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Eien no Aselia discussion

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A VN this good deserves its own discussion topic, especially as I know that there are other people here who've played or intend to play it. To spark some discussion, I'll write a chapter-by-chapter review as I play it through for the second time. Hopefully this'll be much better structured than my ramblings in the download topic. I'll try to avoid spoilers, though I'll occasionally put something in the spoiler tags for those who've already read the VN. If you're a purist about not getting spoiled at all, don't read this. Just read the VN.


The VN starts with a classic childhood flashback and a prologue filled with the protagonist's daily, normal life. Fantasy elements are merely hinted at until the end of the prologue. While it might fool you into thinking that this is just another clichéd romance VN where an exceedingly normal high school boy gets extremely lucky, ends up with a harem and gets to choose his perfect girlfriend from among them, it does provide our protagonist and his sister with solid backgrounds and personalities. I'll introduce the prologue's characters:

Takamine Yuuto
The protagonist. At this point he does seem like your average good-for-nothing harem lead, not a very interesting character, but on a few things he drastically differs from that stereotype: First of all, he loves his little sister enough to give his life for her without a second thought. She's his only family, so I suppose it's understandable. Secondly, he believes he's a jinx who causes everyone around him bad luck. In some cases, like his parents, lethal bad luck. Thirdly, he has a terrible temper when it comes to his enemy, Shun. Shun seems to bring out the worst in Yuuto. And let me tell you this: this is just the beginning, Yuuto's character development is top-class by any standard.

Takamine Kaori
Yuuto's little sister (though not blood-related, as he was adopted into the family). Like Yuuto, she starts off as a stereotype: the perfect little sister, shy, weak, caring, sweet, and unbelievably pure. And cute, of course. Unlike Yuuto, she doesn't realy start with any qualities that deviate from this stereotype. However, like him, she has some great character development. It should be noted that while she's one of the most important characters in the story, she has no route of her own.

Misaki Kyouko
Yuuto's energetic, athletic childhood friend, and one of the minor heroines available for romance after the first playthrough. Once again, rather stereotypical at first sight, and she doesn't have terribly much "screentime" on the first playthrough... but nevertheless, a likeable character, a good source of both comedy and drama. One interesting thing about her is the contradiction between her physical strength and mental weakness.

Midori Kouin
Yuuto's male friend. Less stereotypical than the others from the start, in my opinion. He isn't just a sidekick and a source of comedy, like most characters in his role in my experience. He's actually pretty cool, he's actually going out with a girl (Kyouko), Yuuto actaully admires him to an extent, and he actually tries to be the central character of his own story, as later events reveal. Apart from Yuuto and some antagonists, he's the only significant male character in the story - and he doesn't have to be ashamed in the company.

Natsu Kotori
Kaori's best friend. She's endlessly energetic and positive, she talks like a machine gun and she has a crush on Yuuto. I didn't think much of her at first, but strangely, she grew on me during the short time of the prologue, and later on I found myself missing her. There's another character whose personality partially overlaps with hers, Orpha, but I still think Kotori deserved more screentime. Heck, she deserved her own route! In Aselia's route, (mild spoiler, ch 3)
(click to show/hide)she does get some more time, and the story uses that time exceptionally well to develop and deepen her character.
Akitsuki Shun
One of the major antagonists in the story. He's a pitiful character, twisted by his surroundings to the point of mild insanity. He's obsessed with Kaori, which leads to some major mutual enmity with Yuuto. The second playthrough gives a little more insight into his background, the first thing that was different. A fine character who splendidly supports both the plot and Yuuto's character development.

Kurahashi Tokimi
A mysterious shrine maiden who, like Kyouko, is a minor heroine available for romance after the first playthrough. She seems to know a lot about Yuuto even though they've never met before. I liked her from the start, but the first playthrough doesn't really give her much screentime or depth. There's one detail about her, revealed late in the story, that made my eyes widen and made me want to play her route.

One good thing to be said about this VN is that the characterzation is great, even minor characters are easily brought alive with just a few scenes. Even though the characters start out pretty stereotypical, there are little things about their personalities that just bring them alive. Yuuto hates green peppers, Kaori likes fantasy books and her only selfish wish was for an expensive flute, Kotori loves forune telling, Kyouko saved for a long time to buy a camera etc. Little things, often completely irrelevant for the plot, but which give the characters a lot more depth.

