Otome Game Review: Love! Sushi Rangers

I think I’ve figured out why I originally burnt out on Otome Games when I started playing them a year ago for just a few months. I generally tend towards games of the “freemium” variety, but they are so slow to progress that I end up playing a bunch of them at once, which then results in me deciding that I’ve been playing far too many otome games, so I just stop and go back to more productive pursuits like knitting, watching k-dramas, and not putting away the laundry. So this time around I’m going to give up on games I find a bit boring a bit earlier in the process, and just go ahead and write a review. I figure playing one storyline all the way to the end is enough, if the game isn’t that great, right?

All that being said, this game Love! Sushi Rangers is bonkers, because it features the typical reverse harem scenario of any otome game but with sushi ingredients. Sushi ingredients given human form and personalities. Japan, everybody!!!!!!

Love! Sushi Rangers is available on android and iPhone

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This game starts out with a premise familiar to any manga fan – someone’s parent is going crazy and abandoning them for no logical reason. It is almost as good as the plot device where a sudden marriage where the heroine gets an annoyingly attractive new sibling. In this particular case the heroine’s father, a world class sushi chef, announces that he is going to walk the earth to bring the gospel of sushi to foreign lands, leaving the family restaurant in the hands of his daughter, who is absolutely inept at making sushi. Yukari, who is a sensible girl except for her habit of falling in love with sushi ingredients, is angry and upset about this turn of events. She finds some unlikely helpers, as the sushi ingredients her father left behind turn into handsome young men, prepared to help her keep the restaurant running.

Other than the nutty aspect of dating sushi ingredients, this game is pretty boring. There isn’t really much of a plot to speak of in either of the routes I tried. Salmon and Tuna are engaged in a petulant rivalry with each other.

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This rivalry sometimes becomes violent. Sushi fight!!!!!

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While there is no plot to speak of, this game did at least have a sense of humor, as when the sushi ingredients ponder the morality of sushi ingredients eating sushi.

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I did appreciate the heroine’s tendencies to yell in all caps when she’s upset.

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As a free game, I think you can play up to three character’s story lines for free. I only played through all of Tuna and part of Salmon. It is very very unfortunate that Shrimp and Avocado don’t have routes. The power expended to get through the game for free is about the slowest to regenerate that I’ve ever encountered in a freemium otome game. You basically get only 2 chapters a day, which is a very slow pace. I didn’t think that the character designs were very attractive. Often the game presents you with empty rooms and subtitles, I’m assuming to save on the costs of doing additional illustrations. Lackluster art combined with almost no plot to speak of doesn’t really add up to a game that I’d be interested in playing much further, even though there are flashes of humor due to the wacky premise.

Gangsta, Vol. 3

Gangsta Volume 3 by Kohske

I continue to thoroughly enjoy this seinen title set in a world where two men with a brotherly bond make money doing odd jobs for the mafia, in a world where genetically enhanced humans are both fearsome soldiers and a disrespected underclass. I thought after reading volume 2 and getting a peak at the cover for this volume that the reader would be getting a bit more backstory on how Nic and Worick first met, and I wasn’t disappointed.

We get a glimpse of Worick’s life before he became a handyman at large and sometime gigolo. He was brought up by a wealthy family with an abusive father who never hesitated to remind him of his illegitimacy. He’s all alone until he gets assigned an unconventional bodyguard Nic, who is working through his own problems as a deaf Twilighter with few communication skills. The two young men gradually grow closer together, with Worick acting as a bit of a tutor. They pour over a sign language book together. This isn’t an idyll by any means, as Worick is beaten by his father, and Nic is abused by the mercenary troop that just wants to take advantage of his skills and dump him when he’s useless.

In the present day Alex finds herself more drawn in to the daily lives of the two handymen and their friends at the nearby medical clinic. There are some mafia conspiracies going on that I’m sure will be drawing in everybody into a violent confrontation. More Twilighters are popping up, and I think things are going to get even more bloody in the volumes ahead The violence in this manga contrasts with some of the slice of life pacing and the strong relationships that develop as the characters intersect. The art manages to be both stylish and dynamic, and the action scenes are effective in showing the enhances powers of the Twilights, and the aftereffects of their actions. Kohske is building an interesting world. If you enjoy seinen with an edge, you can’t go wrong with this manga.

Otome Game Review: Love Letter from Thief X

Love Letter from Thief x is availabe on Android and iPhone.

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I played a few Otome games a year ago, and I’m playing a couple again. Perhaps there is something about fall that makes me want to play Otome games. Before I move on to the games I am currently playing (spoiler alert! there might be sushi and ninjas involved), I thought I would go back and write about my favorite game to date, Love Letter from Thief X.

