Musicus - My Review & Thoughts

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#1 by mdzz
2020-07-29 at 03:18
< report >I'll try to avoid any actual spoilers, but there might be some mild thematic spoilers to the work. This is primarily chain-of-thought, so unlikely to be too organized. I'm writing this review as I would for someone like me, who'd like more information on a work before diving in.

At it's core, Musicus is a game about life - existence, music, and love. It's philosophical, and obviously-so - but not overbearing. From the start, it boasts consistency, excellence throughout; its climactic, evocative moments are searing; its themes are multivarious - sowed then brought to life; its characters are complex - living, but above all else - endearing. Naturally, the music is good when it matters. Has taught (or perhaps reminded (?)) me of the beauty of the moment.

If I were to compare Musicus to the most meaningful works that I've read, I'd say that it reminded me of OreTsuba, because of how much depth its characters had - both the main characters and the large, colorful ensemble cast that support the work. It reminded me of White Album 2 -- not for the romance (Indeed, Musicus is not fundamentally a romantic novel) -- but for the emotional heights that it brought me to, during both its happy and sad moments. Its romance is profound - but not ordinary; I'd like it comparably to the romance found in KoiNaku (not a complete match though). It's a work that made me reflect a lot - both during the fact and after the fact - much like you would while experiencing one of SCA-Ji's works. And surprisingly, even though it's primarily slice-of-life, most of it didn't feel dreary of a slog to get through; it was as compact as a "medium" or a "short" novel (i.e. few wasted scenes or lines; everything has a purpose). Most importantly, Musicus isn't just well-planned and developed; it's well-written from the level of its prose. Setoguchi Ren'ya's writing during the most evocative, climactic moments elevate what's going on -- so, so much (I've certainly gained a greater appreciation for Japanese).

Musicus is a work created by musicians - and the detail shows. The work explores the rise of a rock band; when you read the work, you feel like you're apart of "team" -- you watch them develop, mature, and grow; passage of time is a crucial element of this work. It's essential in characterization, developing the themes, and of course, in advancing the plot. Whereas some works take many creative liberties (i.e. when a work requires a lot of suspension of disbelief), Musicus, for some reason, feels realistic and grounded.

The music in this work varies - from being "alright" to superb. Musicus's music is often elevated through its presentation/directing; this is a work where often, silence trumps the BGM. Many of the most insightful monologues/dialogues are had with nothing but ambience in the background. This is also a work where even the most "alright" tracks turn into "amazing" tracks -- not by the composition in itself, but because of its context - the associations that come with it. At first, I found most of the general soundtrack to be "alright" - but by the end, I don't know, I started wondering whether the general soundtrack had always been as good as it was. Musicus is known more for its voiced tracks. Arguably, all of the tracks are good - either by musical standards or by thematic significance; some are uplifting, some are haunting, and one is utterly profound (talking Todokanai Koi level of thematic significance). When the music matters in Musicus - and it often does, Musicus does it well and delivers. One feature of Musicus is that during a concert, the song only plays once, even if the scene continues; due to this, a song never feels tired or overdone (Looking at you Sakuramoyu...)

The work follows a ladder structure, meaning that there's one overreaching common/true route that starts from the beginning - you can get off the route at a few points (call this the Ozaki, Kousaka, and Bad End alternate routes). I'd heavily recommend playing through the main route up until the bad end branch point, then playing through the bad end, then the main route. I'd visit Ozaki/Kousaka after the fact; primarily because from my POV, it feels weird abandoning the main route midway through the playthrough, especially when you really get into it. And because retrospectively, the other heroine routes (Ozaki & Kousaka) contain fairly discrete storylines that provide meaningful thematic substance to the work as a whole (and of course, you're able to enjoy the characters themselves). Having done the main route, I feel like your view is bettered.
(Full disclosure: I played through Ozaki => Bad => Main => Kousaka).
I cannot stress this enough - but you should play through the bad end first before the true/main route. The bad end is probably the second most important route in the game - and contains some of the most beautiful prose in the work. It doesn't have the same impact if you play through it after the main.

