This time I’ll be reviewing WataJuu (私のリアルは充実しすぎている), a free doujin otome game by TetraScope.
With her good looks, top grades and a pleasant personality, second-year high school student Nozomi Anesaki is admired by everyone in the school. Behind her seemingly flawless exterior, however, is an otaku who spends all her free time watching anime and playing otome games. To hide her embarrassing real personality, she volunteers at the school in the student council, helps the teachers and other students with whatever they ask her to do and wakes up early every morning to perform her lengthy beauty routine.
This review is spoiler-free. I’ll also refrain using any other event CGs than the ones on WataJuu’s site to respect the creator’s wishes.
Being the idol of the school and vice president of the student council, Nozomi uses a lot of time and effort to appear as admirable and likable to other people. She is very particular about the way she wants herself seen by others. Nozomi is straightforward and able to stand up to herself and to others when needed, without being needlessly cold either. Her thoughts on things were always interesting to read, since the writer allowed her to also have questionable thoughts and opinions, making her feel human. You know, as opposed to just about every otoge protagonist else ever.
Nozomi’s stepbrother who’s a first-year and the only one who knows her real personality. He’s aiming to become a beautician in the future and because of this he also repeatedly gets pestered by Nozomi to reassure she looks fine every time she leaves the house. Their parents, like all proper game/anime parents, are traveling abroad, leaving them bickering alone in the house.
Nozomi’s only friend from middle school, who suddenly transfers to her class. An otaku who’s particularly fond of all kinds light novels and noticeably distanced from others in the class because of his hobby. He doesn’t approach her in public, since he’s afraid that would result in her being treated by their classmates the same way he is.
The student council president. He’s kind to everyone, very popular with the girls and always accepts their cakes and cookies, even though he claims not liking sweets. He’s supposed to be pretty sharp and all, but most of the game to me he seems more like your average goody-goody dense galge protag kind of guy, probably that way on purpose though. He is also the only male character who doesn’t have a route in the game.
Mizuho’s twin brother. Hozumi’s personality is the complete opposite of his brother’s; blunt, foul-mouthed and and overall unpleasant to be around with.He gets mixed up with his brother whenever he wears glasses. Not on good terms with Mizuho.
Shun’s classmate and a friend of sorts. Seems to quickly develop an interest for Nozomi after they eat lunch together in the school cafeteria and behaves completely differently around her. He also seems notably more mature than the rest of the students his age.
The best charage I’ve played, period. This the first game where I really liked all of the obtainable main guys, when usually there’s at least one who rubs me the wrong way. Not here though, everyone is well-rounded and has enough time to develop, even though one of the guys has a much shorter route than the others. WataJuu takes place in an ordinary high school setting, but there’s no “Nozomi went to school and back home and nothing interesting happened that day” kind of repetition AT ALL, which is a landmine most school games don’t manage to avoid, making you want to quit halfway when they show the characters eating lunch together for the umpteenth time *cough*Shinigami to Shoujo*cough*.
This game is also really funny, I don’t remember laughing so much with an otoge as I did here. I would say I’m not the easiest audience out there and a lot of games are just unintentionally funny to me, but the jokes and the comedy here are well thought out and actually clever. The otoge jokes are spot on and don’t feel tired unlike the usual “this guy seems like a character out of an otome game or something HURRR” and the interactions between the characters are even better.
Where the writing really shines through, though, is the romance! Since I played Kent’s route in Amnesia Later, I’ve suffered a critical lack of character moe and the games I have played after that have been ok, but none of them really gave me that (*°∀°)=3 feeling… Until this! The romance scenes are actually not much different from the other games in terms of setting, but they just execute the awkward silences and time the dere moments so well my heart almost gave out a few times. To me, one of the marks of a good otome game is that even if you quit playing for the day, you’ll still feel all light and happy after, which this game definitely achieved!
I often start spacing out while playing through the heroine’s monologues, since unfortunately a big chunk of otoge heroines are written as birdbrains who don’t seem to have any other kind of thoughts than “What should I have for lunch ^___^” no matter what the situation is. Making a heroine who has opinions is always a risk, since part of the fanbase is childishly hung up on the idea of the heroine needing to be exactly like the player in personality. Which in turn, results to most of the heroines in games being “completely average, plain girls who are not especially good at anything”, because anything else will be too specific for this group of whiners to self-insert in. Fortunately, since this is a free game, there’s no risk of losing sales and they could forget all restrictions for the characters while writing, which shows up on Nozomi and the others as well.
There’s one exception, though; Mizuho. He’s like a character from an early 2000s otoge, the perfect prince with no flaws who’s nice to everyone. There’s nothing more about him than meets the eye, except maybe that he’s incredibly dull, probably more dull than your average “EEH WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY” harem protagonist loser, which in turn made me just feel bad for his childhood friend who has an obvious crush on him. As a sub-plot character he does work, though, but I still think he should have been phased out of Hozumi’s route earlier than he was in the game. Man, I see people complaining about all games nowadays being filled with wife beaters, but I dunno, I’ll gladly take them over these kind of characters…and I really dislike wife beaters.
OP and ED themes are passable for a free game. The BGM is nice and ambient and this is the first free game I’ve played where the soundtrack is original. While there are a lot of tracks, I feel like many of the tracks are too similar and there’s not quite enough variation in the end (that goes straight-up in the nitpicking territory though). There’s no voice acting, though I’d definitely buy and play this again if they ever released a voiced version.
The art in this game is good, although sometimes I felt like the backgrounds could use a bit more color. I liked how the flashbacks looked like simple watercolor paintings. The character art is done with cel-shading, which allows free swapping between any parts on their faces, resulting in a good variety of expressions:
That rightmost grin is also a scarily accurate depiction of the expression I have while gaming.
So yeah, I can safely say I enjoyed this free game made by two people (outside from the OP and ED vocals) more than most of the games made by big teams that I actually paid for. Thus I am anxiously waiting for these guys to release a game with voices or even go pro, which isn’t that far-fetched since they had WataJuu goods as a monthly gift in CoolB and a fanbook you can pre-order from Stellaworth! In the meantime I’m going to play Sakuya, an eroge made by the same circle, hopefully it’ll be as good as this game.
If you’re itching for a different kind of otoge protagonist and liked the setup in Kare Kano and WataMote, I’d wholeheartedly recommend this! For the playing order I would recommend Hozumi>Ayumu>Yuu>Shun, that way the story will unfold nicely.
All of the pout sprites were deadly HNNGGH