Title: Kira Kira
Genre: Rock band slice-of-life visual novel
Release Date: 2007-11-22 (Japanese), 2009-06-24 (English)
A visual novel about four high school students who start a punk rock band, despite not knowing how to play instruments beforehand.
Maejima Shikanosuke has been going through a rather unspectacular high school life recently. He quit the tennis club that he spent years working hard for, and his girlfriend breaks up with him in the most nonchalant and undramatic way he could imagine. Things take a change for the interesting, when he meets the cheerful Shiino Kirari and ends up at an indies rock concert with her. The usually nonchalant Shikanosuke and the easily excited Kirari become more impressed by the rock concert than they could imagine, and the latter decides to form a band to play at the upcoming cultural festival, with the members of the soon-to-be-abolished Second Literature Club (which Shikanosuke happens to be a part of as a member in name only). Shikanosuke is roped into the band as a bassist, and the other three members are cute girls, of course.
The story follows a common route that consists of slice-of-life of the band (where they do legitimate practicing), which manages to be hilariously entertaining, while being different and refreshing from the usual school life. I’m not familiar with punk rock so I wouldn’t know for sure, but they talk a lot about it and its history. The most memorable part of the common route was when the band tried to act more “punk” by including swear words in every sentence, resulting in the resident polite ojou-sama to say “It was a very nice fuckin’ tea. Thank you very much, fuck.” to her teacher, and Shikanosuke an Kirari trying to act “punk” at their part-time job (it did not end well).
When the school festival ends is when the Second Literature Club’s success as a band begins. One might argue that things go too well for the kids, who catch the fancy of popular indies band Star Generation, and become popular very quickly. Even when they screw up, they recover with twice the positive impact. It certainly does not showcase the difficulty of being a band, at least during the common route. While the band goes through some trials and tribulations together, the real character-based drama (which isn’t about the band at all) lies in the character routes. Kira Kira has three routes (+ a true route), so each route naturally ends up being quite long. As much as I wanted to like them though (the usual logic is that less heroines = higher quality routes due to having less characters to focus on), I have to say that the only worthwhile route is that of Kirari’s (and the true route, which is also about her). The other two routes deal with the issue of divorced parents (which ends rather underwhelmingly) for the childhood friend and an overprotective grandfather for the polite ojou-sama character. Neither of which try to take an interesting spin on their respective subjects.
Kirari’s route, meanwhile, is what made me like Kira Kira on a level beyond that of an ordinary chara-ge (because honestly, this visual novel doesn’t do anything impressive in terms of the characters themselves). Her route hits unexpectedly hard, and truly stands out from the rest of the visual novel. Even if you don’t like Kirari as a character, her route is still a worthwhile experience (which I cannot say for the other routes). She was my least favorite heroine personality-wise, but her story was fresh, satisfying, and gave proper character development to both the protagonist and the heroine. Character-wise, none of the heroines are all that interesting. The characters are fun to watch as a group, but not impressive when they stand by themselves. The polite ojou-sama is always the polite, feminine girl she is initially shown as, and the responsible big-sister-like childhood friend is actually a sensitive person. Kirari is the cheerful, hyper type with a loud high-pitched voice who is actually supposedly a genius. Even for their respective archetypes, they aren’t that attractive. The protagonist is a step up in that he has a strong presence and an interesting backstory, although his attitude may get irritating.
For a visual novel about music, the soundtrack as a whole didn’t leave much of an impression. The art looks great in CGs, but not so much in the character portraits that you’ll spend the majority of your time staring at. I don’t have many complaints about anatomy other than the monkey ears that pop up from time to time. Not my favorite example of cel-shading, but it fits the tone of the visual novel. MangaGamer’s translation is understandable at the least, but nowhere near great. There is no shortage of awkward-sounding sentences and typos, so don’t expect eloquently-worded sentences.
Overall, I’d recommend Kira Kira because Kirari’s route was good. The writers clearly want you to know who the intended main heroine is. I recommend saving her route for last, since the two other routes really pale in comparison, especially for those who have already played a sizable number of eroge in the past.