Okay, so I wrote up this spoiler-free review thingamabob for G-Senjou no Maou which I just recently finished. I’m thinking I might make it a thing, I’m interested in doing one for Umineko, and another one comparing Da Capo and Dal Segno (would have to finish Da Capo first though), but for now, here’s this.
And, of course, being the post-modernistic stuck-up that I am, I feel the need to reassert the obvious in that it’s all my opinion and that anything I try to claim has an implied “in my opinion” following it.
G-Senjou no Maou – A True 10/10 Piece, or Extremely Overrated?
Has anyone here read Hound of the Baskervilles? No worries if you haven’t, what I’m about to talk about happens on the very first page, so no spoilers. Sherlock and Watson are discussing a walking stick left behind by a visitor. Watson notes a number of details to the reader, and draws perfectly fair conclusions from them. So far so good. Then comes along Sherlock, who describes details not originally presented to the reader by Watson, and surmises that Watson’s conclusions were erroneous, and himself works out the true nature of the owner. I can see this as nothing more than a cheap trick to puff up how “intelligent” Sherlock is supposed to be. Given the information Watson presents, any reader would naturally agree with the logical conclusions he comes to. Sherlock proves these wrong not by superior reasoning, but by working with clues not presented to the reader. All this shows in Sherlock is attention to detail greater than Watson’s. This tricks the reader into thinking that Sherlock is simply “more intelligent” than Watson, and therefore more intelligent than the reader, as the reader had been led on to agree with Watson’s completely reasonable conclusions. Now, a detective should be more attentive than your average bear. In fact, it’s probably the most important asset for a detective to have, period. However, the presentation within the story deliberately leads the reader to the conclusion that Sherlock is smarter than Watson because of this, as he successfully disproves Watson’s reasoning.
Not okay with that example? Okay, let’s look at a character that can speak a million different languages, can compute complex equations instantly in their head, and has an eidetic memory. I’m sure you all can think of at least one. When writing a story, you could apply this to any – or all – of your characters. All the writer has to do is say that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it is. By doing this and nothing more, you actually fail to demonstrate any intelligence in that character. Or rather, the character isn’t where you’ve failed to display intelligence, the place where you’ve displayed a lack of intelligence is in your writing. And this is coming from Mr. “No Definition of Intelligence” himself.
Put these two together and you get the writing of G-Senjou no Maou. Haru Usami is Sherlock to a T. To be perfectly honest, the cheap tricks of Yamato Naoe from the Majikoi series, or the random trivia of Kazuki Kazami from The Fruit of Grisaia, are much better displays of the intelligence of a character than the misdirection used in G-Senjou no Maou to make completely obvious solutions seem difficult to work out. The ability of the character to organise the information and work out the solution in her head on the spot is supposed to be impressive, but this is where my second example of how to poorly write “intelligent” characters rears its ugly head. Of course, this doesn’t only apply to Haru, but to all the characters they try to parade around as “intelligent.”
And that’s my biggest problem with G-Senjou no Maou. What is so obviously presented as a “battle of wits” … is just that, now that I think about it. Between completely witless characters that is. Or maybe the true battle of wits is between the writers and the readers they’re trying so hard to trick into thinking that their work is intelligently written.
The writers also seem to have this idea that it’s okay to write things poorly as long as they have the main character look back at it immediately and think “man that was stupid” or something. If you’re looking for something that makes fun of itself for how bad it is just by existing, go read Sakura Spirit or something, not something that attempts to tell a proper story.
In much the same way I consider Hound of the Baskervilles a failure as a mystery but a great success as a story, I consider G-Senjou no Maou to have failed to display intelligent writing, but to have succeeded at providing a story as pure entertainment. As long as you just accept the story as it unfolds in front of you, it can be a decent Visual Novel.
Am I missing the point? Perhaps. The characterisation and atmosphere – which I’ll come back to - are probably supposed to be the main selling points. However, I can’t just ignore how much they’re trying to shove in our faces “look how clever these characters are!” without actually displaying it in any way.
I’ll give the soundtrack a pass. As someone who considers Classical music among his favourite genres, I’m a little biased, and to be frank, none of the tracks were particularly excellent, but the soundtrack is pretty good overall. However… has anyone here heard the Dye Mixture arrange of the Rewrite track Remembrance, for example? When arranging/covering/remixing/whatever-ing a piece, you don’t need to bind yourself to the piece, you can go above and beyond. This does make it harder to make a faithful arrange of the original with good quality, but doing it well can lead to truly amazing results. As I mentioned before, the G-Senjou no Maou soundtrack isn’t bad, but I would call it uninspired. But, well, you can’t have everything.
As for the art… yeah, I’ll give both the character art and the background art a pass. The CGs, however, are inconsistent at best. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling anything, but if you’ve played it before, try going back and looking at some of the CGs of Haru and Gonzou.
Wasted potential is an omnipresent problem in G-Senjou no Maou. There was a certain character who shall not be named who could have easily had her own route, and really should have. It would have been a great opportunity to write a route where the heroine isn’t just neatly presented in front of the main character in a bundle of Deus Ex Machina.
Most of the proclaimed “plot twists” were either completely obvious or just lazy writing, or, in a few cases, the characters doing dumbass shit for no apparent reason. It felt like they were trying (and in my case at least, failing) to just throw you around in as many different directions as possible. And the big reveal is lazily handled between routes, if at all.
However, the characters were well done. And I don’t mean this as “I liked all the characters”, in fact, I didn’t particularly like any of them (except for Gonzou). What I mean is, it successfully made me hate a character that I was supposed to hate (anyone who’s read it will know who I’m talking about), and sympathise with the characters I was supposed to sympathise with. It’s definitely one of G-Senjou no Maou’s stronger points.
Overall, the execution of G-Senjou no Maou just isn’t very good. The parts where it cuts the crap and presents a straightforward story without any wilful deception being played by the story itself (it’s fine when the villain does it on purpose – obviously), or any such nonsense, were honestly pretty good. To name a few without spoiling anything, Kanon’s route and the post-credits are the first two that come to mind. Still, the VN could have been more than it was, but it wasn’t.
I’ve probably been harsher here than I’ve intended to be. The good traits of the VN, particularly characterisation and atmosphere, underline all the faults that I’ve asserted so far. I’d give G-Senjou no Maou 7.9/10, something like that. It feels a little harsh to give it less than 8, or possibly even higher, but when I consider whether I’d rather give it a 9 or a 7 if forced to choose between the two, I would give it a 7, and therefore end up with the rating you see.