Recently, Fruitbat Factory launched a Kickstarter project for the Studio Beats-developed visual novel Chuusotsu – 1st Graduation: Time After Time. Since the launch, the game has reached its funding goal and continues to work towards stretch goals. It’s a clear test to gauge the interest of more niche visual novels in the west, and it seems to be working out well for the publisher.
In a preview build of Chuusotsu – 1st Graduation: Time After Time (that can be downloaded from the game’s Steam page), I had a chance to check out the upcoming visual novel. What I got was not what I expected at all: the game has its share of adorable main characters, but it also adds an adult theme of a government-run society and a group of girls following their dreams.
The game opens with a young Marisugawa Arue figuring out her life and trying to balance school work with her love of manga: a balance that I’m sure I’ve struggled with countless times in my life. It’s made evident that she is not rich and her mother is only capable of making ends meet with little room for anything extra, including putting off home repairs.
However, this doesn’t affect the family as negatively as one would think: they still find time to laugh and make the best of their situation. Sadly though, Arue’s determination to be successful is put on hold due to a disease she suffered that forced her to miss two years of school. Although she graduates, she is labeled a Chuusotsu – a person with no education past middle school.
Now, usually when something like this happens, there are steps that people can take to re-enter school and try again. However, due to a P3 law enacted by the Global People’s Federation, this is not going to be an option for Arue. Evidently under this law, people are given jobs based on their aptitude and skills. Each person takes a test and if they pass them, they are given an Authorization Seal that places them into a particular job. Arue, on the other hand, does not possess a Authorization Seal, so she must work hard to prove herself to the government to become successful in the working force and help her family.
This concept of the government giving you the job that you’ll end up with for the rest of your life seems like a theme that the story relies heavily on, and it works quite well. The cast of girls don’t seem to be settling on dealing with what life has dealt them; instead they are working hard to choose their own direction in life, something that can’t be said by the rest of society.
The writing for Arue is impressive as she is often referencing manga and adapting the fictional characters to her real life situation. Furthermore, her character has a nice blend of serious and comedic elements that make her likable as a main protagonist.
I will admit, I wasn’t expecting such a deep premise, but Chuusotsu has me quite interested in where the story ends up. There’s a huge opportunity here to tell a really engaging story that brings further attention to the more niche and overshadowed visual novels. I’m glad to see publishers like Fruitbat Factory giving them a chance in the west. It’s to be seen whether or not Chuusotsu – 1st Graduation: Time After Time holds up in the later chapters of the game, but as of right now it has my attention.