[Visual Novel Review]: Grisaia no Kajitsu

Grisaia no Kajitsu2

Developer – Front Wing

Translator –TLWiki & Sekai Project

Length> 50 Hours

Slice of Life is tough to get right. If you add some drama into the mix it gets a lot easier and many visual novels do incredibly well on that front. A significant number of people assert that Grisaia no Kajitsu mixes its two genres wonderfully to provide an unforgettable experience. I am not one of them. While certainly not a bad visual novel, and a great deal better than some others I’ve reviewed, it failed to really move me for the majority of its duration. Grisaia is a production that knows objectively what makes a good story and includes a whole bunch of the right ingredients but just doesn’t cook them together with the right spices and ends up presenting an average meal overall. No, I’m not particularly hungry right now.

For some people out there life growing up just doesn’t go the way it should. All it takes is one incident to throw them off the rails. Though you wouldn’t know it right away, Mihama Academy is one place you can find those people. Out of sight and out of mind, it’s the perfect place for Kazami Yuuji to start his “normal school life”. “Normal” is exactly what it will be until he gets close to the other residents. Laughter, smiles and regular old friendships predominate, but behind everyone’s outward appearance is a past that has landed them in Mihama, and Yuuji might be the only one that can help them move on.

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To get it out of the way, Grisaia has five heroines who each have a route of their own and none of the routes are officially canon. There’s no true route and no overarching story to speak of, meaning that the quality of the individual routes is all that Grisaia has to hold itself up on. While I’m not going to specifically talk about each of the routes individually I’ll include a score breakdown at the end of the post.

Grisaia’s common route, the stuff you have to read through before getting to the meat of the plot, is really, really long. I’ve seen complaints about it before and they are very much valid. To begin with things start off bright and fun with a generous dash of comedy while still including peeks at what might be going on behind the scenes to keep your interest piqued. I enjoyed the first few hours but the amount of new material is very limited, making the latter portion seem like a drag while you desperately wait for something, anything, to happen. Though it may not be as bad as some other offenders in this category, it’s worth noting and may turn some people off. It doesn’t exactly help that the same old slice of life stuff continues for a decent time once you do actually enter someone’s route.

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The routes themselves are, well, variable. I mentioned earlier that Grisaia has a basic understanding of what makes a good story and that’s absolutely true. I really enjoyed two of the routes, and my favorite starred the character I liked the least which is really saying something. Nevertheless, much of what was going on just didn’t have the impact you might expect from hearing about it objectively. Some of the things that you’re exposed to would be really rough stuff in any other visual novel, whereas the way they’re presented here…well, let’s just say that my heart strings went mostly un-tugged. I can’t quite put a finger on exactly why that was but I do have a couple of thoughts. One of the problems is that most of the visual novel’s events are viewed through the eyes of the protagonist, Yuuji. He’s a guy with a good head on his shoulders that never lets anything faze him; even the most tragic or intense scenes seem to be little more than business as usual. He has an answer for everything, and everything always works out. When your main character isn’t particularly worried about anything that goes on, it trickles over to the reader as well. Whenever something went wrong Yuuji was there so there was no point in fretting over it. It blunted a lot of Grisaia’s attempts to grip me and make me care about what was happening.

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One of the major problems I had with Grisaia, though it doesn’t affect every route, is that it has too many flashbacks. Or rather, its flashbacks are just too darned long. The issue is that for every minute you’re reading about a flashback you’re not involved with the characters that are important in the here and now, and their relationships aren’t developing at all. When greater than half of a route is used up for a flashback that becomes a serious problem. When all is said and done, even ignoring the flashback sequences, Grisaia beats around the bush a lot when it comes to telling its character stories. Don’t take that to mean that every route is terrible and boring, though, some do offer an engaging read and I can’t say you’d go wrong giving them all a try, especially considering that many people have enjoyed the routes I didn’t like so much.

Grisaia no Kajitsu6

Moving past the story itself, this is a visual novel that stands out because of its presentation in both good and bad ways. The backgrounds, special effects and frequency with which characters change pose all work together to dazzle you visually. For the most part it just looks really nice. Unfortunately, because of the high quality of art, discrepancies become that much more obvious. This is the first visual novel I’ve played where there are massive differences between character sprites and their respective CGs (I should also mention that, for the length of the novel, there aren’t many CGs to go around), and there’s one character in particular that cuts a very masculine form when not in sprite mode (see below). The majority of the time the art is wonderful but those instances where it’s not consistent are particularly jarring. The BGM is well put together and pleasant to listen to even if it gets a little old by the time you’ve finished every route, and the voice acting is great. As an additional point one of the characters gives a voice response to anything you pick in the options menu which I liked; it’s small things like that which can help a visual novel stand out.

