This is review number four hundred and twenty three. This anime is part of the Fall 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Grisaia no Kajitsu or The Fruit of Grisaia. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a guy and some girls, some dog meat and a lot of blood. Yeah, f*cking awesome show. Let’s read on.
The anime follows Yuuji Kazami as he lives a normal school life in a new place. Yuuji is not exactly normal though, but he does try his best to achieve the normal student life. It’s a bit hard to do though when you’re in a giant academy with only five students in it and you find out each and everyone one of them are damaged in their own way. Well, being damaged and scarred is not part of a typical normal school life so Yuuji plans to do something about that.
Taking the Pants Off
So, I have this rule with visual novel adaptations. 30 percent is the best chance the adaptation can get. After all, you cannot condense long hours of gameplay into a six hour anime. Honestly, the 30 percent rule is a generous random number, because most VN can’t pull it off. This anime kinda did that though. It went beyond 30 percent, and it’s not really because of the adaptation itself. The visual novel’s story is just so damn good that it can thrive on its own. I think Steins Gate had the same thing happen to it. The story is so good that the adaptation came out on top, and Grisaia no Kajitsu is basically the same. The anime adaptation is obviously rushed and a lot is gutted out, but I think the spirit of the original source is intact. It’s hard not to really be engrossed by the VN’s story, because it really has a way of sticking to you. Dare I say, the story can even scar you. I was not prepared for this anime at all, and I gotta say, seeing a bunch of girls eat dog meat just does not feel right. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s go at it one step at a time.
A Classic VN
If you look up any review of the game, you’ll hear nothing but praises about it. Most of the negative reviews are people acknowledging the game’s superiority and refusing to sing its praises. I won’t link them, but it’s kinda pathetic for a reviewer to not give the game its due. I bet they feel special that they made a negative review and it justify their existence. I’m sorry. This is a pet peeve of mine, stiff reviewers that automatically hate. You can hate, since it’s your opinion, but a review should always be balanced. Otherwise, it’s just your unfiltered thoughts splattered over a web page like your splooge after a hateful masturbation. But, anyways, this game is part of Frontwing’s Grisaia trilogy games. This one in particular is heralded for its story, being deemed a pure visual novel. It’s not really interactive, with only five or six scenes where the player can make choices, and it’s really more about its very dense plot. The game is famously known for its over seventy hour of completion gameplay and twenty hours are needed to finish a route. That is a lot. The dialogue is known to get really winded and a lot of scenes go on for too long. The main trunk of the game is apparently ten to fifteen hours long, and it can really leave an overwhelming first impression. Some reviews (HERE) points out that it can test your patience.
Of course, the routes are known to be really great and it can immediately change your impression of the game. It did the same for the anime, since I was honestly looking up footage of the game after I finished the anime. It was just so engrossing. I did lose my patience though after four hours of the common route. This VN also has no true end or harem end, so it’s basically a linear story for each route. It also doesn’t have a bad ending, hence the lack of choices for the player. It does have a lot of H-scenes, and yeah, I don’t ever want to get attached to a character with an H-scene ever again. Check them out HERE, if you’re interested. Now, what exactly makes the game great? Well, the plot gets dark, like really dark. The character relationship and mystery building you establish in the main trunk soon explodes in each route, and it can get crazy. One route had our main character stop a plane by throwing a turkey in its turbine, while another had girls eat dog meat. It can get f*cked up, in the most beautiful way, and it’s the kind of pay off you’d expect from a very long game, except ten times better.
From one reviewer (HERE): “Mihama Academy is no ordinary high school after all, and the girls that attend this place are the decaying fruit that have fallen from the tree of society (hence the title of the game). The girls are haunted by the shadows of their pasts. Uncovering the events that lead them to Mihama, while also watching Yuuji slowly break out of his shell as he aids the girls in overcoming their demons, was a profoundly moving experience…. In this sense, Grisaia is an insightful deconstruction of the individual character tropes that the girls embody, even if some of the routes end up being too dramatic at times.” So yeah, this game is outstanding. How did the anime fare?
