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Review of Tenshi no Inai 12-gatsu

SubjectTenshi no Inai 12-gatsu
Tenshi no Inai 12-gatsu - DVD-ROM Edition
Byeriely on 2022-05-13
ReviewDecember is a month for lovers. It is a month where one cannot avoid being reminded of society's rules and conventions of romance. Teninai is a story about those that rebel against these rules.

Kida Tokinori is a scarred teenager who has developed a purely transactional system for human relationships. It is implied that past traumas have taught him to avoid accepting unsolicited kindness, and that people can only be trusted when there is equivalent exchange in services between them. The system he created to cope is ironically an immense burden. Kida sees little in himself that he can offer to others, making it impossible to justify his place in society.

Kurihara Touko has survived by being completely dependent on the kindness others. She is by her own evaluation, dead weight to all around her.

The relationship between the two starts with a contract. Kida allows Kurihara to ditch classes with him on the school roof. In exchange, Kurihara agrees to have sex with him. For the first time in her life, she feels useful to another human being. She begins to yearn for a deeper love that Kida is unable to give, distorting their once cleanly defined relationship.

Teninai is a story about wounded characters supporting each other in the only way they can. The structure of the scenario reflects this, as each route supports the others. Lines are subtly repeated in different routes, creating more context and meaning. One of the benefits of writing a short novel is that there is no filler. Every scene provides integral support to the internal narrative.

The game is also quite aware of the outside world. The society that the characters struggle in is very much the same one we live in. The settings that they find themselves in have blatant parallels to settings from other visual novels, a genre that Leaf pioneered. Sumadera's route is a homage to the denpa genre, another piece of Leaf's legacy. In five short routes, Teninai has so much to say about its world and ours, and it's a true pleasure engaging with it from beginning to end. The OP, with it's folk guitar ballad and film roll layout gives it the feel of an indie-film. I like to think of the reader as piecing together a film in post-production.

On the other hand, it may be hard to find enjoyment in a story with so much pain. It doesn't provide the closure of a storybook happy ending. Quite the contrary, as darkness permeates each ending. It may be baffling why so many heroines consider Kida to be a kind human being, as he has quite a mean streak. I think this work might be hard to understand if you haven't suffered from depression.

The characters may never have the happiness that society says a proper couple should have, as they may never heal enough to give unconditional love. They settle instead for a unique happiness that they are capable of creating together. I find this cynicism to be more uplifting and optimistic than any storybook ending. We never learn what traumas Kida suffers from. Knowing that doesn't change anything. All that matters is what they do now, as they are.
3 points