In terms of overall quality, I'd argue that the work is very, very consistent. There's not a lot of "bad." If I were to find some fault with the work, it'd be that one of the heroine routes is comparatively short/surface-level -- but I'd argue that this is intentional, and in fact, aligns perfectly with the philosophies of the work & the intention of that character. I guess someone could argue that some of the plot towards the end was repetitive (e.g. descriptions of concerts) -- but this was invaluable for illustrating the passage of time. There wasn't any segment of the work, or any route, where I started questioning my life choices that led me there (as much as I love White Album 2 - and still do as my favorite work, I'll admit that some segments were beaten into me; in recent memory, Sakuramoyu caused me to suffer because of the length).

I'll avoid talking about what the actual themes/philosophies of the work are (because I think it's more fun for you to figure it out on your own -- and more fulfilling). But, just note - it's a work which seeks to develop its philosophy from the get-go. It doesn't fail at posing its main question, then providing the reader with the necessary fragments to contemplate, ruminate about its message (at a point, I decided to record my thoughts/observations in a notepad while I read, and coming to an understanding on my own really made me appreciate the work).

Even though I compared Musicus to many great works, I want to point out that it's not a work that just combines what past works have done -- it's in itself, unique and novel. I'm comparing it to what I perceive as greats, not suggesting that it's derivative of them.

Ultimately, this was one of the best works that I've read. It has depth - but it doesn't lose the reader in its depth. It's profound, but ordinary; gradual, but explosive. This isn't the type of work where you have to appreciate it through effort; it tells a very human tale - it's the reader's curiosity & appreciation that drives its complexity. There is no one "picture" of Musicus -- as it's pretty open-ended (imo) in terms of its philosophies. The impetus is on the reader to view the work as he or she sees it -- not what anyone else (including me) might see it as. At the end of the day -- what is Music to you?

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.Last modified on 2020-07-29 at 03:19
#2 by vninfohata
2020-07-29 at 06:57
< report >I skimmed this review so I can still enjoy it when it comes out, but is it like our 救世主様 moogy said that MUSICUS is the "last eroge"?

linkLast modified on 2020-07-29 at 15:37
#3 by shining17
2020-07-29 at 13:52
< report >Who cares about his opinion? Form your own opinion, don't be a sheep.
#4 by vninfohata
2020-07-29 at 13:57
< report >@3 If you were smart you would be able to read sarcasm in the word "savior". Shame :/Last modified on 2020-07-29 at 15:38
#5 by mdzz
2020-07-29 at 15:10
< report >I don't know if it's the "last eroge," but I do kinda understand the meaning. I don't remember the last work similar to this that I read - where there was a body of realism/life to it, followed by the exceptional (a work that made you reflect on life; where you are, what you value, what you want to be). I originally got into the genre because I was impressed by the medium -- namely through the types of stories it was capable of presenting. The "feel" of Musicus is similar to some of the best novels that released between 2008ish and 2013ish (e.g. WA2, OreTsuba) - I don't know how to really characterize this "feeling," but if you've read both of those works, then it's pretty obvious what I mean.

I think the recent trend (especially the last few years) has been to move away from realism/life, and more and more towards a more manufactured, "happy" world. I feel that the series which best exemplifies this is 9nine, where it feels like it was engineered for a target audience of fanatics who read to fall in love with a character w/ minimal effort. I don't know whether this recent trend is necessarily a bad thing -- i.e. 9nine is a solid series; it's fun (in fact, it's so overtly pandering at times that I'm impressed at how good & polished its pandering is). But I do feel a bit of melancholy at the prospect of there being fewer works being willing to "take risks" -- i.e. not a charage engineered to pander/cater to the reader. Even the most recent acclaimed works have for the most part, taken the formula of "cute girls doing anime-y things with a fun twist that makes the plot fun and engaging" (e.g. 9nine, Apeira; Sakuramoyu is this to a smaller extent). The biggest hits the past few years have been for the most part lighthearted character games (e.g. tonework games, nukitashi, Yuzusoft games). There's certainly fewer works that go "this is reality - but hey, reality isn't all that bad because of these reasons..."

