In using such a setting, a story can then introduce whatever elements it could possibly want without fear of over-stretching the imagination of the player. Obviously, the elements that happen to benefit the most from this are things we would normally never see in a composite type of setting. Mainly sci-fi elements, magic, spirits, ghosts and other phenomena.
In following the above formula, the studio Clochette has brought upon us a story revolving around one such setting: an island that is its own world. By playing on the concept of humans, spirits and gods sharing the land in some way, we are presented with a good number of existential and character dynamics. Now whether everything comes together to bring about a good product remains to be seen, but Clochette's fourth title, Amatsu Misora ni! does hold some potential and promise.
Game: Amatasu Misora ni!
Amatsu Misora ni! (Amamiso for short) was released on May 28, 2010 by the studio Clochette. The game features art and character designs by Shintarou (Boy Meets Girl, Shiritsu Akihabara Gakuen) as well as a scenario by Aki Fuminori, Seo Jun, and Himenogi Aku. The title being written in hiragana is meant to show that there may be more than one meaning to it, but translates to "In Heavenly Mizora!".
The game takes place on Mizora Island, a fictitious island off the coast of Japan and the player is placed in the shoes of Kanzaki Takahisa, a native of Mizora Island who leads a normal life with his younger sister Miyu and their childhood friend Kanna. The three have been together since they were children, and have endured both the good and the bad as a family, moreso after Takahisa's parents died in an accident several years ago.
Takahisa himself is a second year high school student, and seems to embrace the concept of life on the island for the rest of his days. He has no real interest in venturing to the world outside, and is even a little behind in terms of technology to the extent that he prefers to read books over watching television or using the internet. As such, he is actually very well-read, with a slight focus on history and local legends. Consequently, he sometimes takes issue with what he considers to be "outside" influences, specially when it comes to Miyu (who regularly leaves the island because of work). His interests aside, Takahisa also has the ability to sense spiritual energies and can tell when there's otherwordly creatures nearby.
Our protagonist's monotonous life reaches a turning point after a new miko arrives on Mizora Island. The winds of change brought upon by her affect not only the lives of Takahisa and his family, but those of other beings and regulars on the island as our protagonist is presented with five girls to choose from, allowing the player to learn and discover the secrets, wonders and aspects of everyday life on this small island.
|Hitotsubashi Kanna C.V.: Oukawa Mio|
Kanna is introduced as a girl that lives in the Kanzaki house, and has been good friends with Takahisa and Miyu since childhood. The story hints that she was taken in by our protagonist's parents many years ago.
As we progress through the main story, we also learn that Kanna is actually Nigishi kamunahime no mikoto, the goddess of Mizora Island. Despite having divine powers and a great amount of knowledge, Kanna has decided to live amongst the humans because she feels the modern world has no need for the divine. To meet her goal of becoming more human-like, she goes to the same school that Takahisa and Miyu attend, has developed a knack for computers and even got herself a part-time job doing web and graphic design.
Though she often comes off as a non-serious person that runs away from responsibility and wants absolutely nothing to do with religions, shrines and priestesses (Kanna claims to be an athiest), Kanna will not hesitate to use her powers to protect Takahisa and Miyu. Her relation to the protagonist is often misunderstood as romantic, though she claims that she looks at "Taka" as a brother. That being said, she has a very special place in her heart for our protagonist, which is a source of comfort and some angst as her route begins to unravel.
As we discover late in her route, the reason Kanna refuses to take on her role as goddess of the island is because deep down she fears her responsibility would eventually separate her from Takahisa and Miyu, whom she considers to be the only family she's ever known. In fact, outside of her own route Kanna never really reclaims her title of goddess of the island, and instead vows to use her power to protect those she loves.
|Kanzaki Miyu C.V.: Shimizu Ai (under the alias Mitsubishi Ai)|
Miyu is Takahisa's younger sister and the quasi-caretaker of the Kanzaki home. Outside of her duties as cook and keeper of order in the house, Miyu is also an idol singer. As mentioned in-game, her "image" is that of a shimako kyonyuu idol (large-breasted island girl).
Over the years, Miyu has developed a strong attraction to the protagonist that she does her best to keep under wraps. Despite her attempts to keep things fraternal between herself and the protagonist, Kanna is well aware of how she feels and tends to lightly encourage her. Likewise, Miyu is aware of the possibility of a romance between Takahisa and Kanna, which she seems to be prepared to accept.
As the keeper of order, Miyu is the responsible member of the trio. Because of this, her word is law in the Kanzaki house, and most outsiders notice that she is like the mother of the family (even if she is the youngest of the three). It is because of this that Takahisa and Kanna do all they can to avoid angering her.
Later on in her route, we discover that Miyu is part of a hebimiko bloodline. Hebimiko blood passes down through the female members of a family, and as such Miyu inherited this trait from her mother. Aside from the negative social stigma that burdens those from such a bloodline, there is a considerable physical risk attached to being a hebimiko. To ensure Miyu's well-beign, Kanna used her power to create an ushirogami to look after her.
