The female protagonist of Akibakei Kanojo is neither Akibakei nor, strictly speaking, a kanojo. Discuss.

Akibakei Kanojo was released in the fall of 2003 as the flagship title of Teck’s Good Job? brand. It spawned a two episode h-OAV that was my first contact with the title and will probably come up again later in this review, and is also mentioned in the Genshiken OFFICIAL BOOK as an item of interest in the eroge genre. Having played through good portions of Good Job?’s other two releases Ane to Boin, which I enjoyed, and this other game where you have two mothers who aren’t really related to you, which I didn’t, last week I thought I’d give this one a try; a .500 batting average is better than most eroge brands have scored in my book. It cleared the relatively high benchmark of keeping my interest through its entirety, but the promise of the game’s initial premise collapses in a bait-and-switch that by the end left me feeling vaguely insulted, not to say flaccid, the cardinal sin of any eroge ending. Was the initial innovation of the game worth the blue balls as the credits scrolled? Read on.

In Akibakei Kanojo you play an otaku of somewhat questionable pedigree. Your sole claim to hardcore otakudom seems to be the physical proximity of your residence to Akihabara and your penchant for playing H-games and leaving the door to your room unlocked so your sister can see you go at it if she so desires, which when given the opportunity is of course the first thing that happens. You refer to yourself as “akibakei,” meaning “Akihabara type,” as opposed to “otaku,” which seems to be mostly a hair splitting affection as all akibakei are, by definition otaku. Not all otaku are akibakei, however, which you take pains to point out in the course of the game. The semantics fall apart entirely when faced with the female cast, only two of the five of whom are remotely akibakei themselves, thus belying the title of the game. It might as well have been called “tenshikei” or “shimaikei” if the title is actually supposed to refer to the game’s cast.

I’m trying to resist summarizing the plot here as the details aren’t worth going into. It’s a typical new-to-school scenario, you join the otaku club, meet a bunch of girls, the main love interest being someone you see in a park near your house who looks like a character from your favorite anime and later meet again in the cafeteria at school. There is also your younger sister and your older sister, neither of whom are connected to you by blood (I recall hearing something to the effect that the depiction of true incest in fictional form was banned in Japan a few years ago. Can anyone confirm or deny this? At any rate, I’m tired of the endless trotting out of implausible scenarios that put non-blood-related co-eds in the same “family.” Let incest be incest, god damn it). Rounding out the female cast are the two akibakei girls you meet at the school otaku club, one of whom is a cosplayer and the other is Ogiue only cuter (I hate otaku etc. etc. OH WAIT I’m actually a part time seiyuu in disguise and I like RPGs please don’t tell anybody). The male cast aside from yourself consists of your good buddy with the bible that contains exhaustive information about everyone in the world and the otaku club president, who is Madarame only less nasal and toothy.

The first half of Akibakei Kanojo was a blast. If Genshiken is deemed bland and generic by true Japanese otaku, the cast of Genshiken would deem the otaku level of Akibakei Kanojo bland and generic, but even with that the scenarios that arise in the first half of the game are quite entertaining. The gimmicks here are the “conversation battles” that occasionally occur between you and the various other members of the cast. These are moments that represent your internal thought processes switching to confrontation mode, I assume, imaginary mental combat that only really works when both you and your opponent are fired up in the same way. This becomes rather lopsided when dealing with your sisters, to humorous effect – they’re not willing to buy into your stylized bravado and conversational posturing and smack you down very fast. Otherwise, though, the arguments consist of rapidfire conversation to combat music, with a background screen reminiscent of a 2D fighter. You’re occasionally given the chance to choose a conversation topic from among a few options, only one of which will lead to sure victory against your opponent in a given scenario. The first one you get into with the club president, for example, is about drills, and you beat him by choosing the topic of GaoGaiGar (as opposed to D4 Princess, which was my first choice. Drill de Run Run apparently loses ;_;).

