Author Archives: bunny1ov3r

Anime Review: Masamune-kun no Revenge

Masamune-kun no Revenge is the kind of anime that would inevitably come out every season. It is, in essence, a harem, high school life, comedy, light romance show. It is the kind of show that would appeal to younger anime fans, especially those with less experience in knowing the tropes and cliches in the industry.

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Don’t get me wrong. Just because an anime roots itself in a genre that can easily be seen as cliched does not mean it has to be so. My subjective opinions aside, there are definitely some good shows that I’ve seen in the past in this genre that have some unique aspects to them. However, Masamune is definitely not one of them. It does have a premise that has potential. As it turns out, though, the plot is more or less filled with tropes from the standard drama shows, of which plot development depends on. The eye-catching premise of “revenge for childhood rejection” is just another excuse to make the main romantic pairing, without going very deep.

One of the things that this show suffers from is that it tries to adapt the entire source material so far in 12 episodes. While even the source story is not complex, adapting the whole thing in one season turned out to be not so great. The show starts off fine, but rushes through character relationship with other main heroines during the middle, only to abruptly sweep them aside as “side characters” to make way for the main heroine in the end. While this seems to be the standard adaptation practice for harem shows nowadays, it is still very bad for the story.

What else is there to say? If you’ve seen a dozen shows in this genre you can predict how the story is going to go. The artwork is vibrant and character design is quite nice, but there is no “wow” factor to be found in visuals. BGM and theme songs are typical JPOP. If you enjoy it, you would like the music. Obviously, songs vocalized by upstart seiyuus are nowhere near the levels of “professional music”, as you would expect. I would not call the main characters flat, but their depth are quite far from being intricate. In fact, the main girl is the amalgam of two tropes: ojousama and tsundere. The protagonist is just… another male harem lead.

All in all, Masamune-kun no Revenge is an above average harem show, but still deeply entrenched in cliches and tropes of the genre without its own quirks. Most people who enjoyed watching this show would probably not going to remember its title after a while.

My very subjective score: 5.5/10


JRPG review – Tales of Berseria

To prove that this blog is not yet dead, here I am with a review on one of the games that I recently had the chance to play. This time, it is a bit of a different flavor as it is a JRPG (Role-playing game made by Japanese producers) that came out quite recently, on Jan 2017 on steam (a popular gaming platform). Here is the link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/429660/. It is rather expensive right now sitting at $49.99 US, but if you are willing to wait long enough, games usually have sales on big holidays such as Christmas or Black Friday.

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By only watching the promotional video, it is very easy to believe that this is gonna be a great game with fantastic story entrenched in grim-dark mood and great anti-heroine centered plot. And why not? When one reads a good story, there is always the desire to “interact” with the world depicted by it. While a story-rich game allows exactly for one to do that, game makers typically focus on the gameplay aspect (as that is what gamer usually cares about), leaving the story part to disrepair. For someone who desire a little bit of both like I, Tales of Berseria (ToB) seems like a perfect blend of both elements.

Well, let’s talk about the gameplay first. I know the screen shot looks cartoonish, and perhaps a little bit silly. A player not as familiar with RPG games might be put off by his first impression. I had the same doubt. However, it turned out to be great! Unlike Action RPG games (or ARPG) such as Skyrim or Dark Soul, which put emphasis on the timing of combat moves, ToB essentially plays like a turn-based strategy game despite having a 3D, non-turn-based combat system.

Let me explain. Out of the four characters in combat at any time, the player only gets to control one of them. While the character that one controls do fight in hack n’ slash style, the controls are quite easy to execute even for beginners. It is much more important to strategize in the menu options. The brilliant design in this game is that there is something for players of all levels in this game. If one likes challenge and world exploration, one can play on the hardest level, not missing any conversations with NPCs, and crawls the dungeon often in order to beat the next boss. If one just want to read the story with minimal gameplay interactions, one can play on the easiest level, disregard all the side quests, and try to avoid encounters with NPCs while following the main plotline.

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Even if one hates the combat system, there is a robust equipment collection and character leveling up system, going beyond a few categories of equipment and character levels, to make up for it. For example, the concept of leveling up would apply to not just characters, but also equipment, spells (called Artes in the game), cooking, navy exploration, and even vendor.