There's one thing that I consider a serious weaknesses in this VN that's already apparent in the prologue: there are too few unique CG's, sometimes there's just a black screen and description where I'd really like to have a picture.

Another thing, not apparent so early, but equally a weakness in my opinion, is how this VN chooses which girl's route to throw you on. Certain choices of course have an effect, but the point system also takes into account which characters you keep in Yuuto's squad during missions in chapters 1-3, and there's a priority system that tends to throw you into Aselia's route unless you're careful. This caused me to accidentally end up in Aselia's route on my first try, even though I was aiming for Esperia, and I had to start again. This time, I'm going for Aselia, so I don't need to worry about having her in Yuuto's squad. Reading the spoiler-free beginning of this guide will give you all the infromation you need to steer into the route of your choice.

The prologue ends with Yuuto remembering something important about his past and being transported into another world, then with one more scene before the OP video. On the first playthrough, the characters he meets there speak a foreign language, so I didn't understand them, but that was the first time I got an inkling about the awesomeness of this VN. They actually invented a language for this! It added a lot to the immersion and gave me the feeling that the creators of this story really made some effort to write a good story. Unfortunately, the seiyuu aren't able to convey as much feelings with tones as when speaking Japanese. This time, they speak Japanese and it's translated, which is nice in its own way, since I like to know what's being said.

The opening music is pretty good, I've listened to it many times. I remember watching the video intently on the first time, looking for hints about what's to come. "So that's Yuuto... he looks pretty cool, actually. And is that Shun, with a sword? So he's probably the main villain... Those girls must be other heroines, I looks forward to meeting them in the story..." I remember having these kind of thoughts when I watched the video for the first time.

The prologue is pretty long, but taking into account the full length of the VN, I don't think it's a bad thing. I feel that it's not as well written as most of the story, or maybe it's just the deceivingly ordinary starting settings, but it's good enough that it kept me interested. On my first playthrough I was slightly put off by the stereotypical characters and clichéd starting settings, but the comedy was decent (especially when it involved Kotori) and the characters likeable, and I was curious about the jump into the fantasy world that I knew to be coming. Little did I know what a fantastic story there was waiting for me after the barely above average prologue.

Finally, some screenshots:

Kouin and Kyouko, you wouldn't believe they're going out, considering the fact that Kouin flirts with Kaori and Kyouko is obviously interested in Yuuto.

Kotori and Kaori, the best of friends though almost opposite personalities.

Tokimi, the (seemingly) elegant and kind shrine maiden.

Shun, bringing out the worst in Yuuto, as usual.

There are way too few unique CG's in this VN, considering its length, but at least they're usually pretty good when they appear.

So those are my thoughts on the prologue. Give me yours. I really love this story, so I'd like to talk about it and analyse it extensively with others who've read it, but please, use spoiler tags when discussing important plot points, route-specific scenes, and such. I'd like to keep this topic one where people who haven't read it yet, or are only partially through, can take a look without fearing major spoilers. In part, its purpose is to get more people interested in the VN.

Ah, here's the promised thread. Well, I share your opinion more or less. One thing I liked is how Kyouko got a lot more story during the second play (that's without mentioning how Kouin is a beast as a defender and Kyouko has the most OP offensive magic short of Orpha's route-exclusive skill...too bad it only has 1 charge).

Also, if you couldn't make heads or tails of the epilogue scene before the route-epilogue, going through Aselia's route on 2nd play I noticed an extended version and it gets clear.Spoiler of scene: (click to show/hide)The Takamine family doesn't automatically pop into existence because of Yuuto's trascending into an Eternal. Tokimi, as a reward of sorts, travels back in time and makes an alteration, sparing them. The matter of whether Kyoko and Kouin were still alive in the 1st play is still anybody's guess since the scene actually happens "before" the day the two of them get sent to Phantasmagoria and it'd be pretty hard to alter those two's involvement (they were drawn by their respective swords after all and changing that would likely nullify Yuuto's final battle.). That's what I think at least.
Edit:I might also add, third playthrough has so far expanded information on Tokimi and Finality and answered the one question that puzzled me about the final antagonists. (click to show/hide)In other words, we finally get to know how Takios and Temourin survive.

