Hurray, another adventure into the world of visual novels! The Eden of Grisaia proved to be a test of patience, humility, and exploring character archetypes. Full disclosure: while I haven’t played previous entries in this series – that honor goes to my colleague Cory who braved The Fruit of Girsaia – it’s gained enough traction to net a two-part anime series of the same distinction. There’s even a manga series based around the same characters. It’s pretty popular, I guess.
Fearless reporter that I am, I took a look at previous installments to gain a general idea of the overarching storyline. Even armed with this knowledge wading into another VN, this installment in the series left me more frustrated than entertained.
The focus is on Yuji, a professional hitman who over the course of the series has become close to five girls at Mihama Academy. Things heat up when he’s captured during a mission after suffering from a panic attack when realizing the target is person from his past. The girls he’s bonded with over the series are back and when they hear of his predicament over the news, and quickly start to plan a rescue. Dark secrets are set to be revealed in this final installment of the series, from soldier programs about to be reinstated to discovering more about each female companion, the conclusion is supposed to be one that hits people emotionally hard.
One of the elements I enjoyed most was Yuji’s introduction and the explanation of who he is. While I love to poke fun at character archetypes, Yuji has a strong presentation. He was enrolled in a soldier program and was the only one to survive, but not without side effects. The story clearly states past soldiers in the program would die off from anxiety and panic attacks. Yuji is hinted at having such issues himself and it’s even proven by the addition of a closet he locks himself in muttering to himself and writing on the walls Who doesn’t love the chance to startup a super soldier program, right?
I understand there’s much love for his female companions, but their interactions with each other left me frustrated rather than entertained most of the time. There were a few I didn’t mind, such as Sachi, who’s devoted to helping Yuji. She’s a soft spoken young woman with a bit of a weird streak to her (love that!), but her heart seems to be in the right place. Yumiko is another character who takes the initiative by going out to gain information and track down leads concerning Yuji’s location. While I enjoyed the personalities of these two, the others felt too overly loud and immature for me gain much insight into them as people.
Initially, the story starts out strong in the beginning with mentions of Yuuji’s suspected crime and even an overview of the soldier program he used to be involved in before he was released to do assassination jobs. He comes to learn he’s the sole survivor of these soldier experiments and he’s wanted back so they can restart the program. There are nasty side effects associated with the program with soldiers dying from nervous breakdowns, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Once this information is given the story devolves to a trial of patience to get through all the dialogue and exchanges from the female characters. Added to this fact is the plot tends to jump from past to present several times to flesh out the relationship each character has with Yuji. While I’m perfectly fine with backstory being told, here the writing tends to fall flat. I can’t quite call it ‘bad’, though it gets to the point where sections will drag on for several minutes before getting to the meat and potatoes of the main storyline.
While there is an attempt at humor several times, it grows old fast considering how interesting Yuji’s backstory is how he came to be. Most of the time is spent watching the girls bicker over how to save Yuji, them being hungry, or arguing over food. One of the girls even lays it on thick she desires Yuji in a sexual manner and has even paid him a visit in the past to give him a ‘surprise’. This is all well and dandy, but it felt grossly out of place considering the serious nature of the situation.
The story’s main drawback is there’s simply too much going on at once and far too many characters. When one girl is on screen another is leaping in to talk or make a comment about the situation. This creates a chaotic mess of voices that makes it hard to absorb any information individual characters are spouting or sharing or to develop a relationship with them on a personal level. Their focus tends to be either on helping Yuji, how to move forward with their investigation, or debates on who is doing what task.
Other than Yuji, most of his female companions felt two-dimensional at best. Eliminating at least two or three of them and building those characters up would have been a massive improvement. The Eden of Grisaia starts out strong, but sadly meters out when the focus switches to a ‘slice-of-life’ genre that’s generally boring compared to how Yuji’s situation measures up. A story that had the grit to it and emotional depth on the main character and his past would have made for an excellent experience for any reader. Sadly, those elements are only teased here, leaving fans with a sour taste in their mouths.