Developer – Minato Soft
Translator – Maji Translations & Yandere Translations
Length – >50 Hours
I think Majikoi was “in translation” for just about as long as I’ve been playing visual novels, so when a friend told me about the fantastic experience he’d had with it I was more than keen to jump in and give it a shot. Right from the get-go I could tell that a ton of effort had been put into the VN’s production and that it had all the makings of a fantastic tale…though that feeling didn’t last long. While there were certainly some positive points I found that the humor and action – major focuses of the story – simply weren’t my cup of tea. It may not be bad but Majikoi is very much one of those novels that will either hit or miss for a number of reasons, and for me its shot went way wide.
The Kazama Family is the closest bunch of friends around. Led by the adventurous Kazama Shouichi, they’ve been together for just about as long as any of them can remember. There’s Kawakami Momoyo, the vicious and extremely gifted martial artist, Kawakami Kazuko, the determined and doggedly earnest younger sister, Shiina Miyako, the girl who was saved from bullying and is now firmly attached to Naoe Yamato, the tactician of the group. Of course, there’s also Gakuto the musclehead and the gamer, Moro. Filled with unique individuals of varying age and personality, the Kazama Family is known for their hilarious antics, as well as their ability to overcome any challenge with the strength of their bonds to each other. With all of the fun they have it’s only natural that they would attract all sorts of attention.
I’d like to get the good stuff out of the way first, because I have a lot of complaints to get through and only so much time in which to do so. Majikoi absolutely nails the “group of childhood friends” atmosphere perfectly, rivalling even Little Busters on that account. The characters’ interactions with one another feel comfortable and natural to an impressive degree. On that same note, the characters themselves are all very likeable; it’s difficult to not feel some sort of connection with them as the story progresses. The logical follow-on from that would be to say that the romance between characters is also very satisfying. Regrettably, barring technical details, that’s where my praise for Majikoi ends.
In addition to that atmosphere I’ve just mentioned, the visual novel focuses on two main genres, those being comedy and action. Unfortunately I would say that those are also its most poorly written aspects. As far as humor goes, my chief complaint stems from the fact that Majikoi relies on the same ten or so jokes over and over again throughout its course. Though I’ve already said that the characters are very likeable each individual plays exactly one role and contributes exactly one type of joke to the story, and that gets old pretty quickly. And when it comes to combat Majikoi exhibits the type of lazy writing that I hate the most. Characters don’t menacingly stare each other down before a conflict, or fortuitously see through a stealthy attack in the nick of time, or skilfully knock aside an otherwise lethal strike – instead they clash “auras”, or sense “presences” of potential aggressors, or harden their “aura” at the point of impact. Those sorts of plot devices take all of the skill out of writing action and make it difficult to take such combat scenes seriously when they are placed in an otherwise realistic setting. Additionally, it’s always obvious who’s going to win each fight because of the “power levels” that have been displayed previously.
Speaking of the obvious, Majikoi may be the worst poker player I’ve ever encountered. Rather than playing its plot points close to its chest, it spreads them out on the table for everyone to see and still gleefully looks to check who was surprised when they turn up in the story. Every single setup for a future plot device or “twist” is painfully transparent. Heck, the entire final or “true” route is practically laid out in advance by careful foreshadowing spoilers. On top of that, because Momoyo has such a stupidly strong “aura” and can sense “presences” so well, anything involving her is pretty much instantly spoiled. I guess I should mention the quality of the plot before I move on, so I’ll just say that, for the most part, the routes are all fairly average and how much you enjoy them will depend almost entirely on how much you like the heroine involved.
Alright. If you’ve read a few of my visual novel reviews you’ll notice that I don’t really mention H-scenes unless they’re detrimental to the visual novel as a whole, usually because they aren’t justified in the context of the narrative – even Muv Luv’s hugely controversial scene didn’t make it into its review because I felt that it fit the story fantastically. Long story short, one of Majikoi’s routes implies that rape is a great way to get your girlfriend to stay with you (completely flying in the face of all previous efforts at characterization) and at least two routes all but state outright that semen makes women stronger. I’m not saying that visual novels can’t say that stuff (freedom of speech and all that) but those particular messages do not fit with Majikoi’s larger picture. There are also a lot of low-brow sex jokes involving frustrated teenage males. Take that how you will.
To finish on a positive, Majikoi’s production value is enormously high. From the voice acting at the menu to the use of sprites and other visual effects, to the inclusion of short skits whenever you close the game, a lot of care has been put into making this production technically superb which is something I always love to see. The art quality isn’t the absolute best I’ve encountered but it’s still very good and, above all, consistent. My one complaint would be that Momoyo’s sprites all look a little odd compared to the rest of the characters, though that could just be me. The background music is impeccably matched to the feeling Majikoi portrays, with some fantastic heart-pumping, edge-of-your-seat tracks as well as tasteful inclusion of insert songs. While not the fault of the original developer, I do have to note that some of the translation is a little clumsy, and I wonder how many of the myriad references made throughout the visual novel have been lost due to the localization.
Summary – Majikoi treads a fine line between ridiculous but enjoyable fun and over the top stupidity, and trips itself up to fall on the wrong side of that line far too often (I haven’t even mentioned that one of the heroines’ parents just -decides- to become younger and succeeds through sheer willpower yet, have I?). Despite all that, I did find the characters and the overall atmosphere of the tale pleasant to spend time with, even if they were all incredibly shallow in retrospect.
The Bottom Line here is that if you enjoy Majikoi’s attempts at comedy and action then you will have fantastic fun with it that few other VN’s will be able to compare to. However, if you share my sentiments then your experience will hinge on how much you resonate with the characters and the fun-loving, friendship-saturated atmosphere that I managed to enjoy.
Score: 7/10 – Enjoyable