To be honest, I haven’t played many RPGs. Going by what I read online, ToB might just set the new industry standard in terms of RPG gameplay.

A word of warning at this point. Not everything is great with this game. The other side of the coin, story-telling, would likely disappoint people who are expecting a lot from it. Yes, an anti-heroine protagonist with sole purpose of revenge is a break from industry cliches of a young, male adventurer protagonist who eventually saves the world and gets the girl. It would have done well, had this concept actually be executed well.

The reality is that while main characters are not exactly flat, they are not as compelling as one would have liked. There are a few heart-wrenching scenes involving our protagonist coupled with great animation, but they are few and far between a myriad of soulless daily conversations that fills out the script. The overarching story line starts off decently, but disintegrate into the RPG industry’s most commonly used story recipe pretty soon, making the whole thing cliched. While these problems can be forgiven, the real problem surfaces. The antagonists are just, bad. There is no other way to put it. As a result, the opposition to protagonist’s side is quite lackluster. There is no real satisfaction to be gained by defeating these opponents, dragging the quality of the entire story down by a huge margin.

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All in all, no matter what I say, I’ve spent $50 and 35 hours on this game, and it wasn’t a horrible experience. This might just speaks a larger truth. The core customers for RPGs don’t care that much about the story. They just want a game with great gameplay values. In the future, more and more RPGs with good gameplay and bad story will continue to come out, and certain people will happily pay for them. ToB is probably even above average in terms of story compared to its competitors, if my experience in other products in ACG is anything to judge by. It is a game with great gameplay value for players looking for different difficulty and gameplay styles, but one that would surely disappoint in terms of its story telling if one expects too much.

Final Score: 7.5/10


Fantasy Novel Review – The Riyria Revelations

Today, I will be writing about my thoughts on a fantasy fiction trilogy that I just finished, The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan. So yeah, this is going to be another English fantasy novel review, instead of an anime/manga one. I will probably get back to those soon. Cross my fingers on it.

Goodreads Link

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THEY KILLED THE KING. THEY PINNED IT ON TWO MEN. THEY CHOSE POORLY.

There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.

Before I dig into the books, I want to say something about the current, “grimdark” trend of English fantasy novels, spearheaded by George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Suffice to say, I am not a big fan of the current trend. Before you guys label me as blasphemous for not being a fan of novels like A Song of Ice and Fire, let me explain myself. Yes, I don’t like books that just spew out cliched concept good defeat evil, hero wins the day and get the girl stuff anymore than you do. Certainly, a lot of books haven’t that much imagination and it seems that they are just using a template to write. However, that doesn’t mean we have to swing to the other extreme direction and have heroes always be the fodder, always suffer, and characters that readers like never getting any sort of good ending. I don’t know about you guys, but I am reading these mainly for escapism purposes (If you are looking for a great tragedy, try books like The Crucible, Antigone, 1984, etc. I read them in my high school English class). It’s a good thing that this series, The Riyria Revelations, is neither so fairy-taled nor such a grimdark-wannabe that likable characters always experience hell.

One thing that I have to admit is that The Riyria Revelations series does contain a lot of setting that is considered cliched in the fantasy genre. Nevertheless, that does not mean the series handles its setting in a cliched way. For an epic fantasy novel, tropes like elves, a powerful church authority, the lost heir, banned magic, a mysterious distant history are mixed together and combined in a new way that made the story seems fresh, so that the series feel familiar and new at the same time. Of course, there is also a good, continuous story, a good character cast, and nice pacing.

The biggest treat offered by this series is exactly its plot-twist factor. There are so many plot twists that you never know what to expect next. Every time you discover something new, you are faced with even more mysteries and unknowns. This series ground its plot twist on well thought-out foundations in that usually there are numerous seemingly unimportant details to foreshadow any mysteries unveiled later. There are six chronological and very-much related episodes working together to tell a cohesive story. Unlike most books that loses its momentum as it veers toward its conclusion, this series culminate into an ultimate plot-twist toward its ending.

