Dexomega: Hi guys. Today Rockmandash and I are talking about a visual novel together (a first for us!). This particular VN is eden* by minori and published by Mangagamer in English. Those familiar with minori know that it shares a lot of literary similarities to Makoto Shinkai's work. eden* is no different.
Rockmandash: As a fact, Minori used to be Shinkai's VN wing, which is an interesting tidbit that you should probably know when entering this.
Rockmandash: I've never been the biggest fan of Shinkai and Minori, but when I heard about eden*, I was deeply interested with it: a short post-apocalyptic kinetic novel in the same vain as Planetarian, with the minori art that I adored with ef. Would this finally be the Shinkai/minori work I fall in love with? Would it is it as good as all the fans have been saying it is? Today on our first VN discussion review, we get to find out the results of these questions and more.
Dexomega: Absolutely. So eden* is basically the story of Earth's final days. It follows a man named Haruna Ryo, a soldier in the military, and how he lives out his final days on Earth. With most of Earth having been evacuated into emigration ships in space, Haruna is effectively one of the last humans on Earth.
Dexomega: So with that, we can segue into the story and what we thought of it.
Rockmandash: I think the best way to describe what the story is like is bittersweet. It has all the niceties that come with a heartwarming romance, but the impending doom that comes with this setting. I find it builds on that bittersweet idea, especially when the story peaks.
Dexomega: I agree of course. eden* is a very straight rendition of what is called an Utsuge in Japan. It differs from a Nakige because it specifically isn't supposed to end "well", at least in a sense. It's just a sad, heartrending tale that never really lets up.
Rockmandash: We don't see a lot of these utsuges out of japan, and it's really nice when we get them. I found that eden* deviated from the typical utsuge formula with a lot of slice of life though.
Dexomega: It did, though that's basically the drive of the main character in the story. He just wants to live a "normal" life, something that he didn't have (nor did the other main character).
Rockmandash: Completely agree with you, but I was kinda let down to see the lack of events happening, the lack of worldbuilding, the lack of... stuff. It was an interesting change, but I probably would have liked the story a bit more if they focused on the narrative a bit more, and fleshed out it's setting.
Rockmandash: It kinda reminds me of Muv-Luv Unlimited in a way, and I'd love to see the alternative of it. But.. that's not going to happen, so yeah...
Dexomega: That's an important point really. eden* feels less like the story of humanity's departure from Earth and more like the epilogue of Earth in general. Which I found particularly compelling. I think every human can relate to the destruction of Earth for an obvious reason.
Rockmandash: Especially in the world we live in, where in a blink of an eye, all life on earth could decimated. I can relate to it, but I personally would have enjoyed it a bit more if they actually showed the world dying. We have to take their word for it, even though everything they showed displayed the earth being perfectly fine, which was one of my gripes with the story.
Dexomega: I think I can agree on that point. The story didn't touch on a lot of what the world actually looked like. There are only two instances where we had a glimpse of how bad things were in "the war". They mostly just told us.
Dexomega: Overall though, the story seemed to be a very melancholic almost epilogue-like end to Earth. It was more interested in the loneliness and sadness surrounding the evacuation of Earth. The route they took with it lent itself well to that.
Rockmandash: The title reflects that, with the full name being eden*: They were only two, on the planet. The game takes the loss experienced with an event like evacuating the earth, and uses it as narrative points for the story, which works really well. Just watching everyone leave, and hearing about things slowly going haywire, creates an atmosphere that truly is like an epilogue.
Rockmandash: It's like the story was saying: This is a chapter of life for humanity, and it will be a dear one, one that will be missed... but we will continue on, there is more to life.
Dexomega: Agreed. While they acknowledge that this is the end of humanity on Earth, there is that hope that humanity is going to continue elsewhere. That in mind, if we're finished with the nuances of the story, we could talk about the characters.
Rockmandash: I liked the story of eden*, but there were little things that kept me from loving it. It's relatively slow pace, and lack of world building is something that bothered me (especially because Planetarian managed to make those not an issue), but it did enough right that it was a pretty good story overall. Now onto characters!
Dexomega: There are two main characters to this story. The first is the already mentioned Ryo, while the second is the mastermind behind humanity's escape from Earth: Sion.
Dexomega: Overall, one of the things eden* did right, in my opinion, was put Ryo and Sion together in this end-of-the-world scenario. For two different reasons, neither had a normal life, but they both wanted that simple life deep down. Their jobs forbade it though.