A Normal Student Life
The anime immediately throws you into the belly of the beast without much needed context. The first ten minutes of the anime is equivalent to the first two hours of the game, so lots of things are condensed. Some important details are overlooked a bit, and some world building is not adapted at all. The anime seriously annoyed me at first, because it features a very standoffish main character in an academy of only five girls. Like, wow, most VN would try to at least make the school more alive instead of forcing the main character and his victims in a place to themselves. You get zero footing from the start, since you just don’t know where the anime is headed. He talks to the girls individually with no real reason, other than fluff, and the focus is just scattered everywhere. It wasn’t until the third episode where I just decided to accept the weird pacing of the anime, try to enjoy the characters and just have fun with the slice of life fluff. They do grow on you, despite the rush pacing. Each character is clearly given ample time to develop and their relationship with Yuuji isn’t just a simple one where the girl throws themselves at him. You should also realize that the VN starts out this rocky. The ten to fifteen hours of the main trunk is packed into the first three episodes where the players’ patience is often tested. The anime actually adapted every boring introduction fluff scene for each character and just carefully chose those that’ll help transition to the branch routes.
Now, given the VN’s long time dedicated to the main trunk, the introduction is a lot clearer in it. Yuuji wants a normal student life, but his unusual circumstance won’t really give him that. The VN points out the unusual setting of the school, deemed a landfill since its out in the sticks, and it establishes that every student isn’t really normal. Yuuji’s motivation to talking to the girls, who doesn’t really accept him from the start, is to achieve a level of normalcy needed for his normal school life. Yeah, they’re obligatory fluff but they also serve a purpose of slowly establishing each route. You see, despite being ungodly long, the VN is also hailed for its replayability wherein small details of the winded fluff scenes contribute smartly to each route. I saw the anime first, but I also gasped when Yuuji’s sister is brought up very early in the game despite only appearing in one route later on. The fluff scenes really serve as a subtle foreshadowing, but it mostly functions as a smokescreen. The first three episodes points out that the character live a boring yet normal life at school and in their dorm. They sleep outside under a tree, feeds goldfishes bread crumbs, chases each other with cicadas just for fun and just grow together as students of the academy. This is the “normalcy” established by the anime, and we’ll now watch the succeeding episodes slowly rip that apart.
All the Routes
Since the game has no secret route, true end or any alternate bad endings, the anime can afford to feature each route. Of course, they’re rushed to hell and gutted beyond belief. The main purpose of the anime is to present the gist of each route, and the relationship Yuuji builds with each girl. Each girl has their unique circumstance, which adds some interesting wrinkle to their story, and each route is especially f*cked up in their own way. For example, we have a lolicon who calls our main character “papa”. It’s cute, it’s fun and it’s adorable. The show will now slowly dim the lights, reveal the girl spent hours in a warehouse talking to her dead father when she was child and it was a catalyst to her life slowly turning absolutely awful. Does that sound fun? Because it is. This is really the beauty of the anime. You achieve normalcy in the first three episodes, and the succeeding ones slowly make you realize nothing about them is normal at all. Each route is pretty dark, in their own special way, but it doesn’t really ruin the show or the fun of the first three episodes. For the most part, you learn to value the normalcy after learning it’s not really the “normal” thing for the anime. But yeah, there is some gut wrenching pay off for the confusing first three episodes and some of them you won’t really see coming.
The anime also ordered each route in its level of intensity. The first route honestly feels like something Key would pull off, but the later ones are just incredibly insane. These routes are really rushed though, especially the second and third route, but I’m not really bothered by it. The story is still so good that you get the main idea of each route and how they progressed in the game. Of course, there is no excuse to condensing twenty hour plus of gameplay into a twenty two minute episode, but it really only made me want to see the VN afterwards. The narrative is so strong that it really thrived in the anime format. The one route episodes are also packed effectively with exposition that it does capture the spirit of the route while also looking extremely gutted. It does look bad, but you still feel satisfied after the episode ends. I personally liked it, and I know for a fact I’ve seen more awful VN that most viewers. Simply getting pay off from a VN anime is cause for celebration.
A Cleaning Job
One of the things I like from the anime is the main character himself, Yuuji. In most VN anime, the girls would really just throw themselves to the guy, talk about exposition unprovoked and get romantically involved in a ham fisted manner. Yuuji’s case is different, because he does barge his way into the story. The girls are doing their best to walk away from Yuuji and just hide their scars. He would chase after them, get them to open up (sometimes forcefully), and then find a solution to their problem. He isn’t just a nameless protagonist that the players control, because he has a ton of character himself. He has his own mysterious past, a mysterious job and a mysterious life that are spread out in each route. He also sometimes forces a happy ending by himself even if the result leaves a bad feeling in your gut. I seriously went wide eyed once when he killed the mother of a girl because she was the source of all the girl’s pain. He seriously just walks up to the mother, capped her in the knee and then ruthlessly killed her while she begged for her life. It doesn’t feel good, but it’s actually really well done. I honestly don’t show much investment in a VN anime, because a lot of them suck. This anime is different, because the story is just so damn good. It can draw a reaction out of me, sometimes make me feel emotions I don’t want to feel, and make me care for things I normally wouldn’t care about. It’s that good of a story, and the main character really plays an important part in that.
