I’m back, after far longer than I expected, with F&C’s short drama eroge, Konata yori Kanata made. Konakana was the first eroge by scenario writer Takehaya, who later wrote eroge like Killer Queen, Harukani Aogi Uruwashino, and Soshite Ashita no Sekai yori. This review may be slightly more spoiler heavy than my other ones but still won’t spoil anything beyond the basic premise. I only really mention that because there was one major part of the premise that I was unaware of before playing the game so talking about it feels like talking about a spoiler, even though it really isn’t.
The basic premise is that the protagonist, Kanata, is dying from terminal cancer. I didn’t know this before I started reading, I knew basically nothing about the eroge, which served to highlight the protagonist’s unique, and in my opinion beautiful, way of dying. Despite dying he insists on living as though he is not (there’s more to it than that but I won’t got into great detail about his philosophy). The first day plays out like a normal school life eroge so I was surpised when the protagonist suddenly stops by a cancer hospital after school. Up until that moment there was no indication that Kanata’s days were numbered, and that’s precisely how he wants it.
There are a number of supernatural elements in the story, such as the vampire Kristal who appears in Kanata’s house and starts living with him, mysterious monsters that appear at night, and the mysterious girl who fights them. Despite these factors the story is mostly focused on normal, everyday events. It’s a thoroughly human drama, and Konakana’s drama is some of the best I’ve seen in eroge. The drama permeates every aspect of the characters’ lives, but at the same time it is subtle enough to never feel melodramatic. It could almost be described as low-key, were it not so pervasive and did it not leave such a deep impact on the reader.
As one might guess from the premise, the main source of drama is the fact that the protagonist is dying. I usually dislike stories about dying, and nearly stopped reading Konakana when I learned Kanata was dying. But I’m so glad I didn’t. Konakana is unlike any story about death I’ve read. It doesn’t wallow in its own sorrow and depression. As a whole I wouldn’t even describe it as depressing. The emotions it inspires in the reader are complex and hard to describe, but I’d say the story is closer to heartwarming or healing than depressing. There are certainly heart-rending moments when the difficulties of the characters’ lives inspire sadness and empathy, but the tone of the story is more than just “sad.” That’s another thing that sets Konakana apart from other stories about death. It doesn’t just focus on Kanata’s death, but rather the larger picture and more wide-reaching themes. The drama is more about Kanata’s philosophy of life, his relationships with the other characters, and how the former influences the latter and the latter change the former.
Part of what makes the story work so well is the excellent writing. The eroge really benefits from the NVL format, since the greater amount of exposition is helpful in characterizing Kanata’s personality and philosophy, a major part of the story. I originally started playing Konakana a long time ago, but decided to put it off until my Japanese was better. I’m glad I did. The writing isn’t difficult to read, but I felt I was much better able to appreciate its subtle beauty. Sometimes when I’m reading something in Japanese long descriptions bog me down and get boring, but Takehaya’s writing flows so well that every minute of the story was a pleasure to read.
There are some cons to Konakana’s story that may be pretty major depending on what you want out of it. Namely, it really suffers from its short length. The story definitely could have been more developed. In fact Kris’s route is the only one that feels even satisfactorily developed, mostly because the majority of the common route is also about her. Sakura’s route offers much needed resolution for her relationship with Kanata, but is far too short and anticlimactic. Izumi and Yuu’s route provides some welcome backstory about Kanata’s illness, but nothing beyond that. Kokonoe’s route was pretty much pointless. It never even explains anything about her or how she came to fight the monsters. Speaking of which, the supernatural elements of the story are also painfully underdeveloped, to the point where they seem completely unnecessary. Even Kristal being a vampire seems to only exist for one (admittedly very important) plot point, though her immortality allows for some nice philosophic comparisons to Kanata’s imminent death. I still don’t know why the monsters and such were thrown in. So Konakana’s plot is very underdeveloped, but the drama is character- rather than plot-based, and the themes and messages of the story are more than developed enough in the short time it takes to read.
