Who Would Like this Game?
MekuIro strongly reminds me of scifi-fantasy-battle stuff like Hundred or Infinite Stratos. It’s set in a sci-fi setting with some kind of futuristic kendo sport. There’s no real drama yet, but there are hints that there’ll be some at least mild drama at some point. Rather than drama there’s a bunch of comedy, but the “battle” genre reigns supreme so far. If I had to put numbers on it, it’s 30% battle, 50% explanations, 20% comedy so far.
A pretty typical fantasy sci-fi game. You’ll have to get used to “a new world,” that means new and/or unusual vocabulary you probably weren’t faced with during your studies. However, there are only so many terms you gotta learn and before long, you can breeze through the game. It’s average, I’ll add another point for the initial effort you gotta put into it, so 6 it is.
Nothing I know of.
The visuals are MekuIro‘s second strongest point. From what I can tell, the graphics are 1080p, usually visual novels come in 720p. The backgrounds are above average: While still deprived of any human presence, there’s a high level of detail with stuff lying around and whatnot – the backgrounds aren’t overly sterile (see picture above). Character sprites are really well done and have been drawn by different artists, so it’s not one of those games where there only way to tell heroines apart is by their hair styles. Alas, the animation’s minimalistic: No mouth movement, no blinking, no breathing or anything; just static sprites.
You’re playing the protagonist, Touki, a decendent of the famous Sanjou family, the inventors and blacksmiths of the first “origami.” An origami is a weapon which allows its wielder to summon the power of the gods to boost their powers manyfold. However, due to a certain incident, Touki has lost the will to forge such weapons. In fact, he’s lost interest in anything and now has nothing he’s particularly passionate about. That’s a problem, since he’s already a second-year at the academy and has to show results – namely origami – by the end of the school year. Out of boredom, he builds a machine that allows him to visualize such a god and then uses it to manifest the goddess which slept within a mirror that he’d found in his family storage. And that was the day his life changed…
Saya is a girl from the countryside who transfers to the academy, since her old master already had nothing to teach her anymore. She’s a devoted fighter, but also a klutz, especially in terms of modern technology. On top of that, although highly zealous, she isn’t used the fighting style the “jindou” sport requires, hence she struggles to show good results in her first matches. Also, from the start, Saya behaves as if Touki and she were close, so there’s a good chance they both have history.
Tsubaki is kinda Touki’s childhood friend, she’s the youngest daugther of the Suzakuin family – a family famous for being insanely strong at “jindou.” Sure enough, she secured two consecutive championships in the academy tournament. She really wants Touki to make an origami for her. However, she also knows about the incident and his struggle. She sees herself as destined to fight, comparing it to an animal breathing.
Shion is a freshman. She came in last at the academy rankings and when Touki first meets her, she’s crying by herself and thinks about leaving the academy. However, her inborn spiritual “affinity” – a value which determines the potential growth of ones powers when using an origami – is more than twice as much as the highest ever meassured. Touki decides to help bringing her potential to light.
Freesia is the daughter of the “Godspeed” company, an American origami manufacturer. She’s a genius, apparently, and although she doesn’t need to go to any school anymore, decides to join the academy in search for someone she can still learn something from. Sure enough, Touki is the chosen one and she wants to become his disciple.
There’s a bunch of side characters, most of them aren’t anything special so far. Two sidekick classmates, both of which are female, one of which seems to be into girls. Then there’s their homeroom teacher, a woman who seems to be both unmotivated and rather harsh to her students. A sidecharacter worth mentioning is Freesia’s maid, she’s one of Tsubaki’s older sisters and nothing weaker than her.
Finally a visual novel that isn’t, like, 20 years old! MekuIro was released by the end of last year. I’m actually talking about the trial version here, so on the downside there’s not much information I can give you, on the other hand, you can try it yourself, just download the trial here. There’s also some trial H scenes for each heroine, so you can test those too, if it tickles your fancy, I haven’t played them.
