this story is that, unlike in far too many otome stories, Alice herself is a strong character–warm, open, and a bit less that elegant. Her interactions with the Queen of Hearts (another strong, multifaceted female character) also add an important dimension to the story, particularly as they reflect upon her relationship with and image of her older sister. The story line itself sometimes seems a bit directionless, but that suits the work–it’s really mostly about the building of relationships between the characters. Alice in the Country of Hearts is definitely an excellent work for its intended audience–young single females. However, I would actually recommend it for a broader audience, as the rich characterizations– particularly of Alice and the Queen–give it an appeal that reaches beyond the intended gender and genre boundaries.

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