In the world of eroge, martial artists have so far been used for even less roles than what would be seen in anime. They tend to be used as heroines that need to be impressed by the "ordinary" protagonist, or someone who does not understand something the main cast does. While once in a blue moon we see games like Alice Soft's Dai Bancho, it is indeed a rare occasion to see martial arts successfully mixed into the more common settings of these games.
Minato Soft's attempt at this proved to create something quite entertaining, as Maji de watashi ni koi shinasai! has something we can only hope to see more often: a good cast, impressive character development, and variety in the heroines while making sure the martial artists don't overwhelm the "ordinary" members of the cast.
Game: Maji de watashi ni koi shinasai!
Maji de watashi ni koi shinasai! (Majikoi for short) was released on August 28, 2009 by minato software. The game features a story written by TAKAHIRO and character designs by wagi. The game's title literally means "Love me for real!", using the kanji for shinken (真剣) instead of the kana for maji (マジ); Both mean the same thing (serious, seriously). The shinasai part infers a command. The use of shinken is most likely a pun to refer to the martial arts backdrop of the game, since the second kanji in shinken is ken/tsurugi (剣), which means sword.
The player takes the role of Naoue Yamato, a high school student that lives in a boarding house owned by the family of one of his friends while attending the Kawakami Academy. Since elementary school, Yamato has been part of a group of friends that call themselves the Kazama Family, led by self-proclaimed leader Kazama Shouichi. Including the aforementioned, the group consists of Shiina Miyako, Kawakami Momoyo, Kawakami Kazuko, Shimazu Gakuto, and Morooka Takuya. While varying in both origin and interests outside of school, these seven friends have been together throughout the years, growing and benefitting from each others' company. As the flow of time begins to slowly take each member of the group down their own path, the player is presented with five main heroines to push towards the protagonist, with plenty of comedy, moments of reflection and a drop of martial arts to keep things interesting.
The Players Note: Seeing the huge cast this game has, I'll cover only the members of the Kazama Family.
|Kawakami Momoyo C.V.: Asakawa Yuu (under the alias Kamiyo Misaki)|
The "older sister" of the Kazama Family, and one of the last members to join. Momoyo did not join the group on her own, but was more "contracted" in when a group of older kids started beating up Yamato & Co back when they were in elementary school. Yamato asked Momoyo to join and help them, and she agreed to do so on the condition that Yamato become her eternal underling. Having been together since then, they have developed a brother-sister type of relationship.
As one of the main heroines of the story, Momoyo is the heir to the Kawakami Ryuu style of kenpo, and so far remains undefeated. Her daily life includes answering challenges, taking cute girls out to lunch, borrowing money from people due to her own unwillingness to get a part-time job, and (of course) training. Despite the constant passes she makes at other girls, she claims to be straight; she often mentions that she simply hasn't met a man that interests her.
Momoyo, for lack of better words, loves to fight. It is the only thing in life that she finds true joy in. This is a side of herself that she struggles with as the story moves forward, made worse by the lack of competent challengers that come to fight her. She's even made something of a reputation for herself due to winning all fights with one punch. It has gotten to the point that the other members of the Kawakami Ryuu believe that she needs to find something else to focus on outside of fighting, or she could permanently become akin to a berzerker.
Momoyo's focus on fighting, combined with the way she normally looks at the protagonist (as her underling/little brother instead of a potential love interest) becomes an obstacle for Yamato once he decides that he wants to get together with her. Interestingly, he manages to woo her by defeating her in combat (though indirectly).
Momoyo's virtue of Bushido is Makoto (Honesty, or 誠).
|Kawakami Kazuko C.V.: Aoyama Yukari|
Second daughter of the Kawakami family. Kazuko was actually adopted by the Kawakami family, and learned martial arts under them. Instead of kenpo, she specialized in the use of the naginata.
In contrast to Momoyo, Kazuko is naturally competitive and bears a never-give-up attitude towards everything. While being weaker than her older sister in martial arts, she is still very athletic, and quite eager to challenge others for fun. It is because of this that Kazuko develops something of a rivalry with the German transfer student Christiane Friedrich. More than anything, she hopes to grow strong enough in order to one day look at Momoyo as an equal.
While she seems to have suitors of her own (Kuki Hideo and her childhood friend Gen-san), Kazuko is very inexperienced when it comes to romance, and prefers to put her energies into training. The rest of the characters see her more as the class "mascot".
The members of the Kazama family call her Wanko (this is a pun, since the kanji used for Kazu is "Ichi", which means 1. Wan is also the japanese equivalent to "woof", which is the sound a dog makes. Since 1 and Wan have the same pronunciation, Kazuko is almost always compared to a dog. Incidentally, Chris simply calls Kazuko "Inu", the Japanese word for "Dog".)