Anyway, let’s talk about the game (so far). MekuIro by far strongest point is the setting: You’re a student at a famous academy (whose name I’ve forgotten) whose goal is to nurture future “jindou” pros. So basically you are at a football academy. But with swords. At the academy itself, there are three faculties, battle, create, support (not literally named like that, but that’s what they do). Battle are the swordfighters, creators aim to become blacksmiths who make origamis, and support members to supportive stuff (the game doesn’t specify what they do). Touki, the protagonist, is part of the second faculty and heir of the Sanjou family, the inventors of the very first origami. People have called upon the power of the gods before, but the things they used were very unstable and sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t. Origami were a breakthrough on that front and let their wielder reliably call forth their powers. First, origami were tools of war, of course, but after WWII and Japan’s loss, they were banned from using them at all first, and although the ban was easened up, they’re only allowed for sports now. So basically they’re training soldiers at the academy. Origami also only work in Japan, since it’s the country of the quadrazillion gods – you might know about how Japanese people (at least in the past) believed that a spirit would enter items if you used them long enough and with caution and respect. So they basically call forth the power of those kinds of gods/spirits/fairies.
All of that results in supernatural katana fights, which is cool, right? On top of that neat setting, you got the protagonist who’s having an identity crisis (no hints as to what has happened to him yet), which is refreshing compared to how I’m usually playing games where the heroines have to deal with all their problems and the protagonist is just as flat as a pancake.
The music is a mixed bag. Some pieces sound incredibly cheap and unprofessional of sorts (like some cheap ass techno stuff), while others sound great.
In terms of voice acting, only Saya falls short. But she falls short as a character altogether. At first, she seems like a super serious warrior kind of character, which does suit her visuals and somewhat her voice. However, that image of hers regularly shifts to that of a klutz who virtually couldn’t turn on a TV. Then her voice also sounds like one of those forced cute ones like “look how clumsy I am, I’m such a klutz, isn’t that cute? Tehe.” It really hurts to read and see, it neither fits her voice nor the visuals. She looks and sometimes behaves like a stylish and composed samurai girl, and then she’s a cringy idiot all of a sudden. Total writing shutdown here, if you ask me.
Another fail of a character is Freesia. She’s your quota “Western” girl: Blonde hair, blue eyes, speaks awkward Japanese, and acts overly familiar with people. Such characters can work if you show restraint in the extent of that behavior. However, they didn’t do that here. Freesia behaves like a full-blown idiot and worst of all, they make her speak terrible, terrible English, which is wrong in pronunciation, syntax, and grammar. Need I remind you that she’s American? It’s really just a mockery. The extent to which she puts that “retarded Western girl” on display is also far from cute, it’s really, really annoying. Genius much. The guys at Kin-iro Mosaic did a better job on this front.
Tsubaki has a great voice actress, she sounds amazing. Her voice is outstanding and very charismatic, I’d love to hear more from her. During the trial, Tsubaki’s character stays totally flat. There’s not much info on her, all we know is that she loves to fight and be on top. There might be some drama involved with her rival, but there doesn’t seem to be any deeper meaning to her as of now.
Shion is probably the most interesting of the heroines in terms of depth. She’s got ample power that she just can’t control right. So she’ll probably do a full-blown transformation and rise to the top. Alas, I don’t think she’ll develop much as a person, her introduction already ticked off her past, so I don’t see what more could come to light.
MekuIro has much potential, especially the setting should be very appealing to Western anime and I could definitely see this visual novel getting a translation and do well in sales. However, I think that the writing here failed magnificently, the characters like Saya are weirdly bipolar (strong yet retarded) or flat-out annoying like Freesia. Most of the dialogue, even from other characters, just hurts to read. In my opinion, the writers tried too hard to cater to certain standards, to tick off certain jokes and cliches. Jokes feel forced, rebutals feel forced, everything just feels so forced, like someone in 8th grade writing a story that ends up to be nothing but a ripoff from something he’s seen on TV and yet does everything worse than that. Simply put, the framework’s great, the fill material’s not. I can see myself playing more of MekuIro because of the setting, but quitting it halfway through realizing that there’s no character improvement and the setting can only carry so much.
So what will it be? Great setting, great art, great protagonist, half the heroines are ok, half the music is ok, half the heroines are bad, half the music is bad, the dialogue ranges from endurable to terrible. I’m between 6 and 7, but 7 almost feels like acompliment, so I’ll go with a strong 6. The writing really kills this one, in a bad way. It’s a debute game, and I guess there’s still much to learn.