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Of course, it is not without its flaws. The series start off slow in its first book, and make it seem that the story might be told in an episodic fashion.  Although it starts off with mainly just the perspective of the main character duo thieves and the princess, as the story progresses more and more POV are introduced. Like many other books, sometimes reader do not care for the other POV as much as the protagonists’ because there is hardly time to feel attached to the new narrators. Luckily, the three main characters’s perspectives always take the spotlight and the majority of the story-telling. The other perspectives serve to giving additional information to the main story line, rather than telling a story of its own.

Finally, the characters cast is great. The cast is humorous, round, varied, quirky, and all of them are flawed in different ways. Yet despite their flaws they try to overcome them, and to become better persons. I am not going to lie and say there is no character death, but trust me in that it is a relatively happy ending. Oh, did I mention that there is several adorable romance sub-plot as well.

Overall, The Riyria Revelations takes numerous tropes from the epic fantasy genre and melted them into a new, fresh story, supported by a good pacing, interesting characters, and one whole story told by a trilogy. Of course, the greatest strength is its ability to drive home the surprise factor produced by its well-foreshadowed plot twists that slowly reveal the truth of the present and what happened in the distant past, hence its name Revelations. I would give the whole series a score of eight out of ten (8/10), which is a pretty good score from me.


Fantasy Novel Review – The First Law series

I am pretty surprised to find that I haven’t been posting here for exactly one year. I might try to improve on that pretty soon. Today, I write not about ACG related topics, but rather about a English fantasy novel series that I just purchased and finished. The name of the series is The First Law series, by Joe Abercrombie. This review will contain some non-specific spoiler-ish comments.

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To understand where this series stand on the grand scheme of things, we must first understand what is meant by a deconstruction piece. A deconstruction piece is a work that at first seems to use tropes and stereotypes coming from a genre, but later subvert audiences’ expectation of that genre completely but doing the unexpected. This is exactly what this series is, and it is quite different from the gritty realism found in fantasy works such as Song of Ice and Fire. In deconstructional works, the author relies on the shock factor of audience realizing what is happening is different from what is expected as a central plot device. Ironically, simply by understanding that this series is a deconstruction work would probably lessen that shock value. Granted, a truly good deconstruction piece will still hit you in an unexpected way, even if you were sort of expecting it.

To start off, one noticeable aspect about this particular series is that it always use multiple perspective narrative with 3 (or more) protagonists. This has its advantages and disadvantages. While it does make the story more expansive to narrate from multiple perspectives, and the author does a great job in using difference in narratives to characterize characters, the pacing of the narrative really suffers from the drag, especially because there aren’t a lot of action in this series . Moreover, it becomes considerably harder to get attached to the narrators, and in a few cases, never. Multiple perspectives story-telling usually become successful when the narratives are intertwined, telling just one event from different angles. This is decidedly not the case here.

Characters, most of them heavily flawed, are not at all what they seem. While some of the roles of main characters seem to correspond to those found in a typical epic adventure fantasy story (a guiding wizard, a boy king-to-be, a seasoned warrior, etc), one can’t help but notice subtle differences right away (non-virgin young hero’s love interest, cowardly and complacent hero, etc). I already said that this series is a deconstruction piece and defined the term for you. If you are still hanging on the hope that the story will end with typical happy endings and can’t tolerate a single main good character’s death, well, perhaps you are not ready for this yet.

So how is this series in terms of a deconstruction piece? I’d say it is a solid read, and successfully breaks apart a reader’s expectation of a classic epic hero-save-the-world-and-get-the-girl adventure story with some war, politics, and magic involved. While the story has resolved the majority of the mysteries, containing no major plot hole, I feel like the author wrote the story for the sake of writing a deconstruction fantasy work. That is, the series lacks something extra that distinguishes it from just a deconstruction story. The shock value could have been larger with more setup; the human drama could have been more gripping; the author could have planned for a couple more books as a direct sequel that further drives its characters to despair…… I suppose you get what you get.

The First Law series try to subvert some of the most popular stereotypes and tropes in the fantasy/adventure genre, and for the most parts does it successfully. Do keep in mind, though, as more and more deconstruction works are written, they themselves can create new stereotypes and tropes, and can only remain as unique series if there is something extra to the story. Personally, this series is far from the masterpiece that its fans would like to claim it to be, but at least it deserves three and half stars.

rating for the series: 7.5/10

 

 

 


Cross Medium Recommendations (1)

Hi, been a while since I last posted on this blog. I’ve been planning this post for a while, and hopefully it will be interesting. Today, I will bring you guys several recommendation across ACGL (anime, comics, galgame, and light novels) spectrum.