Kazuko's virtue of Bushido is Yuu (Courage, or 勇).
|Shiina Miyako C.V.: Kaibara Erena|
Miyako was the last member to join the original Kazama Family, and is introduced as the girl that constantly professes love for the protagonist. Outwardly, Miyako comes off as a cool-headed, soft-spoken girl that sometimes "breaks character" by partaking in certain jokes involving the cast (or making jokes of her own). In reality, she's actually very passionate about the friendship she has with the other members of the family, and is specially fond of Yamato.
As revealed in her route, Miyako has always had family issues. Her mother was a promiscouous woman that eventually left her and father, only to die of an illness sometime later. The rumors about her own mother have followed Miyako around for most of her life, and led to her being picked on at school a lot. Yamato eventually sticks up for her and, as any young boy would, promises to be there to protect her (which she took as a kokuhaku).
Out of the original group, Miyako is the only one that wishes to always be together with everyone. Yamato begins to have problems with her when he realizes he is the only important thing in Miyako's life, and orders her to find her own path. Things get a little more complicated when the rumors about Miyako's mother resurface, only now insinuating that Miyako herself is sleeping around.
Miyako's virtue of Bushido is Jin (Benevolence, or 仁).
|Mayuzumi Yukie C.V.: Gotou Yuuko (under the alias Kujou Shino)|
Often called "Mayucchi" for short, Yukie is a first year transfer student that has tasked herself with making one hundred friends. As the only daughter of the sword master Mayuzumi Taisei, Yukie has not been exposed to many people and severely lacks social skills. This has led to her scaring people away with her extreme reactions and bashfulness. The fact that her cell phone strap (named Matsukaze) "talks" due to a skill in ventriloquism that she developed subconsciously doesn't help at all. She starts out with Matsukaze as her only friend, but Shouichi finds her interesting enough that he allows her to join the Kazama Family.
Yukie quickly proves herself to be a very capable girl, as she is a fast learner and excels at everything she puts effort into. She is also a very strong fighter, near if not on the same power level as Momoyo. Her main weakness is her bashfulness, which the members of the family try to help her overcome. In the end, Yukie becomes forced to part ways with Matsukaze in order to become a stronger person.
Aside from her skills with the sword, Yukie is designed around the yamato nadeshiko archetype, as demonstrated by her culinary and domestic skills as well as her willingness to do as Yamato says.
Yukie's virtue of Bushido is Rei (Respect, or 礼).
|Christiane Friedrich C.V.: Itou Shizuka (under the alias Misaki Rina)|
The daughter of a prominent military family from Lübeck, Germany. Christiane arrives in Japan expecting to see the elements that were so common in her favorite Jidaigeki drama shows everywhere, and is surprised when that is not the case.
Having been raised under military tradition, Chris is very strict and serious in her way of doing things. She holds the concepts of duty, rectitude and responsibility very highly, and tends to look down on those who are of a sneaky or underhanded nature. This outlook on things happens to coincide with the protagonists of certain Jidaigeki shows that she has seen, which has led to her studying Japanese history on her own, as well as the tenets of Bushido. Unsurprisingly, her familiarity with Japanese history as well as the military background of her family has also made her a decent strategist and a natural leader when called for.
Chris is also a decent fighter, having specialized in fencing. She's not very good when it comes to social matters, as her over-protective father has ensured no boys get near her. She initially has trouble understanding the camaraderie between the members of the Kazama Family.
On a side note, she has a bit of a rivalry going on with Kazuko, and tends to call her "Dog" (due to her nickname of Wanko and the fact that she can be summoned with a whistle).
Chris' virtue of Bushido is Gi (Rectitude, or 義).
|Kazama Shouichi C.V.: Konishi Katsuyuki|
The self-proclaimed leader of the Kazama Family. Given his role, the other members of the group have taken to calling him "Cap".
Unlike Gakuto and Takuya, Shouichi is still in that phase where he is not chasing skirts, but instead chasing adventure and things that he would find interesting. As such, he shows complete ignorance when it comes to romantic matters, which leads to some comic situations (ironically, all these involve girls that are attracted to him). Aside from that, he takes it upon himself to make sure the group is alright and is more than willing to put his own safety and well-being on the line for the family.
While not much of a fighter, he managed to earn Momoyo's respect when she challenged him for the leadership of the Kazama Family not long after she joined them. Even without any formal training, the fact that he refused to submit to her is what won him that bout.
He is often compared to the wind (a pun on his last name, which has the kanji 風, which means wind), going where he wants to go and doing what he wants to do, giving no room for argument once his mind is made up.
|Shimazu Gakuto C.V.: Kusao Takeshi|
An active skirt-chaser that likes to work out, and a self-proclaimed "nice guy".
Gakuto's focus is on voluptuous older women, who he tries to impress by showing off his muscles. Comically enough, he keeps his sights as far away as possible from Momoyo (who happens to meet this criteria) out of fear of what she might do to him. While the story seems to push him towards other girls (as he's given the chance to impress Kazuko and Yukie depending on the route), Gakuto ignores these opportunities by refusing to "lower" his standards. His own interests in training have led to him and Kazuko getting along well.