Summary – Grisaia seems to know what makes for an engaging story but very rarely manages to grasp and hold your attention. It attempts to present you with a range of characters with horrible pasts but doesn’t go that extra mile to really tug at your heart strings. The way that things just magically resolve doesn’t help with that either. I was personally ready to drop the VN altogether after the first three routes but the final two managed to save it for me, and in the end I do miss the characters, so I guess that says something.

[P.S. People seem to be getting the wrong idea here. It’s not so much that I disliked Grisaia as it was that I was disappointed by it, and that comes through pretty heavily in the review. The score i’ve given below is right on the edge of my “tentative recommendation” mark and nowhere near “bad”. While this visual novel didn’t live up to my expectations, many people love it and you shouldn’t let this stop you from giving it a go if it sounds like your kind of thing (especially if you’ve disagreed with my opinion before!).]

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See? Jarring.

Makina Route: 5/10 – I simply couldn’t take her character seriously, and her story isn’t that great anyway. Some people have enjoyed her route immensely, however, so take that as you will. 

Amane Route: 6.5/10 – Spins a decent tale but shouldn’t rely on flashbacks for most of its screen time (read: hours). Also loved by a fair number of people. 

Sachi Route: 7/10 – Slow-going but interesting and rather unique as far as concepts go. 

Yumiko Route: 8/10 – Pulls off a Kuu/Tsundere character expertly and keeps things moving so you don’t get bored. 

Michiru: 8.5/10 – Intriguing concept, sets your preconceptions on their heads and manages to edge in some uncertainty. 

OVERALL SCORE: 7/10 – Enjoyable

Grisaia no Kajitsu1

About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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21 Responses to [Visual Novel Review]: Grisaia no Kajitsu

  1. Personally, I haphazardly did the routes in non-sequential order (because I’m dumb) and found it much more enjoyable. My route was Yumiko -> Sachi -> Amane -> Makina -> Michiru. Surprisingly, I feel like this order worked out for me. Yumiko’s story is a little over the top (turkies), but interesting enough to hook. Sachi’s story really pulled my heart strings because I empathized with the whole “family guilt, etc.” Amane’s was really dark and I personally did not enjoy it. Makina’s craziness was a very good juxtaposition to that. Michiru’s was my last route and it seemed a good note to end on; very middle of the road in a good way – not too crazy but not too goofy either.

    My opinion with the Grisaia series (which I’ll probably go into more depth after I watch the anime in my own review) is that it’s very “Angel Beats-esque.” I mentioned in my review of Angel Beats that there is very much an attempt by the writing to forcibly connect the audience to a character, then use that connection to convey emotion, etc. Grisaia employs a similar strategy, imo. Once you connect to a character (Sachi best girl), you REALLY get hooked, and because their tragedies are so exaggerated, you find even greater joy when the characters overcome their struggles. That being said, if you connect to none of these characters, then Grisaia becomes quite boring.

    As for Yuuji, I think the reason he’s so badass is because of the overexaggeration of the heroines’ tragedies. Most of the routes (if not all) of the routes are basically Yuuji and the heroine confronting the heroine’s past. Due to the overwhelming nature of those pasts, Yuuji being extremely dependable is kind of a safety net for both the heroine and the audience who supposedly connects on a personal level to that tragedy.

    • Silvachief says:

      I played through the routes in the order of my screenshots, that order being Makina -> Amane -> Sachi -> Michiru -> Yumiko. Grisaia is one of those VNs where I feel that the order doesn’t matter too much, though that seems to be the arbitrary recommended order. I’ve talked about my opinions on the routes in the article but i’ll say here that I personally don’t mind and usually even enjoy dark routes (as you call Amane’s), though in Grisaia’s case the whole ordeal was a tab protracted for me.

      I haven’t yet decided whether I want to watch the Grisaia anime, though I suspect that if it’s done well I would enjoy it more that the visual novel. Given my opinion on the source material, would you recommend the adaptation to me? That argument does make sense though i’m not sure how strongly it applies to my case. I liked Amane and didn’t find her route terribly enjoyable, and I disliked Michriu and enjoyed her route (though admittedly I did warm up to her while reading). Even with the characters I liked I didn’t feel that their tragic pasts had the same impact on me as other examples from different visual novels have. Perhaps I could come up with some other reasons as to why that might be, but i’ll default on that point for now XD

      If you got really caught up in the events of the story emotionally, then I can see where you’re coming from with that final idea. For me, who wasn’t quite there, however, his constant know-how, can-do, don’t-care attitude stole some of the suspense and uncertainty from the events portrayed. I also felt that his actions for the heroines stemmed more from a sense of duty or obligation than from an emotional desire to help them get past their…pasts, I guess. That makes sense due to Yuuji’s background but it didn’t do anything to help tie me into what was going on. More of that idea of the storyteller influencing the story.