Note 1: To explain, a hebimiko is a subsect of what is known as tsukimono tsuji, which is a term used to refer to hereditary witches that employ animal familiars. In the case of hebimiko, their familiars happen to be snakes.
Note 2: Yes, Miyu is related by blood to the protagonist.
|Tobari Chisa C.V.: Kimura Ayaka|
Chisa is a stoic and seemingly-cold girl that also happens to be Takahisa's childhood friend. Though she has little patience for the fooling around of the other characters (she's usually the one to tell Kanna to quiet down), she will not hesitate to take some playful jabs at the protagonist every once in a while.
By the time the story begins, Chisa is already loaded with responsibilities between being the iinchou of Takahisa's class, a member of the archery club, on top of working at her family's minshuku (word for a private home that offers tourist lodging). As such, she is often doing her own thing and has little time to waste. Incidentally, she and Takahisa have somewhat grown apart.
Beneath her dry exterior, Chisa is actually very insecure of herself and even feels as if she doesn't deserve to be happy. The reason behind all this is revealed to be Chisa's sister Kuu, who died seven years before the game takes place. As recalled by our protagonist, Kuu fell into a river and drowned. While no one blames her for it, Chisa feels personally responsible for the death of her sister, and is convinced her own carelessness is what led to Kuu's death. To make matters worse, Kuu's spirit never moved on to the afterlife and instead wanders Mizora Island.
Thus, the later parts of Chisa's route deal with the conflict she feels over the problems created by her sister's ghost, culminating in a painful parting once our main couple discovers that Kuu's ghost needs to be put to rest to prevent it from becoming an evil spirit.
|Kiyosumi Serika C.V.: Matsuda Risa|
Serika is introduced as Miyu's best friend and a rather enthusiastic admirer of Kanna.
An active, energetic and compulsive girl, Serika is a member of the Megurimiya Academy's tennis club. While most of her screen time is spent following, harassing, and making passes at Kanna, she also holds Takahisa in high regard, and has taken to calling him ani; one could say that Serika considers herself Takahisa's surrogate younger sister next to Miyu.
Given her one-track-mind, Serika is more often than not treated as part of Amamiso's comic relief. One of her bigger motives in the story is to recruit Kanna into the tennis club to give their school a rather unique edge (after all, not every school can claim to have a goddess on their tennis team). Takahisa at times takes advantage of her admiration for Kanna to get her to do things she normally would not do, or to put her in (comically) bad spots. At times, her one-track mindset gets her into trouble on its own, usually involving the captain of the tennis team (who often scolds her for not focusing). That being said, none can question her physical prowess, and is on average stronger than most of the cast (barring Kanna for obvious reasons).
Deep down, Serika is actually a very envious person. She can't stand the thought of being second to anyone, and while this drives her to push herself to become better, it also makes her berate herself for not being "good enough". This is what eventually leads to her being first the victim of a mokumokuren, and later becoming a vessel for it. The real risk is that if left alone for long enough, Serika would eventually be consumed by this creature entirely.
What makes things even more difficult is that Serika's desire to be in the "eye" of others feeds and strengthens this particular mokumokuren, which gets worse once she starts a relationship with the protagonist and becomes obsessed with being the only girl in his life.
|Hazuki Mikage C.V.: Kazane|
Mikage is a girl that moves to Mizora Island during the prologue. She enrolls into Takahisa's school as a third year student, and is later revealed to be the miko (priestess) presiding over the Kamina Shrine.
Our protagonist first meets Mikage during the welcoming festival that is held for her. Though she seems like a mature (if a little air-headed) girl, the cast quickly learns that Mikage has a tendency to establish her own flow, and more often than not easily sweeps everyone around her into it. Takahisa himself also discovers that she's actually very attentive and astute, to the point where she can easily turn a conversation around by using key words from the other person's argument.
Aside from wanting to be part of the community that lives on Mizora Island, Mikage's mission is to help the shrine earn respect and recognition. At the same time, she does what she can to lure the island's deity (AKA Kanna) back into what she believes to be her rightful place. Unfortunately, this causes Kanna to avoid Mikage like the plague.
Despite having no powers of her own, Mikage is the vessel for the dragon deity Yae no mizuhaya shirogane no miko. Much like Mikage, Shirogane no miko (or Gin ou, as called by Takahisa) is convinced that Kanna needs to return to her place as the goddess of Mizora Island. In the meanwhile, Gin ou possesses Mikage's body on occasion to seal and defeat any spirits and other threats that lurk in the island. Seeing that they share the same body, Mikage is not aware of Gin ou's existence.
Story & Structure
The story begins with a simple introduction to our protagonist and Kanna while they're eating lunch at school. The rest of the cast is quickly introduced, with Miyu being one of the last characters to make an appearance (Kana mentions offhand that she's on tour). The game then continues into the prologue, which starts a little over a month before summer break. With the prologue finished, the OP movie plays and segues into the main story. The main story continues setting up the character dynamics for the individual routes and introduces the player to the extras and other regulars of Mizora Island.