Despite being strong as a result of his training, Gakuto no where near the level of power of any of the martial artists in the story, and instead is treated as part of the game's comic relief.
|Morooka Takuya C.V.: Suzumura Kenichi|
Nicknamed "Moro", Takuya is the group's resident otaku and part of a small sub-group in Yamato's class composed of those who don't fit the "ikemen/cool guy" image.
While his interest in girls is on the same level as Gakuto, Takuya suffers from low self esteem, and is not outgoing enough to pick up girls on his own. He often has to act as the voice of reason, correcting the members of the cast that are more open about chasing girls. He is not a saint, however, as he is willing to peep and such if given the opportunity.
The other members of the family try to be careful of what they say around him, as certain key words (mostly related to computers and technology in general) have a tendency to send him into uncontrollable rants about computer parts and software.
The story suggests that he has a crush on Miyako, but her unwillingness to give up on Yamato is too big a hurdle for Moro to overcome.
Story and Structure
The story takes place over several months, starting near the end of April of 2009, continuing until around November. The story progresses through the use of scenes involving the numerous characters of the game, and while not doing day-to-day progression, will inform the player of the current date.
A good amount of the story content is covered in the prologue, which introduces Yamato and the Kazama Family, along with the numerous side characters that interact with them. These include the teachers from the Kawakami Academy, members of the "rival" class to Yamato's, and newcomers to town. After introducing the character dynamics and giving the player a good amount of dialogue choices, the prologue culminates with a bus trip the Kazama Family takes, at the end of which Yamato has a chance encounter with a fortune-teller that advises him to do what he can to not be alone, and draws a tarot card for him. This is where Yamato begins thinking of the girls in his life, and comes to the "sad" conclusion that his choices are all martial artists.
The post-prologue story is different depending on which girl Yamato has decided to pursue. In order to help point the story in a certain direction while maintaining the main story's pacing, the player is at first presented with a selection screen from which one can choose what character Yamato should interact with (I say character because there are routes that involve the male members of the Kazama Family). Each character has red bubbles underneath to determine the number of character interactions allowed until the story goes full force in that particular character's direction.
While the events of each route are unique to the character the story focuses on, there are general events that affect all routes but are resolved differently depending on whom Yamato has chosen. An example would be that certain routes involve Momoyo temporarily leaving the cast to train in the mountains, whereas in others she feels that going away is unnecessary. Certain character introductions are also subject to this (the best known example being Margit Eberbach's introduction).
To help set the game apart from the rest, there is a martial arts theme present in Majikoi. This is by no means anywhere near the focus stories like Tenjou Tenge have on martial arts, but it is a prominent theme to the characters and situations. The Kawakami Academy itself is founded on concepts and philosophies involving Bushido, and the five main heroines are all designed around the virtues of Bushido.
Character designs and background art are credited to wagi. I was pleased with the variety found in Majikoi's characters, though I felt that at times there are some strange similarities in the way the faces are drawn. This only really applies to the girls.
Audio & Video
The game is fully-voiced, and has enough well-known voice talent to have attracted quite a bit of attention. At the forefront of this is Asakawa Yuu, who voices Momoyo. It was nice to hear her again, even if the last time I heard her voice acting was back when Azumanga Daioh was airing. There's also Gotou Yuuko, better known for voicing Asahina Mikuru in Suzumiya Haruhi no yuutsu, along with eroge regulars like Aoyama Yukari and Kaibara Erena. Aside from that we have Maki Izumi, Kawashima Rino, Mizuhashi Kaori, Yamaguchi Kappei and Wakamoto Norio (to name a few) voicing some of the side characters.
Music is credited to buzz free and Maayan. The score was mostly synthesized music with a couple of really good tracks. There's plenty of use of traditional Japanese melody for the girls (not to mention shamisen in certain songs), while also having a more modern style of music for "heroic" situations that involve some of the boys.
As far as video, we have the OP video, which can be viewed here. Animation is credited to Studio Hibari (which, amongst many TV shows, did Raimu Iro Senkitan and MOUSE).
The game packs after-stories for the main heroines that can be accessed after clearing their respective routes. In addition, Majikoi has a bunch of clean stories where the other male members of the Kazama Family play a significant role. The game also presents the option for Yamato to pursue certain girls that are background characters.
In addition to the standard CG gallery, ero-scene gallery, and music player mode, the game also sports an event tracker that records the major choices and events in the story.
It is very easy to see why this game has earned so much praise and good comments. The content is very impressive, the scenario is very well-written and the overall presentation is definitely up there. I can admit that I was hesitant about this game because I have seen stories go bad due to having "unbeatable" characters like Momoyo, not to mention the lack of balance between the martial artists and normal characters. In this respect, Majikoi surpassed all my expectations. If anything, I believe this is the first game I've played that is literally screaming "make a fighting game/anime out of me!". Anyway that's my two cents on the matter.
"Ore, kaze to tomo ni shitsure!"