Rating – R18
Developer – Innocent Grey
Translator – TLWiki (Unofficial), Mangagamer (Official)
Length – 10 – 30 Hours
[Warning: While not as visually disturbing as some other visual novels, Kara no Shoujo is still definitely not for the faint of heart.]
Mystery stories can be some of the most immersive and exciting experiences there are. The thrill of slowly unravelling the tangled skein of events and beginning to understand what has occurred is hard to beat. In that department, however, Kara no Shoujo has me at a loss. Despite an objectively interesting story, complex mystery component and well-developed characters, it lacked the excitement that I would have expected from the sum of its parts. While I will attempt to elaborate on why this is, I have to admit that part of the reason is that there’s just something missing from the visual novel that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Tokisaka Reiji is a detective living with his younger sister. Having lost his fiancée a number of years ago during an unsolved case he subsequently quit his job at the police force and has struggled through life until now. During a lull in the number of clients looking to hire him, Reiji meets a mysteriously frail girl who hires him to “find the real me”. That request will have to wait, however, as Reiji is called in to aid the police investigation into a number of disappearances and gruesome murders that have taken place. As he struggles to keep up with the unknown killer, Reiji can’t help but feel that this case seems similar to the one that took his fiancée’s life; the one he had never solved.
While predominantly a visual novel, Kara no Shoujo allows you to search crime scenes for evidence, make links between people and the events that have occurred and choose which locations you would like to investigate each day. This all sounds like the making of an incredibly engaging interactive detective story but unfortunately Kara no Shoujo falls somewhat short on all three accounts. The crime scenes, while interesting in their own right, will end abruptly whether you have collected all of the evidence they contain or not. This, coupled with the large number of locations you can choose to visit each day (many of which do not contribute to the cases), means that figuring out where you may have gone wrong or what you might have missed becomes a real chore. Adding on to this the fact that the vast majority of the evidence you accrue isn’t useful and only very specific pieces will allow you to progress means that a lot of your actions feel largely unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
There are two major cases to be solved throughout the course of the visual novel, both of which are interesting and compelling…in theory. As mentioned earlier the story and cases aren’t quite as entertaining as their components might suggest. Some of it no doubt stems from how ineffectual your contributions as the player feel, as well as the constant shift from investigation to everyday life events. Some of it may even stem from the odd predictability of what is going to happen next, mixed in with certain conclusions you are expected to make relying on exceptionally dubious evidence and logic. Yet I still believe that none of those reasons can completely explain why Kara no Shoujo isn’t as entertaining as I feel it should be. I also can’t help but wonder whether it would be better off as a kinetic novel; that is, a visual novel without any choices or player input. In any case, Kara no Shoujo is most definitely not a bad read but is missing something that prevents it from being truly great. As a side note, the True Ending is unsatisfying for a number of reasons, though that can most likely be explained by Kara no Shoujo – The Second Episode being a direct sequel to the original game. Because of the cliffhanger necessary for a direct sequel, the ending lacks a sense of resolution despite all of the major plot points having been explained.
One of Kara no Shoujo’s selling points is that it contains a large number of fully developed characters that “each carry their own thoughts and beliefs, crafting a complicated human drama”, and this is certainly true to a degree. The characters all have a unique sense of individuality to them that paints them as human beings with lives continuing outside of the story you are participating in, which is a sense I don’t often get from visual novels. However, each character shows up sporadically throughout the story, and only for short periods of time when they do feature, making it hard to feel any sort of attachment to the majority of them; it doesn’t matter how well-developed a character is if they don’t feel relevant to the player. That said, one or two of the characters did manage to evoke an emotional response in me despite my feeling disconnected from them.
Kara no Shoujo attempts to employ a more realistic art style than most visual novels and pulls it off beautifully. From the character designs to the background scenery, every part of what you see could well belong to the world we live in, which makes the scenes that are meant to shock you that much more effective. One complaint I might make is that some of the character sprites feel a little off, though it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the visual novel and the CGs always look wonderful. The background music isn’t bad by any means but it doesn’t do anything special and is more or less forgettable. The voice acting, however, is excellent and I’m very glad that Mangagamer has released a patch to add it in.
Summary – Kara no Shoujo is better than your average visual novel. Unfortunately my praise can’t extend beyond that mark due to a number of reasons, some of which are seated in the gameplay and character aspects of the title, but others that I can’t quite explain. Though the story should be compelling and the mysteries should be exciting I just didn’t feel that way while I was reading. However, I still enjoyed the experience overall and intend to play both the prequel and sequel games that are currently being translated.
SCORE: 8/10 – Good