I should note that this review has spoilers. All of them generally do, but I thought I should note it in particular here due to how major they are, as it’s simply impossible to discuss this without them.
Azai Kyousuke is the adopted son of Azai Gonzou, the head of the Azai Yakuza group. However, this isn’t a normal father son relationship. Kyousuke owes Gonzou 200 million yen, and hence must work for him until he pays off this debt. To do this, he works for his father’s group, using his tactical mind to make a name for himself in the underworld. However, in addition to that he still has a ‘normal’ life as well. He listens to and is a major fan of classical music. He also goes to school, keeping his underworld persona kept carefully hidden away, and establishes relationships with a number of people. For example, he is quite close to his step-sister Kanon, daughter to Gonzou and a world renown figure skater aiming for the Olympics; he gets close to Tsubaki, a girl far too kind and loving of her family to the point of being utterly naive; and Mizuha, the innocent daughter of the head master of the school who seems to hate him for being two-faced. But eventually, things begin to escalate, in all aspects of his life. He’s ordered by his father to find a mysterious man named Maou. Meanwhile, an incredibly intelligent but strange girl named Haru with incredibly long hair ends up transferring into his class, and he discovers that she too is on the search for Maou. Thus begins a battle of wits between them and Maou, pulling in his classmates as well as various others, such as Yuki, a friend of Haru who is quite skilled in negotiation and mind games. But for the most part, its nothing more than Maou playing games with them, as he, Kyousuke, and Haru are connected by unbreakable chains, ones that are pulling them to a grand standoff with Maou’s ultimate plan.
G-Senjou no Maou is a novel with essentially seven routes. The way it’s structured is that there is a main plot, the true route, involving Haru and Maou that goes from beginning to end. However, based on the choice made at one branching point per chapter, it can branch off into three other routes, corresponding to Tsubaki, Kanon, and Mizuha, each of which also branch off into a good end and a bad end, where the conflict with Maou stops and instead the heroines are further gone into. So essentially you can either ride the Maou conflict to it’s ultimate conclusion and the true end, or you can ride it as far as you need to to branch off at key points. The way I played it was, whenever I got to such a point, I would play through the side characters stories, bad ending before good, and then reload and continue the main arc, which I feel is probably the best way to read through the novel. Overall, I don’t particularly like having to make unclear choices as the driving points between routes, so I simply used a walkthrough. So from that point of view overall I felt like the structure was pretty solid, because generally as you progress further and further into the novel, you got tremendous insight into a new character each chapter through their side story, which then made the conflict with Maou involving them more intense. Now there were also some issues with this structure. Having the side routes completely disconnected from the main story is somewhat awkward. Immediately transitioning from an ending, back to the main story feels a bit strange, in part because of how emotional every ending to the side routes is, though in a way I suppose that’s akin to complaining about how it was too good, and this is essentially my first super serious visual novel so it may just be my own inexperience.
Chapter 1 is an introduction to all the various characters involved and just begins to set up the mysteries and conflict that would be present throughout the rest of the novel. It serves its purpose pretty well, only going surface level on various issues, and having a very lighthearted feeling without too much intensity.
Chapter 2 is centered around Tsubaki’s brother being kidnapped by Maou, and the game he plays at trying to corrupt her and destroy her child like innocence, while Kyousuke also has to deal with being assigned to push Tsubaki’s family off of their land for the Azai group. The core of it, the kidnapping event with Maou was absolutely intense, the first truly intense moment in the series, and involved watching Tsubaki get pushed to her limit. This then branched off into her either being corrupted by Kyousuke, which was interesting but felt vile, in a pretty unique way to do a bad end, but this turned out to be quite a bit more than the simple bad ending I was expecting. Her good route focused on her overcoming giving into the darkness Maou cultivated in her, which is pretty solid character development, and then becomes about Kyousuke still having to deal with a way to get Tsubaki and her family off the land. This results in Kyousuke facing whether he wants to be evil head on, which leads to strong character development for him. It ultimately comes to a pretty solid conclusion, a very clear happy ending. If the side story is not gone into, it quickly moves onto the next chapter without much more to the story.
Chapter 3 is centered around the ice skating of Kanon. Kanon also seems pure and naive like Tsubaki, though not completely selfless like Tsubaki and also different in that she’s able to ignore all the dark connections in her life, taking cues and avoiding talking with people about anything they don’t want to talk about or she doesn’t want to hear, so that she can put all her energy into skating. There are two ways that it can go. It starts off with a threat against Kanon, though one that is kept from her, ordering her to lose in a certain competition by Maou to prevent anything from happening to her mother. If the Kanon route is followed, Kanon ends up losing that match terribly, completely independently of Maou but still neutralizing his threat, and the story focuses on Kanon’s background, her relationship with her bitter and obsessed mother/coach, and how everything has resulted in a somewhat twisted and very arrogant personality and outlook on life that she has to overcome, while the media seems to be doing their best to chronicle her fall. The fallen arrogant king/queen type story is one of my favorite types of arcs, so I definitely enjoyed this one. Her bad route was somewhat cliche, but not completely a bad end as she still has a chance for a normal life. Her good route was incredible. She overcomes things incredibly well, the music does an incredibly good job towards the end, and in the end there’s an incredibly bittersweet moment, one that had me literally shaking, but one that shows tremendous character development and shows a path to a bright future.