There are still (and were works) that are compatible with this modern formula -- I think that fundamentally, most Nijima Yuu games are like this (e.g. Hatsuyuki Sakura, Natsuyume Nagisa, Majokoi Nikki -- and probably his upcoming work too) - but it's elevated substantially through something "extra" (in Yuu's case, it's his ability to write an alluring, fairytale-esque atmosphere). SCA-JI's works fit into this mold to an extent too, but he elevates it to a different level (these girls may be cute, but you're going to reflect a lot because of how he presents his stories).

This is all to say that I don't think that MUSICUS is the last eroge. But its style might become a relic of the past -- I hope it doesn't though. I'm optimistic that even with the trends, there can be jewels. I don't expect to read a profound work every year; I'd be happy with one every few years.

[As a post note, naturally, you should form your own opinions from reading works that you like. This may incidentally be a theme in line with the work itself. This was just my opinion on the work/industry, I could definitely be wrong.]Last modified on 2020-07-29 at 15:16
#6 by vninfohata
2020-07-29 at 15:40
< report >That's a very interesting take. I'll continue this discussion once I have read and enjoyed MUSICUS. Thanks for the insight!
#7 by solus
2020-07-29 at 18:02
< report >Can't decide which one to read next, how does it compare to Kira Kira?
#8 by derlaxor
2020-07-29 at 18:20
< report >Thanks for this outstanding and amazing review! I surely plan to play Musicus when it will be released by MangaGamer hopefully this year. Thanks again!
#9 by zimbobwa1
2020-07-30 at 04:40
< report >Wow, are you mdzanime? I haven't seen your name in YEARS ever since the koirizo project. Sorry for being off topic, but it feels so weird to see an old user pop out of the woods seemingly out of nowhere.

Anyways, I'm kind of weird about not listening to music in general, but despite that I'm excited to read this one in English.
#10 by mdzz
2020-07-30 at 14:49
< report >@7, I can't speak to KiraKira since I've never read it, but a glance at their VNDB tags suggest that while they share musical themes, the content they cover is pretty different. On the surface level, there's a big difference in the scope of the novel, as well as the age of the protagonist. The writing might be similar though (?), as they're written by the same guy.

@9, Yeah - I took a few years off, and am in a period of catching up on some of the newer releases.
#11 by vninfohata
2020-07-30 at 14:51
< report >@10 you seem to know a lot and also look indepth into VN/Eroge. You have a social media where someone can contact you?
#12 by mdzz
2020-07-30 at 15:27
< report >@11, I'm not really active on social media (for visual novels) anymore. I use Discord though, and am always happy to chat with someone about what I'm/they're reading. mdzvwz#1273
#13 by asaki
2020-07-30 at 15:28
< report >I actually like your review did really digging into each VN, so I hope that you can keep up the good work. I'm quite late five years for saying this, but let me say congratulation on Koiresort patch release there and thanks for that.

As for Musicus, at first I just thought that it would be usual VN from Overdrive. Although after I see some review that praise it, this can't be coincidence. I guess Overdrive about to be closed down really bring their best to end it with a bang, in which actually what FW also did as well with Kajitsu (Of course they ruined it with Meikyuu and especially Rakuen). In any case I'll look forward to the English release by Mangagamer later although I know that some words may lose the meaning (The translation for that should be improved compared to Kira Kira, and I definitely hope that Valve will not get the bad mood when they reviewing this).

PS - Overdrive really like to hide their VA, in that it make searching the VA info is quite hard. Also speaking about Overdrive VA's I'm still sure that Aine of Bokuten VA is Nakamura Eriko and I'm almost certain that Chika's VA (From Deardrops) is the same as her sister (Ringorin, and it's quite obvious after I pick her Chika tone is quite similar to both of Benkei (Eiyuu Senki) and Narika (Beat Blade Haruka).Last modified on 2020-07-30 at 15:30
#14 by mdzz
2020-07-30 at 15:51
< report >@13 Thanks.