That's more or less how I figured the epilogue scene came to be. It's better not think too deeply on it, because if you do, you'll probably crash head-on into time paradoxes. Better to just accept it as it is.

Continuing the review... Chapter 1

Yuuto wakes up in an unfamiliar room, tended by an unfamiliar girl. He doesn't know where he is and he doesn't understand the language, but two things quickly become apparent: one, the king of the country is holding Kaori hostage and requiring his services. Armed with a sentient sword (which at times acts as a translator), he's forced to fight for this country, Rakios, in order to keep his sister safe. Two, this world has some twisted "common sense". Spirits, beings that look much like humans but possess swords of power like the one in Yuuto's possession, are treated like slaves, yet relied on as the only meaningful armed forces in the world.

Yuuto trains to fight, studies the language, and gets to know the spirits with whom he lives. Esperia, Aselia and Orpha are the three main heroines in the story. There are also other spirits, but Yuuto has little contact with them until chapter 2. This first chapter is considerably more interesting than the prologue. The world they've created for this VN is quite interesting, the story took some surprisingly dark turns, and the first stretegy map missions take place in this chapter. Character introduction time:

Esperia Greenspirit
She represents the elder sister stereotype: good at housework and cooking, kind, wise and caring, keeps the household running etc. She also has a very charming mischievous streak... she loves to make Yuuto eat riquems, the equivalent of green peppers in their world. However, she is absolutely subservient, she adamantly believes that spirits like her exist only to serve humans and have no rights of their own. The root of this belief is in her past, which is heartbreaking, so much that it hurts not being able to help her put it behind her when playing another route. She's the girl of my choice, the one whose route I wanted to play first, because the first time is always the one that feels most "real" to me. She can heal your heart with ease, but healing her heart... is an overwhelmingly difficult task. Out of all the characters, Yuuto probably has the most interaction with Esperia - regardless of the route you choose. That's why I think it's kind of weird that Aselia is the main heroine and not Esperia. In battle, she's your best defender (though her resist is terribly weak, making her weak to spells and elemental attacks), a good healer when supporting, and not a terrible attacker either. Levelling her up is relatively cheap, and she's a great, balanced fighter.

Aselia Bluespirit
The main heroine of the story, obviously, since it's her name in the title. Oddly enough, she's the one with the least personality, at least in the beginning. If you're drawn to the silent, seemingly emotionless type, she's your girl. She lives only to fight, because no one ever gave her another reason to live, until Yuuto. I know little about her past, but I hope I'm about to find out. Ending up accidentally on her route on my first try, I did learn to like her more than I expected. One thing of note about her is that she does have one subject of interest: Hyperia, the world where, according to legends of her world, humans go when they die, and from where "Etrangers" like Yuuto come from. A word of warning: you shouldn't let her cook for you. In battle, she's a great attacker and has a vital support skill, Ice Banish. However, like all blue spirits, she's not a very good defender.

Orphaliru Redspirit
An energetic, noisy girl whose personality partially overlaps with Kotori's. She quickly makes friends with Kaori, and wanting to be a part of their family, claims the position of Yuuto's daughter, calling him "papa". She's young and innocent, at first she seems to fit her own stereotype nicely... but she ended up being the first character who really surprised me with her own special personality twist. She's a lovely character, I really like her, but like Kaori, I think of her more as a sister and have no plans of playing her route. In battle, she's a support specialist, completely useless as an attacker or a defender. Her spell are nice for quickly finishing up weakened enemy squads, but thanks to her imbalance, I don't like to use her in my main party. She's also expensive to level up considering her limited usefulness.