The main route, unlike Tsubaki’s is incredibly different. If the Kanon route is not followed, Kanon does not lose the competition, thus pushing the story in a complete different direction, and instead Kyousuke must work with Haru in order to stop Maou. There were some issues with this structure, such as the strong disconnect between the Kanon route and true route in this chapter, it felt very awkward to switch between them as it felt like their were some inconsistencies, mainly in that Kanon didn’t actually get any character development nor did their relationship really get much development in the main route, and hence it felt strange to be going forward without any of that, but overall it was forgivable in that it never really came up and even if it isn’t cannon to the route the attachment to Kanon remained.
Chapter 4 is centered around the relationship between Mizuha and Yuki, in that they are long separated half sisters. The branching point to the Mizuha route was a bit random. It involves Mizuha being kept as a hostage in their school. If Kyousuke calls the police, then the issues is resolved immediately and then it branches into Mizuha’s route. If they handle it themselves it continues the true route, and is what composes the rest of the chapter. However, while the plots go in completely different directions, they are centered around the exact same subject matter, the relationship between Mizuha and Yuki and Yuki’s desire for revenge, but shown in incredibly different lights. Mizuha’s route also heavily involves her character development, from being naive and spoiled simply because she doesn’t know any better to someone capable in her own right. It starts off incredibly light hearted, with Mizuha being a tsundere and there being an assortment of gags. However, it begins to transition very quickly. The bad route is similar to Tsubaki in that it is also a route where Kyousuke corrupts the heroine, though it ends very differently due to Yuki and in a very cliche manner. Otherwise, there is a transition point and time skip, after which the atmosphere changes completely and things get very melancholy. Everything after the time skip was a bit jumbled up honestly, which hurts it. In a way, a lot of what happens is passed over because of the time skip, which allows to show the contrast between two character states well, but also feels as if there’s something missing. Still, both Mizuha’s and Yuki’s character development was tremendous, even if somewhat abrupt. And the ending was beautiful, though very bittersweet. ‘Thank you’.
Choosing to go into hostage negotiations continues the main route, where Mizuha’s and Yuki’s relationship is explored from a much more involved and dangerous angle. It was heart wrenching and the latter half was more suspenseful than the other routes due to the lack of plot armor on critical characters and because I was sincerely rooting for both sides, wanting what’s best for everyone because of having gone through Mizuha’s route already and being very invested in the characters. The ending to said route makes it clear that the story is approaching the climax, at it sets up that things are about to change tremendously.
Chapter 5 is where everything built up in the true route ultimately comes into play. The twist about who Maou was felt very strange. It makes a lot of what was great about the earlier chapters feel off, though at the same time, is it fair to judge them that way? I would say not. Furthermore, there’s a whole bunch of events that occur at the beginning of this chapter continuing off the end of last chapter that change things tremendously: Finally finding out the background of Haru and her relationship to Kyousuke was sad; Haru’s motivations fully coming to light; Gonzou’s death and complete change in terms of the atmosphere his image is intended to project, as in having Gonzou as a good father was difficult enough with how it was built up, up to that point, but the way events are revealed through flashbacks it overall didn’t work as well as needed; finding out who Maou is and his motivations and goals. All of it leads to a tremendous world changing ending that’s at a whole other scale from the conflicts in the previous chapters, that was paced well and had a tremendous amount of great scenes. The ending was amazing, and the romance was definitely the best in the game. I was somewhat sad that it was over when the credits started going, but satisfied.
And then the epilogue hit. I was expecting something short, sweet, and cute. Not the roller coaster of emotions that I got. Every ending was emotional, but this was at a whole other level, it hit like a truck full of bricks. The entire sequence with ‘Close Your Eyes’ playing had me legitimately tearing up. There are only two works of fiction that I remember making my cry, Clannad when I was quite young and was probably one of my first anime, and this, so I consider it tremendously impactful. There’s a soft spot I have for self sacrificing. Maybe, ‘self-sacrifice’ isn’t quite the right word. I mean something deeper than just putting oneself in dangers way like jumping in front of a bullet for them, which had also occurs earlier without as much of an impact. Here it was something that required greater fortitude, greater strength of will: Kyousuke saying and doing things that completely and utterly broke his heart and destroyed him from the inside, but that he had to do because of his love for Haru and that he put his all into doing. And that’s not even taking into account how effectively the build up to all this was, how he had to have grown as a character from the beginning in order to be able to do so, and how close he had gotten to Haru in order to have the motivation. It brought everything together full circle, but with a tremendous amount of sadness. When it got to it’s final scene, and when the girl appeared with Haru, it felt incredibly lonely. And when it became clear who she was, and how things would play out it was an incredibly happy moment. And then it truly over. I had so much emotion I didn’t know what to do with it. Hell, I’m feeling quite emotional just writing this part of the review. Beautiful beyond words. ‘Kiyomi’.
As overall points, I should mention how classical music plays a major part, and how the soundtrack was absolutely lovely. The voice acting also seemed quite solid. There was also a very large number of CGs that are used to very great effect. There were also some interesting visual transitions between scenes.
A complete and utter masterpiece that has tremendous impact.
I would rank: