Review of Boku to, Bokura no Natsu
|Subject||Boku to, Bokura no Natsu|
Boku to, Bokura no Natsu - Complete Edition - Download Edition
|By||Vote: 8fayacaesu on 2020-09-05|
|Review||Boku to, Bokura no Natsu (or bokunatsu, as people who are too lazy to write out the full name for an entire review would call it), is a fairly interesting game. For starters, this is the debut of Hayakari Takeshi, who is perhaps better known for Gunjou no Sora o Koete and Koi de wa Naku - It's not Love, but so Where Near.. While neither of these titles is among the highest echelon of untranslated monsters, they're both games that have accrued a cult fanbase among English-speaking eroge fans and have generated...discussion, for better or for worse. Bokunatsu is also the first notable title published by light, though it differs significantly from the chuuni battle operas that have come to define the brand. As these two attributes might suggest, Bokunatsu is less notable on its own than it is a starting point for things to come; this is understandable, given the pedigree of what followed it, but still rather unfortunate, for reasons that should become more obvious shortly.|
I'll note here that my readthrough of Bokunatsu was not entirely comprehensive. While I read all of the content included in the original release excluding the omake at the end of the game, I didn't read the extra content included in the Dreamcast and 完全版 versions. Why? Because I'm an idiot and I didn't do my research properly. I have some reason to believe that the extra content included in the Dreamcast version is significant, but as it is now, I feel like my game experience is basically complete and I feel very little drive to read any more of the game at the moment. Now that I've utterly sunk my credibility, let's finally get to the actual game.
The main part of Bokunatsu takes place in a small rural Japanese town from the perspective of two characters: Takao and Kiri. Takao is a city boy that used to visit the town during summer vacation when he was a child, and Kiri is a native that he had a close friendship with. Takao decides to come back to spend a final summer vacation in the town after hearing that after this summer, the town will be submerged underwater by a dam that's finishing construction. A few days after arriving, Takao wanders near a school building where he used to play back when he was a child, and he suddenly remembers that he and Kiri buried a treasure somewhere around the school, promptly causing him to convince Kiri to come and dig for the treasure with him.
One of the most notable things about Bokunatsu at this point is the perspective. While most people would probably assume based on the VNDB character list that Takao is the main protagonist, this isn't really the case. While Takao's perspective is probably the most prominent, the main part of the game is split between his perspective and Kiri's. Suffice it to say, this isn't exactly standard operating procedure for eroge; while I can think of a few titles that occasionally switch to the heroine's perspective, it's nearly acting under the assumption that the male protagonist is the main character, with these excursions merely existing to switch things up every once in a while. This isn't the case in Bokunatsu, and from what I've heard, both Gunjou and Koinaku are also told from a female POV for a significant portion of game time.
The other element that'll probably stand out is the writing. I don't feel entirely comfortable talking in great detail about this, considering my less-than-great handle on the Japanese language, but I feel like Bokunatsu is distinctive enough in this regard that it bears mentioning. Hayakari's text goes for a very down-to-earth style that's simultaneously descriptive and evocative without being unnecessarily longwinded. The only thing I can really knock it for is that it comes across to me as a little dry. People who prefer more energetic and "entertaining" text will probably be disappointed, but for the type of story that this is, I think that the writing works perfectly.
The overall composition is also good. Each scene is well-paced and meaningful and it doesn't meander. Well, generally it doesn't meander. We'll get to that later.
The presentation, meanwhile, is kind of eh. The art and coloring does a good job of communicating the atmosphere, but the linework itself isn't particularly proficient and the CG usage is occasionally odd. Certain CGs that represent a very specific point in time feel a bit misused, and there was one time when the sky went from stormy in the text and the regular backgrounds to perfectly sunny in one of the CGs? The overall amount of CGs also feels pretty low, though considering the inevitable budget and time constraints that crop up in eroge production I'm not going to harp on this too much. The music also conveys the mood well, though there were only two BGM tracks that I really liked (link and link).
While the initial setup for the game seems like a fairly standard seishun/SOL story (a character in-game directly compares the search for the buried treasure to a shounen manga), the game quickly starts to develop additional layers on top of this. As Takao and his group of friends hunt for treasure, they gradually get fatigued; Takao is the only one who remembers burying the treasure, and as the days pass with nothing to show, he and his comrades start to doubt his half-forgotten memories from all those years ago. The dam, which originally seemed to just be a device to get Takao to the village to start his journey, slowly starts to become more important. If Takao doesn't find his treasure now, it'll be sunken underwater with the rest of the town for all eternity. Different people have different viewpoints on the dam; the old farmer that Takao is boarding with has nothing besides his farm, and if the dam's construction is finished, his entire life's work will disappear. The obligatory best friend character also has a great deal of animosity towards the dam, as well as a deep resentment for the tourists visiting the town just to get a taste of it without understanding the deep grief that its residents feel with its destruction.
The character routes are more focused on romantic drama than anything else; the dam and the treasure end up being a backdrop for a (kind of (very kind of)) simple story about the first loves of a couple of stupid kids. This still has a great deal of depth to it, but I don't really want to spoil the game for anyone who's interested so I'm not really going to talk about it. The one thing that I do want to say is that the final route is a yuri route; this may seem pretty stupid but it's actually one of the main things that made me want to give the game a shot lol
The other thing I'll note here is kind of difficult to classify and isn't a major problem, but could be an annoyance to some people. Some of the character routes have repeated scenes; that is to say, scenes that were just copy-pasted verbatim from one route to another that the skip read text feature isn't able to recognize that you've already read. This was pretty annoying to me personally, especially with my relatively low reading speed, and I know that it's bothered some other people in the Baldr series in particular, though it isn't nearly as egregious here as it was in Baldr Force or Baldr Sky.
After completing the character routes, you'll unlock an ura route that takes place from someone else's perspective. I'm going to try to somehow be more vague here, since I feel like a lot of the appeal is how different it is from what preceded it and how abnormal it is for an eroge in general. While thanks to reading fatigue, psychological bullshit, and, uh, being a lazy piece of shit, it took me an embarassingly long time to get through it and I'm not sure I enjoyed it as much as what came before, it's definitely something I can respect and it concludes the game brilliantly.
As I implied before, I think that Bokunatsu is somewhat of a hidden gem, at least in the Western community. It's not necessarily a capital K Kamige, but it's a very enjoyable game that feels very distinct from anything else I've read up to this point. It's probably not for everyone, but if you enjoy non-standard eroge and have a little tolerance for early-2000s jank, it's definitely something I'd recommend trying out.