Almost 2 months since the last visual novel review, and I finally get out another one. Was this because I was so entranced by Demonbane that I had to play through each and every single route of this mammoth game to get the full experience? Or was it because I kept putting off playing any more of the game because I didn’t want to torture myself through another minute of this dreck? Read on, excited audience, and find out!
Demonbane is by Gen Urabochi, the same guy who wrote Madoka Magica and Saya no Uta, working with Nitro+ again. After the painful experience of Devil on G String, I thought it would be safer to return to author a knew I liked. Demonbane has a sorta similar set up to Saya no Uta. Male lead has magical otherworldly creature fall into his lap in the form of a young girl, but that’s where the similarities end. Saya no Uta is a horror, set in a regular town to heighten the eeriness of the setting when the horrors appear, while Demonbane is set in mega city in the future where giant robots charging in to destroy the town is a regular occurrence. Demonbane is a hell of a lot more light-hearted, with a lot of the characters being absurd caricatures and nonsensically over the top, with lots of (attempts at) jokes.
Let’s throw aside the comparisons with Saya no Uta for a second and compare it with Devil on G String, if only to start this review off on a positive note. First, there is no pratting about for hours on end. There is no desire to introduce all the female characters and have them go through their everyday lives before even attempting to tell a story. There’s none of the character repeating what we had already established for ourselves. There’s none of that nonsense that some people on my G String review seemed to suggest was a staple in every single visual novel. Maybe Gen Urabochi is just an exception, but he knows how to bloody pace a story. He also has a great turn of phrase and way with words, that comes through even with the translation. Any humour that ever worked in the series came from his turns of phrase, my particular favourite being when a character did the classic Loony Tunes thing of standing over a massive drop, contemplating his position for a bit, before gravity remember he exists and sends him plummeting. But what made the scene hilarious was the little monologue the character had before his drop. How gravity is powered by loneliness and every single piece of matter tries to draw others towards them to stave off this loneliness, until finally he’s cut off mid sentence and drops with a cartoonish ‘whup’ sound. It’s such a strangely romantic way of describing what was essentially a pratfall that I couldn’t help grinning.
The rest of the attempts at humour though? I’m not sure how to do slapstick in text format, but it wasn’t how it was done in Demonbane. A character calling someone a pervert is not a joke! Please Japan, stop doing this. Perversion in of itself is not funny. Neither are the attempts at the main character at playing the straight man, because simply saying “you are crazy” doesn’t count as humour either. The two policeman could have worked as a duo. I liked the idea of them, running around town, showing up at every catastrophe and generally being totally ineffectual, but the show always seemed to forget these two were supposed to be funny and tried to do serious conversations with them. How this city is being destroyed, how scary the robots are. I can see that for myself, I don’t need these two policemen telling me that. They rarely even talked to each other, normally just yelling after the latest city destroyer to halt in the name of the law. The most irritating of all was Dr. West. They pushed his nonsensicalness to the point that it was just depressing how hard they were trying make him funny. His voice in particular bugged me, to the point that I shut off his voice altogether.
Actually, I shut off everyone’s voices. Yet again, I failed to see the point in having them. If there was any important inflections in their voices, the text would point this out anyway. If you’re going to point out how they’re voice sounds, why bother putting the voices there in the first place? I don’t understand Japanese, so all it ends up doing is slowing down how quickly I can get through the story. The music though, I will give credit to. When the main character first powered up his giant robot, each scene of him discovering it and moving into battle had gradually more dramatic music, which genuinely got my adrenaline pumping. However, without any other sound effects of voices to draw my attention, the music got rather repetitive the more I got on. Never an annoyance, but it robbed it of the dramatic value it had at the start.