The endings of the route aren’t really that good. It’s not a bad thing, but it just doesn’t feel like a good enough ending for the stories. They feel like momentary relief from a lifelong suffering, and it does make you think. I’m sure it’s done better in the VN, but the anime just kinda reached something temporary. It’s not something truly good for the story to stop at. If you think about the actions leading up to the endings, you’ll realize it’s like putting a band aid on an already infected wound. It won’t really help that much, but I guess this is done on purpose since the game is a trilogy. I’m not sure, but I really like these temporary endings because they’re different. It’s not the usual stuff where the ending involves the characters eloping, or reaching a truly satisfying ending to all the problems just magically vanish. In this anime, the problems still linger but you’re just happy that the show has reached its false normalcy once again after each route is finished. Actually, Yuuji often has sex with the girls after a route is finished. In the VN, there is a large bath in the third floor of their dorm and a lot of explicit things happen there. Naturally, it’s not in the anime and I’m fine with that.
The Flashback Route
I won’t go over each character, since I’d like you to discover them for yourselves. Trust me, they’re all awesome. The anime did a good job with the main trunk that the character showcase is strong. Instead, I would like to talk about my favorite route in the game and the anime, Suou Amane’s route. The entire route barely involves her, because it’s all just a giant flashback. While she is part of the flashback, she plays a very minor role and other characters take center stage. Yuuji is also not involved in this route, except at the end. He mostly just listens to the story, and I think has sex with Amane afterwards. I’m not sure, and I don’t want to check because the H-scenes are too much for me. I love the originality of this route, because it’s just a gigantic flashback. I’m not sure how many VN does this, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen it in an anime. We are taken out of the game itself, and we are just told to listen to a story. It’s also the most insane story in the show.
Sure, some routes involves a girl blown to bits or a girl watching her parents die in front of them but the flashback route doesn’t feature a sudden moment of darkness. The route is a slow process of the characters slowly being eaten by darkness. You can feel the hope die in front you. You can feel how uncomfortable the story is getting. You literally see characters die and you’re forced to wallow in the misery. I f*cking love it. The deliberate way the story is told just eats at you, and it’ll really get to you. I love effective storytelling like this, because it rarely gets me. Anime is still cartoons, so it doesn’t really affect me as much. I’ve seen a Hentai where a girl’s eye socket is f*cked, and it doesn’t bother me. But this one got it. Don’t go for a sudden shocking moment, but slowly let it fester. Sit in the moment for so long that the entire thing becomes unbearable. I love effective storytelling like this, and I love the fact that it came from a rushed adaptation of a seventy hour visual novel. I will not tell you what the flashback route is about. No, you deserve to stew in the misery as well. You don’t have to watch the entire anime to enjoy it. It’s episode 10-12, and the last episode is the conclusion to Amane’s arc itself. This one route is really great, and I urge everyone to try it.
Tensho, Kurata and 8-bit Studio
This anime is directed by Motoki Tanaka but he goes by “Tensho” when he directs an anime. Under his real name, he is mostly credited for key animation work and being an animation director. He’s an OK director, but none of his works really stand out that much. He handled Kiniro Mosaic and Rewrite, and both of them are really just OK. I’d say good job for capturing the spirit of the visual novel, but I think the writer and series composer did that more effectively. This particular anime feels like a Shaft work though, and I’m not sure if it’s on purpose. I actually kinda frowned when I saw solid colors and a lack of background characters, but it did stabilize later on. In terms of visuals, I do think Tensho did a good job. When I read the VN, the scenes described do perfectly match the anime. They especially stayed true to the main trunk as each character is introduced. I am a big fan of Hideyuki Kurata’s work in this anime. He knows how to make an episode flow. I’m sure the VN itself flows smartly, but he knew exactly what to put in an episode. He knew which dialogue should be included, and which of the long winded lines should be cut out. He knew to extend the flashback route to three episodes, for maximum impact, and he knew how to condense a story in one episode. Series composition is a tough thing to do. I mean, Mari Okada bops from good to bad depending on the source, so I admire those that can make a VN anime not feel confusing or overwhelming.