Lesteena Dai Rakios
The princess of Rakios, and one of the characters who, in my opinion, best avoid stereotypes. She does have one great cliché, the wish to be a "normal" girl, but otherwise she avoids the worst of them. I really like how awesome an actor she is, she completely fools her own father and his court about her true nature. She's also strong-willed, wise, intelligent, beautiful, a good speaker - in short, excellent queen material. Despite this, she's suprisingly fun to hang out with when she escapes into the city to play a "normal girl". (Minor spoiler:) (click to show/hide)Yuuto, of course, being a blockhead, never realizes the truth unless you're playing her route. Lesteena is one of the four girls whose routes I'd like to play, as she's clearly the most mentally balanced and someone you naturally come to respect, and simply a very interesting personality.

The King of Rakios
Lesteena's father, quite a minor character in the big picture but relatively prominent in the first chapter. He's an ambitious man, proud of his royal lineage's long history, and dreams of returning it to its former glory - and beyond. Not exactly malicious, but enough of a cold bastard to make Yuuto hate him with passion. Lucky for Yuuto and Kaori, he still trusts Lesteena to an extent, so he leaves Kaori in her care.

The sentient sword that made a contract with Yuuto. It's supposedly more powerful than the swords that the spirits carry, which is why great things are expected of Yuuto. Desire has two... well, desires. He wants more power, so he wants Yuuto to kill more spirits so he can drain their mana. He also wants to destroy the three other legendary swords of equal rank in this world. His will is raw, but powerful, and Yuuto has great trouble keeping him under control. I love sentient weapons, they often have great personalities, and Desire is no exception. His interaction with Yuuto is always very interesting. In battle, Desire gives Yuuto a balanced set of skills: he isn't the best in anything, but he's good in every role.

Helion Blackspirit
The first minor spirit character to be introduced (assuming you don't avoid her scene), Helion is a timid girl with little experience or confidence. She's a nice girl, often quite amusing, and one of my favourites among the secondary spirit characters. In battle, I didn't use her much on my first playthrough - I had to leave out someone, and black spirits (with the exception of Uruka) feel relatively weak to me, though they're adequate in all roles.

Of the previously introduced characters, only Yuuto and Kaori have any role in the first chapter. IMO, Kaori becomes a bit too much of a plot device at this stage, a damsel in distress whose existence as a hostage, whose life and happiness Yuuto values more than his own, forces him to act as the plot needs. The scenes focusing on her feel a bit like their purpose was to introduce one of Lesteena's many sides, the regal yet kind one... though Kaori also learns from her, draws strength from her example. This is but a passing phase, Kaori gets her chances to shine on her own later.

Yuuto, on the other hand, begins his difficult process of growth here. He's thrown into situations which would either break him or change him. Beset by his sword's powerful will, his own guilt and this strange world's peculiar ethics, he's placed under quite a bit of mental stress. The result is... a different Yuuto, one hell of a lot more interesting character than the Yuuto from the prologue. His inner monologues are very, very interesting to read. His feelings are always realistic and very well written, they make it easy to identify with him.

The storyflow is still slow for most of the first chapter, and people who don't like Esperia (though I doubt there are many such people) might be put off by the fact that Yuuto barely interacts with anyone else until Orpha comes into the picture, but getting to know the fantasy world keeps it interesting enough until the first strategy map mission. I love how the creators of the VN had the courage to spend so much time describing ordinary life, both in Yuuto's world and in Phantasmagoria. Maybe it needs a little more comedy, and the slow pace probably doesn't suit everyone, but personally I enjoy every minute of it, even on the second playthrough (though not nearly as much as on the first one). Still, once the action starts and the plot starts moving faster, I love it much more.

I really like how much detail they've put into making the world different from ours. In addition to the language, there are also foods, plants and animals different from ours - though usually somehow based on the stuff in our world. They have waffl- excuse me, yofwals, riquems, a bunny-like small animal with a little horn... They have their equivalent of electricity, too. I find the whole concept of ether technology quite cool. Unfortunately, you don't really get to do much anywhere else but in the city of Rakios: while you do get to travel in the strategy map, it's always about missions, you never just stop and walk in a foreign city, looking at the life there.

