「普通の学園生活」 (Futsū no gakuen seikatsu)
“Ordinary Academy Life”
After Unlimited Blade Works and Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete on Saturday here’s another visual novel adaptation this season. Zephyr’s written extensively on the original game so I won’t go too deeply into it myself. Suffice to say, Grisaia no Kajitsu would certainly be one of the most significant offerings of the year and would have been the premier visual novel adaptation of the season if only it didn’t have the misfortune of sharing it with the Type-Moon monster. Not that Grisaia no Kajitsu is not a heavyweight in its own right; any piece of media, let alone an eroge, that plans to be a trilogy before the first sales figures are even out must be quite confident, if not ambitious. And you know an anime means serious business if it breaks out the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The only room for doubt may be the staff; Tensho, the artist formerly known as Tanaka Motoki is relatively new to the chief director business, and Kurata Hideyuki on series composition has historically had mixed results. At least 8bit has provided us with an aesthetically pleasing first episode, with only few awkward shots and art that stays consistent with the original character designs. Sure, ufotable is still going to show us up every week but, hey, 2.39:1! Black bars are sexy.
Talk about the plot already
I have always considered Grisaia no Kajitsu a work of minimalistic brilliance. What is a stereotypical eroge cast but a protagonist and a gaggle of potential love interests? Grisaia no Kajitsu embraces that, creating a premise that empties the school of everyone except main characters and leaving us with a highly distilled experience. Yeah, sure, there’s also the nominal adult teacher figure in Tachibana Chizuru (Yanase Natsumi), someone so ditzy it’s surprising she hasn’t killed herself in a freak waffle iron accident or something, but she might as well be part of the harem on most days. Other than her, it’s all troubled schoolgirls, all the time. A quick pass over the roster gives us dedicated cosplayer Komine Sachi (Shimizu Ai), ‘big sis’ Suou Amane (Taguchi Hiroko), shy child Irisu Makina (Tamiyasu Tomoe), faux tsundere Matsushima Michiru (Mizuhashi Kaori), and actual tsundere Sakaki Yumiko (Tanaka Ryouko). It’s just the first episode so we haven’t gotten a lot of development beyond basic archetypes, but what we do have is character-relevant fanservice. It’s like Bakemonogatari all over again; we won’t rest until everybody gets a panty flash, and only Senjougahara Yumiko is spared for now. Underwear pattern is a character trait! Only in Japan, folks. Only in Japan.
I saved the male lead for last (even though he was the first on the fanservice train; good job) because I actually didn’t like him very much in the original VN. I may be the only one, but hear me out. Kazami Yuuji (Sakurai Takahiro) is our point-of-view character in the original VN so it’s important that readers can relate to him; we’re stuck inside his head the entire time. On my part, it was an uncomfortable place to be. Perhaps it was because he spends so much time lecturing. A lot of the time he even lectures to himself, which means he’s lecturing at me, except I’m stuck inside his head and have no right of reply. And since agreeing with people was not something I could just allow myself to do, it was a slightly irritating experience. In the anime adaptation, however, Yuuji has been moved firmly into the third person. He has a face! He has a voice! Sakurai Takahiro is a veteran well versed in the nuances of playing stoic young men, and his voice sounds about right for me. Not that he’s had any challenging bits of dialogue; it’ll still be some time until Yuuji grows a personality. Let’s see what the new perspective does to Yuuji as a character.
Peeking outside the garden
What makes this adaptation especially interesting is that, as Zephyr noted in his VN retrospective, while Grisaia no Kajitsu does have two sequels, those two sequels don’t necessarily build directly on Kaijitsu. Kaijitsu doesn’t have a centralised narrative per se; once it splits into different routes it never looks back. Yet, those routes are important; each one gives different reveals about the world, its intrigues, and the place Yuuji plays in them. Plus, some of them are great stories in and of themselves. It’s evident by now that Mihama Academy is less a school and more an institution or even a facility and that its inmates are a singular bunch. Amane is definitely more than just a censored fanservice machine. And I don’t need to have read the VN to know what this is; Zankyou no Terror was just last season. There are plentiful hints of more to come. If Grisaia no Kajitsu the anime plans to have sequels as well then I look forward to seeing how it manages to weave all these disparate pieces together into something cohesive. Or maybe it’d just use an omnibus structure. That would be the lazy man’s solution. I have high hopes for Grisaia, and this is just its first potential cour. In a season full of strong offerings, I hope it manages build into something deserving to stand out.