Release: 2013 (インレ)
假名手本忠臣蔵編 – 4/5
江戸急進派編 – 4/5
百花魁編 – 5/5
仇華・宿怨編 – 4/5
刃・忠勇義烈編 – 3/5
Japanese difficulty: 95% V. Easy; 5% V. Hard (Medieval Japanese)
Ratings: VNDB (8.48); EGS (8.53)
To make long story short, ChuSinGura46+1 is basically Muv-Luv Alternative in feudal Japan. The protagonist slips through time and joins the legendary group of 46 samurai who having lost their lord to political machinations come up with a scheme to take revenge in hopes of restoring their lord’s honor, and storm the capital.
Originally an episodic doujin visual novel, ChuSinGura46+1 is split into five chapters that repeat the same historical story with a different twist each time, eventually combining into one epic plot. Instead of choices, you’re just gonna have to read all of the routes/episodes in their designated order. Though frankly, it already boggles my mind how complicated the whole story with over forty significant characters already is, and adding choices to the mix would’ve been likely the last straw to finally break the writer’s mind, as despite transforming most of his leads to women, he attempts to be as historically accurate as possible.
The first, somewhat introductory, chapter follows the protagonist as he learns and gets used to the life in feudal Japan while also trying his best to find a way back to his own world and abandon the ranks of the tragic heroes that he happened to get stuck with.
Still, escaping the time slip doesn’t prove to be so easy as, turns out, it also loops, and during the second chapter the protagonist, already learned in the way of true samurai, decides to twist history to save his comrades, his wish to return home taking a backseat.
By the time of the third chapter, the protagonist had already braved through more battles than even the best of legendary samurai, and having aged considerably through the repeating loops, ends up taking somewhat of a wiser approach to the whole situation, almost becoming a mentor to his fellow warriors. This puts him almost in an inverse position from where he had started, making it almost painfully apparent how much he had changed in the years. It’s also the first route where the romance with the heroine actually feels like a love affair, rather than a mentor-student relationship (the previous two heroines were both historically 30+ year old!). Anyway, the third chapter is basically where all of the best shit goes down, each line of it being just a pleasure to read. It finally introduces the best character in the entire game in the form of an opposing faction assassin, and tampers with the protagonist’s as of yet unshaken loyalties, increasing the drama two fold, and also culminating in one of the most epic and heartbreaking battles I have ever witnessed in a visual novel.
And if you don’t believe the chipper eyepatch-wearing yandere psychopath Shinpachi that might accidentally murder you during an ero scene could possibly be the best girl, you should check the character ranking polls. The most exciting character I’ve came across in a long while, hot damn.
Unfortunately, this is where the things start going downhill. Still, that’s one huge hill to go down from and so even the latter two episodes while paling in comparison to their predecessors still succeed in being better than most of what industry has to offer.
The fourth chapter starts very interesting by throwing loads of perplexing historical facts at you, successfully making you actually start doubting the true intentions of the legendary warriors (especially historical ones) despite seeing them in action here. Still, while the build-up in this chapter is incredible, and a few extremely dark but tasteful twists go down throughout the story, at the culmination where you’d think everything would explode in a crescendo of awesomeness and you’d actually finally see the villain’s side get their fair share of the spotlight, the whole thing just fizzles out after a single fight. One of the biggest wasted opportunities in the history of fiction. I had to bite down tears of frustration during the credits. 😦
And, uh, then comes the final chapter where the writer must’ve taken the same kind of crazy-pills the guy that brought us the disaster of Grisaia Rakuen did; everything goes off the rails during the finale. I don’t know if the writer’s intention was to make the whole thing end in the most super duper epic way he could think of, but going into fantasy chuu2 land where the villain basically decides to burn down his house to exterminate a mosquito that had already been dead from old age anyway is really unbecoming of a work that tried to be relatively serious and historical till then. The attempt to artificially heighten to odds and disregard to common sense and strategy that was so prevalent in the previous chapters, just makes you go “woot, I can’t take this shit seriously anymore” instead of getting overcome by “awesomeness” as it intended.
In the end, the best highlights of the last chapter end up being the slice of life situations with the younger sister of the original route’s heroine (who’s boring); the witty little girl completely steals the show despite being twelve or so. It kind of makes you realize that regardless of the outcome of the revenge, you’ll be leaving the girl behind alone, and you ain’t human if that doesn’t bring at least one tear to your eye after all you go through with her in the last chapter. Then again, the plot turns ridiculous during the last two hours and ruins that mood in the end *sigh*.
Despite being a doujin, ChuSinGura46+1 boasts incredible production values where the sprites dancing on screen with their swords left and right almost make the experience comparable to Muv-Luv Alternative’s approach to action. Originally, I was a bit off-put by the fact that most fights seemed to consist of solely “hahh” and “yahh” as far as text was concerned with only visuals livening them up, but later it turned out that the writer saved his description abilities only for the most important of scenes, and the blend of prose and visuals during the last battle in the third chapter is downright amazing. Not to imply the guy is Shakespeare; his prose is very basic as far as visual novels go, but at least it flows well.
Either way, despite a few flaws, mainly towards the end, ChuSinGura46+1 is an amazing work that should be checked out by anyone interested in history, or intelligent, dramatic stories in general. It might not be Muramasa, but it comes from the same roots, and is probably at least on the same level if not better than Muv-Luv Alternative.
Maybe the fan-disc, that I have yet to read, will fix the disappointing ending that chapter fifth left me with (I bet they were planning to end the whole thing at chapter three originally). I heard it’s some parallel dimension thing where the 46 Chusingura warriors challenge Shinsengumi to a fight; the idea of which alone makes me want to dance from excitement.
|Simplistic prose flows fast and is easy to digest||The prose, at the same time, is so basic it lacks poignancy in the more dramatic scenes|
|Insane amount of sprites and their variations||Ridiculously over-sexualized outfits are distracting|
|Awesome and effective fight “animation”||Shoots itself in the foot by transforming the gender of too many characters|
|Awesome OP track||The pace is pretty slow (except for the third chapter)|
|Captivating plot full of twists||The plot grows a bit predictable with subsequent loops|
|Smart, epic, and heartfelt story (except for the end of episode 5)||The last two hours of the last chapter are kind of dumb|
|Episode 3 has an amazing, tear-jerking ending||Disappointing ending (episodes 4/5)|
|The growth of the protagonist comes across incredibly well|
|Shinpachi is one of the most amazing characters ever|
|Interesting, likable, relatively profound characters in general|
|Enlightening on medieval Japanese history and culture|