It is usually easy to seek recommendation in the same medium. For example, for anime rec, you can just pop into myanimelist’s recommendation forum and ask for rec according to your criteria. The same goes for manga, light novel, or visual novel; you just have to ask in the relevant forum. However, one thing that I’ve rarely seen is recommendation from one medium to the other. To give an example, if I liked Code Geass, can I find similar stories in VN or light novel…?

I am going to tell you, yes, absolutely.

Moreover, all recommendation that I am going to enumerate here are considered classics in their own respective fields. Even if you have never experienced a particular medium before (probably visual novel/galgame or light novel), this is a good place to start.

1. Gintama & Futurama

Gintama (anime/manga)

Futurama (cartoon)

So despite what I said, I decided to start off my first recommendation with a Japanese anime and an American cartoon. Well, anything goes, right?

Gintama started as a manga in 2003, and was since adapted into anime in several seasons starting from 2006. Futurama debuted on TV way back in 1999, and came to an temporary halt in 2001 after just 4 seasons. The series is revived on TV, however, in 2007, and aired 3 more seasons until its finale in 2013. At first sight, one can immediately observe that both shows have 2 main male characters, with 1 main female character, in their posters. Of course, the similarity doesn’t just stop there. Both are episodic comedy parody series that follow one principal and one principal only: anything goes.

The setup allows for such flexibility in story-telling. In Futurama, the protagonist, Fry, is a 20th century man who was frozen and essentially time-traveled into the 31st century. He had no choice but to work in a universal delivery company, exploring the most dangerous part of universe on an everyday basis. In Gintama, the protagonist, Gin, is an Edo Samurai whose entire country has been invaded and occupied by Amanto, or space aliens. As he has lost his job as samurai, he opened a yorozoya house, where he and his team do all kind of odd jobs upon request. Already, both shows have such broad and crazy setup. Literally anything can happen, so you’d never know what to expect, ranging from popularity contest, space conquering, holiday gathering, to sudden, emotional flashbacks. Normally, I don’t like to watch episodic series in that they lack a coherent main story line, but pure comedy parody series with such crazy setup are an exception.

Parallels in how characters are presented also draws affinity between the two series. The protagonists, at first, seem to possess all kinds of negative qualities that a human being could have, spending their days lazing around the neighborhood. Unlike the deluge of Mary-Sue protagonist that seem to encompass all positive qualities in shows nowadays, Fry and Gin are usually lazy, sometimes dumb, indulging in bizarre habits, occasionally revels in others’ misery, and always draw the short end of the stick in life. However, this is only on the surface. As the shows progress, audience will discover that, actually, there are a lot of good points about the protagonists and their entourage. This stark contrast is always done in powerful ways, making the characters real humans instead of characters endowed with many good attributes.

Finally, both series share the element of trying to make fun of everything that is waiting to be ridiculed, from our everyday habits, customs, culture, to just ways of how humans interact with each other, in a non-aggressive, fun way. Of course, Futurama mostly makes fun of American culture, while Gintama do Japanese, so it is sometimes hard to catch the humor if you are not familiar with the particular culture. Still, the key point is that there is so much comedy in both that you’d at least be able to catch some, and it would still be very funny. Ultimately, through their ridiculing of human nature, we could perhaps learn something about ourselves, and change for the better. I am very serious when I say this.

2. Code Geass & G-senjou no Maou

Code Geass (anime)

G-senjou no Maou, or Devil on the G-string (visual novel)

If you are an anime fan who is still active in recent years, you’d probably already watched an original anime called Code Geass, or at the very least, heard about it somewhere. Now, if you really absolutely loved Code Geass, right after you finished the anime you’d probably feel a big void in your heart. Where else can one finds such an entertaining and gripping tale of revenge, fraught with tension and theatrics? Some would, rightly so, suggest the anime Death Note. Of course, it doesn’t take a detective to see the similarities between them. Still others would recommend the anime Guilty Crown, written by the same script writer. In this case, one would disappointingly find that the similarities remain limited, if not only on the surface, with setup such as the king’s power, big robots action, blah blah blah. Today, I am going to take you guys on a different path. If you broaden your horizon, you will find that there is this one popular visual novel called G-senjou no Maou (Devil on the G-string) that will definitely satisfy your thirst for Code Geass.