This is also where the deeper themes begin to emerge. For example, it's difficult not to draw any connection between the discrimination the spirits experience, and racism/slavery. This is an exceptionally powerful theme in Esperia's route. At first, all the humans living in this world seem to be heartless bastards, and some of them are, but for many, it's just fear for the overwhelming power the Eternity Swords possess, and that they've been taught to fear and despise spirits from child. Similarly, the spirits believe they're nothing but tools because they've been taught to believe it from the start. It's the way of their world, it's common sense to them. Yuuto, being a human, could have accepted their servitude, learned to use them, but he never does. This, according to my understanding, is the one and only core belief that never changes in Yuuto.

There are other themes, the price of power, the justifications of war and killing, defying fate, the meaning of family etc. but themes have always been a difficult subject for me to write about. I understand them on an instinctual level, but they're difficult to analyze. In any case, this is a very theme-rich story with a lot of depth.

The battle system is well explained and quite fun. You can't decide who to attack and with what skill while in battle, instead you have to plan ahead, position your fighters and give them orders. You level up your characters with ether, which you refine from mana - you have to balance the time you use on this with the mana and mind bonuses you get from completing missions quickly. Starting from the second chapter you can also build buildings in cities, though I prefer to not spend much ether on this. Mind is an interesting concept, which not only affects certain skills, but also the story. It does get boring eventually, but there's little chance that you'll get thoroughly bored with the missions in just one playthrough. On the second playthrough you can choose a harder difficulty and continue from the point where you levelled your characters on the first playthrough, the level cap rising from 30 to 60.

The first chapter is still quite slow-paced, but there are several interesting events spread throughout the chapter, and towards the end it starts speeding up. The wide variety of themes introduced and Yuuto's excellent character development also make it a considerably better read than the prologue. Of course, I'm biased, because this chapter is overwhelmingly dominated by interaction with Esperia. :P However, the next chapter is where it gets really good...

Lesteena, the king and the damsel-in-distress.

Aselia, Esperia and Orpha, the three main heroines.

And an extra Esperia, because I'm biased. ;D

Of course, I'm leaving the best CG's for you to discover...

After a long break, I'm finally continuing my second playthrough of Eien no Aselia.

Chapter 2

In the second chapter we finally get properly into the whole strategy map and battle system. The first major campaign takes most of the second chapter, and if it's your first playthrough, I can almost guarantee it'll be fun. It was for me - and it was almost as fun again after the break. It's just my kind of a system: because you have to set the orders beforehand and then just watch the battles play out, it's all about tactics and foresight instead of reflexes and quick thinking. I'm not a fan of the levelling up system or the building system, but overall, the whole mana-based system is quite interesting and fits the story.

After the campaign, it's back to the usual VN storytelling. Which is fine, because while the battles are fun and all, short scenes between missions aren't exactly the best method to create immersion and develop the characters. It's good to have a balanced amount of both.

The chapter takes up or delves deeper into several major themes in the story, including Yuuto's pain and determination as he fights and kills to keep his sister safe, the extreme discrimination that the spirits experience in this world, and struggling against fate (which later gains much more importance than you'd guess at this point). The story goes a little deeper in every chapter, the second chapter is already very interesting, but from my previous playthrough I know that it just keeps getting better.

Yuuto's internal monologue occasionally gets a bit tedious, as he struggles with his moral problems (you could even call it angst, though I must stress that he doesn't wallow in self-pity), but most of the time it's interesting. As usual, the thought patterns are realistic, and at least in my case the internal monologue creates a strong bond of empathy for the character. His character development is as brilliant as ever, as he's slowly and believably changed by the circumstances and the people around him. One of the changes is that his thoughts become somewhat less Kaori-centered, as he comes to like the spirits with whom he lives and fights. Oh, he's still a siscon, and the story doesn't fail to make use of that fact once Kaori is temporarily released of her damsel-in-distress status after the campaign... but still, he learns to appreciate other things besides her.

Aselia's character slowly gains importance during this chapter, as Yuuto learns to read her almost expressionless and wordless way of communication, and as she's slowly changed by him. I still don't understand why she's the main girl, but for a kuudere she's quite alright. Kaori is slowly changed as well, though rather than Yuuto's, it's Lesteena's influence. She's still stereotypical and relatively helpless, but I consider this chapter the beginning of her character development. Esperia is as lovely as ever, though occasionally her inferiority complex almost makes me gnash my teeth. Desire apparently gets enough mana, because he doesn't often try a hostile takeover of Yuuto's mind in this chapter. Orpha is... well, Orpha. Childish and lively. Not much character development, but her interaction with Kaori gives me nostalgic Kotori-flashbacks. Oh, and after gaining the spell Ignition I finally consider her useful on the battlefield (remember, second playthrough, she was already lvl 30 when I started).