Rockmandash: They attempt to escape from said jobs, and because earth is abandoned, they finally have the chance to try to live a normal life. Of course, because of who they are, and the situation they are in, it's not exactly normal, but they certainly try to have a normal relationship. It works for the most part too, miraculously.
Dexomega: One thing that is simultaneously depressing and heartwarming about the two is that they know the Earth is going to be destroyed, but even so they want to experience that feeling of a normal relationship in a normal house, undisturbed by the chaos around them. It's basically their last chance to do so.
Rockmandash: It's an ever-present feeling that shapes everyone involved, and adds another layer to the interactions that I appreciated. It also manages to make it all that more crushing at points though....
Dexomega: Yes. Ryo and Sion aren't alone in their perhaps slightly unhinged mental state regarding the future. Nearly everyone we meet in the story is unhinged in one way or another.
Rockmandash: The supporting cast is really incredible, especially with the limited time we had with them.
Dexomega: There's only something like six characters throughout the novel, but that's about just the right amount to give everyone a fair share of time. Pretty much every character in the story was hit by the slow descent of Earth into chaos in the hundred years prior, so we were able to see some fascinating sides to these broken people. From an old, tired military officer to a completely unhinged soldier.
Rockmandash: It was a treat to see the game handling the characters so well. I liked all of them, and they were all pretty great. Your thoughts before we move on?
Dexomega: Lots of fascinating characters with intriguing backstories. It was a particularly strong part of the story. That's about it.
Dexomega: That leads us to visuals.
Rockmandash: We're dealing with minori. It's stunning.
Dexomega: The most important thing to note in this category is probably that it's all CGs, there are no sprites.
Dexomega: What that means is that the whole visual novel is images, and pretty ones at that.
Rockmandash: And good CG too. Just like ef, it's some of the most beautiful art I've seen in visual novels, and it's hard to imagine that it's 5+ years old.
Rockmandash: Did you notice it's animated at times? Really nice touch there.
Dexomega: I did. There's a touch of dynamic imagery in all the CGs too. While they aren't sprites, they took the time to add things like blinking and moving lips to the images. It's some very magnificent artwork. A couple of the CGs are absolutely good enough to be framed and hung in your apartment.
Rockmandash: People call Shinkai's 5 Wallpapers Per Second for a reason, and that applies here.
Dexomega: It's great. There's really nothing else to say. The opening is very Shinkai (I don't believe this particular one was directed by him) and the CGs are excellent. By the way, if this were an anime film directed by Shinkai, it absolutely would be 5 Wallpapers per Second all over again.
Rockmandash: Definitely. I have one thing to add though, and that's I found the resolution to be pretty odd, being 1024x640, a 16:10 resolution which deviates from the 4 : 3 from visual novels and the (relatively) new 16:9 standard. That being said not really a big deal, and even benefited me when playing on my 16:10 tablet, but it's worth noting.
Dexomega: I was about to say, 16:10 is more associated with mobile devices, which it ironically wasn't released for.
Dexomega: But, it's still pretty.
Rockmandash: Very pretty.
Dexomega: So the overall consensus here is wallpaper bait.
Rockmandash: I guess we should talk about sound now. Tenmon's back, and the soundtrack here is just fantastic, like all of the other soundtracks he's made.
Dexomega: The soundtrack fits the story well because it is very low-key. That's not to say it doesn't exist or it's under-par, but specifically because it's quiet.
Rockmandash: When you do notice it, it's a beautiful soundtrack that plays well with the story, something he's always been great at, and it just sounds nice.
Dexomega: There's quite a few stand-out moments, but overall it's just one of those soundtracks that really fits.
Dexomega: As we'll probably touch on in a little while, the story has an overwhelming sense of loneliness to it, and the soundtrack captures that quiet, cinematic feel.
Rockmandash: It really does. It does everything it needs to, and does it pretty well. You aren't going to be finding complaints about it here, as I personally really liked it.
Dexomega: Me neither. Along with the visuals, the soundtrack is a great part of what makes this an easy recommendation.
Dexomega: Since we're in agreement there, should we move on to our new category: themes?
Rockmandash: A new segment! Huzzah!
Rockmandash: That being said, a huzzah like that would be really out of place in eden*, a game that focuses on the themes of loneliness, death, and loss.
Dexomega: Quite. I really wanted to include this segment because it's really what drives the story. Like you say: loneliness, death, and loss are big players.