In the first half of the game there are a good half-dozen or so of these battles, and if you win them you get promoted in your otaku rank, which raises your life bar for future combat. Also, there are three or four CG images (not related to the game characters) that you can unlock only through excelling in the conversation battles – all around a decent, indeed an intriguing premise with a lot more potential to explore. Perhaps its most endearing facet is the VERSUS screen that appears before each fight, when the names are announced using sound clips from conversation in other parts of the game – when you fight your little sister, for example, it takes a bit from when she is drunk with you at an izakaya and becomes: “oreeeeenji jiyuuuuuuuusu” versus “sukuryuuuuuuuuuuu doraibaaaaaaaaaa.” Awesome.

There is no sex in the first half of the game, no matter what you do – just a bit of nudity incurred by drunkenness, desperation, or accident. This doesn’t really matter, as the merits of the game thus far have all been unrelated to copulation. In the second half of the game, corresponding to the second week of game time, this all changes. Suddenly the conversation battles disappear, “akibakei” drops from the title and concept of the game (where it was only tenuously perched to begin with – the main character doesn’t know that comiket is occuring on the weekend bridging the first and second halves of the game until he is told by his otaku club buddies), and we are left with “- Kanojo”, in other words a completely average and unremarkable H-game. The protagonist has no problems having sex with any of the girls, putting out pleasurably and effortlessly in all instances, another nail in the “akibakei” coffin. Fuck in a park? I’m game. In the club room? Fine. With either sister? No problem! Plot-wise I only followed the main trail to completion, but sidetracked on both of the akibakei girls’ arcs and the only one of the five worth anything (extrapolating from the CG of the two sisters) is the closet seiyuu, which is actually a pretty nice little plot from an akibakei perspective (although the ease with which sex happens is still totally unwarranted). From what I’ve seen of the two sisters’ plots they might be alright, but have nothing to do with the premise of the game.

If you follow the main plot you make it through the second week to the third “half” which occurs after the credits roll. This is where the game completely comes apart at the seams. It turns out the girl you’ve been after all along is not only not “akibakei” (which was obvious from the start) but is also, strictly speaking, not a “kanojo.” She winds up disappearing without a trace from your and everyone else’s memory, and when you sleep you gradually recall that the last time you met she told you she was an angel (or not strictly an angel but something called a “hanemono” or “winged person”) who has been watching over you since birth and saved you from a car crash in which both of your parents died. She loved you from the beginning because of the “shape of your soul.” WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH MY PENIS NOW YOU FUCKING STUPID GAME. AKIBAKEI KANOJO MY RUDDY BUM. In my world, the female protagonist of such a game should fall for you because of your vast array of manly otaku knowledge and stunning lack of personal hygene and social skills, not for some bullshit “shape of your soul” reason. Hell, I bet there’s an angel out there that loves the shape of MY soul, but you don’t see me making an H-game about it NOW DO YOU. To add insult to injury the game doesn’t even tell you for sure if she gets to stay with you at the end or has to stay permanently disappeared due to whatever angel laws govern her interaction with you.

In conclusion, the first half of the game is worthy of the G.J.? Label – oh, and another thing I forgot to mention, as G.J.?’s flagship title, the phrase “good job?” actually does appear in the game in several cute moments. Good job, as they say. The second and third halves, however, are definitely not. If you like well-drawn but otherwise generic H-game fare you’ll like the second half well enough; my recommendation would be to stick with the akibakei girls arc and forget that the main girl exists. For your sanity. Another pointlessly irritating factor that detracts from the game is that it is not fully voiced; only the more important dialogue scenes are favored with audio (and only the females at that, as is customary). It is a testament to the interest factor of the first half that I was able to stick through the wastelands of text, but added to the other strikes against it I’m afraid Akibakei Kanojo is lowered to merely average in the annals of H-gamedom. When we launch our doujin empire myself and rq will do far greater justice to the concept.

A final note regarding the Milky-produced OAV of the same name: it abandons any pretext of plot in favor of squeezing three sex scenes into each of its two episodes. This is fine if you’ve played the game and understand the relationships between the characters and the context in which everything is occuring, but otherwise makes hopelessly little sense. The animation isn’t that great and as such there is nothing to recommend the Akibakei Kanojo OAV as a standalone, unless you like the designs enough to see them butchered in this form. They bear about the same resemblance to the original art as Angelium bears to the Yokota originals, though, so be forewarned.