Lesteena deserves a paragraph of her own, for she plays two roles: her alter ego, the town girl Lemuria is introduced in this chapter. As I've said before, Lesteena is a delightfully intelligent and multi-dimensional character, a great actor, and one of my favourite characters in the story. As the princess she's wise, calm and shoulders a great responsibility for her country. As Lemuria she's able to live out her fantasy of a normal girl's life, chat around with Yuuto carefreely and munch some delicious waf- I mean yofwals. Yuuto's rare meetings with Lemuria always brighten the mood, in that sense she's a bit like Orpha. Despite the very limited time that Yuuto and Lemuria spend interacting with each other in this story, they actually have a pretty big impact on each other's character development.

Uruka (I forgot her title)
A black spirit who at this point serves an enemy of Yuuto, but is actually one of the main romance options. Incredibly fast and skilled, in the story she's a match to Yuuto's group even on her own. Unable to hear the voice of her sword, she seeks her place in life through battle, and she often reminds Yuuto of the samurai. Like Lesteena, she's a character who'll have a big impact on Kaori's life and character development - but unlike Lesteena, in Uruka's case the effect is mutual. She's a pretty interesting character, but not interesting enough that I'd plan to play her route. Not exactly the romance material, if you know what I mean, at least not the kind I'm interested in. In battle, once she finally switches sides (not in this chapter), she's the only black spirit I actually consider useful, though she's not as strong as the story makes her out to be (unless you keep her much beyond the others in levels).

I didn't see all of the optional sub-spirit scenes in this chapter, but I'll introduce the characters whose scene I saw.

Selia Bluespirit
One of the strongest-willed and story-wise important sub-spirits. She's a bit of a leader type, feels responsible for her comrades, and doesn't trust Yuuto at first (a fact she makes clear, at this point she has no respect for him). I remember that in the future chapters she has a fairly big impact on Yuuto's character development, and of course she eventually learns to respect and trust him. In battle she, like all the blue spirits, is very useful and versatile. Somewhat better-suited for the defender-role than the others.

Halion Greenspirit
An airheaded, extremely laid-back elder sister type. Shares Lesteena's love for sweets, and if I remember correctly, Lesteena is financially backing her plan to open a sweets shop after the war is over. Great fun to hang out with. In battle she's a bit more oriented towards the healer-supporter role than the defender role, though I use her as a defender most of the time (good defenders are hard to come by, especially as I keep Yuuto and Esperia in the same team).

Himika Redspirit
She doesn't have a big role in the story (unless I just managed to miss most of her scenes in my last playthrough), but she seems a pretty balanced personality. Tends to be somewhat reckless in battle, causing the others to worry. Neutral towards Yuuto at first, trusts and respects him because Esperia does. In battle, my favourite red spirit thanks to her strong elemental attacks (making her useful in two roles instead of just one).

Nimnthor Greenspirit and Faren Blackspirit
These two are always together. Faren is like a mother or a very motherly elder sister to Nim. She wears a mask and is shy to show her face (there is a somewhat unexpected reason for it). Nim is a bit lazy and spoiled by Faren, blunt and shows absolutely no respect towards Yuuto, but in the end she's a cute kid. These two have an issue of their own to be solved in the story, and it makes for a very emotional scene, but their effect on Yuuto's character development isn't comparable to Selia's. In battle, Nim is somewhat low on health for a defender but has strong blocking skills. She's balancedly useful in any role. Faren has high health, but like Helion, her skills pretty much suck except for very specific situations.

There's also a portion of the story in the second chapter that was unlocked by the first playthough. A really, really good portion. Told from Kouin's viewpoint. Definitely one of my favourite characters, he'd make a pretty decent protagonist. Unlike Yuuto, he's actually smart (and has a great sense of humour). Like Yuuto, he's willing to do anything for his most precious person. Kyouko, on the other hand, is a bit lame, IMO not really deserving of being a romance option. A brilliant plot device, though...