One thing about the robot scene was the crescendo moved out of visual novel format and had a fully animated scene of them using the robots signature attack. It was a pretty cool move, even when the game used the same stock footage at the crescendo of every fight scene, but it highlighted a rather larger problem: Demonbane wanted to be an anime. It wanted it so bad that it even put in a fully animated scene to show “look guys, look at how awesome this would be as an anime”. The fight scenes were long and incredibly detailed, but that level of detail meant they became drawn out and the dramatic value of them waned hugely. The music started again on its loop and I started dozing off, reading “and Demonbane threw another punch bla de bla”, barely registering what was happening in the battle anymore.
Yet again I found myself wondering what this was gaining by being a visual novel. It’s a unique format, but no story I’ve seen have used that format in any sort of imaginative way. Having a character appear on screen as they talk to you is all well and good, but when they swap through only a small handful of facial expressions, it often dragged me out of the scene. I know from the terribad videos and constantly changing the chibi-Scamp’s expression that you need a pretty large variety of expressions to not look stupid. The princess character used the exact same ‘mildly shocked’ facial expression when she was about to be raped by a intestine spewing tentacle raping sorcerer thing as she did when her butler gave her the wrong brand of tea. And hey, since I’m on the character designs, I’d have to at least give a passing mention to the female character’s incredibly pointy nipples, desperately trying to burst out of their fabric confines. Are nipples made out of steel in this world?
There were also the choices and ‘branches’ of sorts, of which I was given a surprisingly large amount of. I thought this was pretty cool at first. Plus the choices seemed to come at important moments in deciding the characters personality. The character started off explaining how he left Magic University because he was a humongous wimp and now had to scrounge for food off the local church. I ran with this and decided to make the character as wimpy as possible, opting to run away from every possible instance of danger. Well, actually what I was doing was trying to choose the options that meant I wasn’t being nice to the loli demon girl (because if I was going to have a sex scene, I damn well wanted it to be with a character with some boobs) and most of my choices in the game seemed to come down to either saving her or running away. When I had an option later on to either help or ignore the big boobed nun from the church who was like a mother figure to the main character, I instantly chose the ‘help’ option, deciding that my character had a Oedipus complex or something so I’d sleep with her instead of the loli.
But these choices seemed to be making no difference. My deliberate attempts at being a massive wimp seemed to turn my character into a swearing super hero, devoted to saving the city. I was trying to create my version of Ikari Shinji for gods sake, not a badass action hero who risks his life for every girl that falls his way! As an experiment, I went back and redid a few of my options to see what differences they made, and in most cases it just meant a mildly different scene followed by the same story I was already following. For example, I went back to a scene where a was tied up by some sexy spider girl, about to be raped for all my life force (or something along those lines anyway), but choosing the alternate option meant all that happened was I ended up cumming on the face of my rescuer loli demon girl by accident, instead of wherever he had squirted his man juice before. Just in case you get the wrong idea, there was very few sex scenes in the game, the two I’ve mentioned in this post being the only 2 I came across in my 12 hours of play. You never got to see very much anyway, usually just one or two pictures, and they looked so ridiculous that they were just weird rather than arousing.
Oh dear, I’ve given it away, haven’t I? 12 hours is all I lasted, about halfway through the story, before throwing in the towel. I guess my reviewers cred is shot. Demonbane wanted to be an anime, but was stuck in a visual novel format. There is an anime of Demonbane out there, but I have no interest in watching that either because the story isn’t any good. It follows a ‘rotating through the haremmettes’ story, where the main character saves ‘lass of the week’, because christ only knows these women aren’t strong enough to take care of themselves. I bet even the female white warrior saviour Metatron ended up being a hopeless damsel in distress for you to save. The closest anime comparison to it would be Sacred Seven. It even had the fancy rich girl with army of maids and a butler with no personality whatsoever. OK, it’s not quite that bad. The background story to the robots is kinda interesting, and Gen Urabochi does have a way with words, but the characterisation is lame and the humour falls flat. I gave up on what was, no joke, a beach episode. We had just finished the chapter where the princess almost gets tentacle raped, and from there we instantly move to her on a beach with her absurdly pointy nipples poking out of a swimsuit. Demonbane isn’t bad. It’s just pretty average.