8-bit studio seems to be doing well for themselves. I first knew this studio would find success when I saw Yama no Susume. The animation there is so crisp and detailed that you knew people in the studio are definitely talented. I’m not sure about the decision for the movie-like screen ratio though. What is that all about? In terms of animation and adaptation, I do think 8-bit did a good job. Their works aren’t really brought up that much, but I do love that they are consistent. Studio Feel is also a bit underrated, but they are one of my favorite studios. 8-bit clocks into my top ten, for sure. While they do make some awful shows, their good ones easily overshadow the bad so I can’t wait to try their newest releases.
Sight and Sound
There are two credited artists for the VN, Akio Watanabe and Fumio. I’m not really sure who did what, but I do love the character design in the VN. They all look awesome, and I love how each character’s design is unique in its own way. Aside from the wide range of style, I also love the color palette used. It still feels like something done in Flash, but the soft color palette really makes reading the VN that much more inviting. Often times, you’re just looking at the background and text but the colors just keeps you engaged. The character design itself is pretty great for a VN title. I love the uniforms, and I actually only realized how great it is when I saw the VN. It’s two different colors that wrap around the chest of the characters, and it goes around their hips. When you look at the characters in the VN, the outfits really stand out. In the anime, a lot of things come at you so you never really get to appreciate the costume change of the characters. The characters themselves are a bit generic looking, but the story does flesh them out immensely so it all works out. The anime is a bit overwhelming though, since the color palette is changed a bit here. Once you get past the main trunk though, episode 1-3, then the minor issues will work itself out and you’ll be able to enjoy the show.
Animation is pretty amazing. The scenes are faithfully adapted from the VN, and you can tell a lot of love and effort went into featuring the fluff scenes. The routes are rushed, but the animation quality does stay consistent. Facial expressions are on point and the action sequences are nicely done. It is paced weird, but action in the VN is just text on screen so it’s still pretty good. The anime actually did a lot to capture the spirit of the VN. I love the chibi scenes of the anime, since the visual novel does that a lot too. But more importantly, I love the visuals that perfectly capture the scenes from the VN. There are shots that are made to deliberately look like a VN, like this:
In the VN, the character illustrations often goes in a close up implying the scene is more personal than usual. This is also done in the anime, like this:
The anime does a lot of panty shots though, and I don’t know why. The VN doesn’t really do those, so I guess that’s an extra edge for the anime? It looks weird, and it ruins the pacing of most scenes. I guess I can’t complain much., since fan service is fan service. The anime also has a lot of gore in it. Well, maybe a lot of blood and they are pretty awesome. It adds to the storytelling and it also adds some shock to the visuals. It’s not outright bloody, but red enough to really heighten the emotion in a scene. I think the truly explicit gore ones are hidden in some censor, but I counted two maybe three of those scenes.
The anime’s OP is “Rakuen no Tsubasa” By Maon Kurosaki. It’s a decent song, and you ever have this weird feeling that a lot of VN OP songs sound the same? Like, they’re kinda serious, a bit ominous, but also really good that you just quiet down your weird suspicions. I dunno, but the OP kinda evokes the same energy as most VN OP. It’s an OK song about facing your past and having the courage to move on. It has a weird line about entering someone bare though, and I’m not good enough to figure out why that is there. The Op sequence features all the characters, a small glimpse of their route and the Shaft-like animation done by 8-bit. I love the camera work in the sequence because it does feature the stunning animation quality of the episodes themselves. The anime has a lot of ED, and some of them are done in special episodes. There is one that plays for five episodes, but there’s total of five ED songs so I won’t talk about any of them. This review is long enough. I do remember liking each and every one of them, because it does tie to the route you’re watching. Some of the songs play while the episode comes to a conclusion, so the anime also has a common ED sequence. I think it has Yuuji walking, but it’s in silhouette form, and it’s proceeded by the girls in chibi form making apple pancakes. It’s kinda cute, but I was thrown off by the girls recreating the Last Supper portrait. I don’t know what it means, and I don’t think I want to know.
7/10 “It’s still a problematic adaptation but the narrative is strong and the effort is undeniably there.”
The anime doesn’t compare to the VN, but it does come close. The story is so good that it does thrive in the rushed adaptation. The characters are strong that they do get you engaged in their situation, and the visuals really do try its best to be as faithful to the original source. While it doesn’t really go above the thirty percent rule, I’d say it did go as far as it can to be a very good and entertaining anime. The first three episodes will be overwhelming, but the payoff is excessive once you reach the individual routes. I recommend it.