Some screenshots to finish this...

Lemuria. She really loves her yofwals.

Uruka getting ready to cut someone up before they knew what happened.

The core of an Ether Converter.

The strategy map and menu.

Yuuto kicking some ass.

Kouin checking if the soldier understands his language. Laughed my ass off.

That's it for this chapter, I guess. I'm off to play the next one...

Chapter 3

In this chapter, the quickly expanding Rakios goes to war with one of the two other superpowers on the continent, the Malorigan Republic. The plot continues to expand, adding new elements to the conflict and deepening the world. Mana, for example, takes a more contral role in the story than before, and we're introduced several theories that deepen our understanding of the world. On Aselia's route, the chapter even gives us a little glimpse on the BIG picture, which really only opens in the last chapter, and which is probably explored much more in the sequel, Seinarukana. Things start getting more epic. And darker. Of course, this was no walk in the park from since the first chapter, but I remember being surprised time and again on my first playthrough as the story slowly got darker.

Route-wise, this chapter is where the branching takes place. Last time I went for Esperia, this time I'm going for Aselia... however, already on my first, incomplete playthrough, I ended up accidentally on Aselia's route, so the first changes that the different route causes are nothing new to me. Towards the end of the chapter, however, there is a lot of new material, both because of the route and because many scenes were unlocked by the first playthrough. I really, really enjoyed that. (click to show/hide)Not to mention the chance to see Kotori again! I've missed her, it really is a pity that she doesn't have a bigger role in the story. Romance... well, there are some great scenes, but frankly, I'm not feeling it like I did with Esperia. I guess she stole my heart. ┐( ̄ー ̄)┌ But let's remember that there are still two chapters left, plenty of time to get to know Aselia better. And I must admit, her childlike innocence gets really amusing and charming once she experiences some character development on her route.

There are some especially good "family-scenes" in this chapter. Although I've already played this through once, the break cooled off my feelings for the characters a little. Now it's all coming back. Aselia's cooking scene, the riquem scene... This stuff really put a smile on my face.

Yuuto faces new problems and keeps developing as a character. I've said this before, but his development definitely is one of the strongest point of this VN. Looking back now, you can easily see how much he's changed from the start, only some core beliefs remain - and most of them will change as well, by the end of the VN. All of the changes are understandable results of his experiences.

Desire has a very interesting scene in Aselia's route, it gives him a bit more personality. His name really is awfully fitting, makes me wonder if the other legendary swords, Karma, Void and Oath, have equally fitting names. Unfortunately, their personalities aren't explored at all.  :-\

Kaori's growth is confirmed at the beginning of the chapter, where she shows great willpower and composure, something she most definitely learned from Lesteena. Her growth continues in this chapter, now mostly through her interaction with Uruka. As I said earlier, they both have a great effect on each others' character developments. She also interacts a little with Shun, but Shun doesn't really get a major role until the next chapter.

Orpha also gets some character development early on, as she takes a pet... it amuses me how Yuuto and Esperia are like a father and mother when it comes to Orpha. She also makes friends with Uruka, resulting in at least one highly amusing scene.

Thanks to certain events, Uruka switches sides in this chapter. (Could be considered spoiler, but since she's one of the main romance options, it was pretty obvious that she'd switch sides eventually.) Her interaction with Yuuto is quite interesting, seeing as she's a bit... socially awkward, and a former enemy. Like Yuuto, she's had some very drastic changes in her life, and now she's adapting to them, like he did. As all the major and many minor characters, she has an effect on Yuuto's character development, and vice versa. She gets a fair amount of time in this chapter, perhaps to make up for her late appearance in the story.