On the Steam front, if it makes you feel better, I feel like this novel was basically written with Western audiences kind of in mind - characters are expressly 18+ - there's no character where you'd think "I'm going to jail."

Funny enough, I think that even though the h-scenes could technically be omitted without much consequences for the majority of the characters here, they were actually written pretty well (it wasn't just a cacophony of noises & movements -- some thoughtful reflection & characterization went in some of them). One of the most emotional scenes in the novel actually occurs in the window around one of the h-scenes; I doubt the same intensity would be maintained were it cut.
#15 by behappyeveryday
2020-07-30 at 17:09
< report >@5 One of the biggest hits in the last few years is Rance 10. It is very far from being "lighthearted" and darkest out of Rance series which isn't really fluffy to begin with. Amoral psychopathic rapist saves the world from those who are even worse than him, lol. And yet, it is absolutely not "realistic". I get that you saying though.
I personally think that "true romance" shouldn't be "realistic" and those realistic games are good not because of romance, for example Subahibi is loved for its plot, not romance, which is rather weak. A truly "realistic game" would be one where most hot girls are rather superficial, already dated other men casually because they are cool and not because they are "the love of their life", their problems would be rather shallow and boring as well (eh, wait a minute, I think that it describes one of the lamest heroines from OreTsuba). I think what people really want to see isn't true realism, but a fantasy that is carefully hidden behind it. SubaHibi and OreTsuba have a realistic feel to them, but on a fundamental level characters are still idealized versions of people, at least positive ones.
#16 by mdzz
2020-07-30 at 17:19
< report >@15 Oh yeah, I forgot to discuss Rance. From my perspective, I view Rance as more in line with a JRPG than the ordinary story & text driven novel. Even amongst similar titles, Rance is a bit special due to its loyal fanbase (perhaps that's just Alicesoft generally?). Rance is a good series, and if I had the drive/time, I'd play through it all.

I don't think that we disagree on anything. By "realistic," I'm referring more to realistic action/thought than realistic premise (it's fine to have idealized characters so long as they act like an actual person would). As you noted, the characters in Subahibi + OreTsuba are both idealized characters who feel real because they're developed as people, as opposed to plot tools (ofc, this applies to the characters in Musicus).

I don't really agree with your broader statement concerning the preferences of real women though, as people invariably are different and unique. (albeit, this really isn't a meaningful point).
#17 by being
2020-07-30 at 22:09
< report >Nice review. I hope Musicus! is even close to as good as it's made out to be. I am skeptical of cartel. I guess I'm always skeptical in general.
#18 by vninfohata
2020-07-31 at 21:12
< report >@17 you seem to know what the cartel is. Tell me about it and its members. I always hear it as a collective term, but never understand who it actually is.
#19 by encrypted12345
2020-07-31 at 21:16
< report >@18 I've always viewed it as more of a joke term for moogy and his friends. They used to run TLwiki, hence the name, but that site has long since died.Last modified on 2020-07-31 at 21:16
#20 by vninfohata
2020-07-31 at 21:24
< report >@19 So it's actually them. Because there is also another "cartel" which consists of the people who run the torrent sites like (cat). So there is a VN cartel and a fansub cartel and those aren't the same interesting. I think then the overlap is the same - both want honorifics and japanese ideosyncracies to get filtered out of localizations. I get it now.Last modified on 2020-07-31 at 21:25
#21 by being
2020-07-31 at 23:06
< report >I am an expert on all things related to the cartel, but you may not ask me for any details. This is life and death and some things are best kept secret!
#22 by encrypted12345
2020-08-01 at 04:57
< report >@20 That's accurate enough.
#23 by derlaxor
2020-08-01 at 10:12
< report >@21, very clever opinion!
#24 by vario
2020-08-01 at 16:06
< report >herkz has a connection to both fansub and tlwiki though


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