There’s something about the premise that really appeals to me, even more than games involving pirates and ninjas, as hard as it may seem. In this game, the heroine works in a museum and finds herself caught up in a ring of Robin Hood-like thieves. It is vaguely like that great Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole move “How to Steal a Million”, except there’s no Givenchy costumes and instead of Peter O’Toole, you get six Japanese dudes.

The heroine of this game works in a museum. Her great-grandfather was the Japanese equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci. One day when she’s at work after hours, she runs into two thieves. She bumps into a display case as she chases after them, almost toppling a statute on top of her. One of the thieves saves her from being brained by the bronze. They notice that she’s wearing an heirloom ring from her great-grandfather, then quickly run away as the police approach. There are rumors floating around about a ring of thieves known as the Black Foxes, and the heroine wonders if the strange men she encountered are part of the group.

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The next day the heroine finds herself meeting two other strange men who are also part of the secret band of thieves. She finds herself at a bar where they all hang out, told that she’s the key to unlocking the secret of her great-grandfather’s legacy, and has to pick a thief to accompany her at all times in her new role as a member of the Black Foxes.

There’s Riki, the arrogant leader:

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Takuto, a socially inept computer genius.

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Takuto and the heroine often get into fights over who ate the last serving of pork noodles.

Hiro, an androgynous art student and master of disguise:

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and Kenshi, the boy next door:

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You can also play storylines with Atsumu, the oddly superstitious older boss of the gang, and Tatsuro, an old childhood friend of the heroine’s who happens to be a police detective tracking down the Black Foxes.

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Depending on the route you pick, you get a different scenario for the mystery the Black Foxes need the heroine to solve. Sometimes they are chasing paintings, an advanced scientific invention, an Indiana Jones style lost city, or a precious artifact. I played through all the routes on this game, although I haven’t invested the time and money to play the many sequels, epilogues, and special stories.

There are a lot of similarities in the personalities of the characters to Pirates in Love. In particular, Riki and Eduardo and Atsumu and Morgan were a bit similar. This was the first Otome game where I’ve been interested in playing every route, and it was interesting to see the variations on the story with each character. Riki’s story is good if you enjoy the whole clumsy maiden with a chaebol dynamic that pops up so often in k-dramas, and there’s even a bit of second lead syndrome as Riki and Takuto struggle a bit over the heroine’s affections. Takuto’s story was probably the most emotionally intense. Kenshi’s storyline was simple but sweet. Atsumu’s storyline delves into issues that unfold when you have a leading man who is superficial on the service because he’s dealing with a tragic past. I was happy to play through all the stories, but Hiro and Tatsuro were a bit less entertaining for me.

There’s plenty of humor throughout. I know that many otome game aficionados aren’t necessarily the biggest fans of Voltage Games, but if you aren’t able to play games in Japanese, at least the translation quality is good, you do get plenty of chapters for the $4.99 per game route you’re playing, and the storylines are generally entertaining. This has been my favorite otome game so far, and I would rank Pirates in Love second. I always meant for these reviews to turn into a regular feature! We’ll see what I can manage with the few games I just started playing recently. If you have suggestions for games for me to check out, please let me know. I know that Alice in the Country of Hearts was just released in English, but the translation quality seems so bad, I’m not sure if I can stomach paying for any chapters.

Checking out Sparkler Monthly

Sparkler Monthly has a membership drive currently happening, and I was given access as a reviewer to poke around and check out what this unique magazine has to offer. I browsed around the site a bit, and while I realize the flagship title is Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat, my attention was first captured by the currently running series Dire Hearts and the selection of short stories.

Dire Hearts

Dire Hearts is by Christy Lijewski, and currently has 2 chapters available. Rose attends a special school for Casters, girls with magical abilities who are paired up with Knights. Rose has a severe case of amnesia, a slightly obnoxious roommate, and angsty problems because Sir Shur has chosen her as his caster, even though her abilities aren’t up to speed. Rose is an entertaining, somewhat caustic heroine, who is struggling to regain her memories and not fitting in well to the overly mannered society at her school. Something about all the school uniforms and undercurrents of psychological trauma reminded me a tiny bit of Revolutionary Girl Utena. The standout aspect of this title is Lijewski’s art, which combines the pretty and the grotesque in stylized lines and good panel composition. This was my favorite of the titles that I sampled, but unfortunately this series is now on hiatus.

