Release Date: December 20, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Sekai Project
Genre: Visual Novel
The idea of taking a girl and putting animal ears and a tail on her to grab a visual novel fan’s attention is long overplayed, but hey, it still works to some extent. I leave it to the developers to use this approach to tell a meaningful story, which Le:CODE has seemingly done in their debut visual novel Wabisabi. While it doesn’t break the mold of the medium, it does have a few stand-out moments that fans of romance and light-hearted themes will find enjoyable.
Wabisabi follows Kousuke, an artist who is struggling to understand himself and what role he plays in the universe. Joining him are the game’s two heroines Haru and Aki, spirits who tend to the shrine in Kousuke’s rural village. After spending a semester away in Tokyo for school, Kousuke returns to his village to spend time with the shrine spirits and possibly discover what his art lacks. Throughout the story, Kousuke deals with the unnerving realization that he will never be his Grandfather, who was a genius artist that gave everything away to move to the village.
The relationship between Haru and Aki is rather pure, but I believe Haru and Kousuke’s romance has a stronger bond. They’re history together, and the way that they support each other has a better effect on the story overall. This makes Aki’s romance with Kousuke feel like more of a detour as we get to the climax of the story. Regardless, I appreciated the lengthy lead-in of character development before the story threw in the romance scenes.
However, everything is very much base level here. None of the supporting characters really stand out, and the writing is all rather generic ways of story stelling. Still, Kousuke does have a complicated upbringing, and he must deal with loss and heavy responsibilities, although the story is around seven hours long, its Kousuke and Haru that held my attention until the end. That said, I felt like I wanted more from supporting characters, Himegami-Sama and Shiro, who don’t have romanceable routes. They each play a huge role in the story, but then they are pretty much left in the background, while Haru and Kousuke take over.
The character illustrations for each of the characters are bright and colorful. The developer made sure to adequately express each of these emotions during the story as well as implement costume changes. The background illustrations are gorgeous and reflect the themes of art that the story relies heavily upon. The CGs that are present mainly focus on the romance side of the story. Outside a few all-ages scenes, most of the CGs are dedicated to the h-content. These scenes are mosaic free and are generally more vanilla in tone, but they do get a little creative in some areas. The music is beautiful and matches the tone of whatever is happening in the story.
Wabisabi is a kinetic visual novel that players will just read through with no interaction. The story has enough in terms of character development and critical plot twists that make it easy to stay invested in the story overall. There are rare moments of downtime as the pacing is kept to a moderate speed, but this is a visual novel that would have benefited from the main protagonist having a voice. Kousuke isn’t our average blank-slate protagonist, and there’s a lot to him that audio would have helped. However, the other characters have some amazing voiced audio tracks that express a range of emotions expertly.
Wabisabi is a decent visual novel that surprised me in many ways. The relationship between Kousuke and Haru is one that fans of light-comedic romance would definitely appreciate. As a lead, Kousuke has a well-rounded backstory that develops throughout the story. Haru and Aki also express a decent amount of character growth that makes the conclusion of the story acceptable and pure.
Through its beautiful illustrations and amazing voiced audio, I’d say Wabisabi is an excellent debut visual novel from this developer. It shows their dedication to telling compelling stories while wrapping in some romance. I’d like to see how they improve in a follow-up entry, or perhaps maybe they’ll release a route with Shiro.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.