What makes Code Geass so endearing is definitely not the mecha action. It is the drama, the theatrics, the high amount of tension, how characters pull ridiculously impossible yet brilliant moves against their opponents, and of course, Lelouch. Unfortunately, Lelouch is not in this visual novel, but we get the next best thing: a charismatic, mysterious criminal mastermind, self-styled Maou, or Devil, whose identity is shrouded in mystery even from the audience.

Instead of royal offspring acting as commanders trying to outwit one another in the battlefield as in Code Geass, we dig deep into the world of terrorist and yakuza in G-senjou. As the adopted son of a mafia boss, the protagonist, Kyousuke, obey his father’s every bidding. His peaceful day as an yakuza-in-training is disrupted when two individuals suddenly showed up in the city, a beautiful girl named Haru and an internationally powerful mafia known only as “Maou”. And so, along with Haru, Kyousuke begins an deadly cat-and-mouse game with maou, in an epic game of wits.

Without going into more details, I am going to assure you that the two stories are most similar in that they have the same “feels”. The suspense is there. A lot of mystery needed to be uncovered. Characters engage in deadly games of wits against each other, with high stakes. They pull off huge stunts when one least expect it. Some comic relief here and there, and then bang, plot twist again. Although the story is prone to some minor plot holes with careful inspection, just like Code Geass, the story overall is very well written and executed in a good pace. The conclusion ends in the most dramatic fashion possible.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that the voice actor for both Lelouch and Maou is Furukawa Jun?

For more info, refer to this post https://bunny1ov3r.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/first-experience-with-visual-novel-an-attempt-at-g-senjou-no-maou-review/

PS: I really meant to include a couple more recommendation in this post, but I got really lazy and still wanted to publish it today. I’ll call this post part I. Hopefully the next part will come soon with more interesting recommendation across mediums. 


Top 5 Tragic Protagonist in Anime

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve written anything about anime on this blog, and here I am again to share some thoughts. As you can read from the title, today’s blog will be talking about some of the most “tragic” protagonist in anime. Before I start, I really want to clarify the definition of tragic here, so that you don’t misunderstand the criteria.

1. Only applies to protagonist, the person with the most role in the story and drives the story, because it would be a super long (and with not as much impact) list otherwise.

2. Only applies to TV animated series.

3. The tragedy being talked about here is how much the protagonist have to suffer in the end, against whatever kind of consolation, salvation they may have received, in a dramatically sense. A character death doesn’t have to be tragic. To live but deprived of all things one love and having all one’s values denied is quite tragic!

4. Spoilers, obviously. Spoilers everywhere. If you haven’t seen the title, just skip to the next one.

#5 Simon, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Due to the peculiar nature of TTGL, mixed with crazy galactic battles and whatnot, the quite sad conclusion to the series is often not as talked about among fans. Still, if you think about it, the ending left our protagonist, Simon, at quite a deprived state. He lost his rank (as the leading figure of humanity), his reputation (his name is completed erased from history), most of his comrades, and most importantly, his love of life, Nia, and becomes just another homeless man. Fortunately, it seems that he haven’t lost his passion in life, and still try to inspire the next generation to walk his glorious path in life. This is why he only made number 5 in this list.

#4 Ouma Shu, Guilty Crown

Guilty Crown is what inspired me to write this post. More specifically, my recent play through for the visual novel Guilty Crown: Lost Christmas is what reminded me of the tragic conclusion in guilty crown, at least for Ouma Shu. I remember that in 2012, Ouma is a character who is often criticized by fans for his cowardness and unwillingness to act. I won’t be commenting on this here, but enough to say that at the conclusion of Guilty Crown, you don’t want to be this guy’s shoes. Seriously. Perhaps he was too gifted by fate and coincidences at the start, so that his fall is even more spectacular. He lost his king’s power (least of his concern), his whole family again (I think that mana is revived and killed again?), one arm and one eye, and most importantly (again), his erratic partner in battle and love, Inori Yuzuriha. His whole ordeal is quite similar to Simon’s, to be honest. His only salvation in the end is his connection with his friends in class, which doesn’t say much since he was never the outgoing person.