Windrose

Windrose is by Studio Konsen, it has a more conventional pretty shoujo art style, and I found myself intrigued by the first two chapters, which launch heroine Daniela into an adventure filled with pirates, as she searches for the truth about her father. She falls in with with brother and sister mercenaries Angeline and Leon. Angeline is predatory and sneaky and Leon seems to be silently sympathetic but without much personality yet, so it will be interesting to see if this somewhat random group is able to fulfill Daniela’s quest. I enjoyed the art and the story for this comic, but it is a bit tricky to judge a comic based on only two chapters.

Gatesmith

Gatesmith is by Jen Lee Quick, who is I suppose the flagship creator for Chromatic Press, since her title Off*Beat is available in all three volumes, including the first two previously published by Tokyopop, and the final third volume published by Chromatic Press. This series is a western with supernatural and horror elements. The first chapter shows a wagon journey gone awry, as the travelers are robbed and killed, and the only surviving robber ends up dying in the desert, only to have his corpse be reanimated by a skinwalker. The following chapter shows a mysterious stranger sharing a meal with some ranchers, only to head out alone to track down a supernatural manifestation. I think I’ll be able to get a better feel for the series after reading a couple more chapters, but so far this title does seem very intriguing. Quick’s art is expressive, clear, and easy to follow.

There are short stories available too. Of the three short story series available, Ring of Saturn was the standout for me. I enjoyed the story about a struggling pianist. The historical setting and aspects of the art reminded me a bit of the manga Emma. Before You Go was a meet cute story about two girls who strike up a relationship after sharing the same commute for several weeks.

Sparkler Monthly has put together an impressive amount of content for such a new venture. I was just checking out the comics and didn’t even start reading the prose or audio dramas. I wish that there had been a few more chapters available for the non-Off*Beat series, but I appreciate that it takes a lot of work to issue a chapter of a comic, and many of these comics have just been recently launched.

If you’re interested in Sparkler Monthly, you can download a Sampler Issue and contribute to their membership drive!

Dawn of the Arcana Vol 13 and Midnight Secretary Vol 7

These are both great series from the Shojo Beat line that are concluding! I always feel a bit wistful when reading final volumes, but fortunately I am quickly distracted by new manga series.

Dawn of the Arcana Vol 13 by Rei Toma

In this volume of Dawn of the Arcana, Nakaba and Caesar are reunited, while Loki makes an unexpected demand – to be given the kingdom of Senan so humans and Ajin can live separately. Nakaba is absolutely against this, seeing a way for her and Caesar to bring both people together, but Loki leaves, determined to secure a kingdom for the Ajin. Nakaba is heartbroken, starting to adjust to life in Belquat as Caesar’s queen yet again. She closes herself off from her magical powers, not wanting to suffer again if she sees Loki in a vision. One of the things that I’ve always liked about this series is that it is a bit more about the world the characters live in than the romantic issues that they need to work through. So Nakaba and Caesar set to rebuilding their world without Ajin, as the country of Senan becomes more closed off and mysterious. When an almost grown-up Rito shows up with a message from Senan, this sets off a series of surprising revelations that can change how readers interpreted the story from the very beginning. I have to admit, I was genuinely surprised by this concluding plot twist.

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was one of those series that grows on readers gradually. I remember enjoying but feeling slightly ambivalent about the first volume, but after reading a few more I knew I’d be reading the rest of the series. While there is plenty of romantic angst, the focus on world buliding, geopolitics, and human-Ajin race relations made the story seem more expansive than usual for a shoujo fantasy series.

Midnight Secretary Vol 7 by Tomu Ohmi

Seven volumes seems like just the right length for this manga about a dedicated secretary and her vampire boss. In this volume Kyohei is formally banished from the vampire clan because he refuses to part from Kaya. But as they start to figure out how to live on their own, they have to start working on ways to deal with complications like Kyohei’s regular blood supply and the loss of business that occurs when Kyohei’s new company starts running into trouble. There’s an additional issue as Kaya’s blood starts to turn toxic to Kyohei, further straining their relationship. There’s never any doubt that this manga is headed to a happily ever ending for this unconventional couple, and readers wanting to see Kaya and Kyohei set up as a strong couple facing their future together won’t be disappointed. There’s an extra bonus chapter that flips the gender dynamics of the whole book, as vampire Marika finds her “Midnight Butler.” This was a great bonus story, and it was interesting to see Marika in a different context, because she’d only showed up as a friend of Kyohei’s before. Overall, this was an extremely satisfying josei-disguised-as-shoujo-series, and I’m delighted that I can now switch over to Ohmi’s Spell of Desire for similar supernatural romance!

Review copies provided by the publisher