More Kouin and Kyouko in this chapter. A lot of extra scenes of them on the second playthough. Kouin is awesome as usual, and I'm even starting to see some depth in Kyouko, now that there is more interaction with her. The best thing about her, however, is that she has great comic relief moments. Major spoiler, don't read until you've played the 3rd chapter through once: (click to show/hide)I love how it was done so that they die on the first playthough but that it's possible to save them on the second. Their deaths brought some great tragedy and darkness into the story, but they - especially Kouin - are so interesting characters that it brings a lot of replay value that they can be saved on the second playthrough and interacted with much more.
It's a pity that Selia isn't one of the main characters... I like her the most out of all the sub-spirits, even more than some of the main characters. She's interesting, a reasonable personality, admirable even, and... her character design might be my favourite out of all the female character design in the game. <.< The other sub-spirits also have a lot more scenes in this chapter than in the previous one. It's pretty amazing how attached I got to these characters in just a few scenes.

My favourite antagonist in the story, the President of the Malorigan Republic, is an intelligent, complex man. Every single one of his scenes is extremely interesting to read. He might be the most important character in the story in relation to the theme of struggling against fate. He has some history with Youtia, but it's only implied in the first playthrough.

Youtia Licalion and Io Whitespirit
Youtia is one of the most amusing characters in the VN, an eccentric genius and an expert on ether technology. She claims to dislike dumb people, but her nickname for Yuuto, "blockhead", carries an affectionate undertone. She likes to tease Yuuto. She allies with Lesteena in order to help accomplish their common goal. Io is a rare white spirit, Youtia's servant and friend. A reliable, mature personality. She doesn't fight, she only helps as an engineer and a trainer, but her sword's ability is a special, and useful in Youtia's research. Doesn't have a big role in the story.

Soma Ru Soma
One of my top 3 most hated antagonists ever. Every time I see him I want to strangle him. Plays an important part in Esperia's route, and I believe in Uruka's as well, but otherwise a minor character. An expert in hypnosis, he's a bastard who considers spirits nothing but tools, and is very skilled at suppressing their wills and personalities. Minor spoiler, Esperia's route, ch 4: (click to show/hide)Killing him was one of the most satisfying moments in Esperia's route.
Takios and Temuorin
Two antagonists who only appear in this chapter on Aselia's route. It's difficult to talk about them without spoiling, so I'll just say that at this point they seem to be mysterious, insanely powerful etranger whose motivation is unclear. They're part of the BIG picture, and probably have a bigger role in Seinarukana than in EnA. Takios is pretty sympathetic for an antagonists, IMO, like Quedgin, though not nearly as interesting. Also, he's voiced by Wakamoto Norio, which automatically makes him awesome.

Lastly, an Aselia-route specific character, it's impossible to talk about him without spoiling, so:
(click to show/hide)The chief priest of the shrine where it all started has a very interesting discussion with Yuuto when he temporarily gets back to his own world. Somewhat mysterious and knows some surprising things, I feel like he's wasted on such a minor role.
Something I've forgotten to mention about the VN are musics. I'd give the soundtrack overall maybe... 8/10. There are some trivial tracks, but also some really good ones. The opening (actually, all 3 of them, though only two of them are listenable in the game) and some of the slow and melodic tracks are especially good. And the ending, it's also very good. I've avoided listening to the ending much, because I want to retain its huge emotional impact on me when it plays at end. In a VN this long, I'd kinda hope for a bit more variety... but even though I know how to add musics into the game, I haven't done it. I've become used to these musics, they have nostalgia value, and somehow I feel like changing them would change the mood too much. There are only a couple of songs outside the game that I connect to this game: Within Temptation's Shot in the Dark because of its fitting lyrics, and a track from the Umineko OST called Thank You for Being Born, a beautiful melody which I connect with certain sad scenes near the end of the game. The latter one I might consider adding to the game, but nothing else.

They made the mistake of letting Aselia into the kitchen...

Orpha's expression is quite telling about the result of that mistake.

Kaori converting... er, befriending Uruka.

From the left: Selia, Himika and Helion.

Nobody likes Soma, not even Shun.

Lesteena and Quedgin negotiating before the war.

Io and Youtia. Youtia is a heavy sleeper, but nobody wants to make the usually so calm Io angry, the results could be disastrous.

Here's Aselia for a finisher. There were three unique CG's in this scene, which is luxury in a VN with so few unique ones. Actually, I'm not sure if this scene takes place at the end of the 3rd chapter or at the start of the 4th, because I was unable to stop playing when the chanpter changed... I was so engrossed I didn't even take proper notice when the change happened.


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