      • Well Amane’s being dark was fine, but like you, I dislike the hours long flashback of that particular route.

        I can’t recommend the anime solely on the fact that I still need to see it myself. It’s been a busy couple of months. xD #Winterbreak #WatchAllTheAnime

        From what I’ve heard, however, the anime rushes through all the plot with very little character development; I doubt I myself will like it.

        I too warmed up to Michiru. Honestly, her situation is probably the least far-fetched of the bunch, except maybe Sachi. Meglomaniac parents or a class field trip gone wrong is not something many deal with, but confusion of who you are or a feeling of being unable to live up to standards is pretty common.

        I personally like badass protagonists, so that’s just me personally. Maybe why I liked Sachi’s route so much is because Sachi and Yuuji’s connection. It was actually an emotional desire for Yuuji at that point. But I digress.

        I’d love to discuss more but I have to catch a 6 hour bus soon. Whee.

    • Silvachief says:

      Just because I don’t think I said it before, Yumiko Best Girl.

  2. fire says:

    Grisaia pioneers a radical new approach to writing Visual Novels – giving Best Girl the least amount of screen time as possible.

  3. Lazarinth says:

    Grisaia was just being adapted into an anime when I was in Japan and there were advertisements, posters and it’s opening and music playing everywhere in Akihabara which made it very colorful.
    The choose your heroine route VNs and ‘best girl’ attitudes always took me like the kind of weird dating sims thing. You always end up finding out about a dark twist to their pasts which are usually either abandonment or parental issues, abuse issues, mental illness issues or bad ex issues, generally leading them down some dark path you have to solve before or after screwing them. Does this one follow such a formula?

    • Silvachief says:

      Bleh, just make me more jealous XD

      I just use Best Girl as a favorite character kind of thing. Best Girl arguments can be hilarious. That’s a pretty broad formula, so in broad terms I can say that yes, Grisaia follows it. It’s presented well but doesn’t do anything to differentiate itself from similar stories. There must be some sort of overarching plot that comes in at some point though, given the two sequels. At this stage, however, whether or not I play the following VNs in debatable.

  4. Kai says:

    Grisaia is one of those series which is pretty tricky for me to review, hence I don’t. I feel like Muv-luv, it’s one of those series which will shown it’s true colors only when you read all of it; including it’s sequel. I think it might not get to Muv-luv’s level of awesomeness, of cause, but close :p One of the things that actually got me attracted to Grisaia is a lot of seemingly badass action CGs, but after a while, I noticed those are from the sequels which aren’t translated >_> It’s a bummer though, since one of the sequels focus on Yuuji’s past, and he always seems to talk (sometimes bragging even) a lot about his past, seems like a lot of crap happened :p

    Also, I’m still not sure how are fruits related to the story at all. FYI, all the heroines are representation of certain fruits. And there’s a “fruit” in the VN name xD

    • Silvachief says:

      I’ll be interested to see how the sequels are received (now that they’re being officially translated) because it may be just as you say, with the story getting better and better as time goes on. It’ll be hard for me to decide whether to play the rest of the Grisaia trilogy; I can’t really go by general opinion because a lot of people think Grisaia is the best thing since sliced bread, so it’s inevitable that they will also love the next games. I’ll probably give them a go…at some point…when I clear my backlog…if that ever happens >.>

      As for the fruit: I have no clue either.

  5. littleshogun says:

    So you don’t like Grisaia eh? BURN TO HELL ASSHOLE

    Nah Just Kidding. Like in Chaos Head review it’s okay though. Although Grisaia graphic is far more gorgeous than Chaos Head which like I said before I was interested because of that. The uniform sure is very cute lol.

    I think the fruit is likely more attempt to make the game sound deeper and have some symbolism even though there was almost none of the connection IMO (The closest one would be Michiru and overdose of very sour lemon juice which apparently has many vitamin C which could sharply increase IQ to almost 4 digit(According to Michiru and that was slightly hyperbole about 4 digit)).

    Well the highlight of Makina route was her mom which according to many people was even more evil that Voldemort or Sauron. So what do you think about Makina mom, is she really want you to make Yuuji died or not (Oh I was spoiler seeker so I also know that killing her meaning Yuuji died and Makina goes insane)? Sorry but I would love to know.

    Oh IMHO this game actually could very well for standalone series (Kajitsu only). But apparently Frontwing was very greedy and thing about 10th anniversary so they release 2 sequel(Meikyuu and Rakuen) which to be honest should work like fandisk(Actually if Frontwing want to explore Yuuji past they could cut some unnecessary content which make many fans complain in common route and fit it in one game IMO, also they could use some more light engine to write more story).I think maybe this game is at first intended to be only this game but because some meddling it was launched with some foreshadowing about professor in the end of Amane bad end(Kazuki). If they serious from very beginning about franchise maybe they should be better make some scene about how they live in Mihama after one year with cliffhanger about Yuuji got his job and Mihama about to get demolished in very first place(And Yuuji apparently has some very big stamina that all of very heavy problem of the girls instanly solved lol) in the first place. Of course you could only unlock the scene after you go through all route. No need to be very long but should be enough to make path to the sequel IMO).