Amamiso does not follow anything resembing daily progression, and instead presents scenes in a specific order depending on which route the player has chosen. At times we get scenes that happen one after another within the same day, while other times we have scenes that are several days apart. Dialogue choices in the post-OP part of the game determine which route the player will be following, pushing our protagonist to one of the five heroines.
Something to note right off the bat is that the game is what some fans call a kyarage (chara-game), as the meat of the game content is not the story, but the character dynamics and interactions. This style makes Amamiso somewhat peculiar, since the character interactions make up for what are otherwise very weak stories in terms of conflict and subsequent resolutions. While Chisa and Serika's routes had very relevant risks involving the heroines, Miyu, Mikage and even Kanna's routes (to an extent) were truly lacking in terms of meaningful conflict. Incidentally, this means that while I was curious to see how the story ends, I often had a good idea of where it was going and at times found myself asking "is it over, yet?".
A common pattern in the routes involve the heroines running into some sort of problem that draws the attention of our protagonist. He then actively joins whatever that particular heroine is into, which allows the story to progress. An example would be that for Serika's route, Takahisa joins the tennis club and develops feeling for Serika due to spending so much time with her. Likewise, Mikage's route has our protagonist help her out around the shrine and become part of the preparation crew for the big summer festival. Not necessarily a bad thing, but is reminiscent of older dating sims like To Heart.
Whatever problem the heroine had at the beginning of the route is delved into. We discover the problem is of supernatural nature, which leads to Kanna or Ginou getting involved in trying to resolve it. Even then, Takahisa's presence is what makes the difference and helps bring the routes to a resolution.
Despite the weakness of the routes, the character dynamics do in part make up for this. Good use of comedy and puns are also worthy of note, as are subtle references to current games, anime and 2ch memes. My only real complaint was that the endings follow the tried and true "the beginning of a long journey" approach. I would have liked something a little more substancial, considering how much is on the line and how unusual the set ups for the routes are. Kanna's epilogue leaves some questions unanswered, but Miyu's route wins the "I really wish I could see how this all turned out" award.
Shintarou is credited for the character designs and art in-game. I liked these designs a little better than those of his past games, though I guess some people with better eyes than mine would have a problem with the whole "same face, different eyebrows, hair and hair color" bit.
Audio & Video
The game is fully-voiced, including all extras. The only real "newcomer"--as in "no previous roles under that name"--would be Mitsubishi Ai (whom some fans have taken to calling kuruma no hito, or "the car person"). Even though she basically did a variant on her Itsuki voice from Patvessel, I was pleased with Oukawa Mio's performance as Kanna. Likewise, Kimura Ayaka impressed me with her portrayal of stoic and cold Chisa (a huge contrast to the characters she normally gets cast to play). Aside from the VAs cast for the heroines, we have Maki Izumi and Himari among the voices for the supporting characters in-game.
BGM is credited to Yamasaki Kyou and FaSolLaSi Do, while the insert songs are credited to Yuuki Shinichi (OP), Sakai Youichi (ED), and Toriumi Takehisa (Miyu's ED song). The soundtrack for the game is rather lengthy, and pretty good for the most part. The use of music is also very impressive. The insert songs themselves are alright, but nothing absolutely amazing (and could be considered a little on the throw-away side). For all my gripes with the story, the standard ED song did succeed in making me sad to see each route end.
As for video, we have the OP for Amatsu Misora ni!, which can be viewed here.
Amamiso doesn't have much in terms of extras, aside from five mini-scenarios that are unlocked after clearing the routes. Each mini-scenario is focused on the existance of a CG imagine for each heroine, explaining how it came about. Aside from that we have the standard scene selection, CG selection, and interaction mode viewers that are unlocked as each route is completed.
I can confess that the two reasons why I picked up this game were because I found one of the CGs posted on 2ch last month, and Oukawa Mio voicing the lead heroine sold it to me. That being said, I have mixed feelings for how this game plays out. The character interactions are very good, and the cast itself helps give everyone from the protagonist, to the heroines, to the extras a considerable amount of depth and truly makes the "community" within Mizora Island believable. At the same time, I could not help but frown at the strange pacing that envelops this game's story, and the fact that the conflicts are so minor that I can easily classify this game as pure slice-of-life.
Of course, those of us who see the cons in this game may be in the minority, as Amamiso is getting ported to PSP set for release this December. I have my own concerns attached to that (Miyu's route and most of the endings would have to be rewritten, for one...), but it goes to show that other fans out there really liked this game.
As far as whether I'd recommend it...it depends on whether you're a stickler for story like I am or get more of a kick out of character dynamics. Amatsu Misora ni! is not a really bad game, but it's not Hakagi or Light quality, either (still better than Hoshiuta, though...). Anyway, that's my two cents on the matter.