Another point of dissatisfaction is the humor. There’s quite a bit of it but most of it isn’t funny. It made me laugh maybe a couple of times. But I think it still serves a purpose, which is to contribute to the story’s unique tone and take on death. It shows that Kanata can still laugh, that those who know he’s dying can still laugh with him, and that through their laughter they’re embracing the time he still has. Maybe it’s better that the comedy isn’t that funny because it forces the reader to consider its other purposes, but that may be taking things too far.
Considering the story’s length most of the characters are satisfactorily developed. The star of the show is obviously Kanata, so it’s a good thing that he’s the most developed character, and a very well developed one at that. He also has a unique personality and way of life, which is very well communicated due to Takehaya’s writing and the high amount of introspection in the narration. Kris is the main heroine, and not surprisingly the most developed one. Not enough to be considered great development, but not something to complain about either. Her personality and way of speaking are somewhat unique, but not anything I haven’t seen before. The childhood friend Sakura, nurse Izumi, and sickly loli Yuu are all rather stereotypical but developed to a passable level. Kokonoe isn’t unique or well developed. I have nothing against her but I still don’t understand why she’s even in the story. There’s also the best friend character, Kousuke, who’s very admirable and a cool guy, but static and not particularly deep.
Although many of the characters are far from remarkable, the way in which they are used can be described as such. For example their relationships are very well developed even if most of the characters themselves aren’t. Similarly, the way their relationships and situations contribute to the themes of the story is a key part of what makes the game work so well. I think the fact that the central character of the story is such a great one is the main reason why the cast as a whole is much better than the sum of its individual parts.
The BGM is mostly good. The everyday life tracks are mediocre and get annoying even during the short time it takes to finish the game. But the rest of the tracks are really good and contribute to both the feeling of the particular scene and the overall tone of the story. I wasn’t a huge fan of either the OP or ED. Both were fairly dull and unexciting in my opinion. Of the two I preferred the ED, even though the OP was sung by Kotoko.
The voicework was equally average across the entire cast. During the emotional scenes the seiyuu were often, but not always, able to convey enough feeling to contribute to the scene. On the other hand during the ero scenes the voice quality got pretty bad. So I’d say it evens out.
The art is pretty good. Most of the time I felt that both the style and quality were average, but occasionally I’d notice the amount of detail is actually surprisingly good and looks really nice if you pay attention to it. Unfortunately I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to art. The amount of CGs is satisfactory for a short game, though the choice of when to include them was odd at times. The only real complaint I have about the art is that it’s sometimes inconsistent, such as when it comes to character breast size (which is one part of art I definitely pay attention to).
The ero is what you’d expect from a story-based eroge. However, because the story is so short, and the individual routes even shorter, just about all of the ero scenes feel very out of place, and even noticeably break up the flow of the story. It sometimes felt like a nukige with how the sex was shoehorned into the story. The only scene that didn’t suffer from this was Kris’s, which isn’t surprising given the fact that she was also the best developed heroine with the best developed route.
Pros: A unique take on the dying protagonist premise and a unique outlook on death; great protagonist; excellent drama; meaningful themes that are skillfully presented; beautiful writing; good soundtrack
Cons: Underdeveloped plot; the rest of the cast isn’t as well developed as the protagonist; out of place ero scenes
Konata yori Kanata made is a great story that inspires many complex feelings and thoughts in the reader. Feelings and thoughts about what it means to die, and what it means to live. An incredibly moving story, and one that avoids melodrama and other pitfalls common in stories about death. Despite being about dying, a hopeful rather than hopeless story. I’d recommend it to anyone except those who need a strong plot to keep them interested. If you’re someone who cares about the characters, their relationships, and their lives then I think you’ll enjoy this eroge. It’s hard to put into words what exactly makes this eroge so special but just take my word for it and give it a chance.