    Just a bit warning before you waiting for sequel. Apparently Fujisaki Ryuuta(name of writer of common route Amane and Makina route) writing is not very fitting for you because Makina and Amane is got low score in your review. So you may better started thinking to play sequel or not(Fujisaki Ryuuta write all of the content in both sequel-FD). After read the spoiler and review is kinda like Muv Luv inverted which for ML worst at Extra and best at Alternative, while Grisaia is best in here(IMO so dont burn me) and got slightly worse in Rakuen. Well sorry for spoiler, but do you like harem route? If yes go to Rakuen because it is canon ending lol.(And major complain IMO because it cheapened the need of very long character routes in Grisaia). If not, well you know the answer.

    I know you don’t have any problem with it, but for some formality sorry for wall of text. I kinda want to share my though about Rakuen for very long time. And oh if you don’t like blood mother incest stay far away from Meikyuu.

    PS Almost forgot in case you started to reconsider playing Soukoku no Arterial. In devil route there will be A LOT of rape scene. Just in case you hate it. Also the story in Devil is darker than the best route in Kamidori IMO.

    • Silvachief says:

      Walls of text are still fine ^_^ I mean, if you put that much effort into commenting I have to reply in kind, right? You did scare me with that first bit though =P

      I had forgotten about the vitamin C connection, so that could very well be the link to the fruit in the title. As for Makina’s Mum…I felt that she was just cold and uncaring more than she was evil. It was more like she was unable to understand what she was doing to her daughter than that she had malicious intent (like Yumiko’s father, for instance, not that he was a much better villain), which makes it harder for me to really hate her. Yeah, Makina’s bad end is a little scary despite its brevity.

      I don’t know much about the sequels so i’m not able to add much to a discussion about them, sorry, though I am a little sad to hear about the author. Still, it’s entirely possible that they’ll be a step up; we’ll just have to wait and see. Harem routes aren’t something I dislike but I feel that it’s difficult to write a believable and entertaining route that goes beyond “look, the protagonist gets all the girls, lucky him”. You lose that one-on-one romance dynamic.

      Dark routes are fine for me (I only played Yuela’s in Kamidori, which wasn’t particularly dark). As far as I can tell at the moment though Soukoku only has an interface translation rather than a full patch. Until my Japanese gets a bit better i’ll probably wait and see if a full translation is released in the future.

      • littleshogun says:

        I see. Sorry if you don’t know the sequel. But that’s fine too since you already know what to expect if you want to play the sequel. One more thing about sequel. Apparently Grisaia is the name of island that Yuuji master(from the review her characteristic remind me of Izumi Curtis from FMA) own and give it to him after her death. Well if you patient enough searching about Grisaia sequel I think you should able to make some opinion about story BTW.

        Harem route to be honest I almost have no problem with it. But with VN as serious as Grisaia I think I would like to asking the decision to make that quite a bit though(to be honest since the first time I read Rakuen spoiler filler review the first time I thinking was to screaming WHAT). It is quite Broken Base at most to be honest though.

        For Makina mom I just remember something that she was actually unable to grow up or like child in adult body(Makina speaking) so that maybe has some connection with your comment.

        I think that’s all I can think of

        • Silvachief says:

          As a quick note in regard to Grisaia being the name of Yuuji’s master’s island, that could potentially be the link to the “fruit” in the first VN’s title. Since “Fruit of Grisaia” can also mean “Something Produced By Grisaia”, it may be that Yuuji is actually the fruit, as he was produced (or molded by) his master and potentially time on that island.

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  9. ZerouliS says:

    If this VN had not the fan base it has, your score would have been lower. That is the reason of the complains, its obvious that you just tried to deflect the outcry with embellished words. But what with the fear? No person should let the crowd dictate who they are. Now think about it.

    • Silvachief says:

      While I see where you’re coming from with this comment, I have to disagree. Since writing this review my opinion of Grisaia no Kajitsu has soured, and that -does- probably come from others giving it more praise than I think it deserves. However, after having re-read my thoughts from when I first finished reading I still agree with my final score.

      Grisaia had some great moments that I really enjoyed. It just took a long while to get to them, and had too many other scenes that were less interesting to really stand out to me. The fact remains, however, that Grisaia no Kajitsu is a better than average VN.

      The problem might stem from the fact that my summary is incredibly negative compared to the score I had given. Any mention of others liking the VN comes from my desire to justify why I haven’t given it an 8 or 9, rather than trying to justify not giving it a lower score.

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