#3 Zwei, Phantom: Requiem of the Phantom

It’s harder to talk about this since the anime concludes in an open ending. However, it’s easy to see how fucked up this guy is by the end. This guy is forced to do many things that ultimately destroyed him. He rejected/abandoned a girl who loved him (and whom he has feelings for), killed his own student, who loved him (and whom he has feelings for), and finally, died together with his teacher and lover, not able to escape the curse of being an assassin. He didn’t rank any higher in the list because there is a sense that he himself submitted to his fate, and the two of them died on their own terms, sort of.

#2 Kiritsugu Emiya, Fate/Zero

Since F/Z is a very popular anime, I doubt I need to say much to convince you that this guy here indeed suffered a tragic life. Long story short, this guy believed in the principal of sacrificing the minority to achieve the greater good. He did exactly that in holy grail war, and betrayed many people for his selfless goal for the greater good. He was one step away from victory, but ended up losing everything. His lover/servant died, his wife died. Saber was returned to heroic realm with much remorse, and he failed to stop the holy grail war, instead bringing a calamity upon the world. Worst of all, he survived, by himself… and his enemies of course.

The only reason this guy didn’t make it to number one is that he was saved by his adopted son, Shirou Emiya, who is the only person he saved from the disaster. It’s ironic that the act of saving just one person was able to comfort his soul, and bring him salvation. However, it is clearly not enough to redeem himself of the regrets that will haunt him forever.

#1 Kyousuke Kousaka, Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai

Suprised? Well, this is certainly not a troll, if that’s what you are thinking. Calm down, and disregard the fact that this series is supposed to be a comedy harem for a second.

Good? Ok, let’s talk about this.

As a completely average person with no super power nor super rich family background, it is quite unlikely to get into a situation where multiple girls (not to mention “high in beauty points”) holds affection for you at the same time. Suppose this happens, what would you do? A typical anime harem lead would go for the harem route, while a normal person would try to get together with the girl who is most compatible with him (and in real life, the girl who has the most beauty points, lol). Of course, compatibility depends on the person. In this case, a family oriented person would go for Ayase, an otaku would go for Kuroneko, pedophiles would go for Kanako, a safe person would go for the childhood friend……

and if you are really a hopeless siscon, you would go for Kirino.

Except that, it wouldn’t end pretty. In galgame term, it would be a BAD END.

It takes gut to abandon everything to make the person you love happy. It takes even more gut to reject your entire harem just for a moment of fleeting happiness in a marriage ceremony with your sister. Whether you sympathize with Kyousuke, he is undoubtedly deprived of everything at the conclusion of the story. He knew that he will never get another chance to have so many high-quality girls liking him, knowing that, he still chose his sister, spending a few days together before separating again, at the cost of losing most of his friends (admirers).

Whether you like or dislike the ending for Oreimo, it is painfully apparent that his choices ultimately led him to a BAD END with no chance of redemption.


WHITE ALBUM 2 ~closing chapter~

When WA2 gets translated in English, I hope everyone enjoy it as much as I did in the past week.

the end of eternity


I’ll be with you…
Even if it means abandoning everything that matters to me.

WHITE ALBUM 2
~closing chapter~

A crappy guitarist, a talented vocalist, and a prodigious pianist: three melodies once distant came together and formed something harmonious. But as it swelled to a crescendo, it became too much for them. Something had to give, and none of their own melodies reached… Neither did their love.

Three years later, the harmony is no more. With Kazusa having long since left for Vienna, both Haruki and Setsuna are left to pick up the pieces of their fractured relationship. Held captive by their destructive memories and overtaken by a mutual guilt, it’s all Haruki can do to avoid Setsuna as he throws himself into work despite her evident hopefulness. As they’re being strangled by the string of fate it’s a wonder if he can continue avoiding her. Three distractions come in…

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