Akatsuki no Goei Thoughts
I recently completed Akatsuki no Goei. Admittedly, I'm a proud fan of Ojousamas, and Akatsuki no Goei (aka. AkaGoei) provides Ojous in spades. AkaGoei's highlight is the protagonist, who is comparable to, or who might have even inspired the protagonists from Hello Lady and Grisaia no Kajitsu. Asagiri Kaito is confident, competent, and sharp. He embodies a set of traits which are are common from time to time, but still arguably unique.
AkaGoei is a VN from 2009, and its age shows. The work suffers heavily from what I'll describe as "late 2000s humour". While the game can be hilarious, I found it challenging to read repetitive, overused, gay jokes rooted in homo-hysteria. I worry I suffer from selection bias since I was acutely aware of when those jokes came about. Despite that worry, I still think there's an absurd amount of gay jokes present. AkaGoei crutches on gay jokes for cheap laughs and it feels incredibly cheap.
The routes in AkaGoei are short, and all draw from the same set of story beats. Visual Novel routes that draw from an small if not identical set of plot devices can be fine, especially in character-driven stories where the focus is more on how characters act in situations rather than the situations themselves. The similarity of routes between Muv Luv, Muv Luv Unlimited, and Muv Luv Alternative do this to an extent, and it was "fine". However, there is a limit, and AkaGoei sped past it. With routes that take around three hours to complete, identical conflicts, and inconsequential, incomplete endings, AkaGoei's routes meld together. Very few routes have moments that truly stand out from each other. Understanding that AkaGoei is the first title in a trilogy, I'm willing to be a bit more forgiving on plot elements that were unaddressed and unresolved, but I feel it important to state that AkaGoei should stand by itself as a story. While it does do quite a lot to get you interested in the world and its characters, it ultimately leaves you feeling unfulfilled, as each route abruptly ends.
AkaGoei's story tackles classism. Japan suffers from unheard-of wealth inequality, the poor are treated as subhuman, confined to urban slums and the wealthy hire bodyguards to protect their children 24/7. Our protagonist, Asagiri Kaito and the majority of the cast hold and express strong opinions on an increasing level of societal division that borders on critical, arguments over "cleansing" can be heard over the news. AkaGoei takes place in a world one violent incident away from absolute chaos, yet it is mainly background noise. Some routes spend more time highlighting the disparity between the lives of the rich and poor, but never in service of an overreaching narrative. Again, AkaGoei is completely character-driven. This is not an excuse, however, as that such an interesting and tense premise is left completely one-dimensional in the game meant to serve as an introduction to the world is inexcusable.
AkaGoei is very concerned with highlighting the completely different worlds the rich and poor live in. Unfortunately, the way AkaGoei goes about it is hilarious if not offensively bad. Kinugasa Shougo, the author who would later go on to write Classroom of the Elite, ought to be ashamed for some of the worst writing I've seen in eroge. The slums in AkaGoei are decrepit and violent. When AkaGoei takes a break from its frilly, rich-girl school setting to explore the slums, it tries its best to make sure it's clear just how dangerous this new setting is. Here, AkaGoei suffers from the same writing flaws that have plagued Isekai authors and famously Kawahara Reki. Violence in these worlds can only be conveyed through explicit, implied, or fear of rape. The way Akatsuki no Goei portrays the slums, there is no need to be worried about needles, and wearing expensive clothes and jewelry is fine. No one intends to steal. The long-standing otaku tradition of only being able to convey "evilness" through sexual violence rears its ugly head yet again, yet this is to be expected of a 2009 eroge.
What I have an issue with is the plot twist in one of the routes. Specifically, Tsuki's. While I feel it inappropriate to go into detail, I feel it important to mention that the ending of Tsuki's route, while also suffering from the usual flaws (that being, abrupt, and unsatisfactory) features a plot twist, so unexpected, unnecessary, disturbing and so poorly done I was surprised this section of the game was not written by a 15-year-old. This ending is edgy, for the sake of being edgy, shocking for the sake of being shocking and resolves its disastrous twist within 50 lines of dialogue with absurdly unrealistic character writing and then the story just ends. Credits roll, that was it.
Tsuki's character and her story had no right to be assassinated as it was. It's severely disappointing. I quite liked Tsuki and the banter she had between herself and the protagonist was one of the highlights of the visual novel.
Akatsuki no Goei offers an interesting premise, hilarious dialogue and a protagonist who isn't your standard self-insert. Despite this, the premise never gets expanded on, and the comedy has aged poorly with repetitive, tone-deaf gay jokes. What little of the premise we do see is handled with the elegancy of an edgy teenager and the VN features perhaps the worst writing I've seen from a credible author in the otaku sphere. It isn't all bad though, the premise, while undeveloped has two long-visual novels worth of time to develop and the characters were absolutely fun and memorable.
On a personal level, I love games about ojou-samas and if you have a similar interest in these sorts of settings and characters, Akatsuki no Goei will not disappoint.
5 / 10