I read One earlier this year, and I enjoyed it. It was honestly a surreal experience. If you had booted up One and told me it was a Key novel, I would have believed you immediately. It is so amazing to see the seeds of what would become concepts in Key’s works rooted in One. I have yet to read Moon or Dousei, so take that previous statement with a grain of salt.
Our hero is Kouhei Orihara; mix Yuuichi from Kanon and Kotarou from Rewrite and leave the resulting mess in the oven long enough that it burns, but you still eat it because it’s not THAT bad. There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said, really. I personally hate him.
Like most Key novels, Key magic is in full effect here. Kouhei will disappear into the “Eternal World”, a lonely world far away in the sky that he created to preserve the happy everyday of his childhood before his sister passed away, and will not return if he does not form bonds with a girl he meets in his life.
The first girl we meet is Nagamori Mizuka. A typical yamato nadeshiko with boundless optimism (Nagamori route spoilers) even after Kouhei tries to destroy her innocence utterly who takes care of Kouhei like a mother.
The second girl is Nanase Rumi. She is Chihaya but with decent IQ.
The third girl is Akane Satomura. She is Minagi but even more kuu. She even has a bubbly, idiotic friend.
The fourth girl is Kawana Misaki. She’s my personal favorite character and route; think Shiori from Kanon but blind. Her route was the saddest for me, and she alone gave this novel the charm and magic that I love Key for.
The fifth girl is Kouzuki Mio. She is a deaf loli who communicates via notebook, and is a bundle of joy in the drama club.
The final girl is Shiina Mayu. She loves animals, hamburgers, and she’s also a middle schooler. You meet her when she’s burying her pet ferret Myuu, which is unfortunately the only part of her route I remember.
While One has its flaws, it’s certainly an important novel. It is the brick foundation for which Key’s tower sits upon, sparkling and spotless. In my opinion, it’s a good novel. Hisaya and Maeda write the routes well, the art is pretty and clean (I prefer the character’s faces here to Kanon’s), and the soundtrack is full of synthy-goodness. I believe it’s worth reading for any Key fan, if only to see what ideas started here and blossomed later on in Key.