Developer – Innocent Grey
Translator – Mangagamer
Length – 30-50 Hours
[Note: For those wondering whether the earlier VNs need to be read to enjoy Kara no Shoujo – The Second Episode – my opinion is that KnS1 is required while Cartagra is optional. Several concepts from Cartagra show up but are explained within KnS2, and Cartagra isn’t good enough for me to recommend going back to it.]
As you might be able to guess Kara no Shoujo – The Second Episode – is a sequel to both Kara no Shoujo (Review Here) and Cartagra (Review Here). It’s easy to see that Innocent Grey has come a long way since their original release, as the series’ most recent entry takes a step up in quality to become the best they have written so far. In terms of story complexity and production quality there’s little more you could want from a mystery, and as a stand-alone tale that happens to use the same characters as its predecessors it is excellent. As a sequel to Kara no Shoujo, however? Well, I still have my fair share of gripes.
Hitogata Village lies in the mountains of rural Japan. Even in the modern day it is ruled over by the powerful Hinagami family, the owners of Hinagami Pharmaceuticals in Tokyo, and given religious guidance by the esteemed Shigusa family. The settlement worships the god known as Hinna-sama, who has been known to curse and kill those that disobey its will. When women are being murdered and stuffed with the god’s likeness, detective Tokisaka Reiji is tasked with discovering the hidden links between the victims and the isolated settlement the curse stems from. Such killings have also occurred in the past, however, and their perpetrator has never been found.
To begin with I should probably explain that KnS2 doesn’t really act as a sequel. It features a new plotline with relatively weak links to the story of KnS; the one direct link is explored in the True End and felt tacked-on to me. It deserved more attention. That all said, the new story is very well written and once I had made it past the admittedly lengthy prologue I was well invested for the remainder of the novel. The new characters are excellently integrated and I didn’t feel that they were intruding upon the already established cast because they all added to the narrative positively and felt as well fleshed-out as the original characters from KnS. Each individual has their own goal, background and motivation, meaning that they feel like real individuals.
One thing the Kara no Shoujo series does particularly well is balance multiple question and answer pairs throughout its length. There are several twists and turns throughout the story to keep you guessing and while some revelations may seem obvious, there will always be others that elude you; whenever I had made an early prediction that turned out to be correct there were smaller details I hadn’t picked up on. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that once things pick up after the prologue you won’t have time to be bored. In my previous review I noted that the player was required to make several dubious leaps of logic in order to solve cases, but thankfully that isn’t as much of a problem here.
This is where I start complaining. The ineffectual choice system from KnS remains in KnS2, with minor, unpredictable decisions like where to go each day seeming to have more impact than actually solving cases correctly (even the True End allows you to get several facts wrong). It’s frustrating and means that if you play without a guide (like I did initially) you’ll be stuck with sudden bad endings out of nowhere that don’t even make much sense. The other issue I noticed is that, for your second playthrough which is required to achieve all of the endings, several minor aspects like names of characters are altered which prevents you from skipping previously read text. This wouldn’t be an issue, but there are one or two brand new scenes that -are- important, meaning that you need to pay attention if you’re going to control skip.
Kara no Shoujo’s art style continues to be a massive asset that fits both the setting and atmosphere of the novel perfectly. The semi-realistic sprites and backgrounds go a long way toward supporting the immersion all good visual novels should pursue. While I wasn’t impressed with the KnS music during my first reading (an opinion which I’ve since revised), the remixed tracks offered by KnS2 take advantage of the nostalgia factor from the original while still keeping things fresh. I greatly enjoyed the mood set by several of them. The protagonist also gets a voice in this instalment which deserves major kudos.
Finally, Mangagamer’s localization effort is without fault for KnS2. The translation is excellent, flowing naturally without losing its original meaning, and the inclusion of a glossary means that even new players won’t be lost amongst the normal Japanese terminology.
Summary – Kara no Shoujo – The Second Episode – is an excellent entry to the series, and probably the best production by Innocent Grey so far. While I was disappointed by the follow-on from the original’s cliffhanger, the sequel’s standalone plotline made for incredibly entertaining and exciting reading. The twists and turns you would expect from the franchise are all present, while new characters mix with returning ones fantastically. I’d recommend using a guide, but this is a story that Kara no Shoujo fans won’t want to miss.
Score: 9/10 – Great