Rockmandash: Because VNs is a text based medium, they do tend to focus on themes a lot more than the anime counterparts, so it was only natural we'd have them here.
Dexomega: The biggest thematic pillar I pulled out of the story is its commentary on life and death. The primary driver of the story seems to be about how you should live life to enjoy it, not to live. The story is based around this concept that the characters know that they'll die, but they don't really care. They just want to live their life as they want to.
Rockmandash: And it displays this commentary by showing the loss. By taking things (that are spoilers) away from the characters, they are forced to live in a specific way, but they realize that in this world, they probably shouldn't be living that way.
Dexomega: And it's using these themes that the story manages to be both heartwarming and heartrenching at the same time. You can't help but admire that the story is trying to convey this message, and yet at the same time feel that this is almost unfair to the characters.
Rockmandash: It really is. They try to treat this broken world like it's an Eden, but that isn't the case. It's showing the wide spectrum of life, making eden*, like I described earlier, a relatively bittersweet affair.
Rockmandash: And it's cast shows this very well, with characters in all sorts of situations in their life.
Dexomega: Absolutely. It touches on life and death, how war changes people, and a plethora of other topics. I think it served as a very strong foundation for the story and setting.
Rockmandash: I felt that the way the story was executed weakened that foundation a bit, but eden* definitely did have some well executed themes.
Dexomega: I might agree with that assessment. If there's nothing else, we can proceed to the last category.
Rockmandash: Which is the ending.
Rockmandash: You can see it a mile away, but that doesn't make it's punch any less strong.
Dexomega: Exactly. As we've been alluding to this whole discussion, the ending is deeply melancholic in nature, just like the entire story up until that point.
Dexomega: Yet, it's not out-of-place. It's not being sad and depressing to be sad and depressing. It's giving us an ending that fits the themes of the story.
Rockmandash: It was beautiful, and heartrenching, but like the rest of the game, you couldn't help but be optimistic.
Dexomega: The ending, again like the rest of the story, is simultaneously sad and heartwarming. It's sad to watch the ending happen and you really feel for Ryo, but at the same time you know Ryo isn't angry or depressed. He's content with his life.
Rockmandash: Absolutely. It was a beautiful ending, one that represented everything about the game, but wrapped it up in a great way.
Dexomega: It certainly is an appropriate ending for the story. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for this to suddenly pull a nakige and get happy, but the ending really fits and I have no objections to it.
Dexomega: Although it does make me sad. ;_;
Rockmandash: yeah... ;-;
Dexomega: Sounds like we agree on pretty much everything in the ending then.
Rockmandash: That seems to be the case. I guess we should wrap it up then?
Dexomega: To conclude, I thought eden* was a fantastic visual novel. It's the sort of thing I'd recommend to people that aren't usually into visual novels.
Rockmandash: Absolutely, and definitely worth the 10 bucks it's going for. That being said, I don't think I liked it as much as you did: I thought it was good, but not great. Answering the questions I asked at the beginning, It's not the minori work I'd fall in love with, but it's the best out of them I've seen, and it's pretty good. I can see why others would appreciate it so much, but that's just not me. It does a lot well, but there are some things that keep me from loving it.
Rockmandash: That may just be my love for Planetarian seeping in (Seriously, if you liked this one, check out Planetarian), but It's a game that's well with the admission ticket and I'd recommend everyone give it a spin.
Dexomega: I'll be the first to admit that I love quiet, introspective stories more than the average person, which is probably why this struck a chord with me. It really doesn't take a lot to satisfy me, it just needs to all "click" together, which is surprisingly harder than it sounds.
Dexomega: Anyway, I loved the story and like you said, it's worth the price it's on sale for right now, and probably even worth the full price later if you're into these kinds of stories.
Dexomega: Seems like that just about wraps this up. It's a Go For It for me.
Rockmandash: And this is why I wish the Kotaku/TAY system was a bit more varied with it's review system. It gets a Go For It for me as well because you'll get something out of it even if you don't adore it, but I didn't think it was fantastic. I think your good you used before the TAY system would work here pretty well, or just my Rockmandash Recommends.
You can buy eden* They were only two, on the planet through Steam or Mangagamer, which is rated Mature by the ESRB. You can buy eden* PLUS + MOSAIC through Mangagamer, which is rated Adults Only by the ESRB. It includes more violent scenes and has optional sexual content.