Oh, what to say about Animal Trail ⭐︎ Girlish Square? It should go without saying that when a game calls itself a visual novel, perhaps the most important thing about it should be the story. If your story isn’t up to par…well, that’s bad news. This one certainly calls itself a visual novel, but I’m here to break some bad news to you about Animal Trail.
Animal Trail ⭐︎ Girlish Square is a visual novel published by Sekai Project, a company that has become somewhat the golden standard for visual novels. It revolves around Nakamori Taiga, a major fan of the titular Animal Trail ⭐︎ Girlish Square, an idol group made up of four girls named Tetora, Haneru, Kumi, and Shirayuki. He spends his time organizing cheering sections for concerts with the help of the interesting cast of characters – particularly a man called Principal – that make up the group’s dedicated fan group.
On his way home from a show one night, he finds the girls in a park and watches them for a moment. However, something strange happens; in a shower of sparkles, they transform, losing their animalistic features as strange creatures come out of their bodies!
After being chased by these magical creatures, Taiga learns that they are actually beings from another world called Hemdesmel who have come to Earth in search of Pal, an energy emitted by human souls. What follows is a comedic story about an idol otaku getting to be the manager and producer of his favorite group as they try to rise to the top, and maybe a bit of romance as our lead gets closer to the girls.
I’m going to get the story out of the way first. It drags. There were multiple times where I found myself so frustrated with continuing because the pacing was so slow, and the story itself was so poorly done that I had to take breaks often to prepare myself for the rest. The story tries to split itself between idols and magical girls, but it really focuses on the idol portion while the magical girl part is just filler to explain why the girls sometimes have animal ears.
It’s kind of unfortunate that this wasn’t more of a magical girl story; it would have helped the story to have a little more action or conflict. But really, Animal Trail ☆ Girlish Square isn’t about the story. Not even a little bit. It’s about looking at the pretty group members and romancing them.
Or it would be, if you actually could romance all of them. However, there are only two playable routes – Tetora’s and Haneru’s. Not that the routes matter, because this visual novel has only one ending. This is an incredibly strange choice for a visual novel like this. Usually with so many leads, there would be a route (or two) for each of them. It increases the replayability of the game and provides more player engagement. However, Animal Trail doesn’t have much in the way of decision making, minus the one decision between Tetora and Haneru, which is ultimately useless. For a story that is already lacking in substance, it’s a little jarring to have no way to immerse yourself in what little story there is.
On the bright side, the game does have a few positives. The visuals are nice, and while the characters aren’t quite my cup of tea, their designs are perfect for their intention. The game is also fully voiced in Japanese, and the voice acting is well done. It’s just not enough to get over the fact the story is so painfully boring and difficult to get through.
Animal Trail ⭐︎ Girlish Square is definitely a game made for a certain audience. And that’s fine; if you know what you’re about, that’s respectable. However, having a niche isn’t an excuse for a visual novel to have a story so flimsy that looking at it too hard tears it to shreds. If you like stories involving idol culture and girls with cat and bunny ears, maybe this will be something you enjoy. But let’s be real: you can find the same generic anime girls with big boobs (or bigger) on most hentai websites for free.